I received this lovely story from Bradley Bravard, a writer living in Florida.
Bradley used to foster dogs. Over the years, he fostered for several different rescue groups. He always made sure he only volunteered with organizations that had strict adoption policies. This gave him confidence in knowing that the dog was going to a good home. Bradley would then open up his heart and welcome the next dog who needed a place to live until they too were adopted.
But Little Steve was a different story. Little Steve was a blind miniature poodle who Bradley started fostering in 2013. Bradley is unsure of the dog’s history and the reason he ended up in a shelter. But fortunately for Little Steve, he found Bradley. Even though he was blind, Little Steve learned how to navigate his new surroundings. He also enjoyed being held.
Soon after Little Steve came to live with Bradley, the rescue disbanded, and Little Steve became Bradley’s dog. This is sometimes called a ‘foster-fail’, when the foster home becomes a permanent home. It’s not really a fail. Especially for the dog who now has a loving, forever home. Bradley and Little Steve shared their lives for the next four years, until Little Steve passed away from old age.
Bradley has fostered many breeds of dogs—labs, beagles, basset hounds, to name a few. He strongly believes people should choose adopting from a shelter instead of buying from a breeder.
No matter what type of dog they want, there is a rescue group out there with exactly that dog.
Bradley is no longer fostering rescue dogs, but he and his wife have a wonderful dog of their own, a fun-loving hound mix named Rosie who was adopted from a county animal shelter.
When asked what he thinks would make the world a kinder place, Bradley said, “To always value life—people, animals, and the environment, before money and material possessions.”
At last! My first KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING blog post. I’ve wanted to collect and share stories of people being kind to animals and each other for a long time. But as is often the case, life gets busy, and these ‘sort of things’ are pushed aside.
Well, no more. I’m choosing to allow myself a little joy each day! And that includes starting this blog. And I can’t think of a better day to begin—Father’s Day.
A large part of my love for animals was instilled by my dad. Watching him around animals is pure joy—for him, the animal, and whoever is lucky enough to witness his perfect mix of calm and excitement as he cuddles and plays with a dog or cat. I look forward to sharing one of his stories soon!
I’m so humbled by the response from friends and strangers alike, who answered my call for stories. Reading about these inspiring acts of kindness restored my belief that people can make a positive difference in the lives of animals and each other.
My goal is to post a story every week. A tall order, but one I believe is doable. There are so many people showing kindness each and every day. I hope you will send me your story of kindness.
I’m delighted to share this story from C.H. Brown. It seems appropriate that hers is the inaugural post on my blog. She, like me, is a writer, a vegan, and an animal lover. Plus, she was the first person to generously respond to my request for stories. I hope you find her act of kindness as heart-warming as I did.
Written by C.H. Brown in her own words- Enjoy!
The Real Cheshire Cat
Three years ago, I was lounging in bed on a Saturday when I heard a little meow, which I now understand to mean “Feed me!” in cat tongue. I stepped out on my front porch to see a small, thin cat with the most beautiful, emerald green eyes I ever saw. Judging by the rip in his ear and demeanor, I figured he must be a stray. Being the animal lover that I am, there was no question what to do next: I scooped him up and brought him inside.
The First Days with Chesh was an adjustment for the whole house. My husband and I already had two big, droopy-eyed hound dogs, and we didn’t plan on adopting a second cat. Even so, no matter how many loving families offered to home him in the days that followed, I couldn’t give him up. I kept making up excuses as to why the homes might not work. When I finally told my husband that I wanted to keep Cheshire for good, it came as no surprise. His name came easily to me, being a book lover particularly fond of Alice in Wonderland.
Within a couple weeks, Cheshire was happy to be picked up and held regularly, although only by me. Eventually though, he opened up to our pets and other people. In fact, he now romps and plays with the big dogs. he loves stretching on the yoga mat with me and going on hikes at our state park. Most nights he even shares my pillow. I would definitely describe us as inseparable.
Despite all of this, the Cheshire Cat wasn’t exempt from life’s challenges. Both Chesh and I struggle with anxiety, often caused by loud noises, sudden movements, or sometimes nothing at all. This can make it difficult to keep him calm when strangers get too close, or when we take walks where things are constantly moving around us. Still, we help each other overcome our anxiety. Sometimes, I still have panic attacks and, when I do, Chesh is the first one to sense my change in emotions and come running. But that’s not the hardest part.
The worst time was when our other cat, Cleopatra, suddenly became very sick. Over time, Chesh and Cleo became incredibly close, something of a cat couple. The vet took one look at Cleo and diagnosed her with Feline Leukemia, a disease that attacks the immune system. What’s worse, we were too late; she died there on the table. Knowing how close the two cats were, I was heartbroken that we were losing the baby in our family and Cheshire wouldn’t get the chance to say goodbye. Then, I learned this disease is highly contagious to other cats.
After Cleo passed, my husband and I hurried home, a one hour drive away, so we could bring Cheshire to have him tested before the vet closed. We got there in time and the vet gently drew his blood. The results took ten minutes. I think that was the longest ten minutes of my life. It was a terrifying notion to think I could lose any one of my animals, especially both cats in the same day. The vet reentered with a sad look that said it all: Cheshire was positive for Feline Leukemia.
That was over four months ago and, although we feel the absence of Cleopatra in our hearts, we’re a healthy family. Last month, Cheshire tested positive once again for leukemia, but you’d never know by looking at him. After months of medication and natural healing methods, like crystal and reiki sessions, Cheshire is completely symptom free. The vet says he probably doesn’t even know he’s sick and, the way I see things, he’s not at all.
When I watch him run and play, I’m confident Cheshire Cat will live a long and happy life. This experience showed me that I need to stop letting my anxiety control my actions and focus on living in the moment. The truth is, all things come to an end, good and bad. Keeping this in mind, however much time the Cheshire Cat and I do have together, I’m spending every day smiling. I’ll never forget the day I opened my door to meet those bright green eyes, and I’m so grateful for these unexpected gifts.
C.H. Brown lives with her husband in Tennessee where she writes a wide variety of prose, featured with Inner Sins, Blood Moon Rising, Cemetery Moon, and more. When she’s not writing, Brown seeks adventures in a world of her own, cuddling with the real-life Cheshire Cat or sunbathing on the yoga mat. Find more on C.H. Brown and her upcoming novel, The White Rabbit’s Apprentice, at writerchbown.wordpress.com or Twitter @writerchbrown.
I’m starting a new blog initiative- one I’m hopeful will grow. I find it hard to listen to the news these days. There’s an overwhelming amount of sadness out there. Many terrible things are happening to animals, the environment, and people. Though it’s important to be aware of the awful things happening on our planet, it often makes me feel anxious and frustrated because I don’t know how to help. The problems seem too big. So I thought I would start sharing stories of people—kids and adults, alike, who have helped animals, the environment, or a person in need. A little positivity when the world seems bleak.
It would be wonderful if these stories inspire others to do acts of kindness, but it would also be great if the story adds joy to someone’s day. My goal is to share a story each week, but of course that will depend on the number of people who respond.
PLEASE send me a story of a friend, someone in your family, or yourself extending a kind gesture to another being. There is no act of kindness or compassion too small, especially for the animal or person you helped. To them your kindness is everything.
Today is the start of Canada’s Thanksgiving long weekend. Every year I look forward to my family coming together for a lovely dinner. For over twenty-five years, our Thanksgiving dinners have been vegetarian. We’ve done a Tofurkey Thanksgiving, a Veggie Lasagna Thanksgiving, and several Indian Thanksgivings. Each time, I’d come away feeling good. Feeling good about being vegetarian. Feeling good that at least one less turkey had been killed. Feeling good about doing my part for animals.
Recently I watched a documentary called Cowspiracy. My daughter had been suggesting we watch it for quite a while. All too quickly I realized there was A LOT more I could do to help animals.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, I hope you will. It’s about the damage the agricultural industry has on the environment. Here are a few things I learned:
Livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane is more destructive to the environment than CO2
2500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1lb of beef
1000 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 gallon of milk
900 gallons of water are needed to produce 1lb of cheese
Livestock covers 45% of the Earth’s total land
More than 6 MILLION animals are killed EVERY HOUR for food
AND THIS ONE: ANIMAL AGRICULTURE is the LEADING CAUSE of SPECIES EXTINCTION, WATER POLLUTION, and HABITAT DESTRUCTION.
I know some of you will read this and discount it as animal activist propaganda. Others will read it, feel bad, and then do nothing. But I’m hoping some of you will see this is an opportunity—A chance to make a difference.
I always thought by being vegetarian I was helping animals. And I still believe I am. But I can do more. My daughter who was one of the pickiest eaters as a child—nothing green could even remotely touch her plate, has been a vegan for several years. She gave up foods she loved (cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, cookie-dough ice-cream, cupcakes, and so many other treats) for the animals she loves even more.
My daughter is my inspiration, my role model. Attaining her level of commitment to helping animals is a high bar, one that will take me time to achieve . . . if I ever can. But what I can do is start small. I’m going to start by being vegan twice a week. And then every month, I’ll add a day. By the time it’s Christmas, I should be vegan five days out of seven. I know there will be slip-ups. Days I will fall short. Days I will be weak. I’m going to allow myself those setbacks, hoping in time, they will become fewer and fewer.
When I first became a vegetarian, I would picture cows and pigs being shipped off to slaughter. Imagine their fear as they were herded off the trucks. This was more than enough to stop me from eating a hamburger.
Now when I think about having a cheese pizza or buttered popcorn, I’ll picture the calf of a dairy cow being whisked away from its mom and sent to slaughter. I’ll picture all the habitats being destroyed to raise dairy cows. I’ll picture my daughter happily enjoying a veggie burger instead of a bowl of macaroni and cheese. And hopefully that will be enough to stop me from indulging.
So this year will be our first ever entirely VEGAN Thanksgiving dinner. And I can’t wait.
Almost every day we are bombarded by news of the atrocities humans inflict on each other and animals. It’s easy to get upset about these horrors, talk about them at work or with friends, and share our views on social media. What’s hard is to actually move from that state of ineffective venting to effecting positive change.
Sometimes the problems seem so large and overwhelming, it’s difficult to believe we can do anything to help. But as many strong individuals have shown us, it is possible.
Fetch & Releash is a great example of people coming together to make a positive difference in the lives of homeless and abandoned dogs. Founded in April of 2016, this rescue organization has already taken in 50 dogs (35 from a high kill shelter in the United States) and found loving homes for over 40. All that in a little over four months!
It’s not a huge organization. It’s five amazingly devoted people who volunteer to help dogs in need. As Trish, one of the founders of Fetch & Releash said, “Sleep, food, time with loved ones all take a backseat while we work long and hard to support these dogs that need us so desperately.”
It’s definitely not easy. According to adoption manager, Kristen, “Some days we thought . . . how are we going to do this? But we pulled together and we did it.”
That’s the key, reaching out to other like minded people who are committed to the same cause you are. So on those days when giving up seems like the only option left, you have someone there to remind you why you got involved in the first place.
And there’s always the joy of seeing the good come out of all your hard work, to carry you through the tough days.
“On the days when we felt most exhausted and overwhelmed, the universe somehow conspired to pick us back up again. It was always THOSE days that we would receive a heartwarming message from an adopter thanking us for giving them the chance to save a life or a photo of a dog in their new home. And our energy was renewed for yet another day.”
And so far, all their adoptions have been successful. The key, according to Kristen is two-fold. First of all, they put in a lot of work up front to ensure they are matching the right dog to the right family.They make sure the potential adopter knows the realities of dog ownership and is prepared to make a life long commitment. And second, their support does not end once the dog has been adopted. The folks at Fetch & Releash are always willing to help with any issues that arise. According to Trish, one of the most common reasons someone surrenders their pet is due to behavioural issues. As such, Fetch & Releash has partnered with a dog trainer and offers six complimentary training sessions for their adopters.
One of Trish’s favourite success stories is Joey. He was recently adopted by a family who recognized his “gentle temperament and passion for spreading love”. They plan to enrol Joey in the St. Johns Ambulance program to become a therapy dog. Trish said that “knowing Joey will be giving love to people who truly need a reason to smile makes us SUPER PROUD.”
I asked them how they deal with the reality of not being able to save them all.
Kristen said it’s “especially hard” on their intake manager who “receives emails daily from shelters across North America begging for our help. There are usually photos of dogs looking sad and desperate.” But Kristen knows they can’t over commit beyond their capacity to find volunteers to foster the dogs until a permanent home can be found.
How can you help Fetch & Releash?
Consider becoming a foster parent to a dog in need. Fetch & Releash can only rescue as many dogs as they have foster homes. They provide the foster with all the supplies and support they need. The foster provides the love and shelter for the dog.
Spread the word about Fetch & Releash and their wonderful adoptable dogs.
Fundraise for them
On a personal note, Fetch & Releash brought us our newest family member, Poppy. I was impressed by their extensive screening process. We completed a detailed questionnaire, they contacted two references and our veterinarian, AND they did a home visit to see for themselves that Poppy was loved and doing well. Also, they still make themselves available to answer any questions we have. This is invaluable. Adopting a dog can be stressful and having the support and experience of Fetch & Releash makes it a lot easier.
Seeing Poppy’s picture on their Facebook page with the caption “Poppy’s been adopted!” was beyond wonderful. Fetch & Releash has effected a positive change for our family and I will always be grateful for that.
For more information on this amazing organization and the adorable dogs waiting for a loving home, check out their website.
I’m a little late with this blog post, but I have a good reason (well, at least I think so). We adopted a six-month old puppy. Earlier this year, we had to say goodbye to both our beloved Billy and Cassie. Billy would have been fourteen on July 11th and Cassie fifteen on June 5th. Not only was this loss devastating to the humans in our family, it was very hard on our dog Jakey. He missed his siblings and was lost without them.
So now we have Poppy, and she is just what Jakey and the rest of us needed. But with all the wonder and fun and joy she brings into our lives, she also brings a whole lot of work, chaos, and stress.
Pets are wonderful. They’re our bedside buddies when we’re sick, our running buddies, our relax and watch tv buddies, our exuberant greeters when we come home, our truest friends in dark times, our enthusiastic cheerleaders in happy times, and so much more.
But how many of us are truly worthy of such devotion? Based on the number of pets abandoned every single day, I think very few.
Poppy was rescued from a high kill shelter and there are still many Poppys out there waiting. Waiting for someone to love, but sadly, many are waiting to die.
I believe we usually have the best intentions when we bring a pet home, but what many of us don’t realize is that these cute adorable beings are work. They will chew the legs of our antique coffee table. They will pee and poop on our very expensive carpet. They will wake us up in the middle of the night with their cries. They will leap up and bite holes in our new sweater. They will bark at our visitors. They will shed all over our pristine sofa. They will take away our freedom to stay out for hours and hours, because not only do they need to be let out to go pee and poop, but they need us—our company. AND they’re not cheap. Food, toys, vet bills- not just regular vaccines, but the unexpected costs of tests and surgery.
Every day, someone makes a decision to bring home a pet, but that same day, so many more decide to abandon theirs. And there are a slew of ‘reasons’.
“She peed on my carpet.”
“We’re too busy with the new baby.”
“I’m not paying that much for a sick dog.”
“We’re moving and the condo won’t take pets.”
“He growled at the kid next door.”
“She was cute when she was little, but now she’s so big.”
Yes, these are all true. Pets pee on rugs, a new baby makes life crazy, veterinary care costs money, people move, dogs growl, and pets get bigger.
But these are things we need to think about BEFORE we bring an animal into our life.
If carpets, floors, furniture . . . basically stuff, means a lot to you—then don’t get a pet.
If you’re thinking you may eventually have a baby and can’t think of your pet as your first baby—then don’t get a pet.
If you’re unwilling or unable to afford proper veterinary care—then don’t get a pet.
If you don’t think you’d be willing to ensure any place you live allows all of your family to live there too, including your pets—then don’t get a pet.
If you’re unwilling or don’t have the time to train your pet and work on behavioural issues—then don’t get a pet.
If you can’t commit to love and take care of your pet for their entire lives (anywhere from ten-?? years)—then don’t get a pet.
Yes, pets bring so much joy into our lives. For me, home doesn’t feel like home unless there are animals in it. Of course I still get frustrated with them, just as I do with my human children and husband for that matter. But just as I would never abandon my children or my husband, I would never turn my back on my pets. They are family.
People often say pets offer unconditional love. I disagree. There should be conditions to that love. We must promise to take care of them for the rest of their lives and not quit when there’s a rough patch, because there will be rough patches.
I’m putting out a challenge and I hope you’ll accept it. Come back in time with me. Back to the early 1970’s. What’s so great about this era, you might be wondering? Well, there was the music. Hits like Bridge Over Troubled Water, Let It Be, and I’ll Be There, just to name a few. And TV shows, such as All In The Family and MASH. But there was something else. NO PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS!
Plastic shopping bags were first introduced in the 1970’s. Almost fifty years ago. Yes, that’s a long time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stop using them. I’m not always oozing with optimism that people will make changes in their lives to help animals. But I do think people can stop using plastic shopping bags! And here’s why.
It’s really not that hard. It’s not a huge lifestyle change like becoming vegan (though, how great would that be if we could all go vegan once or twice a week!)
I admit, I often forget to grab my stack of re-usable bags when I go shopping. It’s only when the cashier asks, “Do you want a plastic bag?” that I remember my collection in the trunk of my car.
So what do you do? I imagine most of us would just take the plastic bag. It’s the easiest way to go. We’re all rushing around. Always late. And having to ask the cashier to set our paid stuff aside while we go ALL the way back to the car and get the bags, and then go ALL the way back to the store for our purchases, is not very convenient. But I do think we’d eventually remember to bring our re-usable bags, just like we remember our purses, wallet, phones, and keys.
There’s also the issue of keeping the bags clean. Yup, we’d have to wash them. But really, how much of a hardship is that? We wash our clothes. We could easily do a load of our re-usable bags as needed.
Because at the end of the day, I think the slight inconvenience of having to go back to the car to get my re-usable bags, and having to wash them, is worth it if it means saving animals.
Plastic bags are flimsy. They are easily carried away by wind and often end up in the water. There, they pose a terrible threat to marine life.
Plastic bags look very similar to jelly fish, which is a favourite meal for turtles. Once ingested, the plastic cannot be digested or passed by an animal, so it remains in their gut and can lead to a very slow and painful death.
So, I’m asking all of you to stop adding to your stash of plastic grocery bags. I’m going to try. From today on, I’m going to make an effort to only use my re-usable bags. For my garbage, I’m going to buy compostable bags- the same ones I use for the green bin.
I hope you join me and if you do, I’d love to hear about your progress. I really believe this is something we can all do that would make a huge difference in helping animals.
It has been almost one year since Cecil, the beautiful male African lion, was killed by a trophy hunter. Cecil was not the first or last animal to be slaughtered for their head, skin, tusks, or horns. But his tragic death raised awareness about the horrific existence of trophy hunting.
I, along with many across the world, was outraged. We are good at that—expressing outrage, but then what? The posts of anger eventually subsided, as we moved on to something else. Sadly for the animals who are killed every single day, outrage is not enough.
There were some positive changes:
Two subspecies of the lion were added to the US endangered species list, making it difficult (though not impossible) for US citizens to kill those lions.
Some airlines banned the transport of hunting trophies from the so-called ‘African big five species’: African Lion, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, African Leopard, and White/Black Rhinoceros.
France and The Netherlands banned the import of lion trophies.
Widespread awareness of the disgusting ‘sport’ of trophy hunting.
But will it actually do anything to protect animals from being hunted? My family and I just returned from a holiday to South Africa. In the airport, I was appalled to hear two men loudly discussing their plans to kill a wildebeest. Though they were really hoping to kill an elephant. And then a few minutes later, one of them was skyping with his child. What kind of values is this man passing on to his children?
During our holiday, we had the privilege of seeing many beautiful animals on safari. Families of animals feeding, lounging, and taking care of each other. I always thought if someone actually saw these amazing animals in the wild, saw them bonding with their young, they would understand that these animals care for each other like we care for our families. I hoped that once people witnessed the love and affection the animals had for each other, they wouldn’t be able to kill them. I was wrong.
At dinner one night, a man (who had just returned from safari) said he was looking forward to buying a zebra skin to take home. Really? Even after seeing zebras in the wild with their young, seeing them protect each other, seeing them care for each other, the idiot sitting next to me still wanted to ‘decorate’ his home with dead animals. What about decorating his home with beautiful photos of the animals instead?
Another point that is often given by hunting advocates in support of trophy hunting is that it actually helps the species. This to me is outrageous. If they really want to help the species, why not simply donate the money to conservation efforts? Why do they need to slaughter an animal for a souvenir?
While on safari, we came across a team of anti-poachers. Though their intentions are well placed, I wondered how successful they would be in protecting the animals. They weren’t armed with those massive rifles the poachers have. And there weren’t very many of them. The team we saw was made up of three people. It must be hard to encourage people to protect animals when they are likely paid more to help poachers or hunters track the animals. Unfortunately, it all comes down to money. It’s easy for those of us living far away to condemn the actions of locals who help the hunters and poachers. But we’re not struggling to feed our families.
Education must be a priority. The community must be shown that preserving the animals is also good for their own preservation. I read one article that said the hunter who killed Cecil reportedly paid US$50,000 for the permit, guide, etc. But the drop in tourism revenues in Zimbabwe, subsequent to the killing was greater than the money generated from the hunt.
Then there is the argument (people always have an endless array of arguments to kill animals) that hunting is necessary to control populations. In my opinion, it’s not an issue of overpopulation of animals, but an overpopulation of humans expanding into the animals home. Instead of culling animals, maybe it’s time to look at controlling the human population. I can almost hear the fallout from that comment. And that’s because of the fundamental belief most people have that human life is worth more than an animal’s life.
As long as we hold on to that belief, I fear there is little hope for the animals we are meant to share this planet with.
July 2, 2016 is World Heritage Species Day. What lasting changes will you make to ensure the survival of all species?