Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘dogs’

Comfort Dogs To Boston

Comfort Dogs Come to Boston in the Wake of Tragedy
By Danielle Sullivan on Babble.com. From Yahoo.
18 April 2013

Back in December, I wrote about dogs who are specially trained to assist in post-traumatic stress situations when they went to console the people of Newtown, Connecticut. Known as the Comfort Dogs for Lutheran Church Charities, the dogs are specially trained to interact with people in disaster situations. Now, they have arrived in Boston to comfort its devastated community.

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Tim Hetzner, president of Lutheran Church Charities, says the dogs will stay at least until Sunday.

The dogs will be stationed at First Lutheran Church, which is within a few blocks from the finish line where the bombings took place. Hetzner and his team also hope to visit over 100 victims still in hospitals, and says the dogs bring much needed therapy to the frightened and injured:

Related: 7 inspiring stories of dogs that saved their owners

“They bring a calming effect to people and help them process the various emotions that they go through in times like this. “People talk to the dogs – they’re like furry counselors. It’s a chance to help bring some relief to people that are shaken up because of the bombings.”

Read complete story at Yahoo.com
Follow Danielle on Babble

Dogs Go To Jail For Good

From SF Gate
by Carolyn Jones
31 July 2012

Inmates Rehabilitate Problem Pooches

Couch-eaters, barkers, escape artists, leash-haters and other bad dogs got a reprieve from canine jail Tuesday, thanks to a cadre of trainers who know a thing to two about bad behavior.

The dogs, who were near death row at the Peninsula Humane Society because of their misdemeanors, graduated from an eight-week intensive training program that transformed them into the world’s most lovable pets.

The miracle workers behind the metamorphosis? Fellow inmates – of the two-legged variety.

A collaboration between the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and the Peninsula Humane Society pairs problem dogs with prisoners in the minimum-security Maple Street Complex Facility in Redwood City.

Inmates gain skills

The dogs move into the jail, sleep in crates at night, and spend roughly 16 hours a day with their inmate handlers. They learn how to sit, stay and not chew shoes, as well as get along with people and other dogs.

In short, they are rehabilitated into contributing members of society.

As for the inmates, they learn a few new tricks as well. Humane Society staff instruct them how to train and groom dogs, giving them some job skills for when they’re released. And as a side benefit, the inmates get plenty of slobbering and trusting love in a place not usually known for its cheerful ambiance.

“It’s a big stress reliever. It makes you feel good,” said Mark Karwowski, 49, of Emeryville, who is serving 3 1/2 months for drunken driving. “You get to be normal for a while.”

‘Hard to say goodbye’

Karwowski bid farewell Tuesday to Belle, a 2-year-old pit bull-rottweiler mix who had “socialization issues” when she arrived at the cell block two months ago. Among other transgressions, she had a penchant for attacking other dogs.

Karwowski worked with her slowly, introducing her gradually to one, and then two, then three other dogs, rewarding her with treats when she was friendly and removing her from the dog party when she raised her hackles.

On Tuesday, Belle was a model of affability, sitting calmly throughout the graduation festivities with nary a sideways glance at her four-legged classmates.

“It feels good to see her do so well,” Karwowski said. “But it’s a little sad. It’s hard to say goodbye. It makes me miss my dog at home.”

The program originated three years ago from a sheriff’s deputy who had heard of a similar program in another state. It’s been so successful in San Mateo County that numerous other jails, including San Francisco’s, are considering it.

In all, 79 inmates have participated, training 40 dogs. All 40 have been adopted, many by their inmate handlers after they’re released or by guards, deputies and other jail staff who became smitten with the canine convicts.

Potential as pets

The dogs are mostly strays whom Humane Society staff deem to be good candidates for rehabilitation. They’re too poorly behaved to be adopted, but with some schooling and love they have the potential to become good pets.

“These are dogs that aren’t thriving in the shelter, for whatever reason,” said Maria Eguren, the Humane Society’s director of training and behavior. “But over here, it’s like they’re in a home. They do much better. Everyone’s morale goes up.”

Sheriff’s staff noticed benefits for inmates that reach far beyond dog training skills.

“A lot of the inmates have problems dealing with emotions. Working with dogs teaches them to let their emotions out in a positive way,” said Lt. Alma Zamora. “They get something to love.”

Overcoming flaws

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Sierra, a 1-year-old Husky with pedigree looks but a few personality flaws, such as begging, whining and lack of housetraining.

Starfordshire Taimani, 27, of East Palo Alto turned her into a show dog. The fluffy pup was the star Tuesday, sitting proudly as several dozen county workers and other passers-by smothered her with affection.

Read entire story at SF Gate.

English Tea & High Sierras

There was a little girl of six, who emigrated from England to New England over thirty five years ago and fell in love with nature and the great outdoors. Now a grown woman, she is still madly in love with the wilderness and is leading other women on adventures that combine yoga, hiking, white-water rafting, cross-country skiing and/or snow-shoeing at Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, Sequoia National Park, Gold Mountain, Idaho and Todos Santos, Mexico. Her name is Belinda Ordonez and her company is aptly called Wild Moon Yoga.

Belinda says, “I remember roaming the woods surrounding our home in Connecticut and the small wonders happening all around me; the sounds of bird’s chirping, deer graciously leaping through the trees and the beautiful chorus of crickets. Something magical happens every time I step into the wilderness. It is the place where my heart expands. There is an immense sense of freedom and potential.”

Intertwined with her pull towards nature was Ms. Ordonez attraction to yoga, which she also started at a young age. She was 15 years old when she recalls coming across a book titled “Richard Hittleman’s Yoga: 28 Day Exercise Plan”. She used that book to develop a daily practice as a teenager and as an adult has trained in the Ashtanga style of yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She has studied under some of his top students and sought out many yoga teachers around the world.

Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means to yoke or bind and is often translated in English as “union”. Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient form of yoga which uses vinyasas (movements) to link postures (poses) and breath, to form sequences. Ashtanga is a Sanskrit term which means “eight limbed” or “eightfold path” to self-understanding.

Her trips combing wilderness travel and yoga usually fill up quickly, as she only takes a small number per outing, but only women need apply. “Women need an outlet to help them break free of their daily routines to nurture themselves,” Belinda explains. “Many women I meet are overworked, overloaded and exhausted from work, responsibilities and caring for others. Something very precious and nurturing happens when women get together. I remember witnessing one woman being moved to tears by the beauty of an incredible rainbow in Yosemite National Park and many others reconnecting with mother earth and feeling her magic.” Anga Gonzales, who has taken several trip with Ms. Ordonez adds, “Belinda is very reassuring and grounded. She allowed a person like me to relax and play.”

Lucy McCullough went on a Wild Moon Yoga trip to Yosemite National Park that included snowshoeing, yoga and meditation. She says, “The memory of that full moon lighting up the snow on those granite peaks took my breath away.” Another participant, Donna Burr, exclaims, “It was an amazing weekend trekking into the heart of Big Sur. Belinda’s knowledge and confidence on the trail helped to make the trip enjoyable and memorable. Her love and enthusiasm for nature and all its splendor is certainly contagious.”

The trips that Ms. Ordonez arranges often involve transportation and always include accommodations, park entrance and equipment fees, guide, yoga/mediation classes, gourmet meals and snacks. The majority are 2 to 4 day excursions that are planned throughout the year. The costs are reasonable and everything possible is done to accommodate special needs and circumstances. She says her yoga and meditation instruction are fit for any level of experience and none of the excursions are overly strenuous or designed for advanced hikers. A few of the professions represented by her travelers are teachers, therapists, business owners and nurses from every age group.

When it comes to life experience, Ms. Ordonez has been around the block a few times. She is not a new babe in the woods who suddenly decided to take women into the wilderness and bay at the moon. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz; has advanced training in wilderness first aid and is a certified yoga instructor. Her background includes her work as a massage therapist, sports medicine, high school coach, career counselor and human resources. For over six years she worked with people living with life-threatening illness at a local hospice.

It appears that there is nothing that Belinda loves more (besides her dogs Max and Maya) than leading women up mountain tops, through valleys, down rivers and in meadows to practice yoga, mediation and even the occasional English High Tea. You can take a little girl out of Yorkshire England, but evidently not entirely remove her British sensibilities. Belinda laughs, “Even though I’ve lived and traveled throughout the world and lived in America most of my adult life, I still enjoy a spot of tea”.

Another former Brit, Stephanie Sandish, who joined in one of Belinda’s retreats in Sandpoint, Idaho, sums up her experience stating, “I found peace in the wilderness, healing in the holiness of nature and new found friends.”

When Animal Friends Die

They say cats have nine lives. I wish that were true, but the facts contradict such myths. Everything dies, including the felines, dogs and other creatures we choose to care for and have in our lives. Most animals tend to have a shorter life span than humans, thereby increasing the chances that our beloved friend will stop breathing long before we leave our mortal bodies behind.

To add insult to injury; is the often callous or dismissive attitude and comments of others when we’ve lost a non-human friend. People don’t always understand the emotional impact losing a pet can have. They disregard our pain when we try to talk about the cat or dog we’ve had for fifteen years getting sick and needing constant attention. They scoff at our tears, when our affectionate tabby is lost or killed by a car. They belittle our sense of shock and disbelief when the dog we loved and cared for tenderly for the last eight years suddenly dies.

Yet, for some, pets, animals, and companions (which ever you prefer to use as a label for non-human creatures) are some of the closest and endearing connections we experience in life. Being responsible for any of the varied creatures placed in our care takes time, attention and devotion. And, just like people, such continued time and attention creates attachment, bonding and lasting imprints.

The love and commitment we give and receive from our animal friends, in some respects, are quite unique from that of other relationships. Sometimes, they are the only living beings that love us unconditionally and don’t argue, judge or hurt us in any way. They also provide forms of communication beyond words. There desire to be touched, patted, combed, and talked to provide warmth, softness, connection, meaning and continual reminders of enjoying the present moment.

A lady I recently met was shocked when told by her veterinarian that their beloved kitten had cancer and should be euthanized. She refused and is currently seeking a vet that will give Hospice-type services for her cat and provide whatever is needed to make sure her family friend dies comfortably at home enjoying as many precious moments that remain. Like human beings, there should be an alternative for animals beyond that of further treatments or mercy killing.

Losing a pet also reawakens other losses we’ve experienced; whether recent or long ago. When a cat of ours, named Sushi, was killed by a dog a couple years ago, I unexpectedly found myself remembering my childhood collie, named Pinky and the grandmother I used to visit when Pinky was still alive.

The loss of your animal friend should be treated the same as that of a human.
Talk about the loss; share your pictures, memories, tears and grief. Walk, run, swim, workout, hike, bicycle, dance, play or listen to music a couple of times s a week by yourself or with a friend.

Breathing exercises, visualizations, relaxation, stretching, meditation, affirmations and yoga have all been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and positive endorphins to help the body heal.

Relax in a hot tub, hot bath, shower, sauna or sweat lodge and let the emotions seep from your pores and evaporate with the steam.

Put together a collage, altar, memory book, picture frame, treasure box, video or CD of your cat, dog, bird, horse or rabbit.

Have a service or gathering. Memorials and/or funerals; provide validation of your relationship with that being; acknowledgment that their life was of value; and societal affirmation that all living creatures are to be honored and respected.

If you’ve lost an animal friend, at any time in your life and would like some additional support (outside your circle of family and friends) contact the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals), an empathetic therapist or your local grief-counseling center.

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