Friday, July 31, 2009

Woodson and We

John Grogan, author of Marley & Me

Most of you have heard of John Grogan. He's the author of the runaway (pun intended) bestseller, Marley & Me.

What you may not have heard is that he's now got a new yellow lab named Woodson. Turns out Grogan's a fellow Pennsylvanian (go, Keystone State!), and when he adopted Woodson, a 15-week-old ball of fur, from the set of the movie made from his book, the pup immediately loved his new surroundings.


But there was a surprise in store for Grogan and his family. As he puts it, "What we did not know that day -- what no one knew, not the trainers or the producers or the breeders -- was that Woodson was, indeed, special. And not just because he had enjoyed a brief run as a movie star."

Turns out Woodson was a dog with a disability. Grogan goes on to explain that when he found out, "I called the breeders, not to complain, just to inform. They were mortified. 'Just bring him back,' one of the breeders said, 'and we'll swap him out for a new puppy, your pick of the next litter.' I have to admit the offer was tempting, like turning in a lemon automobile for a gleaming new model. But dogs are not commodities to be discarded when they break, and I assumed that if Woodson were returned, he would be euthanized."

You can read the whole story at Grogan's blog, but I wanted to post this introduction here, because it's a great stride forward for the special needs pet community that he recognizes this issue and has become such a strong champion of the concept that disabled animals are not trash to be thrown away. He even wrote about it in a piece for USA Today. Thanks, John!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good news for disabled pets!

Maybe things ARE changing for the better, at least a little. We've often mentioned on this blog the fact that disabled pets have a difficult time getting adopted from shelters, and how they constitute the majority of euthanized animals. But today I discovered some GOOD news on this topic and want to share it with you!

Dr. Walton Schalick, a physical and medical historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says animal disability is an emerging field of study and he challenges his students to consider its complexity. Schalick also is a specialist in pediatric rehabilitation at American Family Children's Hospital in Wisconsin and associate editor for Encyclopedia of Disability.

He coined the terms "xenodisability" and "zoodisability" to refer to animal disabilities and said humans owe disabled animals an enormous debt for what they teach us about ourselves.

"They tug at our heart strings and bring out the best in us," Schalick says. "With their big eyes and heads that are sometimes larger than their bodies, they can look like children. How we approach an animal with a disability says a lot of how we, in general, treat people with disabilities."

Now, here's the surprising statement:

A disabled animal will often find a permanent home sooner than a healthy one will, said Larry Ringbauer, facility manager of the Will County Humane Society in Shorewood (Chicago area).

"It's a sympathy thing," Ringbauer said. "If they have the patience for it, people can help handicapped animals live a normal life. But we won't let people adopt disabled pets just because they feel sorry for them. Having a handicapped animal is like having a handicapped child"

Sound familiar? Check out the whole story for yourself, and give yourself a little smile today.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Good night, sweet prince...

Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I can be a little obsessive. Nothing indiscriminate; I'm particular about these obsessions -- animals, art, weather, chocolate -- but they are obsessions, nevertheless. And weather, particularly severe weather, is one of the biggies for me. And so, when I read about the recent passing of Nin, the mascot kitty of the weather observatory atop New Hampshire's Mount Washington, of course I had to pay tribute here.

Nin, the Mt. Washington mascot, died on July 14

For those less weather-obsessed than I, Mt. Washington is consistently home to the official "worst weather in America." The highest winds ever recorded outside of severe phenomena such as hurricanes or tornadoes have been clocked right there (231 MPH on April 12, 1934, for those who care). It's on the highest peak in the White Mountains, and so is the perfect place to observe some of the most punishing weather on earth (or at least in the U.S.).

You can imagine that it takes a pretty special cat to be the mascot at such an important laboratory. And especially one so remote and isolated. He was believed to have been 19 or 20 years old, and had lived at the nearby home of one of the park rangers after retiring from his twelve-year post on Mt. Washington in 2007. You can read more here.

So, here's to a long life, well-lived. Nin, may you always have a warm square of sunshine to lie in on a kitchen floor somewhere on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. And as you doze there, may you dream often of the wind whistling through the wires and enjoy loving hands caressing your beautiful fur. Thank you for your service to everyone whose lives are affecting by the weather.