Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Progress! It's Official: People Are Changing Their Minds About Disabled Pets

Animal health specialists, rescue volunteers and medical supply makers all say they've seen a growing willingness in the American public to adopt or care for pets with ailments that once would have met with certain euthanization.
So says this article in the Winnipeg Free Press. We're just tickled that it refers to our friends Leslie over at Pawsible Marketing, Ed and Leslie at Eddie's Wheels and Joyce and Mike over at Pets With Disabilities! All fantastic folks we follow on their blogs and many SocMed sites.

Leslie at Eddie's says it best, winding up the article with, "These animals don't feel sorry for themselves one little bit," she said. "They really have a lot to teach us."

It's not a sentiment any of us will find surprising, but the fact that the message is getting out to the wider public is so very encouraging! The original Associated Press article by Tom Breen was picked up by many online news sites, including the Washington Examiner. So it's heartening to know our efforts are having some positive impact.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Update on Tashi

Those who've been following Almost Perfect Pets for a while will remember Tashi, the little gray tiger who serves as mascot for Tabby's Place Cat Sanctuary in Ringoes, NJ. I've blogged about him before, when he came to visit to represent Tabby's Place at our Prevent Cruelty to Animals Week presentation a couple years ago, and again when I did my MLK Jr. Day of Service last year at Tabby's.

Photo of Tashi in his cart from SparkleCat's blog

Well, I'm always interested in keeping up with Tashi's progress, and thought you might be, too. So here's an update:

A week ago, Sparkle, the award-winning author, supermodel and cat, interviewed Tashi on her blog.

Sparkle is one beautiful puss.

There's a LOT of great information on all the fantastic progress Tashi's made in regaining mobility. I could blather on about it, but I think Sparkle did a great job, so I'll just share that interview with you here! Hint: Tashi's got a cart -- we're so excited! Thanks for the great interview, Sparkle!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Something We Can Do Something About

Too often on this blog, we have to deal with sad situations that are out of our control; situations that result in injured or disabled pets. But today I want to remind you that there is one situation that too often results in these things, but this doesn't have to happen. I'm talking about natural disasters.

With today being the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast, I think it's an appropriate time to revisit the idea that human parents can and should create a disaster plan for their families that includes ALL their kids, including their fur babies. Considering that as I type, there are three active tropical systems churning their way across the Atlantic toward the US, this concern gains somewhat more urgency.

As a member of our township's Emergency Management Agency, I'm all too aware of the need for families to have an emergency disaster plan. I also know that failing to plan means planning to fail, and as responsible parents of any kind of critters from human to the tiniest fish, we can't allow ourselves that kind of complacency. So I urge you: If you haven't yet created a family emergency plan that includes what to do with your pets in case you can't get back to your home or you must evacuate, PLEASE prioritize this activity. You may not live near a coast that puts you in danger from hurricanes, but I guarantee you're in the path of some sort of natural or man-made disaster, regardless where you're located.

Happily, one of the results of the Katrina debacle was the realization by government and other disaster authorities that many people consider their pets "family," giving them every bit of the love and regard denoted by that word. The fact that so many humans died because they were unwilling to leave their beloved pets behind to die alone was a massive wakeup call for these authorities. One of the most significant outcomes of this realization was a major policy shift on the part of the American Red Cross.

As wonderful and necessary as this organization is, for far too long it neglected the needs of companion animals in time of emergency. Aside from the clear neglect caused by this blind spot regarding the actual feelings and beliefs of pet owners, the organization also overlooked the very real negative impacts on already-traumatized humans forced to abandon their pets because they weren't allowed in the emergency shelters. The horrifying results of this short-sighted policy during the Katrina-Rita-Wilma emergencies forced a new look at it, resulting in an enlightened new policy.

Though some Red Cross chapters still refuse to shelter pets, that tendency is falling by the wayside. An increasing number of chapters either accept pets in nearby pet-only shelters run as an adjunct to their human sheltering activities, or work closely with local pet rescue organizations to provide guidance for pet owners to get their animals to a safe place while they're sheltering out of their homes. The Red Cross now directly addresses pet safety issues in their general public directives regarding evacuations and sheltering. They've developed a guide to effective animal first-response, and training for those who need it for such efforts.

Much of this response was mandated by House bill 3858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, more commonly referred to as the PETS act. Now, many states, counties and municipalities have formed their own Animal Response Teams.

Where we live, it's called B-CART or Bucks County Animal Response Team. This all-volunteer group is dedicated to working with local people in the event of evacuation for any disaster to provide safe, temporary shelter for companion animals, with the goal of reducing stress on the animals and their families during such relocations. It's hoped that their providing this alternative housing will reassure those who might otherwise opt to put themselves and their pets at risk during an evacuation because they can't be together. The animal and human shelters are actually not in the same locations, due to health and sanitary regulations, but every effort is made to allow reasonable access to one's pets at the separate location.

Don't have an ART in your area? Consider starting one!

Whatever else you do, please find out NOW what your options are to make sure your whole family is safe during emergencies. Make a plan and make sure all your family members know what that plan is. Not only will this give you one less scary thing to have to deal with during an already upsetting time, it'll give you a whole lot more peace of mind while it's happening and make recovery so much easier. Let's make sure we're all part of the solution, because this kind of sadness need never happen again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frankie!

Just had to sign on for a quick well-wishing to our little pal Frankie, the Walk 'n Roll Dog. Frankie's ten years old today, and has now been bringing her parents, Barb and John, joy for a decade!

Frankie's one of the first special needs critters who welcomed us on the scene back in 2008 when we first released Almost Perfect. Since then, we've gotten to be very good friends and even got to meet each other in person earlier this summer during my trip to the Midwest. I felt very comfortable at home with Frankie, Barb, John and Kylie, Frankie's big blonde sister, and really miss seeing them all.

Everybody jump on over to wish Frankie a fantastic fun time today. We all hope she's rolling into at least another decade of adventures and educating people about IVDD in dachshunds, and about how pets can live full, rich, happy lives even with a disability.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You've Heard of Fuzzy Dice...

...but have you heard of Operation Fuzzy Mice? No, seriously: It's a program in California, put together by a woman named Michelle Lyon, to provide vet care and other pet-related resources -- either by paying for it directly or by referral and networking -- to low-income families who own pets, and who would otherwise have to relinquish, abandon, or euthanize their pets for inability to provide care financially.

We've all heard about families like these who have fallen on hard times due to illness, injury, family disaster, or national economic recession resulting in loss of jobs or homes. Pets are given up tearfully and reluctantly by owners, because families see no other choice. This of course does no justice to the pets, nor to any state's already-struggling economy when the state must support overcrowded shelters as well as euthanize and dispose of so many homeless animals.

Michelle says, "I have only known one case where an owner gave a pet up in coldhearted fashion. All others were tearful and reluctant, not just 'dumping'." Even in abandonment cases, animals are purposefully left in places where someone else might find and care for them, and this happens because the owners can't afford to pay the relinquishment fee at a shelter.

We're all for any program that can help alleviate the suffering of these innocent companion animals whose only transgression is that they must eat and be cared for, which costs money. They're already grieving and bewildered from having been abandoned by their families. Let's support groups who try to find them homes and who, like Operation Fuzzy Mice, try at least to provide a modicum of health care for them during these devastating transitions.

Learn more at Disabled Pets In Need
, a great little blog we discovered at HandiPets.com, about how Operation Fuzzy Mice is helping pets like Conan, a kitty who was injured during fostering after being abandoned.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pet News and Views Likes "Almost Perfect!"

Michele Hollow's blog has a little something for all critter lovers!

Our friend Michele Hollow over at Pet News and Views has posted a positive review of Almost Perfect, and we sure thank her for her kind words. She says, "This compilation of true stories about animals with disabilities and the people who care for them is uplifting, and at times quite funny."

We couldn't agree more, and we're happy that such a well-known and loved critter blogger has found us worthy of readers' consideration. In fact, others are watching, too, because Michele's review got picked up by the good folks at Care2.com! These folks are all about making a difference (I'll bet some of our readers are members there, as we are), so we're just wowed that they also like our work.

Thanks, everyone, for helping us spread the good word about critters who can!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

We Tink Dis Is Pawesome!

Tink was born without front legs.

Okay, if this isn't the embodiment of joy, I don't know what is. Say hi to Tink, and learn more about her over at FidoBlog!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Truly Oscar-Worthy Performance!

Oscar, the world's first bionic cat -- or, as I like to think of him,
a very modern pirate kitty. He's stolen our hearts. ARRRRRRR!

Oscar, a native of Britain's Channel Islands, lost an argument with the business end of a combine harvesting machine. The results weren't pretty. Having seen the results of a similar accident with a kitten when I was very small, I can say this with authority.

Fortunately for Oscar, the outcome was much happier -- and history-making, to boot! Oscar was fortunate to receive immediate medical care, and has become the world's first bionic cat. Check out The Cat's Meow blog for the rest of the story.

And what a hope-filled and inspiring story it is! So glad to be able to share yet another winning kitty with you here on Almost Perfect Pets! Thanks to Dena and several others for bringing this story to my attention.

Amazing Grace

Thanks to our friend Caryn for this latest cute kitteh, star of today's love story:

It really needs no other commentary, so I'll just share it with you here. Always happy to have some GOOD news to spread around! And here's the song to go with it!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Haiku for a small gray cat

I was going through some files today and ran across this little poem -- a long haiku -- I wrote about Idgie. I wrote it three years before Almost Perfect came out, and can see the beginnings of my frustration with people's attitudes toward special needs pets.

Art is kewl.

I need rain or at

Least I could use a lesson

From a small gray cat

See me, see you, she

Can do neither but still she

Loves more than most do

The gift of vision

Is one she’s never had, yet

She knows more than we

Don’t feel sorry for

Her because she can’t miss what

She never possessed

Instead, admire her

For living beyond our small

Ideas of life

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Barb Techel and Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog visit with Bryan, the very nice producer
and co-host of The Breakfast Club on WCUB-AM 980 radio in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Okay, I can't believe it's been almost two months since I posted here. Bad, BAD blogger. Well, I'm back, and happy to be here!

Truth is, I needed a break -- from the blog, from the office, from my life -- so I took one! Spent most of May recovering from a nasty case of poison ivy

My face is swollen to about half again its normal size here.
At least my eye was back open by then. It was bad. And painful. Ugh.

and working my patoot off so I could take a much-needed 10-day road trip in mid-June. Aside from my having turned 49 in the middle of it (yes, and lived to tell!), it was one of the most fun, interesting and renewing experiences I've had in a while.

I attended my 31st high school reunion in the company of two wonderful friends and caught up with some other great pals I've missed a lot:

I almost got caught in a tornado in the parking lot of a shopping center in Fort Wayne, Indiana:

One of the most exciting experiences I've ever had.
And really, really SCARY!

Got funky with some dude in seriously red hair:

And no, I wasn't drinking -- it was only 9 a.m.!
But seriously, folks -- what the HELL am I doing here?

One big highlight: I got to personally meet and hang out with author Barb Techel and the subject of both her books, Frankie, the Walk n' Roll Dog! In fact, we even did a radio show together while I was there, about -- what else? -- living with disabled pets. We also made a call on a wonderful book store in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, while we were there! (Photo of the radio show at top -- I'm not in it cuz I took the pic!) But here I am lovin' on Frankie:

Is it just me, or does Frankie look scared?
I wasn't hurting her, honest...

I also met Frankie's sister, Kylie -- a big, galumphy ol' yella lab who I just adore -- and their dad, John (who's a weather weenie like me - yay!) We had a really great time and I hope I get back there to see them all again soon!

So that's why I was playing hooky. Well, that and I am working on revising my book about the Delaware River flood of 1955 and getting out another of our author's new books...

Oh, and before I forget -- since this IS, after all, Almost Perfect Pets -- For those of you with disabled dogs, here's a neat little blog I ran across today. It gives some good info about how special needs dogs may be more at risk for other issues than pets without special needs. Good to know!

Hope you're all enjoying your summer and staying cooler than we're able to here in 100-degree-plus land. Remember your critters are as vulnerable to heat if not more than you are, so keep in mind those Three Hs:
  1. Hide from the sun.
  2. Hydrate.
  3. Hang out where it's cool.
And there's always that best of all Hs while you're doing it all: Hug yer furry friend!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Teleseminar Rescheduled!

This is a bittersweet post today. I'm very happy to report that our FREE teleseminar,

Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges
of Living with Disabled Pets

has been re-scheduled with Conscious Cat host Ingrid King to 8 PM EDT on Thursday, June 24th. I'll be joining Ingrid and Barb Techel, mom to Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog, for what I'm sure will be a lively and interesting discussion about a favorite topic of anyone who follows this blog.


Not so happy is why we had to reschedule. For ten days, Ingrid struggled to save her dear tortie cat, Amber, from a digestive tract virus. During that time, they discovered Amber also suffered from a hidden heart condition that prevented full therapy for the digestive issue. The end result was that they couldn't save Amber, and Ingrid cradled her little girl to her final sleep last week.

Now Amber has crossed the bridge, and Ingrid is very sad. The one bright spot is that she had rescued another tortie, Allegra, a few weeks earlier, so she's not left with a big, gaping hole in her heart and nothing to fill it. I encourage you to visit Ingrid and leave some good thoughts there.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I got a call from my friend and hair stylist, Patty. She's been going through a rough patch, learning just months ago that her mom had Stage IV, inoperable cancer that would move into her brain. Her mom lives just a few blocks away from her place, so she's been spending a lot of time over there, going back and forth between her house (in which she has her salon, where I visit her) and her mom's.

I always enjoy getting my hair done because we have a lot in common, we talk a lot, and the bonus is that Patty's a critter person. She loves cats and dogs like we do, and we share that bond, as well. Late this winter, Patty told me during my hair appointment that she wanted me to say goodbye to her ancient cat, Crystal, because she was going to put her down the next day. I was horrified, because I know how much she loves this cat.

Crystal was, like, 20 years old; mostly blind, deaf, and when she couldn't eat regular cat food anymore, Patty -- who doesn't cook -- would cook up some liver and other things the vet said Crystal could still digest. But the end had come: Crystal wasn't even moving around anymore, had begun missing the litterbox on a regular basis, and Patty told me that she had spent the evening before just holding and stroking Crystal and looking into her eyes. She said those eyes begged her for release, and I believe her.

So I said goodbye after my hair was done. Went into the living part of the house and found Crystal lying curled on a thick, soft pad, and petted her. I told her she was a good girl, that she had made her momma so happy and kept her company through so many hard times. And that we would all see her again when we passed over the bridge. It was sad, but I could see it was time (Why the hell can't we do this with people, allow them to leave this life in some semblance of coherence and dignity?), and I was glad Patty was going to put an end to any suffering for a life that no longer had quality.

But it wasn't to be. Apparently, Crystal had gotten the message that we were all okay with her leaving, and she decided to go on her own, just as her momma's next work day was ending. Patty came into the kitchen to get her and take her to the vet, and she was lying peacefully on her side on her little bed, already gone. I truly believe that all of us saying goodbye gave her permission to leave without having to worry about her earth family, who she was leaving behind.

Fast forward to this week. I had been to have my hair done on Tuesday evening. It had been a few months since Crystal's passing, and you could still feel the void. But the main thing you could feel was the impending loss of Patty's mom. In fact, on Monday, Patty had called to cancel our appointment, believing her mom was imminently going to succumb to the cancer, which had crept into her brain and was now rendering her incapable of recognizing her daughters. She had then called back Tuesday morning, saying the in-home hospice caregivers had said there would be several more days before that happened, and if I wanted to reinstate my appointment, I could. So I did.

At this point, it wasn't so much about the haircut, but I wanted to see Patty and just be there for her. I was sure she needed to talk, and boy, was I right. We usually have a lively, rollicking, two-way conversation while she works on my hair and I pet her sweet little half-shepherd/half-something else dog, Gia. I swear, that dog SMILES. She does.

This isn't Gia (I don't have a pic of her), but it is how she looks when she smiles.

She's not usually allowed in the salon part of the house when most of Patty's customers are there, but she knows I love Gia and it seems to be mutual, so she's allowed to come in while I'm there. But on Tuesday, I said very little. Patty looked and sounded exhausted, but I had been right: She REALLY needed to talk. So I pretty much just listened, and was grateful for the happy distraction of Gia to buffer some of that horrible pain I could feel emanating from my friend.

I watched as, while we were waiting for my hair to process and we talked, Gia stayed very close to Patty. She seemed to be following at least the feel of the conversation, and when Patty would get close to choking up, Gia would suddenly materialize beneath her hand. That hand would automatically run itself down Gia's furry back, and Gia's tail would swing slowly back and forth. I was so thankful she had that dog, and Patty mentioned several times that between her own grief and trying to keep her four daughters stable during their grandma's swift and unmistakable decline, she didn't know what she'd do without Gia.

So it was with a huge amount of horror that I listened to Patty's voice tell me, when I picked up the phone yesterday afternoon, that Gia was dead.

"WHAT!?" I said, incredulous. I had told her to call to just let me know when it was over with her mom, and I thought that's what the phone call was about, but no. Turns out, her daughter had called over to Patty at her mom's and said something was really wrong with Gia and she needed to come home. By the time she got there, Gia was already gone. No one knows what happened. Gia was only 8 years old, and in apparently perfect health. Patty thinks she may have had a heart attack or stroke, but whatever it was took her very quickly.

And so, all I could do was sit on the other end of the phone and listen to my friend sob. She has had to absorb so much loss lately, and now the one pillar of strength she had to lean on was gone. I had no words of comfort for her. I simply felt wretched and inadequate. All I could do was say how sorry I was and let her cry. And not start crying myself, because I adored that dog.

Today dawned sunny for the first time in days and days. I'd been looking forward to this, because I live for sunny days. But even though I see the sun today, I don't feel it. There's a little Gia-shaped cloud over my head, preventing me from fully enjoying the sun.

Those who know me well know I believe everything happens for a reason, and this doesn't change that. But I'm having one of those days where I want to shake my fist at the sky and ask why such awful, difficult, painful things happen to such good, sweet, kind souls.

I know this is off-topic. Thanks for letting me get it off my chest. I learned when I lost my own mom five years ago that pain shared is pain halved. Thanks for taking some of it away just by letting me vent.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Merci me, Jan's Funny Farm likes Almost Perfect!

Merci reviewed "Almost Perfect" at Jan's Funny Farm!

If you haven't visited Jan's Funny Farm before, I recommend you mosey over and give it a sniff. Lots of great stuff there for animal lovers of all sorts, and we were especially gratified to see that Jan's pupper, Merci, decided to review Almost Perfect. Happy to report it was a hit!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Idgie Has A New Pal

Barb Techel and her little girl, Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog, have become Skype pals of Idgie's and mine. Wanted to share Barb's blog post over at Joyful Paws on the subject with you.

I never would have believed how creating Almost Perfect has changed my life, especially through all the wonderful people and their pets I've met since then. What a blessing this has been in my life. Thanks, everyone. Just...thanks.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lucky Loois

Boy, if this ain't love, I don't know what is. Had to share with you.

Teleseminar Postponed; Tune in Friday for a radio show

Hey, everyone -

I'm sorry to have to report that our upcoming teleseminar with Ingrid King and Barb Techel has had to be postponed. I'm especially sorry because it's due to trouble that Ingrid's having with her dear tortie cat, Amber. She's been in the emergency room with her after days of trouble with her digestive tract (I think). So please hang in there with us and I'll let you know when we've rescheduled.

Meanwhile, I will be interviewed about Almost Perfect this Friday (May 14) at 8:30 am CDT by Kathie Bundy on The Breakfast Club show on WCUB radio AM 980 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, they don't stream live on the Web, so unless you're in eastern Wisconsin or western Michigan, you won't be able to tune in.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Inspired and Inspiring

Okay, Y'all - I'm excited!

In less than a week, I'll be appearing (well, my voice will be, anyway) with Barb Techel, mom of Frankie, the Walk 'n Roll Dog, on a FREE Teleseminar titled "Inspired and Inspiring: The Rewards and Challenges of Living With Disabled Pets." Our host will be Ingrid King, author of "Buckley's Story," as part of her Conscious Cat Teleseminar Series.

Join us on Tuesday, May 11 at 8:00 PM EDT (7:00 PM Central). We'll be talking about the joys and difficulties of choosing to share your life with a disabled pet, sharing what we've learned with each other, and taking your calls. The call is free, but your phone company may charge you for long distance. We'll also be doing a drawing from all of those who register for the call for a copy of Almost Perfect and of Barb's two books about Frankie, so what are you waiting for?

Check out all the details about how to participate in this free call at Ingrid's blog, and hope to "see" you there!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Stamps to the Rescue!

If you're like most folks, you sigh every time you put a stamp on a letter. Forty-four cents, for pete's sake, to mail a first-class envelope! You can't even buy three stamps for a buck anymore. But today, you can feel a little better about spending your money on postage.

That's right. This month, you get a little more for your money. Or, more accurately, you help another creature get a little more for your money: More food. More comfort. More security.

That's because starting today, the United States Post Office begins selling their latest commemorative stamps, "Animal Rescue: Adopt A Shelter Pet." During the launch of the stamps, the Post Office, HALO Purely for Pets and Ellen Degeneres (a longtime friend to animals) will be donating a million meals to animal shelters around the country. A first-class stamp for a first-class meal. Now, that's a deal!

Any way you cut it, this is a neat thing the Post Office is doing. But as someone who's been a stamp collector since I was 9 years old, I'm particularly proud of this campaign. We all bust on the P.O. for the relentless increases in postal rates, mangled mail and other annoyances. But this campaign points out something only our country's Postal Service can boast of among its peers: a 50+ year tradition of raising awareness about serious social issues with special commemorative stamps.

The 44-cent stamps feature photos of five cats and five dogs who were all adopted from shelters. Photographer Sally Anderson-Bruce found these beautiful, adopted pets in her hometown of New Milford, Connecticut. Each of these animals was given a good home thanks to animal rescue shelters and the families who adopted them. Here, she tells the story of her involvement in this project:

On rare occasions, my dad talks about World War II and how he dreamed every day of coming back home to America. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicks her ruby slippers together and chants, "There's no place like home."

I also look forward to coming home. The first thing I hear when I opent he door is a tail thumping against the floor. It's Brenna, our newly adopted nine-year-old Irish Setter, saying hello. "I'm so glad you're home," she says with her wagging body. "You are the most wonderful person in the world!" Brenna's energy is contagious. I forget about my work, grab her leash, and off we go on a new adventure. All the troubles of the world just magically float away.

When art director Derry Noyes called to discuss a new Postal Service stamp project that would promote the idea of adopting shelter pets, I jumped at the chance to work with her again. Derry knew that I had been photographind shelter and rescue pets and writing their stories since our collaboration on the 2002 Neuter & Spay stamps. This new project would be extra special to me.

I find it heartbreaking that millions of innocent animals are signed over to shelters and rescue groups every year—not because they're problem pets; their families simply couldn't keep them. The reasons are endless: job changes, illness, foreclosure, kids going away to school.

My local shelter now has a waiting list for pets to get in because the shelter is full. The lovable pets there are eagerly waiting for a new home to brighten their lives and yours. Adopting will also rovide a vacant cage for another homeless pet.

I hope you will enjoy using the Animal Rescue: Adopt A Shelter Pet stamps and will consider visiting a local shelter for your next pet, who might just be channeling Dorothy and thinking, "There's no place like a 'forever' home." (Excerpted from USA Philatelic: The Official Source for Stamp Enthusiasts, Vol. 15/Qtr. 2/2010)

And if you like the stamps, there are some other related products available at some post offices. Notecards, First Day Covers, Pet Adoption Certificates and an All About Your Best Friend record book are a few of the items also carrying Anderson-Bruce's pet images. Learn more about all these things at USA Philatelic. And put a furry face on your next mailing. It'll mean so much more than just another letter.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How Pets Rescue Us

Winkie saves me from another boring day at the office.

I've just finished reading a very interesting blog post that discusses the scientific approach to gauging the interaction between rescued animals and people who are somehow in need of rescue themselves. It includes a really great passage about a prison program through which inmates work with animals who were rescued from overcrowded shelters, where they had been slated for euthanasia.

Juliette Reith, in her blog post True Animal Rescue: How Pets Save Us covers a lot of ground relevant to both physically challenged pets and emotionally challenged people. I strongly encourage you to take the few minutes required to read it. If nothing else, it will make you feel validated about things you've always believed about the healing power of critters.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lemon Likes Us!

Lemon the Duck

I can't remember if I ever posted this review from Lemon the Duck and her mom, so sharing it with you now! Lemon also has her own book.

Almost Perfect would make good beach reading, so if you're headed out for a vacation any time soon, pick up a copy and take these critters with you. I promise they're all great traveling companions. Ruby even brings her own wheels!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kudos to an "Almost Perfect" Author!

Sharon's friend Julia shows Sharon's whippet, Scout,
to a championship at the Eurasia Dog Show in Moscow, Russia.

Taking this opportunity to congratulate Sharon Sakson, one of the authors who contributed to Almost Perfect, on her whippet's win at the Moscow Dog Show. Sharon's dog, Scout—also known as Champion Hitor Go Your Own Way in Paris—was named Champion of Eurasia for the whippet breed.

It's a huge coup on the international scene for both dog and owner, and we're very proud of Sharon, Scout and Julia. Sharon is a responsible breeder of Brussels Griffon dogs and enjoys showing and judging dogs, as well.

Check out the entire story to learn more about Sharon, Scout and the show. In addition to being a contributor to Almost Perfect, Sharon is also a columnist for Examiner.com, and a many-times-published author on the human-animal bond. Kudos, Sharon!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring's Rebirth: Service Dogs Bring Hope for PTSD Vets, Inmate Trainers

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Mostly we talk here about disabled pets, but seeing as we're in Spring and the Easter period -- a time for new beginnings and rebirth -- I thought it appropriate to share this video with you. It's about how dogs being trained as service companions for military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are healing not just the veterans, but the men behind bars who train them. I think it's appropriate here because anyone who's ever dealt with PTSD knows it's a true disability, and animals have been diagnosed with it before.

These dogs -- which appear from photos to be predominantly Labrador Retrievers -- are trained by prison inmates in a program called Puppies Behind Bars. They're entrusted to inmates who have proven they're up to the responsibility of caring for an animal 24/7.

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

The inmates train the dogs to perform duties such as turning on light switches for vets who awaken from nightmares, frozen from fear; jumping on a vet who's going into a flashback to bring him back to reality; or dialing 911 on a cell phone for a vet who's in the throes of a flashback episode and can't come out of it.

It's a wonderful program, and the part I really like about it is that not only are the vets benefiting from it; so are the inmates who train the dogs. They have something productive and worthwhile to occupy the long hours behind bars, and this gives their lives meaning again. And for some, it even provides hope for a brighter future.

I'm not positive, but I remember watching a program about this on TV, and I believe they said that the animals also benefit, because they're rescued from kill shelters and given a new lease on life. I just cannot imagine a better example of a situation where every single creature involved wins. It's a truly hopeful and uplifting story, which as you know is our theme here at Almost Perfect. So, watch the video and give your own day a boost.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Unbearable Cuteness of Being

This is so not about disabled pets, but I was close to disabled by the cute-ification I received from watching it! This kitty looks a lot like Idgie did when she was a kitten. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

WOW! Almost Perfect has touched a chord!

Almost Perfect's Facebook Fan Page garnered 400 fans in its first two weeks!

I'm so thrilled to report that Almost Perfect's new Facebook Fan Page has garnered more than 400 fans in its first two weeks of life.


That's all I can say. I've mentioned it here and there, but not really pounded the promo, and four HUNDRED people found us and decided our discussion of the way almost perfect pets are treated in this world is worth joining. I don't know about you, but I find that pretty humbling, and definitely worth celebrating! Here's our little, 128-page anthology, published because 11 authors felt they had something worthwhile to say, and now more than 400 people have agreed with us. They're joining in our conversation and -- obviously -- inviting their friends to join in, too!

As an author, this is such a thrill. But as a publisher, it is nothing short of intensely gratifying to know that a project I took a chance on is really beginning to get some traction with folks outside our ring of immediate friends and family. I'm so proud of all my fellow contributors to Almost Perfect for having helped me produce a book that's truly worth reading on every level.

Based on the fact that the new fan page has generated all these new followers but only a few new orders for the book, I can only guess that our current economic malaise continues to affect people's willingness to take a chance on a new book. Sure, they love the topic, but for thirteen hard-earned bucks, will they enjoy the read? With so few discretionary dollars these days, I understand this attitude: You need to really invest your entertainment dollars wisely. So I was thinking about how we could make that decision easier for our new friends, and I came up with an idea:

I KNOW folks want to read our book. But they need to be sure they're getting value for their investment. So, I figure it's time to celebrate our 400+ new friends with a special offer that will leave no doubt about value for our critter-loving readers:

The first 400 people who order a copy of Almost Perfect from our website will automatically receive a FREE copy (completely free, not even extra shipping charges) of Mission: Murder, the first in our new Hattie Farwell Mystery Series. All they have to do is type "Free Mission" in the Comments box on the order screen. How's that for value?

Mission: Murder won a coveted IPPY Silver Medal for Best Regional Fiction, 2009.

Mission: Murder introduces Hattie Farwell, a feisty old broad in picturesque Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who becomes a sleuth by accident when her best friend is killed under suspect circumstances. She solves the case with the aid of her loyal sidekick Wolf, a huge Irish Wolfhound mix, whom she rescued from running wild in the forest that surrounds her home. Think of the setting as our area's answer to Jessica Fletcher's Cabot Cove, and you get the idea. And from there, Hattie and Wolf are off on an adventure that so far spans seven titles with another on the way.
Hattie Farwell and her dog, Wolf

These difficult economic times have been hard on Hattie and Wolf, since tight purse strings have kept many folks from taking a chance on a new series. But we're so certain that they'll fall in love with these endearing characters that we're willing to give these copies away for free, just to get the books into readers' hands. (And don't just take our word for it: Mission: Murder was awarded the coveted IPPY Silver Medal for Best Regional Fiction in 2009! Congratulations to our author Betty Kerr Orlemann for that coup on her first book right out of the block!)

Mission: Murder author Betty Kerr Orlemann wearing her
Silver IPPY Medal for Best Regional Fiction 2009

So if you've been thinking about buying Almost Perfect but have been waiting for the right time, that time has arrived. Get the book you know you want, plus another one we're sure you'll love for yourself or a friend (or both!). Order today, because the offer's good only for the first 400 copies or until April 15, whichever comes first!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

HAPPY UPDATE: Edwina Lives!

Those of you who've been with us a while here at Almost Perfect Pets will remember that back in September, 2009, I posted an angry rant about the cruel person who took a hunting knife to a sweet white-and-gray cat who came to be named Edwina, after the generous benefactor who not only covered her extensive medical treatment but also put up $5,000 as a reward for identifying and catching the perpetrator of this most vile deed.

I doubt anyone will be able to forget the pitiful image of Edwina looking over her shoulder at the camera with wide, scared eyes and that dreadful patch of exposed viscera on her skinny back. I'm not going to re-post it here because it still makes me sick and angry. Instead, I'm posting this wonderful photo of a happier, much healthier Edwina, now named Zeki, by her new adoptive mom, Arden Moore:

As the newly adopted daughter of animal lover/journalist/supporter Arden Moore,
Zeki (formerly Edwina) will never again have to worry about cruel treatment.

Originally rescued by a neighbor, Edwina was fostered by celebrated animal writer Dusty Rainbolt, and slowly nursed back to health through the late months of 2009 and into this year. In November, I had the great good fortune to share a table with Dusty and Arden during a members recognition dinner and keynote address at the Cat Writers Association annual conference in White Plains, New York.

I had just met them and caught snippets of a conversation they were having about the possibility of Arden adopting Edwina through Animal Allies of Texas. I introduced myself as having blogged here about the tortured cat, and was very interested in what they were discussing. Of course, there were many considerations to work out, so it was purely conversation at that point.

But for as recently as I had met these two women, I knew in my heart that if they could work it out, Edwina would have a wonderful new home with someone clearly willing and able to love and care for the injured cat. I was so happy and excited, and asked if I could spread the news here. They asked that I kindly refrain until everything had been worked out to ensure Edwina's health and safety, and I happily obliged.

And so it is with great joy that today I am able to finally tell you about Arden having adopted Edwina and renamed her Zeki, which means "clever and courageous" in Turkish, perfect for this Turkish Van mix survivor. Arden shared the news in the January issue of her wonderful eNewsletter, "Arden Moore Knows Pets." I feel I've given it plenty of time out in cyberland to prevent me stealing any of Arden's thunder (not that she would care, because she's not like that, but I did this out of respect), so I'm sharing the news with you today.

So if you're looking for something to celebrate today, celebrate the triumph of love over hatred, good over evil, caring over destruction. Zeki lives...and happily! Thanks, Dusty. Thanks, Arden. You ladies rock.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Here Comes the Sun...

No, the hydrangeas aren't out yet, but they will be soon...

Hey, everybody -- Happy Spring! I can't remember the last time I was this glad to scoot Winter out the door and fling the door wide open for Spring to come through. Here in eastern Pennsylvania, we enjoyed a solid weekend of sunny skies and temps near 75° -- and Boy Howdy, did I need that! Idgie, Weaver, Winkie and Boo Kitty also enjoyed the reprieve, lying in the open windows for the first time this year. LOVE that sight!

Idgie's never far from my office window when the weather's nice.

It was a long, cold, snowy winter (cue the strains of "Here Comes The Sun") -- still is for plenty of folks -- and I'm so thankful for this gift of golden days so early in the season. We cleaned up the broken branches from the yard, fixed all the places our gutters went askew from the heavy ice load after the blizzards, brought out the patio furniture, grilled our first burgers for dinner, and ended the evening enjoying a fire in our chiminea while birds chirped in the soft, orange glow of dusk. What a renewal for our flagging spirits!

Speaking of spiritual renewal, I'd like to invite you all over to our new Almost Perfect Facebook Fan Page. Less than two weeks ago, I thought it might be fun to put one up and see what would happen. What happened was 370 fans already! How incredibly wonderful to realize how many folks there are out there who believe, as we do, in the importance of calling attention to the misinformation surrounding disabled animals, and the positive power they can have on all our lives if we only let them.

I hope you'll join in the many interesting conversations taking place there. One that I found particularly renewing was the video posted of Zoey, the award-winning whippet.

I leave you with the reminder that it's less than a month-and-a-half until National Disabled Pets Day is celebrated on May 3rd. We're planning a little event, about which we'll share more details as the day draws closer. What are you planning to do to observe/celebrate this great day? Let us know, and we'll share your news here at Almost Perfect Pets.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Go Go Update

Okay, just a followup to a post from late last summer. Those of you who were with us here at Almost Perfect Pets then will remember the story I shared of my cousin getting a new (actually used) Jack Russell terrier named Go Go. Remember the skinny little girl whose photo I shared then?

Well, no more. Ms. Go Go is now a healthily filled-out, happy little dog who lives the Life of Riley with Cousin Chris. And here's the pic to prove it!

Go Go. She has a warm, stylin' jacket for the winter when she goes for walks, but indoors, it's au naturel!

Now if that ain't typical Jack Russell I'm-the-boss-of-you-and-everything-I-survey 'tude, then I don't know what is! She's definitely become the master of her domain. The light hitting her in this shot streams in from the front windows which are, happily, down at her level and allow her to see outside all day long -- pure puppy bliss! I think whoever designed them had a small dog.

I had the pleasure of the company of both galz -- Chris and Go Go -- a few weekends ago, when we all went for a long walk in between our most recent blizzard and this weekend's flooding rains. As we passed through the ever-cute village of New Hope, Pa., it was clear Ms. Go Go has stolen the hearts of all the residents and business owners she meets regularly on her sojourns into town. I am pleased to report that she has found a happy, loving home and my cousin once again has a sweet little Jack to share her life.

Find a friend at Jan's Funny Farm

When things get busy, I save up links for when I'll have time to post. Today's post is one of these. Back in late October, I came across a great post from Jan's Funny Farm, a blog about...oh, what else? Critters!

This particular post is titled "Rewards of Disabled Pets." Guest blogger Dr. Susan Wright discusses the extra effort required to live with disabled pets, and the extra rewards one earns through this type of care. Sound familiar? Thought it might. You'll enjoy this one.

Dr. Wright, a licensed veterinarian, writes on various topics for DogFenceDIY.com, which provides do-it-yourself underground electric dog fencing solutions and training for owners. Now I must admit, the jury's still out for me on the whole electric fence thing. I struggle with whether it's ethical -- it seems to me it must hurt the animal -- but then again, if it's the only viable solution to keep pups in the yard and out of the street and harm's way...isn't an electric sting better than a bumper bash or worse?

Dr. Susan Wright

But from what I've seen on the Web, Dr. Wright knows her stuff, and she talks here about having extra patience if you intend to work with special needs pets. She also gives a pretty good overview of common issues that can cause disability in dogs. Worth a read.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day of Service

It's been a while since I posted, and I wanted to catch up on something I did last month.

As a freelance writer, I get assignments to write about all sorts of things, many of which I know little or nothing about. That was the case when I was assigned a story about volunteers in my home area, Bucks County, Pa., for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The gist of the story is about programs that take advantage of this relatively recent federal holiday, during which people turn a day off of work into a day on in service. Specifically, following Dr. King's legacy and example of self sacrifice and service to community on a day given over to reflection of his ideals.

I thought it was a fantastic idea, and enjoyed learning how my fellow countians practiced this observance. When I turned in the article, I sat back and took a look at my own life, and was frankly ashamed I had never thought to volunteer myself on this day. So I did something about that.

It seemed to me that one should put one's effort toward a cause one feels is somehow neglected, so of course my thoughts turned immediately to animal welfare. I recalled that during one of our kick-off events to promote Almost Perfect, we had hosted several local groups related to animals.

One of those, Tabby's Place, is located across the Delaware River in New Jersey. A representative had brought the organization's mascot, Tashi, to visit with our attendees and be an ambassador for the no-kill sanctuary. That was such a cool thing, watching people at first freaked out by the quadriplegic kitty, quickly come to realize that Tashi was every bit as bright, aware and sentient as any animal they'd ever known. He just couldn't move anything but his head.

Since that time, Tashi has -- through much love and physical therapy -- begun to actually get around on his own. He'll probably never "walk" in the ordinary sense, but his lively spirit and determination to live to the fullest has given him the impetus to at least move about on two legs. I had read about his progress in our local newspaper, and in fact written a letter to its editor in response to a disturbing letter that decried Tashi's care as somehow wasteful and wrong-headed, since human beings weren't even getting all the care they need. As if the two are connected in our healthcare systems (they're not). So, I decided to see his progress for myself while performing my first MLK Day of Service at Tabby's Place.

I had asked to be able to work specifically in the area dedicated to special needs cats. As it turns out, Tabby's Place realizes that since these critters are the least likely to get attention from visitors (while probably needing it most), they don't sequester special needs cats off in some separate area. Instead, they let most of them walk freely among visitors in the lobby. Unless there's a reason to keep the cat separate, it eats, sleeps, walks about and gets lovin's from people there to check out potential adoptees, fill out paperwork or simply visiting the residents (and yes, I did see one gentleman doing exactly that).

So, I ended up playing with and brushing them a lot (I know - rough job, but someone had to do it). But there was also real work in the laundry and cleaning out enclosures (they only use cages for transport or quarantine -- otherwise resident cats are housed in light, airy rooms or enclosures, with full length windows visitors can see through to watch their antics). One of my favorite jobs was helping to socialize kitties who had been brought in from feral colonies with the belief that they may still be able to become adoptees. I talked softly to them, brushed them (when they let me) and played with their little toys.

I did get to see Tashi and to speak a lot with his caretakers. I got to see the day-in, day-out lives of the dedicated staff who work with him and all the other residents. I got to meet the founders, and the people who work relentlessly to place residents in forever homes (boy, talk about the need to have a bottomless well of faith to come to work every day!).

And most of all, I got to spend time in a sanctuary where I knew that, whether these cats found a forever home or not, their lives were valued, they would be loved and cared for and housed for as long as they lived. It was the first time I ever went into a shelter that I didn't come out crying with sorrow and frustration about all the animals I knew would never be adopted or loved.

It was one of the highlights of this year so far, and I look forward to doing it again. I encourage you to consider doing your own Day of Service. We don't need to wait for a specially designated holiday. Shelters and sanctuaries need our help every day of every year. If you can't afford a full day, do what you can.

If you can't do it all at once, consider spending a few hours here and there collecting old towels, rags, washcloths, blankets and afghans from your friends and neighbors. These items, too old and stained and ratty for humans, are greatly needed and appreciated by these groups, who use them to line carriers, pad enclosure floors and other areas to keep critters warm and comfy. Do a toy drive, asking friends and neighbors to contribute old cat and dog toys their "kids" no longer show an interest in. Gather them all and run them to your local shelter, where I guarantee they'll be appreciated and played with.

Donations of treats, canned food and dry kibble, bedding material and cat litter are also extremely appreciated. I've calculated that our cats cost us about $100/month each (sounds cold, but one must budget) to keep in good health and well fed. Can you imagine multiplying that by the dozens, if not hundreds of animals that shelters and sanctuaries must maintain each year?

Anyway, I'm really glad I did it and urge anyone who needs to feel less impotent in a world that makes us feel we can't do anything to help, to do the same. We CAN make a difference, however small. And it matters.