Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Filling the Empty Seat Next to My Heart

Something interesting has happened since Casey died.

Casey was my heart cat; she was literally engulfed in my aura and it felt like she was a part of me whenever we were near. And when we were in the same space, we were almost always in the same place. Literally. Casey slept next to me, and even sat on my chair as I worked. We were almost inseparable.

When Casey was in her physical body, there just wasn't room for my other cats, Neil and Glenda, to get that close. But now, it feels almost like I am in a theatre and there is an empty seat next to me. But not for long. My beautiful, empathetic, charismatic orange tiger, Neil, has slipped into that seat and seems determined to claim my heart. It feels like he is succeeding.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Introducing The Animal Communication Book Club!

I'm so pleased, on this auspicious Christmas Eve, to announce a project that I've been working on for the last several months: The Animal Communication Book Club!

The Animal Communication Book Club is my new companion blog, with a focus on reviews of books that I hope will be of interest to my clients and to everyone who is blessed with the companionship of an animal. The topics will include telepathic animal communication, of course, but I'll also highlight authors who bring a fresh perspective to all of the ways we interact with animals, and they interact with one another, to enrich our life on this planet.

My biweekly reviews of both new and trusted volumes will be published in print and via podcast, to enable blind and sight-impaired animal lovers to participate and enjoy our conversations.

As Editor-in Chief of The Animal Communication Book Club, I'll also be conducting live interviews with animal authors that will be available via Mp3 for later listening. Watch for more details of my Internet Radio debut on the BlogTalkRadio platform.

The best thing about The Animal Communication Book Club is that it's free! There's no obligation to do anything, but enjoy the experience. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Casey's Last Gift

On the terrible day in November that I had to bring Casey to the vet's office for the last time, something unusual happened.

At my request, Dr. Gifford had administered a sedative, prior to the final injection, so that Casey would be relaxed and calm before she drifted into her permanent sleep.

As the relaxant took effect, Casey laid on her side, without moving, and I looked deeply into her eyes, stroking her and whispering how much I loved her.

Casey began to slowly and deliberately blink her eyes. I had never noticed her doing that before, and I wasn't sure why she was doing it now, at this fateful moment. As I struggled to keep my turbulent emotions in check, my telepathic prowess deserted me; there was no time to ask Casey or intuit what she meant.

So it was with tremendous gratitude and wonder that I stumbled upon a moving explanation of this gesture in Dusty Rainbolt's engaging book, Ghost Cats: Human Encounters with Feline Spirits (which I will be reviewing in the December issue of my monthly eNewsletter, "What's Up With Animals?"):

"A slow blink is one of the ways that cats communicate affection--sort of a kitty kiss."

I now realize that Casey was saying, "I love you," one last time. She was saying, "good-bye," in the only way she could, and I will always treasure that memory.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Spend Quiet Time Together

We are all so maddeningly busy that the time we spend with our animals tends to be taken up by the "must do's."

Your cat, dog, horse, bird, goat or hamster must be fed, watered, exercised, groomed, trained, and seen by the vet for periodic checkups. There are occasional cuts and bruises that must be attended to, and trips to the pet store or grain mill to pick up food, bedding, and supplements.

It's our love of our creature companions that motivates us to spend our time and money and energy to ensure that they have a comfortable, happy life, and it's gratifying to be able to accomplish this much.

But if you aspire to open up the telepathic channels of communication with your animal, the best thing you can do is to stop.

Sit with her, breathe with her, and let silence reign for as many precious minutes as you can afford. Consciously open your heart, and your mind, and then let what will be, be. You may be surprised at what you hear.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why Dogs Can Sense Fair Play

Here's a fascinating article about how dogs experience a wide range of complex emotions, including jealousy, based on research conducted at the University of Vienna and reported by CNN:

"LONDON, England (CNN) -- Dogs appear to experience a range of complex, unpleasant emotions such as jealousy and pride, scientists have discovered.

Dogs hate their owner showing affection to other dogs.

Until now, this type of behavior had only been shown in humans or chimpanzees, but researchers suspected that other species that live together could be sensitive to fair play -- or a lack of one.

'We are learning that dogs, horses, and perhaps many other species are far more emotionally complex than we ever realized,' Paul Morris, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth who studies animal emotions, told The Sunday Times. 'They can suffer simple forms of many emotions we once thought only primates could experience.'

Scientists noted that dogs hate to see their owners being affectionate to other dogs and can suffer if a new baby or partner arrives on the scene.

To test the theory, Friederike Range and colleagues at the University of Vienna in Austria asked 33 trained dogs to extend a paw to a human. The animals performed the trick virtually all of the time whether they were given a reward or not -- when alone or with another dog. But the dogs' enthusiasm waned when they saw other dogs being rewarded but received nothing themselves.

Dogs that were ignored extended their paws much less often, doing so in only 13 out of 30 trials. They also showed more stress, such as licking or scratching themselves. 'They are clearly unhappy with the unfair situation,' Range told New Scientist magazine.

She also suspects that this sensitivity might stretch beyond food to more abstract things like praise and attention. 'It might explain why some dogs react with 'new baby envy' when their owners have a child,' she said."


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More Details About the Animals Seized in Vermont

According to the attorney for the couple whose animals were seized last week, any neglect of the animals was "not intentional."

Cristina Kumka of the Rutland Herald reported yesterday that criminal defense attorney Peter Langrock, who has been retained by the Hegarty family, said, "This isn't a case where you have a woman who doesn't care about her animals." The Hegartys operate La Chandolaine Farms in Brandon, VT.

Thirty-two "house pets" belonging to the Hegartys are currently in the care of the Rutland County Humane Society in Pittsford, while 60 horses, ponies, and donkeys are being housed and fed by the Spring Hill Horse Rescue in Clarendon.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

More Than 110 Neglected Animals Seized from VT Farms

According to reports in the Rutland Herald, WCAX, and on, more than 110 neglected, malnourished, and physically compromised animals were seized from farms in Hubbardton and Brandon VT on Friday, December 5th, after what the Rutland County Sheriff's Department termed as "the largest animal cruelty investigation in years."

The animals included dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, chickens, a dove, horses, ponies, donkeys, sheep, and goats.

The small animals have been placed in the care of the Rutland County Humane Society in Pittsford, VT, which had announced last month that it could no longer accept stray or owned cats or kittens because its facilities were already strained beyond capacity.

The approximately 50 equines that were removed from the farms are currently being cared for by the Spring Hill Horse Rescue in Clarendon, which was also housing more horses than its facility could properly handle before the emergency seizure last Friday.

Both rescues are in immediate need of contributions and supplies, and each will be seeking foster homes for the animals in its care as soon as they can safely and legally be moved to temporary placements.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Backyard Birds: The Cedar Waxwings Arrive

When I moved here 13 years ago (almost to the day), I was determined to create a backyard habitat that would be welcoming to native birds.

With this in mind, I have never used pesticides and I purposefully planted trees that would produce berries at this time of year, when pickings are scarce, to feed my avian visitors.

So I was simply delighted this morning to see that a small flock of Cedar Waxwings had joined the robins to feast on the red berries of one of the trees I had planted as a seedling, so many years ago. I'd never observed them here before.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"Casey's Legacy" will Benefit Cats with Cancer

After my cat, Casey died, I wanted to do something concrete to keep her spirit alive--something that would help other cats and their people.

And so I've decided to create "Casey's Legacy," a virtual "fund" that will underwrite more than a third of the cost of telepathic consultations for cats with cancer.

Because cats can be masterful at disguising pain or disability until it has progressed beyond control, it can be useful to approach them telepathically, to tune into their aches and sensations and to assess their emotional and physical energy and their will to persevere. But when pet owners are facing sometimes extraordinary costs for the very best medical treatment to keep their cats alive, the idea of calling an animal communicator can seem like an unaffordable luxury.

I want Casey's Legacy to change that, by making routine telepathic "check-ins" for cats with cancer affordable for anyone who wants them. When we understand our cats' perspective, we can make better decisions about managing their care, and we can better support them if and when their condition deteriorates.

As of December 1st, 2008, owners of cats who have been diagnosed with cancer will pay only $40.00 for animal communication consultations with me, through Animal Translations. The usual fee is $65.00 for a non-emergency session.

I sincerely hope that my small contribution will make a difference to cats with cancer, and the people who love them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Adopt A Turkey, Don't Eat One

More than 45 million turkeys gave their lives for America's Thanksgiving diners this year. But not for me.

I stopped eating turkey last year at this time, on Thanksgiving Day, 2007, wanting to do my small part to stem the slaughter of these sensitive birds.

For several years now, I have participated in Farm Sanctuary's "Adopt A Turkey" project, making a small contribution to sponsor one of the refuge's big birds, all of whom will have the opportunity to live out their lives in safety and comfort. This year, I "adopted" Faye (pictured here). For her, and for her hundreds of compatriots at Farm Sanctuary, it will truly be a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Sad Farewell to a Beloved Feline Friend

My dear beloved Casey's earthly journey ended peacefully this morning, shortly before 10am. I truly feel that I have lost my soul's sister.

Casey and I shared an unconditional love, and a bond that death may bend, but will not break. She had beautiful, intelligent, wide green eyes, but when they lost their lustre, I knew that I could not ask her to linger any longer in her physical body.

In one of the last photos I took of her, just 8 days ago, on November 18th, 15-year-old Casey still retained the spark and curiosity and joie de vivre of her younger days, even though she had become more pensive and deliberate as a result of the cancer that had wracked her little body for many months.

Casey had been diagnosed with an unspecified adenocarcinoma at the beginning of March, when a large growth was removed from one of her anal glands by Dr. Brian Holub of the Countryside Veterinary Hospital in Chelmsford.

Henceforth, I chose to support her by a combination of homeopathic remedies prescribed by Dr. Charles Loops, coupled with supplements and acupuncture treatments by Drs. Randy Caviness and Carol Gifford at the Integrative Animal Health Center in Bolton. Casey seemed to be thriving and doing very well until the end of August, when I noticed that she had developed a slight limp. An ultrasound confirmed my dreaded suspicions: the cancer had spread throughout many areas of Casey's body, and the prognosis was deemed to be "very grave."

But I did not give up, and neither did Casey. We dug in together, as a team, and increased the frequency of her acupuncture appointments, working primarily with Dr. Gifford to stimulate Casey's immune system, tempt her with a variety of foods, and keep her as balanced and as comfortable and as healthy as we could, given the circumstances. And Casey held her own for three more months, until just a few days ago, when her breathing became labored. On Monday, X-rays revealed that the cancer had invaded Casey's lungs. We had finally reached a mountain we could not climb.

Casey never felt sorry for herself, no matter what challenges the cancer threw at her. When an enlarged lymph node pressed against her spine and ultimately led to the loss of feeling in her left hind leg, Casey soldiered on, undeterred. She deftly ran up and down the stairs, and was able to claw her way to the top of my bed until just a few days ago.

I had known that we would not defeat the cells that were marching out of control throughout Casey's body, but I had hoped to keep them at bay a little longer. As Casey and I faced her health challenges, we became even closer than we had ever been before, and I knew, as I single-mindedly devoted myself to her care, that it would make it even more painful when I had to say good-bye.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Paws for Purple Hearts

On the heels of my post about the wonderful work being done by NEADS: Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, including its Canines for Combat Veterans program, last night's NBC's Nightly News aired a terrific piece on the "Paws for Purple Hearts" project at the Bergin University of Canine Studies' Assistance Dog Institute in Santa Rosa, CA.

According to its website, Paws for Purple Hearts "helps heal our returning combat veterans by teaching those with psychological scars, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), to train service dogs for their comrades with physical disabilities."

What a fabulous idea.

Using Telepathy to Enhance Your Dog's Training

My 10-year-old Springer, Tish, is a graduate of The Right Paw obedience school, but I'll be the first to admit that I've often slacked in reinforcing the commands that she learned there, so many years ago.

But recently, I've been inspired, and even awed, by watching British dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell, on the Animal Planet series, "It's Me or The Dog." Week after week, Victoria confronts all manner of canine chaos, and by the end of the episode, she has calmed everybody down and brought order, peace, and tranquility to a formerly dog-crazed household. She relies on positive reinforcement, clicker training, and a quiet firmness, and never seems to lose her cool, even when everyone else seems hopelessly out of control.

So of late, I've been using Victoria's methods to work with Tish, particularly as she flies around the house, barking her head off, at mealtimes. And I'm seeing results.

But this morning, I decided to see whether I could send my commands to Tish using telepathy alone, without any hand signals, eye movements, body language, or spoken words. With Tish on the leash, I calmly sent her the thought, "Come, and sit." At first, she just looked at me, realizing that there was something I wanted, but seemingly not "getting" it. I didn't move, but I kept repeating mentally, "Come, and sit." I took a deep breath. And within about two minutes, Tish walked over to me and sat down. It worked!

I was able to successfully repeat this experiment and each time that Tish came and sat down next to me, I effusively praised her.

Tish's quick response to my telepathic messages has inspired me to "up the ante," and once I'm sure I can consistently open the telepathic training connection with her at will, we'll see how far it can take us.

If you'd like to try it, I'd love to hear about your experiences using telepathy to send commands to your dog, too.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Amazing Assistance Dogs of NEADS

I took the opportunity to attend Saturday's Annual Meeting of NEADS: Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans in Princeton, and I wasn't in the building more than a few minutes when I made a big--and common--mistake: I approached Bronson (pictured at left), a working assistance dog, with outstretched hand, as if to pet him.

I hadn't realized that Bronson was actually working but was quickly admonished by his teammate. I won't do that again!

My Saturday morning at NEADS was a wonderful and emotional experience, and I learned a lot about its multi-faceted programs to partner special dogs with some special people who really need them.

During its last fiscal year, which ended on August 31, 2008, NEADS successfully trained 45 assistance dog teams, including 10 "hearing" dogs, 17 service dogs, 3 "social" dogs, 3 "specialty" dogs, and 12 classroom/therapy/ministry dogs. Its constituents came from all of the New England states, and from as far away as Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Nevada. The estimated cost to train each dog is $20,000, but NEADS absorbs more than half of that amount.

NEADS usually starts working with dogs when they are young puppies, having learned that the critical learning period spans from the tender ages of 3 weeks to 16 weeks of age. With this in mind, NEADS initiates puppies into its Early Learning Center at the Laura J. Niles Nursery when they are 8 to 10 weeks old. NEADS has dramatically increased its success rate in developing young dogs by adopting the methods espoused by the noted trainers Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson of My Smart Puppy.

At the age of 16 weeks, the puppies leave the NEADS nest and enter the next phase of their training: 80% of these young dogs are placed into one of 15 participating prisons in four states where, as part of the "Prison PUP Partnership," they will be mentored by individual inmates, while 20% go to conventional volunteer foster families. The young dogs will remain with their interim trainers until they are about 15 months old, when they are returned to the NEADS campus in Princeton for the final advanced stage of their training as assistance dogs.

One of the highlights of the Annual Meeting was the opportunity to meet NEADS Advisory Board Member, Matt Collins, and his sweet yellow lab, "Amber," who have been an inseparable team for the last three years. Matt teaches seventh grade, and Amber accompanies him to class every day, where she is clearly the main attraction.

As part of its socialization program, NEADS offers members of the public the opportunity to meet future assistance dogs by participating in "puppy petting" on Mondays through Fridays from 4-5pm at the Laura J. Niles Nursery. A small donation is asked, and I can't think of a better way to spend a happy hour.

Monday, November 10, 2008

On the Prowl

It seems that humans are not the only deadly predators out hunting on these pretty fall mornings.

I encountered this obviously well-fed cat during my morning walk on Mason Road, and watched as she espied, pounced, and then caught a hapless mouse twitching in the fallen leaves, as the sounds of men with guns echoed in the background. Here she is, clutching her unfortunate prey.

Cats are carnivores and hunting is a natural behavior, literally part of their DNA, and I accept that, but I refuse to believe that the same is true of us humans.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Download Gene Baur's Farm Santuary eBook Free Today Only!

To celebrate the paperback release of his animal advocacy book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur is making the title available as a free download through Sony's eBook Store, for today only.

Baur is the founder and CEO of Farm Sanctuary, which operates East and West Coast shelters for cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens who have been saved from slaughter. Farm Sanctuary has also taken on the role of consciousness-raiser in chief for all meat eaters, by putting a personal face on the beings who are killed as food for American dinner tables and exposing the often-horrendous conditions in which these animals are kept as they await their ultimate fate.

Here's an excerpt from the book jacket:

"In Farm Sanctuary, Baur provides a thoughtprovoking investigation of the ethical questions involved in the production of beef, poultry, pork, milk,and eggs -- and what each of us can do to stop the mistreatment of farm animals and promote compassion. He details the triumphs and the disappointments of more than twenty years on the front lines of the animal protection movement. And he introduces sanctuary. us to some of the special creatures who live at Farm Sanctuary -- from Maya the cow to Marmalade the chicken -- all of whom escaped horrible circumstances to live happier, more peaceful lives. Farm Sanctuary shows how all of us have an opportunity and a responsibility to consume a kinder plate, making a better life for ourselves and animals as well. You will certainly never think of a hamburger or chicken breast the same way after reading this book. "

If you want to read the rest of the story, just download it free today!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Identities of Saved Thoroughbreds and Implicated Trainers Revealed

Thanks to superb reporting by Ray Paulick of The Paulick Report, we now know that the track behind the rescue of the five thoroughbreds found in the New Holland "kill pen" on Monday was indeed Suffolk Downs, as I had speculated in my earlier post.

In late June, 2008, Suffolk announced a "zero tolerance" policy against horses being shipped from its facility to auctions where they would be destined for slaughter, and its dramatic intervention this week to save the lives of these former equine competitors shows that it means business. It had clearly stipulated that "any trainer found to have sold a horse for slaughter will have his stalls revoked and be denied stalls at any time in the future."

According to Paulick:

"On Sunday, Nov. 2, a CANTER volunteer was tipped off that some Thoroughbreds were enroute to the notorious auction at New Holland where 'killer buyers' have been operating for years. CANTER notified Sam Elliott, vice president of racing for Suffolk Downs, and he made arrangements the following day with the auction company to buy the five racehorses for $2,700, with financial assistance from the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. The horses were subsequently placed with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation."

The thoroughbreds who were saved from being shipped to be slaughtered in Canada are:

Tercia de Reinas '05 Filly
Storm Up Front '02 Gelding
Tiny Target '05 Gelding
Jimmy The Gov '02 Gelding
Arrested Gatorgirl '03 Mare

The individuals "ruled off" from Suffolk for their involvement in jeopardizing these horses were owner Albert Michelson and trainers Pam Pompell, Wayne Sargent, Tony D'Angelo, and Gerry LeFleur.

"Regrettably, for the second time this year we have had a violation of our anti-slaughter policy and we intend to exercise our rights to restrict the access to our property by individuals involved,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for Suffolk Downs. “These horses were sold with deliberate disregard for their ultimate disposition. They didn’t end up at the auction months after they left here but hours later. There are lots of different stories, but the individuals involved should have known better.

“Both Suffolk Downs and the state of Massachusetts expect that the people who stable here will adhere to standards of decency and will uphold their obligation to the animals in their care,” Tuttle said. “The vast majority of the Suffolk Downs horsemen work with us and with accredited retirement programs to ensure safe and healthy second careers for their athletes."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hold the Applause

It was disconcerting to learn that trainers at Mountaineer Racetrack have exploited the gaping loophole in the Management's dictum that they would lose their stalls if horses under their care were found to be offered for sale at the often direct-to-slaughter auction in Sugarcreek, Ohio.

So the kudos for Mountaineer were premature. In fact, they have not committed to a "zero tolerance" policy against shipping horses to slaughter auctions. They have only stipulated that trainers can't ship horses to Sugarcreek. That's not acceptable, and it won't do an iota of good because the trainers have simply started sending their cast-off thoroughbreds to the New Holland auction, instead.

In fact, according to information posted on the Alex Brown Racing discussion forum yesterday, volunteers scouring for thoroughbreds at yesterday's New Holland sale found several from Mountaineer, including one horse who had raced there as recently as October 24th.

The volunteers had been sent by an as-yet unidentified East Coast track which is uncompromisingly committed to a zero tolerance anti-slaughter policy. The track underwrote the efforts to buy back and transport five thoroughbreds who would otherwise have languished in the "kill pens" and been destined for a horrible death at a slaughterhouse in Canada. I have to believe that the unidentified track is Suffolk Downs, which is the only facility on the East Coast to have taken such a strong stand.

The other thoroughbreds who were saved yesterday, with funds raised by anonymous donors and members of the "Fans of Barbaro" include:

Many Many Dreams 2004 Chestnut gelding. Last raced at Lone Star Park in July of 2007
Hopi's Lolo 2004 bay filly. Last raced at Mountaineer on Oct. 24, 2008
Glenda Jane 2003 Dk Bay mare. Last raced at Calder Race Course in Aug of 2006

Monday, November 03, 2008

Are Animals Psychic, or Are They Just Good Listeners?

Cheryl, a new client, recently asked me to check in with her dogs, Buka and Luca, to find out how they were doing, and to see how they were feeling about the fact that Cheryl and her husband are expecting their first child.

The older dog, Buka, an American Staffordshire Terrier, knew all about the impending arrival of the baby, and was actually looking forward to it. Not only that, but Buka said that he could smell the baby and knew that the baby was a boy!

I had no idea if Cheryl even knew the sex of the baby she was carrying, but when I shared Buka's pronouncement, she was truly amazed. It was true. She is due to deliver a baby boy in a few months.

That led us to wonder: is Buka "psychic," meaning that he was able to intuit this information, or is he just an attentive listener who has a much larger vocabulary than we tend to give dogs credit for?

Two weeks ago, CBS Sunday Morning devoted its entire 90-minute show to the subject of animals, and they included a provocative piece entitled, "The Intelligence of Animals: Studies, Behavior Prove There is More Going on in Animals' Minds Than We Thought Possible."

Reporter Tracy Smith asked the question, "What Are They Thinking?" And then added, "If you've always suspected that animals are smarter than they get credit for, that there's more going on behind those eyes than a desire for food or attention. . .you are not alone."

As animal lovers, we all have our anecdotal stories about the cute or amazing or even heroic deeds that our animals have performed. But what animal communicators can bring to light is the fact that animals are immensely more aware of what is going on in the minds of the people around them than researchers have yet been able to measure. And if you don't believe that, just ask Buka.

This article first appeared in the October 2008 issue of my monthly eNewsletter, "What's Up With Animals?"
To protect the privacy of my client, I have changed her name.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mountaineer Racetrack May Ban Trainers Selling at Sugarcreek Auction

This is excellent, encouraging news!

The new management at Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino in West Virginia have today let trainers know that if they are found to have shipped horses to the notorious Sugarcreek Auction in Ohio, where most horses are sold to "kill buyers," they will lose their stalls. It's a great first step.

For a compelling, graphic, and very vivid description of what really goes on at the Sugarcreek auction, refer to Anne Russek's Report dated October 17, 2008, and available through the Discussion Forum:

I believe that Ms. Russek's efforts to publicize the barbaric conditions in which horses are kept and shipped from this auction were indirectly instrumental in achieving this milestone, and I sincerely thank her.

Sunday Morning on Mason Pond

A beautiful, crisp morning on Mason Pond, where the Canada Geese are oblivious to the upcoming election.

The silence was precious. No booming guns, no hunting on Sunday.

Everyone is safe, for today.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Close Call for 5 Frightened Turkeys

November 1st was the end of the six-day Massachusetts fall turkey hunting season and it didn't come a minute too soon.

I watched in horror this morning as five turkey hens crossed the road in front of me and fled from an open field to the safety of a thicket, just yards away from a party of orange-jacketed men with guns and predatory dogs.

I froze as I realized the turkeys' plight, praying that the hunting party wouldn't find the beautiful birds. Their fear was palpable, and for a minute, I felt like I was in danger, too.

If the dogs had picked up the scent, the turkeys wouldn't have had a chance, but they passed without noticing the hens, who somehow safely camouflaged themselves, against all odds. I'm not sure that others were so lucky. The boom of guns shook the countryside around me during my half-hour walk, and I'm afraid to imagine how many wild turkeys were lost today, in Holden, and in other rural venues throughout the state.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"How to Talk to Animals"

Dog Trainer and Behaviorist Darlynn Tracy-Oberg of The Right Paw in Princeton and Maureen Harmonay of Animal Translations have just announced that we'll be presenting a morning seminar on "How to Talk to Your Pets and Influence Their Behavior" at The Right Paw in Princeton on Saturday, December 6th, from 8:30am to 12:00noon.

Darlynn will address the topic from her perspective as the owner of The Right Paw Dog Obedience school in Princeton, MA and a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

I'll be discussing the use and importance of telepathy in interspecies communication, and how humans can use telepathy to receive and transmit messages from the animals in their care.

Attendees can enter to win a free Animal Communication Consultation!

A $6.00 donation is requested, with all proceeds to be distributed (at the attendees' option) to one of three local animal charities: NEADY Cats in West Boylston, Save A Dog in Framingham, or the Worcester Animal Rescue League.

Seating is limited, so please let us know you're coming by sending a note to Maureen at

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Talking About Animal Communication Tonight!

I'll be the featured speaker at tonight's "Whiskers and Tails" lecture series, sponsored by the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society at the Newburyport Public Library from 6:30-7:30pm.

I know it's raining, but join us, if you can!

I'll be talking about how cats (and other animals) use telepathy to send and receive information, how people can influence their cats' behavior by understanding how they perceive and interpret human thoughts and intentions, and how we can better understand their seeming behavioral quirks by just asking them what's going on!

Attendees will have an opportunity to win a free animal communication consultation for the animal of their choice.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Looking Forward to The Breeders' Cup, I think

Like all thoroughbred racing enthusiasts, I look forward to the Breeders' Cup with great anticipation each fall, hoping to see the very best horses in the world strut their stuff. And this year, for the first time, there are two days of top racing, with the addition of three new races (Juvenile Fillies Turf, Turf Sprint, and Marathon), beginning on Friday afternoon, October 24th and continuing on Saturday afternoon, October 25th. You can see it on ABC (Saturday) and ESPN (Friday and Saturday).

But I will admit that last year's Breeders' Cup, and the one before that, lost their lustre for me when the great European champion George Washington broke his ankle and had to be put down on the muddy Monmouth track during the Breeders' Cup Classic (2007) and when the gallant three-year-old filly Pine Island fell on the backstretch of the Ladies' Classic (2006) at Churchill Downs and had to be immediately euthanized to end her suffering. I still think about them, with great sadness.

It's clear that the Breeders' Cup Board wants to avoid a repeat of these disasters at all costs, and partly with that in mind, I think, they have awarded two consecutive runnings (2008 and 2009) of the prestigious championship series to Santa Anita, which has worked hard to create a racing-safe surface. After having disastrous results with the synthetic Cushion Track, which had been installed last fall, Santa Anita went back to the drawing board and eventually hired Australian Ian Pearce to do a complete overhaul of the oval's surface, using his patented all-weather Pro-Ride synthetic product. The Pro-Ride surface has been cautiously applauded by horsemen and jockeys, though there have been five fatal breakdowns on it since Santa Anita reopened on September 24th.

The question looming over this year's Breeders' Cup is: will the Pro-Ride surface be able to prevent catastrophic breakdowns of the kind we've seen in at least the last three years' of this event?

And so it was with great interest that I read Marshall Gramm's fascinating analysis, "Injuries/Breakdowns at the Breeders' Cup," with a year-by-year table documenting all of the competition's "nonfinishers," including injuries and fatalities since the inaugural event in 1984. Encouragingly, Gramm notes that "six of the seven Breeders' Cups contested in California have been incident free. There has never been a breakdown in (a) California Breeders' Cup."

More ominously, though, Gramm projects that, "Based on 160 starters (90 synthetic, 70 turf) the 2008 edition projects 2.7 incidents, 1.6 horses eased and 1.1 more serious (pulled up, fall, break down). "

For the sake of the horses, we can only hope for a much better outcome.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Awful Truth About Declawing

I would never even consider declawing one of my feline companions, and I think that if other cat lovers understood the extent to which this amputation surgery maims and causes serious physical and psychological pain, they wouldn't do it, either.

According to Christianne Schelling, DVM:

"Declawing is actually an amputation of the last joint of your cat's 'toes.' When you envision that, it becomes clear why declawing is not a humane act. It is a painful surgery, with a painful recovery period. And remember that during the time of recuperation from the surgery your cat would still have to use its feet to walk, jump, and scratch in its litter box regardless of the pain it is experiencing."

As Jennifer Annis writes, in "Soft Paws An Alternative to Declawing Cats," in today's Greenwood, SC Index-Journal, cat people who are worried about the damage that claws can wreak on furniture and furnishings have other options, including scratching posts and vinyl claw caps called "Soft Paws." And of course, good old-fashioned nail trimming, which I admit (from personal experience) may be easier said than done.

But it's worth any hassle if it means sparing your cat the agony of having part of her toes ripped out. If your cats could talk (and I know they can!), they will thank you for keeping them whole.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

National Feral Cat Day

Today is National Feral Cat Day, sponsored by the national feline advocacy group, Alley Cat Allies.

It is estimated that there may be as many as 80 million feral cats in this country, a number that is undoubtedly rising in this teetering economy, in which some people are facing the choice of feeding themselves or feeding their pets.

I was horrified to learn that about two-thirds of all cats entering shelters in the U.S. are killed, based on the latest available data (for 2006) and that only 2% are reunited with their original owners.
When it comes to feral cats, the percentage of those who are "euthanized" rises to almost 100%.

This mass killing doesn't have to happen if more of us would get involved in promoting safe alternatives so that humans and feral felines can share a common community without feeling threatened by one another.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vote for the Dogs, Vote "Yes" on Question 3

I am sure that some of the people who are involved with greyhound racing really care about their dogs, and treat them kindly.

But the evidence shows that commercial dog racing is not conducted in the best interests of the greyhounds, who often sacrifice their lives and limbs and suffer from inhumane confinement in the service of what I hate to describe as a sport.

Massachusetts has two greyhound tracks: Raynham Park and Wonderland Greyhound Park. It takes at least 1000 dogs to keep them going.

But since 2002, when the state required the tracks to submit records of greyhound racing injuries, more than 800 greyhounds have been seriously hurt. And countless others have died.

It's time to end this cruelty. And thanks to a coalition of committed dog lovers and concerned citizens, we can.

Whatever your political beliefs, when you go to the polls on November 4th, vote "Yes" on Question 3.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Animal Translations Announces the 2008 Halloween Animal Story Contest!

Do you have a funny, interesting, or scary Halloween story about something that occurred with one or more of your animals?

Please send your original tale (with photos, if available) to Maureen Harmonay of Animal Translations at:

If your story is chosen, you'll receive a free animal communication consultation for the animal of your choice. Your story will also be published in next month's issue of the eNewsletter, "What's Up With Animals?"

The deadline for entries is Thursday, October 30th, 2008. Winners will be announced on Halloween, October 31st!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

"What's Up With Animals?" for August 2008

The current issue of my monthly Animal Communication newsletter, "What's Up With Animals?", is available online now!

Stories include "Where Does It Hurt?", a story about Carly, a thoroughbred mare who told me where she was feeling pain and discomfort. The information that Carly shared with me was later corroborated by her veterinarian!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Racetracks Adopt New "Get Tough" Policies Against Trainers Who Send Horses to Kill Auctions

For years, the powers that be at American racetracks have blithely turned their backs on a terrible truth: every day, on every backstretch across the country, broken down thoroughbreds are purchased for "meat money" and packaged into crowded vans for the beginning of a a journey to the hell of a slaugterhouse.

In just the last few months, though, the management of a few--primarily East Coast--tracks have taken a meaningful stand against this inhumane practice, and are now not only holding trainers accountable for what happens to their horses after they leave their care, but are enforcing the rules with stiff penalties, including loss of stable privileges.

In today's, in an article appropriately entitled, "Furious," Virginia trainer Diane McClure chronicles some of her recent visits to "kill pens" in Sugarcreek, Ohio and New Holland, Pennsylvania, where she was able to identify numerous thoroughbreds who had raced within the previous seven days.

In particular, she describes the plight of a lame and emaciated three-year-old gelding, Falcon Fury, whom she found at the New Holland kill pen, about three weeks after his last start at Delaware Park. As it happened, an owner and trainer for whom McClure works had previously owned Falcon Fury, and when they were notified of his plight, they vowed to do whatever was necessary to save him from his certain fate: shipment out of the country to a Canadian slaughterhouse. Through their intervention, Delaware Park officials also became involved. They required that Falcon Fury's last trainer (the person who had sold him to a kill dealer) pay the costs of buying the injured gelding back from the dealer and of shipping him to a facility where the horrified previous owner agreed to underwrite his care.

Earlier this summer, Suffolk Downs banned all killer dealers from its backstretch, and has notified all of the trainers on its grounds that if any of them ship horses into the slaughterhouse pipeline, they will immediately lose their right to stable and train horses at the East Boston racetrack.

These are laudable examples of what McClure calls "zero tolerance" for "shedrow-to-slaughter practices." Owners, trainers, and racetracks need to work together to create formal policies to protect "used" racehorses, and then ante up the resources to support humane retirement options.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Casey is Sick

Fourteen years ago, I saved Casey's life.

Prior to the time that the Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton became a "No Kill" shelter, Casey was there on the list of cats to be euthanized simply because she'd had the bad luck to be placed in a room in which several other felines had developed severe upper respiratory disease. Much to my horror, the Manager of the Shelter, along with some of the then-Board members, had determined that the only way to permanently eradicate the problem was to evacuate and euthanize any cat who had been exposed. I couldn't save everyone, but I did save Casey. And we've been best friends ever since.

So when I got up this morning and saw Casey vomit a few times, I took notice. I wasn't overly worried until I observed that she was also straining to defecate, and seemed quite uncomfortable.

I quickly realized that I needed to get her to a vet, and bundled her up for the 45-minute ride to Countryside Veterinary Hospital in Chelmsford, where my animals have been clients for many years.

The staff at Countryside hurried us into an examination room, and before long, Dr. Tiffany Rule determined that Casey would need to be admitted to the hospital, for X-rays, IV fluids, and other diagnostic procedures.

Within an hour, Dr. Rule called me to let me know that the X-rays indicated that the large, palpable mass she felt was a severe bowel impaction, and that Casey was suffering from obstipation, and possibly, megacolon, which Dr. Arnold Plotnick describes as:

"a condition of extreme and irreversible dilation and poor motility of the colon, usually combined with accumulation of fecal material and the inability to evacuate it."

Obviously, not a good situation at all. Casey may have "idiopathic" megacolon, meaning that rather than being able to point to a specific cause of her condition, no one really knows why it would have happened to her.

Casey is currently being treated, and I'll know more tonight. In the interim, I've read everything I could find online and have joined the Feline Megacolon Yahoo Group, grateful to find so much information on a problem that was previously unknown to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New York City's Carriage Horses Exploited Again

I couldn't believe my eyes tonight when I turned on The Celebrity Apprentice and realized that this week's challenge called for the two competing teams to raise money for their pet charities by selling horse-drawn carriage rides.

Didn't anyone tell NBC about the pending efforts to ban the New York City carriage trade because of its cruelty to these horses? Apparently not, because the show promoted the traditional romantic view of a hansom cab ride around Central Park, and raised thousands of dollars by the sweat of the silent equine workers.

The powers that be should have shown more sensitivity to an issue that is rapidly gaining traction.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Foreclosed Animals

Mike Taibbi of NBC Nightly News tonight did a poignant story about the plight of animals whose owners have faced foreclosure. But the animals he covered are the lucky ones. They have been taken in by shelters and sanctuaries such as The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, NY, a nonprofit haven for abused, abandoned, and neglected horses and farm animals. Since 2001, it has provided a safe and loving refuge for more than 1000 animals and birds. With its rafters full to capacity, the Sanctuary is currently expanding, in an effort to accommodate the overflow of hapless creatures who are the silent victims of the current real estate downturn.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What's Become of Michael Vick's Dogs

When Michael Vick's vicious pit bull fighting ring was exposed last year, I assumed that the hapless dogs would all be euthanized because they had been trained to fight to the death and could probably never be rehabilitated.

I was so wrong. As chronicled in Juliet Macur's article, "Given Reprieve, N.F.L. Star's Dogs Find Kindness," in today's New York Times, each of the 48 pit bulls was individually evaluated and only one was found to be beyond salvation.

A few have actually already been adopted, but most are in the care of a few specialist Rescue organizations such as the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, which is currently caring for 22 of the former fighters, all of whom are carrying deep physical and emotional wounds.

Most poignant of these survivors is Georgia, whose 42 teeth were brutally removed, presumably to render her incapable of biting male dogs during repeated forced breedings.

“I’m worried most about Georgia,” said the Best Friends veterinarian Dr. Frank McMillan, an expert on the emotional health of animals, who edited the textbook “Mental Health and Well-Being in Animals.” “You don’t have the luxury of asking her, or any of these animals: ‘What happened to you in your past life? How can we stop you from hurting?’

“So here we are left with figuring out how to bring joy to her life,” he said of Georgia, known to lick the face of anyone who comes near. “We want to offset the unpleasant memories that dwell in her brain.”

I don't know whether or not Best Friends, or the other caregivers of the former Vick dogs, has enlisted the services of an animal communicator, but it certainly seems like it would be a good idea.

According to John Garcia, the assistant dog care manager at Best Friends:

“The biggest job we have with these guys is teaching them that it’s O.K. to trust people. It may take months or years, but we’re very stubborn. We won’t give up on them. . .These dogs have been beaten and starved and tortured, and they have every reason not to trust us,” Mr. Garcia said as Georgia crawled onto his lap, melted into him for an afternoon nap and began to snore. “But deep down, they love us and still want to be with us. It is amazing how resilient they are.”

This is a must-read article, along with the accompanying slide show, narrated by Garcia.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Documenting Visitations from Animals in Spirit

Jeff Belanger's is devoting this month's Message Board to a discussion of apparitions from animals in spirit (spirit animals, if you will!), asking the question, "Can animals stick around our earthly plane even after their death?"

The respondents have provided often-fascinating accounts of after-death visitations from beloved animal companions, which I think will be of particular interest to people who are still grieving from a recent loss.

One woman recounted:

I think that Newman, our 16yo Himalayan cat stayed around for awhile after we had to put him to sleep. I would find his toys lying in the middle of the floor like he was playing with them still. He used to shed clumps of fur on my dark carpet, so after he died, I did a really thorough job of vacuuming and shampooing the carpet. About a week after that, I came home from work and found tufts of his fur in the middle of the living room just like when he used to roll on the carpet and it would come off.

Another cat lover recalled:

My first cat was killed 8 years ago in my yard on Thanksgiving Day. I was hysterical since we were very close. From that day on until about 2 years later, I would feel him getting on my bed when I would get in bed. He would walk around for a little while and then settle down like he had always done. I would see the indentations although I couldn't see him. Sometimes in the middle of the night he would get down. I adopted two other cats within that time and they would stand staring at something in my bedroom but they never seemed concerned.

To follow or contribute to this fascinating discussion, visit GhostVillage's Board of the Month.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Considering Candidates' Views on Animal Rights Issues

I had no idea that as a State Senator, Barack Obama had sponsored legislation to end the slaughter of horses in Illinois. The state's Cavel slaughterhouse was finally closed in 2007, after a series of court battles.

Obama reasserted his commitment to animal rights yesterday, while campaigning in Nevada, in response to a question from a member of the audience. "I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other," he said. "And it's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals." Amen.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

It's All About the Birds

For years, I've wanted to participate in Audubon's annual Christmas Bird Count, and this year, I actually did.

Just after dawn on Sunday, December 30th, I was privileged to be partnered with Steven Moore, the expert Stow/Maynard/Bolton area coordinator for the Concord CBC circle, and Katherine Reiner, a knowledgeable veteran birder, and we embarked on a 6-hour survey of the town of Maynard, in search of as many species and individual birds as we could find. For me, it was an absolutely wonderful experience, topped by the sighting of an Osprey roosting in the branches of a Weeping Willow over the Assabet River, which is a rare event in these parts, particularly at this time of year.

Since last Sunday, I've been like a kid in a candy shop, single-mindedly adding new feeders, seed varieties, and a heated birdbath to my yard, in an effort to lure more species out of the woods. Thanks to my years of "birdscaping," my home is surrounded by numerous fruit trees and berry bushes, which seem to be sustaining a large flock of wintering robins. I can only hope that they are joined by some Cedar Waxwings!

In an effort to attract more woodpeckers and perhaps some red-breasted nuthatches, I wanted to add some suet, but as a semi-vegetarian, I couldn't justify the purchase of the usual beef fat blends, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to create a tempting buffet for these tree-hugging species.

Imagine my delight, then, when I found three "veggie" varieties of suet, made by Pine Tree Farms, at Wild About Birds in North Grafton! I purchased several packages, as well as the birch log suet feeder pictured above, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the hungry guests!