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Is Your Living Easy?

Posted by Eliza, June 22nd, 2012

We’re in the thick of summer now. You can see and feel it in the reports of animal movements, as well as in the long days and hot and stormy weather. Locally, deer seek out the best browse to fatten for the long winter ahead, as do bears, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Once we realize this is what they are doing, we can create a more peaceful co-existence. How? By letting go of our desires (Ex. Wanting birds around the feeder all summer- ditch the feeder as they have plenty to eat), or by making space for multiple ones (Ex. Feed the birds AND have pots and pans beside the driveway or back door to let the bears know you’re coming?).

It’s very humbling to acknowledge that we’re not only part of creation, but that we, like all the beings, must adapt. Or we can choose not to take advantage of our awareness, and be unhappy as a result. Or cause others to suffer. The choice is ours to make. For example, we think of the coyote as dirty and sneaky, a beast we want banished from our neighborhood, if not the earth. Among the native peoples of the Southwest, the coyote mirrors human nature: it’s alternately powerful, helpful, clever, clownish, and stubbornly unchanging. How we view the coyote and choose to respond to its living close by says way more about us than about the coyote.

Our animal instincts used to insure that we slowed down as weather and food gathering allowed. Our animal companions can be our teachers in finding a better balance in our lives, a healthier and saner way to appreciate the gifts our days offer. Keep the water bowl full, find the shade and nap in it, and eat more lightly. Seek out breezes, water, cool caves, and berries.

May the better animal of your nature guide you all summer long.

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To Rescue or Not to Rescue

Posted by Eliza, May 16th, 2012

At a party recently a friend told me that she was considering getting a puppy. She had lost her long-time dog from old age a while ago and she felt ready to bring a new member into the family.

“A rescue?” I asked, like a dope. I’m all about rescues and adopting shelter animals because of watching the careful work at my local SPCA, but I shouldn’t assume. Never assume.

“No, I don’t think so,” she said, quickly adding that she’d thought about it. She’s the sweetest person on earth, and I felt awful for putting her on the spot in my evangelistic fervor.

She went on to explain that, with her first grandchild on the way, she wanted to be sure any pet would be bred to be trusted around tiny humans with poor motor control. (I added that detail about motor control– I’ve had to teach my dog to be tolerant of enthusiastic toddler paws.)

Of course I absolved her on the spot- making us both laugh, and went on to share with her what I’ve learned from watching pet adoptions over the last year: it has to work for everybeing or everybeing loses. I’ve heard animal adoption counselors say no, I’ve heard them give an enthusiastic yes, and when they’re unsure I notice that they err on the side of discouraging. I’ve heard them give the nitty-gritty background on a beautiful animal, because they know the animal will do well IF the match is right, and that the only way to make an effective match is to be honest. Same as in any relationship we want to thrive.

That said, rescue matches can be so successful they make you believe in angels and miracles. Here’s one: In April I went to a workshop at Upaya, a Zen center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I met Sam, the canine in the picture, in the parking lot, an alert, friendly and beautiful shepherd-something. He was there with Manissa, also a sweet soul and a candidate for Zen chaplaincy. I soon asked if I could share their story.

Manissa was a Peace Core volunteer in Belize. She found Sam in February of 2010. She learned that he had had five different families during his first year of life. He’d been abandoned and was wandering on the streets of the village.

Manissa worked very hard to help him heal from the neglect, malnutrition, mange, worms, and heartworm. She wrote me recently that “He loves to run, swim, do yoga, and ‘help’ in the garden,” despite an accident that left him with only one good eye.

His psyche has healed, too, thanks to Manissa’s care. He gets along well with all kinds and ages of beings – she didn’t mention cats! Sam and Manissa are deepening their work as a team: Sam recently became a certified therapy dog and will work with Manissa in her chaplaincy.

Manissa told me that the vets in Belize struggle to heal and help with little equipment, few drugs, and lots of resilience and creativity. She’s currently helping raise money for a spay-neuter clinic in Belize. (Dr. Isabelle’s program: http://isisbelize.com/) Her love for Sam is creating ripples- an on-going reaching out to animals in need far from home.

Rescue and adoption are wonderful ways to help a world too full of abandoned and abused animals. There is some risk and it requires a big commitment to bring any new being into the heart of our homes. Whatever we decide, the important things, besides love, are honesty and responsibility.

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