Month: July 2009

Book Review: “Alive Day” by Tom Sullivan

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This book was sent to me for review by the publisher. They thought I might enjoy it because I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain  by Garth Stein.   It’s not a book I might have otherwise picked up, and I enjoyed the opportunity to read it.

Based in part on a true story, Alive Day is about blind psychiatrist Brenden McCarthy and his guide dog Nelson, a big-hearted and courageous black Lab.  It’s also the story of Antwone Carver, a Marine who is injured in Iraq and is struggling with coming to terms with the physical limitations caused by his injury.  McCarthy volunteers his services at a veterans’ hospital, is assigned to Carver and attempts to help the young Marine build a new life.  Nelson becomes an important contributor to the therapeutic process by his gentle and comforting presence.  This is a story about dealing with tragedy and life’s challenges, and it’s told in a straight-forward  and uplifting way.   While the solutions to the magnitude of the problems at hand may be a bit oversimplified at times, the overall message of the book is positive and inspirational, and dog lovers will enjoy the passages about Nelson. 

The author presents a convincing case of the need for better programs for veterans returning home from the war without being preachy or political.  However, I would have liked to have seen the bond between Nelson and McCarthy conveyed in greater depth.  While McCarthy’s love for and reliance on Nelson is very apparent, the story doesn’t delve deeply enough into the spiritual aspects of the human animal bond for this reviewer’s taste.

The book is a heartwarming and life-affirming testament to how the exuberant spirit and love of a dog can heal wounded hearts.

About the author

Book Review: Shades of Grey by Clea Simon

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The first book in the brand new series by Clea Simon, Shades of Grey features Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz, who is fascinated by 18th century Gothic novels.  Dulcie is not having a good summer.  She recently lost her beloved pet cat Mr. Grey, her best friend and room-mate has gone away for the summer, and she has sublet her apartment to an unpleasant business school student.   One day, Dulcie comes home from her boring temp job at an insurance agency and is about to enter her apartment when she sees a cat that looks just like her beloved Mr. Grey, and she clearly hears a voice in her head warning her “I wouldn’t go in just now, if I were you.”  Is it he spirit of her pet?  Dulcie ignores the warning, and finds her room-mate murdered with her own kitchen knife. 

This sets up a multi-layered plot in which our heroine deals with murder, someone hacking into computers at the insurance agency she temps at and at Harvard, and research for her thesis on Gothic novels.  Throughout all of this, the ghost of her cat continues to appear, offering his cryptic advice.  Is it a ghost, or a spirit guide?  You’ll have to read this extremely well-crafted and enjoyable mystery to find out for yourself.  This book has everything a mystery (and cat) lover could want:  a great story, a likeable heroine, a spirit cat, a little bit of romance, exceptional story telling and multi-dimensional secondary characters.  I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

For more information about Clea Simon and her other books, visit her website at www.cleasimon.com.

About the author

Is Your Vet Cat-Friendly?

kitten at vet

You just had a lovely breakfast served by your devoted  human.  You’ve settled in for your morning nap in the fist sunny spot of the day, and are dreaming of chasing mice and being revered as a Goddess by all humans.  Life is good.  Suddenly, your favorite human wakes you up out of your deep sleep, and gives you a hug.  Okay, not something you really need to have right now, but you love your human, so you tolerate it.  But wait – what is happening?  All of a sudden, your formerly loving human turns on you!  You’re shoved into a small container, you’re bounced around, and next thing you know, you’re in a loud, rumbling very small room that actually moves!

You know immediately where this is headed.  Yup – it’s your bi-annual visit to the vet’s office.

For most cats, going to the vet’s is stressful, and for some cats, it’s so upsetting that they turn into snarling, hissing, scratching, biting little or not so little terrors.  Going to a veterinary clinic where the doctors and staff understand cats can go a long way towards making the experience less stressful.  What should you look for to determine whether a veterinary clinic is feline-friendly?

Ideally, look for a feline-only practice.  You will find more and more of these practices in large, metropolitan areas, and even in some smaller, rural areas.  If this is not an option where you are, look for the following:

  • Does the practice have separate cat and dog waiting areas?  Most cats, especially cats who don’t live with dogs, hate the noise and smell of dogs and do much better if they dont’ have to deal with a dog’s face in front of their carrier while waiting for the dreaded exam.
  • Does the practice have cat themed decorations as well as dog themed ones?  This can be an indicator of which species a practice prefers to deal with.
  • Does the clinic have separate exam rooms for cats?  Since most cats don’t like to smell dogs, this can help keep cats calmer.
  • Do the doctor and the veterinary staff speak calmly and move slowly when introducing themselves to you and your cat?
  • Do the doctor and staff take their time with your cat?  Your cat has just been through the stress of a car ride and possibly a short wait in a crowded waiting room.  Having a doctor or staff member come at him with a thermometer, stethoscope and needles without first giving the cat a little time to get used to the environment will not make the exam go smoothly.  Veterinary staff who know and like cats know this and will act accordingly.
  • Do the doctor and staff acknowledge your cat’s anxiety, or do they make disparaging remarks?
  • While cats need to be handled different than dogs, restraining a fractious cats with unnecessary roughness is never okay. 

These are just some of the things to look for when you’re choosing a vet for your cat.  Be your cat’s advocate, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up if you don’t like how your cat is being handled.

About the author

Book Review: “8 State Hurricane Kate” by Jenny Pavlovic

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From the publisher:  “On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina roared into New Orleans, Louisiana, unleashing a torrent of wind and water that forever altered the landscape. In the ensuing weeks, countless people and animals were rescued from the flood-ravaged city. 8 State Hurricane Kate is the unforgettable story of the powerful bond between a cattle dog rescued from a rooftop and the woman who wouldn’t give up on her.

The heartwarming story of Kate’s post-Katrina journey is a testament to the will and perseverance of the dog and human spirit! As they make that courageous journey together, new worlds open up for Jenny and Kate, an amazing survivor and teacher. Kate’s remarkable journey, a tale of love, courage, and compassion, has inspired many others. Her legacy is a rescue network that continues to help dogs across the country today.”

I found this book to be very moving.  The accounts of the author’s experience helping with rescue work  immediately following Katrina were gut-wrenching and difficult for me to read, but at the same time, inspirational.  Thank goodness for people like Jenny and so many others, who dropped everything to assist the animals in need after this catastrophic event.   The book is also the story about how one dog can change a person in ways they never expected.   As Jenny becomes more and more involved in rescue works, she forges bonds with others, both dogs and humans, that change her at a core level.  I always enjoy reading books about how animal affect the life of the humans they come into contact with – this book is a gripping and touching contribution to this genre.

For more information about the book, and about Jenny Pavlovic, visit http://www.8statekate.net/

About the author

Pets and Lawn Chemicals – Not a Good Combination

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While a green lawn is pretty to look at, you should think twice about how you go about achieving that lush, green look.   The pesticides we apply to our lawns and gardens are hazardous to our pets.  Pets can absorb pesticides through their paws or lick it off their bodies. In addition, pets can be exposed to pesticides when they eat grass.   Some of the chemicals found in herbicides are also easily tracked indoors on your shoes.  An EPA funded study in 2001 found that 2,4-D and dicamba (a chemical used in herbicides) are easily tracked indoors, contaminating the air and surfaces inside residences and exposing children and pets at levels ten times higher than pre-application levels.

This should be enough to make any pet owner think twice about using chemical fertilizers.  There are plenty of natural and organic alternatives to these chemicals that are not only safer for your pets, but also friendlier to the environment.

Insecticide and pesticide poisoning is always an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary attention.  Symptoms of insecticide poisoning are:

• Excessive salivation
• Tearing of the eyes
• Excessive urination
• Muscle twitching
• Weakness
• Difficult breathing
• Collapse
• Nausea
• Vomiting
• Abdominal pain
• Weakness
• Dizziness
• Unsteady gait

Repeated exposure to phenoxy herbicides (example: 2,4-D) may affect the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and skeletal muscles. Some pesticides contain chlorophenoxy acids and are poisonous to the blood, leading to anemia, neutropenia (low white blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), and feline distemper.

Don’t put your pets’ health at risk – look for natural alternatives to keep your lawn green and your yard weed-free.

About the author

An Interview with Nadine M. Rosin, Author of “The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood”

Healing Art of Pet Parenthood cover

It is my pleasure today to introduce you to Nadine M. Rosin, the author of The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood.

The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood is the moving story of a nineteen year journey of the author and her dog Buttons – a story about how the unconditional love of one dog can transform and heal a wounded human heart. The author, who has been studying alternative healing for over thirty years, also shares her experience with holistic pet care. When Buttons is diagnosed with cancer at age eight, the author decides against conventional treatment and instead seeks out various holistic and alternative treatment modalities for Buttons, who recovers and thrives for another eleven years. Reading this book is a deeply emotional journey for anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet. Unlike many other books that attempt to address the issue of pet loss, this book truly acknowledges the often devastating grief that comes with losing a beloved animal companion as well as the spiritual connection we share with our animals even after they die. The story of Nadine and Buttons is a celebration of the love we share with our animal companions – a must read for all pet parents.

Please join me in welcoming Nadine to The Conscious Cat!

Nadine, The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood is your first book. How did you become a writer?

Although I’ve never had any formal writing training, I’ve always considered myself a decent storyteller. According to the reactions of readers and reviewers of this book, it seems I have a knack for telling a story on paper, too.
   But I also have many years of experience writing and performing nondenominational wedding ceremonies and memorial services (over 600 to date). In that process, the goal is identical: to both touch people’s hearts and keep their interest- making it perfect practice for writing this book.

What was the process of writing about Buttons like for you?

For the first time in my life, I felt I was doing what I was truly meant to do. I felt energized, in the flow, at one with Source, and deeply connected to Buttons’ spirit. Her paws were all over that manuscript 🙂

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

My wish is that that every reader’s heart is touched and opened- that they can relate to many of the things I experienced and described and that in turn, they find themselves empowered from the read. I also like to say the book has a 3-fold mission:

  • Helping pet parents realize we may be unconsciously contributing to the skyrocketing increase of cancer in our pets by unknowingly creating highly toxic environments in our homes.
  • Providing comfort, camaraderie, and validation for pet parents experiencing the devastating loss of a beloved pet
  • Helping to remove the words, “It’s just a dog/cat” from the lips of non pet parents everywhere

A core part of your book is the story of Buttons’ cancer diagnosis and how you choose to deal with it. What was most difficult for you during that time?

The thought of losing her was terrifying. As you know from having read the book, when the diagnosis came, I was in the midst of dealing with my fiancé ending our relationship and my heart was already shattered. I was forced to reach down even deeper into myself to find strength I didn’t believe I had.
How did you deal with the many challenges such a diagnosis brings?
Initially, like most people, I took a very logical approach, but that only led me to more frustration and confusion. A short excerpt from the book will illustrate:

“I lay awake all that night. If the cancer was in my body, I would absolutely forgo the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It wouldn’t be my choice to cut, burn, and poison. My beliefs, based on all the years of reading I’d done and exposure to alternative methods I’d experienced since childhood, were that one needed to boost the immune system in the presence of disease and not destroy it. Western medicine’s focus was on treating or suppressing the symptoms. A holistic approach called for focusing on the cause in mind and spirit, clearing it, and then strengthening the body so it could heal itself.
   If it were in my body, I’d go to Mexico and cleanse and detoxify, meditate, visualize, and drink massive amounts of raw vegetable juice at one of the alternative cancer clinics there. But it wasn’t in my body. I tried to imagine Buttons without her tail. It would be like amputating her personality. I thought about what it might be like for her to go through radiation treatments and doses of chemotherapy. Horrendous. Demons wrestled violently in my mind. Who was I to force my beliefs on this innocent soul whose well-being I was responsible for? Who was I to risk her life for the sake of my preferences? How big a risk was it? The entire allopathic, Western perspective was screaming for me to follow the vet’s advice. He was a trained professional, and I was a self-taught, quasi-hippie health nut.”

After 2 days of listening to my mind, I finally began listening instead, to what my heart was telling me (also described in the book). Once I had THAT guidance, there was never any question or doubt as to what my next steps would be.

Do you have any tips for others who are faced with a cancer diagnosis for their pet?

Everyone must take the path that feels right for them. I WOULD, however, encourage all pet parents to start doing some research about pet food, the chemicals in household products, etc. BEFORE ever getting a cancer diagnosis (a good place to start is my blog).
   I believe if all pet parents simply followed the approach I talk about in my book and my blog, many would be spared having to deal with any form of cancer or other forms of disease.
   Fifty years ago, it wasn’t unusual for a dog or a cat to live to be in their 20’s. Today, vets consider a 12-year old cat to be old and a 12-year old dog to be ancient. I cannot help but believe that environment and food have nearly everything to do with that.

Who or what inspires you?

I greatly admire people who are humble, open-minded, and authentic. I have tremendous respect for those who are willing to look inside themselves and take responsibility for their own feelings and experiences, rather than blaming others. I’m inspired by those who are genuinely kind and forgiving to everyone, even (and especially) to the ones who bug them the most. My current “heroes” are Byron Katie, Colin Tipping, and Caroline Myss. All of their work can be found online.

What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?

One sweet memory is from my very first book signing at the Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania, where I was keynote speaker for the annual fundraiser for The Action for Animals Humane Society. I was sitting at the table at the end of the event signing books when a woman handed me 2 to sign. The first she wanted made out to her. The second she wanted made out to Arnold Palmer and his dog, Mulligan! It turned out that Mr. Palmer owns the country club, but was in Florida at the time of the event. He had wanted to make sure he got an autographed copy of my book even though he was unable to attend. FYI- in golf terminology, a mulligan is a “do-over” shot.

Are you planning on writing another book?

Most definitely, but for now, I am spending every spare moment getting the word out about this book. When it takes on a life of its own, I will begin writing its sequel, which will be a more technical, fact-filled text on holistic pet care.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am thoroughly enjoying The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Nadine!

It has been my pleasure, Ingrid. Thank you for reading and loving my book. I gratefully embrace every opportunity to spread the word about it in order to help pets and pet parents have longer, healthier lives together. Thank you so much for your help and your own work in that arena!

Nadine Rosin    

For more information about Nadine and her book, visit her website at http://thehealingartofpetparenthood.com/Home.html and her blog at http://petparenthood.blogspot.com/

NOTE: Excerpt from The Healing Art of Pet Parenthood ©2008 Nadine M. Rosin used by permission of the author.

About the author

Happy 4th of July – Keep Your Pets Safe

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Happy 4th of July from The Conscious Cat!

Independence Day is one of our favorite holidays.  As we mark the day with parades, picnics and fireworks, remember that noisy celebrations can be a scary time for our pets.

An animal’s sense of hearing is much more acute than ours, and so the noises are much more intent for them.  Add to that the lack of understanding of what is going on and you can have a very scared pet on your hands.  But celebrations like the 4th of July don’t have to cause such anxiety for your pets.  Here are some tips for helping your pet cope with fireworks, thunderstorms, and other loud noises:

  • Don’t take your pets to outdoor celebrations. The loud noises and colorful skies may be fun for you but they are not enjoyable for your pet. In fact, they can be quite dangerous. A scared dog, running through crowds and/or traffic in the dark is a recipe for disaster.
  • Ideally, leave them at home with a human companion. If you must leave them alone, place them in a secure room or crate. Cover the crate with a blanket to help reduce the noise. Shut the curtains and drapes and turn on lights to lessen the flash of the fireworks.
  • Leave on a TV or music to drown out the noise from the fireworks. (This works during thunderstorm season as well.)
  • Make sure that they are wearing their identification tags and that the information is current.
  • Exercise them before the festivities begin — tire them out with a rigorous game of fetch or a long walk. Be sure to do this an hour or two before you leave them to give them time to calm down and enter a restful state.
  • Consider a natural calming aid like Rescue Remedy.

About the author

Book Review: “The Daily Coyote” by Shreve Stockton

dailycoyote

The Daily Coyote – A Story of Love, Survival and Turst in the Wilds of Wyoming is the story of a young city woman who trades the busy streets of New York City for the wilds of Wyoming, where she raises a ten-day-old coyote pup whose parents had been shot for killing sheep. 

When writer and photographer Shreve Stockton moves back to New York City from San Francisco, she makes the trip across the country on her Vespa.  Along the way, she stops in the hamlet of Ten Sleep, Wyoming, population 300, and the wide-open spaces of the land and the beauty of the Bighorn Mountains capture her spirit.  After a few weeks of trying to settle back into her old city life, she listens to her heart, packs up her belongings and moves to Wyoming.

She develops a friendship that eventually turns to romance with a Wildlife Services employee whose job it is to protect lifestock by killing coyotes.  When he finds an orphaned coyote pup, he brings it to Stockton, who now has to make a decision.  She can either have the death of this pup on her conscience, since he is too young to survive on his own, or she can raise this wild animal in her twelve foot by twelve foot cabin, were she lives with her cat Eli.  With no experience raising and training a domestic dog, this fiercely independent city woman and the coyote she names Charlie forge an incredible bond, which is tested by Charlie’s sometimes unpredictable and even frightening behavior and his inherent wildness.  Despite some setbacks, the relationship between Shreve and Charlie deepens and evolves through mutual respect and becomes a testament to the strength of the bond between human and animal. 

The author turned her diary of the daily challenges of raising Charlie, along with her breathtaking photographs illustrating the account of Charlie’s first year, into a successful blog, which became the basis for this book.  The book is a combination frontier adventure, love story, and a unique celebration of the bond between human and animal.  It is also a reflection on the nature of wildness versus domestication, as the author teaches the coyote to live with humans (and a cat) while Charlie settles Shreve’s wandering spirit. 

And if you can’t get enough of Shreve and Charlie after reading this wonderful book, you can find daily photos of Charlie on the author’s wildly popular blog at www.dailycoyote.net .

About the author

Hot Weather Tips for Your Pets

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In summertime, the living isn’t always easy for our animal friends. Cats and dogs can suffer from the same problems that humans do, such as overheating, dehydration and even sunburn. By taking some simple precautions, you can celebrate the season and keep your pets happy and healthy.  The ASPCA offers these hot weather tips for pets:

– A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must; add to that a test for heartworm, if your dog isn’t on year-round preventive medication. Do parasites bug your animal companions? Ask your doctor to recommend a safe, effective flea and tick control program.

Never leave your pet alone in a vehicle-hyperthermia can be fatal. Even with the windows open, a parked automobile can quickly become a furnace in no time. Parking in the shade offers little protection, as the sun shifts during the day.

– Always carry a gallon thermos filled with cold, fresh water when traveling with your pet.

– The right time for playtime is in the cool of the early morning or evening, but never after a meal or when the weather is humid.

– Street smarts: When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog stand on hot asphalt. His or her body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.

A day at the beach is a no-no, unless you can guarantee a shaded spot and plenty of fresh water for your companion. Salty dogs should be rinsed off after a dip in the ocean.

Provide fresh water and plenty of shade for animals kept outdoors; a properly constructed doghouse serves best. Bring your dog or cat inside during the heat of the day to rest in a cool part of the house.

Be especially sensitive to older and overweight animals in hot weather. Brachycephalic or snub-nosed dogs such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Lhasa apsos and shih tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

– When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. And please be alert for coolant or other automotive fluid leaking from your vehicle. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste, and ingesting just a small amount can be fatal. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect that your animal has been poisoned.

Good grooming can stave off summer skin problems, especially for dogs with heavy coats. Shaving the hair to a one-inch length – never down to the skin, please, which robs Rover of protection from the sun – helps prevent overheating. Cats should be brushed often.

Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals. Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy. The misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.

– Having a backyard barbecue? Always keep matches, lighter fluid, citronella candles and insect coils out of pets’ reach.

– Please make sure that there are no open, unscreened windows or doors in your home through which animals can fall or jump.

Stay alert for signs of overheating in pets, which include excessive panting and drooling and mild weakness, along with an elevated body temperature.

Water Safety

For a lot of families, summertime means swimming time. If your pooch will be joining you on your adventures, be it lakeside, oceanside or poolside, please read our following tips:
– Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool.
– Not all dogs are good swimmers, so if water sports are a big part of your family, please introduce your pets to water gradually.
– Make sure all pets wear flotation devices on boats.
– Try not to let your dog drink pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause GI upset.

For more information about the ASPCA, go to http://www.aspca.org/

About the author