August 21, 2014

Profiling Ted Kerasote’s Book Pukka’s Promise

pukkas_promise_cov

Sept. 20, 2013

I am re-posting this review of Kerasote’s book largely because it covers the complex issue of early spay-neuter, which is beginning to be discussed on forums and, thankfully, between families and their veterinarians. I will continue to post on this topic: if you live with animals, you have a moral responsibility to care for them properly, and research over the last 10 years has definitely proven that spaying and neutering our dogs before they are sexually mature can lead to life-long serious diseases as well as terminal issues like cancer. Don’t think it can happen to your dog? Think again, people! Right now, in the U.S., 50% of our dogs over 10 are getting cancer. Many of them are suffering from arthritis, hip dysplasia, thyroid disease, obesity, incontinence, and behavioral problems that can be traced to interrupting their hormone cycle as young animals. This is a crime and must stop. Do these problems have other causes? Absolutely, but we owe it to the animals whose lives are in our hands to stop practices that we know have serious consequences.

This particular issue won’t stop unless we the consumer vote with our dollars and withhold our funds, our support, and our good will from organizations that continue to support early spay/neuter, from Best Friends to The Humane Society, to local and regional shelters and rescues, to veterinarians, pet supply stores, laws and societal pressure.

It should have occurred to all of us to question the wisdom of spaying and neutering every young dog (or cat, or animal, period) to prevent pet overpopulation. (It occurred to me 15 years ago, but I listened to the vet, fool that I was and no longer am.) Those of us who are responsible continue to be, and those who are not will not be affected, as they will always find a dog that is intact, and they will always be careless, or simply have ‘accidents.’ The larger question should be the health of every animal we come across, and that is the province of the family. Continuing a practice that we now medically know is at the least debilitating and at most murder is, quite frankly, genocide.

Another question: exactly what constitutes pet overpopulation? I wonder if it is because people adopt animals and get tired of them or give them up when they get big and haven’t been trained—plenty of reasons that have nothing to do with an animal being successfully nurtured to sexual maturity. Breeders around the country have noticed the research and have started to educate their buyers and steer them away from this practice. The big money that is involved in the animal welfare movement simply won’t listen, these people and their ideas are entrenched. Money counts. Withhold it. Do business with those who pay attention to the facts and not emotional issues.

And read Kerasote’s book. He’s done the research so all you have to do is read it, check his sources, and spread the word. The animal’s life you save may be your beloved’s. It is too late for mine.

Peace, people. Love. Sit down and talk this issue out. And think twice before you follow the new suggestions that UC Davis and others are making: tubal ligation and vasectomy may not be answers. You’ll have an entire population that doesn’t understand pyometra in female dogs, let alone mammary cancer, or understand prostate and other issues in male animals, including if retained sperm can cause cancer, which they are beginning to question in humans. But at least they are going in the right direction in researching it.

Money talks. Keep yours in your pocket. Only adopt animals whose future you decide as a family member.

And another thing: rescue is a word, not a breed. Give it up. Find your heart match. Now spread the word. And read on for my original post on Kerasote’s book (which he has ignored, too bad).

Ted Kerasote and I have two things in common.

We both lost our beloved older dogs to horrific diseases: his boy, Merle, to a brain tumor, and my girl, Murphy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, to hemangiosarcoma.

We both are doing what we can to change those endings for other people and their dogs while we give our animal family members the best lives possible.

But how?

Kerasote certainly gained an audience with his book, Merle’s Door, which detailed his life in Wyoming with a stray dog he ‘adopted’ on a trip to Utah. It’s fascinating for me, whose outdoor adventures are limited to the occasional cherished trip to Yellowstone and the sidewalks of my beachside Seattle neighborhood, to read about (and be thrilled by) the adventures of an avid sportsman and his energetic dog.

There’s a reason I live with Cavaliers, well, one now (and a cat). The same reason Kerasote doesn’t.

Kerasote is one of the few writers whose books appeal to me because of their quality and heart: well, his dog books, as I haven’t read the others, but I’m hooked now, and will. His new one, Pukka’s Promise: The Quest for Longer-Lived Dogs, continues that fine tradition of smart, well-written, possibly researched-to-death books that educate as well as they entertain.

I know, he’s been criticized for mixing his personal life into his research, but that’s actually a tribute to a great writer.

And what awesome criticism it is! It’s saying that in a world that tends to ignore facts for fanaticism, Kerasote’s relentless research to find a way to choose a dog and then help it live a long life is so compelling that we don’t want the distraction of his personal life. We just want the facts—what he discovered in his quest to learn from the people who feed, treat, breed, train, and entertain our dogs as he explores the industries they work in. What a testament to his rigorous research and his writing that in a sound bite culture a serious book about dogs is both welcome and admired.

But I for one (and many) admire it more because he doesn’t hesitate to show us why it matters: he loves living with dogs, and, like most of us, wants them around as long as possible, so he’s trying to figure out how.

I know. I’ve spent the last 15 years on that one. I thought I had it all figured out—food, vaccinations, toys, green living, fun. I had a Cavalier most people encouraged me to give up on at 2. We figured it out, and she led a vibrantly healthy life until, at 13-1/2, we met hemangiosarcoma. It was not the end I was expecting.

Now, those who dismiss the personal in Kerasote’s books are forgetting that ideas and facts without heart and intelligence are how we got into the mess we’re living now with our companion animals. Kerasote’s anguish over his choices, his delight in his dog, their adventures in living, convince us that he isn’t just nerdy—he has heart, and that means he has real purpose. His research comes to life when he brings it home to show us how he searched for, and raises, Pukka. He’s a man in love with his dog and not ashamed to admit it. His choice between shelter and breeding, his well-reasoned decisions about spay/neuter, food, vaccinations, toys, exercise (yes, Merle’s real door makes me crazy, but I understand it in places like Wyoming), all come together in a book as compelling and important as Goldstein’s The Nature of Animal Healing, Schoen’s Kindred Spirits, Frost’s Beyond Obedience, and Clothier’s Bones Would Rain from the Sky.

Without heart the facts make no difference. He’s smart, educated, passionate, and clear about what it takes to create healthy dogs. Unfortunately, it’s what it takes to live with dogs in our complex world, and why we’re losing them.

Kerasote is clear about what he thinks, and why. He appears to be someone who can be a leader in the tough business of having quiet, serious, painful conversations about how we will get our dogs healthy and long-lived. About what is, and is not, working in our lives with dogs.

Kerasote is living the human-animal bond. There is no higher compliment, but it’s not enough.

I used to think that love alone could bring all of us together to save our dogs—the vets, shelters, breeders, suppliers, families. But I was wrong.

People criticized me for buying a purebred dog, and when she developed health problems, they swore it was breeding that caused them.

Photo 7 - Alki and GraceIt wasn’t. It was me listening to crappy vets—me being away from dogs for a dozen years and overwhelmed by the new world of animal care. It was me agreeing to bad food, repeated vaccinations, paternal dogma, and early spay/neuter.

It was confusion over repeated illnesses that made no sense to me that finally woke me up. It was vets saying it was routine for dogs to take multiple antibiotics before they were 2, and my horror at their complacency, that made me dig deep for better answers.

It was me deciding to figure it out on my own, firing half the vets in Seattle, and turning to research, and Goldstein, and Dodds, and alternative vets and home-cooked meals. I already had the green home.

Now I think that everything I did might have made no difference because I, too, was the one who believed them when they said early spay/neuter made animals healthier, that waiting until they were sexually mature was too risky.

And I was the one who said goodbye to my beloved when her spleen ruptured from hemangiosarcoma. You said it in your book, Ted: “spayed females have been found to have five times the risk of intact females for developing  hemangiosarcoma.” Did Murphy get cancer because I spayed her early? It’s possible: there were no other risk factors, none. Even if there were, because it’s possible, the practice is wrong—cruel, heartless, stupid.

So now what?

Here’s the problem: the average person just wants to have a happy life with their dogs, but it’s increasingly difficult to do that. What Kerasote and I have done to create healthy lives for our dogs isn’t just intellectually challenging—it’s time-consuming, expensive, frustrating, and terrifying (if you don’t think that, you have never seen a cancer ward). It’s more than the average person can do, more than they should have to do. Why? Partly because we live in a complex world, and everything that makes it easier can be suspect, from food to toys, as Kerasote so vividly demonstrates.

But also because of agendas, and those we can do something about.

So let me tell you a story.

In the last year, I have quietly and earnestly talked to people about early spay/neuter and their animals.

I am very aware that I have two ticking time bombs in my house: my Cavalier boy, Alki, and Grace the Cat. I shudder when I think of their potential future, one they wouldn’t have had to face if I had known better. Well, people say, they could still get cancer from a number of things, including bad luck. But why add a risk factor to the mix? Why not trust people with the facts, let them decide what is best for their animal families before they become animal families?

I spayed and neutered my kids because I thought that it would make them healthier. The dogs were from breeders, the cat was through a local rescue group. None of my kids came from a place that forced me to do early spay/neuter or thought so poorly of me they mutilated my animals before they trusted me with them. In fact, both the breeders were there for me in Murphy’s last weeks: when has a shelter representative sat with anyone in a cancer ward?

The truth is, they don’t care. Here’s the proof.

The Fritz FamilyRemember those conversations I’ve had with people in the last year? I quietly explain to them that I lost my oldest dog to cancer. Their eyes fill up, they express condolences, and then I quietly say, “Did you know that cancer is linked to early spay/neuter?”

They look at me, then reach down and wrap their arms protectively around their dogs, horror and fear and tears in their eyes. It dawns on them, you can see the confusion. They say, “But we’re supposed to do that to reduce overpopulation.”

“I bought that, too,” I say. “But has your animal ever been unsupervised? Does that even make sense? Don’t we all take care of our animals?”

They stop, then, sobered. Which allows me to mention the other things that can come from early spay/neuter: obesity, thyroid disease, hip dysplasia, arthritis, incontinence, behavior problems, cognitive issues. They ask questions, I answer them, as best I can.

One man looked at his gorgeous golden retriever and insisted he neutered him for his behavior issues, then, with a frown, said: “Cancer.”

Yes, cancer is a huge issue for goldens; Murphy lost two golden friends from the same family in her long life. I could see this man thinking about his decision. “Well,” he said quietly. “I could’ve done better training.”

Exactly.

So here’s the thing: every single person—well, everyone who was not in the animal welfare business, but a regular person like me, and Ted, and probably you—every one of those I’ve had this conversation with has left saddened and wiser. I hear back from them: how they’ve told their friends, who are now making different choices, ones that fit their animals and not politics.

The revolution has started.

But there are others. One day I talked with a well-known, highly regarded behaviorist, who glanced away when I said I’d lost Murphy to cancer, that she had no other risk factors but early spay/neuter, that all the things I’d questioned about it years ago turned out to be true. The vets, the shelters, they’re wrong.

Get ready to scream.

The behaviorist couldn’t look me in the eye. Instead, she straightened and said, “Your dog was old enough. There’s a larger purpose.”

Yes, she really said that.

And the purpose? Reducing pet overpopulation. Well, that’s a long conversation, and as Kerasote points out, as I well know, it’s involved.

But the truth is, what we’ve done for 40 years hasn’t worked. It’s complex, as Kerasote demonstrates in a discussion of American poverty and animals (and here I thought it was partly our easy culture), and it’s mindset, as he shows with European pets. It’s also the odd American stereotype that people who ‘rescue’ are heroes, including those who dump their unsold mixed-breed puppies at the shelter, or the shelter administrators who claim there aren’t real ‘breeders,’ encouraging people to buy a shelter dog for $250 – $350, mutilation included.

Welcome to the new puppy mill—your local shelter or rescue organization, and those big name ones we’re supposed to worship. 

This is a huge discussion, one that needs to move beyond bitterness and divisiveness to claim love as its heart and soul. Love for ourselves and for our animals and for those who go unclaimed. What we know is that 50% of our dogs over 10 get cancer, that cancer is an epidemic in our country and no one will admit why or knows all the answers (even me), that millions of our animals suffer from chronic diseases that reduce their quality of life and are linked to early spay/neuter, that people get weepy because they want a pet but can’t afford  veterinary care. I see this, I hear this, and I am saying: it’s past time to change direction.

Early spay/neuter is stupid. Cruel. Wrong. It’s politics and brainwashing and ‘father knows best’ and it’s time to stop it.

Remember the behaviorist? Remember what she said, without being able to look me in the eye?

My dog was old enough.

There’s a larger purpose.

Well, a hundred million years would not have been long enough with the dog I claim as soul mate.

Hatred is not a larger purpose. I ask you: why are we trusting these people?

So here’s what I say, to Kerasote, to all of us. Ted, you were brave enough to call for people to vote with their dollars and quit buying hazardous toys and supplies. But you failed to call for an end to early spay/neuter and the system that supports it. Tubal ligation and vasectomy—interesting. Chemical castration: sorry, I’m green, and so are you, and we’re supposed to be eliminating chemicals in our kids, not adding them.

And you’re wrong when you say we can’t change public opinion. I’m already doing that, in my small way, without the audience you have. And we can change the system, the mandatory laws, the spay/neuter mindset that has lobotomized the animal welfare movement.

It’s easy. We’re Americans. We vote with our dollars.

We simply shut them down. I tell people not to go to a shelter or rescue organization that takes this choice away from them and their vet. Not to buy from a pet supply store, or a food manufacturer, or use a trainer, or behaviorist, or animal communicator, or vet who is still spouting that same old nonsense. Don’t give them your business.  Tell them why.

Just say no. To Best Friends, to the Humane Society. Don’t give them your money, your heart, your trust. Shut them down.

Will we make enemies. Yep. Will it matter? Absolutely. Will animals die in the meantime, before they change? They already are dying. Ask Ted to tell you about Merle. Ask me about Murphy. Read even one of the heartbreaking emails I’ve received in the last year as people search for answers to canine cancer and find my blog about Murphy, especially the entry on our visit to the veterinary surgeon. Remember that Kerasote wrote this book in part because real people who love dogs wanted to know why they were losing them too soon.

Money counts when love is blocked, and money will talk here.

We’ll shut these people and their agencies all down, and quickly, dare I hope in less than a year? We’ll shut down all those systems that have become the new, cruel, terrifying puppy mills. And build real loving humane organizations from what’s left.

Murphy 7-16-1998 - 3-8-2012Love will lead the way.

I know that Murphy’s won’t be the last face of canine cancer. But perhaps hers will be the beginning of the end.

Ted, you have the platform. Use it. Take these groups off your website. Support yourself—the love and smarts you’ve demonstrated in your wonderful book.

And to everybody else out there: buy Kerasote’s book. Read it. Go back to it. Live it. It matters. He matters. And when he wakes up and takes on that last bit of cruelty and insanity, our animal families will thank him for it.

As we vote with our dollars.

Now, here’s my thanks for a beautiful moment in the book, where Kerasote says that he was determined to make his last days with Merle wonderful by “unwrapping each day as if it were a gift.” That’s what I’m doing now, when I tell people about Murphy, when I work in my intuitive practice. Each day with our beloveds is a gift. Value it, value them. Find the right people to help. Ted, you’ve helped, you are a gift. Thank you.

In memory of Murphy Brown Fritz
July 16, 1998 – March 8, 2012

© 2013 Robyn M Fritz

Getting Well with a Little Help from My Friends

waiting for cookies 6-13Our animal families matter, and so do our kids. Here is Alki, recovering from a severe illness, if you ever recover from inflammatory bowel disease and pancreatitis, let alone long-term kidney disease. We remember that age doesn’t always bring illness, but when it does it also reminds us that we have lived a long life, and we’re still determined to make it a fun one! Here’s Alki reminding Grace that this is HIS get well card, and then wondering why he can’t eat it. Shyness is cute! Thank you to Cyndi O-neill Dady and SendOut Cards!

It’s nice to know that people and businesses care about just plain being nice.

 

Profiling Animal Communicator Joan Ranquet’s Book, Communication with All Life

Joan Ranquet and friends I’m always curious about what makes people tick: how do they choose their work in the world, and what does it mean? I’m even more curious when they write a book and I get a chance to review it.

Does the book make a difference? Does the writer? I’m happy to say, in this case, yes. Twice.

Joan Ranquet is an animal communicator, author, and founder of Communication with All Life University. That means she works as an animal communicator, writes about it, and teaches it to people who either want to become professional animal communicators or who simply want to create a better relationship with their animal family members.

Communication with All Life: Revelations of an Animal Communicator, was published by Hay House in 2007. It’s a rarity: a book that will stand the test of time, remaining inspiring and relevant to an audience that is increasingly interested in animal communication as a practical tool for gaining a better understanding and appreciation of our animal companions.  

I have to admit that I personally know Joan Ranquet, and even took her introductory animal communication class back in 2001. At the time I thought animal communication was a joke, good fodder for a comic novel and an investigative journalism piece. I went into her class convinced I was the only sane person in the room—and, well, I am now a professional intuitive and my partner is a crystal ball. Ranquet let me into her class with the wry smirk I think she’s trademarked: she knows very well when people are ready to look at the world as it really is, and she’s quite ready to teach them how to do that. Even smirking.

What I learned that weekend from Joan and her associate, healer Donna Timmerman, was that real science is far simpler and more practical than most of us realize. And that animal communication—telepathy with animals—is both a science and an art that can give us real information about our animals, their health and behavior, and our personal relationship with the world that can make all of our lives better.

I thought then that the practical, mystical mindset Ranquet teaches needed a broader audience, and she gets it in this book. There are many animal communicators that get lost in the ozone of feel-good woo-wooey conversations that may be fun or intriguing but aren’t useful in daily life. Ranquet steers clear of the fuzziness and focuses on giving us a well-rounded perspective on our animals’ real lives, and on how we can create better relationships with them.

She knows her stuff. The book is packed with real-life animal communication stories that focus on lessons we can all learn, from deepening our understanding of our animal companions to letting go of limiting concepts like ‘rescue’ and ‘separation anxiety.’ These are practical, inspiring stories that really teach.

Joan RanquetThat alone makes the book worthwhile, but, ever practical, Ranquet next launches into how each of us can learn to communicate with our animals. Here she delves into our mindset, what we experience with telepathy, and how to live what we learn, from our attitudes to the practicalities of health care, including nutrition, vaccinations, and energy medicine (her next big book, on energy healing for animals, is due out this year and will be a game-changer).

Are you looking for inspirational yet practical advice from an experienced animal communicator, someone who can teach you how to hear your animals and to see the physical, behavioral, and medical issues that may be affecting them? Well, here you go.

Want to delve even deeper? Then get Ranquet’s e-book: Animal Communication 101: Simple Steps to Communicate with Animals. It explores how animal communication works and drills you on ethics and etiquette—on what is appropriate and what isn’t in talking with and about animals and their people. She also explores telepathy, how to energetically scan an animal (which she’ll clearly cover in more detail in her upcoming book), and how to conduct and evaluate a session. While this e-book is aimed at people taking her animal communication courses, it’s useful for anyone who wants to understand animal communication, from how it works to how to evaluate it in your family life.

I read a lot. That includes books on science, metaphysics, philosophy, animal care, and animal communication. Many of these books are speculative and written by people I worry about, because most of them are not well balanced and don’t encourage you to be, either.

Joan Ranquet isn’t like that—not in person, not teaching, and not writing. These books are, frankly, great, offering a solid grounding in the art and practice of animal communication. They are also a reminder that she has much more to offer in her training programs contained in her Communication with All Life University.

Do these books matter? Yes. Should you read them?

Well, that depends. Do you want to talk with animals? Do you want better understand your animals and yourself? Do you want to create the best life possible with your animals? Then, yes, don’t just read these books. Live them. They matter.

Joan Ranquet matters, too. She walks her talk. And writes it. So buy these books. Read them. Put them to work. Your animals will thank you.

©2013 Robyn M Fritz

Friendly Animals

The family, courtesy Rhonda HanleySweet Pea Aug. 2009SmittyScoutSammyCavalier King Charles Spaniel puppiessKharmaKeeganBarley and Keegan

What a Multi-Species Family Looks Like

Grace the Cat Last family portrait, Robyn and Murphy, Jan. 2012 Last family portrait, Robyn, Murphy, and Alki, Jan. 2012 Robyn M Fritz and Alki Robyn M Fritz, Fallon the Citrine Lemurian Quartz, and Grace the Cat The Fritz family in SeattleRobyn M Fritz and MurphyRobyn M Fritz and AlkiThe Fritz family: Murphy, Alki, and Grace the CatHolding hands or detente ...M-S Family Cam 6Boundaries

Simple Steps to Deepen the Bond Between People and Animals

How do we deepen the bond between humans and animals?

Start with this handout I gave away at a recent seminar on this topic moderated by noted animal communicator Joan Ranquet.

Mindset

Change your mindset, change your world. When we look at the world as equals, we learn that humans aren’t in charge of the world, we’re in connection with it. What does that mean for your multi-species family? 

  • Are your animals pets or family members? What are the practical, cultural, mystical, and humorous dimensions of our lives with animals?

 Legal/Financial Issues

 Two ideas to make life easier.

  • Put a card in your wallet directing emergency responders to your animals. What happens to them if you don’t make it home, whether you’re suddenly ill, in an accident, or stuck in a snowstorm? Can neighbors get in?
  • Put your animals in your will! Make legal and financial provisions for their care. My particular advice: separate the financial guardianship from the care guardianship. Peace of mind all around.

Health Issues

Honestly, it’s almost like you wade through disinformation throughout your animals’ lives. Best advice: read up and fire anyone, veterinarian or not, who insists on being the boss of you and your animals. Go for care providers who really care, are really smart, and who know what they’re doing.

My sore spot: the absolute lies about early spay/neuter that are being told by the animal welfare community. Here’s the truth:

  • Be informed: “The traditional spay/neuter age of six months as well as the modern practice of pediatric spay/neuter appear to predispose dogs to health risks that could otherwise be avoided by waiting until the dog is physically mature, or perhaps in the case of many male dogs, foregoing it altogether unless medically necessary.” From Laura Sanborn’s article.

What we don’t know can kill our animals. What we do know:

  • Take a female dog through at least two heat cycles.
  • There is almost no reason to ever neuter a male dog.
  • The decision to spay/neuter any animal should only be made by the family with full knowledge of the issues and the support of an informed veterinarian.
  • Politics and big money have been trumping common sense and actual research findings on this issue since the 1970s.

 Sources:

My online magazine: BridgingtheParadigms.com. Yes, just hit the search bar and you’ll find my articles on this heartbreaking subject.

Ron Hines DVM. A well-rounded article on early spay/neuter.

Laura J. Sanborn. Research on early spay/neuter.

Bottom line: When you make a commitment to an animal, it’s a life choice. Don’t make one you regret because you’re not informed. The life you save, the healthy animal you’ll help create, may be yours.

Spread the word: love matters, choice matters, the truth matters. You’re not getting it from a lot of people in the animal welfare community. You did get it here.

 © 2012 Robyn M Fritz

 

 

                                  

Pet Guardianship: What Happens When Your Animals Outlive You?

I ended up in the ER on a Sunday evening last month. While I was facing a potentially serious health crisis, there was one thing I didn’t worry about: my dog, Alki, and Grace the Cat were provided for. Sort of. That’s what the human-animal bond, my concept of multi-species families, includes: taking care of them.

Truth is, I have long since put estate plans in effect for my animals, with rigorous guidelines on who holds the money for their lifetime care and who gets to decide where they go. Included in that: the personalities and needs of each animal, so even my closest friends would know exactly what I know about my animal family.

But here’s one thing I didn’t have: I didn’t have a card in my wallet that would point emergency workers or the police to my home to see to my animals in case the unthinkable happened to me.

The unthinkable does happen, as we all know. Whether it’s a natural event, from weather to earthquake, to a car accident or illness—or even, say, being stranded on the freeway in a sudden snow storm, which has happened several times in the last few years in Seattle, of all places—what will happen to your animals when you’re not there to care for them?

Yes, trusted neighbors and I share house keys, so eventually they would have checked on my kids, assuming they thought to check on me. But how long is eventually? When you’re the only human in the house, like I am, the risks go up—for me, yes, because the death rate of singles is far higher than others simply because everybody else has someone around when they, say, have a heart attack and pass out, or anaphylactic shock sets in, or, well, when the ‘downs’ of life suddenly wipe out the ‘ups.’

I wrote about this issue last year in my post: If they die before you do: protecting your animal family. Just today I found a great article online (at nbcnews.com) that people should know about. It talks about how Superstorm Sandy pointed out the urgent need for estate planning for pets—as if we hadn’t learned that in other events in history, from freak snowstorms to earthquakes. Or as I was reminded during my trip to the ER—when we discover we’re all too mortal.

I was lucky that a good friend was home that night and saw me through my trip to the ER. When I got home at 1 a.m., my dog and cat were anxiously pacing and whining at the door. If I hadn’t come home that night, either because of a hospital stay (which almost happened) or my death, my friend would have been able to step in. But we don’t always have time to call a friend.

What I liked about this article on estate planning is the idea of a pet card in your wallet that identifies your animals and alerts responders that they will need to be cared for if you can’t. I once knew someone who slipped and fell in the grocery store and ended up in emergency surgery for a shattered leg: it was two days before she was alert enough to call someone to take care of her dog.

Two days.

So wake up, people. Put that card in your wallet—that night, the people in the ER would have found mine and sent someone to take care of my kids (well, at least it would have been possible, if they had looked, and cared, and acted, and we never know about that). Put your animals in your will. Give someone a key to your place.

Create an emergency backup plan. Sometimes knowing people, having a community, is fun. And sometimes it can make frightened animals feel better, and even save their lives.

Animals are families. Take care of them.

© 2012 Robyn M Fritz

My Dog Is Dying: The Real Life Crappy Choice Diary, Entry 21 (How the Human-Animal Bond Meets, and Survives, Death)

It’s hard to say goodbye to a beloved animal companion.

It’s harder to live the goodbye.

Murphy and I managed to live our goodbye, accompanied by Alki and Grace the Cat. We found the courage, fortitude, and love to fully and gracefully embrace it, adding depth to the many years we’d shared.

It’s not easy, but it’s possible.

How? By living the human-animal bond as a multi-species family. This is a new way of living the human animal bond—as equals with free choice. Murphy and I lived it together for 13½ years. We added depth—and kinks—when her Cavalier brother, Alki, came along 10 years ago and our resident alien, Grace the Cat, a year later.

Somehow we all learned together how choice and family intersect—we learned how to balance our needs and desires as individuals with everyone else’s. We learned to compromise.

When we discovered that Murphy had a splenic tumor and was dying, I knew it was time to define what death is like in a multi-species family.

I didn’t want to, but I had to. Then I wrote about it here, exploring the raw, heartfelt, angry, mystical, practical things that real families live through when someone they love is dying. When I started to hear from people who were either also losing their dogs—or had, and were struggling to accept it—I decided to pull it all together in one place—an e-book.

Here’s a chance to find community in storytelling. An opportunity to stop and think about what the end of your animal family will look like—and why. Your story won’t be exactly like ours, but perhaps you’ll get an idea that will help you live it, and what more can any of us ask?

So here are some things to think about.

You’re a Family

Honestly, like most people, I never spent a lot of time thinking about death in my family. Sure, it was coming, and it certainly wasn’t a stranger in my life, but still.

We were lucky: we had a few months with Murphy after we knew she was dying.

In the beginning I was in such shock, and under such pressure to act (you don’t have time to waste when an aggressive cancer might be eating a loved one) that all I could do was juggle the plain hard facts. Murphy was involved in that, obviously, but I neglected to tell Alki and Grace the Cat. So there was tension and sadness in the house, which made Grace the Cat act out and confused Alki. Our life was turned upside down, as happens in every loving family when a crisis occurs.

Once I stopped and concentrated on each of my animal family members, things calmed down.

Alki is a live-in-the-moment dog. Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky doesn’t think too far beyond his nose. He noticed things weren’t right, but dismissed them until one night when we were sacked out in bed and I was reading. In those last weeks Murphy’s breathing was not exactly labored, but it was certainly louder, and that night Alki suddenly heard it. He sat up, turned and looked at her, and horror washed across his face. He looked at me, shocked and uncertain. In that moment I knew he got it. All I could do was hold him and explain it again. My sensitive boy was losing his best friend—he was stunned in the moment, and then went looking for a cookie.

Since Murphy’s death, Alki has reveled in his “single dog” status, but it took him some weeks to quit moping and looking for Murphy. He’s finally quit standing by the car, waiting for me to bring her inside. He’s still quieter than normal. His happy heart plays and he sticks close, but he’s often somber.

Grace the Cat was unruly until I sat down and explained to her what was happening. She’d been ignored because both dogs were sick at the same time—like Murphy, Alki, too, had developed a slight bronchial infection, and I was just taking Grace for granted. As I told her, she sat and stared at me, eyes wide and ears raised high in that startled manner she wears when things just don’t fit. After that she started snuggling with Murphy, spending hours every day stretched out or curled beside her on Murphy’s bed. It was both touching and sad. Murphy and Grace the Cat had never been great friends, although Murphy had yearned for a cat friend, but at the end of her life she finally got her wish—a cat to snuggle with.

Since Murphy’s death, Grace the Cat has point-blank refused to have anything to do with Murphy’s bed. She also clings to me even more, following me around the house and sitting and climbing on me: in some ways, she’s trying to make sure I don’t leave her like Murphy did.

I make sure each of them has space to grieve, that we grieve together. When they fought angrily with each other, I recognized it as grief and comforted them.

We always make sure to play.

Remember to pay attention to every family member, animal and otherwise. Guilt, worry, concern, fear, and jealousy are all part of the mix.

Family is good.

Get a Great Vet

Make sure you are established with a great vet, and don’t be afraid to switch vets if something changes and you’re uncomfortable. A great vet must not insist on blanket routine vaccinations or early spay/neuter (yes, Murphy’s cancer is linked to early spay/neuter, as are some horrible things like thyroid disease, obesity, and arthritis). A great vet must understand nutrition and holistic care, must have a referral network to good specialists, and, above all, must support the multi-species family bond.

That is, great vets must know that they are partners but not in charge of the animal care team. You are. You make the decisions. Fire the bastards who think otherwise. I did.

Good vets are good.

Do Your Homework

I’ve learned more about veterinary care in my life with my animal family than most vets seem to ever know. I hope that scares you into paying attention. Find out what it takes to care for your animals. Figure out what makes sense to you. Do it.

When the vet told me that Murphy had an abdominal mass, we sat down and looked at the X-ray and radiologist’s report together. Then I ordered an ultrasound, and then I took Murphy to a surgical specialist. I found out what a splenic mass meant. I told Murphy. We figured out what to do together.

I didn’t think about Murphy getting old when she was a puppy new to my household. I didn’t think about age: about arthritis making life difficult for both of us, about old dogs becoming blind and deaf and feeble, or slipping from cheerful vigor into the clutches of an aggressive, incurable cancer. It happens.

Accompanying a senior pet through old age brings mystery, grace, frustration, exhaustion, and grief. What can you manage, afford—and stand? How do you explain it to the animal, the family, yourself?

Before you ever get an animal in the first place, consider how and why your family will walk that last road, together, because it always ends one way: in heartbreak.

If that makes you not want an animal, then please don’t get one. You won’t be doing anyone a favor, including yourself.

If that makes you flinch, excellent. You’re thinking. You’ll figure out a way to get through it, because life really is like that. 

In fact, life with an aging animal is magnificent. If you’re looking for grace in action, this is it.

Life is good.

Don’t Buy into the Guilt

The current medical establishment often believes that fighting death, no matter the odds or the suffering involved, is more important than a life well lived and a death gently met. Someday they’ll grow up. In the meantime, you be a grown-up for them. Pain and suffering and disability are cruel things to suffer: I know, I am handicapped.

You will know when enough is enough. You cannot beat death. You can make it acceptable.

Yes, you’ll feel bad if you resort to euthanasia if you haven’t sorted through the whys and why-nots. You’ll feel bad if you don’t and drag out an ending that causes misery to no real purpose. You’ll feel bad when your dog dies, regardless.

Figure out what the limits are: your animal’s, the family’s, yours. Figure out what love looks like to you, from Day 1 with your animal to the end. Cling to love. Whatever ending you get.

Love is good.

Hire an Intuitive

Yes, I can talk with animals. So can a lot of other people. Establish a relationship with a professional intuitive, for everybody’s sake. It will inspire and enlighten you as you carve out a satisfying personal and professional life. It will give you additional perspective on tough life issues—like dying.

The last weeks of Murphy’s life were enriched by our work with a professional intuitive. Those sessions confirmed my own insights, added others, helped us say goodbye.

You hear the medical from the vet, what you want or not from family and friends, what you fear from yourself, and what love has to say from an intuitive.

Sometimes it is astonishing. I know, from my intuitive experience working with dying animals, and with deceased animals and humans and other beings, that we absolutely have to tell the dying what is happening and ask what they want. All life knows when death is upon it: some animals resist because they think they’ve accidentally killed themselves, when it was illness; some animals want surgery and chemo because they need more time with their people; some animals want to die long before their humans are willing to let go; some animals like Murphy insist their body is breaking down anyway, and they want to experience the process.

Ask. You will hear. Let the answers guide you.

Everyone has the right to meet death on their own terms. Sometimes we get lucky enough, as I did with Murphy, to make sure that happens.

It matters. Trust me. Trust yourself. It matters.

Intuitive work is good.

Follow the Vibration

A lot of people talk about energy work, from Reiki to all the new modalities popping up. Are they real? Yes. Are they useful? Absolutely. Are you ready for it? Maybe.

I’d done energy work of various sorts for years when a new modality came into my family’s life in 2007. It came at my request. I was told to use it to heal myself and my family and take it out in the world when it was time.

That time showed up in the fall of 2011, during intuitive sessions that my crystal partner, Fallon, and I were conducting with clients. When it showed up, I’d ask if people were willing to experience it; if so, we incorporated it into a session. The results are astonishing—and immediate.

After much thought, I now call it alchemical energy. It’s vibration—the vibration of transformation, of choice. I used it with Murphy, surrounding her belly with it. It supported her by helping her body stay strong and vibrant as it declined from her illness. It gave the cancer and Murphy a chance to meet and separate. Was it ever going to save her life? Not her body’s life, no, and her soul’s life was never in question. But it did help—her vet was astonished to hear she was looking for cookies and chasing Alki around the garage right up until the last few days of her life.

Alchemical energy was exactly what Murphy needed to “walk the mystery” of the end of her life—it surrounded her with Fallon’s golden, loving light. Alchemical energy is what I needed to walk the mystery with her. It’s what Alki and Grace the Cat needed to be there with us.

If you’re lucky enough to experience vibrational work with your dying animals, do so. Consider it well before you get to that point. It’s worth it. Just be careful. Energy, or vibration, is easy to work with, but sometimes the human practitioners are not.

Vibration is good.

Build Community

Many of us humans live alone these days, but there are people out there, friends and family. Ask for help. Be clear that anyone you ask can refuse. Pay attention—you’ll learn things about life you never expected. It’s interesting to see who shows up, who doesn’t, and what new connections you make. It’s painful and exhilarating and worth it. Be grateful—people often mean well, but our culture is big on avoiding feelings, and dying, well, dying pushes buttons.

Above all, make sure all the decisions you make are yours—and your animal’s. Some family members, human and animal, just don’t get it. That’s their mindset, not yours. Forgive and move on. Or out.

Community is good.

Make Your Choice

We didn’t have much time to decide how to treat Murphy’s tumor. Whether it was cancer or not (they were almost completely certain it was, and they were right), a splenic tumor was going to kill her if I didn’t have it surgically removed. Fast. But the consequences of surgery—financially, physically, emotionally—were daunting. When I heard from several respected vets that the old dogs just don’t really recover from the surgery—well, I was glad Murphy and I had opted for quality of life and refused surgery.

I was glad we went to see the surgical specialist, who said they operate on these tumors all the time, but not because they hope to save an animal’s life, because there isn’t any hope. They operate because the families are shocked—usually, it presents as a crisis at the end stage—and they can’t get their heads around saying goodbye. My heart goes out to everyone who struggles to say goodbye, especially if it’s an emergency.

Whatever choice you make—if you’re lucky enough to make one, instead of having death suddenly drop on your doorstep—do everything possible to logically, rationally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually be at peace with it. To be able to live with it later. Regrets are unnecessary. They can also kill you.

Whatever you do, make sure you do the right thing in the moment. I regretted euthanizing my beloved English Cocker, Maggie, for years, because I dimly knew at the time that I was doing the wrong thing in that moment. That decision has affected every decision I’ve made for my multi-species family—it taught me to pay better attention. Now, although I miss Murphy terribly and always will, I know we did everything we could for her, everything we wanted and agreed upon, everything that made sense to us. We have no regrets.

I am at peace. She is at peace. Our family is at peace—and goes on.

If, by some horrible fate, your beloved dies suddenly, know that terrible things happen, and go on. If you did the best you could with whatever you had, it’s enough. If you didn’t, you’ll know better next time. That’s what life is—next times.

Acceptance matters.

Choice is good.

One Last Thing

One thing I learned in my life with Murphy, the thing that opened up a new world and way of thinking for me, was that our bodies, whatever they are, whatever they look like, are bodies only, and not our souls. Of course bodies are important, and unfortunately, for humans, they seem to determine both intelligence and rights. Love learns to look beyond bodies. Mindset helps.

I had to smile this spring when Murphy said to me, via the renowned animal communicator Joan Ranquet, that “We are not our bodies.” Who would know better than the dog who was—who is—the ambassador to the dragon kingdom?

We are souls who take bodies to play and experiment in, to work in, to love in. Thinking of bodies as lesser or greater because of their form, animal or human (or whatever), distracts us from our purpose: of joining together as equals with all life to contribute to the welfare of our conscious, evolving planet.

And it really messes with our sense of humor.

Even so, I loved Murphy’s body and the personality her soul chose to be in it. I adored her. I grieve my lost soul mate. I would give a lot to have her back in her body—but I would not take it back with cancer, with pain, with disability. Not for one extra minute.

So, to grief.

I know that because death is part of life, we are also right now either grieving or preparing to grieve. I know that this series, My Dog Is Dying, has touched hearts around the world, has enabled people to share their grief. I am grateful for that.

Grief reminds us that we care, that we don’t live in isolation, that community isn’t just human. Grief hurts—it’s gut-wrenching, soul-testing pain. Nevertheless, I am glad for it, because if I weren’t grieving, I would never have lived the wonderful life I did with this amazing dog.

That matters. My grief matters. So does yours.

Grief is what death looks like in a multi-species family.

Grief reminds us that we love. Love matters.

Remember that.

Grief is good.

© 2012 Robyn M Fritz

“Murphy’s Choice”—Save Our Dogs

I know, wishful thinking that this is the face of the last dog who died from splenic cancer.

Truth is, splenic cancer is epidemic in the United States. They say they don’t know why, but they are lying to us.

It’s early spay/neuter. Yes, early spay/neuter is causing splenic cancer in our dogs. Maybe other cancers, I don’t know. But this one, certainly—it’s not the sole cause of this cancer, but a huge one nonetheless. Do your homework. The research is out there. Our shelter and rescue communities, our breeders, and the veterinary community are ignoring this.

They won’t if we keep after them.

Yes, cancer comes from other things as well. Environmental toxins, bad luck, you name it. Cancer also comes from not spaying or neutering, as do other medical crises that can kill or maim our beloveds. Cancer is also symbiotic, which means it is trying to live with us, but the genetic differences are just too great for that right now. I know, I’m an intuitive, I’ve talked with cancer, but that’s another subject, another article for this magazine.

What works for our dogs? What keeps them healthy, and why? How do we make sure they’re healthy? How do we find the professionals who will help us figure that out, without lying to us, without being ignorant of the risks and the options, without being set on their own agendas?

How do we make informed, loving choices for our animals?

When we spay or neuter our dogs before they have fully matured, we interrupt their hormonal development—we interfere with the chemical process that nature puts in play to help organic beings grow. We’re not smart enough to know what that does to them, or to any animal. We just spay or neuter because it’s politically correct, it’s convenient, and we’re not thinking it through.

We don’t neuter our teenagers. We help them grow up.

Why should we give less thought and attention to our dogs, our cats, or any animal?

Let’s figure this out together. Please.

I’d call this “Murphy’s War,” and I did at first. I was angry when I learned the truth about splenic cancer, angrier when I learned Murphy had it. She’s gone now, and while the anger still burns, it is not anger that will save other dogs from this cancer.

Only love will save our dogs. Discussion. Setting aside all the prejudices we have about what should happen with animals, and figuring out what will happen because we’re fully informed, we’ve fully discussed it, we’ve set new guidelines, and we’ve figured out what works for our own animals.

Let’s sit down and talk this through. Figure it out. Please.

No, Murphy’s face is not the last face of splenic cancer. But maybe it will be enough to mark the beginning of the end of splenic cancer that comes from ignorance.

Maybe we can also figure out other sad things that have arisen from prejudice and political motives. Things like the strange contempt for purebred dogs and the weird devotion to mixed-breed dogs. Or the truly odd role of the shelter and rescue communities and their political counterparts as the new puppy millers: why else would they advocate not going anywhere but to them to buy a dog?

Yes, we have a lot to discuss. Nothing to argue about.

Because we’ll start from love. From trying to understand what we were all told to think, what we will think, what we will do, and why.

We’ll love each other and our animals. Together.

That’s why I don’t call it “Murphy’s War.” I call it “Murphy’s Choice.”

Which choice will you make? Status quo, which is clearly killing our dogs? Or love, which will figure out how to save them?

Let me know.

© 2012 Robyn M Fritz

Our Birthday Wish for Your Animal Family

Today, July 16, 2012, my beloved Murphy would have been 14 years old. Instead, I lost her on March 8, 2012, to splenic cancer, one of many diseases I now learn is linked to early spay/neuter.

Yes, my grief is compounded because I did what the animal care community, from veterinarians to shelters to breeders, insist is the proper thing to do: spay or neuter your animals as babies, before they are sexually mature.

Sadly, that is not true. Today, 50% of dogs over 10 get cancer. It’s an epidemic. Thyroid issues, obesity, arthritis, hip dysplasia, cancer … it’s a big list, and early spay/neuter is one of the culprits.

What are we doing to our families? To ourselves?

The research is out there, and being ignored. Why? Ignorance. Propaganda. Politics. A deadly combination of trying to do the right thing, for example, reducing pet overpopulation, and not thinking things through, or keeping up with the research.

Was Murphy ‘old enough,’ as some people say? No, but she was old, and happy, vigorous for her age, and we were robbed of more time together.

Most important? Murphy was family.

Are your animals family members? My animals are part of what I call a multi-species family. What does the human-animal bond mean to you? What is proper veterinary care?

How do you define love?

Someone told me recently that I “walk my talk.” I guess that’s true. I believe in the equality of all life, that all beings, whatever they are—human, animal, chair, car, home, business, plant, weather system—all life has a soul, is conscious, has free choice, and responsibility. All life. Including my animal family. I give space for my animals to make choices. So Murphy chose how she would live her ending. Unfortunately, I didn’t know better in the beginning.

The fierce love I have for my animal family to me is normal. My animals are my kids, my family. My partner is a crystal ball. My home is alive and participates in the work I do, as does my business.

Murphy was a dog. She was my soul mate. Right now, I don’t want another soul mate.

Do you?

If so, let’s talk. Let’s brainstorm, in person, on the Internet, and figure out how the love we have for all of life, including our animal families, can keep them as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Really look hard at the early spay/neuter issue. Take an immediate stand: say no to any animal that comes from someone who insists on spaying or neutering it before it comes to you. Any animal from anywhere, shelter or breeder. Don’t patronize vets or any animal organization or business that supports this insane practice.

Make it stop. That will get attention. That will get us talking. All of us together.

Maybe, then, more people will get something I don’t have today, July 16, 2012: I don’t have my beloved Murphy with me.

I can’t save my soul mate. Help me save yours.

Say no to early spay/neuter, then investigate it and make a decision that works for your family. Research. Connect.

Help me do one more thing: I can’t hug my beloved Murphy on her birthday. Hug your animals for me.

We’re celebrating her birthday tonight with a piece of chocolate cake topped with fresh cherries.

We’ll be lighting a candle for change. For peace. For all of our families. Together.

Light a candle with us. A candle for love. In the end, that’s all we have, and all we need.

Here’s our birthday wish for you: a long healthy life with your animal family.

© 2012 Robyn M Fritz