Our animal companions play such an important role in our lives and surprising research shows that human-animal bonds can have huge psychological and physiological benefits.
Stress Reduction—A brisk walk with your beloved canine can sooth nerves and offer instant relaxation. And the relaxation carries over once you’re home. Studies show that individuals who live with companion animals suffer less stress than those who don’t and also react better to stressful situations. Many hospitals, assisted living care centers, nursing homes, and similar facilities have begun to invite therapy animals into their establishments because of the proven positive impact on stress reduction and overall health. One therapy dog I spoke to told me it gave her a sense of purpose and that she knew she had come into this world to serve others. Continue reading →
Ten Things Your Animal Companion Wants You to Know
Years ago I lost my beautiful tan tiger kitty, Taz. Weeks later, in the throws of grief I sat at my desk crying, my head resting in my hands. Suddenly I heard his voice. I am here. I’m not leaving yet. There’s something I want you to know. In fact every animal companion want’s their human to know these things. And he began to share a stream of conciousness that I raced to capture, scribbling furiously as he spoke. Here are the ten things he shared with me.
Be faithful – To yourself, to your word, and to your commitment to me. I need to be able to trust you.
Be love – Surround yourself with love so you can in turn surround me with unconditional love as I do you.
Be clear – Before you ever bring me into your home; be clear with your intent, about what you want, and about what you intend to give back to an animal companion. Then ask yourself if you are ready to do what it takes to care for me.
Be wise – Know what my needs are. Equip yourself with knowledge about what I require nutritionally, physically, mentally, emotionally and if you can…spiritually. Be creative in finding solutions outside of the traditional. And be aware that I need balance.
Be there – Do not bring me into your life if you cannot be there for me physically and emotionally. While I do sleep a good amount, my waking hours without you can sometimes be lonely unless I have another companion.
Be aware – Of how I and my needs may change as I grow older. Be cognizant of the slightest changes in my state of being. And be ready to address them holistically.
Be kind – Always. I have a reason for everything I do and you may not be aware of my purpose in any given moment.
Be compassionate – Your needs and desires are not more important than mine. Always remember that I have a purpose and destiny that is as important to me as yours is to you.
Be consistent – With feed, care, nurturing, timing. Patterns are important to me as is knowing what to expect.
Be the change – Be the change you want to see in the world. Speak up against abuse and neglect. Help others to change inappropriate attitudes and behaviors. Be a role model for love and compassion.
When he was done speaking, I was awestruck, as I am so often about the wisdom present in the animal kingdom and the lessons humans can and should learn from these noble creatures. Thank you for sharing, beautiful Taz.
He was a handsome youngster with a longish snout, long ears, and even longer legs. Everything about him was long and lean—an indication of the growing he had left to do. He was a high-energy guy even for a ten-month-old puppy. In his first home, his rambunctious nature proved to be too much for his people. A lack of training and Mach-10 energy made for a combustible combination, and Buck was often out of control.
When I tuned into him, he showed me an image of a rocket ship launching from its pad, its flaming engines thrusting it into outer space. Yep, I’d say Mach-10 energy Buck was a good description of him. And because of it, Buck was relinquished to our rescue organization.
So we needed to find him a home with savvy parents who’d commit to training him and working with him to channel his energy in a positive way. He also needed another amenable dog who’d happily play with him so he could burn some of his rocket fuel and, for everyone’s best interests, a home without small children.
It didn’t take long for Buck to hit the jackpot. An active, young family took an interest in him. They had recently rescued a young, energetic female German Shepherd (Scout) who loved to play. They were looking for a buddy and playmate for her. Match made in heaven was an understatement. They talked to many of our volunteers, wanting to understand all Buck’s quirks. We stressed over and over that what Buck needed most was training and leadership to channel his energy. They heard it and took it seriously but weren’t deterred.
Since their female was almost a carbon copy of Buck, they understood how important training was and had already dedicated much time to her training over the past six months. On the day of the meet-and-greet for Buck and Scout, the couple came to our kennels. When they arrived, Buck was doing his best Houdini impression. He’d broken out of his kennel and was running AWOL through the other kennels, trying to open side gates to gain access to the play yard. Rather than be deterred by his boisterous attitude, they were instead impressed by his intelligence! And they committed to Buck on the spot. Now Buck hits the road every day with runs with his humans to mitigate that energy level. He is going to get some much-needed exercise, discipline, and of course love. We kept our fingers crossed for Buck as he really needs a special family. We believe he has found one.
It was several weeks later when I tuned into Buck again to ask him how he was. He showed me a picture of a rocket ship orbiting earth. Buck, our rocket man, has found his home and is circling his new family, bound by the gravitational pull of true love in the trajectory of a new found forever home.
Pregnant and stranded in a high-kill shelter, Gem’s transition to motherhood was a challenging one. She was scheduled to be euthanized when a German Shepherd rescue stepped in to change her fate forever. And through the power of one simple word—“yes”—Gem’s life and future changed forever. But even though she was out of danger, poor Gem was still so frightened she had to be carried to the rescue van and into her foster home.
One week later, Gem gave birth to nine adorable puppies, six of whom were claimed by adoptive families as soon as they were old enough and three of whom, like Gem, waited patiently for a forever home. The rescue’s “yes” had saved nine more lives.
Gem was a beauty, a pale blond shepherd with a frosted black saddle and a thin black strip on her forehead. Her eyes were soulful and kind, and underneath her quiet demeanor lived a regal soul. I asked her to describe herself and what she wanted in a home. She said simply that she was humble and shy and that her only desire was to feel safe. And while she was cautious, she warmed up to people once she became comfortable with them.
I asked Gem what she had gone through at the shelter, pregnant and alone. Her response: People don’t realize that we understand our plight and our situation. I knew I was pregnant and stranded. I knew my puppies depended on me and on the kindness of people I had yet to meet.It was a desperate time.
In her foster home, Gem worked hard on building her confidence. She gained emotional strength and support from the two resident dogs, and she followed them everywhere when she wasn’t tending her puppies.
At the same time Gem arrived in our rescue, a husband/wife team put in an application. They had always had GSDs and their most recent, Schatzi, had been imported from Germany to join their current fur family that consisted of three small dogs and two cats. Schatzi was a character. He stole beer, carried the small dogs around in his mouth like lollipops, and toted a Barbie doll crown in his teeth. He visited dog parks frequently and attempted to play with his other pack members, but within weeks, his family knew that something was missing from his life. And they knew he needed a dog his size to play with. So we scheduled a meet-and-greet for Schatzi, Gem, and the original five furry family members. Gem was a pro. It was like she knew she was home. Her shyness melted away, and she greeted the new “furmily” with grace and reserve. No feathers or fur ruffled in the process.
Gem was welcomed into the family and became Lily. Now, the “yes” that transformed ten lives expanded to touch seven more. The family reports that Lily fits in like she’s been there forever. Schatzi no longer is tempted to enjoy a lolli-pup, has forsaken his Barbie crown for good, and has stopped stealing beer! And Gem’s life is no longer desperate.
Then his healing journey began. He was taken to the vet, shaved, vaccinated, X-rayed, and crated for transportation to the kennels. All the while, Nemo was brave, curious, gentle, grateful, and fearless. He needed medicated baths for months. They were long and painful, and there was scrubbing and bleeding. But all the while he seemed to know that everything we did was to help him on his road to recovery.
A foster stepped up to continue his arduous care routine, and after months, Nemo began to gradually respond. He gained weight, his front leg healed, and his fur filled in. He morphed into a stunning, regal black and tan shepherd who was far younger than we originally expected.
Nemo was a relatively laid-back dog. He spent his days in his foster home going for walks, fetching tennis balls, and playing with other dogs. But he also loved just “chilling” in the backyard or sitting with the humans to watch television, even seeming to enjoy the family pastime of watching football games. Nemo often went with his foster mom to visit other rescue dogs who lived at the kennel, watching while his mom tended to them. He looked on from afar, happy and relaxed in a long run, observing the activity as kenneled dogs came and went on their walks.
Once he fully recovered, Nemo morphed into a strong and powerful and protective shepherd. And we knew he would need a structured and disciplined environment with another well-settled dog in the home to be a role model. So we all hoped that we could manifest the right home for him.
In his foster home, we learned he was housebroken, had good house manners, was friendly with other dogs, and was respectful of boundaries. He knew basic commands and had a genuine desire to please. Most likely, he had once been loved and well-cared-for before he found himself alone as a stray.
A few weeks ago, Nemo was invited to stay with the mother and father-in-law of one of our volunteers and their resident canines. They were looking for a very special dog: a German Shepherd Dog with excellent temperament; a dog who would be dog-, cat-, and bird-friendly; a dog who would be gentle with kids and responsive to all family members and friends.
The lucky dog would have more than an acre of fenced grass yard on which to run and play with all the doggie friends, a swimming pool in which to cool off, and, of course, love and attention from many dog lovers.
Nemo moved in and settled beautifully, every puzzle piece fitting perfectly together, as though it was meant to be. They found Nemo, and Nemo found his home. And while we’ll never know the full extent of the tragedy and hardship Nemo endured, we can sleep peacefully now, knowing that our regal Nemo is no longer lost in a sea of unwanted dogs looking for his forever home. He is now thriving and languishing in the love and care he needs, deserves, and welcomes.
When I asked him to describe his new home he said simply: Paradise. My home is paradise.
By the time the rescuing officer found her, she was skin and bones, extremely malnourished from her time wandering the streets alone. But slowly he nursed poor, neglected Sandy back to health, and soon life was good.
Sandy was a super sweet, super outgoing one-year-old black and tan female who had the odd habit of sitting with her feet jutting out like a ballerina in second position. She reveled in going on trips to the beach and dog parks, and just hanging out with her new dad. She was a perfect walking and running companion and mastered training and simple cues while in his care. She learned sit, stay, down, come, leave it, and in and out, but her favorite thing to hear was “good girl.” She loved other dogs, although she could initially be dog-selective as is common with some rescue dogs who haven’t had proper training and socialization, but she adored people and this super affectionate girl never wanted to leave her person’s side.
When a sudden job change meant a long-distance move for her dad, Sandy’s fate was uncertain. Fortunately, Sandy’s dad contacted our German Shepherd rescue and she became part of a pack in one of our kennels where she enjoyed daily walks, playtime in the pool with other dogs, grooming, and—most important—lots of love while we searched for her forever home. Sandy was with us for about a month and won volunteers hearts with her loving personality. On picture day, several dogs waited their turn to be photographed for our website. Sandy was last in line and just couldn’t wait for her mug shot moment. She trotted up to the photographer and deftly licked the lens with her long tongue. And the photo opp must have worked because she caught the eye of a family who drove across two states to meet her. Now she spends her time racing around a huge fenced yard, chilling in her new air-conditioned home, lounging by her new pool, and partying with her new people. Congrats, Sandy. We know you’ll never want for anything again.
When I pondered the way that connected Sandy with her new home, I was told she has a heart with purpose. What I felt about the message was this: when one has a heart with a purpose, they have so much love to give that they may be paired with many people in order to give again and again. It’s a selfless journey, a humble undertaking, and a noble dedication. And just one more example of why dogs are so special. And one more reason why I am in love with Sandy’s heartwarming rescue story!
When her sister Cali was adopted, it shook Brooklyn to the core. We often try to adopt siblings together if it’s possible, but when a perfect home presents itself, we can’t always wait. Cali had been adopted just three weeks before an application came in for Brooklyn. The family wanted to meet Dennis, a rambunctious male, and Brooklyn to see if either dog would be a match for their female Bambi, a beautiful sable who, as a puppy, had bounced and bounded around so much that she was named after the Walt Disney character.
A meet-and-greet was scheduled. The biggest concern was whether Brooklyn and Bambi would accept each other. Both had lost a sibling, companion, and playmate just weeks earlier. Dennis was up first. Bambi walked alongside Dennis, sniffed him and showed casual interest. Then Dennis growled. Bambi shrunk back on her haunches. The meet-and-greet was over.
Now it was Brooklyn’s turn. She approached the humans first, wagging her tail and leaning into them. It was a good sign. She’d always been cautious when meeting new people. Then Brooklyn and Bambi went for a walk. They wandered side by side, peaceful, and very happy. Then Bambi play-bowed and thunked Brooklyn’s back with her paw. Brooklyn wheeled and play-bowed back. It was a great sign, and a home visit and another meet-and-greet were scheduled.
The next day, Brooklyn and Bambi went on a walk in Bambi’s neighborhood. Then, Bambi showed Brooklyn around the backyard and invited her to play “Queen of the Mountain” on top of the covered Jacuzzi. Brooklyn jumped up alongside Bambi, nudged her face, and took off around the yard. Friendship sealed! A volunteer had led her to meet Brooklyn. She said she had seen Brooklyn in her crate at an adoption event and their eyes had met. She had not been able to get Brooklyn’s eyes out of her mind. Maybe Brooklyn had chosen her.
Because the match has been perfect. Bambi is the type of dogs who loves having a younger dog to mother and care for, and Brooklyn needed a mom. Two more happy endings to this story. First, Brooklyn’s new mom donated extra funds to help Dennis find his forever family. Second, Cali’s family retrieved her from the kennels the same day of Brooklyn’s meet-and-greet. Cali’s new family bumped into Brooklyn’s family when they were coming to get her out of the kennels, and everyone hit it off, so Brooklyn and Cali will have plenty of play dates in the future, including tug of war and squeaky toys and our bonded sisters find their happy ending!
Brooklyn and Cali were bonded sisters. Blond shepherd mixes with floppy ears, stubby tails, and goofy grins, they were two peas in a pod and constant companions. As six-month-old littermates, they’d lived together since birth with their family. They spent their days wrestling, playing tug of war with squeaky toys, and taking naps together on a big, soft bed. Weekends would find them with their family, romping and running on the beach and swimming in the warm Southern California waves. All dad had to say was “bye bye” and the girls knew they were headed for an adventure in the back of the Jeep.
Unfortunately, their family came upon hard financial times, and Brooklyn and Cali joined our rescue to look for a new family. Cali was the more social of the two while Brooklyn was a bit more anxious in new situations. But in time, our patient, talented volunteers coaxed them out of their shells, and soon the girls were giving kisses and hugs to everyone they met. It helped that we had lots of squeaky toys!
In November, Cali was invited to spend the holidays with a foster family. She spent Thanksgiving in her new home with her two new canine sisters: Heidi, an 18-month-old German Shepherd, and Chelsea, a slightly older greyhound. It didn’t take long for the family (humans and canines) to fall in love with Cali, and she was invited to stay through Christmas. Christmas came and went, and the family informed us that they wouldn’t mind keeping Cali until January when they were to leave for their vacation.
Then January came, and it was time for the family to leave for vacation, but not before letting us know that Cali had a home forever. Cali returned to our kennels while her family vacationed. It was a reunion for her, as she reconnected with the volunteers she had come to know and love. She remembered each and every human and dog she’d met during her stay, and she romped in the yard with all of her old doggie pals. But when her family came back from vacation and walked into the yard, Cali only had eyes for them. She ran straight into her family’s waiting arms and never looked back.
Stay tuned for part two of Brooklyn and Cali’s story and find out how these bonded sisters find their happy endings!
Like many of our dogs, Draco was dumped in a San Diego shelter. There he was diagnosed with Giardia. Although it’s easy to treat, he languished in his kennel and depression set in. Physically, he began to weaken to the point that he was temporarily removed from the adoptable list.
Slowly, he began to recover, and a young couple expressed their interest in him. But sadly they weren’t a match. They’d never had a dog before, so pairing them with a strong dog whose boundless energy and intelligence would have most certainly challenged them would have been a mistake. So Draco found himself waiting for a spot to open up in a rescue. And open it did. Coastal was contacted, and Draco joined our family.
Draco was a pure white shepherd with a bunny soft coat and a thick, fluffy scruff that wreathed his neck. Now that he was feeling better, he was a bundle of energy waiting to take on the world. At just eleven months old, he was curious about everything. His long legs and sprawling paws hinted at the magnificent, powerful boy he’d become when he was full grown. Draco loved to play, and every dog he met was a new friend to explore the world with. But his favorite pastime was splashing in the refreshing wading pool in the kennel yards. It delighted him so much it was as though he expected to find treasures lurking just beneath the surface of the water.
When I tuned into and asked him to describe himself, he said two simple words: “Infinite wonder.” It seemed a beautiful and befitting way to portray his curious nature. And when I asked him what he wanted in a home, he replied, “Something to keep me occupied.”
Because of his strength and energy, we looked for an experienced family who would devote themselves to training and leadership to guide his development. Equally important was a home with another large dog and no small critters or children. He needed an active family with lots of activity and an equal amount of time to devote to him so that he could grow into his legacy gracefully.
Meanwhile, Indigo, a five-year-old jet-black German Shepherd in Orange County, had lost her companion. At just eight weeks old, Indigo was found wandering the desert alone and stricken with Parvo, a life-threatening virus. Little Indigo was taken to rescue and treated. Luckily, she’d been found in time and survived the ordeal. And soon, she was adopted by a family with an older dog.
Within weeks, her family noticed that she seemed indifferent to sounds. She didn’t always come when called, and loud noises didn’t alarm her. She never started at the sound of the doorbell or to noises in her environment. An exam at the vet revealed that little Indigo was deaf. But it didn’t seem to bother her. Perhaps she’d never known a different reality. And over time, her bond with both her family and her companion dog grew.
While they loved each other, one problem remained. Indigo tried diligently to entice her best friend to play, but the other dog was not interested. And after a few years, Indigo finally gave up. When her friend passed away, her owners asked their trainer for a recommendation for their next dog. They were told that since Indigo was shy and submissive, they need a dominant alpha male. So they began their search.
They were captivated by Draco when they saw him on our website and asked if the dominant and alpha traits described him. Umm…no! But we wondered if perhaps Indigo needed something different in her next doggy companion. Someone more outgoing, more affable, and more playful. After all, she’d tried for years to create a playmate in her other companion. And that description suited Draco to a T.
Indigo and Draco met that weekend. She and her family arrived at the play yard at our kennels. Indigo sported a purple cast on her left foot from a recent injury. The dogs were introduced via their handlers. It was not love at first sight. Draco bounded up to Indigo and went in for the big kiss. Indigo curled her lip. He tried again, she curled again. He backed up and bowed, waiting for a sign of acceptance, under the watchful eye of his handler. She turned tail and wandered nonchalantly toward the fence that hemmed the play yard. He pulled to follow her and maneuvered himself in front her.
Then he lay down in front of her, got up, and tried again. She curled her lips and snapped. His style of play wasn’t working for her. But he followed her lead and heeded her corrections. That’s the beauty of the canine world. The subtle cues. The almost invisible communication via body language. It’s an intensely refined form of conversing. And in interesting contrast to the verbal and nonverbal cues that we as humans are sometimes oblivious to.
Indigo strolled casually around the yard, sniffing and exploring. Draco watched her every move. Then began to emulate her movement, mirroring her. It’s been said that in psychology, you can create a sense of ease and comfort with others if you mirror their body language. Draco our little doggie psychologist must have taken that course. Because Indigo allowed him to walk alongside her. No more snarling. No more corrections.
But then, his exuberance got the best of him. He went in for a kiss, and Indigo used a little more than a lip curl to signal her annoyance. When Draco didn’t back off, she smacked his head with her purple cast. Okay, so maybe he didn’t take the course in psychology, because Draco thought that was an invitation play. He crouched and play bowed, and Indigo turned her back to him.
Her message was clear. Playtime was definitely not happening. But even though the meet-and-greet had been less than stellar, mom and Indigo went home to think about Draco and the potential of a new companion for Indigo.
Five days later, Draco was invited to visit their home. Draco wanted to go straight for the face-to-face kiss again, but instead he patiently settled for a stroll around the block. Later, inside their home, he made a beeline for the back yard. Then he noticed the pool. A big, oval-shaped structure that dwarfed the pool he knew at the kennels. Draco waded onto the steps of the pool and nosed the water. Indigo watched, her curiosity piqued. She had always been afraid to go in before, but now she was ready to follow. Only problem, her cast. Indigo would have to wait to go wading.
When Draco emerged from the pool, the two met face to face. Indigo stood in front of him for a few seconds examining him. Her next move surprised everyone. She quickly ducked into play bow, turned and sprinted around the yard. Draco followed in hot pursuit, racing after her. Even with Indigo in a cast, Draco had to work to catch up, but when he did, she turned and jumped over him joyfully, spinning in midair. She batted Draco around with her purple cast, and he, the perfect gentleman, seemed to enjoy taking a hit for his newfound friend.
Finally exhausted, they dropped to the ground to recharge. Within minutes, they were ready for round two. As they played, we noticed that Draco began to engage Indigo from the front rather than surprising her by approaching from the rear or to the side of her. Maybe he picked up on the fact that she couldn’t hear him. Maybe he was learning what worked with her. Either way, he now has a very energetic friend, and Indigo finally has someone who will play with her. And the pool…well, let’s just say it’s getting a lot of use. And Draco certainly has a home where he will be “occupied.”
Pure white and stunning, like the snow-capped peaks she was named for, Sierra once had a home and a family and a best canine buddy. She and her buddy spent their days together in the house while her human parents worked. But her family was gone a lot. They didn’t have time to train Sierra, or to work with her, or even to exercise her properly. And Sierra was a bundle of energy, which proved to be overwhelming for her doggie friend who was too old to fend for himself. He’d ignore her invitations to play by flopping on his side or turning his butt to her. Finally, the family made the painful decision to relinquish her in hopes that she could find a brighter future. So Sierra came to rescue and joined the rest of the canine family in the kennels. I tuned into Sierra and asked her what she’d like in her new home. Her response was simple. Busy, busy, busy.
Sierra was a loving social girl who bonded with everyone—human and canine. Every dog she was introduced to became her best friend. And those who accepted her invitations to play had a special place in her heart. While she yearned and searched for a new family, she had plenty of play time in the yard, dashing around hay bales, jumping over new playmates, and playing tug of war with a rope toy. Rescue volunteers quickly learned that she was highly intelligent and turned the play yard into her personal agility course. And while she had received little training in her previous home, she mastered commands quickly, jumping on and off the hay bales on command!.
When Sierra’s bio was posted to the website, applications streamed in, but there was one that stood out. One that might be the perfect fit.
A young family with two dogs and two young children was looking for another active dog because they had an active two-year-old shepherd (Kiara) and a 14-year-old retriever (Kimba). Kiara was desperate for a more-constant playmate. It sounded just like the situation Sierra had come from. Except this family was active. This family was often home. This family had a young energetic dog as well as an older one. And this family had the time and energy to give Sierra what she so desperately yearned for.
So a meet-and-greet was arranged, and it exceeded expectations. Sierra met Kimba first, gingerly sniffing her, and then gently nudged her with her nose. Kimba sniffed back and then wagged her tail and walked away. Success! Then it was time for Sierra and Kiara to meet. Kiara jumped and spun and play-bowed, turning himself inside out with his delight. It was a bit much even for social Sierra. Mom corrected him and redirected his energy slightly. He settled, and Sierra accepted his greeting. Then it was time to meet the kids. Sierra gently sat on cue and offered a paw. And with that, she sealed the deal.
Now Sierra is settled in her new home and it’s the perfect fit. She’s thriving on her daily runs with mom and her new canine playmate. Sierra also proved to be great with the kids. All mom had to say was “gentle” or “paws off” and Sierra settled immediately. One of our volunteers visited Sierra on her second day in her new home and reported back that Sierra is in heaven now. You can see the joy on her face as she gazes at her new family and the wonder in her eyes as she explores every square inch of her new home. She has finally found her match. Her new mom reported recently that Sierra is being run ragged by Kiara and the kids, and the hikes, and the daily runs. And she sleeps like a baby at night, exhausted by her busy new life. I asked Sierra what she liked most about her new home, although it seemed like a no-brainer. Her response surprised me. She said that there was a collective wisdom in her new home, that the people seemed to almost intuitively understand her needs and desires. Sounds like heaven to me.