Author: Guest Writer (Page 1 of 3)

Small Turtle, Big Personality — Meet Tani the Red-Eared Slider

Tani is one of the animals featured in the children’s book High Paw, Super Sebastian! The story follows the journey of a foster puppy as he moves from home to home. The characters in the book are based on real animals.

“When I’m feeling shy,” said Tani, “I retreat into the safety of my shell to take a deep breath and muster some courage.”

By Yazmin Feliz

Tani the turtle understands human emotions such as happiness and sadness much like a dog or cat would. If I’m having a rough day, he will spend more time around me, will sit on my lap and snuggle, or lay in bed to watch Netflix. When I come home from school or work, he’s the first one to run up to me! Tani knows his name and responds to it when he’s called. I never knew just how smart turtles could be until I got Tani.

My journey with Tani began in 2001 when I was eleven years old and had just arrived in Bronx, NY with my mom. I had no friends and was asking my mom to let me get a dog. No cats or dogs were allowed in the apartment and so one day, we came across a street vendor selling baby turtles. My mom suggested we get one as a pet. It was a cold September and I remember feeling sad for the turtles sitting in that cold water.

Rescuing Tani

The vendor had turtles in these tiny containers with little water, ready to sell for five bucks each. On the ground was a large bucket with literally hundreds of turtles stacked on top of each other. I could see some missing eyes and limbs. It was like a swarm of turtles and I could only begin to imagine how miserable the ones at the bottom were, without being able to move, and possibly dead.

The vendor passed me Tani; I saw his little eyes glittering, almost begging to come home with me. A woman nearby told us to look for abnormalities to make sure we got a healthy turtle. Tani appeared to have a “dent” in his shell and the vendor quickly tried to hand us a different turtle. I refused and held onto the container tightly. Tani and I were on the way to a whole life together. He was sold to me without any instructions — no care directions, nothing.

Since the early days, Tani has always been very outgoing, curious, and intelligent. I would let him walk around the house and he learned every room. I could call him from the bedroom and he would come running from the kitchen and straight to me. We offered a feeding container in the bathroom and Tani would walk there in the morning for breakfast and go into the kitchen to nap under the sunlight that came in through the window.

Caring for a Rescue Turtle

In the years that followed, I figured out how to best care for Tani on my own and by searching online. I heard horror stories of people dumping these little baby turtles in the garbage or flushing them down the toilet because they heard the turtles carried salmonella.  I was astounded by this because by simply washing your hands, you can remove any bacteria the animal would carry and prevent yourself from ingesting anything harmful. It is actually illegal to sell turtles under 4 inches in length in the state of New York, I later learned, because children would place the turtles in their mouths.

As the years went by, Tani thrived and grew, and I became known as the “turtle girl.” Eventually, I created Rescue Friends Inc. People started giving me the turtles they did not want and I began rescuing mistreated turtles. Many of these discarded pet turtles end up in central park in NYC. Read more about that problem here.

There needs to be serious repercussions for illegal turtle sales but laws are not being enforced and these animals are left to suffer neglect and abandonment. Tani is a red-eared slider, the most popular pet turtle in North America. Yet these animals are deemed “disposable.”

Small Turtle, Big Personality

Tani is very friendly towards people but is jealous of other turtles. He dislikes most turtles because he wants all the attention to himself! He enjoys eating cooked ham on holidays and loves eating chicken and shrimp. He is very animated, for example, if you attempt to feed him something really healthy, like lettuce or carrots. He tends to bite them and spit them back out, then look at me almost shocked at how we could be offering something so vile. He’s got quite the personality, that’s for sure.

As Tani grew, I did, too! I remember when I was in middle school and I would bring my best friend Tani to school with me in a hat. I was eventually caught and the principal called my mother to come to pick up Tani. Tani made guest appearances in high school and even moved to my college dorm in upstate NY with me. When I got my first job upon graduation, he moved with me then as well. Tani has been there for me for most of my life’s accomplishments these past 19 years — late night studying, graduations, birthdays, you name it! Tani is truly the best friend a girl could ask for.


About Yazmin Feliz

I’m what you’d call a “nerd.” Since coming to NY with mom, I’ve worked hard, got scholarships for college, and am now a graduate student at Columbia University. I’m finalizing my PhD in mechanical engineering and developing low-cost medical ultrasound technology. The idea is to reduce the price point of medical ultrasound from thousands of dollars down to hundreds, in order to increase worldwide accessibility to life-saving care. It’s difficult to manage school and animal rescue/rehabbing but I try to make it work because I love what I do. Learn more on my LinkedIn.

About Rescue Friends Inc.

After receiving more than 15 rescued turtles over the years and also saving my first pigeon (Tutu) plus countless others from the streets of NYC, I decided to start a nonprofit: Rescue Friends Inc. We recently incorporated and my goals are to increase public awareness to reduce illegal turtle sales and to create laws that would protect pigeons.

Tiny but Fearless — Pigment Teaches Us How to Be Brave

Pigment is one of the animals featured in the children’s book High Paw, Super Sebastian! The story follows the journey of a foster puppy as he moves from home to home. The characters in the book are based on real animals.

“When I’m feeling nervous,” said Pigment, “I snuggle with my blanket. It helps me feel safe and secure, calm and cozy.”

By Sherry Burnett

Pigment is a Vietnamese potbellied pig who needed a new home after the farm he was living at was being sold. In November of 2013, when he was one year old, he found himself moving to Ruby Ranch Pig and Farm Animal Sanctuary in Kenilworth, Ontario. He had quite a few health issues, which were soon cleared up with veterinary care and he became a healthy, confident, kind leader of his very own herd. He is now eight years old and loves his life.

His very favorite things are eating (he is a pig, after all), sleeping snuggled in his blankets, warming himself in front of a roaring fire, and exploring the farm with his friends. He does not like rain, and if he happens to find himself caught in it will hurry back home, grumbling and chattering all the way. He doesn’t mind the snow too much, as long as it’s not too deep, since his little legs are only about three inches long.

His favorite treats are popcorn, any kind of fruit, and most vegetables. Don’t try and give him mushrooms or green peppers, though!

From Shy Little Pig to Brave Leader

Pigment is the official greeter of Ruby Ranch. When a new pig arrives, he makes sure to introduce himself as soon as possible. He also likes to let them know that he is the boss pig! When visitors arrive, he marches right up and wants to know if they’ve brought him treats.

Illustration by Lisa McKaskell

Pigment wasn’t always so brave. He was very sick when he first arrived, underweight and suffering from mange and other ailments. He was extremely shy and nervous with the other pigs at first, but as he started feeling better, he became the most outgoing pig on the farm. Now, only tractors scare him (but can you blame him for that?).

Pigment is packed with personality. We call him a “low rider” because his legs are only about three inches long. He LOVES to chatter — he has a very unusual sound and he loves to hear his own voice. He chats with people, he chats with the other pigs, he chats when he comes inside. He’s very empathetic and befriends pigs that he knows need a friend, such as old Milo, who suffers badly from arthritis, and another pig who has passed on now named Stannie, who also couldn’t get around very well. When Stannie stopped being able to go outdoors, Pigment would go out and as soon as he came in he’d head straight for Stannie and talk his ear off, sometimes much to Stannie’s chagrin.

Tiny but Fearless

Pigment doesn’t like to wallow in mud, but when another pig does, he rubs up against them to share their mud. He likes making friends! He’s not much for toys, but he sure does love his blankets. He’s tiny, but fearless.

When Pigment was younger he could fit under the fence where the big farm pigs are and he would march right up to them and introduce himself, which always gave me a fright, because he was only about the size of one of their ears. Every pig here respects his authority, and every visitor to the farm falls in love with him.

Living the Sweet Life

Pigment lives in our house with his best girl Tavia, and five other potbellied pigs. During the day, he and the other pigs have free roam of our twelve acres. In total, his friends include twenty potbellied pigs, six large farm pigs, three sheep, three roosters, four turkeys and three cats, all rescues. That’s a lot of friends!

He has even more friends online because of his Facebook page. People from all over the world can connect with this brave, little pig!

Joey’s Tale: A Beloved Family Member

Guest Post by Sue Vosper

Joey is a miniature dachshund.  We don’t know when Joey’s birthday is, because she came to us through the OSPCA and we don’t know anything about her time before us.  Her exact age is not known either but we were told, and agree, that she was about six years old when we met her.  I first saw Joey on April 6 and she moved in with us on the 8th of that  month.  So, we have made April 8th her birthday.  Joey is now a spunky and sassy 18 year old.  She has lived with us for the past twelve years.

Her name was not Joey when we adopted her.  She was Totts, as in tater tot.  That had to go.  Joey was the nickname of my mother-in-law when she was a kid and she said that she would be “honoured” to have Joey as her namesake.  She kind of looks like a baby kangaroo, anyway.  Joey – not my mother-in-law.   Joey gets called a lot of different names.  Buttercup, wiener dog, whiny wiener, little girl, missy, muffin, punkin, brat, cutie pie, hey you – she comes to any and all of her nicknames.  Joey doesn’t care what you call her – as long as it’s not “late for dinner”.  I know, corny.  Joey’s internal clock is so accurate that we can set our watches by her.  She eats three small meals a day and if you are five minutes late, she will let you know.  Hence, whiny wiener.

We live outside of town and share our space with many species of wildlife.  Joey feels it is her job to make them keep their distance, big or small.  Her personality is that of a happy, well adjusted “dog about town.”  I’m sure that her time in the shelter was unsettling, with all of the strange smells and sounds.  When I was there, to donate some food and towels, I took a walk through the kennels.  I looked down, way down, and into a pair of beautiful brown eyes that went straight to my heart!  I asked her to please stop staring up at me but she paid no attention.  She has been happily ignoring me, as my companion and buddy, ever since.

Joey will obey commands and tries very hard to please but the hound in her only magnifies her selective hearing skills.  Joeys loves the sunshine, warm rain, first snows, and just generally being outside.  When new and exciting scents come to her on a warm breeze, she is nose to the wind and on high alert.  She can track the path of a wild turkey, raccoon or any other visitor from the previous night with ease and single-mindedness.  Something stinky to roll in, a hole not yet dug, a leaf that needs chasing down, a car ride, a knock on the door signalling a visitor – every day brings her delight in some way.  I did discover that dachshunds are not built for swimming, though.  I had her in with me, on a very hot day, thinking that she would enjoy the cool down.  She did fine when she was going in a straight line but, when she looked back over her shoulder at me she flipped right over!  Needless to say, she won’t go anywhere near the water now.  Mud, shallow puddles and muck are right up her alley though.

Joey is a great little RV traveler with thousands of miles logged.  I think New Orleans was her favourite destination (or maybe that was me).  After all, who doesn’t love zydeco and Cajun music. Every fall we take a two week trip in the motor home.  My sister and her lovely dog, Sherry, often accompanied us.  Joey and Sherry were best friends, in spite of their differences – Joey being about the size of Sherry’s head!  Sherry would wait for Joey to catch up when we were out hiking and Joey never minded being used as a pillow by Sherry.  They ate out of each other’s dishes and slept in each other’s beds.  Needless to say, Sherry didn’t fit into Joey’s bed very well.

Five or six years ago, Joey became suddenly paralyzed from her mid-back down to the tip of her tail.  There were many trips to the doctor, x-rays, pain medication and a diagnosis of calcification on her spinal cord.  We opted to have her treated with steroid injections and oral medication.  This decision was made after much research into other options, like surgery.  Joey also started going to a chiropractor monthly.  She spent close to 6 months in her wheelchair or walking with the help of a scarf under her belly.  Joey wore a diaper in the house and had more baths than she cared for during that time.  The day we saw her tail move, just a little, we knew she would walk again.  Both Barry and I had tears in our eyes!

Joey is spoiled daily, has a bed in every room and her own blanket and pillow on the big bed (yes, she sleeps with us).  I made her a pillow out of an old shirt, that I had worn and not washed.  We were leaving her with family when we were out of the country for a month and wanted her to have something that smelled like us so she wouldn’t be sad.  If she was sad, at all, she just ate to compensate.  She gained almost 3 pounds in a month!  She normally weighs 11 pounds.  That was about the time we started to make her food and I really believe that her diet is one of the reasons she is still strong, healthy and happy.

Joey has had some tough times but has transitioned well and become a much loved member of this family (even by all of her bratty dog cousins).  I hope that she feels the love and never remembers any of the pain of losing her original people or the confusing and noisy time at the humane society.

What was I Thinking, Rescuing a Cat?

Vinnie is approximately 12 years old now and loves life. We rescued each other and this is our story.

By Cindy S. Evans

My first glimpse of Vinnie was the winter of 2012 on a very cold day at camp.

Someone threw out some leftover chili, maybe it was spicy maybe not, but Vinnie was gobbling it up like he never had anything so good in his life.

Between each bite he would chat to us from a distance.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking he was telling us of his misfortune of being homeless or lost.

I knew I would eventually reach out to help him when I returned to camp in the spring.

Vinnie is charming; he caught the attention of several people over the winter.

He was called Grumpy Cat, although he is not at all grumpy.

He was called Chatty Boy and he is.

But I called him Vinnie after Vince, an older gentleman who befriended Vinnie and approached me to help him.

Vinnie needed to get to the spay/neuter clinic asap.

We kept him in our motor home away from my cat Magellan during his recovery.

We returned him to his neighborhood where he continued to make new friends.

What was I thinking?

I was thinking that Magellan was too old to accept living with Vinnie.

And maybe I was right.

Magellan died in the fall of 2013.

I couldn’t stand not having a pet so I took in Kelly.

What was I thinking?

Kelly would not have made it outdoors another winter and Vinnie loved being outdoors.

Vinnie even disappeared when he had a chance to move to Florida for the winter.

So Vinnie spent another winter outside at camp with the other stray cats.

In March 2014 he found his way to our doorstep.

What was I thinking?

Vinnie you’re home.

Vinnie’s name means to conquer and win.

What was I thinking?

Vinnie would be my best friend.

He would get bathed and get his nails clipped.

He would take walks with me and still be free.

When we can not be free he would walk with me on a leash or in a buggy.

He will bring happiness into my life.

And I was right.



Cindy S. Evans is a freelance writer and has several articles published in Animal Wellness Magazine. She volunteers with cat rescues and TNR programs and has helped nearly 200 cats in the past 15 years. She is also part of a songwriter duet known as ViCindy.

Creative Watermelon Party Ideas with a Jewelry Making Bonus!

Guest Post by Jaselin Drown

Summer is the prime party season. Birthday, pool, holiday, you name it! Warm weather gives us an added reason to be outside and there’s only one thing perfectly positioned to help us recoverㅡwatermelon. Watermelon is not only good for hydrating, but also for relieving muscle soreness, so the bounce house beast won’t do too much damage if encountered at a birthday party. While it’s nutritional qualities make watermelon reign supreme as THE summer snack, it’s aesthetic makes it the pattern for everything under the sun. Notebooks, towels, pool floaties, even watermelon phone cases (which are almost as satisfying to look at as the real slices are to taste)! Watermelon is a summer symbol perfect for a party theme, simple but cute, and sure to make the actual fruit disappear. Tis the season to eat all things watermelon, and to decorate with them too!

Bust Open the Watermelon, It’s Party Time!

While watermelon’s place is typically limited to the table, taking a main role it can bring together a party as a fresh theme, just like watermelon brought together the animals in the children’s book Watermelon Party. Telling a true story, Watermelon Party shows animals from different species coming together in Rocky Ridge Sanctuary to share a watermelon. Like our animal friends, your diverse community can gather around the watermelon (decorations) and make some lasting memories at any party you host. In fact, some readers have already customized this theme, using a copy of Watermelon Party as a way for guests to express their birthday wishes instead of bringing cards! One reader commented, “A very cute book with an awesome storyline. My daughter’s first birthday was watermelon themed. We got this book to have guests sign and leave her a note instead of bringing cards.” The book holds the memory and love of those attended for the birthday girl to cherish forever.

Why not add another slice of something that party go-ers can take with them? Dragonfly Designs does just that by putting together jewelry making parties that inspire connection, creativity, and most importantly, fun! It’s the easiest way to elevate your event. They come to you and bring all of the materials! If they’re out of your service range they have ready made kits and instructions so you can host your own party with minimal effort.

children's picture books

Want More? A DIY Watermelon Jewelry Making Party

Dragonfly Designs has teamed up with Green Bamboo Publishing to make the ultimate watermelon-themed jewelry making party. Dragonfly Designs truly believes in the message of coming together despite differences that Watermelon Party seeks to teach children and wants to make it actionable for you! Create a unique experience for your party go-ers by providing this engaging activity. The simple but cute watermelon bracelets add juice to any watermelon-themed bash and act as great favors for kids of all ages to bring home. Now everyone has something to remind them of their favorite summer birthday party and the people they spent it with!

Taking the time to sit down and make these bracelets in groups gives kids an outlet for expressing themselves as well as encourages quality time together. Kids’ creations are all parent-free with only the instruction from a host guiding their beading! By the end of the party they’ll feel independent and leave with a sense of accomplishment. Even the shyer kids start participating when they’re excited about what they’re making and want to share their creative choices with their table neighbors. With many bead types and patterns, kids can show their own style yet still work toward the group’s goal of making a watermelon bracelet. They can share their different ideas, learning about each other and appreciating difference in the process. Like the animals in Watermelon Party, they’ll create strong friendships and memories for life. Watermelon Party and jewelry making go together like summer and, well, watermelon!

Kids at Heart: Adult Bracelet Making

Don’t worry, Dragonfly Designs wants the adults to have just as much fun as the kids! They also put together an intermediate bracelet project featuring a sensational ombré multi-strand bracelet. If you’re a fan of seedless watermelon then you’ll love this design. This classy bracelet will create a standout experience for your adult guests (and maybe your more advanced child jewelry designers) and show thought and care on your part. Fun is ageless, so bring together guests of all ages in this themed craft!

A watermelon-themed party will surely make a splash. Plan your party today and share the fun with Green Bamboo Publishing (@greenbamboopublishing) and Dragonfly Designs (@hellodragonflyfun) on social media!

The Inspiration Behind the Children’s Book Character Phiggy the Piggy

By: Lee Ann Callaghan

The inspiration for the children’s book character Phiggy the Piggy started back in 2005 in a small Italian Restaurant in San Francisco. My friend and soul sister Dee Kennedy and I worked together at Café Pescatore near Fisherman’s Wharf. Since the day we met we were kindred spirits and had our own lingo to laugh and pass the down time. Everyone became a Petal, Pet, or a Phig. We created characters and passed notes to make each other laugh. And, suddenly together we created a character and named her Phiggy the Piggy.

The Creation of a Children’s Book Character

In a way, Phiggy is our child, with many of our features — a long curl, a mole on her cheek, hazel green eyes an adventurous spirit and a contagious laugh. This child of ours sparked a magical flame in our souls, allowing us to begin creating our dreams of spreading healing and magick to children everywhere.

You may wonder why we spell magick with a k here. Magick represents that creative energy available in the universe to us all in order to work towards manifesting our dreams. For literary sake and proper spelling lessons in this book we have spelled it Magic/Magical.

Most of the characters in our stories are based on real people that have inspired the birth of that character’s magickal soul. Blue Jay was based on my brother James Jay Callaghan whom, like his character, was Dyslexic. Joe the Meerkat is based on Dee’s brother Joe and was created during a play date we had in San Francisco one day while he sported a giant Mohawk.

For years we spent free time writing stories, creating characters and the adventures they travel. Each adventure sends a message, a lesson, or an experience to help children everywhere grow up to be strong, loving, kind souls paying it forward in this crazy world we live in.

But creating the stories and characters was not yet enough to be able share our message. It took years of writing, not writing and searching for just the right artist to bring the characters to life. Suddenly one day in walked Bernadette, the completion to our soul family, putting color and life to the page, creating the visions exactly as we felt them in our hearts.

With each book a percentage will be donated to a nonprofit of our choosing that will somehow help those in need. In this our first book, The Adventures of Phiggy The Piggy: The Magical Dream, a portion of all proceeds will go to our partners at the Saint Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco. The mission of the St Vincent de Paul Society of San Francisco is to offer hope and service on a direct person-to-person basis, working to break the cycles of homelessness and domestic violence.

We are so grateful to Jasmine and Green Bamboo Publishing for helping this reality come true. We look forward to creating more dreams and sharing them with you.

Want to read the story about Phiggy the Piggy? CLICK HERE to get your copy!

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