Author: Guest Writer

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!

Now we can flock together!

Guest post by Candace Amarante

Writing children’s books about animals is usually considered a big “don’t”. On the one hand, nobody can rival big classics such as Aesop’s Fables, The Chronicles of Narnia or Gulliver’s Travels, on the other hand, whatever is imaginable about animals seems to have already been written: from singing lice to psychologically troubled crickets; you name it, you’ll find it! Yet, sometimes things have a way of coming together on their own …

1. Struggling on a dissertation

Let’s just say that working on my dissertation in political science wasn’t the easiest thing that has ever come my way. Top that with a little daughter, whom I had to haul from activity to activity. The result was me, with my heavy bag of books in tow, finding my office space in canteens of various sports centers. One afternoon, feeling more stressed than usual, I doodled a fat pheasant with a paltry tail and a peacock with its feathers displayed as respite from my work. I liked my naïve art.

2. An elementary school project

A few days later, my daughter was asked to do a poster project of an animal of her choice; would you believe she picked a peacock?! As it happens to all mothers, I became well-schooled on this animal– at least, at the second-grade level. I learned that the peacock was in the family phaianidae, as are the pheasant, turkey, partridge and grouse. It preys upon small mammals, reptiles, small snakes and insects among them, butterflies. While other birds in the phaianidae family like the pheasant are a delicacy, the peacock is rarely consumed and in some societies, revered.

3. Back to my office

I returned to my doodle of the two birds and imagined the pheasant being envious of the peacock— “aha!” fodder for a story (and another excuse for a break from the dissertation). In the hustle and bustle of the canteen, where parents chased after restless, younger siblings, it was as if I was hearing the conversation between the two birds, and seeing the myriad colorfully patterned wings of butterflies in a tree, reminiscent of the kilims I had once seen hanging in market stalls in Istanbul years ago. And so, I wrote the first draft of the tale.

4. Passed quality control I: Trading (Phaianidaes’) Places

Any time I have a first draft, I run it by several testers; a sort of a quality control process. One of these is my Aunty Marian, who is a kindred spirit of sorts. A lover of literature like me, she is the first to whom I send my children’s story manuscripts. I passed the test: That Thanksgiving, she intended on having pheasant instead of turkey, but after reading the manuscript, she changed her mind. She loved that I created a new animal, the pheascock, and decided to spare this new breed for the holidays, putting poor turkey back on her Thanksgiving platter.

5. Passed quality control II (and got a title for free!)

My husband is usually not very involved with my stories. But, he reads them. He liked this one. Amazed that, for once, he didn’t have anything negative to say, I asked him if he had any clue as to what the title should be (I’d been grappling with a suitable choice for a while). “The Pheasant’s Tale or …was it its Tail? what else could it be?” And so, it became.

6. Quality control III: FAILED!

Clearly, my daughter is one of the testers. A fairly typical representative of kids her age, she gives me a good indication of what the story’s reception might be. When I read her the story, she laughed out loud at parts, but at the end was rather pensive. As her reaction was far less than ecstatic, I put the manuscript aside and moved on.

7. The Pheascock’s return (…with vengeance and some drooling!)

A few months later, my daughter’s third-grade English teacher organized a storytelling event, whereby students were to recite their favorite tales. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter approached her teacher and asked if she could present, “The Pheasant’s Tale …or was it its Tail?” When she informed me that her teacher needed to see the text for approval, I told her that the story had yet to be published and suggested she pick another one. Little did I know that she’d already anticipated the potential issue and discussed it with her teacher, who told her that it was not a problem. I gave in and, of course, was moved to tears by my little girl’s gesture. The teacher approved it, and so she presented my tale. It was well received and met with loud applause. I wish I’d been there! At home, I asked her to recite it for me again. She had not only memorized the dialogue verbatim but also added an extra line to it. I stopped her and asked her to repeat the line: “PEACOCK! Pray pay attention; and stop drooling.” I informed her that the last part, “stop drooling,” was not in the story. “I know, I added it and my friends loved it.” I asked if I could use it. “Of course, Mamma.”

So, this is how yet another children’s book about animals came together. I hope you’ll enjoy The Pheasant’s Tale …or was it its Tail?!

You can order a copy at:

To learn more about the author, please visit

8 Great Safety Tips for Biking with Your Dog This Summer

Guest Post by Andrew McLoughlin

The summer weather is here at last, and many cyclists are looking forward to another season of sunshine, long rides over paths and trails, easier commutes to work, or just the simple freedom of heading out on the road. While it’s certainly tempting to bring your furry friends along for the ride, it isn’t without its share of risks. As activists for bicycle safety in all spheres, Bay Area Bicycle Law has put together this list of excellent safety tips for biking with your dog this summer to keep you and your canine companion safe and happy.

1. Get a Check-Up

The first tip begins with the simple fact that biking won’t be a healthy activity for every dog. Smaller dogs won’t be able to comfortably match the pace, older dogs or dogs with a heavier build might not have the stamina for a long ride, and certain breeds are ill suited to distance running in general, no matter how healthy they are.

While you should always check with a vet for a professional opinion when considering cycling with a dog, these figures should give you a rough idea of what you can expect. Only medium to large dogs should be taken cycling (weighing more than about 25lbs), but that also depends on the breed. A 10lb pomeranian shouldn’t be compared to a 50lb husky. Dogs with slighter builds, for their breeds, will tend to do better. Dogs with especially long bodies or short legs probably aren’t designed for distance running, and dogs with flatter faces, like bulldogs or pugs, will have a very hard time breathing and will quickly tire out and overheat.

Again, these aren’t hard and fast rules, so absolutely do check with your vet to talk about your particular pooch.

2. Upgrade Your Kit

If you haven’t got one already, your dog will need a fitted body harness. Dogs can get seriously hurt if they’re cycling with only a collar and lead, and you never want to put undue strain on their necks. Depending on where you’re cycling, it might be prudent to outfit your dog (and yourself!) with a reflective vest. Some breeds, like huskies, will also be happy carrying a pack. As well as basic supplies, like bags and treats, much of that pack should be given over to chilled water, which leads us to Tip Number Three…

3. Hydrate

When joining you for your ride, your dog is pushing much harder than you are. Running hard, so close to the hot, sun-baked ground, with all that fur, is thirsty work, so bring twice as much water as you expect you’ll need, and have a plan to get more if you should run out. Bring a collapsible bowl, and take plenty of water-breaks.

4. Start Slowly

Unless you’ve made a habit of training for distance running in other ways, your dog will likely need a few weeks of practice, at least, before being comfortable joining you for a full ride. You should work with your vet to tailor and develop a training regimen, but at the very least, you should begin with short, slower rides, even just around the block, to get your dog used to the experience of running alongside a bike before starting into endurance training. Take these shorter rides multiple times a day for a couple of weeks to gauge how your dog will respond as you increase the pressure. Raise the difficulty every couple of weeks for a more athletic dog, or every six weeks for a less athletic one.

Again, these are rough guidelines, and you should definitely consult with a vet before making a concrete plan.

5. Don’t Push Too Hard

Your dog wants to please you. In effect, you’ll be setting the pace for the pack, in an instinctive sort of way, so be sure you’re taking your dog’s needs into account. Your dog is likely to push through to exhaustion if you’re not careful to restrict the ride to an appropriate level. Just stay alert, be mindful, and don’t take your assumptions for granted. Not all huskies will enjoy a long run, for example, and not all dogs who are running are comfortable.

6. Protect the Paws

It takes a long while for some dogs to build up the callouses on their paws to comfortably run outdoors, and running in urban environments is especially difficult. Road salt is especially harmful, but don’t discount the hardness and corrosiveness of concrete, the grit and glass particulate on most roads and sidewalks, and the unexpected pitfalls of cracks and uneven ground. Paw-protecting slippers are one option, and there are several substances you can use to help protect your dog’s pads, but no matter what other steps you’re taking you should always closely monitor your dog’s paws for cracks, abrasions, hot spots, and other signs of excessive wear or strain.

7. Stay Cool

The risks of exhaustion and overheating are running themes in this list. Take rides in the cooler parts of the day, and stay out of midday sunlight as much as possible. Plan routes for shade, and take plenty of rest stops as needed. Watch your dog for signs of heat exhaustion particularly during these breaks. If your dog is panting for more than five or ten minutes, or if your dog lies down immediately after a cycling session, you’ve likely been pushing too hard.

8. Expand Your Vocabulary

Now that all the hard parts are taken care of, it’s time to have some fun!

You’ll likely need a whole new set of training commands, even if you’re planning to bike the same route regularly. Dogs, unlike humans, lack polysemy. Basically, they have difficulty extrapolating a concept from one context to another, or applying multiple meanings to the same root concept. Just because your dog can fetch a ball doesn’t mean she will fetch a stick.

When you’re biking, you’ll want to have developed terms for Slow Down, Prepare to Turn Right, Prepare to Turn Left, Prepare to Stop, Advance Slow, and Form In. These are obviously going to have a slightly different flavor from your standard walking commands, so be sure you choose words and phrases that are easily distinguished, even at pace. You want to be able to communicate with your companion without ambiguity.

We hope that, with these tips, you and your canine companions will be ready for a long and rewarding cycling summer.

7 Reasons to Adopt a Senior Dog

Guest Post by Alexandra Seagal from Animalso

Most vets consider a dog to be “senior” at 7 years or older, though it does depend on size; small and toy breeds age more slowly and reach their senior years later in life. Animal shelters are full of healthy, active senior dogs who are often overlooked, as people tend to choose puppies and younger dogs. Older dogs can also make great pets, however, and they usually require less work from the owner.

Here are seven good reasons to dopt a senior dog:

1. You can save a life

Since most people prefer to adopt a puppy, shelters are full of senior dogs that often end up being euthanized due to overpopulation. By adopting an older pooch, chances are you will be saving that dog’s life.

2. They’re already trained

Most older dogs already understand basic commands, such as “sit” and “stay,” and they know what behaviors are expected of them. So chances are you won’t have to go through repetitive training sessions, as the work has already been done.

Older dogs are also usually house trained, so nor will you have to endure the (messy) process of toilet training. Sound appealing? There’s more… That typical puppy habit of chewing up shoes, or anything else she can get her mouth around — older dogs have already been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

3. No surprises

Senior dogs have already grown into their adult bodies and personalities, so there won’t be any surprises in store. You will be able to deduct whether she is a good match for your family and your home in terms of her activity levels, temperament, size, and whether she gets along with children and other household pets.

4. Less demanding

Puppies demand lots of time and energy; they need attention and monitoring 24/7, a play partner, regular feeding of puppy food, and, as they’re settling in, they may even wake you up at night.

You can make the job easier for yourself by adopting a senior dog, who doesn’t need you there at all times, and who is likely to settle in more quickly due to previous experience of living in a pack. Plus, they tend to be much calmer and less energetic, which means less demand on you, and a more peaceful life together.

5. “Senior shelter dog” does not necessarily equal “problem dog”

There is a misconception that all older dogs in shelters are there because they have behaved badly. Actually, senior dogs often lose their homes because their owner could no longer keep them, which can be due to several different reasons, including the novelty wearing off, the death of a guardian, allergies, moving away, a new baby, and various other lifestyle changes. Senior dogs are in need of a home just as much as the youngsters.

6. An old dog can learn new tricks

Ignore that old saying – old dogs can learn new tricks. According to dog trainer Pat Miller, senior dogs are perfectly capable of learning, which is something she has proved with various senior members of her pack. In fact, she encourages people to continue positive training with their dogs even in senior years, as training keeps a dog’s mind and body active, and “enriches their lives.”

So, if you’re worried about getting an older dog because she’ll be set in her ways, that is simply not the case. You can change a dog’s behavior through training at any point in their life, through patience and reward.

7. Less costly

Puppies can cost a lot – what with multiple vet visits for vaccinations and spaying/neutering procedures, and – if you’re unlucky – you might have to replace some furniture, pairs of shoes and socks, and who-knows-what other household items.

The point is, senior dogs have already been through all of this and come out the other side. That means you don’t have to make a dent in your wallet going to the vets OR the home department store.

Are You Ready to Adopt a Senior Dog?

So, if you’re thinking about adopting a dog from your local shelter, don’t look past the senior dogs. They can make just as great pets as puppies and younger dogs, and they’re usually less demanding of your time and energy. And the big plus – you can save that dog’s life.

Staying sane as an advocate in the social media age

Guest blog by Michael Howie from The Fur-Bearers

Every advocate has been there: you make a comment on a news article, or on a social media post. You’re calm, articulate, and provide citations to back your position. You click ‘send’ and nod confidently to yourself, knowing you’ve contributed to a great intellectual debate that will turn hearts and minds to a more humane ideal.

Then the ding.

‘Lol, granola tree hugger sukz.’

If you’re anything like me, you feel an immediate rage swell up. You’ve been dismissed and laughed at by some anonymous individual, who likely enjoys kicking puppies. Maybe the last part isn’t true, and you’re projecting. But nonetheless, you need to respond and show them that you’re smarter, justified, and speaking for what is right.

Right about here is where it goes to crap.

You’ve entered into an endless cycle. You’ll get angry, you’ll eat a whole pizza, you’ll get depressed, you’ll fall asleep watching Star Wars (the Phantom Menace, if you’re unlucky), and wake up with a sore neck, drained, covered in cold pizza grease. To top it all off, the jerk you were arguing with probably won’t even remember you.

By giving into anger and getting into a comment war, you’ve wasted time, energy, resources (because your emotional well-being is a precious resource), and a perfectly good pizza/movie night.

The anonymous nature and instant response of the internet – particularly social media sites – gives an outstanding opportunity to sadists, bullies, and generally angry people to ply their trade. There are also people who simply do not agree with you, or whose experiences have led them down a different path. The vast majority of people who oppose your comments in a public forum will not be swayed by your rhetoric, regardless of how well-phrased it may be. You’re feeding this disturbing hunger of theirs by sacrificing yourself, and doing very little for your cause. You’re giving in to anger.

If you’re one of the many people who believe righteous anger is a fuel, you’re partly right. Anger is a good motivator. But it cannot sustain and it should never guide. Even two men on the absolute polar opposite sides of the violence:non-violence spectrum agree on that.

“Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If someone is angry with you, and you show anger in return, the result is a disaster. On the other hand, if you control your anger and show its opposite – love, compassion, tolerance and patience – not only will you remain peaceful, but the other person’s anger will also diminish.”

Dalai Lama

“No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique. If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are. Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

One man whose life is dedicated to compassion and peace, the other who is still considered one of the greatest military strategists of human existence, and they both think anger is kind of dumb.

But I still struggle with this, even though I was brought up with “never make a decision when you’re angry” Leadership Dad. I understand the logic, the physiological response mechanisms involved, and even the philosophical basis. But I still get angry when dismissed by mean people on the internet.

When I recognize my anger in these cases, I fall back on a meme (because it IS 2015, after all) we shared over at The Fur-Bearers a while back:

Think before you speak…

T: Is it true?

H: Is it helpful?

I: Is it inspiring?

N: Is it necessary?

K: Is it kind?

This exercise is beneficial in three ways, I’ve found. First, it forces you to really consider your potential response, and maybe even your entire argument. Are you actually communicating your point well, and remaining as compassionate as possible?

Next, it forces you to step away from the issue for a minute. I used to tell the reporters who worked for me to get up and take a walk if they were getting frustrated with a particularly difficult assignment; if you get stuck and start banging your head against your desk, you’re not going to write a brilliant article. You’re going to write crap. Taking a breath, focusing on something else, and resetting your brain can lead to some great results.

Finally, and this particularly plays into the social media aspect, it gives someone else a chance to pile on. Whether it’s someone who supports your position jumping on the troll grenade, or another bully adding fuel to the fire, it should jolt you into recognizing the situation for what it is: lose-lose.

This, too, is where the original lesson was formed. After getting into an e-mail battle with a municipal councillor over a wildlife policy, I was advised by my smarter half, that “you presented your information, you did your job. But you can’t fix their ignorance.”

Addendum: following review of this draft, this quote was provided by my smarter half: “Yes, some people are just trolls and general assholes. But others are going to be vocal in opposition to your opinion for numerous other reasons, many of which are legit and valid (to them, at least). To just brush them off as trolls is uncompassionate and simply wrong.

“But your reactions to all forms of opposition should remain the same, basically. Provide the info, offer to expand further if more information is desired. And that’s it. The absorption and commitment to further learning is on the shoulders of the individual.”

Why water is good and feeding is bad: understanding wildlife advice

Guest Post by Michael Howie from the Fur-Bearer Defenders

British Columbia, Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan are struggling with massive wildfires and drought. As a result, many advocacy groups are staring to suggest leaving out water for wildlife, who are surely struggling with the rigours of a difficult summer.

But aren’t we always told ‘a fed bear is a dead bear’ and to never, ever, put out food for animals, other than local birds?

We are – and the confusion is completely normal. There are a few different principles at play, and though some of them could take up an entire novel’s worth of philosophical debate, let’s try to keep it simple.

Why water is good

Water is essential to all life on our planet – from bacteria to black bears. And much like us humans, most wild animals cannot last as long without water as they can without food. A single bowl of water can help numerous animals, including birds and squirrels to raccoons and coyotes.

The best part about leaving out a bowl of water is it’s easy to replace, and not very many animals (except Labradoodles) will guard or act territorial over a small amount of water. It’s also completely natural for a small water source to come and go – it isn’t something animals will return to look for.

It’s kind of like volunteers passing out to runners during a marathon – everyone appreciates it and it helps them keep going, but they don’t stop to chat about it.

Why feeding is bad

Feeding wildlife can create major problems in a lot of different ways, but the two biggest have to do with behaviour and biology.

Wild animals have very specific dietary needs, and it’s not as easy as you’d think to meet them with human-made food. A very important example of this is ducks: bread can actually kill them. Ducks naturally eat waterlogged plants, roots and seeds, which they digest quite well. But bread (fresh or stale) creates various ailments and can lead to their deaths. But much like a hungry teenage boy, many animals will simply eat what you put in front of them – so it’s best to let them find their own meals.

The ‘fed bear is a dead bear’ saying comes from this next part – habituation. Much like our own dogs or cats, wild animals learn quickly when food is involved. If you regularly put food out at a certain time, they’ll learn to show up at that time. If you teach them that people’s backyards are buffets, they’ll keep showing up in people’s backyards.

And while you may love seeing squirrels, raccoons or even coyotes up close, not everyone does. And that’s what leads to conflict – the unfortunate confrontation of a wild animal and a person (typically one who doesn’t want to be around such wild animals).

It’s simply best and easiest for everyone, including the animals, if we don’t interfere with their natural patterns, such as foraging or hunting.

If you are leaving out water for animals, make sure it’s regularly changed (to avoid buildup of nasty bacteria or transfer diseases) and follow any and all guidelines your municipality may have.

Here There Be Dragons: How To Connect With Animals

Guest post by: Sherry Burnett, from Ruby Ranch

This is a story about magic, a tiny speck of magic that appeared in my day. Magic is hard to come by these days, and when it finds you, I hope that you are sufficiently open-minded enough to recognize it.

If you are too jaded, too busy, too logical or too scientifically minded to appreciate magic, you may as well just stop reading now, for you will only roll your eyes.

Yesterday morning, I was taking L.J and Stannie out for their morning exercise. I had just come around the side of the house when I saw some trash on the ground. Or what I thought to be trash. It looked like a little bit of cellophane, like maybe a cigarette pack wrapper, glinting in the sun. I was just about to nudge it with my toe, but thought I saw it move slightly.

I bent down for a closer look, and there, nestled in the grass, was a beautiful dragonfly. He was very large, about three inches from head to tail. His wings were magnificent, not iridescent like I am used to seeing, but a clear, sparkling glass-like quality. I wondered why he was just lying there, almost motionless in the grass. Then I noticed that his wings had a few droplets of morning dew on them, he was probably just waiting for his wings to dry in the sun.

I didn’t want to leave him there to be trampled, so I put my finger near his feet, and he obligingly hopped right on. I was then able to get the closest look I have ever been able to get at a live dragonfly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so lovely, so intricate and breathtaking. He was different shades of green and gray, with his large head consisting mainly of two enormous eyes.

I’ve already told you about his wings, and close up, they were even more breathtaking. So delicate, they looked as if they would rip to ribbons in a strong wind. Tiny black veins ran this way and that, creating different sections, or compartments in the wing itself. Where the wings joined together on his back, there was a strange little array of hinge-like components, they looked almost like something man-made, but organic at the same time. I’m certain no human mind could create anything so brilliant, so intricate and beautiful.

After I had finished drinking in his beauty, I wondered what best to do with him? Where could he be safe until his wings dried out? I set him down on a fence post, and continued into the backyard with L.J and Stan. I sat down in a lawn chair, but couldn’t stop thinking about the dragonfly. Finally, deciding that he would be easy prey for any bird, sitting on that fence post, I went to get him. He had moved a little, probably knowing that he was too visible where he was. I put my finger next to his feet, and again, he climbed right on. As I was walking back to my chair with him, I set him on my t-shirt.

By the time I had reached my chair, he had clambered all the way up my shirt, and was now making his way up a section of my hair. I was a little bit startled when he moved from my hair to my face, and the sensation was a little unnerving. His feet had tiny barbs on them, which I could not feel when he was on my finger, but I could certainly feel them on my face! Each step he took was a little prickling sensation, and even now, I can still imagine it. He made his way quite quickly up my chin, over my cheek and straight for my glasses. Once there, he seemed comfortable, and we relaxed like that together for some time. It was somewhat bizarre to look out of the corner of my eye and see his enormous eyes right there, seemingly looking back at me.

After a time, he decided he wasn’t yet quite close enough, and he popped his head right up under my glasses! I took them off, and there we reclined, for probably about 45 minutes. I started to wonder at this whole situation. What possibly could be his motivation, for staying with me for such a long time, and why did he feel the need to be right there-touching my eyelid?

I started to think that maybe he had a message for me. He was trying to show me something. I opened my eye, as best I could with that one prickly little foot still resting on it, and I looked at him. And right at that very moment, (and this is where it gets strange, folks) the name George came to my mind. George was our beautiful Kune Kune pig, who passed away a year ago in August. George and I shared an uncommon bond, and when he left this earth, I was inconsolable, incapacitated for a week. Until a wonderful person told me, don’t worry, you and George will meet again. And you will know, you will recognize each other.

I was breathless, stupefied. I put my finger next to him again, and when he hopped on, I held him in my palm and looked at him. It was a windy morning, and his delicate wings were being buffeted by the breeze, so I held him protectively in my palms. Suddenly, as if he knew his mission had been accomplished, he waggled his head at me ( oh yes, he did!) waved one leg quickly over one bulbous eye, almost in a wave or salute, and he whizzed away on gossamer wings.

I was overcome with emotion. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t sad, I was elated. I sat for a while, smiling, thinking about all the magical things that happen in this universe, every day, if only we choose to see them.

Here there be dragons, and pigs, and spirits. And magic.


Rhubarb Bear reminds us to keep food locked away

Guest Post By Michael Howie

We all had a good smile and chuckle over the story of a  bear who broke into an eatery  in Colorado last week and ate all the pies – except for the rhubarb.

And while it remains a good story – and definitely one that the owners of the diner will be telling for years to come – it should remind us of how important it is to secure food and other attractants when wildlife is out and about.

Every year, drastic and lethal action is taken because bears become ‘habituated’ to humans and our properties. The idea of habituation, as discussed in terms of wildlife management, is when an animal is taught by our action (or inaction) that being around us is good, rather than bad. With smaller animals, like raccoons or squirrels, the worst-case is a raccoon making a racket under a deck. With larger animals, like bears, the consequences can be much greater.

There are a lot of great websites and organizations (including that can offer tips or on-the-ground assistance in preventing wildlife conflict through the removal of attractants.

As much as we’d all love to have our own the-bear-ate-my-pie story, we’d much rather have the bears be around a long, long time.

About the Author:

Michael Howie is an international award-winning journalist who turned his skillsets to protecting wildlife when he joined The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals as the Director of Digital Content and host of the popular weekly podcast Defender Radio.

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