Category Archives: pet stories

On the Scent of Life

On the Scent of Life

In the distance he saw it; the figure of a woman, emerging from a stand of pin oak and palmetto. He had to squint to make sure he was seeing right. Sometimes at dusk, when daylight mixes with the onset of early evening’s darkness, things get murky; one’s eyes can play tricks on one.

But the figure was real and young; willowy, dressed in a black T-Shirt and short black skirt. Her pale face framed by dark hair pulled tightly behind her head in a pony tail. Ahead of her trotted an unleashed scruffy brown and white dog.

Barefooted, she navigated the sandy soil filled with crab grass, prickly weeds and mounds that teemed with armies of fire ants with no problem.

The young woman moved slowly to where he stood in the middle of an overgrown vacant lot next to the motel where he’d been staying; a perfect place for walking one’s dog. (more…)

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Being Brave for Bailey

Pet loss is a hard subject for all pet parents, but it can be especially hard for children. Being Brave for Bailey is a sweet book that helps children prepare for and deal with pet loss.

Being Brave for Bailey was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Corey Gut, for her niece, Lexie, who had an aging dog named Bailey that developed liver cancer. The book features lovely illustrations and a story that moves through the lifetime of the beloved pet. It’s written so children can easily understand, and also in a way that isn’t too heavy considering the subject matter.

You can purchase copies on the site BeingBraveforBailey.com, where you can also find a version for cat owners called Being Brave for Smokey. We also love that there is an option to buy a book for your local library. We would love to see this in libraries everywhere to help prepare kids for pet loss.

Posted in cats, dogs, gifts for pet lovers, pet stories | 3 Comments

Tennile + SPOT have given Trevor a new meaning to “lifesaving”

Trevor Thomas has always had a passion for extreme sports, ranging from backcountry skiing to racing cars. Then suddenly, his entire world changed at age 35 when he learned that he had a rare autoimmune disease with no cure, leaving him blind within eight months. Thomas says, “I thought I’d been issued a death sentence. Every day my vision got worse. I went from being perfectly normal to having to learn everything all over again.”

Spot Guidedog

After being encouraged to get out on the trails by an inspirational speaker who was a blind hiker, Thomas began training for long distance hikes. He accomplished his first hike blind in 2008. While it was a huge achievement, he didn’t complete it unscathed and endured several broken bones. He then reached out to several guide dog organizations across the United States with a request for a dual-mode guide dog that not only could perform normal guide duties, but could also handle extreme hiking and navigating the back country.

Denied by all but one organization, his request was finally answered by Guide Dogs for the Blind. In 2012 Thomas and Tennille, an energetic black lab, graduated from training, marking the start of a truly unique and life-altering friendship.

“Trevor and Tennille are an amazing team and we are proud of all they have accomplished both on and off the trail. We are grateful for all of Trevor’s efforts to help change perceptions around blindness and to serve as an ambassador for our organization,” commented Karen Woon, VP of Marketing, Guide Dogs for the Blind.

To date, Thomas and Tennille have crested over 6,000 miles and are aiming to reach 7,000 this year. He says, “It’s mind-boggling the miles she has covered in only 4 years. There are many long-distance hikers who have not done as many miles as Tennille.” Thomas is the first blind person in history to complete a solo, end-to-end thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, which is 2,175 miles long. He says one of his biggest successes thus far was completing the Colorado Trail, since he attempted it in 2011 and was unsuccessful without Tennille. “There are no other guide dogs that I know of that do what Tennille does. She’s enabled me to do things not only personally but professionally that I otherwise would not have been able to achieve; in a sense, she saved me.”

While Thomas says they err on the side of caution and try to take every safety measure possible, sometimes things can be unpredictable while in the backcountry. They’ve had their share of close calls on the trail, but that it was always comforting knowing he had a way to reach out to get help if needed.

“Safety for Tennille and I is my priority when in the back country. No matter who you are, things can go wrong and my SPOT Gen3® is the most important piece of gear that I have to let folks know where I am and summon for assistance if needed,” comments Thomas. “And should I truly be in a life-threatening situation – I can remember a few close calls – the S.O.S. button on my SPOT device will be there for me.”

Not only does he carry a SPOT Gen3 for himself, but Tennille also has her own SPOT device which she carries on her pack. “It’s simple. She is very important to me and while I know she would never voluntarily leave me, if something were to go wrong in the back country and we were separated, then her SPOT will be pinging and we could find her,” he says.

When they aren’t on the trail, Tennille holds Trevor to a strict schedule. “Every day we hike 8 to 15 miles just to stay in shape. She can tell time and will definitely give me attitude if I am working in my office all day and we haven’t gone on our daily hike.” Tennille also enjoys car rides and visiting their local grocery. “People are always amazed when we walk into a store and I tell her my list and she will bring me to the items. We end up with an audience following us around. She can differentiate between specific chips and even varieties of the same sports drink brand.”

According to Thomas, Tennille has a very strict diet she must adhere to as all guide dogs do, and that “trail angels” will often bring her some of her favorites including bananas, baby carrots, mangos, broccoli, Greek yogurt and green beans. When they complete a thru-hike or a special trek, he says they have a tradition, “We both get filet mignon!”

Upcoming adventures for the pair include hiking the high altitude Collegiate Peaks Loop in Colorado, a total of 187 miles that will take around two weeks to complete. From there they will travel to California and thru hike the John Muir Trail to summit Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. Completing this climb will make Tennille the first guide dog ever to do so and set a new altitude record for a blind person and guide dog at 14,997 ft.

Throughout the year and especially during September Guide Dog Awareness month, Thomas hopes to help educate society on the importance of what guide dogs do for people in everyday life. “None of the guide dog schools receive public funds. They are raised and paid for by donations only.”

In addition to supporting Guide Dogs for the Blind, Thomas is also passionate about his foundation, Team FarSight Foundation, Inc., which he founded in 2013 to challenge misconceptions and to push the boundaries of what is considered possible for a blind person to achieve. The Foundation is devoted to empowering blind and visually impaired young adults through outdoor activities like hiking. Through these programs, Team FarSight Foundation helps participants develop self-confidence and adaptive skills needed to succeed in mainstream society.

Ever optimistic, Thomas feels that every day is an accomplishment, focusing not on what they have done, but on the challenges ahead. He looks forward to taking on these challenges with Tennille by his side, saying, “She makes life more enjoyable because she is my best friend. She helps me to do expeditions that I wouldn’t be able to do by myself. The sky is the limit.”

During the month of September, Team Farsight Foundation will receive $5 from every SPOT Gen3 purchased on FindMeSPOT.com/GuideDog using promo code TENNILLE at checkout. For a limited time when using code TENNILLE between September 1 – 30, SPOT Gen3 will be discounted to $99.99 on its website, a $50 savings! In addition, supporters of Trevor’s inspiration and mission can make a donation to either organization by visiting GuideDogs.com and FarSightFoundation.org.

Posted in dogs, pet stories | 2 Comments

Second Chances

Second Chances

A battered pick-up truck rattles up to the curb of a neglected house. The vacant property’s lawn is infused with crab-grass, clover and dandelions. Wispy white puffs of dandelion tufts drift above the yard resembling tiny wayward ghosts.

From the truck exits a man with well-worn boots and face to match. A realtor, he seeks opportunity in this abandoned house now owned by a bank.

At age forty, this man has had his share of “second chances”, so many in fact, he’s lost count. But his friends and relations haven’t. Rehabs, bad investments, poor life choices – all have led him to start over again, once more, miles from home.

It’s been a lonely struggle.

The man’s assets are few; his old truck, a thousand bucks in the bank, and a rented studio apartment. With no property of his own, becoming a realtor has been a dicey proposition. While his well-dressed colleagues escort clients in luxury cars to fancy open-houses in gated communities, he’s found some success fixing and selling run-down properties in run down neighborhoods. This house presents his first Foreclosure, so recent, there is not yet “A for Sale” sign sprouting from the house’s overgrown front yard.

He wonders what’s become of the home’s former residents; their circumstance somehow resonates with him. He blocks this thought, moving along the side of the house to the back. Rusting gardening tools and a plastic watering can rest near a tangled mass of drooping stems and browning leaves that have overtaken an area that looks like it was once a garden.

He quickly punches a code on the home’s lock box. He is cautious. Warned that some foreclosed houses contain squatters, meth labs, or infestations of wild critters, he’s prepared for unpleasant surprises. The door creaks open to stillness, but within moments, the empty room is overcome with a plaintive cry; the saddest sound the man has ever heard. It draws him to the kitchen where beyond a safety gate, a small brown and white dog stands amid overturned bowls. All traces of food and water are gone.

The dog fixes its amber eyes on the man’s face. They speak of loneliness and despair. Spooked by the sudden appearance of a stranger, however, the dog hangs back.

“Good dog,” the man whispers.

Loathing and sympathy consume him. He feels hatred for those who have abandoned such a helpless soul. But his anger mingles with sadness. These people were forced to give up their home and pet – believing this was the best they could do for this dog. Hoping for someone, even someone like him, to come to the rescue.

The man removes the gate and sits on the kitchen floor. The dog settles at his side, licking at the man’s face, wiping away the tears that trickle from his eyes.

The man stands and walks around the kitchen. Plastered on the refrigerator door are photos of the dog surrounded by his former care-givers in happier times. Next to one photo is a handwritten note. “Please take care of our dog. He is a good boy but we can’t take him with us.”

He recalls the bumper stick on the back of a car that he’d seen the day before – the image of a dog’s paw with the words, “Who Rescued Who”. Now those words take on new meaning.

The man removes one photo in which the dog sits alone, staring up and into the camera. The rest of the photos he leaves. He crumples the pleading note. He wants to track these people down and rage at them, and then report them to the police for being so negligent. But what good would come of it? They are already cloaked in their own brand of desperation; it lingers in the walls and floors of this home.

According to his information, the family has vacated the home just days earlier. It is fate that has brought him here in time to be useful. The choice is clear. He will make a new home and life with this fellow cast-off. The thought of this lifts a weariness that he’s carried for a long time.

The man leads the dog out of the house toward the truck. He’ll pass on trying to make any money on this empty shell. Let the bank seek the money owed them; he’s collected his commission.

Out on the front lawn, the dog pauses and with his nose pokes at a fluffy orb at the end of a dandelion stem. In the afternoon breeze, tiny white dandelion seeds float up in the air. One follows the dog as he heads toward the truck.

The man recalls a boyhood habit of wishes made on dandelion fluff. He laughs. “Did you make a wish boy?” he asks.

As if on cue, the dog walks to the passenger side of the truck, sits and waits. The door swings open and the dog hops in. The man goes round and settles into the driver’s seat. Both stare straight ahead as the car pulls away from this empty place, forming an alliance forged in second chances.

Lisa and TedAuthor’s Note:
This story was inspired by true stories related by realtors and a haunting, single blog post, of a down on his luck man who was trying to start a career as a realtor despite his age and string of unsuccessful attempts to make a new start. So many people, having no one to turn to, become desperate. Afraid of “Kill Shelters” they truly believe that their pets have a better chance staying behind in abandoned homes. I’ve spoken to a heartbroken man (a fellow author) in the military whose family had to leave his beloved cat behind when they lost their home while he was stationed in Afghanistan.

Although I often write works of Non-Fiction, I believe Fiction can truly engage the minds and emotions of readers and can be an effective way to start a dialogue that may benefit man and animal.

Lisa Begin-Kruysman is the author of Something’s Lost and Must Be Found a short story collection that celebrates the dog-human bond and Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher, the true story of one man’s mission to let every dog have its day…and week! To learn more about the author and her work please visit: www.lisabegin-author.com

 

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