Monocle Magazine : Dog Ambassadors

Monocle Magazine's Dog Ambassadors Article

My hands-down favorite magazine is Monocle. It’s the one publication that keeps me hanging around the post office each month, waiting for its delivery. And if I’m not reading it, I’m listening to their Monocle 24 streaming radio content while I’m working. There are several reasons why I like it so much: international coverage of news, culture, business, design, travel, cuisine. But I think the biggest reason I love it is for their commitment to coverage of entrepreneurs—like me! They’re always spotlighting someone somewhere that’s committed to their pursuit of quality, craftsmanship and their dream.

Now there’s a new reason for me to love Monocle: a story about dogs in their upcoming issue. This story features four ambassadors and their dogs, and the “soft power” created by these important members of their respective diplomatic missions. Featured in the story are, clockwise from the top left: Deckard the Standard Poodle with US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck; Herman the Shiba Inu with Danish Ambassador to Japan A. Carsten Damsgaard; Tchui the Labrador with UK High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner; and Füles the Golden Retriever with Péter Györkös, Hungary’s ambassador to the European Union. It’s a great story with an inside look at what goes on in the world of international relations, and points out that sometimes the best path to goodwill between nations is created by the presence of a dog. Sweet.

You can find the full Monocle story here.

Photos copyright and courtesy of Monocle Magazine.

 

Dogs Teach Us Things, Part 2

Sadie

I’ve said it before, that dogs teach us things. It was a title of a post I did last year for my boy Henry. It lives in my head and in my heart all the time, some days more than others. When I think about one of my dogs that’s not here anymore and begin to feel sad, if I can instead focus on something they taught me then I feel like they’re still right here with me. And I understand that we teach them things, too, but “sit”, “stay” and “down” hardly measure up to the lessons they give to us. Theirs are bigger, much more important. It’s usually at the end through our tears when they leave us, that we realize that all along—whoops!—they had been teaching us. And when they depart, we’re always—always—better for having known them.

A few days ago I read this really wonderful tribute in the newspaper and I wanted to share it here. It’s for Sadie, the dog in the photo above. Of course it’s sad, but it’s really a celebration of her life and the lessons she left behind for her family. I think that’s what each of us hopes to achieve. Sadie was no different, and her time here was well spent.

A Dying Dog Gives Lessons on Life’s Dynamics
by Mack Paul

My family faced a difficult decision. Our dog Sadie was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer. The vet told us she would not live much longer. As friends and family members learned of Sadie’s condition, a network lit up as words of concern and encouragement arrived. The architecture of her life became apparent as an interwoven set of relationships emerged.

My wife and I worried that she might experience a painful end. We debated whether to avoid that risk by scheduling an appointment to put her down. This discussion caused me to reflect on the value of her life.

How important was it that she live another week, a month, six months? Would she really comprehend the difference? I realized the answer to that question was not about her but about me. I did not want to lose her. A week or month to her probably mattered little, but it mattered a lot to me.

We had our issues with Sadie. She struggled mightily against certain impulses. One Halloween we dressed her as a devil with cape and horns. She managed to escape from our house and terrorize the neighborhood before we corralled her home. At Thanksgiving another year, she grabbed the turkey off the counter before dinner. That did not go over well with our guests.

Escape and jumping up on the counter were repeated themes for Sadie. Of course, she felt tremendous remorse for these acts. She knew that she had let us down and would try to do better.

Despite these foibles, Sadie performed a valuable role. She greeted us each day with love and affection. She bonded with anyone perceived as a family friend. Her presence at my side said that no worry was worth the effort. As I encountered the typical conflicts in life, she helped sustain me. In other words, her efforts lifted me and thereby my family, colleagues and others tethered together through a variety of networks.

Numerous studies underscore the important role that relationships play in health, happiness and longevity. A dog can deepen and extend these important relationships. Animals offer a unique personal bond that transports us beyond the mundane stress that can envelope our lives. Just as importantly, a dog facilitates connections with others. Nothing breaks down barriers better than an encounter with someone else’s dog.

An elected official recently told me that if board members could take their dogs to meetings, the incessant infighting would decrease dramatically. Just imagine what might happen if Congress dropped its “no pets” policy.

After her diagnosis, Sadie rallied. For two weeks, the pain receded, and I was able to put the illness out of mind. We treasured each day, spoiling her with treats. We even laughed when she grabbed my brother-in-law’s sandwich off the railing before he left on a long journey back to DC.

When the time came to end her life, we knew it was the right thing to do. We faced an unbearable void and would feel her absence acutely. However, Sadie left the network of relationships that comprised her life stronger through her love, service and toil.

Is our own charge in life that different?

We are here to love family and friends, serve our community and toil in order to sustain our material existence. We struggle against impulses that impede our capacity to perform these acts. This dynamic forms the basis of our life’s narrative and ultimately affects a much larger world.

Thankfully, we have friends who can help us on this journey.

Beautiful. You can read the original column here.

 

The Portraitsphere : Kids Against Lab Beagles

"Louie" by Kat

It’s time to venture into The Portraitsphere once again, and this time we’re off to Pasadena to visit the world of a cool kid named Kat. But before we leave on this journey, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of the talented people on this planet who choose to “use their power for good”, because that’s the theme for today. Let’s go!

Kat is an 11-year-old kid who loves beagles and she has one named Bentley. She put a beagle on the top of her Christmas list one year and her parents agreed that if she’d do enough research about them in advance, she could get one. Somewhere along that path, Kat discovered the horrific reality of laboratories that keep beagles in cages and force them to spend their lives suffering and enduring constant torture and pain in sadistic tests. Now to me, the fact that an innocent child full of excitement about adopting a rescue beagle for Christmas stumbles upon this cruel practice just adds another sad dimension.

But Kat was clever and she knew just what to do. She has talent, lots of it, and she’s using it for good. She’s an artist, and she paints — what else — beagles! She sells her paintings on her own website and donates 100% of the proceeds to an organization called The Beagle Freedom Project. I just bought this watercolor, titled Lola –

Lola watercolor by Kat

– and there are so many others –

Paintings by Kat

She loves painting, and she does as many as she can in between all of her other activities and school. Her parents underwrite the cost of her materials and manage her sales, so she’s free to paint up a storm. She churns out paintings based on beagles she knows but she will also create custom portraits. There are also lots of items available here on Zazzle.com featuring her beautiful paintings, including a 2014 calendar that I recently ordered as a gift. Proceeds from these products also go to support The Beagle Freedom Project.

And here, of course, is a photo of the artist with her pal Bentley when they brought him home (I think she loves him) –

Kat and Bentley

If you would like to check out Kat’s paintings and make contact for getting one of your own (she’s spending extra time over the holidays beefing up her inventory!), please visit her website Kids Against Lab Beagles here.

For more information about The Beagle Freedom Project, visit their website here.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Holiday Gifts for the Doggy Set

Nukkles massage tool

It’s holiday gift-giving time, so I thought I would offer a few ideas for the doggy folks on your list in case you’re stuck. But first, I want to make sure it’s understood that these are my genuine recommendations and not sponsored by anyone. This is more like if you asked me what gift would make a dog person happy, these are some things I would tell you about. And three of them don’t require any gift wrapping!

Okay. The first one is that odd blue thing above. It’s a massage tool called Nukkles that I randomly picked up years ago at a Walgreen’s drug store. It was one of those occasions when you spend just a little too much time in a drug store and begin looking at things you normally would never notice. Well, it turns out that dogs love this thing…and I mean L-O-V-E love it. Despite all of the cute toys, treats and outfits that are out there for your dog, it turns out what they really want is your attention and a good rub. Just put this thing into the palm of your hand and apply gentle pressure, moving slowly around muscles and soft tissue. Your dog will slip into an immediate trance, especially if your pup is older with some aches and pains. You can position it so that the downward cones straddle his spine, that really works wonders. It’s hard but flexible plastic, so it glides easily along fur. There are lots of great specialists offering therapies for dogs these days, but if you’d like something non-medicating that’s always available to you without an appointment and a car trip, this really does the trick. I think I paid about $5 so it’s not an expensive gift, but I promise to a dog it’s priceless. These Nukkles folks do have a website here, and I did see they offer a doggy version but I don’t think it’s different than the people version I bought. They are available in two-packs on Amazon also.

Bark Magazine

My next recommendation is a subscription to the magazine that I believe does the best job in the dog category: The Bark. I’ve mentioned this publication a few times before, and I really do love it. Self-described as “the dog culture magazine”, The Bark is full of all aspects of dog: literature, art, photography, poetry, health info, legal initiatives, rescue news, nutrition info, new products, book and film reviews. And it’s quarterly so there’s plenty of time to get through an issue before the next one shows up. I’ve been a reader since it was given out free in a newspaper format in San Francisco area veterinarians’ offices, and it’s always stayed true to its mission. Recently I saw they have a gift offer of $10 per subscription, here’s the link.

Whole Dog Journal

What to Look for in Wet Food. No-Pull Harnesses Reviewed. Diets for Dogs with Diabetes. Fat, Lazy, and/or Grumpy? Training Tiny Dogs. Choosing an Animal Charity. These are just a few of the article titles from past issues of the stellar publication Whole Dog Journal. This monthly publication is probably the best thing you could ever give to a dog owner, because it offers the broad spectrum of knowledge they need all the time. It covers health issues, medicine (traditional, herbal, holistic, etc.), behavior and training, nutrition (homemade diets, raw feeding, commercial foods both wet and dry), it’s endless. If you’ve ever needed more information about anything, and I mean anything, this is the place to turn. If a veterinarian tells you that your dog has a certain condition or illness and says the only route is to prescribe medication XYZ…guess what? Most likely there are some other options available to you, and Whole Dog Journal will tell you what they are. There are NO advertisements, no tricks, they don’t try to sell you some snake oil concoction, it’s simply an honest resource you can trust. Subscriptions are only $20 and in addition to the monthly issues, subscribers have access to their online archives to search by topic. A link to their website is here.

Last but not least, it’s always a wonderful gift to donate to a charity or rescue organization, and nothing would make a dog owner happier than to know their holiday gift was to help a homeless dog. And that’s a gift for you as well.

I hope these ideas were helpful to you, and that perhaps you can cross a few things off your list, get yourself something to drink that’s either hot or effervescent, and enjoy the holiday season!

Vafa Animal Shelter

The gates at Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

Governments get in the way. Rhetoric makes us bypass people we might otherwise admire. That’s a lousy thing because if we can push that aside and look closer, we’d be very surprised at what we’d find. Which leads me to the question: can dogs serve as ambassadors of goodwill between nations? Yes, I think they definitely can.

On my trip to New York last June, I met a very talented artist from Iran named Mahmoud Hamadani. For a brief moment I’m going to bring one of his pieces into this post, for a few reasons. First, he’s the one who told me about the Vafa Animal Shelter (because the topic of dogs seems to always come up with me) so it sets the context. Second, because abstract art is open to interpretation I’m going to use this piece as a visual for the point I’m trying to make about cultures. And third, because I love it so much.

Endless Roads by Mahmoud Hamadani

This piece is from Mr. Hamadani’s Endless Roads series which is based on a stanza from a poem called The Untimely Traveler by Azadeh Farahmand. It’s Untitled XV, ink on paper, and it’s a lovely 60″ x 44″. When I look at this piece in the context of different cultures, I imagine the vertical and horizontal lines represent “us” and “them”, which is easy enough because it illustrates a difference and distance between people and nations. But everywhere that these lines intersect, that’s a commonality: food, water, shelter, love, pursuit of happiness, security, the list goes on. And apparently that list includes dogs.

It’s never good to make generalizations, but I’ve always thought middle eastern cultures didn’t care much for dogs. But, judging by the photos below, this is clearly not the rule.

Photos from the Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

Welcome to the Vafa Animal Shelter, just outside of Tehran in an area called Hashtgerd. Founded by Mrs. Fatemeh Motamedi when her husband donated the land, the shelter was built to provide a place for all of the stray dogs to live. And not only live, they seem to thrive here! These have to be the happiest shelter photos I’ve ever seen! I realize that it must be a huge struggle to maintain this facility with a lot of heartache on a daily basis but the dogs, staff, and visitors seem to be genuinely happy in every picture I find. There’s a true sense of love for these dogs that is captured no matter what’s going on: spa day, getting the place ready for the cold winter months, doing vaccinations, and odd repairs.

One huge difference with this shelter I noticed is that these dogs are able to move about freely, rather than being confined to cages. Since they are social animals these dogs seem much more at ease with this arrangement, making this place feel more like a dog village. They appear to interact so well with the staff, it’s as though they are helping with those repairs. I would assume that if you were to adopt a dog from the Vafa Animal Shelter (and people do!) you’d pretty much be guaranteed a fine dog that could get along well with other dogs. Even on days when a local restaurant delivers fresh raw bones, these guys just find their own spot and munch away. Amazing.

Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

The word “vafa” means “loyal” and judging by these photos and the dedication of Mrs. Motamedi and her staff, I’d say that loyalty goes both ways. I’m giving these folks at Vafa Animal Shelter my highest respect and admiration, and I wish I could meet them someday for coffee and a nice how-do-you-do in the international language of Dog. No matter what our governments have to say.

Vafa dog now in Chicago

The photo above is one lucky pup from Vafa, now living half a world away in Chicago.

If you’d like to learn more or donate to the Vafa Animal Shelter, you can find all of the information in the About section of their Facebook page, which is here. If you are interested in adopting a Vafa shelter dog, please contact Farah Ravon (based in California): by email kfravon@yahoo.com, or by phone +1 (408) 431-6954 (mobile/cell).

For information on the artist Mahmoud Hamadani, you can visit his website here.

All shelter photos from the Vafa Animal Shelter Facebook page. Mahmoud Hamadani painting, copyright and courtesy of the artist.

Stella is a Star

Our Girl Stella

World, meet Stella. Lei è una stella, she’s a star. And if you read my last post, she might seem a little bit familiar to you. They called her Fern, this little one. They couldn’t understand how she’d been overlooked, why no one came to rescue her. But there are too many, they keep coming, the clock keeps ticking. Her time was running out and before I knew it, I’d dialed the shelter to say she will have a home. Our home.

It’s nerve-wracking when deciding to adopt a new dog. Especially when you haven’t even met the dog in person, you’re flying completely by instinct. But one thing I did know: I wouldn’t let her die, no way would that happen. Yes, the risk would be taken. She hadn’t been given the chance to live yet, and that’s just not acceptable. Not enough days in the sunshine, maybe none snoozing in front of a toasty fire, and I’m pretty sure no time at all spent frolicking on any beaches. And what about nicknames—which all dogs must acquire, in addition to the requisite sing-songs and ditties that are made up one day at a time. Those things hadn’t happened yet for her. So, no. No dying, only living.

Stella's Freedom Snooze

On the long drive home, she insisted on snoozing on my lap and I could tell she was really thankful. But I was also thankful that I’d been given the chance to save her. And thankful to this shelter, and all of the shelters, and all of the foster homes that provide safe haven for these guys that society has neglected and discarded. These people do an incredible job, the elaborate networks they’ve built on Facebook and everywhere else, giving their time and resources and love. It’s 24 hours a day, and it never slows down. This Thanksgiving I’m thinking of these people and hope they know how much their difficult and often heartbreaking work makes the world a better place. One adoption at a time.

Stella Snoozes with George and Chappie

Stella says she agrees, but for now she’s getting some rest with her new dog family. After all, she knows she’s got a lot of nicknames to learn and some serious catching up to do. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

And here is a super list of 10 dog-related things to be thankful for by The Bark Magazine. Enjoy, and no calories!