Category Archives: Pets

St. Francis of Assisi, Pray for Us

“Francis ‘Neath the Bitter Tree”, icon by William Hart McNichols ©
Available for purchase at http://www.fatherbill.org

Today, October 4th  we celebrate the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi (1881/1882 – 1226).  St. Francis was a Catholic friar, preacher, and mystic.  He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis for men and women.  He’s known as the patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment, and unofficially a patron saint of the poor.  He is unarguably one of the most known and beloved saints of the Church.

Like so many others, I was drawn to the saintly life of Francis from a very young age.  His tender love for all of creation and the poorest of the poor was something that stood out to me.  For my Sacrament of Confirmation, I choose the name Francis and I had even thought about becoming a Franciscan at one point in my life.   Still to this day, Francis is a saint I look to for guidance, understanding, and inspiration in living my Christian life.  He played a profound role in my conversion to a vegan lifestyle and even this blog.  Over my desk where I do most of my work, hangs an icon of my favorite saint, which I reflect upon during my some of my daily prayers.

On his feast day one of the most common practices in the Church is the blessing of animals.  This is a beautiful gesture, but this is also a more than appropriate day to selflessly give of ourselves to others, our community, etc…and not just today, but everyday.  In 1995-96 I was a runaway youth on the streets of San Francisco.  In the chaos and turmoil of my young life I would somehow manage to attend daily mass at St. Boniface Church on Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco’s tenderloin district.  This parish was/is run by Franciscan Friars and is known for serving the poor and marginalized of the city.  On many occasions I saw some of the most magnificent acts of love and charity by these Franciscans.

One memory so vividly stands out..,after afternoon mass the Friars would distribute food to those in need, in fact on many occasions I my tummy was comforted by some of their humble offerings.  I remember sitting across the street in a park next to the church when I saw an elderly homeless man who was obviously very ill attempt to walk up the sidewalk to reach the area where food was being distributed.  An elderly Franciscan glanced over and saw him, stopped what he was going and came to assist him.   The man was filthy, barefoot, and filled with open sores on his feet and legs.  The Friar assisted him up to a bucket which was turned upside down and eased the man in having a seat.  The Friar went back towards the church and returned moments later with a large cup of water and food.  As the man began to eat, the friar got onto his knees and gently poured water over his feet, massaging the filth off, and used his robe to slowly dry his feet.   He then slowly bent down and kissed each one of his feet.   I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I quickly looked around to see if anybody else was seeing what was happening, but nobody was.  The Friar then spoke to him some (and I was across the street and couldn’t hear what they were saying), but then the Friar took of his sandals and lovingly placed them on the man’s feet.   He let the man finish eating for about 10 minutes before helping him up, and helping him continue walking up to the church…the friar barefoot, and the homeless man in sandals.  It was like something we read about out of the gospels.  I was moved beyond words, and as I write this almost 20-years later, tears are falling down my cheeks like droplets of rain.

In a world still filled with so much pain, hunger, fear, neglect, hateful bigotry, deception, and vanity – faith, hope, and love are the medicines we need to give to all, without hesitations or reservations.  How blessed are we to have St. Francis who gave the entirety of his life to imitate Christ.  May we all be so inspired by Jesus and all of the holy men and women, such as Saint Francis, who have given all, to be all.  May we be inspired to live our lives in being generous messengers of hope, stewards of faith, and instruments of love.

Most high, almighty, and good Lord,
Yours is the praise, the glory, honor, blessing all.
To you, Most High, alone of right they do belong,
And no mortal man is fit to mention you.

Be praised, my Lord, of all your creature world,
And first of all Sir Brother Sun,
Who brings the day, and light you give to us through him,
And beautiful is he, agleam with mighty splendor:
Of you, Most High, he gives us indication.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sisters Moon and Stars:
In the heavens you have formed them,
bright and fair and precious.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
Through Air, and cloudy, clear, and every kind of Weather,
By whom you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water,
For greatly useful, lowly, precious, chaste is she.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night,
And fair he is, and gay, and vigorous, and strong.

Be praised, O Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
For she sustains and guides our life,
And yields us diverse fruits, with colored flowers, and grass.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who pardon give for love of you, And bear infirmity and tribulation:
Blessed they who suffer it in peace,
For of you, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Brother Death of Body,
From whom no one among the living can escape.
Woe to those who in mortal sins will die;
Blessed those whom he will find in your most holy graces,
For the second death will do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and thank him too,
And serve him all, in great humility.

Canticle of the Creatures or the Canticle of Brother Sun.  A poem written in stages by St. Francis of Assisi from the period of the summer of 1225 until his death on October 4, 1226

 

10 Fascinating Facts About Pigs

Who loves piggies?  I do!  Who doesn’t love piggies?  Not that I hold one animal greater (or more cute) than another, but pigs played an instrumental part in my conversion to a vegan lifestyle.  Pigs are often times mistaken as being dirty, mud loving animals – but they’re so much more than the common myths and misconceptions.  They’re incredibly smart, remarkably clean, and more like you and I than we realize!   Once you fall in love with pigs, there’s no turning back.   So I wanted to dedicate an entire special post solely to pigs: because they truly deserve it!  Here’s the Top Ten Fascinating Facts About Pigs written by the folks at PETA.  Oink!  Oink!

 

 

  1. Pigs snuggle close to one another and prefer to sleep nose to nose. They dream, much as humans do. In their natural surroundings, pigs spend hours playing, sunbathing, and exploring. People who run animal sanctuaries for farmed animals often report that pigs, like humans, enjoy listening to music, playing with soccer balls, and getting massages.
  2. Pigs communicate constantly with one another; more than 20 vocalizations have been identified that pigs use in different situations, from wooing mates to saying, “I’m hungry!”
  3. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mothers’ voices and to recognize their own names. Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing.
  4. According to Professor Donald Broom of the Cambridge University Veterinary School, “[Pigs] have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than human] 3-year-olds.”
  5. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction and have found their way home over great distances. Adult pigs can run at speeds of up to 11 miles an hour.
  6. Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University has found that pigs can play joystick-controlled video games and are “capable of abstract representation.” Dr. Curtis believes that “there is much more going on in terms of thinking and observing by these pigs than we would ever have guessed.”
  7. Pigs do not “eat like pigs” or “pig out.” They prefer to eat slowly and savor their food.
  8. Suzanne Held, who studies the cognitive abilities of farmed animals at the University of Bristol’s Centre of Behavioural Biology, says that pigs are “really good at remembering where food is located, because in their natural environment food is patchily distributed and it pays to revisit profitable food patches.”
  9. Pigs are clean animals. If given sufficient space, they will be careful not to soil the area where they sleep or eat. Pigs don’t “sweat like pigs”; they are actually unable to sweat. They like to bathe in water or mud to keep cool, and they actually prefer water to mud. One woman developed a shower for her pigs, and they learned to turn it on and off by themselves.
  10. In his book The Whole Hog, biologist and Johannesburg Zoo director Lyall Watson writes, “I know of no other animals [who] are more consistently curious, more willing to explore new experiences, more ready to meet the world with open mouthed enthusiasm. Pigs, I have discovered, are incurable optimists and get a big kick out of just being.”

When Pets Speak to Psychics

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5's Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Gracie & Luna get a psychic pet reading on FOX 5’s Morning News on August 19, 2013.

Last week Gracie (our labrador retriever mix) and I got an invitation from WTTG FOX 5’s Annie Yu to join her live on the set of the FOX 5’s Morning News for a special “Pet Project” segment with animal communicator and psychic, Diane Roadcap.   Gracie is an avid lover of everything water related…except baths!   She loves swimming and playing in the ocean, rivers, and creeks…but will do whatever it takes to avoid a bath.   Paul and I have always wondered why this is the case, so we gladly accepted the invitation in hopes that Diane could give us some insight as to Gracie’s thoughts and feelings.   Amanda Marie Bowen and her 2-year old deaf Great Dane, Luna were also invited on the show.   Of course some are probably skeptical about a pet psychic or any psychic for that matter…but I believe Diane had an amazing connection with Gracie, and I bet the same could be said by Amanda (the other segment guest) who brought Luna to have a reading as well.

Diane Roadcap’s website says, As a child, Diane recognized that she had a deep spiritual connection with animals.  Playing with a variety of animals in the wooded areas around her home outside of Washington, DC, she discovered that she could connect with them at a soul level.  This connection was confirmed at age five when her dog Blackie telepathically warned her that a poisonous snake was dangerously close to biting her.  She heeded his warning and slowly backed away before it could attack her.  She continued to receive communications from animals and discovered that she could  easily read their needs and wants, humor and insights, aches and ailments.”

While we were still in the green room, Diane already began reading our pets as well as Amanda and her family.   She knew that Gracie had a smaller, older K9 companion at home which would describe our 11-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, Tabatha.  She also mentioned another light-colored labrador which had passed away…of course I knew this was Heidi, a beautiful labrador who passed away when I was around 3-years old.   “She wants you to know she’s standing next to you”, Diane exclaimed.   I could have fallen out of my chair!   She went very into depth reading Amanda, her family, Luna, and their pets at home which I won’t go into detail, as it’s not my place to tell about that very special moment.

Do you believe in psychics?  As far back as I can remember, I have had ongoing contact and communication with human spirits who have passed away…family and strangers alike.   To my knowledge, there’s nobody in my family who has this “gift.”   Though the information given to me is often vague, it is something I’ve gotten used to and experience daily.   So it makes perfect sense to me that people have an ability and “gift” to fully communicate with pets, both passed and living.   But at the end of the day, we will believe what we know as truth and dismiss that which we don’t.   For me, I believe!

Besides learning that Gracie doesn’t like to be in a confined areas…she’s a very happy dog.   “She wouldn’t change a thing.   She loves people…the more people she’s around, the more she loves life”, Diane affirmed.

Below is a video from the segment.   Check it out!

Aquarium Therapy

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Our four reef fish! Six Line Wrasse (top left), Azure Damselfish (top right), Yellow Watchman Goby (bottom left), and Ocellaris Clownfish (bottom right).

For most of us, a trip to the beach can best be described as relaxing and therapeutic.   According to Trip Advisor’s 2013 Top 25 Destinations in the World, 14 locations are seaside and 20 locations are seaside or along a major waterway.    There is no denying that we are balanced by water, whether that be an ocean, bay, river, or lake.   But for many of us, when we think of the greatest relaxing vacation, we think of a tropical beach oasis.   Destinations like Maui, Bora Bora, St. Lucia, Belize, and the Fiji Islands are just some of those popular names that come to mind when you think of aqua blue waters, reef life, warm sands, and tropical air.

Have you noticed an increase of saltwater marine aquariums in public locations?   Perhaps you’ve seen them at a clinic, restaurant, hotel, spa, or maybe even a classroom?   Aquarium Therapy is not new concept, but it is constantly studied and growing with high popularity!

Most people who watch a tank with fish will feel a calming effect, therefore reducing stress.  At Purdue University, researchers discovered that displaying tanks with brightly colored fish helped to curtail disruptive behaviors and improve eating habits of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It helps to boost physical and mental health.  It was shown to help create bonding and a positive attitude.   Studies have shown that seniors who were given the opportunity to view aquariums with fish had significant blood pressure reduction as well as  cholesterol.  Children, when visiting a doctor’s office, were found to be much calmer, especially children who suffered from hyperactivity disorders.  Dental patients watching a fish tank required less pain medication.  It also helps in reducing insomnia and persons coping with obesity.   How awesome is this?

Our 29 gallon Coralife BioCube nano reef aquarium with a healthy diversity of fish, corals, and invertebrates.

Our 29 gallon Coralife BioCube nano reef aquarium with a healthy diversity of fish, corals, and invertebrates.

My fiancé and I have two saltwater marine aquariums filled with various fish, invertebrates, and corals.   Contrary to popular belief, we find saltwater aquariums to be be more easy to maintain than freshwater…and not to mention more stunning, beautiful, and therapeutic.   What I find so awesome about a saltwater marine aquarium (particularly a reef tank) is how organic the system is.   When properly maintained; your aquarium becomes its own ecosystem.   This is maintained through bacterias, diversity of species, live rock, live sand, etc.   No unnatural chemicals are needed!

Another added benefit to aquariums are their incorporation into feng shui design.  It is believed that moving water brings prosperity and good luck to a home or office. Aquariums are great feng shui enhancements because they are at the same time soothing and energizing.  The sound and motion of gurgling water activates chi and adds humidity to a dry room, helping to balance chi. Moving water gets things going when the chi has been stagnant for a while (think of ice melting in the spring). Use moving water cures anywhere you want to enhance water or wood energy.

As amazing as this all is, any aquarium still requires learned knowledge, experience, time, money, and patience.   After all, your marine life are all pets and should be treated with the proper respect and care that every pet has the right to.   It is also very important to purchase and trade your marine life with reputable dealers and passionate and ethically driven marine enthusiasts.   Marine life should never be harvested from the oceans!

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