The Joys and Heartbreaks of Animals.

I love animals just about more than anything else on this planet. I currently work as a pet sitter and dog walker, which right now is the best job I have ever had. I mean, people pay me to hang out with their animals?! It’s a dream come true. Well other than the fact that there’s no stability and it doesn’t pay particularly well but hey. Still love it.

So I thought I’d share some of my favorite animal related things and as a warning, some will be really sad (or at least I cried a lot) but others will be super happy and cute.

Denali from FELT SOUL MEDIA on Vimeo.

The first is a tribute video from a Portland photographer to his dog who passed away from cancer. Lizzy Duffy wrote about Ben Moon, his dog Denali, and the video for Oregon Public Broadcasting. I will say I cried for a ridiculous amount of time because of the video and ended up hugging my own dog while I cried. But I’m also extremely emotional about animals so…

poh28n-5-webIn a similar vein, Thomas Neil Rodriguez and his fiancée took their dog Poh on one last grand adventure around the US when they found out that the 15 y/o dog had cancer. They made an instagram account for the trip and posted photos of Poh at many major US landmarks and other photos as well. There are photos of Poh at the Space Needle, in Las Vegas, at the Hollywood sign, at the Golden Gate Bridge and so many more.

On a happier note… There was a pink flamingo in Brazil that lost one of his legs because a bad infection ended up in an amputation. So instead of leaving him with one leg, the zoo ended up working out a prosthetic leg and it went really well! The flamingo readjusted fairly quickly too and is apparently recovering nicely.

Also I have an entire tag on my tumblr for animal related posts and there’s even a photo of a seagull photobombing someone trying to taking a photo of their ice cream. (I promise I only laughed for like 5 minutes at that post.) OH and there’s a video of a baby sloth in that same tag on my tumblr and it’s cute oh my goodness.

To finish this up, I also wanted to share how amazing animals can be in both a therapy and service orientated way. NPR has an article about how positive pet therapy can be and how animals and humans can heal each other. That article also references several studies that have shown some potentially positive impacts of animals. And there are programs like Animals as Natural Therapy not too far from my hometown that in their own words, have “healing programs based on the knowledge that animals can teach humans important life skills: respect for self and others, trust-building, and clear communication”.

I just have so many feelings about animals, particularly dogs. If I could continue working with animals and make an actual living out of it, I’m pretty sure I’d die from happiness. But for now, I’ll stick with walking and hanging out with animals and reading the cute stories of others online.

The environmental impact of wolves and whales

Yesterday, I found two videos from Sustainable Human about the importance of wolves and whales on the environment around them. One video talks about the reemergence of the wolf population in Yellowstone National Park and how the reintroduction of packs in 1995 helped to indirectly impact the course of the rivers in the park. The other video talks about the impact of whales on the climate, which is definitely something I never even thought about.

*Both videos do have close captioning for the narration.

For more information about wolves in Yellowstone National Park:

  • National Park Service information about the wolves
  • Wolves in Yellowstone National Park
  • Gray Wolves Have Created a Balance between Predator and Prey


  • Why whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change

The thing that I really love about the videos is that they both highlight the fact that life and survival on Earth is all interconnected and an impact on one thing will usually have a domino effect on the surrounding species and environment.

Dogs, depression, and the month of May.

IMG_5028My main job right now is dog walking and pet sitting, something of which I adore so much. Being around dogs and walking with them has had an incredibly positive impact on my depression. There have been so many days in which the only reason I get out of bed is to take care of one dog or another. Dogs so often have this undeniable joy just to be alive and it’s so wonderful to be around them. Bellingham is home to plenty of parks and trails so exploring the forests with the dogs I care for is always so much fun.


The month of May is also apparently Be Kind to Animals month, something that I love so much. Many different humane societies around the US are raising funds to support the services they provide (including my local humane society – the Whatcom Humane Society). There are so many things that different humane societies provide (not just trying to find forever homes for animals), including dog day afternoon reading, spay and neutering, and pet food banks.

Animal Welfare: Elephants

**Warning: Some of the links, videos, and stories in this post do describe graphic scenes of animal abuse. Most of the graphic nature are the stories described by different writers but I wanted to give the head’s up.**


Elephants are some of my favorite animals on earth (which coming from me, says a lot). In part, I love them because they’re such wonderful creatures and seem exceptionally graceful in their large sizes. But there are many things that are causing problems for these animals world wide – from elephants losing parts of their habitats to poaching for their ivory tusks to being forced to perform in a circus act to smuggling.

Animal abuse has been a significant issue within different circuses: violence has been used to ‘correct’ behavior, medical care has been withheld, etc. Additionally, governmental agencies, especially the USDA (which has oversight of circuses), have a history of being very lenient towards horrific animal rights violations from the companies that own different circus acts. A few years ago, Mother Jones came out with a report about the abuses experienced by elephants within different circus companies, saying despite company claims that the animals are treated well that:

… A yearlong Mother Jones investigation shows that Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants. They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity.

There is an exceptionally small piece of good news in all of this however: Ringling Bros. Circus is planning to phase out their elephant acts by 2018 (not soon enough in my opinion) and will be sending the 43 elephants to a sanctuary in central Florida. The company has cited welfare concerns for the animals as to why the decision was made. Animal welfare activists are also calling on zoos to phase out elephants, citing that stress and a lack of exercise usually means that elephants in captivity are living half as long as they might in the wild.


Poaching has also been a decades long battle for elephants, with hundreds of thousands of elephants being lost to poaching efforts in just a few years. The graphic on the left is from National Geographic and highlights the changes in elephant populations between 1979 and 2007 (on the site, they also have some other graphics that highlight more statistics around poaching and ivory smuggling). There have been international meetings and attempts to scale up the war against poaching elephants, especially because some elephant populations are starting to really decline. But not much has changed because of these meetings and attempts. Susan Lieberman wrote about the potential solutions and issues that need to be addressed with poaching and international ivory trade, particularly that:

We must all not be afraid to address greed and corruption, which are the underlying drivers of this crisis. It is not the poor poacher who is the worst offender–poverty exacerbates wildlife trafficking but doesn’t cause it. Governments must go after the kingpins and organized crime networks that are profiting the most and driving the illegal trade.

Charles Siebert wrote a piece a few years ago for the New York Times about the stress and trauma elephants are experiencing and how it has lead to numerous violent and often fatal conflicts between elephants and humans in parts of Africa, India, and southeast Asia. Poaching and other aspects of human interaction with elephants have drastically changed the demographics of many wild herds. The fabric of elephant life relies heavily on the dynamics of the herd and as those drastically and violently change, the impact causes an incredible amount of trauma and stress to the surviving animals, writing that:

The elephants of decimated herds, especially orphans who’ve watched the death of their parents and elders from poaching and culling, exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders in humans: abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyperaggression.

Siebert also wrote about how the relationship between humans and elephants have really changed and that:

It has long been apparent that every large, land-based animal on this planet is ultimately fighting a losing battle with humankind. And yet entirely befitting of an animal with such a highly developed sensibility, a deep-rooted sense of family and, yes, such a good long-term memory, the elephant is not going out quietly. It is not leaving without making some kind of statement, one to which scientists from a variety of disciplines, including human psychology, are now beginning to pay close attention.

And like many things I’ve written about, all of this is only the tip of the iceberg on the issues faced by elephants in the world today. There are issues revolving wild elephants coexisting with the people and farms that live around them, issues of smuggling baby elephants, and others. As globalization and urbanization worldwide grow, learning to coexist with wild animal populations (not just elephants) is going to be a big issue to consider.