Finding Hope Through Writing About Loss


Have you ever lost an animal companion so suddenly and unexpectedly that you struggled to come to terms with it for weeks, months, or even years? If you follow this blog, chances are you view your pets as part of the family, just like I do. I’d like to tell you about my experience of healing by writing about the loss of Henri.

Early in 2013, mhenriandliamy beloved Bichon, Henri, started showing signs of illness. He was gaining weight rapidly and he had strange skin issues, like a rash that wouldn’t go away and cyst-like sores. I was no stranger to a Bichon’s allergies and the vet didn’t think it was too big a deal. He was more concerned that Henri was getting fat and we both figured he was just eating too much and not getting enough exercise.

More problems kept popping up—the skin rash was a staph infection and he had fungus growing between his little toes. The vet ran tests and amped up the meds. Then, Henri went blind. It was horrible, but I was prepared to do anything for that little dog. I researched how to care for a blind dog, started a blind dog blog, and of course gave him plenty of bully sticks and games to play with. Henri is wicked smart and could solve puzzles in a snap, blind or not.


Then, his hearing started to go. Trips to specialists were almost daily, because his sores wouldn’t heal and he kept getting more. He hated the constant poking and probing as much as anyone would! He was on so much medication I didn’t know how his little body could handle it. I had to wear gloves to give him one of the pills. I had to put eye drops in his poor blind eyes twice a day and it was obvious this scared him. One consolation was that, since he was blind, I had to carry him everywhere, so at least he was getting lots of snuggling and so was I.

Gradually, we were starting to realize that Henri was not going to puzzlesget better; he was only going to get worse. Before long, he didn’t want to be petted and comforted any longer. He didn’t want to sleep. He barked all the time, confused.

We made the hardest decision a pet owner could make, and on his last night with us we gave him a steak dinner. He couldn’t even smell the steak in front of his face. But once he had a lick, he devoured every bite.

I was so grief stricken after he died that I was inconsolable for days. Understand, I didn’t want to admit that Henri’s condition was fatal until about a week before he died. Maybe that’s what the vet was telling me, but since they couldn’t even name the disease—it seemed like some kind of multi-system, cascading thing of mysterious origin—I denied that he couldn’t be fixed until the very end. His breed should have a life expectancy of at least fifteen years. Henri was only seven-years-old when he passed.

My friend Amy Martin encouraged me to celebrate his life (and that’s something I tried so hard to embrace), but I wasn’t ready to stop mourning. I wanted to hold onto him somehow.

That’s when I decided to make Henri a character in the book I was writing at the time. We come into the story as a new character is introduced, driving into the small town of Shirley…

Driving into Shirley from the east always shocked Aaron Walsh after he had been away for a while. He’d be driving through the gentle rise and fall of the highway, traversing mostly highlands between the taller peaks, for miles. Then, he’d round the last summit, Widow-maker Point, and then bang!—the valley plunged, a deep crevice in the countryside below the granite cliffs. The transition was breath-taking. He usually felt contented by the vision, flooded with memories of a happy childhood spent rampaging through the forests with friends, siblings and cousins. But not that day.

That day, the scene made him feel homesick and sorry for himself. He wanted nothing more than to curl up in a cozy lounger and watch a Mystery Science Theater marathon under blankets. He turned up the volume on a melancholy country song and let his mood settle in. Aaron reached up to squeeze Henri’s collar. He hung it from his rearview mirror after the vet had returned the collar, empty, along with other personal items. The grain of the fabric was worn and soft, slightly oily from years of use.

Henri had started out as his wife Chloë’s, dog years before, but the dog had taken to Aaron. Aaron loved to give Henri bacon treats and dinner handouts under the table. Chloë bought him for a show dog. He was a Bichon Frisee with Champion lineage—his sire was actually named Champion, no kidding—but Aaron had spoiled her chances in a matter of months. He smiled, thinking about how mad his wife was when Henri got too fat. He remembered that glorious, flowing-white tail that Henri would wrap around his wrist while he petted him. Aaron had grown up with hounds and mutts, and he never would’ve imagined a fluffy white dog would or could steal his heart, but he had.

Then, Henri started showing signs of mysterious health problems. A pure bred dog after all, Aaron had tried to reason that inbreeding often caused strange issues. He took him to dozens of specialists and spent thousands of dollars on testing and treatments. Finally, he had to accept it. Henri was dying. Once Aaron decided to have him put to sleep, he made the commitment to be there with him when he passed away. He cried like a baby for days leading up to it and for days after it was done, but he was able to stroke his fur and whisper thanks in his ear, for being such a good dog. As difficult as it was, he was grateful to have been able to tell him good-bye.

Chloë was sympathetic and patient at first. But after several days of Aaron’s prolonged mourning, his moping around the house uselessly, she started to lose patience. He lashed out at her for not seeing Henri’s worth as a show dog (which was ridiculous; Henri would have hated that prissy crap), and Chloë suggested a week in the mountains might help.

She was right, of course. Camping always helped heal the soul. Aaron couldn’t wait to get out there, among the elements. He’d spent too much time indoors the last few years. City life did that to you. He figured he’d stop in and say hello to Dad before he headed south, into the most secluded wilderness along Red Ridge.

–Excerpted from The Tramp.

henriWhen I read that now, two years later, I know that what I was doing was witnessing Henri’s life and death. I felt so guilty about his illness, because I didn’t realize for so long how ill he was. I wondered if I had treated him kindly enough when he was probably feeling worse than I understood. Henri never complained.

Any pet owner who has had to make the decision to euthanize a beloved friend knows how hard it is; even when all professional opinion tells you you’re doing the right thing, the “right thing” is excruciating.

But also, I was sharing Henri with the world, making him eternal in literature. That helped the healing process begin. As Aaron Walsh finds peace in the book, so was I in writing about it. The sunrise that he watches, and the peace he feels afterward, was my way to describe what I hoped was in store for myself.

I’m not the camper he is, but I can imagine it…

Right on time, an American Robin broke into her, “Cheer up, cheer up, cheerily,” whistle not a hundred yards away, and Aaron decided to quit his tent for an early start.

He unzipped the door flaps and ducked out into the fresh morning air, then reached back inside for his coat, shocked at the drop in temperature. Feeling the yawn in his abdomen, he considered breakfast, but since the sun wasn’t completely up, it would be a hassle in the dark. Instead, he sat down on the blanket of fallen pine leaves outside his front door, tugged on his boots, and decided to sit out the sunrise with a better vantage point closer to the river. He inspected his jeep as he passed for any signs of ransacking, but seeing nothing amiss, he ambled toward the rim of the bluff.

The stroll was easy through towering pine trees, their high plumes of needles overhead floating over the forest floor like thunderheads. He could barely see the stars, much less the blossoming horizon to the east, but he knew the giant trees would stand aside for maples, dogwoods and holly bushes along the edge of the pinewoods. The heavens would open up for a gorgeous sunrise over the southern canyon. He heard the rapid, stuttering trill and then low, buzzing tones of a warbler in the distance, announcing the dawn.  Aaron picked up his pace. Near the edge of the forest, he slowed down to navigate a thicket of mountain laurel and rhododendron. He heard more birdsongs announcing survival of the night and warning enemies of nests still protected, and Aaron worried he might miss the sunrise.

But the canopy above cleared abruptly, and he was kissed by the fresh air of the open ravine, with an earthy smell of fast moving water churning up the riverbed below. He could just discern a delicate lavender wash seeping across the sky into the western blackness, the stars beginning to wink out with the advance of light. Aaron collapsed to the ground, leaned back in relief and dangled his boots over the side of the bluff, his palms damp on the cool, crusty granite. He thought about the healing power of a new day—of every new day—and admitted that he was starting to accept his friend Henry’s death.

“Bye, little buddy.”

The burst of sunfire was spectacular, perfect for Henry’s requiem. Bright pinks and oranges flared and rippled amongst feathers of clouds. Aaron’s face warmed as the sun rose and the pageant faded and the sky gradually fused back together in a cool, peaceful blue. It was morning, fair and full of promise.

–Excerpted from The Tramp

I am happy to report that I’m now able to truly celebrate Henri’s life. When I shed tears for him, they are tears of joy and gratitude. Recently, Amy Martin introduced me to Denise Mange, a certified animal communicator who helped me contact Henri. It was an amazing experience and one that I will share in my next post. Stay tuned! If you’d like to learn more about animal communicators, ask Amy or visit Denise’s site:

–Sarah Wathen, guest author

Headshot_1_smallTo learn more, follow Sarah’s blog at

Sarah Wathen is an artist, an author, and the founder of the independent publishing house, LayerCake Productions, specializing in the fun part of creative writing—original artwork, video trailers, and musical soundtracks. She was trained in Classical Painting at the University of Central Florida, and received her Master’s in Fine Art from Parsons School of Design in New York City. If Florida was where she discovered her passion, New York was the place she found her voice. “Writing a book was my obvious next step, once I realized I’d been trying to tell stories with pictures for years,” Sarah says about transitioning from visual artist to novelist. “Painting with words is even more fun than painting with oil.”

Sarah lives in Florida with her husband, son, and at least a dozen imaginary friends from her two novels, a paranormal mystery called The Tramp, and a young adult coming of age story, Catchpenny. A painter at heart, her novels incorporate art judicially, both in narrative content and supporting materials. Her characters are derived from the people and places that have influenced her own life—at least one beloved pet makes it into every book—but the stories they live will take you places you have never imagined and won’t want to leave.



Twitter: @SWathen_Author

Facebook: SarahLWathen


Instagram: sarah.wathen

Wattpad: SarahWathen

Medium: @sarahwathen

Emotional Eating In Animals


Jack Sprat he loved no fat,
and his wife she lov’d no lean:
And yet betwixt them both,
they lick’t the platters clean.

English Proverb (1670)

The American waistline isn’t the only thing that’s a growing problem.  Companion animals are packing on the pounds as well.   Studies show that up to 60 percent of companion dogs and cats are obese or overweight.  They are actually in worse shape than we are, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of Americans are obese.  You do the math.

What’s most surprising is that calories and laziness are not the only factors causing this epidemic in animals.   If an animal in your home puts on weight, you might assume it is simply the result of an animal with a voracious appetite combined with an indulgent owner.  New evidence is showing us otherwise.

obese cat
Stress eating is quite common in humans but until recently, it was not considered a prime cause of domestic animal obesity.

According to the research review, published recently in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, companion animals can use food as a “coping mechanism” to deal with “emotional distress”.  Many pets are becoming obese because they are prone to “emotional eating”, where they eat in an attempt to dispel feelings of unhappiness and stress.

Comfort or stress eating in humans involves specific kinds of foods. These can range from sweet to salty, crunchy or soft.  However animals will usually eat whatever and whenever.  Their stress eating doesn’t involve any particular food. They just eat a lot of their normal food, explains Dr. Franklin McMillan, a vet and former clinical professor of medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine:

Research shows that animals, like humans, can eat too much, not necessarily out of hunger, but also a result of “disinhibition” – whereby overeating is in response to stimuli other than internal hunger cues, such as stress. ~ Dr. Franklin McMillan

He also cites earlier studies to show that some animals offered an abundance of food do not overeat, as well as others showing a link between stress and negative emotions and eating. McMillan identifies several triggers to an animal’s stress eating. Some of these triggers are boredom, anxiety and depression. He also addresses skeptical animal guardians who think their pets are only happy when their faces are buried in a food dish, by explaining that research on pet obesity suggests overeating can be a sign of a pet’s pleasurable emotional state, or an animal mind “in turmoil.”

some pets use food as a coping mechanism to cope with emotional distress
Some animals use food as a coping mechanism to cope with emotional distress

The review makes one other thing clear — we need to change the way we think about pet obesity. Simply taking the food dish away or running your dog around the block aren’t necessarily going to address the underlying causes of stress eating.  Not all instances of pet obesity are tangled up in a pet’s emotional distress (some pets are just gluttons, and some owners are just irresponsible) so it’s important to recognize that one cause of an animal’s obesity is that the animal is eating more than it requires, the excess is stored as fat, hence the animal becomes overweight.  By overfeeding an improper diet that contains too much fat, too many carbohydrates and too many snacks without proper exercise will lead to obesity.  However, McMillan’s article shows that, just like with human obesity, pet obesity is probably way more complex than we realize.


Dr McMillan, who now works for Best Friends Animal Society, says the findings are such that they should change the way obesity in cats and dogs is addressed.  Rather than simply reducing the amount of food they can eat and increasing their exercise, guardians and veterinarians need to address the animal’s underlying emotional problems.  By simply putting an “emotional eater”on a diet, they could make the situation worse; taking away the animal’s “coping mechanism” and making the animal even more unhappy – and even hungrier.

The bottom line is that there is a ton of evidence in humans and animals like rodents that stress induced eating, or emotional eating is a very real thing and contributes to obesity, so we should be looking at it in “pet” animals.  If this is a major factor in our pet animals, then the standard approach, by simply yanking away their food, is very misguided and potentially harmful.  The indicators show that obesity is rising in humans and in pets. How much is attributable to emotional factors – that is the great unknown. 

fat ginger tabby
Fat animals are not cute. Obese pets are at serious risk for health problems and being overweight is damaging to their overall well being.

The United States is not the only country to see an increase in waistlines of humans and animal companions.  Two thirds of veterinary professionals in Europe say that pet obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals throughout Europe, with 96% of those questioned identifying early death as the most serious consequence of the condition.  Britain’s obesity crisis has claimed a new victim – the nation’s horses.  A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour found that a third of recreational riders were too obese for their mounts, leaving the animals at risk of several welfare conditions.

The United States is not the only country to see an increase in waistlines of humans and animal companions.  Two thirds of veterinary professionals in Europe say that pet obesity is the single biggest health issue facing domestic animals throughout Europe, with 96% of those questioned identifying early death as the most serious consequence of the condition.  Britain’s obesity crisis has claimed a new victim – the nation’s horses.  A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour found that a third of recreational riders were too obese for their mounts, leaving the animals at risk of several welfare conditions.

To address this weighty problem, the first Animal Obesity Clinic geared especially for our animal companions has opened its door!  Created by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, The Tufts’ Veterinary Obesity Clinic will tap the strengths of the Cummings School’s nutrition service, a 15-year-old clinical, teaching and research service located at its Grafton, Mass., Foster Hospital for Small Animals — one of the nation’s busiest teaching hospitals.


  • Triggers to an animal’s Stress Eating can be boredom, anxiety, general stress and depression.
  • Obese cats are more likely to be living in houses with only one or two cats.
  • Dogs in single dog households were more likely to be fat. Female dogs seem to be more susceptible to obesity than male ones.
  • Vets say over half the pets they see are overweight and most guardians are surprised to hear this news.
  • The obesity rate is at least 25% in cats and 45% in dogs.
  • Eight out of 10 dog, cat, and rabbit guardians believe that their animal is just the right weight, although when asked which of a series of pictures most closely resembled their pet, only 33% of dog guardians and 23% of cat guardians chose the “normal weight” picture.
  • Breeds prone to obesity: Labrador retriever, cairn terrier, cavalier king charles, Scottish terrier, cocker spaniel and in cats, the domestic shorthair. (For the record I would like to nominate the orange tabby cat to be added to this list.)

being overweight can lead to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.
Animal obesity leads to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.

Animals Are Not Meant to Be Chubby!

In the video below, Rollin’ Safari shows a series of four animated shorts created as an animation project by students from Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, a film school in Germany.  Each short puts a humorous spin on animals seen in the wild by making them extremely bloated and round.  As humorous and clever as the clips are, they are not far from the truth of what is happening with the animals that we share a home with.

You can learn more about this project at CGSociety.

obese fat pets emotional eating

 Tools You Can Use

To tackle the companion animal obesity issue The Pet Food Manufacturers Association PFMA launched an obesity prevention campaign.  The aim is to raise awareness of companion animal obesity by asking animal guardians to take action on 4 simple things:

1.  Read the feeding guidelines on the pet food packet 

2. Monitor your animal’s weight on a regular basis and adjust the amounts fed accordingly

3. Use a Pet Size-O-Meter for cats, dogs and rabbits.  (This is a user friendly version of the Body Condition Score Chart used by pet professionals).

Being a Conscious Companion means we monitor the health of our companion animals
Being a Conscious Companion means we monitor the health of our companion animals

Download the Size-O-Meters for all species in your home:

4. Track Their Health – Keep track of your companion animals health using these:

Companion rabbits suffer from obesity too

It can be difficult to judge a rabbit’s body condition visually because their thick fur can hide prominent bones or disguise fat.  You will need to feel your rabbit so you can tell what is underneath the fluff.  A rabbit in healthy weight should have a smooth curve from neck to tail, and from hip to hip. You should be able to feel the spine and ribs but they should feel rounded not sharp – like they have a thin layer of padding.  It is normal, for females, to have a roll of fur under the chin. This is called a dewlap. It can look like fat but should just feel like a fold of skin when gently felt.  Learn more about how to determine and maintain healthy rabbit weight here and here.


Why You Should Be Proactive and Involved

We love our animals and we give them the best care possible, but unfortunately many of them are overweight. As their guardians we want to keep them happy, healthy and safe, so it’s easy to be embarrassed when one of your animals puts on the pounds like they are storing up for the next Ice Age. If one of your companion animals is putting on the pounds, remember that you are not alone. I am the first to admit that we have an obese cat. We have tried everything from prescription foods, holistic medicine, monitoring his food intake, increasing his physical activity and everything else you can imagine, but genetics and his love of food are winning the battle of the bulge. After discovering this study about emotional eating in animals I now firmly believe that this cat is a prime example of an animal who eats to comfort himself. Humans do it, so why wouldn’t animals? The question is how do we help them? What can we do to help their emotional needs, other than placing more food in front of them?
What about your animal family? Do you have a porky pooch, a hefty horse, a ravenous rabbit, a fat feline, or a big bird?
Do you think their extra pounds are due to a sedentary lifestyle and the foods they consume, or could they be an emotional eater?



National Hug Your Hound Day!

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” ― Dean Koontz, False Memory

Did you know that there is a national day to hug your hound?   Well today is the day!

However, if you live with a beloved companion dog, you don’t need a national holiday to remind you how amazing their hugs and cuddles can be, but some days it’s great to be reminded of how much we need it. 

soldier dogs and soldiers veterans

National Hug Your Hound Day is celebrated annually on September 8th.  Although today is an unofficial national holiday, it was created by Ami Moore, author and Canine Behaviorist, for a very specific reason.   Ami wants to make America more “pup friendly”, as it is in Europe and other areas around the globe.  Her goal is to see companion dogs accepted in more public places, such as taxis, malls and restaurants.  She also hopes that today will help dog guardians to appreciate the companionship our dogs give us, and the value of it, both emotionally and physically.

therapy dogs healing pets

National Hug Your Hound Day is not only a day dedicated to recognizing the value of our canine companions, but it’s an opportunity to truly observe your dog from their point of view.  As you celebrate and honor your furry friend and family member today, take a moment to spend a little extra time with your canine companion.  Make a point to connect with them.  By making the effort we can learn to see into their environment and their everyday life.  We can learn to get on their level and make sure their home environment is comforting, inviting, and safe.

Saying Goodbye: My brother Jason giving Hocus Pocus a huge Uncle hug before he left for China
Saying Goodbye: My brother Jason giving Hocus Pocus a huge Uncle Jason hug before he left for China this year

I’d like to leave you with a slide show of a few of my favorite images of animals hugging hounds

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Life Less Complicated


We all want things that make our lives easier.  We like easy.  We like simplicity.  I recently discovered something that made my life and the lives of four animals easier and less complicated.  This new ‘thing’ came in the guise of something that I used to laugh at.  I would see this item and think to myself, “Who on earth would buy something like that for their pets?  How pretentious and what a waste of money.”

Well, I recently ate those words.

I can’t even remember where I saw it, or how it was suggested to me, but I did my research, received recommendations from both of our veterinarians, took a chance, and invested in a product that I hope would help all of us.  I bought a pet drinking fountain.  Don’t laugh.  It is a m a z i n g.

I am the guardian of three cats and one dog.  Please note: I am not an “owner”.  Just ask the cats; I don’t own any of them.  We used to be the guardian of 6 animals, but one recently passed and the other decided he would rather be a wild turtle.  There is a lot to be managed with multiple animals of varying species, ranges of age and health issues.  I spend a lot of time making sure each one has exactly what they need, especially when it comes to nutrition and hydration.  I spent over decade doing this kind of thing with a myriad of animals at a zoo, and another decade of this at nature centers, vet school, and other animal facilities.  I guess you could say that it’s now in my DNA to be so focused on these matters.

As heartwarming as all of that may sound, it’s kind of a huge pain in the butt sometimes.  I find myself spending copious amounts of time and energy making sure that each animal has exactly what they need.  That sort of diligence is a normal job detail for a zookeeper and animal husbandry specialist, but I began to notice that I do it at home 24/7.  This was not the best use of my time.  However, keeping them healthy and hydrated will always be critical. So I really needed to find a better way to improve all of our lives.



Water Is Essential for Health and Longevity

Water is a source of healing and prevention.  Every life process relies on water.  Studies show that drinking more water is one of the best ways to improve an animal’s health!  Water is essential for dissolving body chemicals, supporting cells and circulation, and removing body waste.  Cats must drink a required amount of water essential for good kidney and urinary tract health.  Without sufficient water to dilute a cat’s urine it can become concentrated, leading to urinary tract infections, crystals in their urine and kidney disease.  A dog’s water intake is directly related to their health.  It prevents illness, and ensures proper hydration.  Not getting enough water can lead to dehydration, kidney stones, organ failure, and even death.

Many people are under the false assumption that cats don’t need water or that they’re afraid of it.  Unfortunately, many house cats eat mainly dry food which has very low water content (about 10%) so they need an adequate water supply.  Water bowls are often not appealing enough for cats (and some dogs) to drink the required amount; a source of fresh water or running water provides this encouragement.  This is where we come in as conscious animal guardians!

Two of the cats in our home are geriatric, and the youngest had crystals in his urine.  The dog will only drink at certain times of the day.  This is why I spent so much of my energy making sure everyone is happy and hydrated.

To help you understand what exactly I was doing for the animals of our menagerie, (and since they can’t type)  I’ll explain it from their perspective:


I’m sure you can imagine how much time I spent (multiple times a day) making sure everyone has exactly what they need to stay healthy and hydrated! It was exhausting and very frustrating.

Recently I was planning to leave town for a couple of weeks and was genuinely concerned that Beaux was not going to drink any water unless his Almighty Flowing Water Source was available.  When you hire a pet sitter, it’s kind of embarrassing and ridiculous to expect them to turn the faucet on and off when a certain cat needs it.  Also, the advice from our veterinarians (about getting a water fountain) kept ringing in my ears, so I invested in a pet water fountain hoping that Beaux would willingly drink from an alternate flowing water source.  I also wanted to ensure that Albert and Knox would drink enough to prevent health issues.

The package arrived two days before I left town.  I knew I was cutting it close, and was expecting a lot of change fairly quickly for these creatures of habit, but I took a chance.  I set it out one night before we went to bed, to let them become accustomed to the sound and sight of this new, strange thing in their territory.  This is how it went down:


Albert is the boldest of the crew.  Although he was a bit wary, it didn’t take him long to investigate it.  I rewarded him with treats when he came over to it. Many animals learn from watching others, so after Knox saw King Bear go up to the Scary Noise Monster he figured the kitty coast was clear.  I gave him treats as well.  You can see Knox watching the water fountain as he eats his treats.

TIP:  If a cat (dog, or other animal) is reluctant to use a fountain at first, this is very normal.  They just need time to inspect it and grow accustomed to it.  Within a few days, (or sometimes a week/so) it will become their preferred water source.

cat facts_feline facts_pet tips_cat water fountain

You can learn more about feline hydration here and you can learn how much water dogs should drink per day here.



So what was the outcome?  Well, a month later this was how far we came:

  • After each meal they all seem to line up and wait to have their turn at the flowing water goodness station.
  • Every time the cats come inside from the porch each one of them stop at the fountain for a drink before they lay down to cool off.
  • The fountain is the first place Hocus goes to whenever we arrive home from a car ride or from puppy playcare.
  • I have only filled up Albert’s chalice twice!
  • Knox drinks from the fountain regularly.
  • Hocus only drinks from the fountain now (Which was never a goal of mine but hey, at least she’s drinking water on a regular basis now)
  • Beaux drinks from it several times a day. He has only asked me to turn on the faucet three times! And he’s only doing it at bedtime when I’m at the sink. He has not broken one item or knocked anything off the bathroom sinks. I thought this day would never come!
  • I have yet to walk into a bathroom to find a running faucet left on (yes, that happened a lot). No more water wasted! Oh happy day!
  • My time is now spent on more productive things (like writing this blog and sharing my experiences with all of you).
The result is a life less complicated and animals that are happy and hydrated!
The result is a life less complicated and animals that are happy and hydrated!

paw print


Animals love running water.  It’s instinctive.

It’s quite common for a cat to go out of their way to drink from a flowing or dripping faucet rather than drink from a water bowl. Cats instinctively recognize running water to be fresher than still water; feral or exotic cats will always choose a clear, running stream over a rain puddle.  Pet water fountains filter and aerate water with movement.  Similar to water in nature, the fountain moving water is much fresher than stagnant water.  Movement constantly breaks the water’s surface tension and draws oxygen from the air into the water.  The moving water from the pet water fountain mimics nature and entices animals to drink more.

A pet drinking fountain is one of the best investments you can make in your cat’s health. Cats find cool, running water to be appealing — it’s a natural behavior, because stream water is less likely to be contaminated than a stagnant pool. Cats tend to be chronically dehydrated, and feline fountains are proven to get cats to drink more water. Many feline health problems can be aided with proper hydration, and it’s more efficient than leaving a faucet dripping to entice your cat to drink.

~ Dr. Marty Becker from his book, Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual




Cat Acne

Cats are prone to a condition called feline acne on their chins. This is caused by a bacterial infection. The bacteria harbors unseen in scratches from the daily wear and tear of plastic bowls. Our vet explained that ceramic or stainless steel water fountains can remedy this.


An Investment for The Animals and Myself

I am so incredibly pleased and amazed at the results.  Taking a chance and getting a water fountain for the animals was one of the best $50 investments I’ve ever made.  Every one of them drinks more, they enjoying watching it and listening to it – which is great enrichment.  The sound is actually quite soothing to me, and I don’t spend my valuable time having to turn on and off faucets, change and fill water bowls, or clean up countless messes around the clock!  It was worth every penny.

Check out this video of the Ceramic Raindrop Fountain from Pioneer Pet.  It’s the water fountain that I decided to buy (the one that’s officially cat & dog tested and approved).  If you are interested, you can purchase one here.  We bought ours through our amazon for a little bit less.  The ceramic ones are very attractive and there are a few colors to choose from, depending on where you buy it.

cat water fountain pets

You can watch Beaux drinking from water fountain here.  He loves it!  This is now his preferred method of drinking water!

So often we don’t want to spend the money or the energy on something new when we don’t know what will happen, but I can tell you from my experience that this was a wonderful investment, and it changed five lives for the better (six lives will be changed when my husband comes home from deployment)! My time and energy can now be focused on other things that matter just as much, and now the animals have a healthy, fresh, fun water source to keep each of them well hydrated year round.

If we really look, we will see that there are ways to simplify our life when we live with animals.  And the best part is that you can simplify while enhancing their lives and yours!

Are there things in your life that you can simplify while improving both your life and the lives of your animals?

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

paw print



Ladder of Aggression

The Ladder of Aggression:  What every dog guardian needs to know

Do you know the subtle signals that dogs give when they are stressed?  Did you know that if you don’t help your dog, they can escalate? Here’s a great way to see how your dog’s behavior can escalate into aggression.  Think of a ladder with many steps.  Each step represents a behavior that dogs will display when they are becoming more and more anxious, stressed and fearful.  If the dog continues to reach a maximum level of stress, aggression can result.  Aggression is the top rung of the ladder.  Since all dogs are individuals, every dog has a different way that he/she responds to stress, so we need to be aware of their individual behavior clues.

Ladder of Aggression

How a dog reacts to stress or a threat can be represented as a series of ascending steps on a ladder.  These gestures are responses to an escalation of perceived threat only and are NOT expressions of a ‘submissive’ or ‘dominant’ state.  The choice of strategy (whether to escalate to a bite or not) will depend on the circumstances (time, target, interactions, previous experience) and on the severity of any underlying physical disease.  Pain frequently converts a ‘flight’ response to ‘fight’.  – Ladder of Aggression by Kendal Shepherd

The behaviors on the lower rungs of the ladder (yawning, blinking, nose licking, turning head away, etc.) communicate in dog language, “I am feeling worried”, or “please calm down”.  The behaviors on the higher rungs of the ladder (growling, air snapping, biting) mean “Stop! Leave me alone right now! Go Away!”

Understanding what dogs are trying to communicate when they are stressed is how we become Conscious Companions, and prevent our dogs from moving up the Ladder of Aggression. This included our felines, too!

I would like to share something else with you:  A dog bite NEVER happens out of the blue.  Let me repeat that; a dog bite never happens out of the blue.

Why is this important to know?  Well, it means that all dog bites can be prevented if we learn to recognize the stressors and behaviors that a dog exhibits as they are becoming stressed.  Dogs will display specific behaviors (listed above in the image) well before they lunge or bite.

Make no mistake about it; it’s our job, our role, and our responsibility as their guardians to learn these behaviors and recognize these stages.  Prevention and safety begins with you!  Setting ourselves up for success is how we do this.

Set yourself and your dog up for success!  You Are Your Dog’s Advocate!

Can you think of a time when your dog was stressed?  How did you respond?  

Related Material about Body Language:

Frisky, Fit Felines!


Do any of your feline family members have a little too much squish underneath all that fur?  Does he or she not get enough exercise?  Would you like to see them trim down a bit?  Well, a clever ad agency recently released a comical commercial featuring cats performing aerobic exercises called “Work It Kitty!” in an effort to promote a healthier lifestyle for cats.

The clip below features enthusiastic felines including Mr. Freckles, Pumpkin, Tom, Boots, Harley, Fritz, and Banjo.  They use exercise moves like the “rear leg lift”, “toilet paper rolling”, “paw rotation”, “jumping box squats”, and “ab cruncher”.  Watch these frisky felines get their exercise groove on!

Kitty Jazzercise

PS. Temptation Cat treats are serious kitty crack. Beware.

I encourage you to spend about 10-15 minutes a few times each day engaging your feline family member in some form of physical activity.  Here Are a Few (Realistic) Tips To Keep Your Feline Frisky & Fit:

  • Fill a ball with treats and roll it around.
  • Hide treats or toys around your house and watch the feline hunter hunt them down.
  • Randomly leave treats or toys on  tables or low shelves.  Encourage kitty to jump! It’s a great way to maintain muscle tone. ~ Alternate where the goodies are placed to increase movement and maintain their interest levels.
  • Take kitty for a WALK (details on how to do this coming soon).

 How do you make sure your feline family member gets enough exercise?

Cat_workout _exercise

Life with Your Animal Companion, Improved

Life with Your Animal Companion, Improved

If you read one thing today, this would be the one to read.  Why? Well, this is something that you don’t want to miss out on and it’s actually pretty amazing.

Today is the last day to access the FREE replays in our Here We Grow Again – Natural and Holistic Pet Care series!

This eye-opening and informative series has 18 amazing interviews with some of the top experts in the world of natural and holistic pet care and training.  Some of the topics that we discussed in this series include:

  • Homeopathy for animals
  • The importance of positive reinforcement and force-free training
  • Animals as Messengers
  • 3 key components to providing a healthy environment for animals
  • Acupuncture for pets
  • Chinese Medicine for animals
  • What it means to be a Conscious Companion
  • Chiropractic for animals
  • How your energy affects your animals
  • Cancer cells in animals – Natural remedies that work!
  • Supplements for animals
  • Bodywork for animals
  • The Emotion Code and EFT for animals
  • Essential Oil Use for animals
  • Animals in the Afterlife
  • Herbs for Animals
  • Natural Nutrition for Dogs & Cats

I invite you sit back, relax, and then click the link below to listen and learn how you can improve life with your animal companions!

Hacking Hairballs!

April 2013

Hairballs Are No Laughing Matter 😉

Hairballs Are No Laughing Matter

Yesterday was National Hairball Awareness Day, so The Moustache Cats want you to become aware of how uncomfortable hairballs are.
And how much better it is for loose fur to be a moustache than a hairball.


If you share a home with a cat, you probably find ewey, gooey, soggy hairballs around your house.  (My husband’s bare foot discovered one the other morning).  Unfortunately, hairballs are common in most cats.  And not only is stepping barefoot into one not cool, but it’s not cool for cats. 

Most folks think hairballs are a normal part of kitty life, but this is NOT true. Hairballs are not healthy.

Feline Fact:  More than one or two hairballs a year is not normal.

What IS normal is a cat’s ingestion of fur during grooming.  This process can occur over a third of a cat’s waking hours!  Once the fur is ingested, it moves to the cat’s stomach and intestines via peristalsis (the involuntary constriction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles).  If  the fur becomes entangled, it can form a mass that cannot be eliminated via the normal poop-shoot-route.

Feline Medical Facts

  • Many people assume that vomiting up hairballs is a normal thing for cats simply because they groom themselves and ingest a lot of fur in the process — but vomiting up hairballs is not normal
  • Frequent vomiting of hairballs is a symptom worthy of a trip to your veterinarian, particularly in short-haired cats, because it could be a sign of an underlying chronic disease
  • Itchy skin diseases, flea infestation and underlying dietary intolerances could all be contributing factors to frequent hairballs
  • Dietary changes that build and balance a cat’s microbiome, including a moisture-rich, species-appropriate diet, fiber, omega-3 fats and enzymes, are often effective in eliminating hairballs, along with more frequent grooming

Hairballs Found In More than Felines

Did you know that cats aren’t the only ones to get hairballs?  Humans and cud-chewing animals (cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer, antelopes) get hairballs, too!  The technical name for this is “bezoar” (pronounced BE-zor). A bezoar is a mass of nondigestible matter that collects in the stomach. “Bezoar” is a Persian word that means “protection from poison,” because bezoars were believed to be a universal antidote against poisoning.

Cow: Why do huuumans eat our hairballs? That’s moooo-gross.

Bezoars from wild goats, antelopes, and other cud-chewing animals of Persia were introduced to Europe in the 11th century where they were popular in medicinal remedies until the 18 century.  In China, ground-up cow bezoars have been used as medicine for more than 2,000 years.

What’s In a Name … and In Their Tummy?

A Hairball’s real name is trichobezoars.  Tricho means “hair,” and bezoar means “a clumping of material that is held or cemented together in the gastrointestinal tract.”  Basically, hairballs are big wads of fur stuck together so firmly, they are unable to pass through the intestinal tract.

People say that cats cough up hairballs, but they do not.  When a cat coughs, this involves their windpipe and lungs.  Hairballs don’t go there, folks.

Feline Fact:  Hairballs reside in the stomach and intestines.  Hairballs do not cause “coughing.”  They cause a cat to VOMIT.


Have a Heart – Help Them with their Hairballs!

Please don’t ignore the hairball issue.  If it’s occurring, there’s something that needs to be addressed.   We need to recognize that any underlying medical concerns can create and exacerbate behavioral challenges within our home.  Health, behavior, and emotions are all connected. 

Compassion essential for cats who are going through this. 

Not only is barfing up your own fur really upsetting, it’s a sign of much bigger underlying issues.  And it’s also vital we recognize that one unhealthy critter can lead to a myriad of behavioral and emotional challenges in the home.  Hairballs need to be addressed immediately.

Dr. Karen Becker says:

  • If you’re hearing or reading that beets or beet pulp is the remedy for cat hairballs, you should ignore this ill-advised recommendation
  • Hairballs are common but not normal, so a cat who is producing them regularly should be seen by a veterinarian to rule out an underlying GI disease
  • Barring an underlying disease process, most cats with hairballs are ingesting too much hair for some reason or are eating a moisture-deficient diet
  • Help for cats with hairballs includes a moisture-rich species-appropriate diet, digestive enzymes and omega-3 supplements, and added fiber such as psyllium seed husk power or 100 percent canned pumpkin
  • You can also consider a petroleum-free hairball remedy or a dab of coconut oil on kitty’s paw; also be sure to brush or comb your cat to help remove hair and debris


Bad Advice for Hairballs, Avoid It for Your Pet’s Well-Being

Hairballs: Myth vs. Fact

Don’t Let Your Vet Convince You This Is Normal Behavior