Bringing life to death

I spent this Wintery afternoon nestled with my cat and zooming in on the Australian Veterinary Palliative Care conference.

A fabulous line up of wonderful speakers across a diverse range of topics that collectively make up this space of end of pet life care.

This is a space where I feel I come in to my own as a veterinarian, not just for my technical skills, but for my ability to connect with pets and their people through this profound life phase.

People often say to me, “I don’t know how you do your job”.

In honouring my end of pet life purpose: “that every pet deserves a good death, and every human deserves choice in how they say goodbye”, I am working from an aligned and connected place which is a source of compassion satisfaction for me.

Today, I spent my afternoon with other vets, physios, vet nurses, social workers and counsellors in this space that honour the special role we play in supporting pets and people through end of life.

The topics covered today reinforced to me that we do end of pet life well at Cherished Pets, and that we never stop learning and connecting to doing it better.

  • Helping people know when it is time, respecting and holding space for those facing the death of a loved one,
  • Different timelines for different types of death (sudden, terminal illness, organ failure, frailty),
  • Frailty – I loved that we discussed this as I talk about this one alot with my patients’ people,
  • Ethical decisions around natural death vs euthanasia, and the role of euthanasia in preventing suffering (and how blessed we are to be able to offer this option for our cherished pets),
  • Furthering my understanding of night time restlessness which is such a common issue for geriatric pet owners,
  • Recognising and managing degenerative lumbosacral disease – and best ways to manage, so our cherished pets remain mobile and pain-free for longer,
  • That common one we face as palliative care vets: managing chronic vomiting and nausea, and maintaining appetites in older pets. So many options here!
  • Considerations for end of life conversations. Something our CP Care team does really well. We dedicate our hearts, time and resources to ensuring people feel heard and empowered as we navigate this top of end of life phase for our cherished pets.

Shout out and congratulations to the speakers today: Dr Jackie Campbell, Rosie Overfield, Dr Anne Quinn, Dr Heather Chee, Brooke Williams, Dr Gemma Birnie, Rosie Overfield and all the team who make up the Australian Veterinary Palliative Care Council.

To find out more about our very special dedicated end of pet life service, get in touch via http://www.cherishedpetcare.com.au or email alicia@socialheartedvet

I am exactly where I belong

This year you will find me studying one day a week, deeply and meaningfully, as I embark on my Mastery of Business & Empathy. I have never been a more enthusiastic student than I am now, thirsty for the teachings, ready for the ride.

Thanks to Janey for helping me create a beautiful space for my 2021 MBE journey; Thanks to Francoise at MBE for the goodies pack.

I’ve spent this past weekend immersed in the Prologue weekend intensive as part of the 2021 cohort for the Small Giants Academy’s MBE program. WTAF. #pinchmemoment ; As I emerge from my weekend retreat bubble I am grappling with so many emotions, so much inspiration and trying to figure how I will ground myself to face Monday. As part of that process, I am writing this piece, simply because I need to get it out.

How did I land myself here?”, I ask.

I feel humbled, honoured, deeply grateful and truly privileged to be joining 34 incredible humans from a diverse and extraordinary range of backgrounds, on a 9 month journey exploring how our world might look in the future through the Next Economy. This course is the brain&soul child of the Small Giants team, led by Danny Almagor and Berry Liberman, and our facilitators, Kaj Lofgren, El Gammell and Mele-Ane Havea.

Think of everything you have ever known about education and courses and qualifications and then throw that out of the window. This course is not mainstream for a moment. It has been designed as a new way of thinking the MBA, and for me it aligns profoundly with the teachings I had from Jane Goodall, that the future of business lies in connecting hearts to heads, and rethinking & redesigning the traditional paradigms of society and industry and business. That empathy and kindness matter in our next world.

I first connected to this community about ten years ago when Evelyn mentioned a magazine she thought I’d enjoy called Dumbo Feather; I am not sure of the sequence of events, but Evelyn also introduced me to The School of Life, and I crossed paths with the BCorp community through my chapter with Jane Goodall Institute – Australia. All roads were leading me to this community.

From the beginning I felt that I had found my people, my community, where hearts and minds aligned. They speak my language. Share similar thoughts and aspirations. This is my home. So when I saw the MBE course promo pop up in my feed last November I knew that this was going to be a major part of my 2021. It entailed a written application process (which was actually so much fun), an interview (even more fun) and then the excitement of being offered a place, signing up, committing to the time this will absorb, and preparing myself on every level for the beginning last Friday.

I arrived with enthusiasm.

I participated with a whole heart and clear mind.

I listened intently to the shared wisdom of our special guests : Hugh Mackay, Arne Rubenstein, Damon Gameau (2040) and Lydia Fairhall.

Stretched my way through early morning yoga sessions. Melted in to the meditation moments. Enjoyed beautiful wholesome food through the breaks.

Became quite lost through a walking meditation while a storyteller read Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” ahead of a deeply moving and profound conversation.

I left with new and meaningful connections and friends, insightful and inspiring thoughts, so many questions, heightened emotions, much anticipation, some angst and deep curiosity for this unfolding adventure.

What I do know for sure is this is where I am meant to be.

That’s it for now. One of my learnings over this weekend is that I need to write more. I love writing. I will share some of this journey with my blog (not expecting it to be read) but for me it is therapy to write and consolidate. Thanks xx

A social hearted vet’s perspective on this COVID19 life

Friday 20th March 2020

It’s been a week of hand sanitizer, social distancing and official responses. Policy, protocols, processes. (As you know, these are a few of my favourite things).

Communications and reviews. Precautions. Preparation. Triage. Risk assessment.

Change. Uncertainty. Change.

Dear Tilly came to stay and wasn’t sure what to make of it all either!

Our inboxes have been flooded with COVID19 updates and responses from every company. Read our’s here.

In the meantime, people are still getting sick, not from COVID19, but because other shit still happens. And their pets still get sick too.

Pets are playing an almighty role in the COVID19 crisis. Not just as working from home buddies, for the army of people who are moving their employment to home-based. But now more than ever for our vulnerable folk, many of whom are already isolated. Their companion pet is often a sole source of touch and comfort.

At Cherished Pets we are continuing our service in an adapted form (for now) according to industry guidelines, to ensure our vulnerable clients receive the support they need to keep their pets healthy and well through this uncertain time. We call ahead to ensure everyone is willing and safe for the appointment to proceed, and explore if there is a remote alternative.

Our vets, community vet nurses and volunteers are following precautions as outlined in our statement and taking advice from the Health Department and other home service providers. Our home pet care assistance includes delivery of supplies, health checks and dog walking.

For some of our clients our visits are their only contact with the outside world, even if it is through a front door, or over the phone. Most of them are not internet savvy, they don’t access social media, and their main source of information is the TV news outlets. We are checking in on our people and ensuring they are ok. Our Community Vet Nurse last week was taking loo paper with her on her rounds.

So as our first week of COVID19 living draws to a close, here is some of my perspective:

  • I saw a lady who was really really scared. Literally shaking. Dry mouth. Staggered speech. She feels alone and unsupported, and more vulnerable than ever. Throw a sick cherished cat in to the mix and you have a genuine cry for help. She is one of the 4% who are in the highest risk category for COVID19. We are prioritizing care for her cat, who needs surgery.
  • She is not alone in her fear. I am witnessing heightened anxiety across all age groups especially our kids. 2020 has not been a good year for mental health. If anything our older people, who have endured war and depression, are less phased about it all. Or perhaps less aware (as they are not on social media?).
  • Alternative arrangements are possible when providing veterinary care for pets. For example, I performed a couple of consultations on door steps, with the owner letting their pet outdoors and us talking, from a safe distance, through the door.
  • On Monday I found myself in a Palliative Care ward to collect a cherished dog from her human, J. He didn’t really give a hoot about COVID19. His main concern is having a safe and secure plan in place for his cherished girl Tilly, so that he can die with peace of mind that she will be ok. As I walked the corridors of the ward, having used sanitizer multiple times and called ahead to get approval for my visit, I noticed that life in this ward felt much the same as always. An energy of peace and calm; nurses, doctors, allied health professionals doing their thing; family and relatives visiting, and patients receiving the care they need. I wondered how this might change in the months ahead.
  • Some vulnerable people seem oblivious to the recommendations in place. For example, we had a 96 year old fellow visit our hub, telling me he is in self-isolation due to recent lung illness. He didn’t seem to understand the terms of self-isolation. Click here for a fabulous resource for older people and COVID19.
  • People under stress sometimes need support to make the better decision. This week we were called to euthanase a dog called Radar, as his elderly owner is very unwell and unlikely to return home. In her angst she arranged a request for euthanasia. Read more about Radar and what happened here. (Happy ending assured!).
  • It was a week where we witnessed appalling behavior by fellow humans, and at the same time, creative and marvelous acts of citizenship and altruism. Those who behaved badly hurt others. I met one beautiful client who is the full time carer for her son living with serious disability. He has very specific dietary requirements and she was getting quite stressed about the lack of availability of essential items. Being able to tell her about community groups working towards solving this problem reminded me of the good in people. That’s going to get us through this.
  • Pets are still dying, and our compassionate home euthanasia service continues as normal. Being able to offer pets a peaceful and pain free passing, in the comfort of their own home and surrounded by loved ones, is an honour and my purpose. In these moments COVID19 has been forgotten, which is perhaps a good thing.
  • A word about social distancing. I am a huggy person. Anybody who knows me knows this about me. I love hugging and need to be hugged. It’s the primate in me. So this social distancing thing is creating discomfort, but I know it’s for the collective good and I am abiding. Those awkward “I want to hug you but I can’t” moments are becoming less awkward, and the hand on the heart gesture is working as an alternative. However, during times of emotional crisis we can forget. This past week I have helped several cherished pets pass. Hugging is often a natural part of this process. I’ve been mindful of the social distancing in these visits, but did just once completely forget. I felt sorry about that. And then responded to myself with loving kindness. It will be ok. It has to be.

For me, last week was a week that saw everything change, and yet in other ways, nothing changed.  The need for our service, according to guidelines, is perhaps greater than ever. The opportunity to be creative and collaborative in our response very strong. The shift in our community heart palpable.

Together we can flatten the curve. No doubt about it. We must baton down the hatches as this storm has just begun. And it will be ok.


Wisdom of our Elder Women

Dear Beryl who was laid to rest last week, aged 94. She had told me she was 81. To the very end she remained a cheeky woman. Her number one passion in life was her Collies, Prince III pictured here. Remembering an extraordinary ordinary woman with so much wisdom to share.

This International Women’s Day I am honouring the women I have met through our Cherished Pets Community Project since we began in 2015.


I have been blessed to connect with some extraordinary women, who have lived seemingly ordinary lives. And yet each one of them has become a hero to me with Her own story to tell. One of my favourite things is to share a cup of tea with one of these women and hear Her story. It always leaves me feeling inspired and blessed.


I’m talking about women in our shared community, who are now in their 80s and 90s, who have experienced a real life and all it brings: love, loss and connection; hardship, celebration and challenge; change and transition. Who have birthed and raised children (or not), created families, built homes and friendships, volunteered in communities, lost loved ones and worked primarily in “traditional” female professions. “I was just a Secretary”, “I just did administration”. “I never really did anything important”, she would say to me. Oh yes you did is my reply.


These are women who managed to live on the smell of an oily rag but still made ends meet, went without and made do, knew their neighbours, waited patiently for the good things in life to arrive, repaired what was broken, grew their own vegetables and made their own relishes, baked cakes from scratch and lived on stew. These women learned to save, go without, follow their dreams and appreciate the simple things in life. Instant gratification was not an option.


These are women with a wicked wit and sense of humour, who can laugh at the mundane and see opportunity in despair. Who get it. Who are wise, strong and resilient.


I remember Maureen, sharing the trauma of her stillborn baby being whisked away from her by a severe Matron in a Catholic hospital in the 50s. “All I wanted to do was hold my daughter and they said that wasn’t good for me”.


Beryl, whose funeral I attended last week, who had not been able to bear her own children but had chosen to support and provide a safe home and full heart to multiple foster children and was an exemplary community citizen. She was wicked, tough and stubborn and she was loved by her kids.


Anna, a proud German woman who had loved her Lithuanian husband deeply, (“There was only one man for me, and he was it. I miss him every single day”. He had passed 25 years ago.) Anna had worked during the War as an airplane mechanic, because all the men were off fighting. She knew about plane engines! How cool was that.


Evelyn, my very dear friend and first CP client, who had dreamed of being a ballet dancer, but real life got in the way. She loved her holidays, had been to China in the 90s, and still managed her annual trip to Queensland until just a few years before she died.


I have been disturbed and at times shocked by the number of women who have shared with me stories of domestic violence. “One time he threw me so hard against the wall that I couldn’t breathe”; “He was a good man deep down, but you learned to steer away from him when he had hit the bottle”; “I was quite glad when he died because he did not treat me well”; “Actually he wasn’t a very nice man. He made my life difficult and it was a relief when he died as my life could start again”. “You just had to suck it up and get on with it. You couldn’t leave back then and you couldn’t talk to anyone about it”.


These are women with substance. Grit. Resilience. Determination. Women with full and kind hearts willing to share. These are the women who contribute to the local Church, CWA and senior citizens groups.


Today I applaud our “ordinary” elderly women, living in our neighbourhood, tottering up to the supermarket with their trolleys, or serving tea at Probus, or sleeping their days away in a nursing home waiting for a visitor. They ALL have something to share. Take the time to connect with them.
I ask them about the women of today: “The young ones have so much more opportunity, but don’t lose sight of what really matters in life. Relationships, connection and balance. Living within your means and taking time to pause”.


To the young women of today, our women elders are our greatest fans, cheering us on from behind their knitting and craft. Take time to pause, connect and listen. You will be surprised by the wisdom that exists right on our doorsteps.




A piece of my heart died today

Part of my heart broke today; it crumbled in to a thousand pieces as I farewelled someone else’s cherished pet. I loved him too, and I had only met him a few times. But in that time he had snuggled his way in to a part of my heart that belonged to him. And now he has gone.

He will always will be remembered with divine fondness.

You see, death is a part of my life.

Through my work as an end of life veterinarian, I am helping pets pass on a daily basis.

Through my social veterinary work supporting pets of the elderly, well my clients die also.

I am regularly asked, “How do you cope”? “I don’t know how you do it”.

Well, it goes like this.

I allow myself to feel all the feels.

So today I cried. Real, wet, authentic tears. On my way home in the car; and then when I was providing tender aftercare.  As I held his wrapped warm body in his fleecy blanket, I wept. I held him close. I thanked him for the gifts he brought his humans.

His humans cried too. They loved him so much. He loved them more. It was heart wrenching to say goodbye. But it was his time to go and there was a sense of peace in that moment.

I first met Charlie four months ago. His congestive heart failure was taking its toll and I did not think he would see Christmas. This little trooper soldiered on though, against the odds, with pure love in his eyes for his humans. He fought for them, no doubt about it.

I don’t fight it.

I don’t fight the emotions and the pain that invite themselves in when I help a pet pass. It’s not avoidable. It comes with this territory. I maintain a professional composure as best I can, but if the tears and sniffles switch on, I allow them a gentle passage, not dramatic, but subtly they can flow.

I cry.

Not great big loud dramatic sobs. At least not while I am with my people. I save the sobbing to a quiet moment when I am alone at home, reflecting on what has been. Then I really cry. I let it out.

I curse.

I get so mad that beautiful, cherished pets have to meet untimely deaths from illnesses and conditions that rob them of their health and vitality.

I curse some of the inbreeding issues we see.

I get really mad at God or the Universe or Spirit or Grandma that bad things happen to good pets and good people. It really really sucks.

Emma Catherine Studios

Then I breathe.

Because that always makes me feel better.

I allow the emotions and tears to come, and to go, and then I breathe.

This is the passage of life and all its rollercoaster phases.

I ground myself in my purpose.

Without my purpose, to support the human animal bond through all life stages, especially the end, I would not survive the toll that this work can take.

My purpose holds me.

To provide a service that allows pets to pass peacefully, pain free and in the loving comfort of their people’s embrace is my way of serving.

There is definitely a spiritual element in what I do, and never do I feel closer to Spirit than when I am helping a pet pass.

I pray.

I don’t attend church regularly, but I do believe in God/Spirit/Divinity and so I pray. I connect to the Divine. I question. I ask for guidance. I seek. I serve.

I give thanks.

Today I gave thanks for the gift of Charlie, who touched the lives of his humans and showed unconditional, pure love, and taught me about endurance, courage and grace.

I give thanks for pets, the bond and for people who cherish.

I give thanks for my gifts and purpose to serve in this space.

I find my strength.

It’s there. I find it. I tap in to it. I summons it.

I move on.

I pay tribute. I write. I light a candle. I honour what has been and embrace for what is still to come.

I reflect.

On my day. On its gifts and connections. On my lessons.

I feel all the feels.

And so it continues.

This cycle of life.

Of service, care, challenge and purpose.

This is my way of keeping on keeping on the very special work I do. In fact, I feel honoured, strengthened and privileged to serve in this space. It is what I was popped on this earth to do. I hold a place in my heart for each and every cherished pet who crosses my path.

With love, Lissi

xx

Yes, every individual matters

Hope contemplates our garden. Yes her name is Hope.

One of Dr Jane Goodall’s most empowering messages is around the role each of us plays, as individuals, in creating a kinder, sustainable planet. Dr Jane has been a huge part of my life and I feel very privileged to have spent time close with her. She has become the voice in my head and her messages resound strongly with me and have become my guiding principles.

I suppose also there is a natural alignment in our values and our views of the world around us.

Ringo was an Insta Star

So when our family was faced with a baby possum in strife on a very hot day, there is no question about our actions, to do what we can, to assist and attend and to then figure out the best plan forward to all concerned.

Our cherished Gracie regretfully loves to hunt and needs to be managed.

Our cherished golden retriever, Gracie who we love immensely, also has a predatory instinct that she will sometimes exercise on our 3 acre property, much to our distress. Yesterday, Gracie caught a distressed juvenile ringtail possum suffering from the scorching heat. Wildlife will often come down from the trees during the heat of the day for water which makes them vulnerable to attack. As dehydration sets in they are also less able to swiftly escape. So this tragedy unfolded in our garden and fortunately my daughter Megan saw the scene unfolding through a window and was promptly on the ground. She pulled out the “no fail tool kit” to distract Gracie from prey and her plan worked. She was able to rescue this little mite from the clutches of her predator’s jaws. Baby “Ringo” was a juvenile “back rider” which means that while he was still mature and gaining independence, he still needed his mumma. We had a dilemma, one that we have found ourselves in many times over the years. The conflict between separating a mother from her offspring vs ensuring survival of the offspring.

Our plan forward was to care for him indoors and assess his physical condition. As a veterinarian (albeit not a wildlife vet), I established that there were no serious injuries although he was suffering mild shock and dehydration. Many texts were exchanged with our beautiful wildlife nurse and friend, Leila to provide further guidance. Ringo received some fluids under his skin and was quietly settled in a small, dark pouch in a safe cage indoors. Megan checked on him regularly and spent some time with him nestled in her top so that he could feel the warmth of another body.

As sundown approached we knew this little fella had a good chance of surviving his ordeal, but we needed to get him back to Mumma Poss as soon as poss, which was easier said than done.

We have 3 acres of magnificent garden and trees, and knowing where to start looking for a wee little ringtail possum was daunting. A quick call to our dear friends Tom & Bron, who help us in the garden and have a deep understanding of wildlife, established that the most likely area was our “fairy garden” (aptly named as this is where the girls believed the fairies danced, which of course they do, especially on a full moon. It is a very special, magical almost spiritual part of our garden). Tom had seen a ringtail possum nest in the tree there and was very confident.

Ignited with hope, we went out after dark with torches to find our Mumma Possum. It was a bit like finding a needle in a hay stack. With the mozzies setting in on us for their evening feast, we shone our torches in to the trees with no luck. After a while we came back indoors, very disheartened. By now Ringo was gaining strength and Megan’s faith in this exercise did not waiver. In the meantime, I was called out to attend a dying dog at home, and I suppose an hour passed until my return.

Our second search started soon after 10pm and guess what!! We spotted Mumma Poss high in a tree in our fairy garden. My very reliable iphone torch illuminated a furry brown and white patch nestled between some leaves of a rather spindly tree. What are the chances!! This was her back! Euphoric with our discovery Megan popped Ringo as high as we could in a safe spot in the fork of the tree and watched him scurry up the branches and on to his Mumma’s back. They then graciously and stealthily made their retreat beyond our torch beams and we cried! There really are no words to describe our feelings in that moment, but the realisation that we had reunited a mother and her offspring against the odds was totally amazing and wonderful!

Had we not found Mumma Possum, we were faced with a true dilemma. To leave him, vulnerable, in the tree in the dark but in the hope that Mumma would find him, or continue with the “rescuing” process and human intervention which clearly creates a new set of issues around adjustment, feeding, time, resources, convenience and chances. This is the debate and the dilemma.

Wildlife Nurse & friend, Leila Moody, gave us support and guidance!

Investing time and resources in to wildlife rehabilitation is a controversial topic. A huge amount of time is given to caring for thousands of injured individual wildlife by hundreds of volunteers across the country, who usually self-fund their supplies and give their time on top of a day job. Survival rates of rehabilitated wildlife returned to their natural environment are poorly understood, and some argue that we do more harm than good in this process and perhaps we would be better to invest instread in conservation initiatives to support wildlife populations. After all, possums are regarded as a pest in some areas, and yet we throw our heart in to saving them in others. Who knows the answer to this complex dilemma? Certainly not me. What I do know for sure is that I simply cannot turn my back and my heart on a tiny baby possum in need. So caring for a helpless individual that crosses our path is what we will do, and while most of my work day to day is around companion pets, we do from time to time get involved in wildlife scenarios and we will respond, assess and create a best plan forward with the right personnel involved.

Today we’ve put shallow water dishes as high as possible and are keeping Gracie under guard.

Well done to Megan Kennedy​ for being you and dropping everything to assist; and to Leila from Wildlife Nurse for your advice and support.

Folks, remember on hot days to put out shallow dishes of water and keep pets indoors!

Note: The care of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife must be referred to an authorised wildlife shelter or foster carer, wildlife rehabilitation organisation or veterinarian. SOURCE: wildlife.vic.gov.au. See below for useful links on responding to wildlife in need.

Resource sheet for caring for wildlife during heat: https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/wildlife-emergencies/heat-stress-in-wildlife2

PHOTO CREDIT for the photo of Hope, Leila & Gracie: Emma Catherine Studios  

In the company of business champions …

Vincent Stanley, Director of Philosophy, Patagonia, a company of climbers and surfers.


One of my greatest passions, along side the power of pets and my family, is purpose driven business.

I am an advocate for the role business and corporate play in solving the problems our planet faces. We cannot continue to handball these issues to governments and not for profits, as both these sectors are limited and constrained in their ability to achieve lasting change. Everybody has a role to play. Business and corporate too. And I’m not the only one who thinks this way. #thankgoodness

There is a growing community of companies and businesses who are bringing us hope by using business as a force for good, and of consumers spending their dollars where it will have a demonstrated positive impact, both environmentally and socially. We vote every time we spend.

I am so proud that Cherished Pets is a certified B Corporation. As such we are part of an incredible and growing community of like-hearted business people who are committed to using business as a force for good.

How fortunate I was to hear Vincent Stanley, Co-Founder of fellow B Corp, Patagonia speak at an event today. Patagonia’s mission statement is: “We’re in business to save our home planet” . To learn about some of the history of this amazing company was insightful, and to hear some of Vincent’s thoughts on benefit companies and current trends was totally inspiring and encouraging.

Also amazing was the beautiful B Corp venue, One Roof, and the fact that there was not a plastic, reusable cup in sight as we enjoyed our refreshments and delicious pastries.

There were many pearls of wisdom shared to inspire and shape the new generation of earth custodians. “If you are building a business that you want to last 100 years, the B Corp model is the way to go”.

Purpose driven business models are the future. Consumer patterns are changing and values driven spending behaviours are on the up. This is wonderful news. We see this in Cherished Pets. We are growing our general private service and people are choosing us for veterinary and pet care, not just because we offer a beautiful, exceptional, caring service, but also because of the genuine contribution we make back to our community through our social service. When you use us for your veterinary services, you are helping others less fortunate enjoy the benefits of healthy pets too.

In fact B Corp in Australia is driving an initiative to see the Benefit Company structure legally adopted in our country. This will create so many new opportunities in the space.

In establishing Cherished Pets I deliberately used the B Corp framework as our fundamental business guide. Our social mission, to enable the benefits of healthy pets to be accessible to everyone, is embedded in our DNA and demonstrated in every breath we take, every day. It is absolutely why we exist. So it is easy to honour. It is also written in our company constitution so that it becomes an integral part of our governance, but at this point in time, in our country, this is not legally binding. That is set to change. The emergence of Benefit Companies is a welcome shift in this space, as it will enable the purpose driven business community to grow and “will offer entrepreneurs and investors a legal framework to build and invest in businesses that meet higher standards of corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency.

If you are a business owner of any size, visit the B Corp website and take the impact assessment. See how you are doing as a company. Join the movement. Make a difference. xxx

What’s this thing called the Human Animal Bond?

I graduated as a vet from Murdoch University in 1986. I had always wanted to work with animals. I love animals. I want to protect them. My reason for becoming a vet was to look after animals and prevent suffering, as one would expect!

Once I was qualified and working in practice, I soon discovered that I also loved the people I met as a vet, as much as their pets themselves. In fact I became totally fascinated with the connection people share with their pets and I recognised the importance of pets in the lives of people who are vulnerable, particularly elderly folk. The terminology “high level attachment” entered my vocabulary.

This was at a time when the human animal bond was not really a (widely) recognised thing. As recently defined by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the human animal bond (HAB) is “a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both.” But in the 80s, research and discussion about this unique relationship was almost non-existent and very few dogs slept in bed with their humans.

As a vet student in the 80s, I remember the excitement when Dr Erika Friedmann, PhD, published her ground breaking journal article from her research that demonstrated that people with pets who had been hospitalized for a heart attack were more likely to be alive one year later than those without pets. Her study “revealed that pets help moderate patients’ physiological responses”. This marked the beginning of what has become a huge area of growth in scientific research – the study of human animal interactions, or anthrozoology. (Anyone with an interest in this field, get in touch with ISAZ, the International Society for Anthrozoology).

As a practitioner I was observing first hand the way pets make their humans feel better, emotionally and physically. The health and wellbeing effects of pets are now being widely explored through research and practice and we will share more of this information through this blog. As a practitioner I have observed times where pets are both good and bad for us, and through Cherished Pets we are developing a unique service model designed to keep pets health and well, so that the bond can flourish, and the many known benefits be realised. Our goal is to align our service with current evidence-based practice, and to support emerging research in this exciting field.

Stay tuned! So much more to come.

Links of interest:
http://www.isaz.net
http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com
http://www.marcbekoff.com

The Golden Lab​

It was a dark, wet, wintery night. I was in Year 12 at school and driving home from an evening debating event, still in my school uniform. It must have been around 9pm. Up ahead on the side of the road, between the rhythm of my windscreen wipers, and peering through a foggy screen, I saw the golden outline of something. The road was deserted. As I slowed down and approached I could see that it was in fact a large dog. A Golden Labrador.

Without any thought really (much to my father’s later disdain) I pulled over and got out to check this dog. He was an old Golden Labrador who clearly had just been hit by a car, and he was lying on the side of the road, alone and suffering. I crouched down and took him in my arms as my mind started to think about what to do next; Where to take him at this hour? Where would there be a vet clinic open? He was a rather fat lab too, so how would I lift him?

As my mind raced, something else happened. I felt this dog dying in my arms. He stretched out and his breathing changed; he groaned softly.  I can remember a sense of calm flowing over me as I realized what was happening. So I just held him, nuzzled my face in to his stinky fur, my tears rolling, and I told him that it was ok. I told him that I was sorry that I couldn’t save him and I promised him that I would study ever so hard so that one day I could become a vet and save dogs like him.

Ever so gently I felt the life force leave his fat, wounded body and he became heavy and limp. I sat there holding him, by the side of the deserted road, crying over a dog I did not know. He had no collar or tag and there was nobody around. I sat with him for a few minutes, maybe a car or two passed by, I really didn’t notice.

Some time later I left his warm body on the pavement and continued my journey home. I was crying so hard that I could barely see.

People talk about epiphanies in life. Well that Golden Lab was one of mine. I had grown up wanting to be a vet, but was finding the study a challenge at school and was, at that time, doubting my ability to pursue my goal. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that it was meant to be that I witnessed the death of that Golden Lab on the side of the road on that dark cold night. I believe that God or the Universe or Spirit or whatever you choose to call it, led me there at that time, to bring love and comfort to this animal in his time of need. In return he gave me purpose, for it was in that moment that I knew my life’s destiny was to work and care for animals. It was in that moment that I found the strength and conviction to stick to my goals.

Today I wonder whose dog he was. Who else had cried over his death? Whether or not his body was ever found by his owner? I wish now that I had left a note, so that if they had found him that would have at least known that he died loved; he did not die alone; and his death was not in vain. For it was through his death that a young 16 year old girl became all the more determined to fulfill a life passion to become a veterinarian and dedicate her life to helping animals.

Thank you Golden Lab, wherever you are.

The Voice in my Head

Extract from “The Jane Effect” published to celebrate Dr Jane Goodall. Edited by Dale Peterson and Marc Bekoff ; Trinity University Press, 2015

As a child growing up in the 60s and 70s, I followed Jane Goodall’s journey through the many stories I read in National Geographic. The jungles of Africa were a long way away from my hometown, Adelaide, South Australia – but Jane became one of my key inspirations to pursue a career serving animals. I lost track of her for a while, but her story returned to my life in 2002 when a friend loaned me her book, “Reason for Hope”. At that time I was a busy mum with three young daughters, living as expats in China, and feeling overwhelmed by the problems our planet faced. “Why should I bother doing anything if nobody else cares?” That was how I felt until I read Reason for Hope.

Since then, Jane has become the voice in my head (well at least one of them!). Or is it my voice that aligns so closely with Jane’s? Who knows? What I do know is that Jane Goodall has become a guiding force in my life, and now my daughter’s lives.

I rarely see or speak with Jane but her gently spoken, wise words influence me daily.

“Do what you can when you can with the time and resources you have. That will make a difference. That will be enough.”

Jane shared those words with me at the end of our first meeting, in Beijing, 2004. As an Australian living in China and passionate about her global youth program, Roots & Shoots, I started the program in our international school but had noticed that there was not a global office in Australia. “Why?” I wondered.  So when Jane visited China, I campaigned hard to meet with her.  I asked, “What about Australia?” She explained that nobody had started it there yet, to which I replied, “I’ll help”.

This conversation marked a turning point in my life, to say the least. Seeing the Jane Goodall Institute established in Australia has occupied many of my hours, and much of my energy, over the past 16 years. It has been an incredible journey filled with beautiful connections, moments of joy and many challenges.

“We must never, ever give up”, I hear her speak. So on we go, forging ahead in the face of adversity, story after story of disaster and suffering for animals and people. At times we face burnout, utterly overwhelmed by it all – and then we find the resilience and hope that Jane talks about. The four reasons for hope: human ingenuity, our indomitable human spirit, the resilience of nature and the energy and creativity of youth.

I have experienced the energy and creativity of youth many times – young people who are driven to create a better world, their hearts connected to their minds. That is where my hope lies, through the many young people I continue to connect with through JGI.

“Discover your gifts and passions and use these to follow your dreams while creating a better world for animals, people and the environment” 

Those are Jane’s words and I continue to share them far and wide. With my daughters it has become my mantra. Jane Goodall has not only been a force of influence in my life, but I am seeing my daughters each blossom into their own talents while creating a better world.

I feel deeply proud and honored to have had the opportunity to be mentored by Jane – and to unleash the potential of many young people, especially my daughters, towards a kind, sustainable and peaceful future.