Tag Archives: animals

Duck For Hire

aflacWho would have thought that Aflac was famous before she came to our house? What a great picture and what a great memory for this family.

Aflac was left…abandoned…inadvertently misplaced  in a large park in town. As any well socialized duck, left to her own devices, she waddled in to join the party; placing herself in the picture. This was a family professional photo shoot. Lasting memories for a little boy.

A note to whoever lost Aflac. I don’t know your reasons. It could be that your neighbors disliked her quacking  at meal times, or the duck poop or maybe she just outgrew her cuteness.

Backyard Chickens says this about Pekin Ducks

“Friendly, forage well, stay close to house, easy to tame”
“Grows fast for meat, extremely efficient layers, adorable, entertaining, friendly, Good watch ducks”
“Eat a lot, poop a lot”
“Can be overly noisy, very messy, poop machines”

Yes, she is all of those things. Now that we know she is so photogenic I am going to hire her out to professional photographers to add to those really cute baby and toddler photoshoots. At least she can pay for all the food she eats!
pekin duck



When it’s the anniversary of the loss of a loved one I can feel quite melancholy. There always seems to be something that reminds me whether it is a date, a season, a quick memory of good times. This weekend was the second year anniversary of one of my dogs deaths. Noel, was a wonderful dog who lived a very good and happy life. She wasn’t my first loss or is my last. I have written frequently on my dogs and other animals and my relationships with them.

A good friend has just gone into hospice. His time left here is measured  in days.  I will support him with love on his journey. I will miss him from my life. But, I ask myself why it is I miss my animals more?

John Berger, in About Looking, wrote: “With their parallel lives, animals offer man a companionship different from any offered by human exchange. Different because it is a companionship offered to the loneliness of man as a species.”

From this blog post I read today about the relationship of a man with his pigs it offers a beautiful reflection of companionship.




I think Mary Oliver sums it up in this poem from Dog Songs.

How It Is With Us, And How It Is With Them

We become religious,

then we turn from it,

then we are in need and maybe we turn back.

We turn to making money,

then we turn to the moral life,

then we think about money again.

We meet wonderful people, but lose them

in our busyness.

We’re, as the saying goes, all over the place.

Steadfastness, it seems,

is more about dogs than about us.

One of the reasons we love them so much.




Sophie, The Pig


I read a very interesting blog today from blogger Shreve Stockton. I actually get an e-mail from the author every day because she has raised a coyote from puppy hood. I thoroughly enjoy the pictures of him everyday. Her blog post In Defense of the Family Rancher really made me reflect on why I do what I do and why I eat meat.

This time of year and living on the cusp of the grasslands, I see calves born every day. I pass through a ranchers farm every morning. Last week he was plowing paths through the snow in the big field and I knew that he would be bringing the cows down shortly to calve. It’s closer to his house and barn in case anything goes wrong. These are free range grass-fed cattle. Farther down the road there are cows everywhere. This is reserve land and the aboriginals leave their cattle out all year. Again they are free range, grass-fed.

I don’t buy my meat from any of these farmers as I prefer buffalo and usually buy one every year. I just find the meat tastier, with less fat.
The ranch I buy from is owned by a couple from Switzerland. I know they love their animals. We are welcome at the farm anytime. There is nothing cuter that buffalo calves. One animal is enough to feed us for a year and to share with friends. We supplement it with venison (in trade, no shooting for me), free range chickens, ducks, wild turkey and trout (available all year, if you like ice fishing).

I could easily be a vegetarian. I have learned that you are a lot happier if you eat something living everyday, fresh picked from the garden. I am addicted to farmers markets.

What really gave me a passion for meat was Sophie, the pig. Her life was changed when she fell out of a truck on to the road in the city. The driver must not have noticed as she was left stunned on the pavement. A passing motorist picked her up and took her to the SPCA. They had no where for her so they knew that we had acreage and a barn, (we had already taken a family of goats, seized due to cruelty) so they brought her up to our little farm and dropped her off. They then left a phone message to say she was there. What a surprise when we go home. She fit it in well with the goats and the barn rabbit, so we kept her. She was a Yorkshire pig. A friend said they liked raisins, so I fed her raisins every night on her dinner. She also like skim milk powder sprinkled on her dinner.

She severely chastised you if they were not forthcoming.

Sophie loved the barn rabbit Oreo. During the winter she would go into the barn at night and cover herself with straw. Oreo would cuddle up to her in her armpit. She loved to help you with your chores and stole your toque or your hammer every chance she got.

Sophie learned to do agility alongside the dogs.  She learned to do weave poles by following my hand that had raisins in it. Just like the dogs.

Sophie grew to be 200 lbs. at two years old. Pigs are not pets. They get cranky and stubborn as they age. Pigs have their own expectations and Sophie wanted to be bred. She started to break boards on the barn and the fence.We were told it was time to butcher  her.  What an awful word.

It was a teary day when we sent Sophie off to the butcher. I cried buckets. We picked up the meat a week or so later. I wasn’t keen on eating it but what a terrible waste if I hadn’t. It was the best tasting pork ever.

Sophie lived her life well-loved.


Read the blog post. Know what you eat, who produced it and how they treated their animals. And I don’t just mean meat. It will be a better world.

The Buddhist and Native Teachings of my Animals

“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.” – Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia, Canada

In Buddhism it is taught that beings who are animals ‘evolve spiritually’ by being selfless and compassionate: so one day they may be reborn as human and have the opportunity to dedicate themselves to enlightenment.

Animals have long  been regarded in Buddhist thought as sentient beings, different in their intellectual ability than humans but no less capable of feeling suffering. Animals possess Buddha nature (according to the Mahāyāna school) and have potential to become enlightened. Buddhist doctrine on  rebirth holds  that any human can be reborn as an animal, and any animal can be reborn as a human. An animal might be a reborn dead relative, and if you looked far enough back your infinite series of lives, you would eventually perceive every animal to be related to you in some way. They could be  our mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, children , and friends. We cannot make a hard schism between moral rules appropriate to animals and those applicable to humans; ultimately we humans and animals are all  part of a single family; all interconnected.

I talk to animals all the time. More frequently to the ones I live with but also to ones I meet on walks or when I am driving and even to the animals I believe relate to me from the spirit world. I always ask the hummingbirds that frequent my feeders in the summer what message they have for me today. It brings me great solace when I see an eagle overhead especially if I am on a journey ( inner or worldly). I usually wave and give thanks.

I could be accused  of anthropomorphism but my spiritual practice begs to differ. Everyday I learn some new truth about myself, others, the human condition and the way of the world from animals. Some days it leaves me  with more questions than answers but it always is a source of joy.

Today I live in close relationship with thirteen animals; six cats, four dogs, a goat, a duck  and a canary. The youngest and  oldest are cats.

Sylvester is a 22 lb., long-haired, tuxedo cat. At fourteen years he has seen much. He reminds me of the panda in Jon Muth’s books. He ” combines the simplicity and elegance of a Zen teaching” with the joy of being a cat. Sylvester  asks that, we all get along, don’t hurry through our life or we will miss the best parts and everyone be welcome. We have two extra cats because he invited a wild mama cat to come home with him to birth her babies in our wood pile. He cajoled us into feeding her and then letting her bring her two babies in the house for the winter. Sylvester takes long naps in front of the fireplace, long walks  in pleasant weather, and long stretches every morning on awakening. He is never apprehensive to ask for what he needs, never concerned about sharing what he  has, and will always impart affection if asked.

Sparkle is a tiny black and white cat. Sure of her own ability to survive on mice, shrews and birds she is totally independent except for her love of Sylvester who she cuddles every day on the bed and me who she sleeps with every night. Loyal and loving and never bothered by the cat drama or new additions to the family.

Noel is a twelve-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. She is always happy. She is our first-born from our first litter. She held up the whelping  process by becoming stuck  and came out by caesarean section. I slept with her on the floor by the whelping box for three weeks. She gave us four beautiful litters and taught me that you love all your off spring forever.  Where most dog mama’s will wean their puppies Noel would still let them have one more suckle before they went to their new homes. Noel knows that if you will only love everyone, never criticize, or lose your sense of play there is no suffering. She knows that others have different desires and aversions,  and that’s okay.  The ball retrieving obsession of a  golden should never be discouraged because if you go along with it once the ball leaves my hand it becomes available to pat her head. Thus both dogs are happy.

Aurora, the ball obsessed Golden Retriever. She is a “golden” one of creators angels. She loves everyone, unconditionally.

Echo is also a twelve-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. She is my suffering buddha, and that’s okay. Her body is ravaged by a disease that is like ALS or Lou Gehrig’s in humans. It is degenerative and horrible to watch. There is no pain and no way for me to communicate to her what is wrong. We both suffer in our anguish of the inevitable. Death came December 30th. She stopped eating and that was our sign. My sister died from ALS and the ability to end Echo’s suffering through euthanasia opened a chasm  of many questions for me. The  federal court cases on right to assisted suicide launched by ALS patients is certainly an ethical dilemma. Would I have assisted my sister? I think so if she had asked.

B. Noel’s son will always be known as his famous brother’s sibling. B is okay with that. He has no working titles and that’s my fault. He is capable and smart, but just wasn’t given the chance. B lives a dog’s life, doing what dogs love to do and maybe that’s enough?

Mama and Marley, the wild cats. Shy and nervous they struggle daily with wanting to be loved and accepted with their fear of people and the unknown. Conquering fear is no small feat but everyday makes it a little easier.

Bugger, my son’s cat. He was supposed to be a female named Bigira but when they took her to be spayed she needed to be neutered. Bugger is exactly that, a bugger. He struggles daily while learning to co-habit, share and be a friend. The girls are tired of his taunts and  sneak attacks and he frequently finds himself alone while the others snuggle up together. He desperately want to be part of “cat sangha”. Vegas  is his only friend and he treats him horribly. He will be enlightened one day and it will be sweet as his struggle to get there will be enormous.

Nibbles, the old goat.

Cinderella, a Muscovy duck. She is named Cinderella as she came to us as a rescue after the devastating fires of 2003. Found wandering on road by herself she was completely singed by the fire. A testament to endurance and how creator decides who lives and who doesn’t. She has been with us for 9 years.

Verdi, the canary who baptizes me daily during my mediation by splashing in his bath tub. He adores Jack Kornfield and Kabat Zinn. Because he is isolated from the cats I put music, meditation or bird songs  on for him all day when I leave for work.  His newest favourite is Yo-yo Ma’s Goat Rodeo. He is completely in tune with the seasons. Waking at sun up and going to sleep at sunset. His best friend is Vegas, the cat. They  have grown up together. Why does he sing? He has a song, he knows no other life.

Vegas, a cat that should have died. I brought him home from the shelter because he had pulmonary edema and no chance of survival. I knew that if I left him there his death would come from complications in his respiratory system as the shelter is full of the virus. I had an older female lop ear rabbit at the time and she quickly took him into her hutch and loved him completely. Cuddling him and licking him all over she breathed the will to live back into him. Our vet is still surprised that he is now 3 years old. You can still hear the faint  gurgling in his lungs, if you can get him to stop purring. Vegas is a true Buddhist. He meditates at least three times a day. He knows the “universal” dharma  door is open and I am sure that he has come and gone through it many times.

Bloggers note: Since I started writing this blog post Echo has died from the complications of degenerative myleopathy, Marley, the wild cat has disappeared and Noel is laying with laboured breath, not wanting to eat and not getting up. Her time left here is short.

I try to read The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo every day. It is a great source for inspiration. Yesterday’s reading was:

“The Creator’s Cycle”

We survive … and then we die.


Nothing escapes the Creator’s cycle. Not plants, horses, trees, birds, or human beings. Not the life of the mind. Not the life of the heart. Not the life of the spirit. All living things emerge, gather, spark new life, fall apart, die, and emerge in new ways. Each soul is a gust of God’s breath unfolding in the great energy that surrounds us like an evermoving stream. The goal is not to cheat death, but to live in the stream with a humility and aliveness that only an acceptance of death can release.

When we try to deny death, we can grow sick from frantically chasing any challenge that will occupy our minds. In living the other extreme, we can grow sick from thinking only of death, from letting death be all that we see. This makes a sad career of fear.  Beyond all design and desire, we survive, and like stones that are eroded by forces that can never be seen or stopped, our reward is the pain and wonder of baring our inner beauty to the sky. What we carry deep within, if we live honestly, will inevitably be worn outwardly. The experience of living this fully has nothing to do with removing ourselves from the Creator’s cycle. Too often, we struggle stubbornly in an attempt to protect ourselves from the friction of being alive, when it is precisely that friction that works our spirit into a seeable gem. We are more malleable than we think, more durable and changeable than all hope.

Thin and fragrant petals do not hide from the wind. They survive to die and break ground again. Even within one life, we shred and re-root. We break, bleed, and rearrange into yet another beautiful thing that learns how to reach. Resisting this process doubles our pain. Singing our way through it is the source of wisdom and beauty.

I am trying to sing.