Friday, October 30, 2009

Important Clarifications by Deanna

There are two areas of concern for some that need and deserve further explanation. Thank you for your patience as we move through this most trying time; we are striving hard to become more efficient with communications. Many people are putting forth real effort on our behalf and we want to honor all who are supporting us.

The Fate of the Animals

It is not true that ALL of the residents face possible euthanasia. This misconception was erroneously conveyed to media contacts by a supporter who has passionately made saving the sanctuary their mission and was unclear on the actual possible outcomes. It was done from the heart and not as intentional hype. We weren't aware of the information being presented until after we got a media response.

Apparently, Woody and I still did not manage to sufficiently convey the actual possibilities to Neda Iranpour. In speaking with Neda, I pointed out that a horse like Jake, a Mustang with bi-lateral stringhalt, would be euthanized by any of the area rescues that we're familiar with. That's what makes us different.

The truth is, should the foreclosure proceed and force us to leave our collective home, the horses could be housed. Over half of them are on neighbors' properties already. They are not in danger. In exploring options, we contacted a large Northern California sanctuary for farm animals and were sadly denied. A good friend has a large parcel in Lincoln that has been generously offered should it be necessary. Splitting the animals up so would create a myriad of challenges, but could be done.

The dogs might be a different story. Of course we would place as many as possible, but realize that many of them have already struggled to find a place to call home for various reasons. I can barely bring myself to begin thinking about the fate of certain pups if forced to move.

Thankfully, and I continually look for new and better ways to communicate our most sincere gratitude, the support and feedback have been nothing short of astounding. It keeps me breathless, the phone calls, e-mails and note cards... there are simply not enough hours in the day right now. Donations are flowing in. The future looks brighter by the day.

The LAST thing we want to do is separate our kids. They have buddies in their respective packs and predictable routines that their contentment is founded upon.

How Will the Money be Used?

The donations are currently accruing in a savings account. We are a 501c3 charity and must conform to the IRS rules and regulations. This is our life's work and we would do nothing to jeopardize the integrity of what has become so much larger than us. We have given all that we personally have but remain true to a life that we know is worth much more than anything else we've known.

In the unlikely event that we are unable to formalize a loan modification, the funds will be used to seek another facility.

In the event that we're able to stay, the money could be applied to the mortgage through a formal lease agreement with the non-profit leasing the property from us. We would also welcome the possibility of the house becoming property of the non-profit. We cannot predict what will happen with the mortgage company. Personally, we have already lost everything. We're upside down in the Sequoia, own a 1977 Ford with a blown head gasket, possibly worse, and my 1977 Celica that has taken a beating between the blind horse being let loose by a well-intended volunteer and escapee goats playing king of the mountain. Still, we're fighting to continue to simply serve the animals.

From My Heart

I am beyond tired. These late nights have proven to be the only real productive computer time since the days are filled with activities and distractions. There is much happening and we're all doing our best to manage the unpredictability.

Bug here is almost completely blind and deaf, which means that touch is important. Otherwise, she's alone in her world. She sleeps on the pillow next to my head at night. My sleeping much less than usual means that she is alone even more. She barks when she has a need ~ normally the usual potty-water-cookie. Lately, however, she barks pretty forcefully even after all three needs have been met. She is seeking that touch. Bug has been on the computer chair beside me tonight so that she isn't sleeping alone. She's wrapped in a towel from the dryer because it takes her a while to warm up after a trip outside. I want her to feel loved even though I am experiencing extremely high demands on my time.

The feedback that and support that we're receiving is beyond anything I could have imagined. This senior, special needs, hospice work strikes a stronger chord than I ever realized. If we could take our message farther and wider, we could expand to help more animals and more people. We are in a prime position to seek help from someone such as Ellen DeGeneres, a true animal advocate. On the "Be Part of the Show" page of her website, there are two options that we would be suited for:

Do You Know Someone Who Could Use Some Cash?

Could You or Someone You Know Use a Big Stimulus?

Please take a moment to write. A visit with Ellen could create amazing possibilities for animals like ours. Woody loves to talk, ESPECIALLY about our kids, and is comfortable in front of an audience ~ who better? Surely she can't ignore a plethora of messages about A Chance for Bliss.

Thank you on behalf of all of us.

Update #3 from Lydia ~ Great Things Are Happening!

Hello Everyone:

By now you have read the email from Dee and Woody that almost $8,000 has been raised to Save the Ranch. This important email also talks about the history of the sanctuary from its inception to the predicament that it is in today. Do take the time to read it. Thank you.

I have received many emails about fundraisers. Do let me know when your event will be and I will be sure to include it in a future update and on Facebook. To help with your fundraising efforts, I will be sending, under separate cover a flyer titled: "At the Heart of the Matter." This flyer has pertinent information, including how to donate. When you receive it, feel free to forward, or copy and distribute.

Thank you everyone for telling your friends, family, co-workers and organizations, and for posting on Facebook and other websites. We are grateful to have all of you on board, and have made many new friends in the process!

Based on the emails I have received, I would like to offer the following thanks and comments:

Do tell your Facebook friends to become a fan of A Chance for Bliss. Simply go to their fan page and click on "Invite People to Join" and follow the instructions from there. I got about 75 of my own friends to join, and it's so easy to do!

Lori Kim Polk

The most amazing news I have received is Lori posted a blog "In the Spirit of Giving' to over 160,000 of her Active Rain (the largest real estate network) friends to help the sanctuary. Do read what wonderful Lori wrote here.

Lynn Willingham
Our one-woman wonder is corralling her friends to come to the sanctuary's monthly open house held the second Saturday of every month. We'll see them on Saturday, November 14th, and we're looking forward to making new friends!

Heather Olson
Our wonderful CAD designer is working on a possible fundraising event in Loomis.

Christina Watts
Thanks to Christina's efforts, she got not one, but two television stations to come out! Channel 13 was here Sunday morning, and the segment aired at 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Channel 10 was at sanctuary Monday morning to do a segment for Hero Central. Christina would also like have a garage sale fundraiser - can anyone help her out?? Wonderful Christina is also a volunteer at A Chance for Bliss.

View the Channel 13 segment.

Tom Wilson
This amazing man is taking the 10 friends x $60 = $600 challenge one step further. Tom will be asking his 10 friends to reach out to 10 more friends. He hopes to raise $6,000.

Emily Jacobson
Our Emily is also a volunteer at A Chance for Bliss: "I have forwarded the email to my friends and family, and several have donated already. My mom (a fellow animal lover) has forwarded the email at her work and has asked for donations, which are matched by their company... I am hoping and praying that we can pull through for Dee, Woody and the animals!

Suzi Johnston
"I'm so happy people are really coming on board. By the way, last night, through tears, I wrote to Oprah Winfrey, Bonnie Hunt & Ellen DeGeneres. OMG, how WONderful would it be to get some PR from ANY of them??????"

Vicki Behringer
"I was on the phone with an attorney who wants to use one of my courtroom art drawings on his new website. He said several artists were just letting him use the images for free, then some took the $150 he was offering and others were having it donated to their favorite charity. I had decided earlier that I wanted to donate my money, with you being the recipient..."

Judi Fibush
"Thanks for the update, Deanna. Neither David nor I are on Facebook... But I love reading all this. I am trying to give you $500 by the end of December."

(Rockin') Ann Ranlett
A friend of mine volunteers at Placer SPCA and she forwarded your initial letter to the volunteers there. She'll also be sending a check for $60."

also from Ann:
Just another thing to add to the fundraising arsenal. Not great in the short term, but eventually it'll help out. I told Dee about it, but don't think everyone knows, so when you have a chance you could spread the word."

"Some time ago, I added ACFB to the list of charities on People join and specify that a percent of their on-line purchases go to ACFB. Then they make their purchases by going to merchants through iGive's site. Quite a few merchants are part of the system, they each determine the percentage to be donated."

"Each person's account has to reach a $25 minimum before the money is sent to ACFB. I think I have about $13 in my account now, so it takes a while. But obviously larger or more frequent purchase will add up faster."

Again, thank you to everyone who has committed to raising $600.

Facebook Friends: Take the time to send a letter to Ellen Degeneres!First off, become a fan of The Ellen Degeneres Show on Facebook. On her Facebook page, go to "Be on Ellen." Then click on "Do You Know Someone Who Could Use a Financial Stimulus?" Then, fill in the blanks on the page. Write your heart out. Let Ellen know that A Chance for Bliss needs help! Write your heart out, folks !!

I believe I included everyone who had emailed me after Update #2. I sincerely apologize if I left anyone out.

Do keep me posted on any new developments you are involved in, and I will continue to send out regular updates.

Dee and Woody and the animals are so grateful for your continued love and support.
A thousand blessings to everyone.

Lydia Patubo
Volunteer/Development Associate
and Marketing for
A Chance for Bliss

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Save the Ranch Update, and a little background… by Woody

I am so grateful to report that to date we have raised $7,865 toward our goal of $65,000 that is needed to keep the ranch from being foreclosed upon and sold at auction. That’s an impressive 12% in 12 days. There is a lot of action being taken by a great many people, and I, along with Dee and all the sanctuary residents, are so very appreciative for all the support. We feel passionate about what we do, and firmly believe that the existence of the sanctuary serves both the animal residents along with a great many human beings, as well.

For those who do not know why we are in the place we are, and wonder what happened, I thought it important to explain.

When Dee and I started caring for senior animals in the fall of 2000, we never dreamed it would be come so large and serve so many and so varied an array of deserving animals in need. From the beginning, through about the middle of 2008, we had been able to fully fund sanctuary operations almost entirely with personal funds, thanks to a long and very prosperous career in the mortgage and business brokerage industries.

Beginning in 2007, both of these industries began a steep and steady decline, which saw a corresponding drop in our personal income from excellent to meager. During the last year we have not been able to make a property payment, have qualified for food stamps, and found ourselves stuck in a tough financial position. A year without a mortgage payment is unheard of, we realize. Ongoing, though fruitless, communication with the mortgage company, combined with workout package submittals and pursuits of additional income channels kept us hopeful that something would give. Certainly it would be in their best interest to work with us. We plan to be here forever and aren’t looking for a free ride, just some help, such as extending the terms.

We have been able to keep the residents fed and cared for through contributions and five small grants, but regular duties and chores take 12 + hours a day from each of us and leaves precious little time for the important work of PR and fundraising. As our income dropped, so did our ability to have paid help, which is why I spend much of my time here at the ranch. We have a great but small core group of volunteers, without which neither of us would be able to leave the property for any appreciable period of time (hours, not days!)

We have reached a point where our backs are against the wall and we need help in a big way. The sanctuary is our home and encompasses all parts of the property. There is no part of our lives or belongings that does not serve the sanctuary residents. Our home is the animals’ home, and thus all we have belongs to the non-profit we formed in January of 2008 (i.e. as a 501(c) 3 public charity). I mention this since while we are also raising money needed to keep the property, I am also working to present another package to the lender in an effort to modify the current loan so that we do not find ourselves in this position somewhere down the line. Also, I am applying for as many grants as we are qualified to and continue to make requests of anyone I can imagine so we raise enough money to accomplish the primary mission, but also to build a reserve that would handle the mortgage for the next 12 months.

Please realize that it is not the actual house that we’re concerned about. We’ve considered that there may be someone out there willing to donate land or a place… but this lot of land is special, not just for its beauty and ability to calm both human and animals who come here, but because the people who surround us here are truly unbelievable. Our lot is just 2.38 acres (Stop! Try to picture that with 21 horses, 2 steer, etc., etc.), but three generous neighbors allow horses to live on their land, and those neighbors AND MORE are fighting HARD to keep us here. What we have happening right here is truly special and supporters have said that you simply must visit the sanctuary to feel it and understand.

We will do everything we can to save the sanctuary and give thanks in advance that we will be able to continue this work for those we serve.

I’ll close by acknowledging the saints and saviors who have been sending donations, large and small. There is love behind these contributions, people who would love to do what we do but cannot. This sanctuary belongs to all of you, all of US.

THANK YOU! Arbor View Veterinary Clinic, Baker’s Nursery, Dana Allen, Margaret Andrews, Caryne Anglin, Marta Anguiano, Ronda Belka, Tami Benton, Carl Brunberg, Vicki Capstaff, Bernice Chin, Neva Chonin, Sharon Connor, Sue and Doug Cooper, Denise Cutrell, Dana Edlund, Evelina Fata, John Fletcher, Kristy Fox, Agnes Frank, K V Girard, Renne Grace, Natalie Granchukoff, Margaret Grella, Healing Arts Institute, Janet Hudson, Laurie Huff, Felice Hussa, Erika Jewell, Robin Johnson, Juarez-Grix Foundation, Hope Justice, Suzanne Lamberg, Stephanie Lanning, Nancy Laskow, Mary Lawrence, Erin McLaughlin, Lisa Michell, Sally Morgan Welch, Trina Nguyen, Noreen Nys, Barbara Orr, Tiffany Owens, Sharleen Oxendine, Jodie Radakovitz, Kay Rodrick, Lloyd Rose, Melanie Schweitzer, Joan Spurling, Jane St. Croix, Michelle Stevens, Gay Teale, Kristina Towner, Kathleen Wagner, Joelle Yuna, and Donna Yutzy.

Thank you, also, to our steadfast support team ~ family, really. Margaret Andrews, Lydia Patubo, Tom Wilson, Christina Watts, and Becca Davis. Their blood, sweat, tears, and hearts are here.

Baby can't "bear" the thought losing home cooked meals

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Appreciative Update ~ Deanna

As of Saturday evening, the donations we have received total $3,640. The response to our situation is more powerful and far reaching than we could have imagined.

Our deep and sincere gratitude to Fayann Barclay, Martha Barclay, Chad and Laurie Chase, Laura Daggett, Dianne Dalton, Steven Deeley, Patricia Deeter (Ruud), Chad Evanson, Elizabth Farr, Carol Ann Frei, Stacey Galvin, Eileen Gillis, Sandra Haliburton, Francine Harvey, Nicole Hatley, Loch Henson, Nancy Jensen, Kathleen Kerr Coad, Linda Klinger, Emily Kruger, Avinal Maharaj, Briana Martin, Erin McLaughlin, Melody Lea Lamb's Art, Nancy Morrison, Lily Nguyen, Victoria Perizzolo, Ann Ranlett, Teresa Reichart, Sharon Roseme, Veronica Selco, Ann & Fred Smallwood, D.R. and Julie Ann Stringham, Julie Swain, Judy Swauger, Eileen Thorton, Jeannette Williams, Mary Williams and last, but certainly not least, Lynn Willingham.

Before I go on, it must be said that we have the absolutely best neighbors possible. We tell this to visitors regularly, but have not acknowledged these friends in writing as we should. Not only do they lend us use of their land, they tolerate strange noises, dust, flies, parades of animal accupressure students and bustling second Saturday tours, escaping four-legged visitors at any given time of day or night and constant requests for baby-sitting or equipment repairs... they are actually fighting hard to keep us here. Above all else, I find this supremely humbling.

Ann and Fred Smallwood, along with Danny, Jo and DJ Turner, not only provide pasture for three horses, they feed them, groom them and love them. On top of that, their garden has taken every bit of manure and wasted hay that we have produced for going on three years. We dump, they drag and the vegetables grow. And should you visit, you would see that there is virtually no smell and no flies in this area (the flies prefer the horses).

Ron, Marianne and Jessica Stovall's pasture has housed sanctuary horses for three years, as well. Big and mostly flat, our younger herd can get a real steam up flying around over there, bucking and snorting and acting like horses. They put up with my mucking into the darkness and the dogs that follow Woody and I wherever we go, teasing poor Abigail with their freedom.

Steve Geraldsen deserves a blog or book all his own. Not only can he SERIOUSLY fix ANYTHING, he does so with grace and tutorials. At this time, he is allowing Ferdinand and Manny to run free on half of his parcel, as they enjoy head-butting the old boats that will some day soon be disassembled anyway. A real playground for bored steers.

In addition, we owe much to Nippy & Jim Feltl, Jean & Jayme Feltl, Cathy & Sam Norris, Laurie, Chad, Cody & Catie Chase, Dawn & Dale Sloss, and Vicky & Miguel Rivera (Homer's other home).

Yes, Willow Brook Lane is very good to us.

Moving Forward

We realize that the financial goal is lofty, so we are attempting other angles, as well, in hopes that our lender will work with us with less cash-in-hand. We've been gathering testimonial letters to illustrate that this little ranch means a great deal to many. The letters are coming in and they are powerful.

As we know more, we will share our progress.

In the meantime, we're focused on illustrating the abundant good works that take place here. Admittedly, it will be tough to convey the feeling that is so much a part of the ranch. This is a place of healing ~ mutual healing. We help the animals and they, in return, help all of us.

I tried my hand at Windows Movie Maker... I've taken lots of video that needs editing and the files must first be converted, so for now, a slideshow. I started a YouTube account for the sanctuary. Wish me abundant time to share the goodness and goofiness of our critters.

Thank you for supporting us in our endeavor to follow our hearts. There are so many more that could be served.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An All Out Effort

I have faith. The people who surround us and KNOW who we are and what we do could not be more supportive. The last thing I want to do is call upon our existing circle for more. We need media attention. Please help us tell our story.

What we do is unique. It feels so natural to Woody and I, but the feedback can be breath-taking. I look for the beauty everywhere I can... Had we not experienced this financial downfall, we would not have opened our place to the public. Through that door have walked an incredible number of empathetic, caring and fascinating friends.

On Labor Day, we were visited by several veterinarians from across the country who were attending the National Hospice Symposium at UC Davis and discovered us through Tom Wilson's presentation. I would never have imagined such interest and their insights and comments were humbling. It served to drive our passion to do more.

Donations have kept the animals cared for and Woody has strived in several arenas to get our personal income flowing again. The sanctuary has not paid for the mortgage or electricity, etc., as many/most organizations do. Everything you've given us has gone to them. However, there is nothing here that is not utilized for their care. Further, as supporters can attest, the days here are laborous and long since we have lost our ability to support paid help (that had come from us, not donations).

There is another sanctuary that does work very similar to ours ~ roughly 80 animals, mostly horses and dogs. After an appearance on The Today Show, their annual donations reached 1M. Our ultimate vision is to create the Shriner's of the animal world, but the world needs to know what's already happening here. Animals transform here ~ they blossom and thrive before they leave. This is about the animals. Their stories need to be told, so that people can understand. We do this for them.

If you can contribute a note or story about one of our kids, please send it to and I will post them to the blog. There are 40 kids who have passed on and I have not made time to post to the website, but EACH of them has a special story. They are why we have given everything we have.

In the meatime, here are a couple of special stories that did get some web time.

DeeDee ~ We would choose not to subject our kids to chemotherapy again. DeeDee was our teacher in so many ways.


Note: I am overwhelmed by the efforts of our friends on our behalf and blown-away by the creativity. We've submitted our outline to Ellen and others are reaching out to those they know. A Chance for Bliss has a life of its own... Woody and I simply work here. Thank you for your support in allowing us to serve these special creatures.

If I am slow in responding, it is due to the tremendous outpouring ~ AND the mess outside that the weather has caused.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Changes ~ by Deanna

Last week was crazy for many reasons, but of note were the passings of the sweet Miss Piggy and our own "Gruru", Grace ("Face like a Teddy" her Poppa would sing to her.) The goodbyes are not easy and we are grateful for the time we got to spend with each of these little ladies.

Ah, Mud in the August Heat

Breakfast on September 6

Grace with Tamara in April

Grace with Vince

On a lighter note, I'll introduce our newest resident, Paige, who arrived last Wednesday and until now has been a "house-pig." Paige is not so sure about the other piggies ("What are THOSE!?), but is a sweetheart with people. Today Paige discovered a drippy faucet and made good use of it.

Thanks for stopping by...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Homer by Ann Ranlett

On September 13, Ann Ranlett surprised us by visiting our booth at Woofstock bearing a remarkable gift ~ the first print of her freshly completed rendition of our one and only Homer.

This beautiful piece can be purchased through Ann's website and you can see the reference photo on Ann's blog.

Ann, we're grateful that you saw Homer's true inner beauty! :o)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A true gift ~ Windsong ~

One recent Friday, I received a call at work from Deanna, “Are you sitting down?” She was excited to tell me about a horse she had heard about that was in need of a new home. Windsong was her name and her owner had recently died of cancer. Well, there was no need for a long discussion, we had to get her! So Dee and Becca went and picked her up and brought her home. When I met her, to say I was in awe is not doing Windsong justice. She is beautiful! A white mare, half quarter horse, half thoroughbred, and stunning mover! And she was going to be my horse. A gift like no other. The generosity of Deanna and Woody humbles me every day.

Windsong appears to have Entropian in her left eye. Entropion is a condition of the eye that causes the eyelids to fold inward and press against their cornea. Entropion may be found in one or both of the horse's eyes, leading to extreme irritation and “runny,” watery eyes, similar to conjunctivitis. Apparently, she had past surgery to correct this before, but it has come back. We will be having an animal eye specialist check Windsong. We expect that she will have to have surgery to correct this or possibly have to remove her eye (we are praying this doesn’t happen). Regardless, we will do what we can to see that Windsong has long and happy life with us.

I have spoken with Domenic, the wonderful brother of Windsong’s previous owner, and we plan to keep in contact and we will keep him up to date on Windsong’s progress. I asked Domenic to give me some history on Windsong and her owner as I believe the back story is important to understand the beauty of this horse. He relayed the following to me:

Windsong was originally rescued by my sister Marie in 1996. She was with a group of neglected horses that someone became aware of, and this person told my sister that there was a unique horse in the group that she might be interested in, and that turned out to be Windsong. She was about 150 pounds under weight, so my sister took care of her, and then sent her for some training by a local man. He liked Windsong so much that he offered Marie any horse that he owned as a trade, but Marie refused. She knew that Windsong was a unique mover.

My sister and I grew up in San Francisco in the 1950s, yet we both always shared a love for horses. We used to rent them at various stables back then. Marie got married in 1974, then two years later she had her first horse. In 1978 Marie and her husband moved to Orangevale, where Marie later had a few other horses, and she got involved in jumping and dressage. In recent years Marie had mainly enjoyed trail riding, and we often when riding together, except for the past couple of years when her health problems started.

In honor of Marie, we have decided not to change Windsong’s name. Typically, when we get new animals we change their name (new life – new name!) but since Windsong did not come from neglect, abuse or abandonment, there is no need.

Windsong has become alpha mare of our younger herd. She has established herself as protector and I find her watching the outskirts of the pasture while the other horses are eating. She has found a steady friend in Doc, and they often share flakes of hay. She is very smart and attentive, I am often amazed how busy she keeps herself keeping watch over her herd. Oh, and she loves apples and carrots! Of course, I spoil her – she deserves it, don’t you think?

Thank you Domenic for your gift to us. I am sure Marie is looking down upon us and we will do right by her.

Look for more updates on Windsong as we hit the trails together.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wisdom from Tom Wilson, PhD

Part 1 of a presentation delivered at the Second International Symposium on Veterinary Hospice Care, University of California, Davis, on September 6, 2009

The title of my presentation today is Dancing to the End of the Song: Reflections on Animal Hospice. We're all here at this most important symposium on animal hospice because we share a common aspiration to bring more dignity, more loving care, and the very best approaches to assisting our animal companions in the final days, weeks, or months of their life's journeys. We're here to reflect on the state of animal hospice today, to explore what works and does not, and to sculpt new ideas, new understandings, and a vision of how to make hospice reflect our highest values of compassionate care for animals. We're here to reflect on how to make animal hospice better.

So this morning I'd like to share with you some of my reflections on animal hospice through the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I've had the honor of working with critically ill, aging, and dying animals for over ten years in my role as student, teacher, and practitioner of TCM and other Asian and Western therapies. The modalities I work with include Acupressure, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Tui Na (Chinese Massage), Thai Belly Massage, Zen Shiatsu, Qigong, Chi Ne Tsang, Polarity, and CranioSacral. With the exception of the Western newcomer, CranioSacral, these ancient healing modalities have been the cornerstones of health and wellness for centuries in many countries around the world.

All of the modalities I work with involve the compassionate touch of the practitioner's hands to help regulate and balance Qi, that invisible life-force energy that flows through every thing in the universe. Working with Qi, TCM allows us to address the all aspects of a whole being-physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual-in gentle, non-invasive ways. With its focus on the whole being, TCM has shown me ways to assist animals and their guardians in all stages of critical illness, aging, and hospice care. Thus, the intent of the first part of my presentation title, "Dancing to the End of the Song": I'm saying that when done well, animal hospice can be, in the midst of inevitable grief, a celebration of life and the passage of death. When there is no hope of a physical recovery, our animals still have a journey to make. They still have mental, emotional, and spiritual journeys to make as conscious beings moving toward physical death. There needs to be more awareness in hospice care of the conscious lives of animals. Accordingly, my reflections on animal hospice today center on ways in which we can enrich the last stages of a life's journey for the animals and their guardians.

It has been my experience that when fear and powerlessness are replaced by a compassionate continuity of care that involves the animal, its guardian and family members, there is a strength that emerges. When death is accepted as an inevitable and meaningful part of a life and a soul's journey, coupled with a courageous and loving commitment to dance to the end of the song with our animals, there may be sorrow but there will not be regret for how we walked every step of the way together with them.

If I have a thesis to put forward on animal hospice that encompasses all of the individual reflections contained in this presentation, it is this: Like the journey of a thousand miles that begins with one step, I believe it is time that we retrace all of our steps and reevaluate all of our models of animal health care and wellness from birth to death. There are culturally accepted tenets of our health care models that need radical reevaluation, most notably our beliefs about nutrition, immunizations, and euthanasia. The number of animals entering hospice with a panoply of advanced degenerative diseases as early as four or five years should set off alarms and a corresponding call to right action.

We need a wellness model that brings the best of Eastern and Western medical approaches together. As the line up of presentations here at this International Symposium clearly reflects, a movement toward that synthesis of East and West has been taking place and is making great strides. The way to get there successfully is to view ourselves and all other creatures as a community of conscious beings, a family that supports each other. If we can unite the caduceus with the taiji (yin-yang) symbol-that is, the synthesis of Eastern and Western healing traditions into an integrated medical model, we will bring the invaluable gifts of both traditions to our animal friends.

A Commitment to Altruism

For the good of the animal community, we will need a new commitment to altruism. We need to work together for the good of animals and not let animal health care go the way of the current debate (or is it debacle?) over health care reform in this country, which is shamefully entrenched in politics, money, power, and turf. In a recent article, Deepak Chopra urges us to shift our focus from the trappings of our health care systems to the healing system inside our own bodies.[1] Accordingly, we need to defend, strengthen, and preserve the healing systems inside our animals' bodies. Our health care systems need to align themselves with the natural healing processes of the body itself. The key is to remove the toxins and to strengthen natural immunity. We need to drop old paradigms such as the war on cancer, which has led to a lesser of two evils approach that ultimately weakens the immune system.

Animal hospice care needs to embrace a wellness model, not just a pathology model and end of life strategy. Just as with our American health care system that is breaking under the weight of diseases engendered by poor lifestyle choices, our animal hospice work is witnessing a staggering number of our animal friends leaving us at four and five years old with cancers and other debilitating diseases that began escalating in the middle of the 20th Century. If we don't address wellness strategies from the cradle forward, we are going to watch the bodies piling up in hospice at an ever alarming rate.

Healing Arts Institute & A Chance for Bliss Animal Sanctuary

To set the stage for my reflections on integrating the best of allopathic and natural modalities of animal hospice, I want to share with you how the evolution of my animal hospice work has expanded and deepened in ways I previously only imagined. This deepening is the result of my affiliation with the Healing Arts Institute in Citrus Heights, California, and A Chance for Bliss Animal Sanctuary in Penryn, California, where we now teach our 100 Hour Animal Acupressure Certification Program. It started simply when I met Tamara Samsa, Associate Director of the Healing Arts Institute, in a Thai Belly Massage class in Berkeley in 2008. Tamara asked me if I would stop in Sacramento on my way back to Nevada City and work with her two rescued dogs with critical illnesses, Teddy and Andrew. Tamara's remarkable and tireless devotion to finding and coordinating resources for critically ill and hospice animals (I call her "The Rainmaker") led us naturally to launching the Animal Acupressure Certification Program in January of 2009.

I have taught in other animal acupressure schools, including my own, but the nature and scope of the Healing Arts Institute's animal acupressure program expanded exponentially when Tamara, Lydia Patubo, and I met Deanna and David Woody Bartley, the founders of A Chance for Bliss Animal Sanctuary. Dee and Woody invited us to teach our classes at their sanctuary. Think of it: our classroom blossomed from a single classroom into a six-acre animal sanctuary with 85 animals, including, but not limited to, dogs, cats, horses, steers, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, geese, ducks, and, yes, even chickens. (One of our students, Tana, told me firmly that chickens respond amazingly to energy work.)

A Chance for Bliss has anchored our scholastic work in the real world, in real time, with the critically ill, aging, and hospice needs of so many of the residents of the sanctuary. A Chance for Bliss has become our classroom and hands-on animal clinic. Our affiliation with A Chance for Bliss gives our students a place to learn and practice their craft with animals with myriad health and hospice needs. In return, the 20+ students enrolled in our program assist with the health and hospice needs of all of the sanctuary animals.

This synergistic relationship of an animal sanctuary and animal acupressure program has created a very real sense of community for all involved, humans and animals. A Chance for Bliss Animal Sanctuary has become a second home for many of us in the program. That is because Dee and Woody have generously invited us into their family, and the family keeps expanding. The nature and scope of our work keeps revealing ways in which TCM can effectively address aspects of animal care that include but go beyond the physical.

Our animals are on courageous life journeys in which their original natures and ways of being in the world have been radically and often tragically altered to human purposes. Just like us, animals have mental confusion; they get lost. Just like us, they have emotional and spiritual needs. Our work attends to all aspects of their lives, not only the physical. In ancient healing traditions, the totality of a being was recognized by what is now referred to as the Mind-Body. Modern allopathic medicine is making strides in understanding the role the Mind-Body plays in health.

A Kinship With All Life

Perhaps most important, what continues to evolve from this sense of community at A Chance for Bliss is, to use John Allen Boone’s words, “a kinship with all life.” In essence, A Chance for Bliss has subtly enfolded or transported us into the force field of a community of animals, into a sense of oneness and kinship where words like “them” and “us” are meaningless. The animals have invited us in, and we are changed forever. That sense of kinship cannot be underestimated in its contribution to the healing effects of our acupressure work, and to raising the spirits of the animals in hospice situations. Listen to these words from Boone’s Kinship With All Life: “[P]eople of certain ancient times appear to have been great virtuosos in the art of living, particularly skilled in the delicate science of being in right relations with everything, including animals.…Life to these ancients was an all-inclusive kinship in which nothing was meaningless, nothing unimportant, and from which nothing could be excluded….Every living thing was seen as a partner in a universal enterprise….Everything lived for everything else, at all times and under all circumstances.”

When you work closely and regularly with animals at the sanctuary, you realize the truth of Boone’s words because the animals invite you into that kinship. The animals have known this kinship all along. It’s there always. They know why we are at the sanctuary, what we are doing, and they let us know with no uncertainty that they appreciate that we are there for them. What you learn is that healing is inseparable from and enhanced by your kinship with them.

Animals that might have died alone or been euthanized before their time come to A Chance for Bliss and enter a community of animals that invariably raises their spirits and their wills to live. An ancient Nigerian proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It might also be said that the village and its kinship with all life remains invaluable in the time of dying. The average tenure of the animals at A Chance for Bliss is 15 to 18 months. While that may seem either a short or long time for hospice care, depending on your experience, the heart of the matter is that our concern is with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the animals in the present moment. We do not worry about or try to predict how much time one of our animals might have left. Our touchstone resides in the ancient Taoist concept of Shen, or spirit. We look for that luminous radiance of spirit that can shine brightly through the eyes of a failing body. As Bernie Segal, the eminent cancer physician from Connecticut, has said—and I’m roughly paraphrasing here—that when dealing with the spirit, all bets are off on how long one with a terminal illness will stay with us.

In this spirit of kinship with all life, from this place of a deepened sense of animals as conscious beings, my central reflection on improving animal hospice is that we retrace all of our steps and reevaluate our models for delivering animal health and wellness from birth to death. We need a fresh perspective in which hospice is not simply an end of life form of triage, but part of a holistic system of wellness from cradle to grave that includes the vital component of spirits in transition. In the process of reevaluation, I believe that we must reawaken within ourselves our kinship will all life and see our animal brothers and sisters as conscious beings that need us to remain cognizant of our kinship with them in the death and dying process. They have been our loyal companions throughout their lives, and in hospice they need to know that we will dance to the end of the song with them. We want them to experience the highest quality of love, care, and quality of life on their journeys, including a dignified and gentle passage from this world.

[1] Deepak Chopra. "Do You Want a Health Care System or a Healing System?" SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle), Monday, August 31, 2009.

* * * * * * *

Part 2 of this presentation will focus on animal food & nutrition, vaccinations, euthanasia & natural death, integrative medicine, and a TCM approach to animal hospice