The Horror of a Sick Puppy

At the veterinary practice I work for, I often hear things like: “I don’t know how you do it working with all of these cute pets all day! I could never do it when they pass away!”

My response is always about the kindness and compassion I feel working among the people who I work with; death is always difficult, but feeling surrounded with love is a great combatant to that grief.

This morning I received a call from a family with a 6-week old puppy who they were worried was dying. When the puppy arrived at our practice he was still and not breathing well. We rushed him into the treatment room and doctors immediately took action.

Tragically, he did not survive.

His fate was not in anyway whatsoever due to the team not doing everything in their power to save him. Every action that could be taken was, but this tiny baby was taken from his mama-pup too soon and his tiny body wasn’t strong enough yet to handle it.

This tragedy was not the family’s fault: This sweet family wasn’t experienced with pets. They didn’t know he was too small. They didn’t know what nutrients he needed. They fell in love with the sweet little boy and hoped to give him a long, loved life.

I’m devastated for this family. They had to tell their children their beloved puppy wouldn’t be at home when they returned after school. I am sad about the guilt the family is feeling because they didn’t know what a puppy this age needed to eat to survive because the person who sold them the puppy didn’t make sure they knew. My heart is broken for my co-workers who dropped everything to do all they could to save this baby’s life. And I’m sad for me: I can’t stop feeling for everyone involved.

A dear friend once told me to try to remember every day why I am alive; each of us is here for a reason.

In the moments I was speaking to this family, I thought of this friend and her advice. I thought of the fact that my empathetic soul is giving and welcoming. In a way that only someone with such a soul can, I was able to welcome this family to our practice and hopefully relieve some of the pain they experienced. I pray that the family – though they must feel so much guilt – can remember the words I told them about not focusing on the “should haves”. I hope they remember that a hug in just the right moment can help one share the pain of grief. I hope that they felt warmth and compassion from our practice and that when they are ready, they will welcome a new furry friend into their family.

I feel angry. I have studied animal welfare practically my whole life. In graduate school I worked on a project to prevent puppies being purchased online (which I’m fairly certain is still legal…). As part of this project I researched puppy mills and my heart broke. It wasn’t until today that I have had a first hand experience with what a puppy mill can do to a community.

All the hurt, the pain, the grief felt by this family, my co-workers, me… This was caused because someone out there wanted to increase their income by sending a puppy to an inexperienced person before the puppy was ready to be parted from his mother.

I keep imagining this person. I imagine their “kennel” as a series of cages, too small for the mama dogs, crowded together. Mama dogs artificially inseminated or forced to mate again and again. Mama dogs whose bodies ache from giving birth over and over; their bodies sore from nursing puppies, but not for long enough. Puppies torn from mama dogs before they are done drinking mama’s milk, rooting and seeking for mama. Puppies put in a truck or in the mail to arrive at a loving home with someone who may never have had a dog and maybe doesn’t understand what a puppy needs to survive – a family who has never heard of a puppy mill and the devastation a puppy mill can cause.

How many of these puppies survive their births? How many of these mama dogs long for a friendly pet, or a game of fetch, or snuggles from their puppies? How many families have the happiness of welcoming a fur-baby into their home only to have it torn away from them when the puppy doesn’t thrive? How many of these puppy mills mail another puppy to the family when this happens? Does that puppy make it? Does the family give up on having pets thinking they aren’t a fit home for a furry friend? Do the children in these families begin to believe they don’t have a safe home for a puppy?

I keep thinking about Capitalism. Capitalism and the need to buy, the need to have more, to spend more… I’m thinking about how the need to make/buy/spend causes people to do such horrendous things. This person found a way to bring in continuous income without regard for who is hurt in the process. They’ve found a way to force another living creature to create more and more babies; so many babies that if a few die here and there it doesn’t matter because there are always more on the way. All in the name of another dollar gained.

But at what expense?


Witches – Set an intention to make this a less often experienced circumstance. Adopt, don’t shop. Educate your friends and neighbors. The MSPCA offers suggestions on how to prevent puppies from being exploited for profit (edited for brevity).

#1: Do not buy pet supplies from a store that sells dogs, cats, or other animals from intensive breeding facilities or other unethical suppliers.

The key to ending dogs being bred in these conditions is to decrease consumer demand. Animals in pet shops or available over the internet often come from “puppy mills.” Animals in newspaper classified ads and sold through brokers can also come from “puppy mills”. By buying an animal from one of these venues, you support the conditions at large scale breeding facilities.

#2: Spread the word.

Educate your friends, family, and co-workers about large scale breeders and how the decision to buy an animal from a pet store supports these operations. Ask your friends to take the pledge not to support puppy mills.

#3: Write a Letter to the Editor.

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper(s) to educate your entire community, and your elected officials, about the issue.

#4: Encourage legislative protections on the federal level.

Contact the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that is charged with inspecting commercial breeding facilities, to encourage stricter enforcement and stronger laws. You may also wish to contact your U.S. Senators and Congressperson about your concerns. In Massachusetts, if you do not know who represents you, visit www.wheredoivotema.com and look for two U.S. Senators (under Statewide Office Holders) and Congressional (under District Representatives).

#5: Encourage legislative protections on the state level.

…Contact your state legislators and express your opinion and concerns regarding puppy mills and pet shops…

#6: Encourage legislative protections on the local level.

Boston, Cambridge, Stoneham, and over 320 other municipalities across the country have banned retail pet store puppy sales. Passing a local ordinance or bylaw may be less complicated and timely than trying to pass a state-wide law. While local ordinances or bylaws would only impact animals in a city or town, their reach is often far greater.

Friday Reads: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Sticks and stones may break my bones…

Do you remember reading The Lottery by Shirley Jackson in English classes in school? It’s the story of a town who comes together to throw rocks at randomly selected individual until they die in order sustain the well-being of their community. It is one of the “most famous short stories in American literature”. When it was written (and published in the New Yorker) a backlash ensued causing Jackson to respond:

“I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to show the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in the life lives.”

When I sat down to write today’s Friday Reads, I’d originally planned on telling you about another of Jackson’s works – We Have Always Lived in a Castle – but as I was preparing I listened to an old episode of my latest podcast obsession, This Podcast is Haunted, and decided to take this in a different direction.

Episode 18: Boy We Did Nazi That Coming (2017) was one I didn’t listen to as I originally binged the series. As a little girl I studied the life of Anne Frank – a little girl stuck in a horrific circumstance but still surrounded by those who loved her and always hopeful – and loved her. Because of this, sometimes hearing about World War II is too much for my gentle heart because it feels too close. I finally was ready today.

For those who aren’t familiar, TPIH is a podcast hosted by two women from Michigan. Cait & Jenn are bffs and you feel like you’re sitting in Cait’s barn with them as they banter about ghosts, their own lives, and the general mess America is in today. Episode 18 is about Nazi Germany in World War 2. A repeating theme of the episode was how MOST PEOPLE (except people like the Hyena of Auswitch, Irma Grese – shiver) aren’t naturally evil. It takes timing and circumstance to be manipulated so greatly that you are willing to do harm those around you. It is not in any way whatsoever ever a natural, human trait to want to put people into gas chambers and kill them.

It’s not easy to determine where Nazism began. We hear about the horrific things that happened and we say we would be on the side of the liberation. We would defend our neighbors. We would save lives.

“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.”

It’s happening again. Groups of people are being separated from their families as they try to seek asylum in the land of the free. Children are held in cages, not given food or medication. Our government is planning to ban most asylum seekers at the southern border.

“Well, now.” Mr. Summer said soberly. “Guess we better get started, get this over with, so’s we can get back to work.”

Who is standing up for these families? Who is defending liberty? Who is saving lives? Are we truly so busy with our daily lives that we can’t stop to defend those who need defending? We know this isn’t right?

Right?

Have we become so immune to racism, sexism, and classism that we are going to sit on the sidelines and allow this to continue happening?

“Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. ‘It isn’t fair,’ she said as a stone hit her on the side of the head. ”

I hope not.

Goodbye, Poe.

My dear friend, Poe, died today.

Poe has lived with me for eight years. Today we found out – through pure accident – that her bones were full of cancer. Bone cancer in pets is a horrifically painful, aggressive type of cancer.

When I was in sixth grade I had a really grouchy English Literature teacher. For whatever reason she seemed to like me. While we studied Edgar Allan Poe she noticed I seemed really interested in his short stories. One day she handed me one of her personal copies of his most famous short stories and told me to keep it. I still have this book on my bookshelf today.

Poe’s short stories were my first experience with literature; they immensely changed my life. I began reading everything I could get my hands on. I was the kid in science class who was reprimanded for reading a novel instead of listening to the teacher go on and on about the fragility of flint. Becoming a book nerd helped me find myself. It helped me escape scary and awful days; it gave me an identity in which I could feel true pride.

The next year – in seventh grade – my family brought home a puppy. When I was in college this puppy (now no longer a puppy!) came to live with me. In 2011 she passed away. Her name was Angel and she was a sassy fluff ball unlike any other. We still had Ripley, a Greyhound my husband had adopted before we moved in together, but I still felt like I was missing a limb. I’ve always had pets for as long as I can remember and I needed to bring another fur-baby into my home.

I decided right away that I wanted to adopt a black dog. Black dogs are often difficult to find homes for – due to stigma saying they are aggressive (not true) and because they are less photogenic than say a smiling yellow lab. I also knew that the first dog I was ever able to name myself would be named Poe in honor of my favorite author whose works made me feel less like a weirdo during my awkward middle school years when our puppy came to live with us.

We contacted a Greyhound Rescue about a girl named Katie. Katie wasn’t socialized yet and was too nervous to meet us. The shelter person told me they had another black Greyhound named the Connie (racing name: The Irish Con) who she just knew we would fall in love with. She was right.

Ms Poe walked right up to me, one ear upright, the other floppy. She let us take her for a stroll around the rescue’s lawn and was very interested in the goats in the yard next door. We immediately completed an application and she came to live with us the following Saturday.

Throughout these eight years, Poe helped me remember who I am during some of my most difficult days. Always ready to lean in for a Greyhound hug, Poe’s kind soul was always there. (If you aren’t familiar with a Greyhound hug, you need to stop whatever you are doing right now and find a Greyhound and hug them.)

We didn’t know Poe had cancer. Yesterday she came to work with me for a teeth cleaning. She acted strange when we came home, hyper and distraught. Her legs kept giving out underneath her. At one point she screamed in pain and all four legs were splayed out beneath her. We thought she’d broken her leg in her anesthesia fog. I brought her back to work today and x-rays revealed she did in fact break her shoulder.

The x-rays also also showed a tumor. A bone tumor.

This girl, the most wonderful dog I ever have known, has been in pain for heaven only knows how long. She didn’t complain. She still hopped up into the car when asked to. She didn’t limp. She didn’t whimper. I know in my heart that she didn’t want us to worry about her. She dealt with her pain until she couldn’t anymore because she wanted nothing more than to give us all the love her giant heart could give.

Poe and my little girl were BFFs. Baby Girl is so sad her BFF won’t see her turn six, but she’s grateful to have had such a special girl welcome her home from the hospital when she was born. (And, of course, to have accidentally shared so many breakfasts with Poe who “sneakily” snagged uneaten toast from Baby Girl’s plates.)

Poe’s favorite thing to do was to dig a hole in the backyard and lay in it in the shade on extremely hot days. Today while we said goodbye to her we found a dusty spot in the shade on grassy yard of the animal hospital. We hugged her and kissed her, and helped her soul leave her painful body to find peace.

As her heart slowed down and stoped beating, a bird suddenly chirped a happy bird call. We all agreed that the bird was there showing Poe’s soul to the rainbow bridge or heaven or wherever it is souls go when they leave a body.

I’ve been home an hour or so since we said goodbye to my beloved friend. I’ve already heard her sighing her big relaxed Greyhound sigh. I also heard her nails clicking outside the door asking to be let in to snuggle with me while I write.

Who even knows what’s happen when we die? No one. I do know my best friend, dear Poe, will always be nearby. She’s hoping for some steak fat when Mike grills and giving me her adorable one ear up, one ear down face when she sees a squirrel running by outside. She’ll be snuggling up on the couch with Baby Girl when Baby Girl needs the kind of snuggle only a Greyhound can give.

******

I don’t know how many of my colleagues follow me on this weird book blog or my tarot heavy instagram, but I want to be sure to say THANK YOU to everyone who was there today.

From opening doors while I carried Sweet Poe inside the hospital, to closing my car’s hatchback while I carried her inside when I still thought she’d broken her leg, to making sure Poe’s eyes were hydrated since she was in so much pain that she wasn’t blinking, to giving Poe a pillow so her tiny head and giant nose were comfortable while we waited for the radiology report, to expediting the radiology report, to bringing me sparkling water, to stopping whatever else you were working on to give my dear friend xrays and pain meds, to coming in on your day off when you learned of the horror that existed in my dear girl’s bones.

I’m not very good at being vulnerable. But today I knew that my pain was shared. I was surrounded by people who care about me and my family, and especially my most amazing friend Poe the Greyhound.

Thank you.

Real Magic: Family & Friends

My beloved recently celebrated a special birthday. To celebrate, we had a tiny party at home with baby girl last week, and a fancier celebration with family and friends today.

Guests traveled from all over Massachusetts (and Maine!) to join us, and we enjoyed delicious food and wonderful company.

Whenever I’m surrounded by so much love and kindness, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude. There are so many amazing people in our life, and we are so thankful.

As we departed today’s celebration, we stopped in at a local wand shop (Yes, of course we have a wand shop here in Salem!). Baby Girl got her first wand – one handcrafted from unicorn hair and maple. All afternoon she used her wand to make magic and @mikegiannopolo and I spent a lot of time dropping things as she Expeliarmoused us.

I’ll never tell her magic isn’t real. Of course she can’t really force people to drop things. But the love we feel in life when surrounded by family and friends is magic in its own rite – and I hope she’ll grow to love and appreciate that feeling.

I hope she will always know that our actions – big and small – can have an incredible impact on those around us. I hope she’ll always want to use her charms to celebrate those around her… and that she’ll learn more spells than Expelliarmous because dropping something you’re holding over and over again can become rather monotonous.

Happy New Moon in Taurus, Witches. Enjoy your earthly pleasures, like family and friends. 🖤

Five Witchy Ways to Give Thanks

November is my favorite month. I love the fall rains. The chill in the air that means it’s hoodie & scarf season. Wearing my doc martins and making sure everyone knows they’re vegan because that is the kind of person I am. The chaos of Halloween in Salem has come to an end, we’re getting closer to longer days with more sunshine. And – of course – Thanksgiving.

Many modern pagan witches celebrate a day of thanks around the autumnal equinox – thanking the gods and goddesses for the harvest during Mabon. I happen to celebrate both Mabon & Secular Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving in 1637 was started right here in Massachusetts to celebrate the return of colonial hunters, but what we don’t often talk about is the fact that during that hunting trip, the colonists murdered 700 Pequot people.  It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that the Pilgrims and the Thanksgiving holiday were used to teach children about “American freedom and how to be good citizens”.

Personally, I want to reclaim the day: I want to celebrate what we have in this moment (a safe, warm home, a wonderful family, food that is safe to eat) but at the same time right our ancestors wrongs by recognizing our American history for what it was (colonizers stealing the homes of and murdering the people living on this land). It may seem impossible to have these two thoughts at the same time, but this Pisces fish can assure you the duality is possible.

Here are five witchy ways to celebrate Thanksgiving in a modern way that helps us celebrate the love and warmth of the day while also calling attention to our colonial history:

5. Step Outside Your Coven

It’s not always easy, but listening is an essential part of any conversation. Family gatherings can sometimes lead to tricky conversations. Politics, family drama, annoying relatives – I’ve heard so many horror stories. Make time to listen. Don’t sit there thinking about your retort about why they are wrong… Welcome the conversation. Grow your understanding. Learn.

4. Make Like a Hedge Witch & Leave 

My favorite part of my witchy life is honoring nature. From tending to my rose bush and lavender plants to getting lost in the woods –  I love getting my hands dirty and letting my mind go while I’m surrounded by trees, flowers, and plants. Get outside and notice nature around you. Do you live in New England? Look for the handful of leaves that are holding on to their trees. Notice what is still green. Is it raining? Thank the universe for blessing the earth with rain to grow future harvests. Be grateful.

3. Adopt (David) Bowie the Turkey

I’ve been (mostly) vegetarian since I was 12. Consuming a mostly plant based diet is a magical way for me to honor nature and our planet. Food should be a passion. You should love what you eat and it should make your body feel positive and happy.

Whether or not a vegetarian diet is for you, one way you can create more balance in the universe is by shopping locally. Is there a farm close to home where you can purchase your green beans for casserole? Can you meet the cows whose milk created the cheese for your scalloped potatoes?

Don’t live near a farm? Combat the abuses of factor farming by adopting a turkey from Farm Sanctuary. They even have a little guy named Bowie and I want him to come live with me. Think Poe’d like a feathered brother?

2. Channel your Inner Kitchen Witch

Whether your Thanksgiving is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, turkeyified, or whatever else you decide, common spices can add magic to any meal. By using spell magic (setting intentions) while you cook, you can bring magic into your table setting and abundance for your loved ones. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Basil: prosperity, peace, protection
  • Bay: wisdom, divination
  • Cinnamon: healing, protection, energy
  • Clove: protection, purification, healing
  • Marjoram: protection, happiness, love, and joy, particularly in family environments

1. Honor America’s History: Support Native People

Much of the history of the First People is seen through a white lens. Fight this:

  • find ways seek out Native authors, artists, and businesses.
  • avoid cultural appropriation.
  • teach the true history of the day to students in your life.
  • LISTEN to those around you; respect their stories, their understandings even if it is uncomfortable – encouraging an environment of the “other” only leads to more hatred and misunderstandings.
  • The International Indian Treaty Council is an organization of Indigenous Peoples from North, Central, South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific working for the Sovereignty and Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of Indigenous Rights, Treaties, Traditional Cultures and Sacred Lands. Show them some love.

Trans Rights are Human Rights

American politics are in complete chaos – still. I’ve had to deactivate my facebook. I refuse to listen to the news. My sensitive soul can’t stand the policies being put in place that harm people I love. From the theft our our nation’s public lands by hungry investors, to using military force to block refugees from finding help in the “land of the free”, to women’s rights being put at risk every day, to men saying it’s a scary time to be alive because sexual predators are being named for who they truly are.

It’s a scary time.

A number of years ago a baby was born in our family. I am so grateful to have been among the first people in the world to welcome this baby. I was able to visit at the Birth Center and hold the baby (and proceed to almost drop the baby, which my husband teases me about still to this day.). The day this child was born is a day I will never forget. I remember how I wore my hair, the shirt I wore. I recall the scent of the cozy room. The mama’s tired, but so-full-of-love face. The sweet little baby’s eyes as they sleepily began to take in the world.

A few months ago this baby – now a teenager – shared with us that he is a trans man. We’d called this baby a “she” their whole life, not realizing. When we learned the news, we welcomed this person with warm arms. We hope to be sure to help him know he’s loved. To help him know know that being you is more important than trying to be someone you aren’t to make others comfortable.

Weeks after we learned this news, the current American administration announced it would CHANGE THE DEFINITION of gender.

“The Trump administration is looking into restricting the definition of gender to be based on a person’s genitalia at birth…

“Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” a memo stated. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”

~Peter Wade – Rolling Stone Magazine (

The American government wants to tell my loved one he can’t be who he knows he is. The American government says this child must accept a body that doesn’t feel like his own, must hide his true person from the world because it might make someone uncomfortable.

Screw that.

We can’t just sit back and do nothing, friends. We have to speak up for those we love. I know the government is corrupt. I know politicians can be assholes. I KNOW.

I know this, but we still need to vote. Here in Massachusetts we can vote Yes on 3:

“This law adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement.”

That’s it. The law would make it so that our friends, neighbors, loved ones can’t be discriminated against. If you’re a republican and want the government to get out of your way, you should support this ballot. If you’re a libertarian and believe in free will, you should support this ballot. If you’re a democrat and believe in human rights, you should support this ballot. If you’re an independent/not a party/any other category I’ve missed – you should support this ballot.

So, even if you don’t want to vote for elected persons, go and vote for this ballot measure. Leave the rest blank, no one will know. I don’t care.

I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking you don’t “believe” in trans rights. You don’t think gay people should have rights. So this is for you: You most definitely know someone who is gay. Someone who is bi-sexual. Someone who is trans. They’re probably afraid to tell you because you’ve made your stance know. So, sit down and listen. 

Still think the government is such a mess you can’t support it? Think voting for this ballot isn’t enough?  I have great news for you: You can still help out.

I’ve been in touch with two local organizations supporting trans rights. You can support them financially. No cash to spare? Follow them on social media. Leave kind, loving comments. Spread the word about the incredible work they do to support our trans friends and neighbors.

ProjectOUT: Assistance, education, advocacy, & lifesaving gender-affirming services for the transgender and non-binary community. 

NAGLY: A space in Salem for LGBTQ youth on the North Shore of Massachusetts. 


Tomorrow is election day here in the States. Please vote.

Tag me @bookwitchsalem in your “I voted!” post on instagram, facebook, or twitter and be entered to win one of TWO prizes. You can choose from an animal (or human) Reiki session or a five card tarot reading. Winners randomly picked on Wednesday. #witchthevote #vote #yeson3 #transrightsarehumanrights

 

The Audrey Look

Recently I read my four and a half year old (that half is SO important!) “Just Being Audrey” by Margaret Carrillo and Illustrated by Julia Denos.

We were so late to bedtime because I made time to go to yoga for the first time since October (thank you for the Fleetwood Mac class, Rebel Yell!). L was a bit wacky, but held up pretty well for a four year old who is an hour behind bed time.

My babygirl listening to Matilda while coloring and snuggling with Poe. ❤

Early in the book she noted a house – an illustration of the house Audrey lived in while in hiding in Holland during World War II – and told me it was The Witch House here in Salem. She pondered the page for a bit and decided the illustrator must not have had a black marker, hence making it brown. Later, after much thought, she decided it wasn’t the Witch House at all because it was missing a gable.

Being her mama, I was thrilled my baby recognized an important historic building in our community and using her deductive reasoning to reason out why it wasn’t the same structure.

Aside from this book she’s never heard of World War II or Holland, so her reasoning makes perfect sense.

Later in the book Audrey moves to New York City to continue her acting career. L speaks up saying some day she might also move there, but makes note that she wants to be a veterinarian – not an actress. We talked about how people in NYC have pets and she could be a successful vet there for sure.

The book ends with pages about Audrey’s incredible work with UNICEF – an organization that saved her life during her own difficult childhood. At this point L asked me to stop reading to inquire about other books about Audrey. She wants to know about Audrey’s children and her love of cooking. About her unique style that so many replicate today.

I let her know we can find out more at the library, but was adamant we buy the books so she can have them as her own.

This made me so happy. I’m certainly not someone who feels great about consumerism and it’s impact to our economy and daily lives, but the fact that my baby hears about an incredible woman who travels the world to save the lives of children and wants to know every thing she can about this woman’s life makes me so happy – so proud.