When I grow up, I hope I’m as mature as my dog, Phineas. His resilience never fails to amaze me. As a dog who was mistreated and abandoned as a puppy, he still found a way to love and trust people without hesitation. Two weeks ago, he was bit on the ear by another dog in the park. After some veterinary TLC, he marched outside for his walk the next morning with gusto to greet his neighbors, human and canine alike, in that same park without a trace of fear nor anxiety. Yesterday, we saw the dog who bit him and though he didn’t go bounding over to say hello, he also didn’t let that dog phase him one bit.
I think of all the times I stopped trusting people and held onto fear because of past hurt and betrayal. Despite the size and complexity of the human brain, dogs have us beat in matters of the heart. They figure out, in very short order, how to heal, forgive, and love again. They don’t admonish others nor themselves for mistakes and injustices. They recognize that something happened, they learn, and then they move on without the malice, anger, and disappointment that often emotionally cripples people for years. If we could follow their lead, this world would be a happier, healthier place.
Yesterday, CNN reported that Russian authorities are poisoning stray dogs in Sochi, Russia leading up to the Olympics. My friend, Amanda Hirsch, sent me the link asking me to speak out about it and of course I did. As an animal lover and proud pet parent to Phin, I couldn’t let that story pass without saying something. There’s been a lot of coverage on the horrific human rights violations in Russia and now we know that same violence and injustice extends to innocent animals, too.
Phin and I decided to record an open letter to Mr. Putin asking him to help, not hurt, the stray dogs of Sochi and uploaded it to YouTube. Phin sat on my lap and is the narrator of the letter. He shares some of his personal background as a former stray dog and directly asks Mr. Putin to put an end to this heinous behavior. Here is the text of the letter and the video is below:
Dear Mr. Putin,
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If that’s true Mr. Putin, you and your nation are stuck in the moral dark ages and I want to help you evolve.
I love everyone. People, canines, felines, and just about every animal there is. But you’re making it really hard for me to love you. I heard about what you’re doing to stray dogs in Sochi. I was reading CNN.com and I saw that you’re rounding them up and poisoning them before the Olympics begin. This issue is personal for me because I used to be a stray dog. A policeman found me alone, scared, and starving in the woods. He rescued me, brought me to the local animal shelter, and that’s where my mom adopted me. We’ve been together for 3 and a half years. She rescued me, and I rescued her right back.
The Olympics is a sacred event, one you should be honored and humbled to host. It’s an event where the very best athletes driven only by talent, passion, and raw determination come together to compete and celebrate. This is a time to rally your people, to rally people all over the world in support of Russia, as a spotlight shines on your nation and its rich heritage.
It’s no secret that the Olympic games bring a wealth of funds to the host nation, especially to the host city. You’ve built beautiful new resorts. You’ve constructed incredible venues to host these games. This is a time to use that money and attention to fix things in the community that need fixing. You’re wasting it by putting a veneer on the stray dog issue in Sochi rather than using it to actually fix the problem.
You can do better than this. You have to do better than this. Establish shelters, educate people on how to treat and care for their animals, and create spay / neuter programs as well as affordable veterinary care. Pass laws that make animal abuse a crime.
We can’t speak up for ourselves. We need people, people like you, to stand up for us, to protect us, and to take care for us. Please, Mr. Putin. Poison’s not the answer. Love and compassion and concern. Those are the answers. Those are always the answers. We’re remarkably forgiving, grateful, and loyal creatures. I promise you, once you show a dog love, compassion, and care, he or she will give it all back to you, and then some. I know you’ll do the right thing and help all the dogs of Sochi so thanks in advance for your cooperation and your future efforts to give all of them a chance at a long, happy, and healthy life. This issue is worth your time and attention, and so are we. You’ll see. Just give us a chance. We won’t let you down.
My pup, Phineas, has a Twitter account. You can check him out @PhineasNYC. Why is Phin on Twitter? Because he’s got a lot to say and a lot to teach others. He teaches me every day and quite frankly I feel selfish keeping all of that knowledge to myself. Phin deserves to have a platform to spread himself around to as many people as possible. The little guy needs a megaphone to be a broadcaster of goodness for animals everywhere and the people who love them. After much deliberation about which platform to use, we decided to start with Twitter. Messages are short and mighty, just like him.
Here’s what he plans to do with his Twitter account:
1.) Daily observations on a dog’s life in the big city with pictures and videos
2.) Spreading the word about good causes related to helping animals, especially, though not exclusively, dogs
3.) Promoting products he loves – from treats to squeaky toys and everything in-between
4.) Tips for pet parents on topics like pet health, separation anxiety, adopting a pet, and special deals on pet products and services
5.) Indulge his many funny bones
Phin and I are excited for his new online adventure. The world needs more goodness, more levity, and more dachshunds.
A couple of days ago, it was 60 degrees in New York. Phineas didn’t even need a sweater on his walks. All of the businesses and apartment buildings flung open their doors to let in the warm sunshine. Phin didn’t hesitate; he wanted to take advantage of the situation and check out every single one, mostly because a lot of them have treats for the local dogs. As the saying goes, “His mama didn’t raise no fools.” Here’s what little Phin taught me by his actions:
1.) Don’t count yourself out of the running.
Too often we talk ourselves out of opportunities that are right in front of us. Thoughts like “Why me? I bet there’s a lot of competition. I shouldn’t even bother trying. I’ll just be disappointed when it doesn’t work out.” We self-sabotage before we even give ourselves a chance. Not Phineas. If that door is open, he’s going through it. Others may try to stop him (me included!), but he’s not discounting his own actions. He leaves that to someone else.
2.) Be bold.
Hold your head up high and never underestimate your own capabilities. Phin is a whopping 16 pounds and 6 inches at the shoulder. He’s a little dude but you’ve never know it from his attitude. I wonder where he learned that from…
3.) Have a mission and stay focused.
Phin’s looking for two things when he walks through open doors – treats and attention. He also has a an insatiable sense of curiosity, often to my dismay because he checks out every square inch of the ground he traverses. We need to do the same: Know why we’re doing what we’re doing and why we’re going where we’re going. And always learn. Every circumstance has something to teach us.
These lessons are a reminder that Phineas is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I continue to be amazed by everything he shows me just by being who he is in every moment. That level of integrity, strength of character, and unwavering commitment to authenticity inspires me.
What lessons has your pup taught you?
I know we can’t hang onto time though that doesn’t stop me from wishing it were possible. As I was admiring the stunning Fall foliage in Central Park, Phineas was rooting around in the leaves looking for a tasty morsel of something. My pup has a penchant for trash. I was explaining the dangers of eating things off the ground to him when we met one of our neighbors with her flat-coat retriever. This sweet dog was diagnosed with cancer during the summer, started chemotherapy, and then had to terminate treatment because of internal bleeding. ”I’m not sure how she’s still alive,” said our neighbor through a lump in her throat.
My eyes started to well up with tears. Losing a dog is one of the worst kind of hurts I’ve ever known. I wanted to let my neighbor have her space and time with her dog so I told her how sorry I was and wished her well. I turned to leave to let my neighbor have her peace and so she didn’t see me cry. Phineas did something else, something I thought was quite extraordinary. He walked right up to his dear canine friend and gently bumped her chin with the top of his nose. Then he gave her a smooch. He knew what was happening. He was saying goodbye since we’ll probably never see this sweet pup again.
When we got a few blocks away and I finally got ahold of my tears, I knelt down on the ground and looked right into Phineas’s eyes. “Look Phineas,” I said, “I know you’ve got a lot on your plate but you’re going to have to find a way to live forever. Okay, buddy?” He gave me a smooch right on the nose, and I think that means he’s accepted the challenge. I can’t hang onto time; I’m hoping Phin can find a way.
Happy 4th birthday to the best fuzzy friend a girl could ask for. Love you, buddy!
A few weeks ago I went looking for a new place to board my sweet dog, Phineas. I’ve been boarding him at a place in New York City that is expensive and mediocre when I have to go out-of-town and can’t take him with me. I don’t mind the expense, but for what I pay I want stellar service for both of us.
Enter the advice of Abigail Michaels (an apartment concierge service retained by my apartment building management company at no cost to tenants) and several of my friends who are also dog parents. They all told me to check out The Spot Experience. I called the location on the Upper West Side at 72nd Street, spoke with the incredibly friendly staff, and made an appointment for Phineas to take his temperament test the next day.
From the moment we entered The Spot Experience, I knew we found the right place. It was serene, incredibly clean and tidy, and the staff was expecting us. Lucas, the manager on duty, took us back to explore the backyard, complete with plenty of grass and a pool. I was amazed at the space that they have. It was empty as the dogs were inside resting after their afternoon of play.
“Where are they?” I asked.
“You can see them through that window right in front of you. There are about 50 dogs back there right now,” he said.
“How come I can’t hear them?” I asked.
“Because we have a ‘no bark’ philosophy.”
I looked at Lucas, completely confused.
“We believe that while your dogs are with us, we should create a calm and inviting environment for all of them,” he said.
Sure enough I took a look through the window and all of the dogs were relaxed, lounging around on cots, and enjoying their downtime. The Spot Experience has a strict cage-free policy, 24-hour professional care, a complete set of grooming, daycare, and boarding services, and a webcam so pet parents can log in from anywhere in the world and see how their dogs are doing.
Being a true dog’s dog, Phineas passed his temperament test with flying colors and began his plot to figure out how to move into The Spot Experience for good. (I must admit that I was trying to figure out how I could move in, too!) The next day, I had Phineas stay over night at Spot while I went to DC to visit friends. He waltzed in (the staff immediately greeted him by name), got his treat, and never looked back. I had a wonderful weekend with my friends and knew that Phineas was in the hands of expert caregivers. All for the same price that I paid for mediocre service at the other pet services company.
If you’re looking for a place to keep your best furry friend safe and cared for while you’re away, I encourage you to run to The Spot Experience. Phineas and I are glad we did.
I received the link to this YouTube video from the first trainer Phin and I had when I first adopted him. It’s a short clip about the incredible aspects of dogs that make them amazing teachers and companions for all of us.
When I get out Phineas’s travel carrier, he never knows where we’re going. Sometimes, we get on a plane. Sometimes, we head for a car or the subway. We’ll go over to Brooklyn and visit two of our favorite friends, Amanda and Jordan. Sometimes, we’re going to the vet.
No matter. Without fail, Phin enthusiastically jumps around at the site of his carrier because he knows we’re going somewhere to do something out of the ordinary. He doesn’t need to know where he’s going; he’s just prepared to enjoy the ride. We, and by we I mean me, should live more like Phin.
Thanks to my friend, Alex, for this beautiful photo – and the reminder to enjoy every adventure.
On Monday night my dog, Phineas, started showing signs of sickness. Just after midnight on Tuesday, he started getting sick to his stomach at least once per hour. Though his energy was still good in the morning for his walk, he wasn’t able to keep down food nor water. And he was getting sick even more regularly. Something was terribly wrong.
I rushed him down to the veterinary hospital and his x-rays showed extreme inflammation in his digestive track. Our doctor explained that it could be anything from an infection to a blockage of some kind. Rather than diving right into surgery, she wanted to try to treat him with constant fluids and meds for 24 hours. Young, strong, healthy dogs are often able to pass blockages on their own and bounce back from infections quickly. Phin falls into that category. I left him at the hospital overnight and the doctor will call me in the morning after they run another set of x-rays.
I came home to my empty apartment and tried to stay busy. I cleaned my entire home from top to bottom and attempted to get some work done. It worked moderately well as long as I didn’t look at Phin’s dog bed, his blanket still curled up the way he likes it when he makes a little sleeping nest for himself. One look at that blanket and I would fall apart.
Finally, I put my work aside, closed my eyes, and meditated. I said a lot of prayers. I summoned up as many healing vibes as I ever have and I sent them all over to Phin. I asked my friends to do the same and I know many of them did. I kept reminding myself that my meditation and yoga practice saves and serves. Right now, I really need it to do both.