#DogHeroes – The Association for Abandoned Animals, Malta

#DogHeroes is back again, this time focusing on a place much closer to home.

Last weekend was my second visit to the Association for Abandoned Animals in Marsa (otherwise known as the AAA). I went to volunteer, and I was at first struck by the shabbiness of the place. It’s old, tired, and in much need of TLC. Thankfully, a brand new state-of-the-art premises is only one month away.

What appealed to me about this place was the generosity and humility of the staff and other volunteers. There are no airs and graces, but there is politeness and genuine gratitude. Of the 80+ dogs currently in their care, they know them all by name and character.

The facilities may be basic, but the animals seem happy. In fact, a large number of the dogs are free to roam a fairly spacious yard and essentially have the run of the sanctuary, which I think is important for socialisation, as well as exercise. Unfortunately the current location is surrounded by construction, so taking the dogs for regular walks is simply not an option.

From hosing down cages and sifting through dirty bedding and being harassed by very boisterous puppies, I found the whole experience very rewarding, and urge anyone if they can, go and volunteer. Go and give something back.

But there was one moment that truly struck me about this place. It wasn’t the staff’s openness to share their experiences or the hard truths of what they do, it wasn’t even seven beautifully adorable pointer puppies. It was Andrew. The most docile, sweet and good natured dog I’ve ever seen. He’s old, you can tell from his lumbering gate, tired eyes and cracked nose, and in his eyes, there’s a kind of sadness. I don’t know anything of his history, and he knows nothing of me but what his nose tells him. Yet instantly, his tail wagged, his ears went up and he plodded over for all the cuddles he could wish for. If that’s not rewarding, I don’t know what is. He’s a true #DogHero.

Please pop over to their Facebook Page to Like, Share and make a Donation.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments, and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://lovinmalta.com/lifestyle/pets/maltas-adorable-abandoned-animals-have-found-a-new-sanctuary-but-theres-a-heartbreaking-catch

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171221/community/help-gorg-get-better-this-christmas.666192

Advertisements

10 Ways To Connect With Nature

Nature. Whether it’s the flies that slipped in through the open window or the spider that decides corners should be smoother, we often complain about those little bits of nature in our lives.

These days, we’re all so glued to work, to our smartphones, and inevitably, to ourselves. So much so that I think we’ve lost a big part of our connection to the natural world. You probably remember when you were a child, if you’re pre-2000 that is, riding a bicycle, running through fields, or climbing trees. These days, it’s wearing virtual headsets, shooting through two-dimensional flattened leaves.

But there are many extraordinary ways to connect with nature, even if you live in the city, or you’re busy, there’s no excuse! I’ve chosen some of my personal favourites.

  1. Volunteer At Your Local Animal Sanctuary

Chances are, there’s more than one animal sanctuary, shelter or NGO close to where you live, and chances are that their money is tight and their resources overstretched. While donating is an admirable thing to do, simply donating money can feel impersonal, and sometimes you may not be sure where your money is going. If you love working with animals, then this is a great way to connect with nature, even if it’s in a domestic setting. Helping out around the cattery, feeding the youngsters or simply walking dogs out in the country can be a great stress reliever, with the added benefit that you’re giving something back.

20180519_105357[1]

  1. Bring Nature Into Your Home

The simple addition of a few pot plants and flowers inside your home can do wonders to liven up your spirits. A few beautiful green leaves and some carefully coordinated flowers can really transform a room from a mundane space into one that feels alive. It’s good for the air, too!

  1. Paint, Write, Create Outdoors

Instead of keeping yourself locked indoors like a hermit (an activity my writer husband is most most fond of), get out and create. Leave the laptop at home, grab a notebook or a sketch pad and head out into the open. It could be as simple as a quiet seaside café, or somewhere entirely more rural – Malta has some wonderful outdoor spaces to get out and create, from wonderful hidden caves to expanses of open garigue where there’s plenty of space and little disturbance. A change of scenery is proven to help boost creativity, and even inspire completely new ideas.

20170212_140136

  1. Build A Roof Garden

If you live in an inner-city apartment or a shared building, or if you’re like me and don’t exactly have a garden, make one! Transform your roof, yard or airspace into a green space. Fill it with hanging plants, flowers, some delightful benches, add a bird table or two, and nature will come to you.

  1. Go For A Hike

Hiking is a great way to get the heart rate going. Going hiking gets you some much needed Vitamin D, and you’ll be surprised by all the interesting scenery along the way.

20171217_115142

  1. Horseback Riding

If you don’t feel like traipsing over rocky terrain by yourself, why not go horseback riding. You can opt for a leisurely walk, or perhaps something a bit more intense if you’re confident. There’s nothing quite like the gentle clopping of hooves to set your mind wandering.

  1. Sit By The Sea

The sound of the waves gently rolling against the sand or the rocks has to be one of my favourite sounds, only surpassed by the gentle swish of wind through a woodland. I’m not talking sunbathing or beach lounging, just grab a blanket and a few drinks and sit on the beach at sunset. Talk, or don’t talk. Think, or don’t think: it’s up to you.

IMG_3020

  1. Learn Photography

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a pretty poor photographer, but skill aside, there’s nothing like having a camera in your hand to make you look at nature a little closer. Think you’re not terribly interested in insects and flowers? Try holding a camera.

  1. Go Birdwatching

Birds are everywhere. Whether you can find a local pond, woodland or a designated bird sanctuary of birdwatching space, take a pair of binoculars and keep your eyes peeled. However, make sure you don’t disturb any nests or baby birds! And no feeding them bread.

1896943_10152353062670610_1446019017_n

  1. Embrace A Healthier Lifestyle

I don’t mean go vegan or suddenly start running marathons. I mean making small, daily lifestyle changes such as eating more fresh fruit and veg, perhaps going shopping at your local farmer’s market instead of the supermarket. If you hate the gym, go for a walk in your local area instead.

As you can see from the list above, I am not talking about any green-movement, hippy, tree-hugging or alternative ideas about ‘feeling the grass beneath your toes and the Earth Mother within you’. Instead I’m talking about realistic, practical suggestions that don’t need any spiritual awakening or higher purpose. If you want to stand on your head and feel the Earth’s vibrations, that’s up to you. For me personally, nature is inspirational enough all on its own.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the right to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

#DogHeroes – Four-Legged Heroes

#DogHeroes is back for another addition, and this one’s a little bit different. This time, I’m going to share some of my favourite four-legged heroes.

From service dogs for the blind, the deaf, the disabled to bomb-sniffers, drug-busters, cancer seeking dogs and everything in between, dogs are more than just man’s best friend. Their intelligence and human intuition is second to none, and is the reason that dogs are able to take on such diverse roles far beyond that of the family pet.

The 9/11 Heroes

Of the almost 10,000 emergency service and rescue personnel that rushed to the aid of the World Trade Center attacks, 300 of them were dogs. Alongside their tireless handlers, Bretagne, Riley, Coby, Guinness, Apollo, Thunder and others went far beyond their normal line of duty, searching for both the deceased and survivors, working 12 hour shifts and pushing themselves to the absolute limit. Sadly, the last four-legged 9/11 hero Bretagne passed away in 2016, after enjoying her retirement until age 17.

Dog Hero 9/11 Dog
Image: smithsonianmag.com

Lucy – Better Than Lab Tests

Lucy simply wasn’t cut out for guide dog school, as her Labrador-Irish Water Spaniel drive to smell got in her way. Excitable and curious, her nose led her to distraction and eventually to the end of her guide dog career. However, her owners didn’t give up, and knew that they could put her skills to good use. Lucy became part of Medical Detection Dogs,  and for 7 years she trained, sniffing out various types of cancer from bladder cancer to kidney and prostate cancer. Her success rate is measured to be around 95% accurate, which is considered equal or better than many of the best laboratory tests. Way to go, Lucy.
Kelsey Wouldn’t Leave Her Owner’s Side

A trip to go and get firewood nearly ended in tragedy for Bob from Michigan. It was a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve when he popped out to collect some logs, but fell and broke his neck, falling into the snow. With his nearest neighbour almost a kilometre away, Bob’s cries for help were pretty futile. But his Golden Retriever Kelsey found him, curled up on top of him and kept him warm overnight, licking him so he didn’t fall unconscious, and barking until help finally arrived. Bob and Kelsey are both now doing just fine.

Veterans

Dogs have probably been used in combat ever since we domesticated them. From sentries to scouts, dogs have been documented since 7th Century BC as leading the way in cavalry charges and battles. Dogs are known for their fearlesslness, and no doubt their close connection to humans made them highly suited for their role of leiutenant.

In the 16th Century the Conquistadors used the bulky breeds such as mastiffs to intimidate and subdue the native Americans.

In the First World War, the role of dogs was of critical importance, and canines were enlisted to carry messages across enemy lines (along with carrier pigeons) and struggle through the desperate front lines. It’s estimated that over 1 million dogs died alongside the human casualties, but their bravery and assistance was greatly revered.

More recently, a Belgian Malinois was on the team of Operation Neptune Spear, that successfully assassinated Osama bin Laden.

Image result for dogs in war
Image: theatlantic.com

Whether it is ethical to use dogs in warfare is another matter, and one I won’t go in to here. The use of millions of dogs, horses, pigeons, donkeys and others was vital in ending (and probably starting) many of history’s great wars. Perhaps with improvements in Drones and other technology, such use of animals will be in decline.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments, and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/20/health/cancer-smelling-dogs/index.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/15/hero-dog-saves-life-freezing-owner-broke-neck-fall/

Birdbrain!

“Birdbrain”: we’ve all heard the term, bandied it around, perhaps even referred to another person as one. But where does this come from, and does it have any merit?

The common notion is that birds are, to put in bluntly, dumb.

But birds aren’t stupid at all. By proportion, they have pretty tiny brains (a macaw’s brain is about the size of a walnut), so it was wrongly associated that a small brain meant small intellect (how very birdbrained of us to suggest this) but recent studies are proving quite the opposite.

Birds have a vast number of neurons located in their forebrains: the area that is responsible for intelligence. In fact, some species have as many neurons as primates!

So what does this mean for the expression, birdbrain? Take it as a compliment. Birds are amazingly complex and varied species. Crows and corvids demonstrate self-awareness in mirror tests and can use twigs to fish out grubs.

18118508_1339144796152445_5519276018420062722_n
‘A Home Under the Stars’, Oils on Canvas – €350 – enquiries may come to me

Arctic terns have amazing navigational skills, circumnavigating the globe from the Arctic to the Antarctic every year.

borealis
‘Borealis’ Oils on Canvas – €500 for the set of three

New Zealand’s alpine parrot, the Kea can break into locked cars, sealed backpacks and lunchboxes, all in the name of mischief. They can even solve complex puzzles as seen in the highly-recommended documentary ‘Beak and Brain – Genius Birds from Down Under

So next time someone calls you a birdbrain, do some research! Watch some videos, or, just paint them!

 

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the left to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

#DogHeroes – Susie’s Senior Dogs

The next star of my #DogHeroes series has to be the charity Susie’s Senior Dogs, and not just the charity itself but also the many individuals that have adopted one of their dogs.

Susie’s Senior Dogs is a non-profit that specialises in offering older dogs a second chance at life, featuring dogs that are up for adoption that, for whatever reason, have been shunted from home to home, found themselves homeless in their senior years, or  perhaps never found their ‘Goldilocks’ home. This wonderful charity in it’s own words: “works to shine a spotlight on senior dogs looking for their home and the shelter or rescue caring for them.”

Why Should You Adopt An Older Dog?

When you hear the term ‘senior dog’ you often imagine a greying, deaf, semi-continent and achy old pooch. But that’s so far from the truth. A senior dog is really any dog over around the age of 8 (sometimes older or younger depending on the breed and size), and most dogs at this age might be showing a little wear and tear, but they’re still happy, active, eager to please and  loving family members.

Some senior dogs haven’t had all the luck. They find themselves cast out of their long-term home because their owner has had a baby, a new job or simply a change of heart. For some, the signs of ageing: stiff joints, greying muzzle, sleeping more often, more minor ailments and vets visits, are too much to handle. And so often it’s the senior dogs that find themselves sent to a shelter or back on the adoption line, at a time when they should be enjoying their home comforts the most.

Senior dogs are also, unfortunately, so often overlooked when there are shelters and rescues crammed full of eager, clambering puppies.

But senior dogs have so much to offer. Just take a look at Susie’s Senior Dogs’ Facebook Page and you can see for yourself the love and appreciation that comes from adopting a senior dog. It seems that the older dogs appreciate their second chances, and are so thrilled to be in a warm and comfortable home once again. I think it’s all about them feeling safe in their twilight years, and we owe them that.

Susies Senior Dogs #DogHeroes
Simon: 16 but still going strong!


Is It Difficult To Care  For An Older Dog?

Yes, it can be. Of course it can. As dogs age they go through the natural ageing process that almost all organisms do: their cells start to deteriorate. They might start to lose their sight, their hearing, they might not be able to get to the toilet in time. As they get older, they won’t always tell you they’re in pain, but if your dog is suddenly a little more snappy or sensitive, it could be that they’re bones are hurting, or that there’s something going on inside.

Of course, some senior dogs have far more serious health problems, through neglect, genetics or simply just as the years tick on. These senior dogs need, and deserve extra love and care, extra medical attention,  perhaps even round the clock care. But surely, the satisfaction you receive from knowing that you helped an old lady in her final months, days, even hours, is one of the best gifts you can ask for?

Many dog owners are nervous about adopting a senior dog, but take a look at the heartwarming stories of those that have welcomed a senior into their lives, even if it was for a very short time.

“Will I rescue another senior knowing how much it hurts to love one so much and spend so little time with them?? Absolutely, without a doubt! I am in so much pain right now, but still I can say, senior dogs have so much to give, and are such a joy. In their short time, they bring more love than can be put into mere words. In addition, the feeling I got from rescuing a senior and giving her a family, good care and so much love is THE MOST AMAZING feeling in the world. It’s the ultimate high!”

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments,  and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

http://susiesseniordogs.com/about/

https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_dg_caring_for_older_dogs_with_health_problems

Not Vegan, Love Animals

There’s so much hype around veganism at the moment. Every restaurant menu totes about offering ‘vegan this’ ‘vegan that’ ‘vegan wine’ etc. Cosmetic shops are telling us to ‘shop vegan’ by buying brushes made of synthetics instead of animal hair. Never mind that synthetic generally = plastic = more bad news for our oceans.

I’m not here to shame anyone or criticise, as there are some good points about eating a vegan diet: we can all admit we need to eat less red meat and processed food, and yes, the meat industry is undoubtedly cruel. But shoving our bodies full of synthetics and not eating meat and animal-based products is basically doing this:

Hear-No-Evil-See-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil

By not eating meat and animal products, you’re not stopping your neighbour from eating them. You’re not stopping that same number of cows being sent to the production line: why? Because the meat industry isn’t about you.

The problem with the industry is precisely because it isn’t about you, or me. It’s about everyone. Global consumption. A few hundreds of individuals choosing not to consume these products will not make a dent in the multi-billion dollar industry (which is expected to exceed $800 billion within the next year or so).

Instead of the false presumption that you not eating the egg stops the hen from suffering (and producing a dozen other eggs for the supermarket, no doubt to go out of date, and then to be discarded/wasted), presume that you not eating the egg makes no difference.

 

10407514_747173372029660_13262631746765832_n
If you want to make a difference, read books like Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation. Get in touch with the big meat heads, and tell them to change their methods. Be a vegan if you want: but don’t make it your beck and call unless you’re actually willing to do more than just make yourself feel better. It should be about changing the world empire that is the meat industry, in three ways:

– reducing our addiction to red meat. Beef needs ten times more grazing and production land than poultry, so by simply shifting our meat-eating needs away from beef, we’ll be saving vast areas of land from destruction. Instead, this newly freed land could be used to grow crops to feed the third world, instead of growing enough crops to feed enough animals to feed us.

– changing our attitude towards animals. Animals are sentient beings: they deserve respect and dignity in life, and even in death. If they must be killed, let’s make it quick and painless, and let’s not let them live in filth, pain and poverty in the months/years leading up to it. We do not live in a perfect world. Dogs are fought in pits on the street, cats are still drowned, horses are still abused and left out to dry after their racing careers are over, bulls are massacred in bullfights. Human beings are meat eaters – so are our closest living relatives. We shouldn’t not eat meat, but we should do it responsibly.

– learning to grow meat artificially, and safely. It’s already begun and I’m hoping it will be widely available to the masses within my lifetime. With current technological advances, I’m certain it will be. If we can continue to enjoy the taste of meat, the protein and vitamin benefits (Vitamin B12, anyone?), without having to kill any animals, that may be a more perfect world than we live in today. No more livestock would mean almost 40% of the world’s land available to re-populate (but, let’s not, I think there’s enough of us already), re-cultivate, or simply open back up to wildlife.

But what about all the cows? Would we introduce domestic cattle, sheep, pigs etc back into the wild? Start breeding them with wild species, start introducing them slowly? Leave them to fend for themselves? I ask you, is that ethical? Is that fair?

485481_476673829079617_1520320102_n

Livestock photos © Grey Feather Photography
Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@cjwaterfieldart) to keep up with the latest in my studio. Hit the little ‘follow’ button on the left to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading! 🙂

“Animals” Art Show – Colors of Humanity Art Gallery

 “Laysan Waltz” and “Night Parrots” from my Cosmic Nature paintings have been accepted for inclusion in the November 2017 art exhibition and show, “Animals” at Colors of Humanity Gallery in the USA.

So many wonderful entries!


“This show will run November 1-30, 2017. Artists from around the world were called to submit their work. There were 103 accepted entries and they came from 16 different states in the USA as well as 11 other countries: Canada, Germany, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Malta, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and United Kingdom. A variety of styles and mediums were entered, including but not limited to, acrylic, beads, colored pencil, digital, fiber, glass, gouache, graphite, ink, mixed media, oil, pastel, photography, and watercolor. The judging criterion was originality, interpretation, quality, demonstration of ability, and usage of medium. Other factors, such as the clarity of the images provided and their ability to be viewed online, also contributed to our decision. “Best of Show”, “First Place”, and “Second Place” winners received a monetary award in addition to special recognition.

We were very happy to donate 10% of all entry fees from this show to the Bedford County Humane Society, located in Bedford, PA, USA. For more information about BCHS please visit their website. http://www.bchsonline.org/ Colors of Humanity Art Gallery, LLC is not affiliated with the BCHS. It is our hope that this small act of kindness will blossom and grow to help someone else.

Thank you to all the artists who participated! Your talents and skills gave us a diverse body of work to create this attractive show.”