Friday, March 28, 2014

"The Dalai Lama's Cat and The Art of Purring," by David Michie. Book Review and Contest!

When I read The Dalai Lama's Cat, a novel by David Michie, I was beyond pleasantly surprised. I was moved.  I not only reviewed it here but told friends that they had to read the book. Why is this such a big deal?  Because I'm not a fan of books written from the animal's perspective since so few writers can really pull it off. it usually ends up treacly or "cutesy."  But in David Michie's hands it was something else, something wonderful. And then I heard that he was following it up with a sequel. Would it live up to its predecessor?  Would it stand on its own?  I finally got my hands on a copy of Michie's sequel.

The Dalai Lama's Cat and The Art of Purring picks up pretty much where The Dalai Lama's Cat left off and yet you can read it as a stand-alone book, although I don't recommend it. For the real experience, read both books in order to better appreciate all of the characters, including the cat who goes by many names, depending upon who is interacting with her. Mainly she's known as HHC for His Holyness's Cat.  

In this delightful sequel, the Dalai Lama is leaving for a teaching tour in the U.S. for several weeks and he leaves his cat with a assignment: discover the true cause of happiness.  This is no small feat and the delightful feline takes to it with a seriousness and aplomb worthy of her position.  

The cat is the observer of life in McLeod Ganj and her life becomes far more interesting as a result of her quest to find the answer to His Holyness's assignment. A race through the streets as she's chased by two boisterous dogs,encounters with all manner of people, especially during her daily visits to the Himalaya Book Store Cafe where she observes the comings and goings of the people who work there as well as the customers.  The Yoga Class, science Buddhism, and self-discovery all play into the novel which is written with a keen eye to observation that is, at times, almost lyrical.

Author David Michie

I highly recommend this book!  And wonder if Michie has planned another book starring this wonderfully insightful creature. There are messages here for each of us. And they're explored with wisdom and respect. 

And now, dear readers, I have a wonderful contest for you!  Thanks to the publisher, Hay House, I have two copies of the book to give away.  Just leave a message on this post to enter the contest!  The winners will be announced mid-week!

If you are anxious and can't await to read it, you can purchase a copy here:

Published by Hay House, The Dalai Lama's Cat and The Art of Purring is a paperback book, 208 pages.

NOTE:  Other than a review copy and two copies of the book to give away in a contest, I have received no compensation for this review. The review and all views expressed in it is completely mine.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Domestic Violence and Pets

Photo: URI

For years now it has been no secret that domestic violence victims stay with their abusive spouses because of the spouse's threat of violence against the family pet. Studies show that nearly 48% of victims of domestic violence stay because of this threat. It has not been a threat a victim was about to take lightly, having been the object of that person's abuse. How likely is it that the spouse would actually kill the dog or cat? I'd say the chances are pretty good. At the very least there would be a serious injury.  This threat has hung over far too many women and their pets as well as their children. The abusive spouse also tends to blame the victim for the abuse. 

There should be shelters where the family can bring the pet. It wouldn't be much of a leap for the abuser to go from abusing the pet to abusing the children. Such a shelter would make the family feel safe and certainly more intact with the pet very much welcome. And something new has been added.

This week in New York City the very first dog park in a domestic abuse shelter was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Hosted by Urban Resources Institute (URI) and Nestle Purina. Nestle Purina's generous support made it possible for URI to expand their URIPALS - People and Animals Living Safely.  It is New York's only shelter to allow families fleeing abuse to bring their pets with them. The program launched in 2013 as a pilot program. Originally, it allowed families to bring their cats and other small animals but with the opening of the Purina Play Haven and Dog Park, families can now bring dogs with them.

Sponsored by Purina, the company contributed funds for the design and construction of the dog park. It was so carefully thought out that overhead trellises allow for the privacy and security of the shelter residents. Purina is justifiably proud of their support of this worthy endeavor.  "At Purina we share the belief that when pets and people are together, life is truly better," said Lindsey Hogan, Brand Manager for the Purina Brand.

Photo: Jordan H. Star

The collaboration between URI and Purina will surely bring positive results.

"When my children and I found out that we could bring our dog, Sparky, with us into shelter we were overjoyed," said one domestic violence survivor who is currently in URI's shelter.  "Sparky has always been there with us to comfort and even protect us from the abuse, and having him there with us as we work to put our lives back together makes our recovery process so much better.  I'm so grateful to Purina and URI for helping me and other families with pets stay together."

Since launching URIPALS, we've seen how transformative it is for families in domestic violence situations to go through the healing process together with their pets," said Nathaniel Fields, President of URI.  "As we open our doors to families with dogs and celebrate this critical milestone for URIPALS, we hope to continue the momentum and inspire other organizations in major cities nationwide that this initiative is possible.  We are grateful to Purina for helping URI make this dog park a reality, and for their shared commitment to keeping people and pets together, especially in times of crisis."

This should certainly be an eye-opener for major cities across the country. 

Photo: Jordan H. Star

"I applaud URI, Purina and GEPPAUL ARCHITECTS for their unique and innovative collaboration to create the City's first-ever dog park in a domestic violence shelter and for appreciating that a pet is more than just an animal in your home," said Commissioner Rose Pierre-Louis of the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence.

Cecile Noel, Deputy Commissioner of HRA's Office of Emergency and Intervention Services said, "As providers of emergency shelter and other vital services to victims of abuse and their children we know quite well that those who fear for their own safety are often worried about leaving their pet family member to escape abuse, unless there's an opportunity to preserve the pet's welfare. With initiatives like this we are establishing effective models for domestic violence and animal protection programs not only in New York City but across the State and Nation."

As part of its sponsorship of URIPALS, in 2013 Purina also donated much-needed welcome kits tailored for cats that included food, toys, crates and other pet supplies as well as educational materials designed to guide families entering URI's largest domestic violence shelter in best practices for caring  for their pets.

Photo: Jordan H. Star

If you would like more information about URIPALS and tips for keeping the entire family together in domestic violence situations, please visit:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Re: What You Should Know About Toys for Dogs and Cats & Contest Winner!

Who can resist buying toys for their pets? We love our dogs and cats; they're much-loved family members and we want to make them as happy as they make us.

Here's a quick run-down of some of the things you should know before you make that impulse buy.

If you think some toys for pets look like toys for babies there's a good reason: at least one company has hired designers who had previously worked for companies that designed toys for babies.  For some people their pets are child substitutes or one more child in the family so the appeal is understandable.

The industry has no watch-dog group (any pun intended)  unlike the groups that test toys for children. The industry is expected to police itself. What does this mean? It means that you will have to shop carefully to insure the toys you're buying are safe for your pet. Is it sturdy? Are there parts that can easily be removed and swallowed? Eyes sewn onto a toy are one such example.

Does your dog love to chew? Is he really tough on toys? Be sure that the toy is well-made and you may even see on the packaging that it's made for chewers who are hard on their toys. 


Be careful when choosing what size toy. Many pets will manage to swallow a toy that will need to be removed surgically.

If you're buying a wand toy for your cat, stay away from those with mylar.  That shiny silver might look attractive to you and your cat but did you know that when playing with a wand toy with mylar a cat can get the equivalent of a paper cut on his mouth? If the interactive toy has string, for example a feather toy, put it away between play sessions. Kitty might get tangled in the string or might find a way to chew through and swallow it, necessitating surgery to remove it.  And it's so much more fun when you make those interactive sessions special by announcing that it's time to play and then the game ends with the toy being put away.

Not all cats react to catnip. They have to have the catnip genes which isn't apparent in very young kittens and usually interest fades when cats are elderly. If your cat loves catnip you should know a few things about the toys. Do not buy the cheapest.  If you take those cheap toys apart they either don't have catnip in them or have a teeny amount. Look for a toy that's refillable so you can keep adding fresh catnip. As for the catnip bolster toys and little squares of fabric filled with catnip, as with any catnip, don't leave it out all the time and be sure to put it away before the cat gets too excited. They also don't need to play with it every day; it should remain special. The best way to store these toys between play sessions is in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer so it will remain fresh longer.

Laser toys aren't always safe. If you're going to play with one with your cat or dog, start the game with the light coming from inside your shoe and end it with the light returning to the inside of your shoe. Why?  Because dogs especially can develop behavior problems looking for that red dot. 

One final note: always supervise your pet with a  new toy to be sure of safety.

I hope you and your pets have a lifetime of fun together!

Now for the winner of the contest posted earlier this week.  

The winner of the dog poetry book, Throw the Damn Ball is:

Elaine Faber.

Elaine, please e-mail your address to me via my website:  There's a link to contact me.   Congratulations!!