Thursday, August 22, 2013


I like pigs.  Dogs look up to us.  Cats look down on us.  Pigs treat us as equals.
                                                                Winston Churchill
 Pigs have gotten a bum rap and I’m here to set the record straight.  Pigs are clean, intelligent, and much more like us than we care to admit.  You’ve all heard, “lazy pig,” “pig out,” ”stink like a pig,” “male chauvinist pig.”  Well, pigs have a defense that most people haven’t taken the time to find out.
 Contrary to what most people believe, pigs are extremely clean animals.  Pigs don’t have sweat glands to cool them off.  Rolling in mud keeps their body temperature down in hot weather.  They don’t have a choice and would probably rather roll in mud than their own waste while confined in filthy pig pen.  Actually, they are excellent swimmers and prefer water to mud.  For lying in the mud for long periods of time trying to keep cool in the heat, they are called “lazy.” I bet you don’t know that pigs from birth keep their bedding place separate from their elimination place. Newborn piglets will leave the area where they nurse to relieve themselves.  Pigs are not only clean, but they’re smart, too.

Pigs are extremely intelligent animals.  In the animal kingdom, pigs rank No. 4 in intelligence behind chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants. They quickly master the Mirror Self-Recognition Test, an indicator of self-awareness and advanced intelligence in animals.  Experts consider pigs more trainable than dogs or cats.  It’s not uncommon to see pigs in circus acts now. 

Whether you want to admit it or not, we humans have a lot in common with pigs.  The anatomy of a pig and a human are very similar.  That’s why pig heart valves are used in human hearts.  They’ve been available for more than 30 years.  Just think of the number of lives that have been saved by the use of pig heart valves.  There is a worldwide shortage of organs for transplants.  Scientists are researching genetically engineered pig organs for human transplants in the future.  Pig hearts, lungs, livers, gall bladders, and the digestive system are very similar to that of humans, only smaller.  You’d think that apes and chimpanzees would be more like us than pigs, but not so.

Pigs don’t have sweat glands so because they roll in and spend a lot of time in mud to cool off in hot weather, they’re called dirty and lazy.  Pigs are Number 4 in animal intelligence behind chimpanzees, dolphins, and elephants.  And a pig’s anatomy is similar to yours and mine.  Remember all of that the next time you hear a pig slandered.  Did I set the record straight?


Monday, February 18, 2013


If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die
I want to go where they went
                                                          Will Rogers

Proof of Heaven written by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander answers the question in his fascinating book. A New York Times Best Seller, it tells of Dr. Alexander’s miraculous recovery after a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. His physicians gave him a 10% chance of recovery and living in a vegetative state if he managed to survive.   Dr. Alexander writes of a near death experience (NDE) in extraordinary detail.

One thing that he wrote in his description of flying over a brilliant heavenly landscape took my breath away. He wrote about seeing a dog running and jumping among people and like the people, it was full of joy.

In my book Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog, I write about an incident after the death of my Scottish terrier therapy dog that I was hesitant to include. I held McDuff in my arms and watched the life ebb out of his eyes on Halloween morning, 2003. He returned to me a few months after I put him down to shake me out of my prolonged and overwhelming grief as I cried for him in the mid-night hours.

Therapy dogs and their owners are extremely close, but there was more between us. McDuff was a Spirit Dog, and we shared an unusual bond. Many time I witnessed his uncanny effect on people and other animals during our nine years together.

One thing I know without a doubt. McDuff’s spirit went somewhere and it came back from somewhere. It doesn't concern me whether whether anyone else shares my belief. There is life after death — even for our beloved pets.

Here is my poem, "Never Again," from Life with McDuff:

Never again will I see those wise mystical eyes,
Eyes I loved so well burn into mine,
Eyes that created joy and comfort, healing and calmness
Amusement and laughter, and tears of frustration;

Never again will I witness your tender tongue convey
Love and unconditional acceptance,
The tongue that brought smiles
To the face of the sick and disabled;

Never again will you be there to lick the tears away from my face,
If ever life beats me down to the ground;
Never again will I feel the comfort and protection of your furry back
Against my leg as we lie sleeping in bed;

Forever more will I hold in my heart the life lessons you taught,
How to forgive, love unconditionally,
Look beyond outer appearances,
Enjoy life instead of fighting and resisting it,
And to help myself by being of service to others;

Farewell, my teacher, my friend, my companion
The joy and blessing of having you in my life
Far outweighed the pain of losing you;
Farewell my McDuff,
Until we meet again, and I gaze into those eyes once more.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

College Students Are Going to the Dogs

Colleges all across the America are going to the dogs.  Tufts, UNC, Oberlin, Harvard and Yale are just a few institutions of higher learning where students have discovered that therapy dogs can relieve the stress and strain of college life.  After trying massage, yoga, pizza parties, and other activities we won’t mention to reduce pressure, they hit the jackpot with furry, four-legged stress relievers.
 Scholars at Harvard and Yale libraries can check out resident therapy dogs instead of books.  Many students miss the pets left behind and the comforts of home.  More and more colleges and universities have pet-friendly dorms now.  Therapy dogs and other pets provide a connection to home.  Stressed out, especially when studying for final exams, college students can unwind and forget their studies and problems when petting and interacting with the dogs.

The calming and therapeutic effect of therapy dogs is no secret.  They visit hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, schools, and libraries.   Therapy dogs have been called upon after crisis situations like 911, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and recently after the tragedy at Sandy Hook School at Newtown, Connecticut. 

A chapter in my book, Life with McDuff: LessonsLearned from a Therapy Dog, tells how I became a therapy dog volunteer.  If you own a dog who likes people and other animals, loves to be petted, and has basic obedience training, why not consider becoming a therapy dog volunteer?  See my web site for links containing information about Therapy Dogs International, Therapy Dogs, Inc., Reading with Rover, and AKC Canine Good Citizen Test.
Pass the word!  Today’s college students are going to the dogs.

Friday, January 4, 2013


The dog in this video interacting with a Down’s syndrome baby just knows. She knows how to offer love and acceptance. She knows that this baby is special. Even though not a trained therapy dog, she just knows. How many times have you sat mired deep in despair because of some real or imagined problem and a furry head comes to rest on your knee, eyes borrowing deep into yours, and a tail furiously wagging “it’s going to be alright?” Or, what happens when some unbelievably good fortune comes your way. You shout and jump for joy, and guess who jumps with you barking and spinning around in excitement? Dogs just know when you are happy, and they know when you are sad. My Scottish terrier therapy dog comforted me many times. He instinctively knew how to reach out and ease me through the storms of our life together. I write about it in my book, Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog. The baby in the video experienced what we dog lovers have witnessed time after time. Dogs just know!