Or the Painful Thoughts That Can Cross
Your Mind When You’re Grieving
If you live in the hot and humid sunshine state of Florida and have pets, they (and your household) are going to experience fleas, no matter how often you clean and treat the indoors and outdoors; especially if you keep outdoor cats.
Molly, a cute, friendly and beautiful Ruby King Charles Cavalier who was my animal companion for 13 and a half years (and was 17 1/2 when she passed on February 26, 2022, as I adopted her when she was four), was allergic to fleas; all it took was one flea bite to set her off. In addition to the frequent environment cleaning and treatments, I tried countless topic and oral products on her (she was also allergic to most of them) and other alternatives, at no avail. She would constantly chew, lick and scratch herself, especially during the flea seasons. All that noise and commotion were quite annoying to me, and I had to constantly remind myself that it wasn’t her fault.
After we brought Molly’s body back home from the emergency clinic where we had to take her for her end of life procedure, I laid her in her bed, covered her and left her in the garage for the evening, until we could bury her the next day. In the following morning, while my husband was digging her resting place in our backyard, I went to the garage to pick her up. I uncovered her face to say a private goodbye to her, and saw a flea prancing around on her lifeless cheek.
I thought about how, at that moment, I actually missed Molly’s annoying crewing, licking and scratching noises, and how I would never hear them again in this life time. I felt angry at the flea that was disrespectfully taking advantage of poor Molly lying there, helpless and motionless, for one more meal (although I was also aware that the flea was just doing what it needed to do to live). Half hoping that this meaningless act motivated by grief would help vindicate the finality of such a loss, I felt immense satisfaction when I caught the flea and squeezed it dead.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/23/22
Many years ago I heard from a friend that her daughter had quit her job as an assistant at a local vet’s office because she couldn’t bear to be part of what took place there. Inquiring my friend about it, I was shocked to find out that the vet worked with breeders, which meant that he would often help deliver breeding dogs’ puppies, select the top “specimens” and euthanize the “rejects” (normal, happy puppies who weren’t perfect breeding material). My friend’s daughter would help care for and play with the puppies one day and then find out that they had been killed the next.
Now, I’ve never considered myself to be a very naive person. I’m aware of a lot of the ugliness that’s out there, including breeders and pet mills, as well the kind of vets that are part of their operations (who are much like the ambulance-chasing doctors and lawyers that will do anything for a buck, in my view); but I had never made the friendly neighborhood vet connection. Yes, there are vets and then there are vets; and many are more about the bottom line than really caring for the animals they treat. I’m aware, for instance, that too many vets still perform cruel procedures such as declawing in cats (although that’s considered so inhumane that many countries have outlawed it). But the thought that there are regular vets out there who play a willing part in such an inhumane breeding system and are capable of killing healthy puppies simply because they are less than perfect caught me off guard and knocked the wind out of me for a while. It actually affected me so much that I did what many of us do when faced with this kind of information: I couldn’t deal with it, so I buried my head in the sand and didn’t do anything about it. At the time, that was partially due to the fact that I didn’t want to put my friend’s daughter on the spot or get her in trouble, especially since I’m assuming she was bound by confidentiality clauses even after she quit; so I never asked for the vet’s info (all I know is that the vet office was located in Orange County, FL). But my part in the ugly truth is that, although I suffered with that knowledge, it was easier to walk away.
After all these years, I don’t know if this is still happening at that particular vet, or even if that vet’s office is still in operation; but I couldn’t forget that story or the more pressing point that such breeders exist and have vets who assist them. So I started doing some research to find out if vets are bound by the same or similar “first, do no harm” oath from the human medical profession. According to a reference article (link below), although the subject of veterinary ethics is supposedly very similar to that of human medical ethics, it “differs greatly in the consideration of the uses of animals; while a doctor’s duty may be to preserve life at nearly all cost, the veterinary surgeon needs to adapt their attitude to health and longevity of life to the purpose of the animal (E.g., farm animals).” This loophole means that our friendly neighborhood vet isn’t breaking any laws by assisting breeders with their purpose of achieving breeding perfection.
The same article explains: “Another major difference between veterinary ethics and human medical ethics is the interplay with law. Human medical ethics has driven changes in the law and, to a lesser degree, vice versa. Largely involving cases of human rights a wide ranging variety of high-profile legal challenges in many countries have involved the use of ethics to encourage changes in law (for example, assisted suicide, abortion, duty of care, rights to refuse treatment). Veterinary ethics does not have such a strong interplay. It is rare to have an animal based legal challenge reaching high into the legal system. Cases involving challenges to professionalism and duty of care are largely dealt with via the veterinary governing bodies.”
The bottom line is that the veterinary professional is largely self-regulating across the world… Of course, some national veterinarian organizations do attempt to hold veterinarians to a higher standard. The AVMA - American Veterinary Medical Association, for instance, includes the following two principles in its code of ethics:
“- A veterinarian shall provide competent veterinary medical clinical care under the terms of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR), with compassion and respect for animal welfare and human health.
- A veterinarian shall uphold the standards of professionalism, be honest in all professional interactions, and report veterinarians who are deficient in character or competence to the appropriate entities.
- A veterinarian shall respect the law and also recognize a responsibility to seek changes to laws and regulations which are contrary to the best interests of the patient and public health.”
However, it’s also part of its code of ethics to “respect the rights of clients, colleagues, and other health professionals, and shall safeguard medical information within the confines of the law.” In other words, as long as they are not breaking the existing laws, our friendly neighborhood vet and his breeder pals are left alone.
What Can We Do?
We can start by not buying from breeders and adopting from animal shelters instead. We can also choose a vet for our animal companions who doesn’t participate in such practices. However, public pressure to change the laws governing these practices (or abolishing them altogether) is what can really make a difference in the long run. We have become a bottom-line kind of society; but the true bottom-line is: it can’t be just about the money. It should never be just about the money. It’s not just business; it’s always personal. Changing such inhumane systems and laws as we take steps towards more conscious practices would certainly benefit the animals; but this is also for the sake of our own humanity.
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 09/14/2020
Photo by Lydia Torrey on Unsplash
Principles of veterinary medical ethics of the AVMAhttps://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/principles-veterinary-medical-ethics-avma
I got home one day from running an errand, went to the room I use as my office and sat at my desk to work. I started hearing a loud buzzing sound around me and noticed that a fly had inadvertently accompanied me inside
my house; she was now frantically flying around, trying to find its way out. I was aware that there was no point in trying
to help the fly at that moment. She’d just started frantic-flying, so she wasn’t tired yet and would be nearly impossible to catch. I tried my best to go back to my work and bide my time without getting frantic myself over my concern about the trapped fly (yes, that kind of situation tends to worry me to no end until
I find a way to solve it).
At a certain point, I lost track of the fly. I hoped that she had managed to get out on her own, as my husband had also come home and we’d taken our dog out for a walk since the fly had first come inside.
Later on, as I sat for meditation in our bedroom, I started hearing the fly again. But this time, both her buzzing and flying around were less frantic, so she was probably getting tired by now. I sat quietly and calmly, planning to finish my short meditation and then try to find the right opportunity to help the fly. That’s when I was awaken from my meditative state by the most desperately frantic buzzing I had ever heard coming from a fly. I jumped from a peaceful feeling to a high state of anxiety in less than a second, as if I could feel the fly at that moment. Then I noticed that the sound was coming from behind the blinds of the bedroom window right across from where I sat. I stood up and went there to investigate. As I carefully moved the window blinds back a little, I saw that the poor fly had been caught in a spider web, and the web’s crafty creator was moving swiftly as she made her way to the fly. The poor fly was buzzing away in her desperate attempts to free herself, to no avail.
I quickly grabbed the bug cup I keep in the bedroom (the cup I reserve to catch insects in the house and release them outside), and placed it over the fly, while managing to keep the spider at bay without hurting it. I then placed a postcard under the cup and removed the fly from the web. After apologizing to the spider for damaging her web and robbing her of a supple meal she’d earned fair and square, wishing her better luck next time and reminding her that there were plenty of other available insects around that were under my radar (yes, that’s how my crazy mind rolls), I took the bug cup outside and tried to release the fly. However, I realized that she was partially covered by the sticky web threads and couldn’t move. So I had to find a way to hold the fly inside the bug cup while pulling the web strands from outside the cup to set her free; and all that without touching her, of course (ew). In a couple of minutes, I was finally able to clean up the fly, who seemed ecstatic about being released into the sunny outdoors.
I found this experience fascinating, as it caused me to wonder if, for one brief moment, I had actually connected with that fly to the point that I could feel her terror. She obviously knew that she was in a deadly trap; and responding to her survival instinct, she was “screaming” for help (now I have in my mind the iconic scene from the movie The Fly, when the half man/half fly creature is calling in a high-pitched voice, “help me… help me…”). Was it the fly’s frantic buzz that had made me feel suddenly anxious, without even knowing what was going on? Am I just projecting my own feelings onto a small insect that allegedly has none? Perhaps. But I’d like to believe that what we call “feeling” manifests in different ways and degrees in other living beings; and that shouldn’t mean they are less significant. I also believe that we are all capable of deep empathy with other beings, and that we’re just used to shutting off that part of ourselves due to lack of practice and for the convenience of our live styles. Maybe we can develop this ability just as Noah, the boy who became able to communicate with spiders in the movie The Last Mimzy…
According to a message received during one of our TriH - Healers Healing Healers group meeting (reference below), it’s in the quiet that “we open ourselves to the messages that the Earth is sending (using what we need with gratitude and not taking more than what we need; sharing and caring about each other), as well as the messages that the Spirit Animals are sending (live in the light and develop intuition).” I wonder what amazing knowledge we’re missing out on for ignoring our natural state of interconnectedness, and what important messages our beautiful planet and other wonderful living beings could share with us.
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 04/22/2020
Our Message to You (first TriH - Healers Healing Healers online group meeting on Saturday, April 4, 2020).
This past Easter Sunday, when my husband went outside in the morning to feed our outdoor rescue cats, he found a newborn baby animal on the ground, dangerously close to the cats’ feeding area. He picked up the baby (who felt very cold to the touch, but was still very much alive), came in the house, wrapped it in a towel, put it in a container and brought it to me, letting me know that he had found a baby squirrel. It didn’t have any fur and its eyes were still closed.
Trying to Locate the Momma Squirrel
I immediately went online to find out what to do in such cases, and one very helpful article suggested several steps (see link below). One of them included filling an old sock with rice, heating it up in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, putting it in the container with the baby squirrel, and then placing the container on the ground or on a branch of the closest tree to the spot where the baby had been found, so that the mom would come and get it. Because of our outdoor rescues, we decided it would have to be up on a tree. We went outside and chose a tree with a branch that I felt I could reach with the help of a ladder (I was the one going up, as my husband in 10 years my senior and has peripheral neuropathy). Now, at my age (55 as I’m writing this article) and being anything but very physically active these days, what I did was no small feat. As my husband held the container with the baby and the ladder for me, I climbed up to the highest step (which was already scary enough), then proceeded to climb up the tree and then inch my way as far as I could on one of its thicker branches. My husband climbed the ladder and handed me the container, which I then taped to the branch. I came down and we left the baby there, hoping for the best.
Calling a Rescue Group
About a half an hour passed, and although a couple of squirrels had circled the branch, there were no takers. I started getting concerned about the baby getting cold again, now that the rice bag had enough time to cool down. So I decided to call a local wild animal refuge to ask if I should bring the baby to them (Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge; please see link below). Although this was an Easter Sunday, there was actually someone live answering the phones! This very nice lady directed me to a volunteer assigned to my area. I called the volunteer, and she promptly gave me the number of another volunteer who lived just 10 minutes away from our house. Impressive and efficient network! So I called that second volunteer, who proceeded to give me a lot of great information. She asked me to make sure the baby was visible to the mother, so that she could find him. I remembered how the baby had partially burrowed under the rice bag, looking for warmth, so I was concerned the momma couldn’t see him. I decided that I needed to climb up the tree again, reheat the rice bag and arrange the baby in a way that would make it easy to spot him.
The volunteer also suggested to use a distressed baby squirrel call to attract the mother. She actually knew how to imitate a baby squirrel call, which was amazing; but since I have no such talent, I decided to search for one on YouTube.
Technology the Rescue
So, with my husband’s help, I climbed up again, placed the reheated rice bag in the container and made sure the baby could be seen. Then I came down, found the perfect video on YouTube using my husband’s tablet (please see the link below) and stood under the tree, hitting play non-stop. A squirrel got closer, but nothing happened.
Standing up by the tree and manually hitting play got pretty old after about 15 or 20 minutes, so my husband had the idea to download the video on my cell phone (where I got it to loop) and hook it up to a small wireless speaker. So I went up the tree one more time and taped the speaker by the container. I brought a chair outside and sat far enough that I wouldn’t scare the momma squirrel, and close enough that I would be able to see if she came for the baby. I also needed to keep the birds away, as some of them kept circling the tree, attracted by the distress call.
There I stayed for almost 2 hours. My husband brought me lunch, and I ate as I kept replaying the loop and hoping for the rescue by the momma squirrel. At a certain point, a squirrel got very close to the container, and I was thrilled, thinking it was going to happen! But the squirrel went nuts (pardon my pun), looking straight at me and making what sounded like angry noises as it quickly flicked its tail, and then left. I felt very discouraged, but I was also confused about that squirrel’s reaction…
Time to Call the Volunteer…
After almost 2 hours without any luck, I started feeling very tired, and was also concerned about the baby getting too cold again. The volunteer, who had been keeping up with our misadventures via text, suggested that I should bring the baby to her for the night. She would feed it, give it some pedialyte and keep it warm, and then I could try again the next day.
So, with the help of my husband, I climbed up the tree one more time and brought the container with the baby back down. As I was reheating the rice bag and getting ready to take the baby to the volunteer’s house, she texted me and asked if I had a photo of the baby that I could send to her. I took a photo, texted it to her and left to meet here at her place.
The Punch Line
As I was driving to the volunteer’s house, I started thinking about why she had asked for a photo of the baby… And then it dawned on me: was it really a baby squirrel that we’ve been trying to help?
By the time I met the volunteer, my first question to her was: “Is this an opossum baby?” Yes, she confirmed, and proceeded to explain that the most noticeable difference at that age is that opossums’ hind feet have opposable thumbs. But as I looked more closely at the baby in the container, I realized that it did have what looked to me like a little opossum face, and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t noticed that until that moment…
In conclusion, I had spent most of my Easter Sunday going through a whole rigamarole with my husband and getting scratched and bruised from going up and down a tree (not to mention putting the poor baby opossum through hours of being up on a tree branch with the screeching sound of a baby squirrel distress call being played non-stop by its side); all in the fruitless attempt to get a momma squirrel to adopt an opossum baby…
I have to say it was an easy mix-up, as squirrel and opossum babies do look a alike at that age; at least to laypeople such as my husband and I (please see links with photos below)…
After a very nice conversation with the lovely volunteer lady, during which she explained that it was very unlikely that the momma opossum would go back for the baby (especially since we have rescue cats roaming our grounds) or even figure out where she had lost it, I left the baby in her care. I told my husband what had happened on the way home and we had a pretty good laugh about it…
The latest update the volunteer texted to me was that the baby was “warm, full and very active.” :)
What To Do If You Find A Baby Squirrel On The Ground
Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge
Video: Baby Squirrel in Distress
Newborn Squirrel Photo
Newborn Opossums Photo
The weather outside is frightful… Well, not really, since this is Florida. Still, we’re in for some very chilly nights, and we got our first taste this past week. Those of you who care for The Unwanted (namely, poor homeless cats in need of food and shelter) are probably concerned about how they’re fairing in the cold weather. Ideally, they should have a night shelter for the Winter, even if it’s just a bed with a blanket in a garage, porch or shed. If that’s not possible or available, here are a couple of suggestions for easy-to-make shelters:
1) Converted food bin shelter: Clean an empty bin, line the inside with styrofoam or mylar* (cut to size and double-taped or glued) and add some straw for the bedding (not hay, as that gets moldy; straw can be found at feed stores). As this shelter isn’t water proof, place it under a covered area, protected from the rain.
- This shelter works best if placed a few inches above ground (on top of bricks, boards, etc), and wedged against something (so it won’t turn over).
- You can cut the lid of food bin, leaving a section at the bottom as insulation from the ground, and use the rest of it to create a rain-barrier “roof” for the shelter (please see photos 1 and 2; I used half of a binder for the roof of this shelter, as it offered better coverage).
- Instead of straw, you can also use a polyester throw blanket, as long as you wash it once a week or every other week (a small one currently sells for $2.50 at Walmart). Another good option is a self-heating pad such as the ones available at Amazon.com; however, this kind of pad can't be put in the dryer and needs to be air-dried. Avoid using towels, as they absorb too much humidity.
- For better insulation, you can tape a black plastic bag or a training pad around the bin.
- Other empty bins (such as litter, soap, etc) can also be used, as long as they are thoroughly washed and then disinfected before using it for a shelter (alcohol or a vinegar and water mix are recommended).
2) Converted cooler shelter: You will need a tool to cut a 6-inch round or a square “door” on the cooler; make sure to tape around the opening. Insulate the inside of the cooler with styrofoam or mylar* and add straw or other bedding as suggested above (please see photos 3 and 4).
For other shelter ideas, please see:
Feral Cat Winter Shelter
Your furry neighbors will thank you! Stay warm and have a happy holiday season!
* Mylar emergency blankets can be found at the first aid or camping sections of some stores, or ordered at Amazon.com.
Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 12/16/2017
And the question that remains: will we stand by and watch it happen again?
In my 30 years living in Florida, one of the hardest, most painful animal tragedies I bore witness to and followed closely was the bear hunt of 2015. As a fact, I wasn’t able write this article without having to stop and cry, sometimes sob about it. By the way, those who know me or have read some of my posts are aware of the fact that I often cry for animals. Yes, I know there’s plenty out there to cry for, and a lot of it involving people (I often cry for them, too). But that doesn’t mean this tragedy is not worth crying about. And yes, I’m sure there have been plenty of such stories involving bears and other living beings in the history of Florida. But this one happened to come to my attention through the broader reach of social media, and at a time in my life when I was ready to pay attention. MORE
One night a few months ago [end of March 2016], Solo, one of our rescue cats living in shelters around our home, seemed to be acting in a weird way; according to my husband Raul, he looked a bit shaky and non-responsive. Late afternoon the following day, my husband was able to catch him. We managed to check him out and found nothing visibly wrong; so we decided to keep him in the garage for a while, observe him more closely and take him to the vet if needed. But Solo had other plans, and managed to escape by squeezing through a very small space under the garage door, which we keep cracked open for ventilation. Since he was very agile in the process and looked much more responsive than in the previous night, we decided to just keep an eye on him for the next day or two, and try to catch him again if it didn’t look like he was getting any better. Unfortunately, that was the last time we saw him alive.... MORE