Fraser’s Story

Fraser

Fraser

Not long ago my mom declared that it was time for the family to get a new dog. At first I was quite surprised by this announcement. In the many years since we had owned our last dog, my mom was the defector in the family whenever there were whisperings about possibly adopting a new pooch. My confusion over her reversal of opinion lasted until I realized that, with my younger sister about to graduate from high school, my parents would soon be the only occupants of their home. My mom’s new interest was more than a fleeting curiosity – it was her way of preparing for the potential loneliness of an empty nest.

I was more than willing to help my mom find a new companion. It wasn’t long before I found myself looking at pictures of dogs on the local animal shelter website. After what seemed like only a few minutes of searching, I came across a picture of a small terrier with shaggy blond hair. He seemed to be about the size that my mom was looking for, and he reminded me of our family’s last dog. I scheduled a time when we could see the pooch, whose name was Fraser.

Upon meeting Fraser, the first thing that I noticed about him was the way that he looked at me. While other dogs would simply glance up nonchalantly when I was in their company, Fraser stared me down. His gaze was not threatening or pleading, though. What I saw in his eyes was more of a curiousness, a pondering. It was as though he was studying me; searching my thoughts and motivations and weighing them against his own. It was then, during this staring session, that I fell for Fraser and decided he was the dog for us.

Fraser has been a part of our family for two years and continues to impress us with his perceptiveness and curiosity. No matter what you are doing around the house, you can be sure that he is close by, watching and analyzing. This charming trait, along with his joyful, fun-loving nature, makes him an important part of the household: a pet who has added new meaning to the word.

- Robert Hamilton

Robert and Fraser

Robert and Fraser

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photographer’s note: When I met Fraser, I learned that he was also very emotionally bonded with everyone in the family and had cried once when he had done something “bad”. According to Robert’s mom, he was so upset at upsetting his new family that everyone realized he felt some things really deeply and learned to be more careful with his feelings. I was also amazed at Fraser’s ability to leap high through a hoop in the kitchen with almost no lead-up. He was so incredibly present and fast. During the photosession outside, he was distracted by a chipmunk. A true terrier.

Raleigh’s Story

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I grew up with dogs, but I had never heard of a Treeing Walker Coonhound before. Elizabeth and I had looked for a rescue dog for quite some time, but had not found the right match for one reason or another. However, the second we saw Raleigh staring into the camera with his big ears and broken leg we knew we had found our dog.

We officially met Raleigh for the first time in a parking lot in Connecticut. He was in a van filled with other dogs that were also being rescued from a kill shelter in North Carolina. Raleigh did not jump up and lick our faces; he approached us cautiously and with curiosity. On the ride back up to Cambridge, he sat in the back seat calmly looking out the window as dogs often do. We knew it would take time to for Raleigh to be completely comfortable with us and our home…

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His story is a bit heartbreaking. He was originally a hunting dog, but he is extremely anxious of loud noises and so he was left in the woods. I am unsure of how long he was on his own, but it likely was not long as he ended up being hit by a car – resulting in the broken leg mentioned earlier. From there he went to a high kill shelter, to a no kill shelter, and then to someone’s home. His original adopter had some sort of accident where his broken leg was either put in danger or had pressure applied to it and so he snapped. That person, reluctantly, gave Raleigh back as the accident left too many issues with trust – and a dog like Raleigh simply needed someone that had strong foundation at trust at the very start.

Knowing that story, we felt and still feel lucky to have Raleigh as a part of our family. He keeps us company when we go running. He gently climbs on our laps and shoves his head under our arms (he’s a great snuggler).  And he remains a dog that needs patience and persistence: he’s ~OK with kids, not so great with other dogs, and he’s been known to cause destruction on occasion. But he’s great with us.

Patrick B.

Swiss Cow Adventures Continued

Why a series of short films about the connection people have with their cows? The mission of Naturestage is to explore and share stories of deep listening to other species and the ways people learn to interact and communicate with the other animals around them. Through the compassionate observations of other people, I hope to inspire viewers to see other animals as individuals sharing many of the same emotions we human animals do. Since cows are not endangered, and are one of the most widely-used animals for human food sources, I thought it would be an interesting topic for a short film series, in line with my other work with honeybees and beekeepers, elephants and their owners, and ongoing exhibits of dogs. During my week in Zurich, I was lucky to have Ladina as my advanced researcher, seeking out the most simpatico people for interviews about their connections with cows. She discovered the Kuhschule outside of Zurich and sent me the website. I knew when I met the director, Anne Wiltafsky that she was someone who could make a terrific short film subject.

Later in the week, Ladina and I drove into the alps to the Emmenthaler area where her old friend Monica lived. During the summers, Monica lives up in the mountains with her cows as they graze on the lush grasses. Monica told us stories of her cows and how they form strong friendships, and how they will never go in for the night if one cow is missing. She described how Suse seemed lonely since her best friend was separated from her (because she had a calf and needed to be in a separate pasture, away from hikers). Cows are extremely protective of their calves and so this picture of Monica in the field with Erica and Loni and their calves is one showing great trust on both sides.

Cow fact #1: Cows can smell things as far away as six miles.

Cow fact #2: Cows have almost 360 degree vision.

Monica

Monica

Suse

Suse

One Language Project Starts in Europe

Joy - with her toys in Zurich

Joy – with her toys in Zurich

The One Language Project European Edition is now in progress! Today’s adventures started in Zurich, Switzerland – one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. My goal was to find a few farmers to interview over the next few days about their cows, and I was working on a few leads thankfully prepared for me by a local landscape architect who will be traveling with me to the countryside on Friday.

My first stop was the Landes museum which was conveniently hosting an exhibit called Animali – animals used to inspire the imagination throughout the ages. The exhibit focused on the mythology of animals and the way humans have woven human longings, characteristics and physiology with other animals to create the unicorn, the griffin, the dragon, the satyr and mermaids. The video installation was the most compelling, with five large screens seamlessly projecting across the entire side wall of the exhibit with German-sounding mysterious electronica underlying the slow undulations of the various animals against timelapse clouds, milky waters and tree-filled glens. All desaturated colors and focusing on the animals that had become hybrids over the past centuries – the lion, the eagle, the deer, the stag, the snake, the horse.

exhibit photo

To watch the video about the exhibit http://www.art-tv.ch/9849-0-Landesmuseum-Zuerich-Animali.html

After coming out of my near hypnosis from the video installation, I retrieved my precious bag of camera equipment at security and went back to my mission. Cows! En route, I decided to add a couple of dog portraits and their stories, since they all fall under the One Language Project, and how could I resist?

Joy’s story was told to me by her owner Ursula, who runs a beautiful boutique in the old part of Zurich. Here is what she told me:

I got her as a puppy eleven years ago from a farm. She was a mix. She is absolutely crazy about men. She goes to them as if she is in heat. Children love her and she loves them. What touches me most about her is her sensitivity. I could put glasses on the floor and she would carefully walk around them. She’s very careful with everybody, especially babies. You know, she’s a Pisces; she feels a lot. I like that she is still playful, even at eleven years old. She has her toys and they help when she rides in the car. She’s so easygoing. It won’t be easy when she goes.

Joy's Squirrel

Joy’s Squirrel

Joy, eleven years old

Joy, eleven years old

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zurichdogs_(5_of_9)I strolled along the cobblestone streets in the sun, admiring the beauty of the storefronts and the beauty of a walking city without cars everywhere. I love the cafe culture of people being accessible, sitting still, talking, enjoying the view, the sound of birds instead of cars.

 

I looked down a long street towards the sun-filled waterfront and saw a black dog lying in the middle of the street. I wandered down and started talking to the owner about her dog. This is what she told me about Santos:

Santos is 4 years old and I’ve had him since he was 8 weeks. He is the third black labrador I’ve had. He’s not castrated and isn’t in the slight bit aggressive. No troubles with anyone. He loves children, especially when they are running and playing. Every day we go in the forest for walks. We have our places.

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Mona

Mona’s owner recently wrote this beautiful tribute to Mona for the One Language Project. Enjoy!

Mona

By Tabitha A. Manwaring

September 18, 2012

Ten days before my birthday, in October of 2011, Sam decided to change our date night to a “let’s find a dog” night. On a whim, we stayed on the F train for a few more stops; we headed to Fort Hamilton Parkway. We arrived and used Google Maps to find Sean Casey Animal Shelter- a no kill shelter in Brooklyn where they take all animals, even the exotic sort.

We went with no idea of whether we would bring home a dog or cat- maybe a bird. The kind people at Sean Casey showed us all of their dogs and cats that were upstairs. We saw some lovely animals, but none of which we felt were “ours.” There were no magic moments.

As we decided to leave and try another day, feeling fully disheartened, one of the workers told us to wait. He asked what we were looking for, and when we stated we needed a small dog, full of personality, which is interested in people, and without aggression issues, he said he had the perfect dog.

We waited in their attached pet store, looking at the birds and kittens. In walked the worker and this lovely little energetic tri-colored dog that upon seeing me, jumped up to lick my hands. She had no fur left over one eye, her coat was very thin, and she was wheezing and coughing. I knew at that moment, she was ours.

It was weeks before they let us take her home because she was so sick from infections and kennel cough they were afraid she would not make it or she would be too sick for us to care for. We went back every day after work to walk her and she would cry every time we left, breaking our hearts. Sam and I began nesting- we bought her a pink heart-shaped metal name tag, a crate, bedding, ceramic dog bowls in an iron stand, researched food and veterinarians, and finally they said we could bring her home.

October 8, 2011 we brought home our little Mona doggy. There have been trials with training and an unexpected awkward period of getting to know each other, but Sean Casey’s behaviorist was there every step of the way. They helped us learn what she needed and wanted and helped us learn to cope with her separation anxiety.

It’s nearly a year later and she is a happy and healthy part of our family who is full of energy and quirks. We love every bit of her, the dog who licks our feet at night and our faces in the mornings, the dog who barks at anything she feels like, running from one side of our Brooklyn floor-through to the other, the dog who has opened our hearts in ways we never imagined.

A Pekingese Dreams of Denver

On my way back from Camden, I stopped off in Portland and parked downtown. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Maybe it was because he looked so clean, his shirt and sneakers so new, or because he seemed so open. But it was his small pekingese huddled in the bike carrier, and the way he touched it tenderly under its chin that finally drew me to him.

He said he needed money to get to Denver.

I asked, Why Denver? He told me that Maine wasn’t friendly towards people with epilepsy in giving financial assistance and that Denver was known for being better. He told me that he was clean, just occasional marijuana and cigarettes. He had no record.

I believed him because of what he told me next, and because of his hands, the way he occasionally touched the dog beside him. He had been making good money in retail but found himself on the floor one day after a seizure and then without a job the next week. His roommate moved out on short notice, his girlfriend broke up with him, and he wasn’t able to prove that he had a recurring condition to qualify for financial assistance. He was able to find another job washing dishes in a cafe, but fell over in the kitchen with a severe seizure which he said was brought on from an overwhelming feeling of contentment.

It was then that he lost his apartment and he and Buzzer moved to the streets.

I didn’t realize that epileptic seizures can be brought on by strong emotions, both positive and negative. Without medication, he might never tame his predicament, and when I asked him if he would take medication, he said he believed in more natural remedies, like marijuana. He says he hasn’t had a seizure since the time in the cafe as long as he can self-medicate, but he also hasn’t been able to find a job because of his history of epilepsy.

All the while I was sitting with him in the park, his tiny pekingese Buzzer looked forlornly out of the yellow bike carrier. A woman stopped by us in the park and handed him a bag full of cans of wet dog food and he thanked her as if they knew each other well.

I was amazed at how much Steve knew about the nutritional needs of small dogs – how much protein and vitamins they needed. He told me it was a struggle to make sure Buzzer was getting the food that would keep him healthy and I asked him about his own food.  He told me that because of his height, he should be 250 pounds but was only 175. He says he often goes hungry so that Buzzer can have enough. When he teared up talking about Buzzer, his eyes grew red and he had to wipe away tears with his sleeve. it was as if he was letting his stress, his hopes, his disappointment and his love all leak out at the seams.

He brought his arms back to rest on the bike tires that I hoped would carry him and Buzzer to Denver, to the promised land. He told me that he had rescued Buzzer from neglect 13 years ago in Rockland.  Buzzer’s companionship kept him going when the people who said were his friends in Portland weren’t there for him. I asked him if Buzzer could tell how he was feeling and he said that often when he was working very hard to focus on the glass half full, Buzzer would whine and hold his head down between his paws. He said that he had never wanted Buzzer to grow old and to be without a home and sense of safety. I couldn’t help think he was talking about himself too.

I could tell how earnest he was, and felt tremendous compassion for his predicament. When you love someone, whether a dog or another person, and want to protect them from any harshness in the world, it is all the more painful when you feel time running out. As Steve talked about the Occupy Movement while gently stroking the fur of his one true companion, I imagined the two of them, traveling beneath the open sky, heading west. And I worried if he might just feel too much joy… or too much freedom that he might be found on the side of the road, post-seizure, a little deaf and blind dog huddled at his side.

It is partially for people like Steve and their emotional companions, whether two or four-legged, that I dedicate the One Language Project. For the people who can love and care for others despite their own challenges, and who aim to see the best in life despite their real failings and mental illness. To see more please visit http://www.onelanguageproject.com

Crossings – a new short film for the One Language Project

Last week I studied with Bob Sacha at Maine Media Workshops in a multi-media masterclass where we worked on condensing interviews into two minute stories. In the process of the project, I discovered that Robin Elms who performs at-home euthanasia for pets in Maine, would make a wonderful subject for a larger documentary about what care-taking for a pet really means and the implications for how we care-take for one another especially as we grow older.

 

Crossings from Miranda Loud on Vimeo.

Colby

Colby: photo by Miranda Loud

Colby: photo by Miranda Loud

Colby didn’t think he was a dog. We swore that such an attitude was the source of his longevity, that the only way to explain why a yellow Labrador retriever lived past his sixteenth birthday was that he believed our little wolf pack was populated entirely by animals of the same species. He slept on a bed. On long road trips, he tiptoed up to the front passenger seat for a lengthy visit; the joy of having an eighty-pound dog on your lap while you unfolded a map. He wouldn’t acknowledge other dogs: some desultory sniffing and he’d move on.

Dog bowls were for dogs. He drank water from a toilet or a tall bucket my in-laws left for their cat (long story) or streams or mucky puddles after storms. Unlike every other Lab in history, he never rushed over to his dog bowl when we poured his kibble in; sometimes hours or even a day would go by before he deigned to eat it; he also had a habit of taking one, tentative bite, walking away as if to ponder this thing called dog food, and then coming back and eating the rest. Colby simply loved human food. He hustled in from anywhere in the house at the tinkle of the ice cream spoon coming to rest on the bottom of the now-empty bowl—this if he wasn’t already there, watching Rebecca’s every move, his eyebrows bouncing up and down at each bite. When I first met Rebecca, she sat eating with her left hand raised high out of habit, since otherwise Colby, then three years old, would leap up and devour her food.

When people arrived at the door, Colby greeted them with a shoe in his mouth and then carried it around for a minute or two. It was his way of welcoming visitors to our home. When I went out, I often had to search for a missing piece of footwear and would invariably find it near a dogbed under the dining room table where a collection of untwined footwear migrated. One summer Rebecca lost a running shoe and the following spring we found it in the woods by the lake: a greeting that had gone too long. Rebecca’s theory was that Colby liked the smell of humans—our sweat. I thought he was asking our guests: “Oh, look at this crazy thing my family does, they put these odd, leather, rubbery things on their paws. Do you do this?”

Colby reminded us that family extends beyond ourselves. He loved completely, without hesitation. Even when he could no longer thump his tail or carry shoes in greeting, his eyebrows wiggled around his head to show his joy at being with us. He is sorely missed.

J. Zug

naturestage:

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Originally posted on naturestage:

Lupina is up for adoption at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen. You can read about her below.

Naturestage is all about using the arts to foster a sense of kinship with other species, but sometimes it feels very satisfying to make a real difference that is tangible and as practical as a cat leaving a cage after months at a shelter and finding a home where he or she is cherished.

That is what we’re aiming for this holiday season, as I use my photographic skills to help make some of the cats needing homes stand out on Petfinder. Your donations help me afford to do more photography like this of animals in shelters, as well as the pursue the other Naturestage projects.

Here are some of the cats I photographed on Monday at the MSPCA Nevins Farm in Methuen, MA and their stories. You can request copies…

View original 1,601 more words

How to Train Your Wild Mustang

I visited Story Brook Farm in Chatham, NY in June and met Summer Brennan who was one of 28 trainers accepted into the Great Mustang Makeover to be held in New Jersey this August. I was amazed that her horse Amado, whom she was training for the competition, had been untouched by humans only weeks before, and here he was being ridden, doing jumps, and literally jumping through hoops. How did she tame this beautiful and majestic wild animal? Find out here:

How to Train Your Wild Mustang from Miranda Loud on Vimeo.

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