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Otis and Pushkin, Together Again
Dec27

Otis and Pushkin, Together Again

For Otis, who joined his brother Pushkin in heaven on November 5, 2014. Originally written and shared on the Letters To Pushkin web site. 24 December 2014 Dear Otis, Merry Christmas to my dear, sweet boy. My handsome, stalwart one. My little New Yorker. My hunk-a-chunk-a-love. The rock of our family. The glue that keeps it together. The little prana running around our home. My great joy. All these phrases I used over and over again with you to describe the sparkling spirit that came to me wrapped up in a dog suit (those adorable “floating cloud” eyebrows). It’s no wonder I have so may songs about you, all those silly little lyrics I set to various (admittedly, mostly lifted) melodies. I started singing to you, about you, practically the day I met you (Hello Otis, Well hello Otis, it’s so nice to have you right where you belong…) and kept writing those little tunes throughout our more than ten years together. One of the more recent ones, that snappy little ditty I started up that night last winter while we were bracing ourselves against the cold, whipping wind and the snow (Let me love ya, Otis… I’ll keep you safe, I’ll keep you warm, I’ll rub your belly for all of that charm…Let me love ya, Otis), was a particularly good addition to our song catalog, I think. And one of the very first songs I wrote that included you, I’ve been singing every day since you had to go because it has given me such an incredible amount of comfort during this grieving process: Pushkin and Otis, brothers and friends, Pushkin and Otis, friends to the end. Whether they’re playing or sleeping tonight Pushkin and Otis are doing just fine. It comforts me and brings me a modicum of happiness in the midst of the sadness to think that, after nearly six years of flying solo, Pushkin is no longer alone on the other side; you are both young and spry again, scampering around together and loving every minute of it. Now you’re alongside your big brother for our morning meditation together, and again each evening for our Om Shanti, Goodnight. We created this routine when our family was grieving over the loss of Pushkin, and the routine’s not going anywhere. You know that each morning we’re going to start the day with “Good morning, Pushkin! Good morning, Otis!” You can count on it. You also know I’m still singing to you each day, just like I kept on singing to Pushkin after he went with the angels. I made sure before you left us that you knew,...

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Genesis Awards, 2013
Mar26

Genesis Awards, 2013

This past weekend, I was in Los Angeles to attend The 27th Genesis Awards held at The Beverly Hilton. Each year, The Humane Society of the United States hosts a star-studded event that recognizes the contributions by major news and entertainment media in raising public awareness about animal issues. Proceeds from this year’s gala benefited three of HSUS’s campaigns: Pets for Life, Farm Animal Protection, and Chimps Deserve Better. Saturday night’s program was hosted by Carrie Ann Inaba of “Dancing with the Stars.” I was at the awards last year when she hosted for the first time; once again, she did a fantastic job. The evening began with cocktails before sitting down to a 3-course vegan meal, followed by the awards show. Celebrity presenters included Wendie Malick, Pauley Perrette, Charlotte Ross, Kaley Cuoco, Owain Yeoman, Hal Sparks, and Michael Vartan. All of the nominees deserve a standing ovation for their work on behalf of animals. Here’s a list of some of the night’s winners: Feature Film Big Miracle TV Documentary Ivory Wars – Discovery Channel Dramatic Series Harry’s Law – “Gorilla My Dreams” episode – NBC Reality Series Wild Justice – Nat Geo Channel National News ABC World News, Diane Sawyer – downer cow video Print Magazine National Geographic – “Rhino Wars” by Peter Gwinz; “Cheetahs on the Edge” by Roff Smith; “Ivory Worship” by Bryan Christy Columnist Roy Exum, The Chattanoogan.com – multiple part series on Tennessee Walking Horse soaring The Wyler Award & The Corporate Award Pop star Ke$ha received this year’s Wyler Award, given each year to a celebrity or public figure who has raised awareness of animal issues via the media. As the Humane Society International’s first Global Ambassador for Animals, Ke$ha has spread the word about street dogs, trophy hunting of endangered lions, shark-finning, Canada’s commercial seal slaughter, dogfighting, and cruelty-free cosmetics. She also features a different animal issue each month on her web site and urges her fan base to take action for animals. This year introduced a new award, The HSUS Corporate Award, which was given to Lush Cosmetics, for creating handmade products with all-vegetarian ingredients and adhering to a “no animal testing” policy. With its ingredients and packaging, LUSH creates products that also have a minimal impact on the environment and comply with high labor standards. Furthermore, the company exemplifies corporate responsibility in its activism, as it engages both consumers and legislators in advancing animal protection, environmental, and human rights causes. Silent Auction & After-Party In addition to dinner and the show, there’s also a silent auction and a high-energy after-party. The auction is a smorgasbord of cruelty-free products, beautiful artwork,...

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Forty-Seven Letters?
Mar15

Forty-Seven Letters?

“What’s your book about?” I’m not surprised when I often see the friendly curiosity in a stranger’s face change to puzzlement. Although many people have opened up to me about their own losses – and not just over companion animals, but humans, too – I realize that a collection of forty-seven letters to a beagle may seem, at best, a bit maudlin and, at worst, rather obsessive. True, when I was writing the a daily letter to Pushkin during the season of Lent, which began just a few weeks after his passing, I didn’t intend to share them – there was no intention for a “story” to emerge as the days went by. I read somewhere recently that people who are grieving naturally will lean on ritual to help them through it. Especially in the beginning, when the grief is at its greatest intensity. Writing a letter each day was just one of several routines that I instantly set up to give myself structure, to buttress myself against the quicksand of grief that could so easily swallow up a person. I was willing to let myself have the feelings, but I also was determined not to get stuck in them. Again, a person may ask, “Over a beagle?” First, I will unapologetically answer that a companion animal is a family member, just like a human member. Even though we know the lifespan of a beagle is 12-15 years — that he will not outlive us as a human child would — the heart cannot be constrained by what the mind knows to be true. Anyone with a companion animal knows that, in exchange for the incredible bond we will have with our four-legged friends and fur children for as long as we are entrusted with them, we are setting ourselves up for a devastating loss. The ever-growing collection of letters that others have written to their own companion animals on the Letters To Pushkin web site is a testament to the role companion animals play in our families and their lasting presence in our lives. Beyond expressing this connection with animals, however, my own collection of letters became something else. As my first experience ever with the loss of a loved one, the loss of Pushkin became the impetus for a deeply personal story that does, in fact, emerge from the handwritten pages. I was well-educated and well-traveled by the time Pushkin became seriously ill. I’d lived my life up to that point in such a way that I’d been exposed to many different approaches to life and diverse belief systems. I had my own ideas about life and...

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Christmas Night’s Miracle Moment
Dec29

Christmas Night’s Miracle Moment

Those of you who have read my collection of letters to Pushkin know that one of the aspects I’ve most struggled with regarding any concept of an after-life — ever since I was just a little girl — has been the question of whether or not there is a continuation of consciousness: each day I pray that Pushkin remembers his life here with us and that he knows how much we love him — now and always. On Christmas night, I chose to wear a jacket that I wear maybe a handful of times each year. A little later that evening, I felt something in my pocket. And when I saw what it was, I couldn’t help but hope that I was holding a miracle in the palm of my hand. A little gasp. A sigh. A smile. I got this card on a December night, just days before we found out that Pushkin had chronic kidney failure and that he would not be with us for much longer. Along with my husband and my parents, I brought Pushkin to a nearby shopping center for a Christmas “Enchanted Snowfall” event. As the choir sang, man-made snow shot through the air from the center’s second story and drifted down to the delighted crowd below. As I held Pushkin in my arms, a single soap-sud flake landed on his nose. Before heading home, we did a little Christmas shopping for him and his brothers at Muttropolis. I can still see him walking around the store, checking out all the goods, and peering out through the store’s front windows — the children outside pointing at the adorable beagle in the window. This card, given to me at check-out, a memento from that evening together. It was also at this Muttropolis store that Pushkin and I attended a Dog Yoga class together about a year earlier. That class officially began our yoga and meditation practice together. After Pushkin’s passing, I wrote an article for Animal Wellness magazine about practicing yoga with a companion animal, and I used the pictures from the Muttropolis class to illustrate the yoga poses. One of the greatest lessons Pushkin has taught me is that, particularly when life is at its most hectic, we need to just be still and breathe. In my letters, I describe the time Pushkin held his nose under mine and insisted we keep breathing together even when I, too easily distracted, started to turn my head away. Otis, Galileo, and I breathe with Pushkin each morning during our meditation time together. This practice has become one of the ways that Pushkin remains a part...

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New video trailer for my book Letters To Pushkin!
Nov30

New video trailer for my book Letters To Pushkin!

The holiday season is a joyous time, but it also can be difficult as we’re missing loved ones who are now only with us in spirit. I hope my Letters To Pushkin book & the LTP web site are sources of comfort & peace for you, family, & friends. Here’s a brand new video trailer all about LTP. I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps share it with someone who might be having a tough time as all the fa-la-la gets underway. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omWcLdHSCAc&hd=1&w=600] Special thanks to all who have been so supportive of Letters To Pushkin. It warms my heart to know that so much good has come out of my own loss. And I like to think Pushkin is watching and smiling. *  *  *  *  *  *  * Sharon’s tender journey with Pushkin reveals the immense gifts we human beings receive from our four-legged animal companions.  The respect, humor, compassionate caring,  and unconditional love she shared with Pushkin reveals the preciousness of the human-canine bond.  We often refer to “rescuing” a dog, but it’s probably far more frequent that a dog rescues us, for as it says in Job 12:7, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you.”— Michael Bernard Beckwith, author of Spiritual Liberation~Fulfilling Your Soul’s...

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The Blessing Event: Angels Rest at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
Oct18

The Blessing Event: Angels Rest at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

At Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, nestled in Angel Canyon near Kanab, Utah, there is a resting place and memorial site for companion animals loved and lost. Originally, Angels Rest was created as a place for animals whose time to cross over the Rainbow Bridge had come while they were living at the sanctuary, and for companion animals of the sanctuary’s staff. Each month, members of the Best Friends community gather to honor the dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, pigs, parrots, and wildlife that have moved on. Placements & Memorials in the Garden Over the years, the number of animals remembered and honored has grown, and extended beyond the sanctuary’s immediate family. Now, more than 3,000 animals have been placed or memorialized at Angels Rest. Supporters of Best Friends from around the country have the option of having their animals placed here, bodies ($300-$450) or cremains ($150), accompanied by a dedication plaque ($75) or a granite or rose stone ($425-$475). Plaques and stones also are available as memorials on their own. Or, people can have wind chimes hung on one of the myriad chime trees in the garden ($80-$150). The garden is bigger than it first appears from the front gate: row after row of memorials; a fountain in the garden’s center; the grounds peppered with statues of dogs and cats, a pig; and, everywhere you turn, there’s another crevice containing some sort of memento or an old collar.   The Annual Blessing Event & Tributes While the Blessing is a monthly event for the sanctuary community, each September — the month my husband and I decided to visit and volunteer — the Blessing event becomes one that includes the general public, as BF members are invited to send in “tributes” to the loved ones they’ve lost. The mailed-in tributes are long cards with handwritten comments, which the garden’s caretakers hang on the trees and shrubs specifically for the event. More than 30,000 companion animals were represented by these tributes during the September Blessing. And adding to the beauty of  all those cards moving gently in the breeze: the thought that, in the very moments the Blessing was happening, some 30,000 additional people  — spread out all across the country — were with us in their thoughts. All of us, together at Angels Rest, honoring the animals in our lives. The evening’s program, lasting about an hour and a half, was both somber and uplifting. As people arrived and took their seats, one of the sanctuary co-founders played the violin sweetly. The event began with a Call to Gathering followed by Welcoming Remarks by John Sichta, Angels Rest senior caretaker. The...

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