The Horror of a Sick Puppy

At the veterinary practice I work for, I often hear things like: “I don’t know how you do it working with all of these cute pets all day! I could never do it when they pass away!”

My response is always about the kindness and compassion I feel working among the people who I work with; death is always difficult, but feeling surrounded with love is a great combatant to that grief.

This morning I received a call from a family with a 6-week old puppy who they were worried was dying. When the puppy arrived at our practice he was still and not breathing well. We rushed him into the treatment room and doctors immediately took action.

Tragically, he did not survive.

His fate was not in anyway whatsoever due to the team not doing everything in their power to save him. Every action that could be taken was, but this tiny baby was taken from his mama-pup too soon and his tiny body wasn’t strong enough yet to handle it.

This tragedy was not the family’s fault: This sweet family wasn’t experienced with pets. They didn’t know he was too small. They didn’t know what nutrients he needed. They fell in love with the sweet little boy and hoped to give him a long, loved life.

I’m devastated for this family. They had to tell their children their beloved puppy wouldn’t be at home when they returned after school. I am sad about the guilt the family is feeling because they didn’t know what a puppy this age needed to eat to survive because the person who sold them the puppy didn’t make sure they knew. My heart is broken for my co-workers who dropped everything to do all they could to save this baby’s life. And I’m sad for me: I can’t stop feeling for everyone involved.

A dear friend once told me to try to remember every day why I am alive; each of us is here for a reason.

In the moments I was speaking to this family, I thought of this friend and her advice. I thought of the fact that my empathetic soul is giving and welcoming. In a way that only someone with such a soul can, I was able to welcome this family to our practice and hopefully relieve some of the pain they experienced. I pray that the family – though they must feel so much guilt – can remember the words I told them about not focusing on the “should haves”. I hope they remember that a hug in just the right moment can help one share the pain of grief. I hope that they felt warmth and compassion from our practice and that when they are ready, they will welcome a new furry friend into their family.

I feel angry. I have studied animal welfare practically my whole life. In graduate school I worked on a project to prevent puppies being purchased online (which I’m fairly certain is still legal…). As part of this project I researched puppy mills and my heart broke. It wasn’t until today that I have had a first hand experience with what a puppy mill can do to a community.

All the hurt, the pain, the grief felt by this family, my co-workers, me… This was caused because someone out there wanted to increase their income by sending a puppy to an inexperienced person before the puppy was ready to be parted from his mother.

I keep imagining this person. I imagine their “kennel” as a series of cages, too small for the mama dogs, crowded together. Mama dogs artificially inseminated or forced to mate again and again. Mama dogs whose bodies ache from giving birth over and over; their bodies sore from nursing puppies, but not for long enough. Puppies torn from mama dogs before they are done drinking mama’s milk, rooting and seeking for mama. Puppies put in a truck or in the mail to arrive at a loving home with someone who may never have had a dog and maybe doesn’t understand what a puppy needs to survive – a family who has never heard of a puppy mill and the devastation a puppy mill can cause.

How many of these puppies survive their births? How many of these mama dogs long for a friendly pet, or a game of fetch, or snuggles from their puppies? How many families have the happiness of welcoming a fur-baby into their home only to have it torn away from them when the puppy doesn’t thrive? How many of these puppy mills mail another puppy to the family when this happens? Does that puppy make it? Does the family give up on having pets thinking they aren’t a fit home for a furry friend? Do the children in these families begin to believe they don’t have a safe home for a puppy?

I keep thinking about Capitalism. Capitalism and the need to buy, the need to have more, to spend more… I’m thinking about how the need to make/buy/spend causes people to do such horrendous things. This person found a way to bring in continuous income without regard for who is hurt in the process. They’ve found a way to force another living creature to create more and more babies; so many babies that if a few die here and there it doesn’t matter because there are always more on the way. All in the name of another dollar gained.

But at what expense?

Witches – Set an intention to make this a less often experienced circumstance. Adopt, don’t shop. Educate your friends and neighbors. The MSPCA offers suggestions on how to prevent puppies from being exploited for profit (edited for brevity).

#1: Do not buy pet supplies from a store that sells dogs, cats, or other animals from intensive breeding facilities or other unethical suppliers.

The key to ending dogs being bred in these conditions is to decrease consumer demand. Animals in pet shops or available over the internet often come from “puppy mills.” Animals in newspaper classified ads and sold through brokers can also come from “puppy mills”. By buying an animal from one of these venues, you support the conditions at large scale breeding facilities.

#2: Spread the word.

Educate your friends, family, and co-workers about large scale breeders and how the decision to buy an animal from a pet store supports these operations. Ask your friends to take the pledge not to support puppy mills.

#3: Write a Letter to the Editor.

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper(s) to educate your entire community, and your elected officials, about the issue.

#4: Encourage legislative protections on the federal level.

Contact the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that is charged with inspecting commercial breeding facilities, to encourage stricter enforcement and stronger laws. You may also wish to contact your U.S. Senators and Congressperson about your concerns. In Massachusetts, if you do not know who represents you, visit and look for two U.S. Senators (under Statewide Office Holders) and Congressional (under District Representatives).

#5: Encourage legislative protections on the state level.

…Contact your state legislators and express your opinion and concerns regarding puppy mills and pet shops…

#6: Encourage legislative protections on the local level.

Boston, Cambridge, Stoneham, and over 320 other municipalities across the country have banned retail pet store puppy sales. Passing a local ordinance or bylaw may be less complicated and timely than trying to pass a state-wide law. While local ordinances or bylaws would only impact animals in a city or town, their reach is often far greater.

New Moon in Gemini ~ Mind, Body, Spirit Reading

New Moons are a time for fresh beginnings, new starts. To celebrate this new moon, which began in Gemini and is currently in Cancer, I brewed some detoxing Dandelion Tea and pulled a 3 card, Mind, Body, Spirit tarot reading.

I have a tendency to live in the clouds – to dream and day dream without thinking through actual steps toward a goal. Sometimes it gets me into trouble ~ this reading tells me to stay focused, and not get distracted in the multitudes or choices.

I’m working on an exciting large project “behind the scenes”, and it’s coming together so beautifully. There are bumps, as there always are, but if I can stay focused on tangible results (not my day dreams) and remember to rely on my friends and loved ones all will go well.

Real Magic: Family & Friends

My beloved recently celebrated a special birthday. To celebrate, we had a tiny party at home with baby girl last week, and a fancier celebration with family and friends today.

Guests traveled from all over Massachusetts (and Maine!) to join us, and we enjoyed delicious food and wonderful company.

Whenever I’m surrounded by so much love and kindness, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude. There are so many amazing people in our life, and we are so thankful.

As we departed today’s celebration, we stopped in at a local wand shop (Yes, of course we have a wand shop here in Salem!). Baby Girl got her first wand – one handcrafted from unicorn hair and maple. All afternoon she used her wand to make magic and @mikegiannopolo and I spent a lot of time dropping things as she Expeliarmoused us.

I’ll never tell her magic isn’t real. Of course she can’t really force people to drop things. But the love we feel in life when surrounded by family and friends is magic in its own rite – and I hope she’ll grow to love and appreciate that feeling.

I hope she will always know that our actions – big and small – can have an incredible impact on those around us. I hope she’ll always want to use her charms to celebrate those around her… and that she’ll learn more spells than Expelliarmous because dropping something you’re holding over and over again can become rather monotonous.

Happy New Moon in Taurus, Witches. Enjoy your earthly pleasures, like family and friends. 🖤

Spell Recipe – Kick your coughs to the curb

If you live in New England in the winter and/or if you have an elementary school aged child at home (like me) you know germs are jerky manifesters who enjoy setting up shop and making the household cough and achy and are SO ANNOYING for months.

Since Yule my little family has had cold after cold and we’re all begging each other to stop coughing on each other’s faces. I’m definitely not anti-medication – you do you – but I do try my best to find herbal and natural remedies when they are possible and safe.

I avoided stuff like Vick’s forever, but when we welcomed a tiny germ factory – I mean tiny person into our family I realized sometimes chemicals do the trick and everyone can get some sleep.

That said, I didn’t love that the product didn’t explain all of the ingredients on the label, but it worked so I made do! I’m on a path to living a more sustainable life, so I attempted to make my own cough suppressant cream.

We tried it as a family. One of us found it perfectly helpful, one found it slightly helpful, and one said it didn’t help at all. Give it a shot and let me know if it helps you! I Reiki charged ours, but I realize that’s not something you all have – happy to help you in that regard if you’d like – Let me know.

  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 8 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 8 drops peppermint essential oil

Apply to the chest and the feet (and cover in cozy socks) right before sleeping.

Five Witchy Ways to Give Thanks

November is my favorite month. I love the fall rains. The chill in the air that means it’s hoodie & scarf season. Wearing my doc martins and making sure everyone knows they’re vegan because that is the kind of person I am. The chaos of Halloween in Salem has come to an end, we’re getting closer to longer days with more sunshine. And – of course – Thanksgiving.

Many modern pagan witches celebrate a day of thanks around the autumnal equinox – thanking the gods and goddesses for the harvest during Mabon. I happen to celebrate both Mabon & Secular Thanksgiving. The first Thanksgiving in 1637 was started right here in Massachusetts to celebrate the return of colonial hunters, but what we don’t often talk about is the fact that during that hunting trip, the colonists murdered 700 Pequot people.  It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that the Pilgrims and the Thanksgiving holiday were used to teach children about “American freedom and how to be good citizens”.

Personally, I want to reclaim the day: I want to celebrate what we have in this moment (a safe, warm home, a wonderful family, food that is safe to eat) but at the same time right our ancestors wrongs by recognizing our American history for what it was (colonizers stealing the homes of and murdering the people living on this land). It may seem impossible to have these two thoughts at the same time, but this Pisces fish can assure you the duality is possible.

Here are five witchy ways to celebrate Thanksgiving in a modern way that helps us celebrate the love and warmth of the day while also calling attention to our colonial history:

5. Step Outside Your Coven

It’s not always easy, but listening is an essential part of any conversation. Family gatherings can sometimes lead to tricky conversations. Politics, family drama, annoying relatives – I’ve heard so many horror stories. Make time to listen. Don’t sit there thinking about your retort about why they are wrong… Welcome the conversation. Grow your understanding. Learn.

4. Make Like a Hedge Witch & Leave 

My favorite part of my witchy life is honoring nature. From tending to my rose bush and lavender plants to getting lost in the woods –  I love getting my hands dirty and letting my mind go while I’m surrounded by trees, flowers, and plants. Get outside and notice nature around you. Do you live in New England? Look for the handful of leaves that are holding on to their trees. Notice what is still green. Is it raining? Thank the universe for blessing the earth with rain to grow future harvests. Be grateful.

3. Adopt (David) Bowie the Turkey

I’ve been (mostly) vegetarian since I was 12. Consuming a mostly plant based diet is a magical way for me to honor nature and our planet. Food should be a passion. You should love what you eat and it should make your body feel positive and happy.

Whether or not a vegetarian diet is for you, one way you can create more balance in the universe is by shopping locally. Is there a farm close to home where you can purchase your green beans for casserole? Can you meet the cows whose milk created the cheese for your scalloped potatoes?

Don’t live near a farm? Combat the abuses of factor farming by adopting a turkey from Farm Sanctuary. They even have a little guy named Bowie and I want him to come live with me. Think Poe’d like a feathered brother?

2. Channel your Inner Kitchen Witch

Whether your Thanksgiving is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, turkeyified, or whatever else you decide, common spices can add magic to any meal. By using spell magic (setting intentions) while you cook, you can bring magic into your table setting and abundance for your loved ones. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Basil: prosperity, peace, protection
  • Bay: wisdom, divination
  • Cinnamon: healing, protection, energy
  • Clove: protection, purification, healing
  • Marjoram: protection, happiness, love, and joy, particularly in family environments

1. Honor America’s History: Support Native People

Much of the history of the First People is seen through a white lens. Fight this:

  • find ways seek out Native authors, artists, and businesses.
  • avoid cultural appropriation.
  • teach the true history of the day to students in your life.
  • LISTEN to those around you; respect their stories, their understandings even if it is uncomfortable – encouraging an environment of the “other” only leads to more hatred and misunderstandings.
  • The International Indian Treaty Council is an organization of Indigenous Peoples from North, Central, South America, the Caribbean and the Pacific working for the Sovereignty and Self Determination of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition and protection of Indigenous Rights, Treaties, Traditional Cultures and Sacred Lands. Show them some love.

Getting lost in Dogtown

Dogtown, nestled between Gloucester & Rockport on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, is a magical nook just outside of a bustling highway. It was first known as the Common Settlement in 1693 when colonized by English millers and farmers. Close enough to the water to thrive but far enough to be safe from pirates, the community flourished for a century – 80-100 families made this rocky & wooded area their home until just after the American Revolution.

When Gloucester revived its fishing industry after the Revolution, families moved closer to the water and even the meeting house location was reestablished; the small wooden homes were abandoned. Over time, the dogs who lived with the widows of men lost to sea and the war, were left behind, became feral, and overcame the land. Legends say this is when and why the name was changed to Dogtown.

On this summer day, as I walked up Dogtown Road I saw a sign for trail “G”, and as my married name starts with a G I figured this was a great place to begin meandering.

As I wandered down the trail, I found much of the path covered in water. I was wearing my vegan Doc Martins, so I kept going. And going. And going.

I got lost in the woods, which I love to do. The trees wrestling against the cold wind. The streams on the path gurgling. The quiet of being away from urban life in Salem.

Seemingly abruptly, but really after a half hour, I looked up and realized the path I was on had ended. It seems I’d somehow come off the path and was in fact following a stream that lets out into the Babson Reservoir. Confused, I looked around and realized I was quite lost. There was no path in view. I’d become soaked from hopping through and over the burbling stream.

AsI was walking I realized how quiet everything was – there were no birds, no squirrels.  I had wandered far enough from the Reservoir that I couldn’t hear the streams any longer. Besides my boots crushing the dried and dying leaves below, the only sound I could hear was the howling of the wind – bending and cracking the tallest branches of the tallest trees as it gushed by.

Not one to become easily frightened, I kept going.

As I pushed through the brush and the fallen leaves, I noticed boulders all around; some were giant and blocking my path so I had to backtrack to find a way around them. Bittersweet stuck to my clothes, my hat, my face, and even my hair every ten steps or so, causing me to backtrack in hopes of finding ways around it. My legs had cuts all over them from the thorny vines.

I’d backtracked too much. I swear I was walking toward the road, even with the backtracking, but I was even further from my destination than I was when I was at the Reservoir. I couldn’t help but wonder if the bittersweet was holding me there, in the forest. Reminding me of the lure of nature, the way fresh air can be so healing. Pausing for a moment to take it all in, I breathed in and out slowly, thanked nature for this reminder, and began my trek again.

I won’t bore you with all of my tangles in the bittersweet, all of my climbing over, between, and around boulders, and the time I thought a pile of leaves were on sturdy ground but were actually covering a hole between two boulders that was full of water. It took me almost an hour to find my way back to the road. It felt like a time warp in which I kept moving but not actually making progress.  It was frighteningly wonderful.

You can imagine my relief when I found Dogtown Road again. Before starting my trek again, I googled “Dogtown maps” and the first search noted that one would be “foolhardy” to wander Dogtown without a map. Rolling my eyes, I found my way back to the parking area, took a photo of the map on the way-finding sign, and began walking up Dogtown Road – skipping trail G this time.

The sun was shining warmly and, though it was 32*, I was warm from finding my way back from the reservoir to the road. After a few minutes of walking, I paused again to adjust my scarf and to take in the nature around me. I looked forward at the path. As I did I began thinking about the English settlers (colonizers) who came to the area. How many were lost in the woods as I just was? How frightened were they when sun set and nocturnal animals, unfamiliar to them, began roaming? I laughed at myself thinking how grateful I was for them that bittersweet isn’t native to Massachusetts and that the human-made Babson Reservoir wasn’t in existence yet. I tucked my scarf – which kept coming undone – back into my jacket and began my journey again.

Abruptly, I had a feeling I wasn’t alone. I forced myself to look up. And I saw it.

A human sized figure – completely white or light grey – moving from the right side of the path to the left right in front of me.

I froze. Was it a bird? Maybe. But I didn’t hear any birds. Also, what kind of giant white bird makes no noise as it travels across a path full of leaves and surrounded by trees? It most definitely wasn’t a person – the crunch of fallen New England leaves are a sure sound this time of year when wandering in the woods. What was it?

When I got home, I shared on Instagram that I had gone to Dogtown. In response I received several messages from people who had gone and who had become so lost they will never return. One person messaged me to mention she saw I was headed to Dogtown and had inspired her to want to learn more about Thomasine (Tammy) Younger – the Queen of Witches. It seems Tammy lived in Dogtown in the late 1700.  She collected “tariffs” from anyone passing by her home on Fox Hill, harassing oxen drivers until they complied. It was rumored that if you didn’t pay up, her spirit would spill wood from your cart. Tammy had two long teeth interfering with her ability to eat, causing her to become even more of an outcast. When she died, a family built her coffin, but refused to keep the coffin in their shop because they felt her spirit was in the coffin well before her body was. Some believed she never actually died.

This morning, as I began writing this post, I pulled up several maps of the area to try to sort out where I was lost and how I can avoid doing that next time I visit. Curious, I looked for Tammy’s home. Tammy’s home is near the Reservoir – the Reservoir where I ended up when I felt the woods luring me off track.

Photos of my travels at Dogtown.