It Takes a Village by Lynn Porter

“It Takes a Village” by Lynn Porter was published in the Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter on 3-28-09.  To subscribe to this free newsletter send a blank email to

By Lynn Porter

This is a story that begins with tragedy but ends with the kindness of strangers.

Honker is a mini-Macaw, who was badly bitten by an injured cat. The cat’s teeth pierced Honker’s skull, leaving the bird with meningitis, encephalitis, and another “itis” I can’t remember. .

The cat was not to blame. He had been starved, was dying himself, and did what any cat would when lunch is bounding toward him with emerald feathers gleaming.

The cat’s bite left four open holes in Honker’s brain; two more in his neck left serious injuries and diseases. Honker’s beak couldn’t open or close. His left wing dragged, he couldn’t walk or vocalize, and he had an enormous bald spot on his skull. He could not move his head or lift it from his back.

This tragedy occurred on the Fourth of July, when nary an avian vet, let alone ours, was available. On the fifth of July, I beat the staff to the doors of the Avian Hospital. Our beloved and excellent vet told me Honker was doomed and that putting him down would be a kindness.

I almost agreed, crying, cradling Honker. I felt his pain and foresaw the agony ahead. Then I remembered Honker also had an opinion, which was quite valid. It was his life after all. So I asked him what he wanted, knowing he understood the situation. He said from within his mangled body/mind, “Don’t give up on me.”

At times, I simply slept under Honker’s cage at the hospital just to be with him. Let him see mama was there.

This continued for almost three years. Syringe feeding only, every two hours, for the first year: He was two at the time. Embarrassing for him, but I really tried to give him the dignity he deserved. I wiped his beak clean and groomed the feathers he still couldn’t reach. I became mommy of all trades.

The best day of all was when we went for a final checkup. At the end of a long three years or so, Honker was pronounced more or less healed. We gleefully headed home to get his mini vanilla ice cream cone. (When you are very small, this is a medicinal given, of course.)

We pulled into the local drive-through. I gave our regular order for one vanilla ice cream mini-cone and then pulled around to the pay window. The normally warm, loving person closed the window with a snap.  Folding her arms across her chest, she refused to accept money. Very odd.

Then I looked up the drive: There was an arm, holding an ice cream cone straight out at the end of it. Honker began jumping up and down and mumbling on my shoulder as we drove forward. He will never be able to speak, but we understand each other, somehow.

The gloriously beautiful, loving wrinkled hand that belonged to one of Honkers helpers was holding an ice cream cone just ready for the little person with feathers. Honker was polite enough not to bite the loving hand that simply gave it to him.

Honker still believes he deserves a cone a day. We don’t go often but when we do, the window snaps shut and the hand always emerges.

It takes a village, and the village is here for Honker.

Lynn Porter is a healer of animals and humans. Anyone who needs her. She lives in Denver where the snow can be rather deep at times. Needless to say, Honker has never put a tootsie into the snow. Lynn works mainly with birds but take anyone who has a need for her healing skills. She has been a healer since birth, sixty-six years ago. Her site is where Honker can be seen on her shoulder, taking tears off Lynn’s eyelashes. Lynn says that Honker takes pretty good care of her and she is very grateful he is alive. Honker is now able to help Lynn heal a badly injured anything, knowing it won’t hurt him. They are now a healing team.

What animals have you known who went from their own personal tragedies to helping other people or animals to heal?

Do you have any ideas to share about bathing dogs and the interesting things birds do?

Birds and Baths



We recently wrote to our friends on different blogs: “Whistle short tune to our bird. He listens. Processes. 24 hours later repeats whistle with variations. The composer. Any bird stories?” The following are responses to that question.

Georgia: “When I played in a woodwind quintet at a house with a bird, the bird would whistle the flute part whenever we stopped for a break. Beautiful! (And smart.)”

Edward: “My cockatiel loves to listen to the HU cd. She cocks her head sideways and just gazes. She also whistles back to me when I play my flute.”

Another time we asked the following: “Gave dog a bath. Not his fave thing to do. Any ideas for how to make it easier?”

Cynthia: “I bathe my 3 dogs often and even though they don’t like it, I try to make it tolerable since I doubt they’ll ever find it fun. I talk to them the whole time — telling them how gorgeous they are, play music they like, snuggle during drying off time, play fetch after. They get treats after their baths.”

Bob: “Get someone else to do it!”



Joy: “I sing to Buster but he still doesn’t really like it.

Jessica: “I take my dogs to the Marriott Resort on Coronado Island and bathe them in the shower. While they don’t love the bath, they put up with it because they know that they’re on vacation and get to hang out by the pool all day.”

Persis: “I put on some music and tell to my dog all the things we will do after her bath like go out to the park and meet her doggie friends and eating nice, tasty food!”

Do you have any ideas to share about bathing dogs and the interesting things birds do?

What is it about women and dogs?

Awhile back, there was a poll that found women preferred the company of their dogs to their spouses or significant others. Guess the human males growled more than their canine competitors for female affection.

To be serious, though, over the years since we have been collecting and writing stories for Angel Animals books, etc. we’ve observed how deeply women and dogs bond. They seem to bring out the best in each other.

Now, we’re giving all of you the chance to enter our Dogs and the Women Who Love Them True Story Contest. We’re looking for stories about canine-female teams that formed deep bonds of companionship and led to compassionate and courageous acts of kindness or service.

Think about some of the following scenarios that you may have been part of and see if you want to write a story about any of them:

* Has a dog(s) been there for a woman during challenging times or major events in her life?
* Have there been times when a dog has protected people from danger or warned them of possible danger?
* Have a woman and a dog teamed up to fulfill a life purpose and/or perform extraordinary acts of service?

This contest hopes to find life stories of remarkable women with dogs who are fulfilling their callings to the benefit of themselves and others. It will also focus on finding the best stories about dogs’ unconditional love and acceptance. From dogs as protectors to partners in the dance of life, the contest will honor a relationship that is like no other.

Any contest entries, but especially those of the winners, will be considered for possible publication in the new book Dogs and the Women Who Love Them by Allen and Linda Anderson to be published by New World Library in Fall 2010. Previous books in the Angel Animals series have included many stories that were contest entries.

We’re looking forward to reading your stories, so go to the website, and fill out the contest entry form. Send in your stories.

What have dogs taught you about love, life, and yourself?

Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network

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What do you think the secret missions of Obama’s new First Dog will be?


The new White House canine will have an impact on controversial animal issues while providing teachable moments for the responsibilities and benefits of family pets.

With every wag of its tail the First Dog will accomplish secret missions for dogs everywhere. The White House dog will teach the Obama children and their counterparts in homes across America about compassion, responsibility, and respect for animals while providing plenty of photo-perfect fun and stress relief.

But the dog has already sparked controversy and hope among people who passionately care about animals. The Obama dog will fulfill its missions as the nation’s doggie trendsetter with every choice the family makes for their new pet.

First, there was the issue of whether the Obamas would get a dog from a breeder or adopt a rescue. Not everyone agrees that rescued dogs are the way to go. The First Dog will have to earn high approval ratings to convince skeptics that are opposed to bringing home a dog with an uncertain lineage or past.

The Obamas settled that debate by choosing a rescued Portuguese Water Dog, called Porties. Is this choice of dog delivering the same message as the Obama campaign that anyone, regardless of origin or parentage, can make it into the White House?

Next, pet pundits discussed whether Porties are a good representative of rescued dogs since so few of their breed are abandoned. With an estimated 6 to 8 million dogs and cats in animal shelters that euthanize 3 to 4 million annually, animal lovers hope the First Dog will demonstrate that any type of rescued animal makes a great family pet.

Other questions have been raised: Will the new dog be hypoallergenic enough and is there actually such a creature as an allergy-free canine? Can a Portie protect Sasha and Malia, or will the gregarious, happy-go-lucky dog be oblivious to danger?

Another secret mission of the White House dog will be to set an example for children and pets by offering the Obama children a chance to experience what it’s like to have another creature depend on them.

The ASPCA’s “Guide to Kids and Pets” on its website clue parents in on what to expect children of various ages to do with an adopted animal. American Humane Association states on its website, “We believe that one of the best ways to protect children and animals — and, on a broader scale, create a more humane world — is through humane education that teaches kindness toward other people, animals and the environment.”

In line with the axiom that children learn leadership skills and empathy by having a pet, First Lady Michelle Obama has stated unequivocally that her children will do the walking and poop scooping.

Children who implore their families to adopt a dog typically face the dilemma of how to keep up with responsibilities of pet ownership when juggling school assignments and activities and thriving social lives. If Mrs. Obama succeeds in keeping her high-profile children engaged in daily dog duties, parents can point to the White House and say, “See? Sasha and Malia are taking care of THEIR pooch.”

One example of dogs having a mission coming to the aid of children is in our new book, Angel Dogs with a Mission (New World Library, 2008). Zoom, a Cardigan Welsh corgi, and Deb Richeson of Smithfield, Kentucky began visiting a local elementary school and offering the dog’s patient listening skills to special needs students. Not only “Zoom’s Kids” improved, but also the entire school’s reading test scores rose. Perhaps Sasha and Malia will read school papers to the First Dog that they write at the desk in the Lincoln bedroom and be encouraged by canine appreciation.

Some of the questions that will be raised about the First Dog are serious. The ways in which the Obamas deal with the following issues are sure to send important messages about responsible care to those homes that already contain America’s 60 million dogs.

* Considering the pet food debacle, what will the First Dog eat? Organic pet food? Wheat and corn-free? Vegetarian? What brands?

* Will the snow and ice-melting products used on the White House sidewalks be pet-safe?

* Does everybody know not to use cocoa mulch on the Rose Garden?

* Who is in charge of patrolling the premises so plants and foods that are toxic to dogs – grapes, raisons, chocolate, onions, artificially sweetened products — aren’t at drooling-mouth level?

* Where will the Obama dog sleep at night? In the bedroom with the children or in a crate somewhere else? Will it be the right size crate?

* Are the Obamas using biodegradable poop bags? It might sound like a funny question but savvy environmentalists will want to know.

Then, there will be fodder for comedians and national news segments:

* Who will train the most famous dog in the world not to bite reporters or will that lesson be discreetly skipped?

* Will the dog have a Secret Service code name? What should it be?

* Will the dog sport a diamond-studded collar and sleep on a $500 dollar doggie bed as befits its celebrity status?

* When the Obama children have sleepovers, will friends bring their canines for doggie night out?

* What famous person or figure from history will the dog dress as for Halloween?

* Who will be the official White House doggie photographer?

* Which dog toys will grace the gleaming and carpeted floors and new playground?

* Does the dog’s name have ethnic or historical origins? Does it more creatively top previous First Dog names such as Spot, Buddy, Millie, Lucky, Grits, Liberty, Checkers, Him and Her, Feller, Heidi, Duke, Pushinka, and King Tut?

Summing up the First Dog’s capacity for bringing about change, we believe that although the new White House dog might become a source of debate and emulation, one of the dog’s greatest missions is just to be the First Family’s pet. Relief will come when the Obamas engage in a tug-toy pull instead of wrestling with the economy and other issues. For a moment, they can relax and forget the cares of the day.

Hopefully the First Dog will unite more than divide us. After all, who can resist a cute face and unconditional love? But the dog’s greatest mission may be as a pack leader for the two out of three American households with pets, so that all dogs will have good and safe homes, even if they’re not living in white houses.

What do you think the secret missions of Obama’s new First Dog will be?
Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network
Note: To subscribe to our free Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter send a blank email to

What would your pet say if he or she could Twitter?

For those of you who might not know what Twitter is, it’s a social networking site on the internet where people have 140 characters to reply to the question: What are you doing? It’s the latest rage among folks with time on their hands and a wicked sense of humor. You can become our friend at and follow us at

We asked the question of our Twitter followers and Facebook friends, “If pets could Twitter, what would they say?” We thought you would enjoy reading their answers.

Sarah: Mine would say, “Loving this sunny patch.”

Greg: A dog could say “arf” 46 1/2 times.

“Going outside.”
“Going inside.”
“Waiting for breakfast.”
“Eating breakfast.”
“Going outside.”
“Going inside.”
“Searching trash cans”
“Nap time.”
“Going outside.”
“Going inside.”
“Waiting for dinner.”
“Eating dinner.”
“Going outside.”
Going inside.”

TreZa: Ever read the children’s book “Martha Speaks”? It’s about a dog that starts talking after eating alphabet soup : ) One of my favorites!

Tona: Pet me, pet me, pet me!

Stephanie: “Please be patient with me.”

Why isn’t anyone scratching my tummy?
I just taught my owner a new trick.
I’m in the market for a new water dish. Any suggestions?

Greta: Why did she put the treat jar up so high?

Pat: Sam would say, “Stop wasting time with Twitter and get me a treat.”

Rita: Emily would say, “Thank God, Mom finally stopped petting me and left for work. I need my beauty sleep.”

Susan: Dinner, oh boy out, woof, woof, shake that blankie.

What would your pet say if he or she could Twitter? Remember, in 140 characters or less.

Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network

Note: To subscribe to the free Angel Animals Story of the Week newsletter send a blank email to

When has an animal gone out of the way to be nice to you or to others?



As I (Allen) drove to the dog park I glanced over at our black cocker spaniel Leaf quietly sitting next to me. Honestly, for a moment he looked angelic, innocent, and even sweet.

I wondered why he had barked and emitted a little growl at a woman who had walked by us that morning. I looked at him and asked, “So why did you NOT like that harmless lady who tried to pet you?”

Leaf made eye contact as I launched into my lecture. “You need to be nice and considerate to people. I want people to like you. Don’t you want to be liked?”

By now, almost a year after Linda and I had rescued him from an animal shelter, I realized that Leaf was not like most other dogs. The dogs I’d known had wagged their tails and wanted to be friends with any human. They viewed people as wonderful, amazing creatures who petted, played, and enjoyed the company of canines.

Their attitude seemed to be that dogs love people, and people love dogs. Leaf didn’t buy into that worldview. He had turned out to be pickier than the friendlier dogs of my past.

Leaf let out a big yawn that day while I continued my lecture. Frustrated, I tried to get him to understand how important it is to me for him to treat humans with respect. “Lets make a deal!” I said, sounding like the host of a television game show. “When you see someone you don’t know, do something nice, anything nice you can think of.”

Leaf looked out the window. He appeared to be oblivious to my chattering.

We arrived at the dog park, and Leaf entered with his usual gusto. He barreled through the gate and tore into the place as if he was king of the park. With his head high, walking royally, he surveyed his kingdom and all of his human and dog subjects.

I pulled out of my pocket his orange, rubber bouncy ball. He loved running after the ball, retrieving it, and bringing it back to me for another throw.

While watching me repeatedly throw the ball for Leaf, the other people at dog park commented that our cocker spaniel had more retriever instincts in him than some of the actual retriever breeds that were there. It was fun for all of us to watch Leaf run with enthusiasm on his short legs, his large ears flopping in the wind, as he chased after the ball. Sometimes I’d make the ball bounce, and he would jump up into the air, trying to catch it before it hit the ground.

This day, I noticed an older gentleman who was wearing a button-up, short sleeve shirt. He threw a yellow ball for his small, white, fluffy dog. Sometimes the dog would chase and retrieve but more often the dog would watch it land and refuse to bother playing such a juvenile game. This meant the man became the one retrieving his dog’s ball to throw again.

The gentleman looked like he was getting tired after a few throws of the ball. His dog had only consented to retrieve it a couple of times. The elderly man sat down on a wooden picnic bench to rest. At this point his dog’s ball lay on the ground a distance away.

Leaf observed the situation. After bringing his bouncy ball back to me and dropping it at my feet, he tore after the yellow ball that the man had been throwing. He grabbed it, held it in his mouth, and slowly delivered it to the tired man who still sat on the bench.

Leaf dropped the yellow ball at the man’s feet. Then he sat next to him and patiently waited for gnarled fingers to gently pat his head. When the gentlemen obliged with a grateful petting session, Leaf looked at me. I could read his thoughts with the expression on his face, “See, I can be nice to people I don’t know.”

After making sure I saw what he had done, Leaf walked tall and trotted toward me. The gentleman had a big grin on his face. He was delighted that a dog he did not know had helped him. As if Leaf were cueing him, he said, “Your dog is nice.”

By this time Leaf was back at my feet, waiting for me to throw his ball, which I did.

Somewhat confused and surprised at this event, I wondered if our dog had just wanted to prove the point that when he wanted to be nice, he could. Or had he discovered the blessings of being a nice angel dog?

When has an animal gone out of the way to be nice to you or to others?

Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network

How Big Is a Pet’s Vocabulary?



The animals in our home seem to catch on to quite a bit of our verbal communication. We know that they read our body language, behavior, and emotions. They pick up mental and visual images. But lately, we’ve been noticing the human language they recognize.

Seems like we’ve heard that dogs have up to about a 300 word vocabulary. Of course, parrots’ vocabulary can be incredible. So we’ve been experimenting with our cocker spaniel Leaf to find out which words have been imprinted on his young brain.

It’s more difficult to figure out with cats. Do they really not know words such as “Don’t scratch that,” and choose, cat-like, to ignore the plea/command? It’s easier to tell what words our bird knows. He says, “Hello,” and “I love you, sweet baby.”

Below are a few of Leaf’s vocabulary achievements.

Popcorn: mentioned at any volume from any part of the house, brings him running

Carrots: see above for popcorn

Banana: see above for popcorn and carrots

Greenie: see above for popcorn, carrots, and banana

Pampered Pooch: his favorite doggy day care center and no problem getting the leash on him for a sprint to the car

Dog park: brings him and his orange ball to the back door, fired up and ready to go

Up, up, up: entices him to jump onto the bed for a squeeze, kisses, and a tummy rub.

Tummy, tummy, tummy: elicits a rollover that’s faster than money moving from a 401K to an IRA account

Squeaky toy: causes him to root through his collection for favorite toy of the moment

To be fair he still remembers, sort of, his dog school training commands:

Sit (more like, squat for a second),

Stay (more like, pause),

Shake (more like, wave your paw around),

Down (more like, I’ll think about it and decide if I want to)

What human words do your pets respond to?
Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network

What does your choice of animal family members say about you?

How often have you seen people with pets who resemble them? Some pretty funny photographs show this phenomenon in books and on the Internet. If you’ve lived with an animal for a while, you may have noticed that animals also reflect your qualities, characteristics, and personality traits. A depressed person has a sad-eyed dog. A chatty guy has a talkative parrot. The animal companion of a gentle woman is a kind and affectionate cat.

We are finding out how much of this is true with our animal family members.

When we take our dog for walks around a nearby lake, we often pass a mild-mannered man with a timid gait who always averts his eyes. A little dog runs alongside him, growling and showing her teeth to everyone. This dog could be a mirror for the man’s excessive fears.

As people tell us about significant animals in their lives, we’ve observed how the animals often serve as spiritual report cards. More often than not, memorable spiritual experiences with animals chart a person’s progress toward or away from having more love, peace, and fulfillment.

What does your choice of animal family members say about you?

Our Dog Has Trained Us Well



Okay, we have a question for you folks who love to train dogs – Who does the training, the dog or the person or both?

We ask, because our cocker spaniel Leaf, smart little adolescent boy that he is, seems to be training us and everyone else as much or more than we’re training him.

Example: At doggie day care this week, we hear that Leaf scratches with his mighty paw on the gates to let the staff know whether he wants to play with the big or the little dogs. They come running to fulfill his request.

Example: We use our trainer’s suggestion for how to get Leaf to stop trying to lick dirty dishes in the dishwasher when the door is opened. We say, “Leave it.” When he stops, we’re to give him a treat and say, “Take it.” Get the picture? He’s trained us to give him treats by licking the plate or threatening to do so in hopes that we’ll say, “Leave it” followed by “Take it.”

Example: Leaf loves to beg at the table when we eat. Rather than hassle with him at every meal, we put the gate up between the hallway and dining room. He’s trained us to give him a kong that occupies his little mind and focus while we eat in peace.

Example: Leaf has trained us to give him a treat so that he doesn’t go into overprotective mode when an invited guest comes into the house. The guest gets trained, too, to offer him a treat.

So you tell us, who is training whom?

What ways do your cats show their creativity and resourcefulness?



This week, we took Cuddles and Speedy for their annual veterinarian visit. When they see the carriers come out, they know that it’s time to hide in whatever corner will best serve their escape.

After scooping them up, putting them in the back seat of the car, and driving to the vet to the chorus of their protesting mews, we arrived at last.

Speedy seemed to take it more in stride than Cuddles. She was quite vocal, letting everyone in the waiting room know that this was the last place she wanted to be.

In the vet’s office, after enduring the indignity of weighing in and being examined, Cuddles jumped off the table. Speedy had been attempting to hide behind Linda’s purse and in her coat pocket but to no avail. But Cuddles had a better plan.



After Speedy was placed on the dreaded examining table, Cuddles managed to jump onto a high wall shelf where the vet kept samples of medications and other items. The vet was so astonished at Cuddles’s agility that he stopped Speedy’s exam, called for his assistant, and asked her to get his camera. He wanted a picture of this cat going where no cat had ever gone before.

This is Cuddles — fearless, resourceful, and able to leap tall buildings. She had her picture taken, posing from the top shelf. She overlooked us all, while Speedy trembled below on the table and endured poking and prodding. Catch me if you can!

What ways do your cats show their creativity and resourcefulness?