Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Story of Angel

Angel was a young boy with cerebral palsy who came from a very small inland village in southern Spain. How Angel’s family ever found ANIMO, I have no idea. They showed up one day and said that they wanted us to help their son. The parents were farmers and were illiterate. They had no idea what was wrong with their son and assumed that he was retarded because he couldn’t speak or walk or even control his limbs. We set up an obligatory, free medical exam, by our volunteer doctor Dr. Maria Rose. She explained very carefully to the family what cerebral palsy was and that Angel was much more aware and understood much more than they had imagined. He started his therapeutic riding the following week. Angel still crawled around on the floor because the family didn’t have a wheelchair or the means to obtain one. We always had wheel chairs available for our students so that they didn’t have to put one in the car; that is if they had one. Angel advanced very well and his parents enjoyed chatting with the other families and seeing that they were not alone. Our volunteers kept the children occupied with rabbits and other farm animals while they were waiting for their turn to ride. They never understood why these strange foreign people helped work with so many Spanish disabled children, seeing as most of them never even spoke the same language. We were very lucky to have over forty volunteers from all over Europe, many of whom had worked in riding for the disabled in their own countries, and all brought a wealth of knowledge and ideas to ANIMO. In those years, the late eighties, Spain seemed to be the only European country that had never heard of Animal Assisted Therapy. As Angel progressed and the family spent time with the other parents, their whole way of treating and speaking to Angel changed; making a huge difference to Angel’s life. For the first time he was part of a loving family and not just tossed to one side. Another of our young students, with muscular dystrophy, died and wanted his parents to give his fabulous electric wheel chair to some boy who would love it as much as he did. We chose Angel. Angel and his family plus our doctor and other volunteers were there when Angel sat in this great machine. Not only could he sit up by himself, but he could go places. His family were sure that he could never even learn to use the controls but within a few minutes, to the surprise of his family, he was zooming all over our terrace. We had meant to change the controls to the other side to make it easier for him because they were set on Angel’s bad side, but even that didn’t stop Angel. We had the wheel chair moved to Angel’s house and he soon was able to go around town on his own. The town was so pleased that in 1990 they invited me to give a talk to the village and they awarded me with a plaque of gratitude.
Since we never charged a fee at ANIMO, some of the parents would bring us fruit or vegetables from their gardens. The interaction between the parents was almost as valuable as the therapeutic riding that their children were receiving. We had many group and family BBQ’s and parties for every American and European holiday. They carved pumpkins for the first time, had Easter-egg hunts on horse back, Guy Faulkes night with fireworks and every year we had a dinner where we gave out awards and prizes to the students and volunteers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Price of a Puppy

IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT GETTING A PUPPY, THEN THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS THAT YOU HAVE TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT. The first is time; do you have enough time? When they are young they have to go out several times during the night. They need to be played with and taught what is theirs and what isn’t. Do you work during the day? Do you plan on taking trips? Who will care for your puppy while you are away? Do you have a garden where they can run free or do you have to take them out for exercise? What size dog do you choose? As far as the cost of keeping a puppy, you can figure on about 60 euros every time you go to the vet. They need a series of puppy shots, worming, plus prevention against ticks, fleas and mosquitoes. This prevention comes in the form of drops on the neck, but needs to be applied every month; the amount depends on the weight of the dog and can become very expensive. Next you have the puppy food. Dog food is expensive. It is important to keep them on a regular diet or they will tend to get the runs. A good supplement to give your puppy is plain yogurt with a few tablespoons of olive oil and brewer’s yeast; this helps keep their skin and coat in good condition and the yogurt provides extra calcium and keeps the stomach healthy. An alternative to ready-made kibble is to make rice or lentils. This takes time and you need to add some sort of meat and vegetable to keep their diet healthy.

Another big consideration is what are you willing to lose? Puppies love to eat furniture, shoes, and clothes plus garbage. It takes a while, while they are teething, for them to learn what is theirs and what isn’t. You must have toys for them to substitute when you remove something they aren’t supposed to have. You don’t have to buy expensive toys; a rag with a knot in it, a plastic water bottle will suffice, but they do tend to love those soft squeaky toys. Every time they chew on something that they shouldn’t you must tell them no and give them something that they can chew on. Depending on the size of the dog, you have to be careful of the size of their toys. It is easy for them to swallow a tennis ball or little rubber duck.

During the first six months, they should be learning vocabulary and basic behaviour. At six months they are ready to start obedience training, which should be relatively easy if they learned the basics during play-time. Socialization is very important; the more things and situations that you can expose them to the better. Is you puppy going to be a guard dog or a companion? A lot of this depends on the breed and temperament but also on the way it is raised.

Getting a puppy is a big decision, you must be sure that you are ready for the investment of both time and money, but the rewards you receive have no price tag; they are unending and without prejudice.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Animals Forecast Weather

ANIMO is thinking about reinitiating its research and investigation project into how animals and insects help us to predict natural disasters and the weather. I started the project with my father, Dr. James O Beaumont, and in his honor I would like to continue. I stopped pursuing the project after his death in 2000.
Governments spend billions of dollars every year on meteorology, yet the weather-person never even gets tomorrow’s weather right. We started by talking to farmers, in a small town in southern Spain. They had no television and were illiterate. All they knew was what had been passed down to them for generations. We were sitting talking to our neighbor when she saw three flying ants and told us that it would rain the next day. She was spot on and the weatherman missed it. My grandmother, Winifred, told my dad when he was a child, that if there was a circle around the moon, to count the stars inside the circle and in that many days it would rain. She was always right. Anyone in tornado country can tell you that before a tornado, the behaviour of the animals and the flight patterns of the birds change, way before the satellite image picks anything up. On my farm, my animals were all free to go in and out as they pleased. Always, before a storm, they would all go to the middle of the paddock, away from trees and fencing, I couldn’t even coax them in with food. There they stayed until the storm was over. In southern Spain we know when spring is coming, not by the ground hog, but because the swallows all return from Africa and start rebuilding their nests.
One night our dog tried to get us out of the house, hours before the roof caved in, almost killing our son. We had no warning; no cracks or leaks. We thought the dog just wanted to go out and find a bitch in heat and didn’t listen to him. He kept looking at the ceiling and crying and trying to go out. He couldn’t have made it any clearer.
Before earthquakes, tornados, volcanoes and other natural or even unnatural disasters, some animal or some insect knows and tries to get out of the way of the impending disaster. We just have to learn how to read these signs and we might be able to save thousands of lives.
To continue the project and before it can become an official study, we need information. So we want information from farmers, fishermen, tribesmen, Native Indians, Bushman, hikers, anyone who has travelled and come in contact with people that live by nature and their livelihood depends on knowing what is going to happen; people without the aid of modern technology and whose information comes from nature itself.
The study would include cultural anthropology, psychology, ecology, meteorology, folklore, storytellers, travellers, historians and many other fields. It would make great field work for university students.
Any information would be useful so please send your stories to me at brbrnapier (at) yahoo (dot) com with the title ANIMALS AND WEATHER. Thank you all.

I have had good feedback from this post. Here are a few links on the subject: