Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pets and Scrapbooking

One of the fun parts about writing about pets is the chance to become immersed in a subject and, at times, go off on wonderful tangents that lead to surprising places. This is what happened when I came across “Pet Pages Unleashed! Fetching ideas for animal-inspired scrapbook pages” From the Editors of Memory Makers Books. (ISBN 978-1-892127-72-3).
This is an inspiring book, 8.5 x 11, paperback with color photographs, that offers readers dozens of ways to incorporate the family pet into memory books or collages that can be framed and displayed on the wall. The book is divided into four chapters: 1) Welcome Home, pages dedicated to new pet additions to the family; 2) Animal Behavior: pages that capture quirky pet antics, habbits, activities, and mannerisms; 3) Pet Personalities: pages that portray the unique characteristics and qualities of pets; and 4) Pets and Their Favorite People: pages that pay tribute to the bond between pets and the people who love them.
I appreciated the variety of pets represented in this book. Beyond cats and dogs, there are lizards, rabbits, turtles and even a beautiful crab. The page / collage examples are large enough to see just how things were put together, plus the book gives the materials used in each collage, the brand name of materials whenever possible, plus there is a resource list at the back of the book with websites of where to get materials.
The “Pet Page Topics” offered to help readers know where to start includes commemorating:
• How your pet joined the family
• adoption day or lineage
• Growth Chart
• Personality traits
• Special talents and tricks
• A day in the life
• House rules according to your pet
• Favorite possessions
• Holidays with your pet
• Pet Birthdays
• Childhood/past pets

I recommend “Pet Pages Unleashed!” to anyone who wants to undertake creative activities that will strengthen the pets bond within the family. This book would also offer ideas for parent/child or classroom activities. And, the samples include old-fashioned cut-and-paste collage along with samples created using the computer and software such as Photoshop.
I came across this book at my local library. You might find it at yours, or on Amazon. There is still time to use the ideas in it to make a great holiday present for the pet lover in your life.... or for you!
--Janice Phelps, Author of “Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life through Love of Animals” 12/5/07

Helping Your Pet Adjust to Change

Change... Sometimes we look forward to it; sometimes we dread it. But some change is inevitable. The trick is how to integrate change into our lives in the most positive way possible. If it's hard, if it hurts, that's a big order; maybe, you say, an impossible order. We'll save the most difficult-situation-you-can-imagine type of change for another day. Most of us live in the realm of "typical changes most of us encounter at some point." How do we help our pets, who often thrive on routine, cope with change?

Coping with change begins before change is on the horizon. Change (i.e. stress, which can be positive or negative) is easier to deal with when we've already established a foundation of daily activity that gives our pet security and happiness. Good food, enough exercise and attention, an appropriate place to spend time while we are away (i.e., adequate cage space and toys for a bird or kong-type toys and a view out a window for a dog). Weekly habits and activities —going through the drive-through bank and getting a treat (dog), dancing and singing to CDs (parrot), being brushed, playing with an interactive toy (dog/cat)—act as a frame that encircles the being of your pet and gives boundaries and structure to its daily life. When a pet has this structure and feels loved and secure, it is easier to adapt to change.

Recently, my two dogs, Tyler (a 6-year-old Pekingese) and Jackie (a 4-year-old Chihuahua), and my parrot Gracie (a 10-year-old Maximillian Pionus) were asked to adjust to change when I married Mark Williams and we moved into his home with his dog Farley (a 4-year-old whippet/beagle mix). This move involved many changes from our pets' point of view: sharing "mom" and "dad" with another human being, perhaps, the most significant. In the case of my dogs, it also meant moving from a house with a tiny fenced yard and an often noisy downtown neighborhood to a villa where several friendly dogs also walk around the pretty circular street of our neighborhood, a more enclosed area. I mention this because in our former home Tyler could often hear other dogs, but seldom saw them (they were in fenced in backyards as well). He definitely seems happier and less threatened (Pekes are very territorial) in this quieter place.

There was also the presence of another dog to adjust to or, in Farley's case, two more dogs coming into her home. She had never had to adjust to a woman being around. For Tyler and Jackie, different smells, different places to potty, a new walking routine, and a new sleeping routine (a large crate rather than in bed with me).

I'm happy to say that all three dogs have adjusted really well, as has Gracie. The changes were positive ones, but still, when change starts an animal doesn't necessarily know all is going to be well. How can we help them face the unknown?

Mark and I found the following points good to remember in helping our pets cope with transition:

1) Identify what makes your pet happiest and be sure to keep doing these things. Each of our pets has one or more favorite activities, and we made sure they still got to do these things as often as possible. The repeat of these activities, albeit in a different location and with additional participants around, was important:

  • For Tyler this meant his favorite pink stuffed bird toy and his basket of other toys. Also, it meant being allowed to sit (properly like a little "guy") at the table when we eat. I know this sounds odd, but we are older, there are no kids at home any longer and we like it. Tyler sits on his hind legs and puts his two front paws daintily on the edge of the table, his back a perfect ruler, and watches us while we eat and talk, knowing he, and the other two dogs, will get a small treat when we are done.

  • For Farley this has meant maintaining "cookie time." Farley gets a large flat rawhide after dinner. That is her joy in life. The other dogs have accepted that this is her thing. They do not need it (Tyler would fight over his and Jackie at 6 lbs doesn't need a lot of rawhide in her tummy). We've decided that fair is not the same as equal and we opt for fair, which is letting Farley keep her tradition. For Farley, this also means "riding in the car with Dad when he goes grocery shopping" (when weather permits). The other dogs join her in this activity, and, being a friendly dog, she is happy to have them along.

  • For Jackie, her favorite activity is sitting next to either Mark or I in the chair and being "right there." Also, snuggling under the blanket at nap time. So, when an afternoon nap is taken, all the dogs are allowed on the bed and Jackie is allowed to be the one to snuggle under the blanket.

  • For Gracie, our parrot, shower time is important to her. I have a shower perch that I use for her and once or twice a week she joins me in the shower.

  • Walks are also important to Tyler and high-energy Farley and we have maintained this for all the dogs.

In addition to keeping these traditions, we've added new activites, so -- from our pets point of view -- we are sure that the change of moving and marriage has been, at the end of the day, a positive experience.

1) Farley no longer has to stay home alone while Dad works. She always has someone here now to play with her and to take her out throughout the day. Also, being a friendly dog, she likes having other dogs in the house. I give credit to Farley's open-heartedness, more than anything, for easing the transition for Tyler and Jackie.

2) Tyler, like the "little boy" that he is, loves having a "daddy." He sits by Mark while he writes, accompanies him and Farley to the store, sits on the porch with him, and takes a position near Farley during TV time. Tyler has also joined Farley at Drummond Island chasing squirrels. And, while there, we found out that Tyler loves the water and loves to swim!

3) Jackie has benefited by having another person to hold her. That is all that matters to her. Being a little dog, she has been slowest to accept sharing me and Mark with Farley. But every day she opens her heart a bit more and they are becoming friends.

There is so much more going on in the activity of a family than there was in a single-person home, and the pets benefit from this as well. Their lives are more interesting. It may not be that way for other singles, but I am a person who spends a lot of the day sitting at the computer writing, and this can't be too much fun for dogs. Now, they have more to do. They have a more interesting neighborhood to take their walks in. They lost a fenced back yard, but gained a screened porch. Gracie went from a room with other parrots (three of our parrots were rescued parrots that homes have been found for) to being right in the center of family life with her cage in the large space that is dining room/living room/kitchen. She loves it.

I thought my dogs would miss our former home, but it seemed that once I said "I do," they said "We do too!" and never really wanted to return to their old home. When I took them with me one time at the end of the moving process, they viewed the house, it seemed to me, about as I did: Well, this was a nice old house, it looks familar, but it's not home any longer. Thanks for the memories—let's go home!

There have been a few bumps. I had tried to adopt an older dog earlier in the year, and this resulted in a serious dog bite for me and three fights for Tyler. But Jackie seemed to suffer the most enduring fear aggression from that experience. I think that's why it's taken longer for her to warm up to Farley. Farley is a talkative dog, and Jackie just can't figure out what that barking means. Also, Jackie personifies that dog-lovers T-shirt that says, "If it was once mine, it's mine. If I like it, it's mine. If it is yours, it's mine!"

If you are facing change, such as a move, the addition of a child or spouse, a change in job hours, an illness or operation that might limit your activities, spend some time identifying the most important habits/routines in the life of your pet so that you can do your best to keep that frame (structure) around their being (existence). There should be about five:

1) When and what does he eat?

2) What is his favorite playtime activity? What is his favorite toy?

3) Who are his favorite people and/or animal friends? Keep them visiting if possible. If not, set up positive situations with new friends.

4) What is his exercise routine? How does he get his energy out?

5) What is his favorite bonding-time or quiet-time routine (i.e. brushing, napping on the bed, sitting on your lap when you watch TV, taking a shower/bath in the case of a bird)?

By establishing a good foundation, noting what makes your pet happy, and then keeping those important things on-going in the midst of change, your pet will continue to be a happy member of your family.

Carpe Diem!

Janice Marie Phelps, Author of "Open Your Heart with Pets"

Alum Creek Dog Park

Alum Creek Dog Park

Recently, I discovered just how many dog lovers (owners, rescue folks, and people who just like to be around dogs) there are in Northern Columbus (Ohio). Mark (my husband) and I joined Poundhounds Adoption Welfare Society at Alum Creek Dog Park. Poundhounds is only a few years old, but they have done so much for dogs already. They have foster dogs and match them up with good owners; some of the dogs they foster have been rescued from "pounds." They raise money through dog washes, microchipping and nail clipping and, my favorite, taking photos of dogs and their owners with assorted Buckeye novelties, with the beautiful autumn leaves in the background.

I learned that Alum Creek Dog Park was started just two years ago by a woman on a mission. In one half of the summer of 2006, approx. 40,000 cars visited this area of the park, the second most visited section of Alum Creek Park. Still, it is not supported by the government, but by private donations. It was great seeing the constant stream of cars visiting on this October Saturday. By the afternoon the parking lot was full.

There were Newfundlands, Retrievers, Labs, St. Bernards.... in the large area. And Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, and other small dogs in the smaller dog area. Plus a few labs were having a ball in the enclosed dog beach area. As the trees showed some color (finally) and a sailboat went by on the lake, I thought this was a great way to spend a day spreading the word about Poundhounds and Open Your Heart with Pets.

Janice Phelps and Nikki Fetingas

I will be at Poundhounds next fundraiser, put on by the Powell Woman's Assocation. It is "Pictures with Santa" and more info can be found at

Open-Hearted Animal Lovers are Everyday Heroes

Several years ago I wrote a book entitled What Saved Me: A Dozen Ways to Embrace Life. (under the pen name Claire Starr). In it I mentioned the importance of everyday heroes: the veteran next door, the senior citizen on a limited budget who is still able to make a donation to a charity or take the time to help a child learn to love reading, those who volunteer for Special Olympic events, or work to make the lives of others better, without any sense of karmaic rebate, just because it feels like the right thing to do.
There should be another word, just one word, for “everyday hero,” because a hero or a heroic effort should be reserved for those who risk their life for others. But, I don’t know what word or term to insert between selfless/altruistic person and a heroic person. So, “everyday hero” will have to do for today. Perhaps you have a better word?
Which brings me around to the everyday heroes who work on behalf of animals; they are in communities throughout the U.S., and throughout the world, working to help non-human beings who are unable to take things into their own hands or, more accurately, paws, claws, or wings. Creatures unable to speak for themselves depend upon humans to act in their best interest and, thank God, many do.
I recently had the pleasure of working with a new organization, Fairfield County CARES to create a website for them to begin gathering resources for concerned pet lovers in Central Ohio. My efforts were small and not selfless, for FC-CARES gave me a page to promote Open Your Heart with Pets: Mastering Life through Love of Animals. The everyday hero I’m thinking of this afternoon is also named Janice, but she is Janice Kobi—a wife, mother, fundraiser, advocate...a one-woman “energizer bunny” who brings to mind that famous quote “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.” Janice doesn’t want us to be comfortable with less-than-compassionate practices in animal control facilities. She doesn’t want us to be comfortable with abuse in our community, whether directed toward humans, old or young, male or female, or animals. In the face of heartache, Janice Kobi continues to do what she can to help others. She is a person who always has an open heart, a heart that says “Yes!” to improvement, to effort, to hope. She is an everyday hero.
The site I mentioned——will give folks in the Central Ohio area a place to go for all the information they need to responsibly adopt an animal, volunteer for a rescue organization, or keep informed about legislation concerning animals in their area. It’s just a start-up right now, but let’s not despise the day of small beginnings. Everything starts somewhere and when people are propelled to act with limited budget and in the face of political and social speed bumps, well my hat’s off to them.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of similar efforts going on throughout the world; but all these efforts started with one person saying yes; to opening their heart. Best Friends of Utah, the Humane Association of the United States, the list could fill this blog... efforts are being made, animals are being saved, hearts are being opened.
If you would like to share the story of an everyday hero who works to make life better for animals, email me at I hope to write a sequel to Open Your Heart with Pets one day and to include more real-life stories of animal lovers. Also, I'd like to include some of your stories on this blog. Be sure to include your name and address in the email to me, if you want your story considered for the sequel, and understand that submission gives me the write to include your story in my book, with editorial license and credit given to you as is right and ethical and legal. (Your name, address and email will not be given or sold to another company, but are used solely to collect real-life stories for a second book for animal lovers.)
Thank you for bringing the efforts of everyday heroes, open-hearted animal lovers, to light, so that we can be encouraged and inspired by their example!---Janice Marie Phelps 10/28/07

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Angel on My Shoulder

This article was written for AERAS's Newsletter. You can visit AERAS online at:

Angel on My Shoulder
Janice M. Phelps
Tonight, an angel sat upon my shoulder. She was not as "light as a feather," but as light as many feathers, as light as the soft touch of a caring friend. Her feathers brushed against my cheek; her smooth beak nuzzled in my hair...

She doesn’t seem to mind that I’m tired from a long day’s work and sweaty from unusual September humidity. She doesn’t seem to mind that my makeup faded hours ago, I am watching CNN and drinking diet coke while reading the newspaper and gently rubbing her new pin feathers through my thumb and forefinger. She lets me do this; carefully remove the stiff sheath, releasing the small clean feathers that lie flat on her head like a sleek do.

Tonight was the first night she stayed up later than "the others." Tonight was the first night she stayed alone with me, on my shoulder, receiving kisses and loving words, bopping to the voices of Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn, eyeing our two small dogs with less apprehension than she did six months ago. Yes, it’s been six months since Sugar came to stay. Since I said to AERAS, "I promise..." and Sugar said "Whoonk!"

I didn’t really need another bird. (Okay, is that the most frequently written sentence uttered by bird lovers everywhere?) My clutch included Bailey, a 4-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo, Gracie, a 6-year-old Maximillian Pionus, Pip, a 1-year-old Fisher’s lovebird, Tyler, a 4-year-old Pekingnese, and Jackie, a 2-year-old Chihuahua, and a rather nice aquarium. But, the house is big, I work at home, Goffin’s are relatively easy to care for and I thought a same-species friend would be good for Bailey.

AERAS’s site listed Snuggles, a 20-year-old Goffin’s cockatoo who had spent her life sitting on top of a bird cage and was given up for adoption because her owner didn’t have enough time for her. Time for her? I thought. How much time does it take to let a bird sit on top of her cage all day? I tried not to be judgmental and felt that there must be more to the story. If there was, the fault was not with Snuggles; she has not been one gram of trouble.

I changed Snuggle’s name to Sugar because she is the purest white; I have a weakness for sugar and had months earlier been forced to drastically cut back on its consumption. Forty-five pounds less now, adopting Sugar was a good replacement for eating candy.

Since I live alone and work at home I knew I would be able to give Sugar the stable and loving environment a rescued bird needs. I thought the other birds would be good for her to, and she has certainly been good for them. Bailey, at first cautiously timid, now accepts Sugar climbing up on top of Bailey’s big cage each morning, sharing her toys and food with Sugar and even, recently, calling to her from one part of the house to the other: "Ougar!" Sugar, never a talker, has tried to imitate Bailey’s calls, including "Mama!" Mostly though she is a quiet bird; her morning and dusk-time calls last for no more than five minutes, if that, and are not disturbing at all.

Goffin’s are a great species for anyone wanting a medium-sized parrot. They have the cuddle-factor of most cockatoos, but have less dust, smaller beaks, and less lung power. Their faces are very expressive. Bailey’s expressions include: consternation (furrowing of her forehead and a flatting of her crown), curiosity (lifting of her crown), brattiness (squawking for her own way), love (stroking my face with her beak in an up and down motion), bravery (she loves to swing holding onto the end of a dog leash with her beak), friendliness (once she sees a person is accepted into the home), independence (plays well with toys), and domesticity. I don’t know if this is true of all Goffin’s but Bailey loves the dishwasher, washing machine, making pies or cookies, making pancakes, toast, and watching the microwave...also sitting on the faucet and sipping water.

But, back to Sugar... She has been with me for six months now and until recently showed no signs of becoming more comfortable with stepping up or sitting with me. Then, I put a towel over my arm and she stepped right up! Tonight, she didn’t want to go to bed ("go in your house" is the bedtime signal), so after covering the other birds’ cages (just to prevent any jealousy or curiosity as they were to go to sleep), I picked her up and took her downstairs to my chair, and we had our time together.
"This is nice Sugar... we should do this more often," I crooned into her unseen ear. "Let me help with those tiny feathers; they must be itchy. I can help with that... Let’s do this again; this can be your time with Mommy. What a pretty girl. What a good girl you are..."

About two months ago I was in the local department store, the pet aisle, and saw an acrylic bird toy: a spinning mirror that affixed to the cage (approx. $3.00). I brought it home intending it for Bailey. But, Sugar came across her cage top and over to investigate. Since she was so curious, I clasped it on her cage top and soon discovered that she played with it every day. It was her favorite toy. Soon, she was playing with the wood sticks I’d bought at a bird fair and had had sitting around for about two years. At Wal-mart I found small wooden trucks in their craft department (88 cents). She loved her truck and chewed the wheels off with glee. Yeah, Sugar!
Sugar adopted us in March. It’s now September. She spends her days sitting on top of a huge cage looking out the window at the leaves on two giant trees, watching them go from bare, to buds, to leaves and now to orange. She can hear the children in the neighborhood come home from school. She can see my car when it drives away and when it returns. She can hear the mailman clang the mailbox and the newspaper boy plop the newspaper. She hears the phone ring in my office and knows that if she has a need for me, I am only right at the bottom of the steps.

She’s learned that a tiny Chihuahua is really only interested in any peanuts she might drop and the Pekingnese has a bond with avians that is uncanny and deep. They seem to communicate without words, and know just how to interpret the nuances of their respective body movements, no matter how small. During my lunch break, I go into the birds’ room, turn their TV from WOSU to CNN, lie down on the twin bed in there and Bailey, Gracie, Pip and Tyler make their way onto the bed, onto me, and we forget about deadlines, bills, the cost of gas, the war in Iraq, the sad situation in the Gulf states, and other birds without forever homes. We think of all we have, and how the best things don’t cost too much at all. The best thing is having birds who spend their days with their cage doors open, but they don’t want to fly away. They are happy, they are loved, they are home.

Sugar watches from her perch and sees the others interacting with me at lunchtime; I think this has given her the confidence to enjoy spending time sitting with me on her own. It makes me feel so good to know that she needed a home and I was able to provide it; that she is not in danger of mistreatment or neglect; that she found her forever home with me.

Being a guardian to birds is a serious commitment; it’s a long commitment; but I think it makes one a better human. A dog will love most anyone. A bird’s love is a prize that must be earned. Because birds are not as easy for humans to understand, it takes a person being willing to learn, observe, talk with others, try new things, persevere at times, and look for small signs of success. A bird requires that we be our best selves; and that is a blessing. It’s a blessing to be needed, wanted, and loved. To know that your presence is required; and with these rescued birds, it is required. They cannot just fly into a tree and survive. Someone, at some point, decided to hold them captive and to tame them. They cannot go back to the wild. Someone, at some point, let them down, and now they have no one to follow through and care for them until they fly to heaven.

It feels good to restore their faith in humans and to let them know they now have a place to call home, dependable food, and toys to play with.

Like most people, I have a busy life. I run two businesses, a graphic design and editing studio and a publishing company, and have an employee, two grown sons (one of whom is disabled), and hobbies that I don’t always have time for. But I’ve counted how much time the birds take each day, and actually the time they need undivided attention comes out to about an hour a day (and about half of that is for cleaning and food prep). Most of the time we spend together I am doing other things as well (watching TV, straightening up the house, doing my exercises, talking on the phone, working at my computer, reading the newspaper). The birds get up at 7 a.m. and go to bed by 7 p.m. They have their own room and their cages get covered at night. A regular schedule seems to be important to them and to me.

Sugar has been a great addition to our family and I am so glad that AERAS rescued her and made it possible for me to have another angel on my shoulder. She truly has an angelic spirit and caring for her has given me the opportunity to be her angel as well.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Paper Covers

Paper Covers

Publishing statistics

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch ran a good article 8/16/05 on "New Chapter in Publishing: Internet bookselling opens door for the little guy." Here are a few snippets:

There are 83,000 publishers in the U.S.
Of those, 70,000 have 10 or fewer titles.
In 2004, 11,500 publishers opened their businesses.
This was a 70% increase over 1995.

195,000 (approx.) new books were published in the U.S. in 2004.
This figure is 114,000 more books than in 1995.

Interesting is that fact that while 114,000 more books were published in the U.S. in 2004 than in 1995, the actual number of books sold annually has remained "relatively flat" in the last decade.

Approx. 2.29 billion books were sold last year.

The Dispatch mentioned Al Greco's book "The Book Publishing Industry" which sounds like a good book to read, for anyone interested in the future of publishing.