Deciding to get a pet is a big step, especially when it comes to where you’ll be getting one from. One of the most rewarding options is to adopt. Providing a loving home to an abandoned, surrendered, or rescued animal can make all the difference in their quality of life and yours.
After we said goodbye to the family dog in 2013, I started thinking about getting my own but there were always things that stopped me, important realizations that you must become okay with before truly pursuing pet adoption. At the time, for me it was the costs associated with caring for a pet. Knowing that beyond the usual food, toys, grooming (depending on the breed) and yearly vet visits, there would also be the unexpected, such as emergency vet care and boarding when I’d be away. I’d casually browse adoption sites, but let the idea just float around the back of my head for the next five years.
Then, in the fall of 2018 after three years with my boyfriend, conversations about what it was like for us growing up with pets and on the cusp of moving in together, the idea of adopting a dog of our own bounded from a passing thought to firmly dropping a squeaky chew toy in the front of my mind. Having two incomes between us and both being remote workers, him full-time and me four days per week, the timing felt right. We discussed it on and off and agreed that we wanted to go the adoption route so I began looking through adoption sites again.
In mid December of that year I found the cutest little white and black puppy up for adoption. Unfortunately, her profile said “Application Pending” so I reached out to the organization and asked if that meant no one else could submit one. To my surprise, I was told we could still submit an application that way if the first one fell through we’d be next in line. I submitted one for us but the rest of the month passed and despite seeing this little pup still up for adoption on the website, I’d pretty much given up hope of adopting her. Then, on December 26, after an exhaustingly hellish, almost 10 hour drive home from family Christmas, I got an email saying that the first applicants never showed up to see the dog and if we were still interested in adopting her it was now our turn. Before leaving the apartment to visit her, my boyfriend asked, “We’re just going to see her, right?” I said, “Yes, I promise.” Well… from the moment we stepped into the foster family’s house we fell in love. I don’t think my boyfriend expected to fall in love with her so quickly, but as soon as he picked her up I could tell that he was a goner. We learned that her mom had been dropped off at the shelter on October 20 pregnant, and gave birth to a litter of six that night. As soon as the litter was old enough, they and their mom were taken in by this foster family, which made me really happy to know that they weren’t in the shelter long. We’d agreed to just a visit but left having paid half the adoption fees, and after spending the week getting the apartment ready, we returned the next weekend to bring Rosie (a name we chose) home. She was the perfect addition to our little family, and had us wrapped around her little paws.
Sadly our relationship didn’t work out, but I’m so grateful that it happened at a point in my life where I could afford to take on the responsibilities of caring for a dog full time. And while it hasn’t been without its challenges - Rosie has a sensitive stomach and requires a special hydrolyzed protein kibble, and has gone to the emergency vet three times so far for repetitive swallowing episodes that resulted in her vomiting bile - I can’t imagine my life without her.
A lot of people adopt puppies and kittens because they want “the full pet experience,” but senior pets need good homes too, and sometimes young animals aren’t for every life situation. For example, Rosie needed to be walked every 4-5 hours when we first got her because her bladder was so small. Luckily we both worked remotely to be able to accommodate that, but not everyone can. And while some feel that they’re “starting fresh” with a puppy or kitten, not having to worry about a history of abuse and mistreatment with older, adoptable animals, the ones with a history completely out of their control need your love and support too. Shortly after Rosie was adopted, a friend of mine adopted a senior dog who required some retraining and understanding when it came to his potty habits, but he fit into her life perfectly and in 2021 she adopted another senior dog of the same breed, giving her original adoptee a companion.
If you’ve been thinking about adding a pet to your home, please consider taking the time to adopt an animal in need. But before you do, really think about your life and what you can reasonably accommodate. Some important questions to consider:
Adopting a pet can be a wonderful, life changing experience, but do your research and take your time deciding not only what’s best for you, but what’s best for a new pet as well.
-Written by Alyssa Romeo
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in July of 2020, I had a moment like no other. I got into my car for what seemed like the first time in weeks. In fact, it was the first time I had driven in weeks. The day’s agenda was to drive from my quarantine home base, my man’s condo in the Hudson Valley, to meet up with an old friend at the Jersey shore. With the radio turned on and my music ADD in full swing, I began my usual routine of jumping from channel to channel to avoid garrulous DJs and political banter. As luck would have it, spotty reception and the latest antics of the president dominated the airwaves. I sighed and thought, “Of course, there is nothing good on.” Off went the radio.
As I no longer sported my unruly whiplash-inducing locks from just three weeks prior, I rolled down my windows. I had shaved my head. Or rather, my boyfriend had. In the spirit of the pandemic, I decided that a fresh start could come with a clean-shaved noggin. The wind’s kiss on my skin was a welcomed addition to my quiet and otherwise monotonous drive of stop and go traffic. It was then that I realized that underneath my mess of paddle board equipment and library books sat my cd binder. You know those booklets you would get from bar mitzvahs and sweet-sixteens in the nineties and early two-thousands? With my eyes on the road, I reached around blindly and got ahold of the coveted black book. Struggling to multitask, I one-handedly leafed through the sleeves and decided on a cd that I had long ago burned and titled “music to drive to.”
I turned the knob of the radio back on. With the cd about to be inserted into the player, I was startled by the beginning chords of a familiar song with the radio’s last attempt to charm me. “If you start me up-If you start me up-I'll never stop!” “Yassss!” I thought to myself. If there ever was a time to spell the word yes with an ‘a’ and add an obnoxious amount of extra s’s, that was the time.
Dear Mick Jagger, you significantly improved my mood while driving that day. And while you have been there at other times, your lyrics for those precious three minutes and thirty-three seconds bathed me in a feeling of hope.
-Written by Alli Chazen
I never thought much of traveling while growing up, or at least not the importance of it. My true desire to travel did not really begin until late high school then continued through college, where, after discussion with my parents, I took advantage of one of the school’s study abroad options and spent a semester studying in Italy. That semester consisted of me not only being the farthest from home I had ever been, but really opened my eyes to a part of the world I had only read about until then. After that semester concluded I promised myself I would travel at least one new place per year - domestic or international - and until COVID-19 began, I kept that promise.
The more I travel the more fulfilled I feel. It was a feeling beyond the novelty of going somewhere new, and it took a few years for me to realize that the “high” I felt by traveling was because every place I had gone nourished my mind, body and soul in one way or another. And once I came to that realization, my desire (or perhaps need) has only grown.
To me, the nourishment of the mind comes in varying forms, such as conversations with people, books, research, movies, religion... so many things; including travel. Traveling to places you have only learned about in a history class, through your religion or just by listening to others talk about it can have a profound effect on you. There are so many places to go around the world to learn and experience something first-hand, they can complement what you already knew, but open your eyes and mind to so much more.
I have always found history fascinating, one of my two favorite subjects in school. Spending a semester in Italy not only allowed me the opportunity to enjoy my family’s culture, but I was surrounded by history. Ancient structures were all around us in Rome and we ventured to different cities in Italy and throughout Europe on the weekends. All were incredible experiences. However, the experience I had that impacted me the most in terms of not only having an effect on my mind, but on my soul as well was when I was in Germany.
While in Germany for a few days with one of my roommates, we took the train from Berlin to Oranienburg to see the Sachsenhausen concentration camp; an experience that will never leave me and I do not think it is meant to. Until that day, I had only ever learned of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in a classroom. Visiting what remains of the camp took that out of the history books and put it in the present.
This is nothing wrong with going somewhere tropical and just lounging beach-side, but there is so much to learn in this world, even if it is just taking a cooking class while in another country - make sure you nourish your mind.
For me, having experiences and going places that help nourish or repair my soul unequivocally end up being some of my favorite memories and destinations. I cannot always explain it, and do not always expect it, but I always feel more fulfilled when it happens.
One such experience was after a particularly hard breakup in early 2015. I went to Virginia Beach a few weeks after it happened with two of my best friends, and while I was having a great time with them, I was still filled with sadness and anger. On the day we decided to go jet skiing, that all changed. While bouncing over the little whitecaps at 35 mph I felt like this black mist was lifted off me by the wind and carried out to sea. I slowed my jetski until the feeling passed then suddenly found myself feeling so much lighter. As I bobbed up and down on the water, a dolphin fin broke through the waves a few feet from me. I love dolphins. The site made me cry a little, then I hit the gas and as the jetski and I sped over the water I began laughing. By the time I took this selfie [see selfie picture below] that night, one of the first comments I received was that it looked like the first genuine smile I had expressed in a while, and it was.
The second time I felt like my soul had been touched like that was in Bali in 2019. From the moment I arrived I felt connected to the island. It almost felt like I had been there before, but this was my first time. The longer we were there, the more I felt this way. I even brought it up to my friend. It is hard to explain exactly everything I was feeling, but I experienced it on a soul level. The more I learned about the culture, the people and their beliefs the greater this feeling got. My friend and I even discussed past lives and how maybe that is where my feelings were coming from.
In closing, when you have the opportunity to go somewhere new, really live in the moments you experience there. Learn something new, revitalize your body and nourish your soul. It does not have to be all at once but experiences shape who we are and expand our understanding of the world as well as ourselves.
-Written by Alyssa Romeo
What playlist would you like to have played at your funeral? This is a question that came up in a Death Café, a forum for discussing death. Have you ever pictured your own service? Who would you want there? What atmosphere would you want? Death is inevitable. It touches everyone. It does not discriminate.
When death comes up, many people shrink away. They do not know what to say or how to act. It is acceptable to not say anything at all. Sometimes all that is needed is a hug or an open ear and yet we tend to feel guilty or awkward doing those things. Dictionary.com defines the term, “practice” as, “to perform or do habitually or usually.” As with any skill we want to acquire, improve, or master, we must practice. Public speakers practice their inflection, tone, and delivery. Runners practice to increase their speed and stamina by going for runs of varying lengths, stretching, and doing cardio workouts. Singers practice by singing chords and memorizing music. Why not practice being comfortable with grief, pain, and suffering? You can be sure that these three rascals will always accompany Death.
Let us look at the act of crying…By letting tears go, the body gets a release, a purification of feelings. If someone sees you crying, it can signify that you need comfort. It shows a vulnerability. It is humanizing. When tears are bottled up, the body’s blood pressure and heart rate increase. This results in a tightness in the chest and heavy breathing. The stress stays bottled up under the surface like a shook up can of Coca Cola.
Likewise, letting your feelings be heard by someone you trust can also aid in decreasing tension. After a less than decent interaction/experience, it is commonplace for one to remark about it to a colleague. “How dare Polly call me out in this morning’s meeting! And the nerve of that guy on his phone cutting me off on my way home!” We have all been there in some capacity. That need to validate yourself out loud is a powerful voice. Unleashing your emotions can be a healthy way to cope with everyday anxieties. As the confidant, sometimes nothing needs to be said. Holding space for someone to speak freely is a great and often overlooked service.
Then there is the gravity of a hug. Studies show there is a correlation between hugs and the chances of getting sick. People with larger support systems tend to give and receive more hugs and coincidentally show lesser symptoms of illnesses. Think of a baby. Newborns, who receive positive touch from the get-go, assimilate easier in society. Fear and pain can lead to isolation. The simple act of hugging can have effects that last a lifetime. In this season of “social distancing,” hugs have been a no-no. Families have been separated; forced apart by an invisible force. Now is a great time to look inward and take inventory of your loved ones. Do you miss hugging a parent or child goodbye? Did someone close to you receive their wings, leaving the physical world behind, along with the chance to embrace them one last time? Are there people in your life that you have been hesitant to hug prior? Maybe you yourself are not a touchy-feely individual. Let these thoughts marinate. Something you can start doing immediately is asking someone if you can give them a hug. The worst they can say is no. But if they respond with a yes, you will be happier, healthier, and less afraid, if only for a moment.
A practice in solitude, or rather taking comfort in solitude, is another tool for your death-coping arsenal. What better time to practice being alone than during a pandemic? Learning to sit with your feelings is not an easy task. It involves patience and a non-judgmental attitude. Bringing awareness to the present moment allows for great comfort. There is no worrying of the future to rob you of the present. There are no regrets to steal your here and now. Some activities for being alone include: sitting or lying down silently, lighting a candle and watching the flame, journaling your thoughts, mowing the lawn, taking a walk, reading a book, painting a picture, taking a shower/bath, brushing your hair, grooming your nails, working out and cooking. Find an activity or two to start with and start slow. Maybe you only practice your solitude for five minutes and slowly work your way up to thirty minutes or more.
The great thing is that there is no right or wrong way to go about any of these practices. There is no time limit. There is no great watchman patrolling your progress. Coming to an understanding, finding acceptance, and even celebrating death and its cohorts are a part of life and living. You cannot cheat death, but you can reduce the level of pain and suffering on yourself and those around you. Something as ordinary as creating a playlist of your favorite tunes can alleviate stress, bring comfort, and be a practice in solitude. It serves as a vessel of your spirit. And so, the question again-What songs are on your funeral's playlist?
-Written by Alli Chazen
*Kaleidoscope Soul will be hosting Death Cafes in the future. =)
For more information about Death Cafes/Find one to participate in: https://deathcafe.com/
"If you're new, keep coming." This phrase is common among 12 step programs for addiction. But think about it. This thought can apply to all walks of life.
In a study conducted by Phillippa Lally, a researcher at University College London, it takes an average of 66 days for a new habit to form. Think about the economy. It is kept afloat by people's desires to drop, create, and manipulate behaviors. At the beginning of each year, on our birthday, on the first day of the next month, you name it, perhaps we make it a point to drink more water or become an expert in the latest fitness trend. We start out with a fire under our butt. We are filled with excitement; marking up our month-at-a-glance calendar and creating daily digital reminders.
And then life sets in. We get stuck at work late. Our child stays home sick from school. We begin to doubt our willpower and more importantly, the time that we have to make changes. We slowly begin to fall out of sync or abandon our new nature cold turkey. We were fine prior to that new behavior anyway. Right!?
"If you're new, keep coming." It is a simple thought. And yet despite the knowledge of wanting to make a change in our life, our minds do not respond well to change. The addage, "knowing is half the battle," is wrong. A smoker of fifty plus years knows that he is at risk for cancer and yet he continues in his nicotine-filled ways. Recovery meetings take place every day and at all differnet times. Why do you think that is?
It takes commitment and hard work to create new habits. It is up to an individual to learn what personally works best in order to transform a desire into an actual practice. It is okay to need reassurance and accountability. In fact, studies prove that being held accountable for our actions increases our chances for success. Find a friend, family member, spouse, coworker, facebook group or penpal and get to it! In the words of Effie Trinket, "May the odds be ever in your favor!"
-Written by Alli Chazen
For more information on Lally's study: https://jamesclear.com/new-habit
For more information on the GI Joe Fallacy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GimHHAID_P0
For more information on the 5 rules of recovery: https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/five-rules-of-recovery.htm