Tails of Aloha Interview

Hey everyone! Sorry we haven’t posted in awhile but we’ve been super busy driving all over the country! Hopefully there’ll be pics and stories to follow soon. But now I’m very happy to give you our very first organization interview!

What is the name of your organization?
Tails Of Aloha – An all Volunteer Animal Assisted Therapy Organization.

Where is your group located?
Located on Oahu in the state of Hawaii, with animals on all of the major Hawaiian Islands.

When was your organization established?
Tails of Aloha was established in 1994 and received its Non-Profit designation in October 2008. We were fully funded by our founder from 1994-2007.

What is the mission of your organization?
We send Animal Therapy teams to hospitals, nursing homes, Hospices and even private homes for Animal assisted Therapy (where we have animals go to individuals or groups) or Animal Assisted Activities (Where we have an animal involved with the actual therapy of an individual that is observed and documented by a Health/Human service professional.) We also do foster homes for misplaced pets and pets whose owners have been placed into nursing homes, long term hospital care or hospice. We also find permanent placement for animals that cannot go back to the original owners. We also assist the homeless population with the care and feeding of their pets by educating them on the requirements for inoculations and treatments they can give their pets. Our group donates shampoos and flea treatments to those in need.

How is your organization run? Are you an all-volunteer group?
Our organization is made up of entirely volunteer groups that donate time and money for the benefit of the patients.

How do you get your funding?
Most of our funding currently comes from our Board of Directors or from a few Fundraisers we run every few months. We are working on some grants to assist in the purchase of a few items for our online store. http://printfection.com/tailsofaloha and http://www.zazzle.com/tailsofaloha

Do you get support from your surrounding area?
Most of our support comes from local people and stores.

What are some of the challenges you face?
We try and have pet therapy teams available to all who call us for them but are unable to keep up with the demands. We would like to establish ourselves in every hospital and nursing home in the state but are short of people and animals to do that.

Tell us more about your group. What makes it unique?
Our group started as 1 individual (Gayle Igarashi) hoping to make a difference in the lives of the elderly and has prospered from there. We now have animals certified on all 4 major islands of Hawaii and are trying to do more. Our animals range from a small pet rat to miniature horses. (Our Great Dane team is actually larger in size than our miniature horse team…LOL)

Do you have a favorite story you’d like to share?
WOW what an amazing day Al and I had today with our pet therapy visit! It was our first time at Kulana Malama. This is a children’s hospital in Ewa Beach. For the longest time I wanted to get the courage to go and do a pet visit.
But the truth is I was scared that emotionally it would throw me into a deep heart break. I didn’t want to imagine a place where tiny children lived on heavy medical equipment hanging on to life every moment.
Well finally after all the procrastination and my heart tugging at me countless times over to just do it. At least try, is what I kept telling myself.
NO REGRETS!!
When we arrived we had a warm wonderful greeting from the patients and the staff. The place looked like a miniature Disney Land. Every place in it was bright and colorful. It seemed very animated. It was bursting with love and care. U can instantly feel this warmth. Nothing of what I had envisioned in my head came close to what the reality was. The staff was incredible. They treated each child with such amazing tender love and care. I don’t know how they found such a perfect staff. All of them filled with smiles and ALOHA. There was so much excitement and joy to see us.
The children were more than amazing. None of them could really talk, many hooked up to several machines, tubes etc. You could hear many of the machines making all kinds of noises. These children were the most beautiful children I had ever seen in my life. They were smiling and excited to see this big furry dog come to visit them. For many it was the first time they ever saw a real dog or even touched one. It was absolutely magical. There was no sadness. I expected a gloomy place. It wasn’t anything gloomy at all. It was a miracle of life. A blessing of time. Smiles everywhere. Love that u could feel the moment u walk in the door.
Polo seemed perfectly at home. He loved them all especially this one lil tiny baby boy. His tiny lil toes and fingers gave his best effort to connect with Polo. I could see him move his fingers and even wiggle his toes. They were both so comfortable with each other. The baby rested his tiny feet on Polo’s nose and face. His lil hand slowly and gently moved across Polo’s fur. Polo laid his head on the baby. They were like best friends. I was so amazed of the comfort of each other they shared.

What is the accomplishment your organization is most proud of?
Please See Here

What is the one thing that people could do to help your organization the most?
People with animals are asked to join and spend some of their time sharing their wonderful pets with others less fortunate to have or not allowed to have a pet of their own.
We also can use donations to assist us in the insurance of our animals and the upkeep of our store/websites. All of our donations are returned into Tails of Aloha, nothing is spent outside of what we do at Tails of Aloha. 100% return back to Tails of Aloha a 501 (C ) (3) IRS approved company.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Our volunteer group will visit any home that has elderly, terminally sick, nursing home, hospital or hospice in Hawaiian Islands. If we have a team available in the area you request then we will try our best to get there for you. If we don’t have a team at that time we will work with you to get someone there as soon as possible! We are also looking to certify teams on all islands of Hawaii! If you make a donation to us you can be assured that it will go into the Tails of Aloha program and not anywhere else! Mahalo Nui Loa for your time and we look forward to seeing you out in the community!

Killing Kangaroos – Is It Ethical?

I recently came across an article while perusing the Twitterverse about how 6000 kangaroos are being killed by the Australian army in Canberra. At first glance, the title makes one fly into an instantaneous state of shock and anger. Then I read the article and I came away from it with a sense of unease and confusion. Why the change of emotions? Well, the article says that the kangaroos are being killed because of overpopulation and because they are causing harm to the ecosystem. Now I’m not going to try and argue if this is true or not or if this is just another excuse for humans to kill (6000 out of 9000 does seem a bit steep). Taking what the article states as fact, I think, brings up an important philosophical debate. The claims are that the kangaroo population is too large to be sustainable and that they are having a negative impact on the area – “The killings are intended to protect endangered plants and insects that share the grassy habitat with the kangaroos.” It says that they are also “threatening endangered reptiles, the grassland earless dragon and the striped legless lizard”. Now here comes the obvious to ask but not to answer question: should they? And that is what I asked when I retweeted the link. I got a response from @kdavenprt, which is where I got the original story from. The conversation went like this:

kdavenprt: Know there are arguments for and against. Absolutely hate the thought of this, it breaks my heart.

RescueAnimals: I hate the thought, too. But if it is true, then it does seem to be a choice btw them and many other species. How do you decide?

kdavenprt: I know, it’s so sad. I have no idea how to make a choice like that. I know they have to do what’s best for all species.

And therein lies the philosophical debate. How does one choose one species over another? True, in a complete, untouched ecosytem, this wouldn’t be a problem. Before all the top predators were eradicated the kangaroo numbers would have been kept down naturally. There would have been a balance and people would not have to step in to reduce the numbers of one species to help save others. The problem is, however, that humans DID interfere. We made it so that certain species were able to breed beyond their means and thus are having a heavier impact on resources than they would naturally. Because it is our fault this happened in the first place, is it our job to try and correct it? Assuming all the facts are straightforward and the kangaroo population will grow so large that they’ll start to starve to death but not before destroying the environment around them, what is the ethical thing to do? Bear in mind that while many of us outside of Australia think killing a kangaroo is downright despicable, in the Australian ecosystem, they have about the same role as deer do elsewhere. Now I personally would not want either of those animals to be killed but in answering this question, try to keep that bias to a minimum. This isn’t about kangaroos. It’s about the difficulty in trying to decide what the right thing to do in this case is. Should we fix our mess or should we try to just let nature take its course from here on out? How do you answer such a question? Can we ever truly know what the right choice is? Please leave comments and discuss it with us!

Mindful Mowing

I’ve been trying to think about what to write. I always want it to be meaningful but then the definition of that changes from person to person so it’s hard to know what everyone would want to read. So today I’ll just give you some random thoughts that I’ve had over the past couple days.

Two days ago I had to mow the lawn. Now I say ‘had’ because I really don’t like doing it. If it were just grass that’d be one thing but we have a wonderful yard full of wildflowers and mosses and other beautiful plants. I hated that I had to run down so many of the pretty flowers just because they happened to be growing in the grass. As I was mowing I got to thinking. What most humans find nice (i.e. grass, some very organized flower beds and hey, more grass) is very boring. Nature is not so tame and monotone and I don’t know why we try so hard to stray from it. As I mowed I tried my best to avoid the flowers where I could and was even able to leave a few large patches of clover spaced around the yard. As such it’s not all one, flat, bright green expanse, and that makes me happy. I also, of course, mowed slowly to try and let all the little grasshoppers have time to hop out of the way. I also said sorry when I had to mow down the flowers and clover. I was also rewarded because below the big clover that got cut, there were hundreds of tiny baby clovers so it made me feel better. Call me crazy, you wouldn’t be the first, but I think we should thank the Earth for what she gave us. And if I have to alter what’s there because humans like it (or rather the home owner’s association says it must be like that) then I just want to make sure that she knows I appreciate what she gives us. So with all of that in mind, I decided that what I practice is mindful mowing. How’s that sound?

Courtrooms Gone to the Dogs

Ever find yourself in a situation so tough and so heart-breaking that you aren’t sure you’ll be able to go through with it? That’s what this girl experienced, but thanks to a furry canine friend, she stayed strong.

While some lawyers feel that a dog in the courtroom will make the jury sympathetic to the victim, I think it’s the victim that should be the point of focus here. Kids find comfort, bravery and love in a tail wag and having a dog at their feet to remind them that no matter what happens, they are loved, is incredibly important. I hope that more dogs are able to do what Dori does.

Dori is a mixed mutt with one incredible job. If she can do it, what’s stopping other pups from being taught these same things? Yet another reason to rescue animals – the amount of unconditional love and support they give is essential to the lives of so many people. The team in charge of training Dori and many dogs like her is Paws’itive Teams, an organization based in San Diego that “provides service dogs for persons with disabilities, enabling these persons to live more independent lives and to achieve an enhanced quality of life.” As their website points out: “Therapy dogs come in all sizes, shapes, breeds, ages, gender.”

Our own pup, Spunky (the mascot you see at the top of our site), is a pound puppy. Ash rescued him from an animal shelter in Ashland, WI at around seven months, and he’s now a beautiful, friendly, happy 5.5 year old dog. In late 2008, the three of us participated in the AKC’s Canine Good Citizenship Program, and Spunky passed with flying colors. Another (human) participant in the program met Spunky and loved him and asked us if we were interested in training him as a therapy dog. It turns out that this women was head of a local therapy dog group called Paws 4 Love and after she and the rest of the group met Spunky, they fell in love with him and couldn’t wait to get him started. Unfortunately, shortly into our involvement with the organization began, we moved, and our current location doesn’t have the same opportunities we had up north. Of course, as soon as we get to Austin in a month or two, we will be finding any way we can to continue Spunky’s therapy dog training.

As both cases prove, mutts and rescue animals can do the same loving work as any purebred. Who knows how many amazing dogs with the perfect personalities and dispositions to become therapy dogs were left in shelters until it was too late – simply because it doesn’t occur to people that shelters dogs are just as great, and in many cases, even better than the alternative. Not only are you saving one life, but maybe you’re saving many more.

Think about it. Every animal deserves that chance.

Video courtesy of a link from Francesca Rogier. Please read the Free Brindi article on this blog to learn more about what you can do to help Francesca in her own current predicament.

Edit: If you liked reading Dory’s story, you might be interested in this article: “Pet Talk: Therapy Dog Helps Funeral Home’s Grieving” from the USA Today. Thanks to @Fun4Fido for this link.

The Starfish Effect

One of my favorite stories of all time is that of a person walking along a beach after a big storm. As they walk they stop and pick up starfish that had been washed ashore and toss them back into the ocean. Another person comes along and says, “Why are you even bothering to do that? There’s so many that you’ll never make a difference.” The first person bends down, picks up another one, tosses it to safety and says simply, “It made a difference to that one.”

This story has so profoundly shaped how I live my life. I can’t remember where or when I first heard this story or even who told it to me but the impact is no less felt. To me, what this story tells us so simply is to do what you can. No one can save the entire world. No one can save every homeless animal out there nor can they stop all the cruelty in the world. What we can do, however, is make small differences in the world. We can choose to adopt a pet rather than buy one. We can volunteer our time to help a shelter or animal welfare organization. We can donate what we can afford to charities that support causes we care about. We can teach the world’s children that animals need to be treated with respect. If we can’t afford anything else, we can still help spread the message and reach people who have the means but might not have even known there was a cause needing support. The important thing to remember here is that you should never feel like you can’t give enough therefore there’s no point in even trying. Anything that you give will make a difference and if everyone in the world would just do one tiny thing to help animals then the change would be tremendous! And the world may not ever be perfect, but the difference we make will be felt by each and every individual animal that we save. And isn’t that worth trying for?

The Starfish Effect: it’s a very powerful concept.

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We believe in this idea so much that we’re making it our philosophy and it will have its own page. Do you have any stories that relate to The Starfish Effect? Any story about how you or someone you know has done something that might have seemed so small and yet the end result was so profound? Share the story with us! We can’t wait to hear what you have to say!