Friday, November 21, 2014

Cheeky dogs: the story of artist Dion Beasley

Dion Beasley's Cheeky Dogs are featured on t-shirts. This one lists different Indigenous words for dog.

Dion Beasley is an Indigenous artist best known for his drawings of Cheeky Dogs. So popular are his designs that they have spawned a company, Dion is profoundly deaf and has reduced mobility due to muscular dystrophy. However, through his art, and with the support and collaboration of disability support educator Joie Boulter, Dion has found an outlet. Their story one inspirational story documented in Outback Spirit by Sue Williams.

Joie spoke to SAT about Dion’s work.

What is a Cheeky Dog?

A Cheeky dog in an aboriginal community is one which has a tendency to bite or attack, while in other situations just means a fun-loving dog.

How did you meet Dion?

When Dion came to live in Tennant Creek, he attended the Tennant Creek Primary school (with his cousins) where I was teaching at the time. Soon after I went on long service Leave and so was able to spend more time with Dion, and this continued when I retired the following year.

Can you tell us how Cheekydogs came about?

“Cheekydogs” (the Company) was formed in 2006,several years after Dion came to live in Tennant Creek with extended family. Dion was (at that stage) a very insecure little boy with extremely limited communication skills, but expressed daily experiences through his drawings. He particularly drew dogs which had a special quality about them. I believe that this special talent of Dion’s could be used to enable him to provide a vocation for himself, with the potential to provide a form of financial independence into the future(hopefully).

This led to Dion’s drawings initially being transferred onto shirts and later onto a variety of products. At this stage my husband and I decided to form the Cheekydog Company as the avenue through which Dion’s art work could be used for his benefit.

Dion greets some cheeky dogs.
What makes Cheeky Dogs great subjects?

Little did I realise at the time, how important dogs (and drawing) were to Dion’s wellbeing. Dion is absolutely fascinated by all the dogs he has encountered in all the communities he has lived in throughout his life. The dogs Dion draws are taken from real life and with his amazing memory he can recall all the dogs (and in which house they lived) he has met. His love for all dogs is evident by his excitement when travelling around communities. As well as drawing the dogs he also loves to photograph the dogs and so has many hundreds of photos of dogs of all sizes, shapes, colours and temperaments.

Last week he attended the clinic (desexing) in Tennant. He was in seventh heaven, travelling with the workers, bringing back the dogs and watching the whole procedure! One of the workers showed Dion the procedure of collating the data on his I-Pad and Dion very quickly was picking up the idea.

There are plenty of Cheeky dogs around...
How does Dion come up with ideas for his drawings?

Dion constantly talks about dogs and is self-motivated to draw subjects of his choosing. Often late at night Dion becomes absorbed in his drawings (he’s definitely a night owl) and is happy drawing into the small hours of the morning. Dion is also extremely knowledgeable about drawing aerial views of communities in which he has lived, so drawing communities with their many dogs is an exciting experience for Dion (and one which he regularly partakes in).

How important is Dion’s work to him?

I think that Dion’s drawing and love of community and associated dogs is essential to his emotional wellbeing. He becomes totally absorbed in his work and will not be distracted by any interruption. Dion is a very contented, creative soul when engaged in drawing, constructing or photographing. What more can I say about this wonderfully creative artist? He has a great sense of humour and delights in simple pleasures.

Do you live with any dogs?

We do not have a Cheeky dog here (a little selfish on my part, and no secure fence). Dion travels down to his grandad’s house every day, taking a container of dog food which he happily feeds to the dogs at Mulga Camp .He really loves the Camp dogs but is not so keen on the well-bred varieties!!

Dion leads the pack.
Do you have any advice for veterinarians or vets visiting communities for desexing programs?

Sorry, no advice for those visiting communities but if Dion was able to join in the activities in the communities his day would be made!

Thank you Joie and thank you Dion for your inspirational drawings. If you want to own an original Dion Beasley, whether its a t-shirt or artwork, visit here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Should pet insurers be able to track pets?

Sleeping ferret.
There are a few medical insurance companies in Australia that offer a free pedometer or activity logger and a cheaper premium on the condition that the insured performs a certain amount of physical activity daily.

It seems that pet insurers are going in the same direction. I received a media release about a UK company that offers a GPS activity tracker (below).

The news that a British pet insurance provider will begin using GPS dog collars to track a pet’s activity may be the first sign that the industry is really beginning to move with the times, according to insurance technologist Aquarium Software. The device, adopted by More Than insurance, which is similar to those used by car insurance companies to track dangerous driving patterns, is aimed at ensuring a healthier – and hopefully vet free – lifestyle for your animal.
Manchester and US-based Aquarium believe that the new tracking device will bring the industry more in line with other insurance markets and make it more profitable for insurers. The average vets’ bill currently costs around £300¹ and with that figure rising with the advent of more advanced veterinary treatment, the micro chipped dog collar will encourage owners to take better care of their pets.
“This is the first sign that insurers are really seeing the benefits technology can bring and by rolling out a GPS device like this, they’re creating a bigger data arsenal from which to better assess each individual insurance quote,” explained Mark Colonnese, Sales and Marketing Director for Aquarium Software. “The bottom line is that for the first time in the pet market, each insurance case can be individually evaluated, based on an individual pet’s analytics, something that was not previously possible.”
The technology, which is deployed in the form of microchip syncs up with a pet owner’s smartphone or tablet, before being passed down the line to the insurer where they measure a pet’s activity against recommended healthy guidelines. The healthy activity rate is calculated based on age and breed of dog, but Aquarium believe that now the technology is in place, there is no limit to its future use.
Pets that are exercised within the healthy recommended amount will qualify for cheaper insurance premiums discounted up to 20% as well as other benefits including healthy dog treats, free vaccinations and tablets and food, which also ensure a healthier lifestyle for your animal. The device also defends itself against wrongful use by dis-counting any activity over a natural speed for a dog, for example car travel.                        

“This technology is creating data all the time and as it progresses patterns will appear in other aspects of a dog’s existence that may be able to further accurately process each individual case down the line,” said Colonnese. “We may notice certain hotspots of healthy pets or be able to notice harmful trends based on location or time of activity when correlating the information back with claims databases and vets records.  What is really exciting is what else can be done with this type of technology and data, we know from experience this development is just scratching the surface and our R&D team are currently working on some very exciting proof of concepts”
Aquarium has provided bespoke technology for the insurance industry for years, but recently the integration innovators have shifted their focus to the pet market in an attempt to make it both more profitable to insurers and valuable to pet owners. “Naturally this advancement is something that we consider exciting for a market that was previously struggling to keep tabs on rising vets fees, claims leakage and insurance fraud,” added Colonnese.
“This device puts the ball back in the customer’s park, with them now having more control over what they pay an idea that’s not been available for pet insurance previously. Safer drivers pay less car insurance, securer homes receive better contents insurance quotes; so why don’t healthier pets receive better premiums? Well now they can. Bring it on!”

It’s an interesting development. The company states that the technology will allow them to reward owners whose dogs perform the prescribed minimum activity levels, help locate lost or stolen animals. But is that all they will do with the data?

Yes, veterinary bills can be expensive. But how many of these bills are related to an animal’s general level of daily activity? I’d argue very few. For example, the top reasons for insurance claims in Australia, at least in 2011, were dermatitis, otitis externa (ear infection), arthritis (may be related to lack of activity, but can be related to over-activity, eg athletic dogs), gastroenteritis, cancer, pneumonia, snake bite, diabetes (may be exacerbated by lack of activity), cataracts (often associated with diabetes but not always) and multiple fractures (source here).

So how does it benefit insurance companies? Well, it may reduce insurance fraud and reading between the lines, this has to be where insurance companies save money. Additionally, information might be sold to third parties who have an interest in knowing where the dog owners in your area are hanging out (for example where to locate a new vet clinic or pet shop). Maybe that isn’t a bad thing. Targeted marketing is surely less offensive than being bombarded with a bunch of irrelevant information and resources.

What about the activity levels…these can vary significantly between animals. Is it reasonable to assume, for example, that every German shepherd at every life stage should be walked for two hours per day (as in this example).

And a GPS tracker is a whole different kettle of fish to a pedometer. Is this a slippery slope? How much personal information do we want to provide to insurance companies?

On the human health insurance front the concept of genetic testing of policy holders has been raised…what about tracking and micro chipping people to ensure they’re as healthy as they say they are?

And what are insurance companies planning for cats? A GPS activity tracker might not be the most sensible means of detecting fitness in this species.

What do you think about pet insurers tracking pets?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Counting cats: esimates of feral animal numbers

Feral cat in a tree in the Northern Territory.
Fact-checking is important, but easily overlooked. Some “facts” are born as estimates, published then cited and regurgitated without being question. This can be very problematic when the topic is emotive, for example the number of feral cats in Australia.

Some parties have a vested interest in talking the number up, others have a vested interest in talking the number down.

But it seems that there are plenty of sources willing to publish unverifiable figures without considering how indeed such figures were determined or indeed stating that this could be a gross under or over-estimate. We're probably all guilty of this at some stage or another, but its worth teasing out some of the implications.

For example, I’ve heard that there are more feral cats in Australia than there are people. That seems like an awful lot.

According to our Federal Environment Minister, Greg Hunt,
There are up to 20 million feral cats taking up to four native Australian animals a night. That is over 20 billion Australian native species being destroyed a year. 
You can read the interview here:

Those are staggering figures.

Such figures are cited to justify significant funding for eradication programs:

GREG HUNT: We're looking at an increase from a little above $40 million over four years to $90 million and what I have done is already spoken to the national head of Landcare. He has said that his groups want to be part of this. But what if the numbers are flawed? When we use big figures to justify spending big figures, shouldn’t we be taking steps to ensure that those figures are as accurate as possible?
The ABC’s Fact Check has provided a very insightful discussion here (great reading for anyone who has ever made a grand sweeping statement in an assignment and why your marker has circled it in red and written "source???") suggesting that the evidence base of Mr Hunt's claims in that instance was probelmatic.

Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone will be able to determine the absolute number of feral cats in Australia – they can’t really be counted one by one. The discussion highlights some of the challenges of estimate numbers of wild animals in general.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Is being a vet all fun and games?

Fire up the vet-mobile, kiddo! (FYI the Lego Friends Heartlake Vet clinic is sold out all over Australia. Are we selling an impossible dream about the profession?)
Is being a vet all fun and games? The American Veterinary Medical Association is certainly pushing this angle. They’ve recently released a comic book for aspiring vets (see post here), and now comes a computer game.

It’s strangely addictive, although again very simplistic – a single diagnostic test yields the definitive result, there are two or three treatments to choose from, and the patient gets better every time. It’s definitely fun, but not sure it helps aspiring veterinarians or clients manage expectations in a realistic way (play the game here).

A screenshot from the game. A client presents their pet for an appointment. What happens next?
Granted, I’m not sure that designing a game which reflects reality better (gathering of history and physical findings, sorting helpful clues from red herrings, determining the most likely tests to yield a diagnosis based on pre-test probability, interpreting those tests appropriately, discerning which treatment options are appropriate for the patient, negotiating the best diagnostic and treatment plan with the owner, assessing response to treatment and re-evaluating the patient etc) would be particularly easy to design.

In my experience of designing hypothetical teaching cases for veterinary students, I can tell you it can take months to build a case and factor in many possible paths and outcomes.

But hang on, this is just a computer game. Am I taking it all a bit seriously? Yes and no. One of the big problems in our profession is attrition and burnout, and one of the key reasons is the discrepancy between being a vet and the reality of being a vet. Are we doing aspiring vets favours by pushing the angle that a good vet gets the “right” diagnosis and performs the “perfect” treatment every time? I’d argue not.

This computer game is based on the premise that veterinary patients have “tame problems”. I learned about Tame vs Wicked problems in Tom Chatfield’s book “How to Thrive in the DigitalAge” (The School of Life. London: MacMillan 2012).

He was discussing the Angry Birds app, but the analogy applies here:

“In sociological terms, Angry Birds presents what is known as a ‘tame’ problem. First addressed in a 1973 treatise by the social theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, tame problems include games like chess and the majority of mathematical propositions. They are problems in which the person trying to solve them has all the necessary data at their disposal, and knows from the beginning that there is a final solution or winning proposition.

In contrast there are ‘wicked’ problems: problems where there is no way of formulating the issue at stake definitively, nor any such thing as a single definitive solution. Each wicked problem is a unique set of circumstances, themselves entwined with other sets of problems. A typical wicked problem might be the economic health of a country or company, or somebody trying to decide the best course of action in their personal life. In each case, the only kind of solution that can be hoped for is a strategy that ‘tames’ aspects of the problem, breaking it into different elements and suggesting better and worse ways of tackling these. In these terms, life itself is a wicked problem.” (p112)

Misrepresenting our profession, no matter how good willed that is, can mislead vets and clients, leading to disappointment when expectations aren’t met. So I’m not sure this is a helpful resource. But have a play and decide for yourself.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Meditating with dogs: artist Noula Diamantopoulos and Leonardo

Artist Noula Diamantopoulos and Leonardo.

What are you up to this weekend? Is chillaxing with the non-humans in your life on the agenda?

There’s no doubt that the presence of an animal can be calming. SAT spoke to artist Noula Diamantopoulos who mediates with her dog Leonardo.

What is your day job?

I am an artist and psychotherapist. I have three website profiles: the Studio of Spontaneous Creativity here, the Corporate Buddha (here) and the Mosaic Art School of Sydney (here). 

I also have a blog  and QUEST - this is my performance art.

Why do you meditate?

I use art as a way of accessing our intuition and to awaken our imagination so that we can experience more of who we are.

How did you meet Leonardo?

I have been meditating for almost 18 years and my meditation practice today is different to when I first began. Today it’s about connecting with the great unknown, the field of unlimited potentiality as named by Deepak Chopra. The state that we access when we meditate is clarity. That’s my experience. In this State of clarity I feel I understand what my place is on this planet, what I am here to do and how to be. 

How does he help you meditate?

Leonardo is the first dog I have ever had and I met him at Leichhardt Pet Shop which no longer sells pets. He was about 3.5 months old when I met him. I had no intention of buying a dog however I knew this little fellow was one the moment I left the store without him. I went back the next day and brought him home - that was 7 years ago. He comes to the studio with me every day and the only time we are apart is when I travel interstate.

Leonardo settles down for a session...
What does he do when you mediate?

Leonardo is very used to meditating with me. Every day at the studio we have a small meditation group that meets at 9.15am. We meditate for approximately 20 minutes - different kinds of mediations each time - never the same. We are in a semi-circle and Leonardo has several cushions to choose from. As soon as we start the music and close our eyes he props himself on a cushion and lays silently until we finish.

Sometimes he moves quietly around us as if checking in before he sits on his cushion. He is not disturbed if we chant or if we sound. He is the ultimate expression of chilled.

...and proves very adept at relaxing.
Do you think there is a unique benefit in meditating with animals?

We are all energy beings including animals. Leonardo brings a gentleness to the space, a feeling of safety even. I feel that by meditating with an animal that a different connection is created between us. It’s energetically different to all the other activities that are normally shared with a pet. 

Aside from meditating, how else do you and Leonardo spend time together?

Leonardo attends all my in house workshops. He makes friends easily with people and speeds up the 'getting to know you process'. He also attends all my holistic coaching/psychotherapy sessions because he brings a calming force to my clients. Many of them like to pat him whilst we are in session and other just like having him around because it creates a sense or normality to the session. 
And of course we do the regular stuff like walking and hanging out on the lounge and chasing birds, or possums and playing with other dogs.

Thank you Noula for sharing. Do you share an activity with your dog? Let us know!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Does your dog have a personality?

We met Rachel and Ella on a walk this week and had to admire their hair. Yes, they had it blow-dried. 

Is that a rhetorical question?

If you love dogs and science, or even just dogs, you can contribute to knowledge about how your dog’s personality influences his or her life. The study, being conducted by the University of Bern, involves a painless online questionnaire that takes a few minutes.

To participate, click here.

Rachel and Ella.
Meanwhile, if you’re a veterinary student or recent graduate and you can get to Sydney next weekend, I highly recommend the Centre for Veterinary Education’s Survival Seminar for RecentGrads.

The program is constructed to be maximally useful and the line up of speakers is fantastic.

Click here for a link to the program.

Another close up of Rachel and Ella.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How one dog can change a life: the story of Max

Ying Ying was not a dog person. Until Max came along.
I saw Ying Ying speak at an RSPCA Fundraiser. She had a small stall in the corner where she was selling copies of her book, Starting With Max:How a Wise Dog Gave Me Strength and Inspiration. I will admit it looked like yet another book about a dog.

But when Ying Ying spoke the room fell silent. Hers is a story of an incredible transformation. A former teacher of Social Justice and Criminology, she had given up her career to emigrate to Australia. She promised her daughter a dog to sweeten the move, but – not an animal person herself - thought the promise would be forgotten. She was wrong.

When she told her story about the unexpected bond that formed between her and Max, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

I bought a copy of her book and read it that night. It’s a beautiful reflection on our relationship with companion animals and the huge philosophical questions this raises around animal consciousness, inter-species communication, belonging, dying and death, and the meaning of life. It also provided some (for me) very helpful insights into an owner’s perspective of veterinary visits.

Ying Ying took some time to e-chat with SAT about her book. 

[Just a note - she has been incredibly generous, so I recommend making a cuppa to drink while you read over this post].

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was born to Chinese parents, raised and educated in Hong Kong. My first job was to educate the Hong Kong society against corruption and after that I started an academic career teaching Sociology and Criminology. In 1999, I, my husband and our daughter migrated to Sydney. I became a full time housewife and a dog owner when we started our new Australian life.

You gave up an academic career to move to Australia. Was that a big decision?

Indeed, it was a very big decision for me because I liked everything intellectual and found domestic works boring and frustrating. Besides, losing my career meant losing my identity as a professional. But because my new life didn’t permit me to continue my teaching career, and also due to the frequent overseas commitments of my husband, I had to sacrifice my personal ambition in order to safeguard a healthy development for our family, especially for our daughter.

The dog who changed everything: Max. 
How did you feel about dogs and companion animals in general before you met Max?

Taking into consideration our traditions and customs, I think conventional Chinese mentality does not agree that humans should be emotionally affected by animals. Most Chinese think that animals are either to be eaten or used by humans, though nowadays many keep dogs and cats for pleasure. It has become a fashion to ‘love’ animals, but the Chinese’s understanding of animals is still very superficial.  

As a child, I was never taught to feel for animals, not to mention loving them. Before I met Max, I had thought of dogs, cats and other companion animals as generally useful as they could guard the home, catch mice or give fun to children. But I considered them as ‘extras’ in human life, not necessary, not significant, and not to be taken seriously. Because my interests were in Social Sciences and Literature, I paid little attention to animals although we lived with a cat in Hong Kong. The cat was really my German husband’s cat—she had been there before we got married. I never treated her as my companion. My life was busy and there was no room for excessive sentiments for mere animals.

Max on the stairs.
You described a moment, a look, in which your view about dogs changed. What do you think happened?

There are quite a few moments in the book in which I described myself as stunned, moved and even overwhelmed by what I saw in dogs. First of all, my encounter with Max in the RSPCA was an eye-opener. 

When I gazed at Max, I could see right away that those were not eyes of a creature merely controlled by mechanical instincts. His expressive eyes could actually convey thoughts and feelings. This was something I had never thought of before. 

And when we picked up Max to bring him home, I saw how he and the other dogs behaved---I was not prepared for such a moving scene that I had to reconsider the capabilities of dogs. I think what happened in those moments was that I suddenly realised how superficial and narrow-minded I had been in my judgement of dogs. I felt ashamed of my own human arrogance and thus humbled by what was unfolding in front of me to show me an aspect of life—a dog’s life, something I had used to disregard. I was challenged by what dogs are and how much humans can be affected by them.

Max hogs the balls.
You reflect a lot on the intensity of the bond between yourself and Max. Why do you think our bond with companion animals can be so strong?

Our bond with companion animals can be very strong because the love that we experience with them is pure, without pretension, always available and unconditional. They love you for who you are, and their love doesn’t wear out. Such noble sentiments are able to draw out the best in humans. We then become capable of loving for the animals’ sake, willing to sacrifice our own interests; for by giving a lot, we actually taking back more than we expected. The strength of the relationship also comes from the certainty of its never fading quality. In human relationships we can never be so sure and often feel disappointed.

Max enjoys the park.
You had to go to the vet a lot, and wrote: “I have so often stepped into the vet’s surgery ready to be told the worst, only to step out again with affirmation of life together. Max and I then walk away with lively strides, even more conscious of what it means to share our life together, of the shortness and fragility of life and the brevity of most human-animal relationship.” Do you think pet owners in general feel vulnerable at the vet and if so, how can we help?

I think experienced pet owners shouldn’t feel vulnerable at the vet as they generally understand animals and how vets work. But for first-time pet owners who don’t know much about animals and how to handle them, visits to the vet can be a traumatic experience especially if they are not familiar with the terms of treatments. 

As I was a first-time dog owner and actually a bit afraid of dogs, trying to understand what the vet asked me to do and afterwards dealing with Max at home, be it dropping the pill into his throat or cleaning his ears, I felt most of the times quite worried, unsure, and hence vulnerable.

Besides, with our pets, we are like their gods who have the power of prolonging or terminating life. So it’s also this aspect that made me feel anxious---one can destroy a life by one’s own mistakes and animals have no way to protest.

I think it will help a great deal if vets take into consideration that some pet owners are just very ignorant in caring for their pets. In such situations, patience and clarity in explaining the illnesses and possible treatments are very necessary. Another aspect is an expressed empathy. When people have no confidence in themselves, it’s very important that they feel concern and care from the vet. It’s understandable that vets are often overloaded with work, but they can actually achieve more if pet owners are helped to develop trust in the vet and confidence in themselves.

Part of the family: Max unwraps a gift.
In the book you talk about human beings trapped in a timeline. How do you think dogs perceive time?

I think dogs perceive time as occasions to do certain things, like time to eat, time to go to the park, time to bond etc. It’s interesting that they never forget about time (e.g. never miss the time to go out), yet they are not bound by time. 

They don’t put themselves on a timeline, to be conditioned by the past, the present and the future, so they are not worried about planning anything. When the occasion comes, they are anxious about what is going to happen. For example, they can easily develop anxiety when they have been waiting for a long time for their owners to return home. 

I think for them, life is a series of moments to act and react: to smell, to eat, to look, to listen, to touch, to play, to love, to sleep…Because they are only concerned about that particular moment, their sadness or joy can be so complete and real. That’s why when we are with them, we can also be caught by the moment, to savour the here and now.

Max at the beach.
 You describe your grief over Max’s loss as profound. “No rehearsal could have prepared me for the pain, the searing pain.” The grief we feel for animals is very real, but has been described by some as disenfranchised grief because many feel they cannot share this grief or shouldn’t feel it over “just an animal”. What did your experience with Max teach you about grief for animals?

I used to think that animals were hardly important to mankind and I didn’t agree that we should grieve over an animal. My experience with Max has taught me that one can love an animal very deeply and therefore one can grieve profoundly over an animal. 

When it’s time to grieve, there shouldn’t be any difference between missing a human and an animal. It’s the quality of the love that determines the depth of the sorrow. However, for the loss of an animal, one tends to restrain oneself in expressing the anguish, especially if there are human affairs to attend to. It is often thought that human life should go on as usual since the animal was not part of the human world. 

But my loss of Max has shown me that companion animals are part of our human life. The moment when Max left me, I realised how much he had been part of me. And as he went, he took away some of me. That’s why it’s so important to go through the grief, to heal the soul by tasting the pain, confronting the loss, and not pushing the sadness away.  Every human-animal relationship is unique and everyone should be allowed time to grieve properly. The loss of a pet, and possibly one’s best friend, shouldn’t be belittled.

Max as he will be forever remembered - enjoying the finer things in life: a beautiful beach, a fine stick...
You quote Goethe, who said that “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love”. How did Max change you as a person?

Max transformed me from an arrogant, self-centred human to a loving and caring animal lover. He opened my eyes and ears to experience an interesting world that is made up of both humans and animals. My new world had a lot of nature and creatures of all kinds, but very little me. Max was able to direct my attention away from my self-obsession and he turned my focus to the beauty of the natural sceneries and animals, especially dogs. Affected by his pure and truthful nature, I became less calculative and more compassionate, not just to animals but also to humans as well. He showed me that we are all parts of the whole, created for joy.

In short, I have learnt how to enjoy the moments in life, what the true meaning of love is, and why simplicity is the wisdom in life. I have been shaped, both intellectually and emotionally, by Max to know what really matters in life. 

Do you have any words of advice to future vets, vet students or pet owners?

Before I offer any words of advice, I must first of all thank all existing vets for their valuable work to treat and save animals. I’m impressed by your compassion for the weak and vulnerable animals that cannot fight for themselves and can be so easily disregarded by humans. So, many thanks!

To future vets, the vet students, I appreciate your passion for animals and thank you for having chosen such a meaningful study and future profession. I’m sure you know, but I still want to point out that your future job will not be easy. It requires a lot of dedication and hard work, and as animals don’t speak about their problems, you have to be quite imaginative, creative and innovative. 

Also, we humans can easily become insensitive to animals’ misfortunes especially when you are confronted with them on a daily basis. As you become more experienced in your profession, the real challenge will be how to maintain your enthusiasm and passion. But you will always be rewarded by the lovely thankful looks of both humans and animals. And as this is a job done with your hearts as well, you will feel heartened with indescribable joy.

To the pet owners, I thank you for being bighearted for even non-humans, and I congratulate you for having found joy and fun from wonderful animals. Do not just keep them as pets, go further than just being ‘owners’. Explore your animals, talk to them, connect with them, learn from them. Let them be your friends, give them your love while you taste their unconditional love, enjoy your companionship. You are in a unique relationship that is beyond human rationality. Be grateful, and cherish your animal friends. 

Thank you, Ying Ying, for sharing your amazing story. If you would like to read more please check out her book "Starting With Max", either on paper, as an audiobook, or as an ebook. Order here direct from the publisher or via Amazon here.