Monday, June 10, 2019. Beautiful weekend in New York. Sunny with temps reaching above the mid-70s into the evenings, but with cool-iish breezes passing by. The city was quiet, alluding to the summertime atmosphere when many leave at least for weekends.
On Sunday the annual Puerto Rican Day parade marched up Fifth Avenue. The parade is very popular and draws enormous crowds whose cars filled every available parking space from Fifth to First Avenues in the 60s through the low 90s. And for those of Puerto Rican heritage it is an important holiday in New York; a celebration. For those of us who wished to travel – except on foot or bicycle, from east to west, or vice versa, south of 96th Street, from late morning till mid- to late afternoon, forget it.
I happily stayed home. After feeding and walking the marauders along the Promenade and through Carl Schurz Park, I came back to settle down with the book “Soul Dog; A Journey into the Spiritual Life of Animals” by Elena Mannes.
I had lunch with Elena at Michael’s last Wednesday, we met indirectly through Maria Cooper Janis, through her literary agent Jane Lahr. Maria told me about it when we were talking about mental telepathy and I had told her the story about a dog I had rescued in the ‘70s named Rex.
Back then, I had a business up in Westchester County where one morning one of the staff came in late. A stray dog had come to her house. He was a beautiful dog, she said; and very friendly although badly unkempt and uncared for. But she couldn’t keep him. She called the ASPCA to the rescue. After waiting an hour and they hadn’t shone; she locked the dog in her garage and came to work. I told her I’d go over to her house and wait for the ASPCA.
When I drove into her driveway, and got out of my car, the dog, a big guy with the head and snout of a German Shepherd and a mane of a Chow, was standing on his hind legs and looking out the garage window. He barked at the sight of me.
The voice in my head said: “That’s my father and I have to take him.”
That’s not the kind of reaction I ever had before. Or thought about or imagined. Analyzing my reaction, I considered that it was a recognizing “re-incarnation.” My father had died about two years before at 73, after a long illness. His had been a long harsh life, for him and for others surrounding him. His temperament reflected that and so did the lives of others. All of that came back to me at that moment at the sight of the dog. And it was a foregone decision: I had to take him.
When I opened the garage door, the dog ran right over to my car. And when I opened the car door, he hopped in as if it were his. (Co-incidentally, my father loved cars) Driving him over to my house I named him Rex. He responded to that instantly and forevermore.
The following day I took him to the vet to be checked over and then cleaned up. The vet said was he was young, maybe a year old or so. The vet found bloody wounds around his neck and concluded they were from chains; perhaps he had been a junkyard dog. After a good wash and brushing, the boy looked snappy. And that suited his personality.
He had a very cheerful personality. He turned out to be a good watchdog, also. He liked the outdoors and even liked sleeping outside in wintertime on the icy macadam of the driveway by the front door. That was his choice, not mine.
At the time I took him home, I had five cats in residence (all rescued). It sounds like a lot but the house was spacious and they also loved the great outdoors. Their initial reactions or interchange with Rex was uneventful, and so was his reaction to them. One, a female named Nikki (who talked in her meows) became his constant companion and friend. This didn’t surprise me as I’d had dogs and cats throughout my childhood and youth; they always got along.
All of this came back while reading Elena Mannes’ book about the personalities and inner lives of animals. I’d recounted that story about Rex countless times, always referring to the possibility that he was the reincarnation of my father. But I’d regarded it in a simplistic way. My father’s troubles were shed on the rest of us and left deep wounds on many. From man to dog was my interpretation of his path. I saw it as deep hardship, a punishment. I never thought anything else about the matter. Elena Mannes’ “Soul Dog” has changed that.
The “Dog” she refers to in the book is Brio, the first she ever owned, a standard poodle. She was her early 30s at the time, and after a relationship she had ended, she decided it might be nice to have a dog as a companion. She is obviously a sensible and practical person, at least in matters of personal responsibility. She was concerned about being able to train and take care of the animal because she had a very busy career, which even required frequent travel.
In the beginning, she was not succeeding. The animal did not accept the issues that were required in living with her. She thought of giving him back. But she couldn’t. You can tell that she is by nature a very sensitive and responsible individual.
Finally, at loose ends with her problem, she consulted a dog clairvoyant. This was another first for her, and it will be for the reader of this book, too. And it grabs ya! When coming upon this, I thought of closing the book. However, the author, or rather Brio, won me over. And that was only the beginning of what I was to see and learn in this magnetic story of animal life, human animal and otherwise.
Mannes writes: “When one feels a connection with another being – human or dog, or another sentient being – one has a sense of their emotions and how they’re experiencing themselves in the world. We get an idea of who they feel themselves to be. I had certainly come to know Brio and how he saw himself. He obviously never doubted who he was. From that first day I met him as a tiny puppy waving at me, to when he trotted out onto the New York City sidewalks, to his strong spirit that never wanted during illness, he showed utter confidence in himself …. He was always present within himself and in the moment he was living.
I came away with many a thought in the text about the nature of us creatures, human animals and otherwise, including an observation by Albert Einstein on the subject — “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
Mannes writes: “When one feels a connection with another being – human or dog, or another sentient being — one has a sense of their emotions and how they’re experiencing themselves in the world. We get an idea of who they feel themselves to be. I had a certainly come to know Brio and how he saw himself …. From that first day I met him as a tiny puppy waving at me, to when he trotted out onto the New York City sidewalks, to his strong spirit that never wanted during illness, he showed utter confidence in himself. Nothing and no one could diminish or defeat him. I think it was that clarity of self-knowledge that so many people recognized in him. He was always present within himself and in the moment he was living.”
“Not to hurt our humble brethren
Is our first duty to them, but to stop there
Is not enough.
We have a higher mission —
To be of service to them wherever they require it.”’ — St. Francis of Assisi
That quote from “Soul Dog” applies to last Thursday night at the Ziegfeld Ballroom on West 54th Street where I was a guest at the annual Bideawee Ball. The evening raised $660,000, with 350 attending.
Maybe it’s the presence of the “guest dogs” as well as the beautiful adoptable dogs and kittens and cats that were also attending, having been transported by Bideawee’s mobile adoption van, but the evening was like being with one big animal loving family. It was lively and warm, heart rending and triumphant. It was an evening filled with hope for the animals and good tidings and affection for the animals.
Many guests brought their dogs – especially those adopted from Bideawee, one of our country’s first no-kill animal welfare organizations. WNBC Chief Meteorologist, Janice Huff, hosted the event and introduced Leslie Granger, President and CEO at Bideawee, who announced that this year’s ball was their most successful to date.
“These funds,” she told guests, “bring us one step closer to doubling our pet adoptions by 2021 to save more homeless animals, and help them find their forever family.” This past year was their best to date: they found “forever homes” for 1500 dogs and cats. They expect, according to the current activity that the current year will be even better since they have already reached 1700.
They honored three remarkable individuals for their contributions to Bideawee over the years: The Flora Kibbe Humane Hero, named in honor of Bideawee’s founder, was awarded to daughter and father, Alyssa and Ted Moudis. Both daughter and father share a passion for saving the lives of homeless animals by dedicating their time and resources to the support of animal welfare and rescue organizations. They’ve supported Bideawee for many years and have been regular Ball attendees with their beloved family dog, Lilly.
The Junior Honoree was Sydney B. Ireland, who has been active in volunteering at animal rescues since her early childhood. She has been a supporter of Bideawee since her family adopted their dog, Scout, from the organization.
In her acceptance, she told the guests how when her mother was dying from ovarian cancer and the family was staying in hospital with her during her final days, Scout was not only there; but on her bed, giving her the pleasure and comfort of his love and loyalty until the end.
Sydney is a champion for both people and animals. She successfully advocated for the Boy Scouts of America to open membership to girls and young women. For her Eagle Scout project, she partnered with Bideawee on her “Connect a Vet with a Pet” initiative — which helps find homes for adoptable dogs and cats with military service veterans. Additionally, she coordinated with Canine Companions for Independence, so that the veterans and others could train their pets as therapy dogs. These efforts helped raise thousands of dollars for the continued adoption of cats and dogs by veterans.
Bideawee is one of the country’s oldest and most respected animal welfare and pet adoption organizations. Founded in 1903, its mission is to be Greater New York’s leader in rescuing, caring for, and placing homeless cats and dogs with people who love them. Bideawee provides an array of high touch services including adoption centers, an animal hospital, pet therapy programs, and pet memorial parks that serve pets and pet lovers on their lifelong journey together.
Bideawee is a not-for-profit 501(c) 3 humane animal organization and 100% of Bideawee’s funding comes from private sources. Bideawee operates adoption centers in New York City and Westhampton. For more information, visit: www.Bideawee.org.