Monday Meeting — Blind Pooch Gets Help From Seeing Eye Dogs

This dog can count on her furry friends to always have her back.

Kiaya, an Akita from Waterford, Michigan, lost both her eyes by the end of last year due to a battle with glaucoma. But the 10-year-old pooch can still get around fine, all thanks to Cass and Keller — two other dogs who help guide her, functioning much like seeing-eye dogs.

“Her brothers are pretty amazing at the way they help to guide her around,” Gwen Sila, the veterinary ophthalmologist who operated on Kiaya, told ABC News. “Each of them will stand on either side of her so she doesn’t bump into anything and lead her around the yard.”

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The 10-year-old dog began getting assistance from Cass back in 2013 when her left eye was removed, the owner of all three dogs, Jessica VanHusen, said. Cass grew more attached to Kiaya and stayed by her side. After the pooch’s second eye was removed in November of last year, he stepped up his game. He’s become protective of his “sister.”

“Cass always allows Kiaya to get to her food dish first and waits for her to start eating,” VanHusen said, in a press release. “When I take them in the car, he leans against her to keep her steady because she sometimes gets a little off-kilter. He also loves to groom her.”

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VanHusen says that Keller, who’s the youngest of the bunch, took a little longer to react to Kiaya’s condition but has become more and more careful and watchful.

Cass and Keller show incredible compassion, and VanHusen hopes that her dogs’ story will show others that caring for a special needs pet can be a beautiful thing.

“They’re an inspiration to everyone,” VanHusen said. “I hope others will see them and realize that a special needs pet deserves a chance. It takes a little effort, but it’s absolutely worth it.”

The Huffington Post by Kimberly Yam

Thursday Re-View — Let’s Hear It For First Responders

Let’s hear it for first responders in the United States of America.

Whether you’re being airlifted from rising flood waters, getting rescued from a burning building, being rushed to the hospital with excruciating chest pain, slowly being extricated from your mangled car with the Jaws of Life, being rushed to safety from a hostage situation, shielded from a shooter – you are relieved and grateful to hear the welcome police sirens, fire truck horns, helicopter blades or racing footsteps.

Thank goodness – they’re here – everything will be all right – I’m safe.

These are the selfless individuals who go toward danger rather than away from it, who save lives while risking their own.

We’ve come to expect them to arrive in force, like the Calvary – in the nick of time, never afraid or tired or sick or hung over; never preoccupied or moving slow or sleeping in or ignoring the call.

Indeed, some disasters can be identified simply by an iconic photo of first responders:

We expect them to be there and to work tirelessly until the job is done, whether one hour, one day, one month or one year. In wildfires, firefighters might work to save our homes while theirs might be burning down. After a tornado, they might be searching for survivors through the debris while their own home has been demolished. We get back to our own broken lives while they work until their duty is finished.

When they finally have time to breathe, and to return to their families for hugs, food and sleep, that’s when the crushingly difficult part begins. Their sympathetic nervous system, having been hypervigilent for so long, is overly stressed, unable to relax.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is not only suffered by victims of traumatic events. Feelings of guilt or failure, insomnia, intrusive images, recurrent nightmares, irritability, hyperarousal, stomach-aches, headaches, difficulty concentrating, emotional withdrawal, flashbacks – all these, and more, could plague the first responders for months or even years.

What was it like for the police, EMTs and fire department personnel to view the carnage upon entering the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT? Or for the physicians and related health care personnel at the hospital to wait for the injured children who never came? Or for the coroner to perform autopsies on 20 innocent first graders?

You can replace Newtown with Oklahoma City, Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Sandy, 9/11 (WTC, the Pentagon, Shanksville), any war, the Boston Marathon…

Their souls must be bruised.

Perhaps haunted by these experiences, these images, they will run into the chaos and destruction anyway. For you, for me, for anyone in need.

They give tirelessly of themselves, day in, day out, with little recognition, because “they’re only doing their jobs.” Those jobs are demanding, draining, debilitating. But they do them, regardless.

So who cares for the caregivers?

In honoring them here, by recognizing their tremendous worth, I hope to do my part in helping each soul to heal. Perhaps you might find your own way to do the same.

Light in the midst of darkness. Hope in the midst of despair. Love in the midst of hate.

My blessings. My respect. My gratitude.

Once again – Holiness – Sacred Ground – Circles of Compassionate Grace.


Monday Meeting — Hawaii Homeless Man

For decades, a homeless person affectionately nicknamed the Mango Man has been a fixture in the beachside neighborhood of Kailua, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

With waist-length dreadlocks, Mango Man — whose real name is John Cruz — is reliably seen around town with his walker (he was hit by a car a few years ago) or sleeping under mango trees (hence his nickname). He is said to be in his late 60s and to have served in the Vietnam War.

He doesn’t ask for money or help, but rather sits quietly and watchfully in the neighborhood, sort of like a living landmark.


According to Daniela Stolfi-Tow, an administrator for the “I Love Kailua” Facebook page, seeing Cruz is an important part of coming to the neighborhood. “You go from the airport, come home, get yourself your favorite plate lunch, and then you go see Mango Man,” she told The Huffington Post. “You’re so relieved to see him.”

But in April, when a group of residents went to surprise Cruz with a new walker, they found him in need of immediate health care.

According to KITV-4, the residents sought help from Chad Koyanagi, a doctor at the Waikiki Health Center, who organized with the Honolulu Police and Fire Departments, as well as EMS and the residents, to retrieve Cruz and take him to a hospital for treatment.

Because of his condition, which residents wouldn’t disclose to protect Cruz’s privacy, Cruz was placed in intensive care and is expected to stay in the hospital for a while.

Stolfi-Tow said his presence is missed. “It feels like the energy was just sucked out of the place,” she said.

A few other community members installed a sign for Cruz near a bus stop. “It’s to say, ‘We’re holding your spot when you’re ready to come back,’” Stolfi-Tow said.

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Why does the community love Cruz so much?

According to stories posted on the “I Love Kailua” community page on Facebook, many people experienced Cruz offering advice to those in need or protecting young people in Kailua.

Former Kailua resident DeeDee Gualdarama-Leong shared this story on the page:

“10th grade. I was talking to a friend and was not looking and [Cruz] grabbed me before a car came and banged the bus stop. Then 11th grade. Some grunts was harassing me, he told them to get the f*** away from his kids. 12th grade I was crying at the bus stop and he told me life is what u make out of it so think about it before u do bad, the Lord would not like that. I stopped crying and hugged him. I still go by that saying to this day.. thank u Lord for putting John in my life. I am truly blessed to call John my angel.”

In addition to a guardian angel, Stolfi-Tow has come to think of Cruz as a centurion for the community because of his military service and his tendency to wear fatigues.

After serving in Vietnam, she told HuffPost, “he took up another post here … He took his post and stood there day in and day out. He watched over everybody in his fatigues all day long. I realized that he was our guard. He watched over us.”

The Huffington Post by James Cave

Thursday Re-View — That Well of Depression

That well of depression…

That place of complete and utter darkness;
that place where no one hears your cries;

that cylinder in the earth that was your prison,
struggling to get out

until your fingernails were bleeding…

That core of the earth…that plug…

Exhausted, you slipped along its slimy walls to the bottom,
where you collapsed, covered in sweat and blood and grime,
unable to move,
blinded by tears of frustration and abandonment…

But what if…

That well of depression was actually a birth canal…a tunnel…
a waystation…an airlock from here to there…
a bridge…

What if…

That well of depression became a wellspring,
a place of healing waters,
a baptism of graces,
a flowing giver of life…

“There is a river.”

What if…

That well of depression that became a birth canal
that became a wellspring
brought forth a beacon of light –
a way through the fog,
a welcome for the lost,
a respite for the lonely,
a shelter for the homeless,
a place to break bread for the hungry?

What if…

That well of depression that became a birth canal
that became a wellspring
that brought forth a beacon of light
duplicated its length
from the ground below to that above
and became a lighthouse?

You are their Light.

As the water bubbles up from the wellspring –
the core – the Source –
it is transformed into light;
particles of gold that pierce the heavens
in a terrible beauty.

Bringing light to the furthest reaches of darkness;
a light so strong that you cannot look upon it,
yet so gentle as to diffuse itself
into soft folds of protection (wings?).

Light that heals as it bathes its molten fluid
of serenity and peace and love.

You are back to where you started…
at a beginning rather than an end.

You are running toward
rather than running from.

You are Home.


Of Treasured Keepsakes…and Love

It took me 27 1/2 years to throw them away. 27 1/2 years..

Perfume. New packages I took from Mom’s bedroom dresser after she died. Christmas gifts that she never opened.

Christian Dior’s “Poison” and Yves Saint Laurent’s “Opium.” No light florals for her. No, these were a mixture of determination and resilience with undertones of compassion and humor. The woman who wore these scents made a statement; had presence.

27 1/2 years in the bottom drawer of my bedroom nightstand. Packages of perfume that I could touch when I needed to be close; boxes that she had touched, too. They were precious to her…designer fragrances that she couldn’t afford, that she kept for those special occasions that never came.

Over 10,000 days of my life going on when I couldn’t imagine one day without her. I survived, but not without losing parts of me along the way.

In that length of time, I sold my optometry practice and went back to grad school for psychotherapy. I raised a boy into a man and saw him get married to a lovely young woman. A second career flourished in community mental health, higher education and hospice. A difficult divorce and re-marriage. Two moves. Dad’s death, and his burial next to Mom.

So much life has happened, and so much loss. When do I no longer have anything that she touched with the same hands that held mine when we crossed a street, that made me my favorite foods, that touched my fevered brow, that held me when I cried?

Throughout, the constant has been those two perfumes, and my love.

Then again, maybe it’s too soon to throw them away…