Birthday Poem by Leah

My dearest mother
April 20, 2012
By: Leah Flood
Mother, mother is the name I call you
Ageing, but still beautiful
Wise and sweet
Caring and nurturing
With voice so soft, whispers into my ear
Three little words I come to share
I love you
It’s YOUR birthday to remember
Make this one count
Share a laugh or two, but not a drink or two
Share this time with your family
Cherish the time that you have
So what I have to say to you
Is happy birthday, MOM

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Living in a multicultural society

A Veteran’s Day Essay by Leah Flood

I am proud of our country because today we are able to live together in a mixed group of different people. What I mean by ‚Äúmixed group of people‚ÄĚ is that we are able to be around one another whether one is white, black, brown, yellow, or red. That‚Äôs the great thing about today‚Äôs changes in life. In the olden days white children‚Äôs parents‚Äô wanted nothing to do with other children that were not their color. The parents either thought that they would be a bad influence or it would ruin their children‚Äôs life.

Our country should be proud of the change that we have made. If we were not a Multicultural Society then possibly the technology that we have today might not even have happened or existed! Even if we did live in a non-multicultural society I would have no idea how my life or anyone else’s life would be without our good friends and family. Because some of us are not all the same race as our other friends and family. It would be a very depressing thing, because while half of the friends are having a good life the others might be waiting to be sold into slavery.

Mentioned earlier in this essay there are people who are very offended by having other races around their family. That kind of person can be called a racist. It may just seem like racist can be just a strong opinion of someone Рwhich it is, but it also is a law not to be racist in some countries. Being racist may be funny to one, but it is very hurtful. No matter what ethnicity or color, every single person is the same. Therefore we should all be treated equally and fairly. If you are racist then you might find it hard finding a job. Some business owners strongly dislike people that are judgmental or racist. Being a colored person myself it doesn’t seem to differ who I am around. It’s exactly like being around people like you.

People that really do care about others would try to stop people from hurting one another and also tell the one who is being judgmental to take action and stop.  That’s why I am proud of our country, for making tremendous change.

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Veterinary medicine’s a-changing: the feline side

My last thoughts were about the changes I’ve noted in dog ownership over my lifetime.¬† This post is about changes in cat ownership.¬† As a child, I never sat and read about purebred cats – my parents were dog lovers, so we didn’t have those books on our shelves.¬† As a pre-vet student, I became interested in the history of cat breeds and found myself fascinated by this world of purebred cats.

As a practicing veterinarian, the great majority of cats I care for are Domestic Short-haired or Domestic Long-haired cats (translation:¬† mutt cats.)¬† But as I learned in my pre-vet days, there is a world of cat shows and cat breeders, just as in the canine world.¬† It was just not “cool” to love cats in the circles in which I’ve run – the U.S. military, in general, and my family of origin, in particular.¬† Somehow, cats were considered like females:¬† unpredictable, unreliable and therefore, of less value.

During the shelter movement I wrote about in my last post, public education about cat ownership improved.  Keeping cats indoors became more popular.  In vet school, I learned that a cat kept entirely indoors has twice the life expectancy of a cat allowed to roam outdoors part of the time.

The American Bird Conservancy has a “Cats Indoors” campaign which I’ve loosely supported¬†for ten years.¬† They are motivated¬†to protect wildlife birds, but they provide a lot of great information about how to keep cats indoors without causing them stress.¬† I find it humorous that indoor cats become stressed – they live in a climate controlled environment with food and water readily available and don’t have to work for a living – but that is not natural for them, so it produces stress.

A cat naturally is a hunter.¬† Unlike the dog, they are true carnivores and predators; physiologically made to catch prey, eat it in its entirety, vomit up the feathers, bones and other potentially noxious components and then bury their waste.¬† In their natural environment, they have areas which are used as “litter boxes” and areas where they hunt, eat and relax – but the two are not in proximity.

In our homes, we provide them litter boxes and take advantage of their instinct to use them.¬† But unlike nature, we provide them TINY, covered spaces, in locations WE like, and we haven’t spent a lot of time learning what our cats’ preferences might actually be.¬† We also don’t like it when they vomit and we have to clean it up.¬† We keep multiple cats in one household, and they don’t usually like to share territory (especially litter boxes) with other cats.

And so…¬† the majority of problems with cats in veterinary practice involve either (1) cats not using the litter box like we want them to, or (2) cats vomiting in our homes.¬† We spend a LOT of time in veterinary medicine determining what exactly the causes are for these two problems.¬† Sometimes, they are medical.¬† Sometimes, they are normal – related to the consumption of their own hair when grooming.¬† Many times, we find they are “behavioral” – meaning they are caused by physiologic stress in our cats’ lives – stress that results in medical problems.

In other words, it is something WE are doing to them.¬†¬† Can you imagine how happy owners are when we tell them that?¬† Cat owners really don’t want to hear that litter boxes should be large, uncovered, in an open area where the cat does not feel cornered while eliminating.¬† Or that they need to be cleaned every time the cat comes out.¬† Or that we should offer as many litter boxes as we have cats – plus one extra – as a minimum.

We didn’t intend for our lives to be consumed by the cats’ requirements!¬† And so we let our cats outdoors.¬† And they are happier.¬† And we¬†may be¬†breaking a city ordinance by doing so.¬† And our neighbors who watch birds HATE seeing our cats kill them at their bird feeders.¬† And they REALLY hate finding our cats’ “litter boxes” when gardening in their own landscaped areas.¬† Or watching their dogs find those spots…

The changes I’ve seen in cat ownership over my lifetime are all related to the advancements we’ve made in learning about cats and their needs.¬† Twenty years ago, I was told to keep them strictly indoors – to protect them, to honor city ordinances, to be considerate of my neighbors.¬† Now, veterinary literature is ripe with information suggesting that this¬†is not a final answer.¬† Keeping them indoors may still be the best option, but we need to find better ways to do so – from¬†the cat’s perspective.

Veterinarinas¬†now spend time educating owners about environmental enrichment, taking lessons from zoo veterinarians who have dealt with wellness issues in confinement situations for years as they work to save endangered species.¬† We continue to learn and get better.¬† It’s what I love about veterinary medicine most:¬† learning about our fellow beings and how best to care for them as part of our commission in life – a spiritual commission given by a divine decree, I believe1.

When I ruminate on these thoughts, I always come back to this:¬† how is it that I can justify spending my life making things better for dogs and cats, when there are so many people in the world who need help?¬† What about the marginalized populations?¬† The elderly, the poor, those who differ in sexual orientation?¬† What should I be doing to help make things better in their lives?¬† Just because they are not bred for a specific purpose or form – aren’t they worth the rescue efforts we animal lovers put into our dog breeds¬†and our cat owner education?

I don’t want to reach the end of my life and wish I’d spent it differently.¬† I am praying about these questions, trying to vote with these thoughts in mind, wanting to make a difference for “the least of these” before my time here is over2.¬† I hope you’ll join me in the effort!

1Genesis 1:26 and Gensis 9:3-5

2Matthew 25:34-40

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Veterinary medicine’s a-changing: the canine side

During my “free thinking” moments (translation, on a run or bike ride), I have recently been ruminating on the way I’ve seen small animal veterinary care change in my lifetime.¬† This is a description of the changes I’ve noted in the world of canine ownership.

When my family wanted a dog, we looked in the classified ads of the local newspaper to find a litter of the breed we wanted.¬† Laborador retrievers, Cocker Spaniels and other breeds were predictable in their demeanor, grooming needs and appearance.¬† Once a person did some research to find the breed appropriate for her needs (ideally), she found a local source and purchased a puppy from another family who’d decided to breed their family pet.¬† There was a whole other world of show dogs out there, but no family I knew ever purchased from those breeders, as their puppies were all intended for the show ring.

Over time, pet stores began to “carry” puppies to sell.¬† The power of the impulse buy added another dimension to small animal care:¬† people who’d purchased a puppy because it looked cute or “needed a home” and found out after the fact what they’d gotten into…¬† and many dogs lost homes just because those homes weren’t prepared for their care.

Breed specific rescues were formed to help re-home these animals, to educate families about the needs of the breed before placing the dog, and to match homes with dogs appropriately.  Small animal veterinarians were called upon to work for these rescues, and we often gave them discounts and did pro bono work, partly to help the cause, and partly to earn some new clients in the adoptive owners.

Another result of the pet store sales were puppy mills:  breeders who produced puppies in large numbers to sell to these retailers, without concern for the quality of the dogs they produced.  Laborador retrievers began to have problems with hip dysplasia, spaniel breeds with rage syndromes, any breed that was featured in a Hollywood movie (i.e. 101 Dalmations) was overbred and poorly bred to meet pet store requirements and some really nice breeds became known more for their problems than their assets.

During this time, local shelters, over-run with unwanted puppies, began to educate the public about the huge numbers of puppies euthanized every year, and spay/neuter programs cropped up to help manage the problem.¬† In 2010, no puppy or kitten is placed from a good shelter without already having been spayed or neutered.¬† Programs “requiring” owners to do this after adoption were not enforceable.¬† Small animal veterinarians in private practice don’t do many routine spays or neuters anymore, as shelter pets have become the norm.

Breeders of show quality dogs have also begun having their “pet quality” puppies spayed/neutered before placing them as part of their effort to ensure they don’t add to the overpopulation problem.¬† This turn of events has made it politically incorrect for a family to breed their family pet, even if they have homes arranged for the puppies; that takes away from homes for shelter pets, is how the thinking goes.

As a child, I spent hours reading about dog breeds, where they came from, what they were bred to do, how they could be used by mankind for specific purposes.  I still love the variety of canines in my practice; it is the specie which varies most in size and form Рbecause mankind did that over eons, by selecting for certain purposes and appearances.

We still have breed advocates and I hope we never lose the variety.¬† We also have a new movement to create new “designer” mixes:¬† cockapoos, shitzipoos, labradoodles, golden doodles, cavachons, maltipoos, etc.¬† These are intentional crosses of two specific breeds in an attempt to obtain the best qualities of each and move away from the heritable problems of each breed.¬† These mixes have what we call “hybrid vigor” in veterinary medicine.¬† And most puppy mill operations today are involved in the creation of these popular puppies.

So what we have today are three major sources of puppies:  pet stores rarely market purebred puppies anymore, but instead, open their space to shelters or rescues to offer dogs needing homes.  Shelters still offer puppies and adult dogs, as they always have and breed specific rescues offer dogs directly to the public through web sites, dog events and other publicity efforts.  Breeders still offer their puppies who will not make the grade in the show ring.

The increase in rescue adoptions is good; fewer dogs are euthanized at shelters as we make progress in addressing the underlying problems.¬† But families adopting these “mystery” dogs can’t prepare themselves for their specific needs, and don’t know until they are months or years into ownership, just what problems may arise.

I see an increase in behavior problems which are really difficult to address without changes in environment.¬† The breed specific rescues are doing good work by matching a family’s wishes with an appropriate dog.¬†¬† That is a labor-intensive effort, and not something shelters are equipped to do.

Many well-meaning families are caught with a dog not appropriate for the space and time they have to offer.  The difference is that these are not pure-bred dogs Рnew rescues are being formed to work on their behalf.  But identifying dog types and willing, adoptive homes is more challenging without a breed identification with which to start.

The challenges remain.¬† They are slightly different than they were 50 years ago – but they continue…

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Poetry by my daughter

September 2010 (6th grade)

My brothers and I

By:  Leah Flood

I am a sister of two awesome and loving older brothers

I wonder if I’ll ever see them soon again

I hear the dribbles and laughs of when we played when we were younger

I see our shadows walking together in the mist

I want both of them to come down and visit

I am a sister of two awesome and loving older brothers


I pretend that they will come down soon and we will play like we did when we used to

I feel sorrow inside of me when I can’t talk or see them

I touch all of the pictures that my parent takes of us

I worry that one day we will part and we will never talk again

I cry to myself whenever one of us gets into a serious accident

I am a sister of two awesome and loving older brothers


I understand that one day we will all rejoin again

I say I love you on the phone

I dream my brothers and I will go places like in the past

I try not to cry when they move or go to college

I hope we will pickup Thomas and go visit Dan

I am a sister of two awesome and loving older brothers

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