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Mission Accomplished

Mission accomplished! Two years ago, after witnessing abuse and neglect of monkeys while on vacation on a remote island in Indonesia, I called upon the management of my hotel to create change. As many of you know, I spent my vacation happily releasing nine of the monkeys back into the jungle from which they had been taken. I also worked to build proper enclosures with enrichment for the remaining three monkeys, geese, and a special porcupine.

I’d cut a deal. At the time there was no choice. The hotel would release nine monkeys back into the wild if three stayed. My condition was that the three that stayed must have the chains cut from their necks and they must be free to roam in their enclosure. The hotel agreed and also offered to let the geese out of their concrete enclosure during the day to roam the property and swim in its pond.  Many of the staff were so happy with the changes they greeted me by slapping their heart with their hand while calling me, “monkey lady”.

Six months after these changes, I received an email from the hotel’s manager, Agus Tabah, telling me that the remaining monkeys and geese had been released permanently.

But… I still worried about the porcupine. He was so grateful to me after I brought him a hollow log to live in. We established a friendship during my time there. He was blind from exposure to the harsh sun, confined to a wire mesh cage with only rice to eat and water that dropped into a seashell when it rained. When I greeted him every few hours with fresh fruit, he ran to me and nuzzled my finger. I fell in love with his soul.

The other day I found myself thinking about him and started to cry. I felt like I’d let him down when I left. So I called Agus and asked him about my friend, the porcupine. And that’s when he proudly said, “Jennifer, all of the animals on the property, with the exception of one horse, have new homes. They are all fine.”

Joy! Mission accomplished!

There were many before me who complained of the conditions at the hotel’s makeshift zoo. Because many of you sent emails to the hotel, Mr. Tabah was compelled to follow his own heart and continue the work we started.

Why this update? Because some people don’t think their voice makes a difference. It always does, whether it’s a signature on a petition, an email sent, or a call to your senator/representative/member of parliament. When more than one raises his or her voice against what is wrong, change is created.

I promised the Jayakarta Hotel in Flores, Indonesia that the day they created a kind campus, I would promote them.

As a reward for creating positive change, please consider going over to their page and thanking them with a note that says; “The monkey lady sent me.  Thank you for your kindness to animals.”

Here’s their link: Jayakarta Hotel

 

My friend, the porcupine

My friend, the porcupine

Transport back to the jungle

Transport back to the jungle

Cutting the chains

Cutting the chains

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Moments before leaving for the jungle. Holding up the chains that had been cut from their necks.

Hotel Manager, Agus Tabah. The man who said "yes" to change. At the release site.

Hotel Manager, Agus Tabah. The man who said “yes” to change. At the release site.

Release site

Release site

The geese. Once confined to this enclosure with only rice and sporadic periods of water. Now free.

The geese. Once confined to this enclosure with rice and water given sporadically. Now free.

Release site

Release site

The moment of freedom.

The moment of freedom.

The Wave of Compassion

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As I sat on a beach in Victoria, Australia the other day, admiring the dramatic limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles, a sense of euphoria washed over me. I was thinking about the notable shift happening in our world. The stacks have been crumbling, succumbing to the strength of the sea. Similarly, the houses in the world built on greed are collapsing against waves of compassion. An army of caring people is building, activating.

As I inhaled the salty air from the Southern Ocean, I thought of just a few of the dramatic changes that have happened so far in 2015:

-Barnum & Bailey Circus has promised to, at long last, retire its elephants.

-The Greyhound racing industry in Australia came to a halt when undercover video exposed leaders illegally baiting dogs with live animals. Sponsors have pulled money, trainers have been banned for life and the entire board of Greyhound Racing Australia NSW was dismissed.

-The city of Madrid, Spain announced that it would no longer euthanize homeless dogs.

-The city of Nashville, Tennessee voted to make it illegal to chain dogs indefinitely.

-In Alabama, a convicted animal abuser received a 99-year jail sentence. Goodbye!

-The city of Palm Beach, Florida banned wild animals for private parties/events.

-Three of the largest food providers; Compass Group, Sodexo, and Aramark announce plans to go cage-free for chickens in the USA.

-Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts announced cage and crate-free policies for hens and sows.

-Shane Rattenbury, a politician, introduced legislation in Australia to ban puppy and kitten farming in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT.) The Domestic Animals (Breeding) Legislation Amendment Bill passed unanimously!

When people gather to do good things, good things happen. Please keep signing petitions, emailing legislators, writing letters to judges, contacting newspaper and television reporters, and supporting charities. Thank you for being part of the wave of compassion.

Photo: Blaine Zuver

Love Has No Boundaries

LOVE is not defined by size or shape.  I love the Divinity of Dogs Facebook page because of its fans. They’re crazy for dogs and are always eager to help make the world a better place for them. But every now and then a nasty comment pops up out of nowhere like a dark cloud. This week someone posted a comment about a photo of my dogs saying: “Pretty little Hand bag Dogs, but just pretty. Not real Dogs, stop this silly fluffy stuff.”

Her unenlightened comment has prompted me to tell you a story.

It’s a special week in my house. It’s the annual week that everyone came home. Honey is on the right and she’s pure sweetness. Honey’s blind in one eye and is deaf. She’s showing early signs of kidney failure. I think she’s about 13 years old. I rescued her three years ago this week from the pound where she was patiently waiting for someone to claim her. But they didn’t. On the left, the guy with the under bite is Sunny. Sunny joined the family two years ago after being dropped off at the Dogs’ Refuge Home.   The person who delivered him, a Nanny, said she’d been told to get rid of him “before the children got home.”  She said he’d lived outside for the first year and a half of his life by himself and had never been allowed inside.  He was matted. He hadn’t been trained or loved. He didn’t know what another dog was and he didn’t trust people. In the middle of this photo is a little dog named Happy. She didn’t look like this when I met her. She looked like one of the worst neglect cases that are now all too commonly seen on Facebook. She was matted, flea-infested, riddled with ear and tooth infections, was loaded with mammary cancer and was suffering from 30 minute-long epileptic seizures. She’d run away from her abusers seven times over a period of eight weeks, each time ending up at the dog pound only to be returned to her house of hell by a well-meaning dogcatcher. But the last time she was taken back, her abusers were asked to pay the pound fees. They refused, throwing this tiny dog into the air and kicking her like a football into the street.

When I walked into the Refuge one Saturday morning to walk dogs, this precious gift looked at me with excitement and screamed telepathically, “It’s you! Finally! Come get me out of here!” I did as I was told and the rest is an even longer story. But you’ve got the picture. Happy joined the family one year ago. She was not expected to live the full year but here she is and she’s going strong.

I choose to rescue dogs and they always bring extraordinary gifts into my world. Honey has injected sweetness into my life. Sunny has been converted into a cuddler, and Happy… Happy is my joy.

Love has no boundaries. Anyone who has known the love of another species knows this truth. –Jennifer Skiff

Sunny, Happy, Honey

Sunny, Happy, Honey

Bali, Indonesia. Not Paradise for All

I travel to Bali once a year to visit friends and to purchase items to auction for the charities I love.  This week I took my sister Katy for a day of adventures – a 26 kilometer bike ride down the Mount Batur volcano, a lunch with elephants and a rafting trip in a torrential downpour down the Ayung River.   It would have been a perfect day but it couldn’t be.  As I rode through villages I’ve visited often, I noticed change.

Cattle that once roamed the fields were tightly tied up on concrete stalls, ankle deep in their excrement, pigs were crated instead of roaming, and an innocent Asian Palm Civet, also known as a toddy cat, was caged in abominable conditions without water, its cage rattled by our tour guide who explained that because the animal ate coffee beans that some people thought its excrement tasted good.

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Asian Palm Civet

One of the things that had noticeably changed was that the Balinese people were following the western world by taking animals out of the fields and confining them their entire lives, until they were slaughtered.  I don’t know who originally said it was okay to start “factory farming” animals but it’s not.  Meat eaters and non-meat eaters would agree on this one.  And then there were the dogs, diseased and starving.

Having traveled many times to Indonesia I understand the dog overpopulation problem.  Most dogs are homeless.  This is no one’s fault and there are good organizations working to change the situation.  On this day I witnessed over one-hundred diseased, dying dogs and two instances where dogs were chained; one without water and the other, starved and close to death, being strangled by its chain.

Katy and I were being driven back to our villa and were on a busy road when out of the corner of my eye I saw something, something that defied explanation.

The Rescue

“Turn around,” I said to Newman, the driver.  “Please turn around.”  I hoped that what I thought I saw was incorrect but it wasn’t.  A dog was clinging to life on a tight rope made of wire; one move in any direction and it would be hanged by the choke collar around its neck.  I asked Newman to find the “owner.”

A woman came out of an alley with a knife. I could tell she already knew the dog was close to death and had ignored his cries for help.  Below the dog, two sows were lying in crates unable to move, locked in wire cages, crying.  My heart screamed.  I put my hands under the dog, trying to provide comfort and security as the woman fiddled with the bottom of the chain.  I reached toward the dog’s neck and tried to unlock the clasp attached to his collar but it wouldn’t release.  His tail thumped against me.  As I held him it was obvious, he was not “just” a street dog, he was a starved street dog.

Someone who claimed ownership of him by putting a collar around his neck had chained this innocent creature.  By chaining him, he was prevented from getting food from the Hindu offerings that most street dogs feed from.  Additionally, he was one slip of his paw away from hanging, his knotted chain leaving him in this predicament. To make matters worse, probably 100,000 people had driven past him in 24 hours and no one had helped him.  It was beyond comprehension.  How could you see that and not stop? How could you look away?  The chained was unraveled but the dog still couldn’t move.  Each claw had curled around a piece of wire as he clung for life.  His claws were frozen.  He could not release them.  He could not move his head.  I have no idea how long he had been in that position, with one movement in any direction causing certain death.

I lifted him gently, rocking him back and forth until one by one, his claws unhooked from the wire.  When he touched the ground, he was grateful, his tail wagging wildly.  The woman held the chain up and looked at me with disdain.  We didn’t speak the same language but I understood that she hated my interference and questioned what she was supposed to do with him now.  “Unchain him,” I said in English.  And with that, she slipped the choke collar off his head, threw it into the back of a truck and walked away.  The dog licked my leg and then went to Katy and licked her hand.  He then ran to a nearby pile of rice that had been dumped near the road and started eating.  He quickly ran down the road and I prayed he would not return to the same place but in my heart, I knew he would.  His loyalty had no boundaries.  I leaned into the truck, grabbed the choke collar and chains, and got into the car.  As we drove off, I said a prayer for the pigs who would soon meet their death.

While I always leave situations like this feeling disheartened, I do my best to follow up.  In this case, I have asked Bali Adventure Tours to require that the local people who participate in the tours take care of their animals by providing food, water and proper enclosures.  Word will quickly get around the village that tourists expect the kind treatment of animals.  It’s up to tourist operators to demand compassionate standards.  It’s up to us to tell the tourist operators, no matter where we are in the world when we witness abuse and neglect, that we require more.  Lastly, we have strong voices and can use them by reviewing our experiences on the Internet.  If you see something that you feel needs changing, post a review.  Reviews work to create change.

As for my friend in this picture, let his story help you break the chains when you see injustice.

To learn more about the good work being done to help animals on the island of Bali, Indonesia, go to this link and donate if you can:  http://www.bawabali.com 

UPDATE:  May 23, 2014:  I have received an assurance from Arifin Tirta Wijata at Bali Adventure Tours that they will kindly take advice from their staff veterinarian in regards to treating the chained black dog I met on the trip.  Staff will administer treatment for parasites and mange and will speak to the owner about proper care, including the need for food, water and shelter.  

They will also speak to issues raised regarding proper living environments for the confined palm civet.  I have asked Arifin to please provide photographs, which I will share to you upon receipt.  The website for Bali Adventure Tours and the Elephant Safari Park is:  http://www.baliadventuretours.com and http://www.elephantsafaripark.com   Never be afraid to speak up when you see atrocities committed against others.  Your voice will create change.  Jen

The Tasmanian Devil

I recently had the privilege of visiting Tasmania. It’s a beautiful island off the coast of Australia. One of the reasons for my visit was to catch a glimpse of a Tasmanian Devil, a marsupial that is on the brink of extinction because of a rare, contagious cancer. I was able to see a few devils at the Devils at Cradle Sanctuary and also at the home of a foster mother who is raising two joeys before their release to either a sanctuary or a disease-free island where a small population remains. If you’d like to learn more about the Tasmanian Devil and the work being done to keep them with us, here’s a link:  http:///www.devilsatcradle.com

Photos:  Jennifer SkiffTasmanian Joey (baby)

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Indonesia Animal Update

I’m thrilled to report that I have received an email from Mr. Agus Tabah, the Manager of the Jayakarta Suites Komodo Hotel. He has told me that the hotel has now released all the monkeys and geese from cages. This is wonderful news and proves that when you witness atrocities against other souls, you should speak up. Sometimes one voice can make positive change. Many voices can guarantee it! Thank you Jayakarta Suites for acknowledging the voices of your patrons and staff who have compassionate hearts.

The Divinity of Dogs in Italy!

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Good News!  The Divinity of Dogs has been published in Italian.  The fun part of authoring a book is when it gets picked up by publishers throughout the world and you get to see it in print, in different languages.  I now have a collection of my books printed, often with different covers, in French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Czech, and more.  This is my first time in Italian.  I think a celebratory trip to Italy is in order!

Indonesia Animals Update 3

A friend has gone to the hotel and has reported that the Porcupine and Monkeys do not have food or water.  I have contacted the manager.  Action is now required.

Indonesia Animals Update 2

An email was sent to the manager noting that there had been no response from the owners of the hotel regarding the offer of assistance for the animals.

Indonesia Animals Update 1

A formal letter and offer of assistance was sent to the manager of the Jayakarta Hotel, to be sent to the owners of the hotel.  The letter offers professional help and, if necessary, financial help, to create healthy enclosures for animals in their care.  An email was received from the manger stating that he would send pictures of the new water bowls.  The pictures were not received.