The Lion who Roared for Street Dogs

This is the story of Imad Boutizza, a Moroccan metal worker from Marrakech, Morocco, a man I’m honored to call friend.  

I was introduced to Imad in June, while witnessing the TNVR (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return) program operated by the charity, Nos Amis Pour La Vie.  He is, what is called a “guardian” of street dogs, a term used in many countries to describe people who feed and protect homeless dogs.  

When I meet advocates in my travels, I often ask what led them to be fierce for animals.  Imad’s story has a thread that is similar to many other people. At a young age he had compassion for animals. His empathy was not appreciated.  

As a small child, Imad connected to abandoned dogs and brought them home.  One day, when Imad was only seven years-old, he brought a street dog home and his father refused the boy entry with the dog. Imad, choosing not to leave the dog behind, ran away from home.  The years that followed were dark.  The boy grew up on the streets of Casablanca.  He experienced much suffering.  Through it all, his compassion for animals never faltered. 

Imad now lives in Marrakech.  Louise Jackson, President of the charity Nos Amis Pour La Vie (Friend for Life) calls him a lion because he roars for animals.  She says when people are cruel to animals, he roars at them, exhibiting a protective fierceness that has gained him much respect in the community.  

I witnessed this when seeing a distressed German shepherd tied near traffic, in the heat, and without water.  I gave the dog water from my hand and then pointed him out to Imad.  Without hesitation, the lion untied the dog, took him undercover into a food market, and with authority, told the stall owners that it was wrong to keep him tied that way and in those conditions.  

I like the term “guardian.”  It’s appropriate.  Like Imad, there are people all over the world who operate with compassion, assisting others less fortunate.  These people are respected and admired by the majority.  This hasn’t always been the way.  The world is changing in a good way.  I’ve been around long enough to see this change.

It’s easy to be swept up in the chaos, the negativity, the fear that is being created by some people in our world.  Fight it. Fight it like you’ve fought negative conditioning that has been imposed upon you throughout your life.  Imad, as you know, is not alone.  Many of you have been through trials that set you on a path to doing good for others.  I thank you and remind you to keep leading with your light.  Keep roaring, my friends!     

Global First as West Australia Parliament Passes Sweeping Laws to End Puppy Farming

Diplomatic Strategist, Jennifer Skiff with Members of Parliament Lisa Baker and Cassie Rowe

December 16, 2021. Perth, Australia

Considered the biggest advance in animal welfare in recent times, this week West Australia Parliament passed laws that turn pet shops into adoption centers and mandates the sterilization of male and female dogs before the age of two. 

Initiated six years ago by MP Lisa Baker to end the horrific suffering caused by unethical overbreeding, the legislation will fix a system that has been unjust for dogs and the families who love them.  It also serves to end the cruel practice of puppy farming that puts commercial gain above the welfare of dogs. “This new regime is world best practice and will serve as a model to trace and stop the horrendous practices found in puppy mills,” said Baker.  “Supported by animal regulatory experts, dog breeders, and veterinarians, we have created a system that will establish a centralized, statewide database where every dog and cat will be registered and can be traced back to the breeder,” she added.  No longer will breeders serve to police themselves.  

Jennifer Skiff, Director of International Programs for Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. and Trustee of the Dogs’ Refuge Home in West Australia, co-authored the position paper that led to the legislation.  “Until you have lived the nightmare that is “dog rescue” and have witnessed the cruelty, abandonment, inbreeding, and disease caused by unethical breeding, you can’t comprehend why we have worked so diligently and comprehensively to create these laws.  They are sweeping and are targeted to end euthanasia by municipalities, dramatically reduce demands on animal shelters, provide traceability to ensure optimum health of dogs by breeders, and will end the otherwise brutal neglect of thousands of dogs in West Australia each year.”

The laws include:

  • Mandatory spay/neuter of dogs before the age of two-years-old (unless exempted for veterinary-recommended health or registered breeding reasons)
  • Mandatory dog breeder registration to increase transparency and traceability
  • A centralized registration system to help authorities access information to identify irresponsible breeders
  • The transitioning of pet shops into adoption centers, providing them with targeted assistance to remodel their operations
  • Also included, the removal of a law that required retired greyhounds to be muzzled in public and a government-run campaign to educate the public about the new laws

“If we are to prevent the mistreatment of dogs living in the confines of puppy mills, we need statutes to forbid the worst of the practices.  West Australia is doing just that, and it is transforming pet stores from puppy mill traffickers into puppy protectors,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Center for a Humane Economy.

The legislation is considered the broadest sweeping reforms ever passed simultaneously to end puppy farming. 

The Joy of Fostering Dogs & Cats

image description

I find fostering particularly difficult. Having said that, I jumped into the car yesterday when the Dogs’ Refuge Home called and asked if I’d foster a young girl named Chanel who’d just been surrendered.  

This is a photo of my bed last night. Sunny is in the forefront, with Chanel (in the bed she came with) near my pillow.


Luckily there aren’t any photos of the cry-baby who returned her back to the shelter this morning to meet her perfect family. I apologize to all the staff who had to console me. #notpretty

This brings me to the most important part of the story. Last night I laughed – a lot. Joy filled my heart as I watched the dogs play together. Chanel was a ray of sunshine.  ☀️

If it weren’t for the good people who volunteer for and staff animal shelters around the world, the light provided by millions of special animals would never fill a home. Their joy and love would not reach those for whom it was intended.  

Fostering is hard but it’s worth it. In one night I was injected with an infinite amount of love and I’m grateful. 

To all my friends in the compassion movement who rescue: May you always know the love you create.  💘

Look for the Window

The view from the 9th floor of the Mercure Hotel in Perth, Australia

2020:  The year had taken its toll – leaving me stunned like a bird who flew into a windowpane and lived.  Each month had brought an unexpected challenge, a boulder to climb on the way up the mountain.  For the first nine months I kept climbing, until the avalanche – when my mother was swept away by the virus. 

Depleted of every ounce of strength, I meditated and asked for help. The message I received was simple and clear; “Each day you will be presented with a window.  Open it.”  

True to that message, each day after receiving it, a metaphorical window appeared and I was given the gift of guidance to get me through another day. 

Five weeks passed and I found myself pacing a hotel room like a caged tiger.  I’d made it back to Western Australia – a state as big as one-third of the United States and an oasis without community spread of COVID-19.  The cases in the state were coming from international travelers who were departing planes or ships.  The mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine was keeping the virus from spreading. It was challenging and confronting.  Food was delivered in a brown paper bag with a knock at the door.  I wasn’t permitted to open the door for 20 seconds, so as not to expose hotel staff should I have the virus.  There were daily “health checks” from a nurse who called to ask how I was feeling, and COVID tests. To spare the kitchen of being exposed to COVID by plates or utensils, there wasn’t any room service of prepared food.  It was one of the few systems in the world that was working – for the greater good.  It wasn’t easy but I was getting through it.  The only thing I was craving was hot, strong, creamy coffee.  

On day eight I hit a wall. Up until then I’d kept busy each day with work – drafting language to deliver to the Biden administration in hopes of getting quick rule changes for animals – and on Zoom calls in Washington, Morocco, South Africa, New York, Canada, China, the Netherlands, and Australia with people who were leading the charge to help animals in our world. To keep spirits in check, my routine also included a vegan diet combined with reading, yoga, meditating, and taking French lessons.  But on day eight, I just couldn’t move. I’d woken at 4am feeling the unbearable sadness that comes with loss.  Tears flowed endlessly, soaking into the pillow.  I succumbed to the sadness for seven hours, and at 11am, still in my pajamas, I went to the window, opened the curtains and looked down.   Nine floors below, three people – a man and two children, were holding hand-made signs facing my window.  The first sign read:  Welcome Home!  The second had a phone number on it, and the third read:  Free Coffee. 

I grabbed a white t-shirt from my suitcase and slipped it out the cracked window, waving it while yelling to the sign holders below.  “Thank you!  I love you!”  

I called the number and watched as the man below lifted the phone to his ear. 


 “You just made my day,” I said, simultaneously waving the flag. “Do you see me?” 

He looked up.

“Yes! May I buy you a coffee,” he asked.  

 “I just want you to know that your kindness has made my day.  I’m having a hard one.  You’ve lifted my spirits.  Are those your kids with you,” I asked? 


“What’s your name?” 

“Tim,” he responded.

“Tim,” I said, “thank you for being examples of the best of humanity.”   

We continued to talk and Tim explained that he knew what it felt to be quarantined in the hotel.  As an American living in Australia, he’d arrived back from the United States in September, after spending three months in Memphis with his sister, who was being treated for triple-negative breast cancer.  

He asked where I’d flown in from and I told him Boston.  

“Do you know Manchester?  I have a brother there,” he said.

 “Manchester, New Hampshire,” I questioned.  

“Yes,” he said.

“That’s where I’ve just come from.  My Mom died of COVID there.”

I watched as Tim walked away from his kids, his voice catching.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, as I started to cry.   

“And you know what else… my dog died while I was on my way here to be with her.”  

“Please let me buy you a coffee,” he said. 

 “Thank you. I’d love that. You have no idea how much I’ve craved a coffee.”

“Yes, I do,” he responded.  

When we finished talking, I watched as he knelt in front of his children.  They put their signs down and sat on the pavement, listening to him intently.  I knew he was telling them about the woman in the hotel and I was hoping he was telling them about the good they’d created in her heart. 

An extra-hot soy latte arrived at my door 10 minutes later.  I drank it while looking out the window, feeling so grateful for the many gifts they had instantly bestowed upon me. 

As the days passed, Tim and his son and daughter were often on my mind. I wanted to know more about them because I knew they’d come into my life for a reason.  And then one day I looked out my window and there he was again, holding his sign.  I grabbed my phone to call and saw there was already a text from him on it. 

 “Hey, hey!! How’s about a Coffee?” 

I called and thanked him but said that thanks to him, I’d already ordered one.  But I asked if he wouldn’t mind if I asked him a personal question.  I’d been wondering if, on the day we met, when I saw him kneeling on the sidewalk with his children, if they had prayed for me.  “Yes, we were praying for you, prayed God would strengthen you, build you up and give you some peace while you were in that room for 14 days. I believe in love your neighbor as yourself,” he said.  “We have a family saying and start each day with these words; Love God, Love Others, Be Excellent.”

Look for the window, my friends.  Let us be thankful for the lessons, the gifts, the friendships, and the love. Hang on, hold tight, have faith.  ~Jennifer Skiff

*More than 100,000 people have served hotel quarantine in Australia since the start of the pandemic. Tim has established a Go-Fund-Me page to continue his good work – offering coffee and hope.  If you’d like to be the light that shines on someone’s day, feel free to join Tim and his kids by buying a stranger a coffee here:

Jennifer Skiff is the author of the books, God Stories, The Divinity of Dogs, and Rescuing Ladybugs.  She is the Director of International Programs for Animal Wellness Action & The Center for a Humane Economy and serves as a diplomatic strategist for SPCA International.

Good People (Tim & Family)

Being Happy

Unfettered joy. That’s what she stirred in me. Her soul was fated to cross my path and I was given the choice to accept the gift she offered, or turn away.

On that beautiful day, I chose to take a dying dog home for hospice. And on that car ride home I named her Happy because she exuded happiness – even when the scars of neglect and abuse were frightfully visible.

The veterinarian told me Happy wasn’t long for the world. She was riddled with cancer, had epilepsy, multiple infections, was starved, and came from a situation of known abuse. She was given six – twelve months to live.

That was six years ago. She lived because love begets love. My promise to her is to live by her lead – to appreciate all the gifts of love that have been bestowed upon me, and to be Happy. -Jennifer Skiff

Thank you for the gift of you, my darling girl.

Photo sequence: the transition of Happy

Sadly, I share with you the loss of my Mom to COVID-19

Jennifer Skiff with her mother’s dog, Impy

October 2020

Dusk is turning to darkness. My mother is dying on the other side of the window. She’s alone.  “We’re right here Mom.  We love you,” my brother, sister and I yell, pounding on the window.  I step back, wiping away the relentless flow of tears.  My eye catches a flicker and I turn to it.  Fifteen feet away, four people are holding candles in silence.  Their mother is dying – on the other side of their window. 

The last time I’d hugged my Mom was in February when my sister and I took her for a morning adventure. We’d brought along her dog – the one soul she wanted to be with more than anyone.  With Impy in her lap, we’d driven through Dunkin Donut’s for coffee and then to a bakery where we bought everything that looked good. While Mom had difficulty remembering our names, she knew we were hers, and on that wonderful morning, as we enjoyed chocolate chip cookies and whoopie pies, there was a lot of laughter. 

The guillotine came down when COVID struck.  This zoonotic virus – something I was familiar with because of my work as an animal advocate, was a serious threat.  In this case, it was most likely transferred to people from sick, wild pangolins who were being brutally slaughtered in unsanitary conditions at a wet market in China.  To protect the vulnerable, Mom’s nursing home closed its doors to visitors.

In May, the virus entered the building.  We held our breath – worried for the safety of patients and the wonderful staff.  People died, staff became ill.  We were notified that one person in Mom’s unit tested positive but was quickly moved and quarantined.  By the end of June, the outbreak was under control but still, no visitors.

Months passed. Fall was bursting into color.  Mom had lost her last summer – locked in, without the sound of songbird, the smell of cut grass, or the warmth of the sun on her face.  

I was granted permission to see her outdoors on September 22nd, two days after her birthday.  I drove the five hours to New Hampshire a day early – going directly to the home.  I called the nurses station and one of the girls wheeled Mom into the sunroom, on the other side of the window.  I waved and instantly, she smiled.  I rolled my tongue (something she’d taught me to do as a child), and she rolled hers back.  She stuck hers out at me and I did the same.  I pretended I was a monkey and she laughed.  “It’s your birthday,” I yelled.  “I’m coming back tomorrow!  I’ll bring a cake!”  

That’s when my cell rang.  The news was grim. The virus was back in the building and was in Mom’s unit. My visit was cancelled.

The next day I drove back and peered in the window.  The sunroom and extending hall were empty.  I could only see a few people behind the desk of the nurse’s station at the end of the hallway.  The residents were in lockdown.  The brave front I’d put up since February disappeared.  I held on to the windowsill and sobbed, spilling the year of sadness, knowing there was more to come.

When I looked up, one of my favorite nurses was on the other side of the window.  Tears dropped from her eyes, wetting her mask.  “I’ll move your Mom to a room with a window. You’ll be able to see her whenever you want,” she said.  

What happened over the next fifteen days shattered me.  I’ll never be the same.

My mother’s name was Ann Clemons.  She was a happy person who found solace in nature, joy in playing the violin and banjo, and who had an uncanny ability to find four-leaf clovers in a patch of grass.   She instilled wisdom with short phrases and encouraged me to believe in myself.  She taught me how to use a chainsaw, drive a stick-shift, paint a room, and how to hook a car battery to a TV set to watch it. 

Her truth was transparent.  She was a nursing instructor.  She taught people how to save lives.  The coronavirus grabbed her in its undertow and swept her away.  Her death was horrific. She’d be really upset right now – not because she passed, but because so many good people have allowed themselves to be dumbed-down enough not to be exercising common sense.  She’d be disappointed they were allowing themselves to be led to their own demise (or that of someone they love) by not wearing a mask.  And she’d be angry for their lack of compassion for the nurses, doctors, aides, cleaners, teachers, business owners and others whose lives and livelihoods were being taken because of their selfishness.

I can hear my mother saying: It’s not rocket science, wearing a mask is just common sense.

The last words to my mother were delivered on a telephone held to her ear by a thoughtful nurse, just before she passed.  I asked Mom to join me for a walk down a pier where her father was waiting to take her for a sail on a day where the sunshine sparkled on the crest of the waves.  

Please allow me to offer a visualization for you.  Choose a person you love and imagine them in a bed on the other side of a double-glazed window. Their chest is heaving as they gasp for air like a fish out of water.  They’re on fire with fever and you are prevented from putting a cloth on their forehead, from holding their hand, from crawling into bed with them and holding them tight.  You are prevented from ushering your mother out with love – the way she brought you into the world.  And now imagine it’s your child, your sister, your best friend. 

My Mom had a few things she repeated throughout my childhood, to instill common sense.  Things like, “kill them with kindness,” when people were being mean.  I’ll leave you with another. The name has changed but you’ll get the drift.  Here it is:  “Just because Donny wants to jump off a bridge doesn’t mean you should.”  


I love you Mom.  I miss you terribly.


Ann Clemons
Ann Clemons and her daughter, Jennifer Skiff


Cottesloe Beach, Australia

I don’t remember being afraid of anything until I was six years old.

That’s when my mother, unable to get her children inside for dinner,

started a nightly ritual of yelling out the back door, “The bats

are coming, the bats are coming!” Bats lived in our barn, and I’d

never been afraid of them until my mother told us the story of a

local boy who was bitten by one when it became entangled in his

hair — at dusk. That story — most likely created over a cocktail by

my parents and used as a tool for my mother to corral her children

— planted the first seed of fear I had for another animal.

I blame Steven Spielberg for the second seed, planted in the

summer of 1975, when he converted Peter Benchley’s book Jaws into

a heart-pounding, nail-biting, jump-out-of-your-seat movie. The

fi lm about a man-eating great white shark terrorizing Cape Cod

beachgoers caused millions to flee the water and extinguished the

unencumbered joy I, and many others, once felt in the ocean.

Twenty years later, I landed in Australia and was lured into

the Indian Ocean’s spectacularly clear, blue water. A peace washed

through me as I ventured into the sea each morning, communing

and connecting with nature. Surfing waves and spending hours

snorkeling transported me back to childhood and the feelings of living

in the moment. I became addicted to the experience: swimming

with fish, the awakening of muscles, and the salt in my hair.

It ended in an instant when a man who was doing the same

thing one morning at my favorite beach was attacked and killed by

a shark. And then it happened again and again, in what became a

string of eleven fatal attacks between 2010 and 2017 that led Western

Australia to be named the deadliest coast in the world.

During this period, pretty much everybody left the ocean and

hit the pools. I was one of them. But after many months out of

the ocean, I received a message. It was on a 105-degree day. I was

walking the dogs on the beach and feeling frustrated by the invisible

chain preventing me from plunging into the water. Then a quote

from Franklin D. Roosevelt popped into my head and kept repeating:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It was then I

made a conscious decision to conquer my fear of sharks.

The transition came in baby steps and happened over several

years. It started with knuckle-swimming, when you swim so close to

shore you scrape your knuckles on the sand. Eventually, I also joined

a swim group made up of people who were training for open-ocean,

long-distance swims. In the meantime, the Western Australian

government was considering killing great white sharks, which meant

overriding international and federal protections of the species. The

idea of a shark cull ignited an ongoing local debate about what was

causing the attacks and whether a cull would effectively stop them.

One possible cause was identified in July 2012 by Humane

Society International Australia (HSI). HSI reported, “There may

be a possible connection between the export of live sheep from

Fremantle, Western Australia, and reported shark attacks.” When

export ships from Australia carry live animals — such as sheep, cattle,

and goats bound for slaughter in the Middle East and Asia — hundreds

of animals, and sometimes thousands, die en route, and their

bodies are thrown overboard, providing a consistent food source

for sharks. HSI said that six people in Australia had been attacked

between September 4, 2011, and June 20, 2012, when export ships

were nearby. Further, HSI reported that a similar link was found in

Egypt in December 2010, when a string of five shark attacks within

a single week were most likely provoked by a live export ship that

threw sheep overboard while it passed through the Red Sea.

Nevertheless, the Western Australian government dismissed this

potential connection, and in early 2014, the state’s premier, Colin

Barnett, ordered a shark cull.

Contracted fishermen set baited drum lines along the coast, and

on the first day, as I stepped onto the beach for my swim, I watched

as contractors pulled a drowned shark from the water. My morning

joy turned to sorrow. As much as I felt empathy for the swimmers,

surfers, and divers who’d lost their lives, I now felt empathy for this

dead shark. Killing did not feel like the answer.

My husband, Jon, didn’t agree with me. He believed the cull

should happen. One morning as I set off to attend a shark rally, he

suggested it would be a waste of time and that I’d be sitting on the

beach with only two hundred people. To his surprise and mine, six

thousand people were there, protesting to voice their opposition

to the cull. A poignant sign at the rally pointed out that, the year

before in Australia, twenty-five thousand people had died of obesity

related illness, twelve hundred from car accidents, ten from lightning

strikes, and two from sharks. Overwhelming empathy for the

sharks was shown by the very people who loved the ocean and were

at the greatest risk: swimmers, divers, and surfers. Even more poignant,

relatives of those who’d been killed also protested the cull,

as they believed those who’d died wouldn’t want the sharks to be


After four months, the cull ended. Of the 172 sharks that were

caught, none were great whites, the species blamed for the attacks.

Publicity over the cull brought awareness and change. Surf Life

Saving Western Australia, a rescue organization, became an alert

center for shark sightings and public safety warnings. Using information

from helicopter beach patrols, drones, shark sightings, and

transponders that detected and sent alerts when tagged tiger and

great white sharks passed beaches, the organization delivered alerts

via Twitter and a beach safety app. I got into the habit of checking

Twitter before heading for the beach, just to see who I might be

swimming with.

By 2016, my swim team coach, Ceinwen Roberts — a thirty five-

year-old, five-foot-two, sun-kissed blonde with a beaming smile

and matching disposition — was training us for a 12.5-mile (20-

kilometer) open-ocean race from the mainland to Rottnest Island.

Ceinwen had established the race, called the Port to Pub, and she

was convinced I could do it. Her own swimming history includes

completing the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming: solo swims

across the English Channel, around Manhattan Island, and from

Catalina Island to the California mainland. Two of those swims involve

swimming through the night, and when I asked her about

sharks, she said, “I don’t even think about them. There’s no point.

If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. I’m too busy enjoying the

good parts of being out there: the serenity, clarity, salt, fish, reef,

and having nothing to stop me.” She inspired me to enter the race.

Let me be honest: I was scared. But I was also determined. I

knew what the accomplishment would do for me, spiritually, mentally,

and physically. I didn’t know my awakening would actually

come two weeks before the swim.

It was February 22, 2016. The weather was overcast, what

Australians call “sharky,” due to the fact that a majority of shark

attacks occur on cloudy days. I joined a group of fifteen women —

mostly mothers in their late thirties and early forties who called

themselves the Aquabutts — on an ocean training swim, led by

Ceinwen, from Cottesloe Beach to North Cottesloe Beach and

back, a distance of over a mile.

We first swam into deep water, fifty yards from shore, and then

we set off along the coast. The first leg was easy. The swell was pushing

north, and we rode it up the coast. Then, as we treaded water off

North Cottesloe Beach and prepared for the push back, we talked

about how high the waves were getting and how much harder the

return trip would be. We didn’t talk about what we were all thinking:

that we’d congregated in a spot where a swimmer had been

killed by a great white shark years before.

To push us, Ceinwen decided to break the group up. Ten swimmers

would start first, and she would go with them. The five fastest

were told to hold back and start only when the others were about a

quarter of the way down the coast. I was in the second group — not

because I was fast, but because I was wearing flippers.

Finally, my group set off. The water was unusually murky.

Schools of tiny fish moved around me like underwater tornadoes.

I saw a shadow. It was at that moment my goggles lost their seal.

I flipped over and floated on my back, tightening them. As I was

doing this, a shark-spotting helicopter flew overhead. As I watched

it buzz past, I felt comforted just knowing it was there.

I put my head back in the water and noticed that the distance

between the five of us had widened. We were no longer in a pod.

We were spread out in deep, choppy water. And that’s when it happened.

I felt the whoosh of helicopter blades just above me, accompanied

by a deafening siren. I knew immediately what it was and what

it meant. Jaws was with us.

A fear like no other consumed me. Luckily, it came with a massive

rush of adrenaline. I wasn’t alone. I don’t remember much about

the time it took me to swim to shore. The five of us in the second

group crawled onto the beach at the same time. Someone puked. I

stood up and looked out at the angry ocean. Nine of the swimmers

in the first group were almost on the beach, but two weren’t heading

in. We all started screaming. One of the girls was still swimming

and Ceinwen was trying to get her attention. We watched in terror,

screaming for the girl to stop, fearful of the potential horror that

could unfold before us. Thankfully, it didn’t.

The lifeguard at the nearest station told us the rest of the story.

After passing us, the helicopter pilot spotted a ten-foot shark and

radioed that it was heading straight for us. The species was most

likely a tiger or great white.

As I walked away that morning, I was grateful and exhilarated.

Grateful to have been swimming with a very big shark who had the

opportunity to eat one of sixteen women and didn’t. Exhilarated by

the fact that the fear that had paralyzed me throughout much of my

life was gone.

I still get scared swimming in the ocean sometimes, like when

I’m caught up in a swirl of fish and I know that someone is causing

their panic, but the fear doesn’t consume me. I’ve had a great life. I

understand that everybody’s got to eat. I hope it’s not me that gets

eaten, but if it is, so be it.

By immersing yourself in nature, you can experience a form

of enlightenment. This is when the soul is free of fear and absorbs,

almost by osmosis, the energy of life. The connection between all

species becomes clear. I have friends who’ve been given the gift of

this knowledge. They’ve gone on to change the world.”

Excerpted from the award-winning book, Rescuing Ladybugs: Inspirational Encounters with Animals That Changed the World, by Jennifer Skiff. You can get a copy of the book for the animal lover in your life here:

The Aquabutts, minutes after their close encounter


After many months of traveling, I’ve landed back on the island I call home. It’s a place where I’m greeted each day by seals, eagles, rabbits, deer, and songbirds. And at night, I fall asleep to the call of the loons and cries of the coyotes. There is harmony amongst species. This creates inner peace.  ☀️Today, after a swim in a mountain lake, I’ll sit down to work on a campaign to end “killing contests.” I won’t explain. But I will tell you that we should never accept the brutal killing of any animal for so-called fun. It’s wrong and disrupts all of our lives. Those who take pleasure in killing humans or other animals, are stealing from us all. Let’s not let them.

The Compassion Movement in China

I’m in Beijing this week, talking to Chinese nationals about the global work being done for animals. I can tell you it was an unexpected thrill to walk into the Beijing American Center to give a speech and find a room of 100 animal advocates seeking advice on how to create change in their country.

The situation for animals is dire here. These mainly-young people are asking for help from the global community. We must join forces to give it to them.

Jennifer Skiff, Director of International Programs for The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action at the Beijing American Center with Friends
Jennifer Skiff at the Beijing American Center with Compassionate Friends

Advocating for Change in China

Beijing, China

   It was an honor to meet with U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad this week.  We had an interesting chat.  China, reportedly, has the second highest rate of incidents and human fatalities involving rabies after India.  According to veterinary experts, the main vectors of the virus are dogs.  This has led to fear-based brutality of dogs and, because it can be transmitted by saliva, exceptionally high transmission rates to humans. 

   Experts in China tell me the problem is compounded by a lack of available rabies vaccinations and a glut of counterfeit vaccinations.  It was important to me to relay this message to the Ambassador.  Rabies crosses species and the virus and the dire consequences caused by it can be reduced significantly.  

   After the discussion I presented the Ambassador with a copy of the book, Rescuing Ladybugs.  The title elicited a smile and prompted him to tell a story. 

   Ambassador Branstad told me that when he was a member of the Iowa House of Representatives (1973-79), before becoming Governor, a group of school children requested the ladybug be proclaimed the state bug. While their request wasn’t honored, it was remembered – fondly. 

   Our meeting was a reaffirmation for me that the work to protect one species benefits us all.  Let us not forget to see life through the eyes of children and when we can, reward them with action that ensures their future.  

Jennifer Skiff

Director of International Programs

The Center for a Humane Economy & Animal Wellness Action

U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad with Jennifer Skiff, Director of International Programs for The Center for a Humane Economy