My Hero

Hellooo Friends!

I’m so excited…I just met my hero: Jane Goodall!! She gave an inspiring talk about how we can make a difference…why we must make a difference. Afterward, I got her autograph and shook her hand. What a pleasure!

Listening to Jane talk…well, she has this quiet strength about her. She’s gentle and pragmatic, and with a soft, unassuming voice, will always tell it like it is. It’s hard to believe that Jane turned 80 years old on April 3! Happy Birthday Jane!

She matter of factly talked about chimpanzees and how they are loosing their wild homes…and about elephants killed for ivory and the poachers who rarely get punished. But she also told amazing stories…animals showing empathy, love, and even appreciation.

She said that we, all of us humans, are key to what happens to the Earth and the animals who live here. “What you do makes a difference,” she said. “And you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” I couldn’t agree more!

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a little ‘Jane Goodall’ in all of us? I like to think there is; we just need to tap into it. I’ll close with my favorite Jane Goodall quote: “We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place⎯or not to bother.”

Until next time,
Auntie Viv

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What’s your New Year’s Resolution?

Hellooo Friends!

By the end of January, some folks get a little down in the dumps because they’ve broken their new year’s resolutions. Been there, done that! But no more Debbie Downer! This year, I made a resolution I’m keepin.’ Once a week I’m going to do something special that helps animals and people.

Little acts of kindness can mean so much. I thought, how ‘bout something small but special? Two weeks into 2014, and I’m off to a good start! My neighbor was sick over the holidays, so I took her doggies, Bella Mia and Precious Bunny on a daily stroll for a week. They just luvvvved it!…put a smile on my face from ear to ear! Last week, I invited Rhonda over. She’s new to the block, kinda shy, but loves Miss Caroline Kitty. (and how could she not!) We had the best visit, looking through cookbooks. We talked about being veggie, and, guess what? She changed her new year’s resolution to having meat free Mondays! Third week…I found the best books about helping animals, and I’m donating them to the library where I used to work.

These are all little things, Friends. But in this busy world, sharing time,…well, I can’t think of any better way to make someone feel special.

Wishing you the happiest of New Year’s!

Love,
Auntie Viv

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Animal Sanctuaries

Dear Auntie Viv,

I’m very interested in sanctuaries and how they help animals. But there are so many out there! Can you recommend any?                          Christy from Beaumont, MN

Hello Christy!

Thank you for writing, my Dear! It’s sooo nice to hear from folks who love animals just like I do.

Christy, you’re right; there are many, many sanctuaries. There are also places that like to call themselves sanctuaries, but are really roadside zoos. (Ugh!) The good news is there’s an easy peasy way to tell if a sanctuary is legit…find out if it’s been certified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, GFAS for short. They have a long list of sanctuaries that have been accredited on their website: www.sanctuaryfederation.org. Do check it out!

You’ll find GFAS certified sanctuaries from all over the world, caring for all kinds of animals: from big cats to monkeys to horses to wolves to even bats! (No dogs and cats, though)

Christy, you may be sayin’ to yourself, “why does all this matter?” Well, sanctuaries accredited by GFAS have to meet very high standards of animal care…stricter than animal welfare laws. They can’t breed, buy, sell, or exhibit animals. There’s a very detailed process that every sanctuary has to complete to show it’s trustworthy. You can find out more on the GFAS website.

I hope this helps answer your question, my Dear! Please write me again if you have any questions. I’m always glad you asked!

Love,
Auntie Viv

PS: One more thing, Friends, another group that was a pioneer in bringing sanctuaries together to sort out the good guys from the bad guys is the American Sanctuary Association.

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Dissection is a Choice

Dear Auntie Viv,
School starts next month, and I’m worried about my biology class…we have to do animal dissections! My teacher says we won’t have to dissect a cat, but there will be other animals, like frogs. When I asked my teacher where these animals come from, he said they order them from a company. But where does the company get them?
Owen, worried in Wayne, PA

Oh my Dear Owen, I’m sooo sorry to hear that! How awful that your school still includes animal dissections in its biology classes!

I know it’s hard to believe, but there are companies that sell animals for dissection. Most are caught in the wild…including the frogs and sharks! My Friends at Animalearn say a lot of frogs come from other countries, like Mexico, and that dogfish sharks are considered “vulnerable” to extinction. Cats usually come from shelters after they’ve been euthanized.

But, you have a choice, My Dear…you don’t have to dissect! Since you live in Pennsylvania, the state’s dissection choice law lets you use alternatives that don’t harm animals. You should talk to Kat and Nicole at Animalearn about alternatives, and they can also tell you more about how companies get the animals they sell for dissection. (Find your states’ dissection choice policy.)

Animalearn runs a lending library for dissection alternatives called The Science Bank. (Such a clever name, huh? lol) The alternatives there are amazing, and some sooo high tech. And not so many know, but dissection can harm the environment too. Animalearn has important info on this. Do check it out!

I hope this helps, Owen! Do write back and let me know how things go.

Until next time,
Auntie Viv

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What are Alternatives?

Dear Auntie Viv,
I hear people talk about alternatives and how they can be used in research and testing instead of animals. But I still don’t understand. I feel like I should know this, but what the heck are alternatives?
William
Bewildered in Seattle, WA

 

Oh, my dear William, what a good question! There are sooo many alternatives out there. Ones for education and training, and others for testing cosmetics and their ingredients. There’s one type of alternative, though, that’s been getting lots of buzz. It’s called an ‘organ on a chip.’ Can you imagine such thing?!

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering is the mastermind behind this alternative. Using live human cells and Mother Nature’s building design as a ‘blueprint,’ they ‘build’ a multicellular system that mimics the job of an organ like a lung. This video on my blog is from the Wyss Institute, and it explains how the lung chip ‘breaths’ and ‘fights’ infection.

Here’s how they say it works: A porous membrane lies between lung cells carrying air and blood vessels cells carrying fake blood. Vacuum channels cause the ‘lung’ to expand and contract just like our lungs do when we breath in and out. Bacteria moves through the ‘lung,’ but white blood cells, our body’s infection fighters, cross the membrane, attacking the bacteria invaders. This is how the lung chip mimics our body’s response to infection!

Lung on a Chip — Wyss Institute from Wyss Institute on Vimeo.

There are other organ chips, like for the heart and kidney, and there’s hope that they could be used to test drugs or chemicals instead of animals. And it all happens in a chip smaller than a domino. Amazing, huh?

Maybe I should do a blog series about alternatives and highlight the different kinds. Hmmm. I will think on it….what do you think?

Love,
Auntie Viv

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