I’m sitting here with my best buddy, Oscar. He’s a rescue cat. A few years back, I had a young rescue cat, Mr. Bean, who suddenly stopped eating and was not his usual self.
Mr. Bean crouched in dark corners, didn’t play much or enjoy socializing. His condition was never fully diagnosed, but I gave Mr. Bean medication to comfort him.
One day, I realized that Mr. Bean needed a friend to help him, maybe a therapy cat – a therapy cat for a cat! I stopped by a local rescue shelter. I watched Oscar interact with the kittens.
He laid on his side as the kittens played around him, jumped on him, and ate their food. He was gentle and patient.
As an older cat, it was not likely that Oscar would be adopted. I could see that he loved the kittens and they loved him. And the staff loved him, too.
Oscar was a natural caregiver, just what Mr. Bean needed. I wanted to give Oscar his forever home.
While Oscar was adjusting to his new home with me, Mr. Bean was adjusting as well. Slowly, Mr. Bean would come out of his dark corners, and sit next to Oscar. They shared meals together, and enjoyed sunning or taking naps side by side.
I was so happy to see Mr. Bean feeling like a cat again and enjoying Oscar’s company.
Mr. Bean is no longer with us and he will always be in my heart. But this is not a sad story. Oscar taught me about patience and love. He is a kind and gentle giant (a tom cat), who lived in a group of feral or stray animals until he was rescued.
The point of this story is that each day, Oscar reminds me of why I went to graduate school in the first place.
When I began my exploration of dissertation topics, I was very interested in some area of sustainability (using resources for present and future generations). And sustainability includes animal welfare, or the well-being of animals.
But the more I learned about animal welfare – how humans treat animals for food, for entertainment, for sport, for research – the more my stomach turned. I could not see myself studying a topic that weighed so heavy on my heart.
Finding a Back Door
I decided to study food policy as a back door to help animals. My research taught me that sustainability is related to resilience. It means the ability to recover from change or misfortune, to adjust to system shocks.
I like resilience because it embraces the biodiversity of life: plants, animals, culture, economics, society, and long-term solutions.
My “back door” to helping animals was to encourage people to grow their own food, to start a patio or windowsill garden. I want to help people find other ways to eat by using a hands-on practice like growing food.
💡 Growing food is great way to connect with nature…
I’m hopeful that as people learn about the health benefits of plant-based food, they will eat less meat. And that’s what I want to give to animals.
A Gift from Nature
While I can’t save them all, I hope my research makes a difference to animals.
Yes, I have a deep respect for animals: I’m still amazed that the smallest bird can spread its wings and fly, while we need machines for travel.
Most days of the week, I take a path where people walk their dogs. I make a point to pet as many dogs as possible. It never fails – dogs always make me smile!
Animals are a gift from nature. It’s not for humans to harm them just because we can.
Dr. Pet Mom
“Animals are the bridge between us and the beauty of all that is natural. They show us what’s missing in our lives, and how to love ourselves more completely and unconditionally. They connect us back to who we are, and to the purpose of why we’re here.”