Birth of a Butterfly
A Butterfly was Born at my Dad's Funeral
Living with a Deaf Dog
A Butterfly was Born at my Dad's Funeral
June 10, 2014 my father John Foote passed away peacefully at his home in Jarman Center Senior Living, surrounded not only by his immediate family, but also a terrarium full of butterflies that lived with him in his final days. These monarch caterpillars were gathered in from the outdoors to live and become chrysalises to later be released after emergence as part of the Monarch butterfly restoration project at Jarman Center. Dad had released the first butterfly that was "born" when the monarch butterfly restoration project started a few years ago. To help put a positive spin on dad's final days, Cindy Pringle one of his care givers, brought a terrarium with 5 developing caterpillars in to live in dad's apartment. Dad was able to witness the first caterpillar actually transform into a chrysalis.
All 5 of the caterpillars transformed into the chrysalis stage as dad declined. By the time dad passed away, the first chrysalis was 6 days into the typical 10 day incubation period. There were some hopes that a butterfly would be born before dad passed, but that was not to be.
On the morning of dad's funeral, Cindy brought the terrarium to the funeral. The chrysalis dad saw develop was just about ready to emerge. She thought maybe it might happen at the funeral. If not, at least these developing butterflies could "attend" dad's funeral. As Cindy said maybe it is wishful thinking to hope it will emerge, my sister Nancy and I said - "It will. We just know it."
The little terrarium sat to the side of the alter, just under the statue of the Virgin Mary. I don't think too many people were even aware of it until my sister's closing comments pointed out the butterflies and how special it was to see the connection of dad's physical transformation like the caterpillars. We proceeded out of the church, following the casket down to the hearse. As dad was loaded into the vehicle, Cindy ran outside and exclaimed "Sally, Nancy the butterfly is being born!" I literally jumped up, and yelled at Tim the funeral director "The butterfly is being born! How fantastic" and ran back into the church. Sure enough, there was the butterfly just hanging out of its old shell slowly unfurling it's wings. Nancy grabbed the I pod - I grabbed the laptop with my sister's family in Switzerland on Skype so they too could witness this miracle. It was so wonderful to watch the little wings open up with friends crowded around this little terrarium. It only took about 6 minutes for the wings to fully open and to really see how beautiful it was. The butterfly was invited to the funeral diner and later that afternoon my sisters and I with residents from Jarman went to Wimple Park in Tuscola to release it.
There is an abundance of Milk Weed near the entrance to the park, by the small creek. The butterfly climbed onto my sister's fingers lingering for a few minutes before resting on a nearby milkweed. It was a female, fitting since dad had 3 daughters and 2 granddaughters as his offspring. The butterfly flew off into the wind, strong, agile and knowing exactly what it was and where it needed to be.
This experience was so like my dad's nature. Positive, forward moving and in tune with nature. Although dad is buried in Chicago, now I have a local place of remembrance also filled with nature. When I go here, I notice all the birds, butterflies and other creatures that make Wimple Park home. It really helps me remember to be present in this moment with everyone I encounter.
Maybe to some it was just a coincidence that the butterfly emerged at the end of the funeral. I won't argue with them. For me, I felt there was a reason for that timing, and it has been one of the most uplifting experiences of my life, helping me through my grief over losing dad. As a veterinarian I have heard lots of stories from families about how their pets helped them spiritually. One woman related how the family dog would find personal items of a daughter that had recently passed, and bring them to a family member having particular difficulty with the daughter's loss. This little dog was trying to help a person in grief take those difficult first steps of acknowledgement. Another friend told of how the family cat laid with the dying elderly mother right up to the end, and then would not leave the body when the funeral home staff came. The cat kept finding a way to get back in the room to lay right on the woman slowing down the transfer process as if on purpose. Personally, I don't think any of these situations were just coincidence.
There are many more stories like these where animals - be they pets, butterflies or any other creature have appeared when someone needed a sign that a spirit is still here. For many of us, this is a wonderfully strong affirmation of our belief in life after death. Personally I don't think it is crazy - I think these connections of animals and the spiritual is real. The longer I am a veterinarian, the more often I witness that animals are angels among us.
I hope for anyone in grief that you too have an affirming experience - your butterfly moment. Be open to the world of nature around you, especially your pets. Often that is how those moments come. You can see the movie of dad's butterfly birth on my youtube channel. I hope it gives you a sense of wonder and awe as it did me and my family.
Thanks, Dr Sally J. Foote
Cases of Rabies in animals and humans have decreased dramatically because we have a vaccine to protect animals and people. However we still see cases of Rabies. So it is important to keep your pet vaccinated and protected against Rabies. Rabies is still such an important and deadly disease, that World Rabies Day was created to help raise awareness about the disease and how to prevent it.
The map to the right shows counties, in pink, where animals tested positive for Rabies in 2013. In 2012 6,163 cases of Rabies were reported in the United States. Of these cases, 257 were cats, 84 were dogs and 1 was a person. Over 55,000people die world-wide from Rabies every year.
Dogs in the state of Illinois are required by law to be vaccinated for Rabies. Cats vaccination requirement varies depending on what county you live in. Champaign County requires cats to be vaccinated. Douglas County does not require cats to be vaccinated. We highly recommend having cats vaccinated for Rabies. Cats who go outside are exposed to Rabies, just like dogs. Even cats who live indoor only should be vaccinated. Mice and bats can come inside the house and bite your cat. Inside cats can can also sneak out of the house, without anyone knowing, and be exposed to Rabies. Dogs and cats are given their first Rabies vaccine when they are four months old. The vaccine is boostered every one to three years, depending on the type of vaccine given. It is important for your pet to have an exam prior to receiving any vaccination. If your pet is ill, the vaccine can make them sicker. Giving a vaccine to an ill pet can also cause the vaccine to not be effective at preventing the disease.
Rabies is disease caused by a virus that is almost always fatal. Infected dogs, cats, skunks, foxes, bats,raccoons and other animals can spread the disease. The virus can be transmitted through saliva, blood and nerve tissues (brain, spine,nerves). So, for example, your neighbor has a dog Fluffy and does not keep Fluffy up to date on her Rabies vaccine. Fluffy is in the back yard playing and an infected skunk wanders into their yard. Fluffy doesn't like this intruder so she attacks the skunk. During the fight, the skunk bites Fluffy. The skunk's saliva and the Rabies virus enters Fluffy's body through the bite wounds. In a few days Fluffy may start to behave differently (hide and act nervous), snap at her owners, wonder around the house, stumble as she walks and drool. Fluffy will die from her Rabies infection. If Fluffy had her vaccine, she would have been protected. We do not have a cure for rabies and it is almost always fatal. This is why vaccinating for Rabies is so important.
If your pet has been bitten by any animal, bring him or her to the vet. We will wash out the wounds and prescribe medication. Tell us what happened to your pet (what animal bit yours, was the animal acting strange). If the other animal may be rabid, and your pet has been vaccinated, we will vaccinate your pet again and send him or her home for confinement. If your pet has not been vaccinated, we will send him or her home for confinement for up to six months and vaccinate your pet. Unvaccinated pets will usually die if they have been bitten by a rabid animal.
If you have been bitten by an animal,you should go to the doctor. The doctor's office can treat your wound and may prescribe medication. Tell your doctor what happened and, if you were bitten by a dog, they need to contact Animal Control. You can reach the Douglas County Animal Control at 253-4921. Animal Control will issue a quarantine notice for the dog. The dog can be quarantined for 10 days at a vet clinic or in the owner's home, depending on if the dog has been vaccinated.
Some of the symptoms an animal with Rabies show include a change in attitude, difficulty swallowing, trouble walking, drooling, paralysis and restlessness. Wild animals will often lose their fear of humans and may wander into your yard. Never approach a wild animal that is acting friendly or is hurt. Contact your local Animal Control Department or the Department of Natural Resources at (217) 345-2420 if you see a wild animal that is hurt or acting strangely.
You can protect your pet against Rabies. The most important thing you can do is to have your pet vaccinated against Rabies. Encourage your neighbors to have their pets vaccinated too. Always take your pet out on leash, so you can keep an eye on your pet.
For more information about Rabies, visit the Center for Disease Control's website. For more information about the number of cases of Rabies reported in Illinois, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health's website.
* Graphic courtesy of Illinois Department of Public Health
Living with a Deaf Dog
Have you or someone you know owned a deaf dog? Celebrate National Deaf Dog Awareness Week this September 21 - 27. Some dogs are born deaf and others lose their hearing due to health problems, such as a high fever, or aging.
Living with a deaf dog can be challenging, but with a few adjustments, you can learn how to communicate with your dog. You need to use vibrations or visual signals, instead of words, to communicate with the dog. Instead of calling the dog's name to get his or her attention, stomp on the floor or use a vibrating collar. Use hand signals to give the dog commands. Come up with a "good" command so your dog know when he or she did something right. We have a client who uses a thumbs up to signal her deaf dog he was good.
As dogs get older, many dogs can have trouble hearing. The hearing loss is usually gradual and you may not notice it until your pet can no longer hear. Pets usually don't seem too bothered by being deaf. Dogs who were scared of fireworks, loud sounds and thunderstorms are often no longer bothered by these things.
We interviewed one of our clients about living with a deaf dog. Selena had gotten Oliver as a puppy. He is a Great Dane with lots of energy. Check out how Selena adapted to living with a deaf dog.
What is living with a deaf dog like?
In the beginning it was an adjustment; first, learning how to effectively communicate without verbal commands and second, ways to grab his attention without startling him. We started shortly after his BAER test with a trainer and established what commands would be effective and then the best route to deliver those commands. We use a combination of ASL and general obedience signs. Since he was going to be a large dog, I went with single handed commands, so I could instruct and control. Through repetition we quickly learned how to communicate in the home and in public.
As for his startle reflex, I chose his shoulders as my “location” to grab his attention, so he knew with a touch to his left or right shoulder; I needed him to look at me. When he’s too far away, I use the vibration through the floor or flicker the lights to let him know I again need his attention. To wake him, I use my hand beneath his nose and once he grabs my scent he wakes up. When we are in public, he wears a collar that states “I’m deaf,” so others are aware of his limitation and to not touch without permission or having his attention. As he got older he adapted to his surroundings; the sights, vibrations and smells and often tells me when someone’s at the door.
What is most challenging?
Still the most challenging thing is his level of energy and excitement when he gets to leave the yard or the house; he tries to take everything in. Windy days are rough, he’s so overwhelmed with the number scents floating around, it often increases his level of anxiety. We have simply learned to redirect his focus with playtime.
What is most rewarding?
Not to seem too general but everything about having him is rewarding. In the beginning, we taught each other patience and perseverance and those are always good qualities to learn. In my opinion, he’s a well-adjusted gentle giant, who loves the vacuum and doesn't mind a good thunder storm.
What tips would you give to someone who just got a deaf dog?
Continue to talk to your dog, just because they can’t hear you doesn't mean they don’t understand the reflections and expressions you show when you talk, especially when you praise them. Deaf dogs are just as intelligent and well adapted as hearing dogs and always keep them on leash, recalling a deaf dog is very difficult.
Do you have any other information you would like to include?
When I found out Oliver was deaf, I found some helpful resources and would recommend anyone considering a deaf dog to read a book called Living with a Deaf Dog by Susan Cope Becker. It’s not only a comfort to read but she provides advice and not only how she trained her deaf dog but incorporates other deaf dog owners and what worked for them. She also includes a whole section on ASL with visuals. Another great site is deafdogsrock.com, they also have a Facebook page that allows for open forums and dialogue for all deaf dog owners who have questions, concerns or just needs to brag about how awesome their deaf dogs are!
Check out a great article about deafness on ASPCA's website.