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Sophie’s Choice vs. A furParent’s Choice

19 Nov

Betty laying on her mommy

Sophie’s Choice vs
A furParent’s Choice

Most of us remember the movie Sophie’s Choice starring Meryl Streep, who played a Polish immigrant mother who had a split second to make a decision about which one of her children would be killed in a gas chamber or live in a labor camp. For those of us who saw that movie, we gasped and watched in horror when she chose to have her daughter killed and let the son live.

Do we think about what we’d do given that same type of choice between our loved ones and furry children?

Whether we are faced with the inextricable tragedy of a natural disaster or the loss of a job causing us to lose our homes, do we really have to choose which of our children come with us to safety? How do we choose who goes and who stays?

Recently, I was served with an unlawful detainer to move out of my townhouse near the ocean because I refused to get rid of my two beloved cats, Betty Boop and Trevor. Apparently, I cannot get reasonable accommodations from the property’s management to have them.

I left New York City amid Hurricane Sandy in an effort to find a peaceful new life for me and my furFamily. At the time, I had two dogs and two cats. My two dogs were trained to provide me with services for my invisible disability. One was bred specifically for the purpose of being my therapy dog. The other acts as a meter to gauge my levels of fear and panic when I am out in open spaces. For years, I suffered with this debilitating issue. My only source of healing and emotional well-being began when I started caring for three colonies of stray cats and adopting two cats of my own. When it was time for me to leave New York, I made full provisions for the colonies of stray cats to be cared for through the supervision of the NYC Feral Cat Initiative.

I then traveled cross-country with my two adopted cats, who had been with me for years, and my two dogs. My therapist wanted us to continue with my treatment by getting out of the city and going to a place by the water where I could work toward going outside and acclimating back into society. My home had been my only haven of peace and tranquility. But I found the fresh air to be amazing. The ocean breeze was healing. After a year of rebuilding my life and enjoying the outdoors more with my animals, though, my treatment took a major hit. There I was being accused by my home’s building property owners of wanting to “collect” animals.

Living with my animals has been my alternative to living with depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. The first time I was in bed and this overwhelming feeling of fear hit me, my whole body began to shake, and I experienced shortness of breath. My curious cat, Betty Boop, slowly walked up to me, sniffed my ear and my nose, and then somehow instinctively knew to lie down on my chest. It was the warmest touch that I’d felt during a panic attack, and I was so overjoyed by my cat’s concern for me. I noticed that my breathing became relaxed, and that intense feeling of fear dissipated. Today, she just sleeps on me, and I am okay with that too.

Each one of my four furry love-bugs offers a healing touch or performs a task that benefits me in such a way as to making my life more fulfilled and giving me a sense of wellness.
Asking me to move out of my home or get rid of my cats is like asking me to halt my recovery, contend with sleepless nights, and endure endless frightening panic attacks and lose my sense of well-being. It’s like choosing which one of my kids gets the gas chamber.

Just as my animals have been a huge gift to me emotionally and mentally, I have also committed myself to being a stable and loving provider and parent to them. It is not a choice. They are a part of me, and where I go, they will be with me until their last breath.

I created the furLifeLiving company out of my gratitude and amazement for what our animals bring to our lives. They are not to have just for recreation or until they come of age. They might give us 12 years or 15 years of their lives if we are fortunate. Our animals live the life we give them. Let’s choose to give them a great, full life. #furLifeLiving
The furLifeLiving website and community aims to share with the world the benefits of our relationships with our furry children. To learn more, visit our website at Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Francyne Ellison, creator & executive producer

The furLifeLiving Company

The Benefits of Pet Ownership

06 Oct


Most people who love pets already know about the basic benefits of pet ownership—how animals help to stave off depression, reduce anxiety and blood pressure, and how they make us smile and live in each moment.  They teach us true patience and make us feel loved and needed no matter how little we see in ourselves.

Today, while walking with my Australian Shepherd on our normal daily stroll, he observed my inner thoughts and saw that I was deep in my head while on the walk.  He knew I didn’t have much in me to offer passersby in terms of simple kindness—not a great quality but wonderful when you can see yourself in your animal’s behavior.  While I was deep in thought, a sweet little lady spoke to me, and my dog immediately sounded off on her to leave us alone.  I was a bit embarrassed by his abrupt tone toward this nice woman, but I realized he was speaking for me.  He knew I was in my head and had little to offer by way of simple kindness.

In that instance, when I saw my dog respond for me, I snapped out of my head and became present in the moment, deciding that the walk was a chance to exercise, see people out and about, and enjoy my time with my furry companion.  Once I became aware of the beauty around me—the beach, the nice people, the lovely trees, the sunny skies, and the great weather—seeing other people walking their beloved pets brought me back to the walk.  I opened myself up to experience the blessing of being alive. After that, my faithful dog, connected with my current state of mind, welcomed people who approached us.

What I learned in that moment was how to be aware of the signs our animals show us about what’s going on inside us.  Our pets not only need us to care for them and take the lead, but they also give us a glimpse into our state of mind.  Let’s keep paying attention instead of disciplining their behavior. Let’s take a moment to look at ourselves and see what we could be asking them to do on our behalf.

I started the furLifeLiving website and community to share with the world the benefits of our relationships with our furry children.  Just like taking a yoga class or practicing meditation, we have to learn how to find that center outside our yoga sessions and meditation and use those lessons in our daily lives minute by minute.  My animals show me where I am, and I practice finding the place of calm and peace and compassion because it is a lifestyle change.  #furLifeLiving encourages visitors to focus on our loving relationships with our pets and to share the same unconditional patience with the people in our lives.

The furLifeLiving website and community gives everyone the same access to the unfettered antics and simplicity of the lives of our animals.  Try it out!  It keeps my soul at peace just being present with my animals. We have cameras all around the house catching everything from their perspectives 24/7.  It is guaranteed to make you smile! #furLifeLiving #MakeitaLifestyle