“The animal kingdom is in critical condition. The affliction isn’t a disease, but rather a crisis of endangerment that threatens to wipe out many of the world’s animal species forever. Ironically, the only species capable of saving these animals is the same one that’s responsible for putting them in danger.”
~ Jeff Corwin 100 Heartbeats: The Race to Save Earth’s Most Endangered Species
It may be hard to admit, but every one of us has played a part in putting the precious animals we share this planet with in peril. The paper we write on, the furniture we use, the homes we live in comes from wood from clear-cut forests, leaving countless animals homeless. The cruises we take leave the oceans polluted and hurt marine life. Circuses perpetuate animal abuse. Tourism industries in many countries rely on …read more of Give the Gift of Hope to Wildlife this Valentine’s Day here
There are plenty of people who tirelessly work to save unwanted and abused animals. I recently got an opportunity to spend time with two of them. Melanie Sue Bowles and Jim Bowles, founders of the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary, are retired professional fire firefighters who have been saving abandoned and neglected horses for the past 20 years, They have intervened on behalf of nearly 400 horses, and continue to do so.
Over the years, they’ve also opened their hearts and home to plenty of dogs that have found their way into their lives. All of them either abandoned, or locked up in shelters or sent to the vet as puppies because they didn’t meet breed standards. Today, all 13 of their dogs live harmoniously in the house and share the affection of their owners with 58 horses and donkeys in Mena, Arkansas. The horses and donkeys run freely on 320 acres of their property near the Ouachita Mountains. The dogs, however, never leave Melanie and Jim.
As a dog lover, I can never understand how someone can abuse or carelessly abandon their dogs. These innocent animals, some of them very young, diseased or elderly cannot fend for themselves. While most of them suffer due to no fault of their own, some fortunate ones who get rescued by organizations or good-natured people like Melanie and Jim get a second chance and find loving homes.
My time at the Proud Spirit Horse Sanctuary will always remain one of my favorites. Never have I seen so much love, and experienced the joy of being around so many happy animals. That’s the beauty of animals- no matter what they’ve been through- they respond in kind and are loyal to those who care for them. “All they want is some food and love,” says Jim Bowles, petting a dog that Melanie had rescued the first morning I was there. In addition to providing home to so many dogs, the husband and wife team have also helped place dozens of rescued dogs with forever homes.
One of the recent additions to the Bowles’ household is the beautiful dog pictured here with me. His name is Winston, a pitbull mix named after Winston Churchill. He was the size of a rabbit when Melanie and Jim found him and his littermates on the side of the road near their ranch, scared, starving, and covered in fleas and ticks. Melanie was able to find homes for Winston’s siblings, but he became a part of their family and quickly adjusted to the lifestyle with the rest of the dogs. During my stay, Winston followed me everywhere, and was super sweet (as you can tell from the picture). He was full of energy, and never tired of playing with his furry friends.
While I loved all the dogs at the Sanctuary, one in particular stole my heart. Her name is Trudi, a small beagle mix that resembled my own puppy. There was never a moment I could sit on the couch or the porch without Trudi running up and sitting on my lap and showering me with kisses. Melanie and Jim found Trudi, and her sisters Daisy and Trixie as puppies in a ditch with a box of adult dog food next to them that they could barely eat. Today, all three sisters, although the smallest of the bunch, know how to assert themselves. In the picture below, you’ll see little Trudi having a “conversation” with one of the donkeys of Proud Spirit.
Then, there are the fluffball corgis, who with their little legs would climb up to my knees and plead for attention with their curious wide eyes. Most of them are rescued from shelters, and animal hospitals where they were sent to be euthanized because they weren’t “perfect” purebred puppies. One has a blue right eye, another a left blue eye, and another has a floppy ear. Luckily, their imperfections don’t come in the way of how much love they give.
The most captivating story of all of them is that of big Louis. Jim and Melanie’s friends found Louis near death in Florida. He was emaciated, with gun pellets in his body, and suffering from heartworm disease. The Bowles’ friends cared for him, and tried to get him adopted. When no one came forward, Melanie drove all the way to bring him home to Arkansas.
Louis, named after Louis Zamperini, World War II hero written about in Unbroken, has definitely been through his share of suffering for most of his life. Today, he is a much loved member of the Proud Spirit family. He has fully recovered from his ailments, and bounced back to health. Towering over the rest of the dogs, Louie is very possessive of Jim and makes sure no other dogs come near him, but there is plenty of love to go around for all of them.
In the endearing picture below, you’ll see Louis nuzzling his best friend’s ear. “Every dog must be loved this much,” says Melanie, with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face.
How to Help
Purchase The Dogs of Proud Spirit book by Melanie Sue Bowles for more true stories about the Proud Spirit dogs. All proceeds go towards the Sanctuary and rescue work.
Scientists make new discoveries every day all over the world. Isn’t that amazing? Imagine, for example, being Galileo Galilei who first discovered some of Jupiter’s moons. Or think about being Benjamin Franklin who realized lightning was electricity. Or what about Albert Einstein who came up with the theory of relativity, E = mc2? Or Jane Goodall who was the first to observe that chimps used tools.
All of these people made discoveries that have changed our world.
Through the years I have always had a passion for wildlife and nature. As soon as I was on two feet, I indulged myself in anything having to do with the outdoors.
Whether that be taking walks through the woods, or diving into a bush after a toad, I would do it with the utmost sense of joy. As I grew older I began collecting animals starting with fish and escalating to lizards.
Recently I have been enrolled in a school with a zoo, and work there caring for Lemurs. My love for these things has been thriving ever since I knew they existed. All aspects of the environment that have impacted me create valuable moments, and over time, those accumulated moments have allowed my passion to bloom.
You probably have a BFF, right? A best friend forever. Someone you talk to every day whether it be in person, on the phone, or online.
Someone you hang out with and go to for advice, for laughs, for his or her stash of Double Stuf Oreos. Someone you can celebrate the good times with and trust not to tell your deepest, darkest secrets. A BFF makes life a little more interesting.
When I was three I had an obsession with worms. I simply couldn’t keep myself from digging and sifting through dirt to uncover my prized little friends. I would spend hours upon hours in the hot summer sun with a dirt-covered face, just to obtain a single smile possessed by attaining a beautiful worm.
To me there was nothing better, until the day a painter came over. I was told the he didn’t like children and to leave him alone, but naturally being an impatient child, I disobeyed my mothers harsh orders and waltzed up to him. I bluntly asked if he would relocate himself somewhere other than my favored dig site.
If you are from the south, or if you know someone who is a dedicated gardener, you have probably heard the phrase “passalong plants”.
This phrase describes the point in most gardeners’ lives when their hobby quietly changes from a pastime to a passion. When that happens, they want to share their joy.
They give flowers to friends. They share homegrown produce and herbs with neighbors. They even begin collecting seeds and rooting their cuttings so they can encourage new gardeners. They’ve discovered the deep wonder of working the earth and they want to share it. And from the process, multitudes of new gardeners have been encouraged to get outside and to enjoy the pleasures of the earth. …read more of Passalong Your Passion for the Planet here
That’s right – a part of the oxygen you breathe is there because of the great tits! No, they’re not photosynthetic organisms and can’t turn the carbon dioxide into organic compounds and oxygen for us to breathe. However, these precious little fellows are playing a vital role in saving our trees from the harmful influence of leaf-mining insects such as moths, sawflies and so on.
Ever heard of the horse chestnut? A gorgeous tree with not so lovely fate. Especially if the horse chestnut leaf-miner is around. The horse chestnut leaf-miner (or the Cameraria orhidella for science geeks like me) is a beautiful moth, whose larvae are causing a great damage by digging their ways deep into the leaves of the chestnut tree and preventing their growth that way.
“. . . on April 22, 1970, Earth Day was held, one of the most
remarkable happenings in the history of democracy. . . ” -American Heritage Magazine, October 1993
What was the purpose of Earth Day? How did it start? These are the questions I am most frequently asked.
Actually, the idea for Earth Day evolved over a period of seven years starting in 1962. For several years, it had been troubling me that the state of our environment was simply a non-issue in the politics of the country. Finally, in November 1962, an idea occurred to me that was, I thought, a virtual cinch to put the environment into the political “limelight” once and for all. The idea was to persuade President Kennedy to give visibility to this issue by going on a national conservation tour.
I flew to Washington to discuss the proposal with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who liked the idea. So did the President. The President began his five-day, eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963. For many reasons the tour did not succeed in putting the issue onto the national political agenda. However, it was the germ of the idea that ultimately flowered into Earth Day. …read more of The Origin of Earth Day here
photo: Omani Clownfish. Courtesy of Steve Simpson.
If you ever wanted ideas for a new soap opera, coral reefs would be the place to go.
These colonies of tiny living animals not only provide vital ecological services, such as protecting shorelines, but are also home to some of the most diverse-and strange-creatures on the planet.
Dive a few meters below the surface and you’ll meet a cast of characters that could rival those on Melrose Place. Similar to that fictional locale, the life of coral reef fish centers around sex, or, more accurately, tactics for successful reproduction necessary for the continuation of their species-referred to as “life history strategies.” For some, these strategies go as far as changing gender. …read more of Coral Reef Opera here
Whether you’re a scientist working in the field or a young person in your backyard, this is where you get to share your stories through pictures, videos and articles with the rest of the world. Without your voice, these stories go unshared, and our planet’s ecology, wildlife and natural resources go unexplored. Connect with each other and us and let’s enjoy this process of learning from one another.