Pets for Your Health: Heart


Pets are good for your heart.

Sure, they fill your heart with love.  But they also do your heart good.

For one, studies repeatedly show that pets reduce stress, anxiety, and blood pressure, all which contribute to heart disease. Less stress and lower blood pressure = less risk of developing heart disease. For example, a study shows that male pet owners have less signs of heart disease (such as lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels) than men without pets.

Pets also encourage more physical activity, such as dog walking. According to one study, dog owners are more likely to walk and be active than non-dog owners. They were 54 percent more likely to engage in the recommended level of physical activity. People who are active are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

Dog and owner walking

For heart attack patients, those with pets survive longer than those patients without pets. According to the American Heart Association, pet ownership is likely associated with reduced heart disease risk factors and with increased survival among patients.

So, take heart in the good news, knowing that having a pet is good for you. After all, your pet has your well-being at heart.


“Blue Bear and Snow Toad:” Available and Garnering Reviews

Blank book cover vector template isolated on white background.In September, the story of  “Blue Bear and Snow Toad” was officially published in a beautiful, hardcover glossy children’s book, just in time for the holidays.

What a thrill to finally have it in hand!

In the midst of selling my home, however, I neglected to shout out to the world how thrilled I was to have this beloved story, conceived over a decade ago, sitting on my shelf and available from Amazon.

My wintery tale is garnering wonderful reviews from readers. Here are a few highlights.

“…It’s a wonderful way to take that end of day energy your toddler or young child may have and channel it into a meaningful bed time story…”   -Myers3203

“…whimsical illustrations capture their emotions as they endure the cold so they can experience the winter wonderland…”   -Bobbie Onas


“…a captivating story that the kids want to read over and over again…”   -Charles Winston III

“…gather the little ones, grab a warm throw, and snuggle together to read this treasure of a story!”   -Emmaree Josephson

It recently received its first professional review from Kirkus, the source for librarians!

“charming picture book”

“a delightful ode to the season”

“the rhymes scan beautifully”

“an excellent choice for lap readers at bedtime”


As to “debut writer,” probably because this book is the first one in their system. That’s my theory.

Kirkus review

How Do We Appreciate Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

In the month marked for expressing gratitude, I’m going with the spirit of Thanksgiving, minimizing my usual peevishness. After all, we are blessed to share our lives with our animal companions and all they share with us.

So, I offer a humble litany of thanks for…

…Dogs who teach us joy in all that is encountered. From our wagging friends, we learn the need for jaunts outdoors and that water is the best drink of all. Dogs, great and small, model what it is to be family and a good friend: loyal, loving, quick to forgive, and thrilled to see a beloved every time they walk through the door.

…Our feline friends who instruct us in the art of stretching, often overlooked despite our stressful lives. More introverted than dogs, cats teach us to set aside a space and the time for solitary quiet reflection. With a purr, they teach the value of expressing thanks for simple pleasures in life. And don’t forget the lessons gleaned from a quick cat nap to revitalize for the rest of the day.

…Birds who bring a splash of color to our lives. Ever curious with a keen intelligence, they teach us the ongoing value of taking a perpetual interest in the world around. They also teach us to eat vegetables and fruit.

…Fish who convey tranquility, mesmerizing us with the beauty found in their aquatic realm. While birds of a feather flock together, fish teach us acceptance of diversity found in their microcosmic communities reflective of their natural homes.

…Horses who teach us the value of working together, creating a ballet achieved moving as one. They show us the freedom to be found in a wild frolic and the wisdom of warming down. Horses teach the value of trust earned, for these large-eyed creatures are less quick to friendship than dogs. You know you’ve done well to have the love of a horse.

…Long-toothed rabbits, mice, and rats (and fellow rodentia) who teach the need for community. They know the warmth of the family nest, and contentment of snuggling together and preening one another. They make the most of small places and know the value of frugality.

…Snakes, lizards, and turtles who teach patience, keeping an eye on long-term goals. Reptiles teach the value of finding a sunny spot to bask in warmth. They teach acceptance of a slow pace and meditating on all that is observed.

This list of animals is incomplete, let alone the listing of their many virtues or the benefits we glean by proximity. This summary only begins to illustrate why we should give thanks for their tolerance and acceptance of us.

In return, they ask for gentle handling, water, food, and a home appropriate to their n needs. They give much with expectation of little. Shame on the humans who can’t provide in kind (couldn’t help myself with one little finger wag), and a big thank you to those who appreciate the blessings and lessons bestowed on us by the finned, feathered, scaled, and furred.



First published in Pets in the City Magazine, November 2013


Pets for Your Health: Peace and Calm


Pets are good for your well-being. For example, multiple studies have shown that pets reduce stress and depression.


When we are stressed, our bodies produce more harmful hormones, such as cortisol and norepinephrine. These lower our immunity, making us more susceptible to illness and disease. By reducing stress and depression, pets thus bolster our immune systems, keeping us healthier.

Stress also raises our blood pressure. Again, studies show that pets lower blood pressure readings. In one study, people in stressful situations who also had pets had better blood pressure readings than people without pets.

Interactions with our pets also increase “good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine that have calming effects and are associated with happiness.

Remember the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor a way”? While no one would argue the benefits of fiber, the doctor should add pets to the prescription.


Animals In Art: From Classics to Your Own Creations


Paleolithic art in Lascaux, France

Since the Stone Age, animals have inspired artists the world over. Their likeness has been engraved upon pottery, weaved into tapestries, molded and shaped in clay and rock, and painted on walls and canvas, bringing beauty and grace into our living space.

Artists depict these muses in all aspects of our lives, both religious and secular. Sometimes, their portrayal is realistic, other times fantastical, expressions of the imagination. Yet, while the purpose and definition of art perpetually changes over time, art – at its core – is a reflection of our relationship with our environment. “All art is but imitation of nature,” to quote the Roman statesman, Lucius Annaeus Seneca. That seems particularly true when conveying the importance of animals in our lives.


Egyptian depiction of cat catching birds, circa 1350 B.C.

What drives artists in their creative pursuits, employing animals as their models? For those of us in awe of those who can wield a brush or mold clay to their whims, it’s interesting to hear artists share their perspective on subject and media choices.

Terence K. Stephens , a well-established artist and owner of the recently opened Art 270 Gallery and Art Space in Salt Lake City, believes animals ground people. “I love any aspect of animals, and I want people to love animals as much as I do. Plus, they’re easy to live with when on the wall or sitting on the coffee table.”

His work includes painting, sculpture, and mixed media (such as “Big Boy” featured on the cover). The owner of a rescued Pit mix, dogs are his biggest focus when working with animals, but he’s also committed to “anything that’s endangered.”

Of course, on the flip side of creation, the other end goal of artists is to sell their work (or, we’d never see it!). Fortunately for them, many of us are ready to oblige.


Frederick Morgan, Feeding the Rabbits, circa 1904

From fine art to folk art, the styles and subject matter are endless, accommodating all tastes. There is no right or wrong. While many of us may be unable to articulate why a piece appeals, we know what we like when we see it.

Where to start?  If you want art on your walls, the ever-popular classics (and modern pieces) are readily available as inexpensive posters. You can recreate the Louvre in your living room.

Original pieces too can be found for reasonable prices. Artists display their wares at art festivals, farmers markets, restaurants, stores, and online, looking for venues to showcase their art to those who might hesitate to walk into an art gallery.

Want to commission art work, like a painting of your pet? is the go-to site for buying custom pet portraits, generally starting around $75 and up, depending on the size of the painting and number of animals.

Local Utah artist, Allison Nash Hutto, creates such commissioned pieces, painting from submitted photos. “People love their pets as if they are their children, and I love knowing how much the painting means to them,” Hutto says. “I like to portray a bright and lively feel in my pet portraits, and have found that animals give me a chance to be relaxed and use colors more freely.”

So far, Hutto’s requests have been for cats and dogs, but she “would love to paint less common pets like … a lizard. I am up for anything that you name and feed!”


Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Monkey Painter, 1833

Of course, art isn’t strictly the realm of those who called themselves artists.  You can paint your own too.  I have, and – on my own – I barely manage recognizable stick figures. Yet, under the guidance of professionals at Painting with a Twist in Murray, I painted four treasured portraits of my cat and dogs. I won’t be selling art anytime soon, but my own created art of my furry beloveds is priceless.


Author’s portrait of her Beagle, Buzz, with assistance from Painting With A Twist


picm_aug2015First published in Pets in the City Magazine, August 2015