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The young mother was ready to escape her abuser and called Safe Homes of Orange County looking for shelter for herself and her daughter. The organization was ready and able to provide housing but there was just one problem. The little girl was very attached to her small pet and didn’t want to leave him behind.

“The mother was adamant that there was no way she could leave the pet with her abuser as it would be too traumatic for her daughter,” said Sarita Green, associate director, Safe Homes of Orange County.

This story is not unique. Seventy-one percent of women with pets entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser threatened, harmed or killed a family pet. Yet very few domestic violence shelters nationwide are able to accommodate victims’ pets. According to the ASPCA, as many as 25 percent of domestic violence survivors have reported returning to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet.

That fear is often justified. A growing body of research shows that men who hit their wives and children often extend that abuse to family pets as well. And when women dare to leave their abusers, these animals may suffer dire consequences. One man drowned his wife’s two cats in the swimming pool, another fried his children’s goldfish and one woman at a shelter received an audiotape containing the howls of her dog as it was being tortured.

Partnership between Women’s Shelter and Animal Shelter Protects More Lives   

When Green started working for Safe Homes of Orange County in 2010, she heard from many women who were ready to escape their abusers but wouldn’t leave their beloved pets behind. Some of these women found family or friends to take their pets but many weren’t so lucky and chose to remain with the abuser. Green reached out to local animal shelters hoping to form a partnership, but without funding, none were able to take in additional animals.

That changed in 2013 when a volunteer at the Warwick Valley Humane Society (WVHS) suggested a partnership between the animal shelter and Safe Homes of Orange County. That led to the launching of the Safe Pets Program.

“Having taken many courses on the link between domestic violence and animal abuse, we chose to be proactive and prevent a potential animal cruelty situation where the pet is injured or killed,”� said Suzyn Barron, WVHS president. “It is important to us morally to partner with Safe Homes. Although we have limited space and are pretty much always at full and beyond capacity, we pride ourselves on being able to creatively make room when that call comes”�

HumaneSocietyPhoto caption: Left to right are Suzyn Barron, president of WVHS; Sarita Green, associate director of Safe Homes of Orange County; and Leslie Maier, volunteer at WVHS who first suggested the partnership between the two shelters. Photo courtesy of Safe Homes of Orange County

The WVHS cares for the pets of domestic violence victims at an undisclosed facility for 60 to 90 days. The shelter has extended this time period while families are in the care of Safe Homes of Orange County, and offer a grace period if a few extra days are needed after families settle into their new lives. Animals unable to be reunited with their families are adopted into loving homes.

Animals admitted through the Safe Pets Program are provided with food, needed vaccinations, spay/neuter, flea/tick and heartworm preventative as well as groomingall free of charge. Barron said they are grateful for a Red Rover relief grant that helps with the care of victims’ pets for up to 60 days. Shelter staff also provide the love and nurturing needed to help the animals recover from the trauma of living with domestic violence.

“It usually takes several days to weeks for the pets to realize that they are safe and start to adjust to their surroundings and to us,” Barron said. “Although my staff is not specifically trained in this area, they deal with animals on a daily basis, whether lost, abandoned, unwanted or abused and know how to help pets with emotional and behavior issues.”

Pets Often the Only Link Domestic Violence Victims Have to Love and Affection

Green said the impact this program has on the lives of domestic violence victims is enormous. She sites one family who was very attached to their cat. The cat had significant medical needs and was successfully treated at the WVHS and reunited with the family.

ThinkstockPhotos-516982755Photo credit: Thinkstock

“Without the help of the Safe Pets Program, I’m not sure this woman would not have been able to keep her cat because of the cost of the medical needs,” Green said. 

Pets, she added, are often the only link victims of domestic violence have to love and affection.

“This connection is really important because so much of a woman’s life has to change for her to get herself and her family to safety,” Green added. “Her child has to leave behind friends and go to a different school and she has to leave her job and all of her possessions. She’s basically choosing homelessness in order to be safe.”

While it’s certainly expensive and time-consuming to be a partner with Safe Homes of Orange County, Barron said it is well worth the effort. The shelter staff is especially gratified when they watch families visit with their beloved pets.

“We can see how loved the pets are and it’s gratifying to know that we helped facilitate their decision to leave an unhealthy and unsafe situation for all,” Barron said. “My staff is proud of the work they do. Hopefully, other shelters will consider joining our efforts in preventing animal abuse of this kind.”

To learn more about how to help the Warwick Valley Humane Society in its mission to help animals in need, visit their website

Since 2007, RedRover has awarded thousands of dollars in grants to help care for and shelter animals displaced by family violence.

SafePlaceforPets.org is an online directory of pet support programs for pet owners facing domestic violence.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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7 Tips for Decluttering Your Home This Fall

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Last weekend, I recruited a few friends to help me clear out our garage before the heavy Wyoming snows start coming in. And let me tell you, it felt good. 

Spring isn’t the only season for deep cleaning. In fact, decluttering in the fall helps reveal peaceful indoor space—something we all need more of when the weather gets cold—and can actually be a really emotionally healthy process. Plus, it can’t hurt to spruce up the place before company starts calling around the holidays.

Ready to get started? Here are my top seven tips for decluttering your home this fall.

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1) Store all your warm weather items.

Finally get an unexpected sunny day? Box up all your leftover summer items – hoses, lawn chairs – and store them out of the way. It’s so much easier to make it happen while the sun is still shining.

2) Box up your summer wardrobe.

Unless you are fortunate enough to live in a climate that is mild all year round, now is a great time to finally pack up your summer wardrobe till next season. This is also a great opportunity to donate anything you know you won’t want come spring.

3) Get your paperwork in order. 

Tax season is right around the corner. If you’re the kind of person who tends to amass a collection of paperwork on your desk, take a couple hours to lighten the load. You’ll thank yourself later!

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4) Donate seasonal items you won’t use.

We all have fall/winter goods that no longer serve our station in life, don’t fit or are outdated. Donate anything that isn’t serving its purpose in your home to local charities that could use them.

5) Recruit a friend or two. 

Have friends who can partner with you? Recruit their help decluttering the trouble spots in your home. Odds are, they’ll bring an objective perspective to the table, ensuring you don’t hold onto anything you don’t need.

6) Change your filters.

This is a great opportunity to replace your furnace, air, refrigerator and vacuum filters. Doing so will not only improve the air quality in your home, but will also improve the efficiency of your appliances, saving you money in the long run.

7) Make space in the fridge, freezer and pantry. 

Take inventory of everything you have in the fridge, freezer and pantry, then prioritize those items in your meal plan for the next couple of weeks. This is a great way to make space before holiday cooking takes over and may help you discover creative uses for your leftovers!

What secrets do you have for decluttering? What problem areas do you tend to look over most in your own home?

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7 Best Brussels Sprouts Recipes

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Brussels sometimes get a bad rap. These tiny, bitter bulbs may not impress many if simply steamed or sauteed, but once you kick up the creativity and the flavor, brussels can really shine.

Cooked to perfection, these cruciferous wonders can transform into roasty, sweet and caramelized dishes that would give any main course a run for its money. Consider picking some up at the store if you’re a Brussels newbie and try out these imaginative recipes at your next family gathering.

brussels sprouts, vegetables, recipes, thanksgiving, holidays, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, health, healthy recipes, cruciferousPhoto: Minimalist Baker

1. Brussels Sprout Slaw with Coconut Bacon

Cabbage doesn’t always have to steal the show when it comes to a nice slaw—Brussels are a delicious alternative! This recipe features a sweet and tangy dressing, smokey coconut bacon and some healthy fats and crunch in the form of pecans.

brussels sprouts, vegetables, recipes, thanksgiving, holidays, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, health, healthy recipes, cruciferous

2. Cider-Braised Brussels Sprouts

If your family has never tried these sprouts before, this recipe is a great introduction. The sweetness of the cider helps cut the bitterness, and the garlic adds an extra zing. Even the youngsters will eat their veggies if this is what’s for dinner.

brussels sprouts, vegetables, recipes, thanksgiving, holidays, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, health, healthy recipes, cruciferousPhoto: Care2

3. Brussels, Bok Choy, and Avocado Salad

Yes, you read that correctly—Brussels sprouts make great salads! They are a healthy green, after all. This super-healthy dish features a depth of flavors and textures: cilantro, lemon juice and sunflower seeds as toppings.

brussels sprouts, vegetables, recipes, thanksgiving, holidays, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, health, healthy recipes, cruciferousPhoto: Care2

4. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

Pairing sprouts with nuts is a popular choice—and for a good reason! The crunch adds texture and the fat content makes for a smooth and savory side. Plant-based eaters can easily substitute vegan butter for this recipe.

brussels sprouts, vegetables, recipes, thanksgiving, holidays, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, health, healthy recipes, cruciferous

5. Brussels Sprouts with Chili, Black Beans and Lime

Looking for some spice? This recipe delivers the heartiness of black beans, the kick of fresno chili peppers and the tang of fresh lime zest.

brussels sprouts, vegetables, recipes, thanksgiving, holidays, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, health, healthy recipes, cruciferous

6. Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Toasted Almonds

Double the cruciferous veggie means double the health bang for your buck! This salad includes both shredded brussels and lacinato kale, topped with a simple and savory dressing that allows the flavors to shine. Vegan parmesan can also be substituted here.

brussels sprouts, vegetables, recipes, thanksgiving, holidays, vegan, vegetarian, wellness, health, healthy recipes, cruciferous

7. Mustard-Maple Glazed Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This is my personal favorite method of preparing sprouts: Cut off the ends, remove extra leaves and cut in half. Mix together a marinade of 2 tbsp dijon mustard, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp maple syrup and 2 cloves of garlic (minced). Mix everything around, throw onto a baking dish, and roast at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes, turning halfway through. Enjoy!

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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6 Foods You Thought Were Unhealthy But Aren’t

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What makes food healthy or unhealthy? How do good foods get bad reputations? Sometimes, it’s because we prepare an otherwise healthy ingredient in unhealthy ways, and other times we vilify food based on shady, unfounded health claims. Here are some “bad” foods you can embrace once again!

What makes food healthy?

Before we get into a the list of surprisingly healthy foods, let’s talk about what makes a food “unhealthy.” There’s a lot of confusion around food and our health, because the processed food industry has such incredible lobbying power.

In fact, the 2017 the International Food Information Council Foundation’s annual Food and Health Survey found that most Americans receive conflicting information about healthy eating and that we let non-health factors, like price, influence our thinking about what is and isn’t healthy.

But what really makes food healthy or unhealthy?

Wow—is this a loaded question! There is a lot of conflicting information out there about what is and isn’t healthy. I dug through a lot of lists, and here are some qualities of healthy food that popped up on all of them:

  • It’s low in sodium.
  • It’s a good source of fiber.
  • If it contains fats, they’re healthy fats.
  • It’s low in added sugars.
  • It’s as unprocessed as possible.

Let’s use the list above as a jumping-off point when looking at the foods below.

What makes food healthy?

Healthy Foods You Thought were Unhealthy

1. Potatoes

Potatoes are one of those foods that get the short shift with very little reason. A whole potato with the skin is a good source of fiber, potassium, iron, vitamin B6 and even calcium.

The problem with potatoes is in how we prepare them. Deep fried French fries, pools of butter and heaps of sour cream are what make potatoes unhealthy. So go ahead and embrace the potato!

2. Carbs

Oh, carbs. We blame them for everything! They’re the other reason that people vilify potatoes and many other foods on this list, but not all carbs are the same. Care2′s Diana Herrington explains, “Your brain, nervous system and muscles require about 60-65 percent carbohydrates to keep them nourished.”

Our bodies run on carbs. The trick is choosing good carbs—like whole grains and vegetables—rather than refined carbohydrates, like you’d find in doughnuts.

3. Fat

Fat is another macronutrient that get a bad rep, and food marketing takes a lot of the blame here. If we vilify all fats, then companies can market low-fat foods that are packed with added sugars and processed ingredients to replace the missing fat.

Like carbs, not all fats are the same. When you’re looking for healthy foods, go for options low in saturated and trans fats in favor of foods containing unsaturated fats.

4. Corn

Corn falls into the same category as potatoes: a healthy food that gets an unhealthy reputation because of the preparations. Sure, corn on the cob or a bucket of popcorn slathered in butter is unhealthy. But whole, organic corn on its own is a healthy whole grain that provides fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

When you stop thinking of corn as a vegetable and recognize it as a whole grain, it’s much easier to eat it in a healthy way.

5. White Rice

White rice is one food that doesn’t hit all of the points on our list of parameters, but when you take a closer look, white rice isn’t so bad. Jordyn Cormier dove into whether brown rice is really healthier than white, and what she discovered was surprising.

Cormier says that brown rice does have more fiber and vitamins, but it also contains more anti-nutrients, which make it harder for your body to absorb the nutrition from your food. White rice is also easier to digest. She also points out that you’re not likely to eat a big bowl of white rice on its own. Chances are, you’re piling on fiber- and nutrient-rich veggies. If the white rice makes that healthy veggie stir fry more appealing, go for it.

6. Pasta

You’d think that pasta, especially conventional pasta, would be associated with weight gain, but last year a study found that it’s not necessarily associated with weight gain.

Like white rice, it’s all about what you pair with that pasta. In the study, pasta eaters were more likely to be eating a Mediterranean diet and eating in moderation overall. This study doesn’t mean that a bowl of fettucini alfredo is suddenly healthy, but it does give us reason to put pasta on a healthy food list, provided you’re pairing it with healthy foods, like veggies and beans.

Related at Care2:

What makes food healthy or unhealthy? How do good foods get bad reputations? Here are some "bad" foods you can embrace once again!

Images via Thinkstock.

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50 Reasons to Be Grateful This Thanksgiving

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The holiday season is upon us, the time of year when we may be faced with both feelings of warmth and a barrage of advertisements, irritated shoppers and budget anxiety. These mixed messages can make it difficult to get through the season without a chip on your shoulder. Yet, taking time to sit and be fully in the moment can reveal all kinds of missed opportunities for gratitude.

There has been a lot of talk about the science behind gratitude: how it can improve physical health, relationships and reduce stress. If you feel you may be missing out on some of these benefits, take some time out of the rush of the season to reflect on the following questions. Journal, reflect privately or use them at the dinner table with your family. By the end of the list, you will have come up with over 50 reasons to feel grateful for the past and present, as well as hopeful for the future.

family

Friends and Family

  1. What unforgettable moments with your family deserve a spread in 2017’s scrapbook?
  2. When did a friend or family member truly surprise you?
  3. When was the last time you have a bona fide, infectious belly laugh with your loved ones?
  4. Which relationships grew this year and what did you do to help this growth?
  5. What experience this year should lead to a new family tradition?
  6. What has someone done around the house or within your circle of friends that often goes unnoticed, yet is very much appreciated?
  7. Who was there for you when you were having a bad day? (And have you shared your appreciation with them?)
  8. Who challenged you to think differently and grow this year?
  9. Who pushed you to try something new (and possibly scary)?
  10. When was the last time you had a pleasant exchange with a stranger?

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Work

  1. What have you accomplished that would make your 2016 self feel happy?
  2. When have you had the opportunity to be assertive and say what needed to be said?
  3. How have you utilized the small moments throughout the workday for self-care?
  4. What are three things you appreciate about that one co-worker who gets on your nerves? (Yes, three things!)
  5. When were you a part of excellent teamwork and problem-solving this year?
  6. When did you push through a really challenging experience with work and how did this make you more resilient?
  7. What about your work space helps you to stay comfortable and productive?
  8. What overlooked necessity does your income help you pay for?
  9. What treats have you been able to afford this year?
  10. What do you appreciate about your employer?

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Daily Life

  1. What is your favorite part of your mornings (whether they’re busy or not)?
  2. In what ways have you streamlined your routine or organized your space this year?
  3. How have you used technology to build connections with others?
  4. What daily tasks make you feel super-accomplished?
  5. What belongings carry special meaning to you?
  6. What weekly ritual do you have that connects you to what is really important?
  7. How do you feel when a loved one shows physical affection after a long day?
  8. What do you appreciate about your living space?
  9. What unnoticed beauty can you spot on your daily commute?
  10. What do mundane daily tasks provide for you each day?

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Health

  1. What necessary changes have you made to your lifestyle this year that has led to more health and happiness?
  2. What knowledge have you gained about healthy living practices?
  3. When have you practiced self-care this year, despite desires to engage in unhealthy behaviors?
  4. What can your body do for you each day that you appreciate?
  5. In what ways has your body healed this year? What about your mind?
  6. What outdoor experiences have you had that have filled you with fresh air and adventure?
  7. What kinds of nourishing foods have you enjoyed recently?
  8. What fulfilling moments of intimacy have you had recently?
  9. What movement or exercise goals have you completed this year?
  10. In what ways has your knowledge and intellect grown this year?

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Spiritual

  1. Where can you find beauty in the natural world in this very moment?
  2. Whatever force you recognize as larger than yourself, how is it creating peace in your environment?
  3. What wisdom have you gained, as compared to this time last year?
  4. How has life challenged you to grow this year?
  5. What have you let go of recently that has led to more peace and happiness?
  6. When life slows down, what do you notice around you that brings a smile to your face?
  7. How have you put your values into action this year?
  8. What have the times you have spent reflecting on yourself and your growth taught you?
  9. In the midst of bad news, what can you rely on that reminds you of the good in the world?
  10. What examples of humanity at its best from this year will go down in history?

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