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Photos are Used to Capture the Struggles and Rewards of Being a Caregiver

Kelly Taylor

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It is important for everyone to spend time with the members of their family because they may not know just how much time they have. A caregiver who, about ten years ago, realized that time with her ather was coming to an end, learned how to value every moment she has with her family. First, she noticed that something was strange about her father. She says that her face wasn’t as reactive as it used to be. Her father came from Egypt and moved from the United States in search of a better life. He got a job as a successful professor of mechanical engineering. This allowed him to provide for his family. His daughter realized that it was time for her to give something back to her dad who had given her such a great life in America.

At the same time, this young woman also appreciated his smile and laughter as well. She noticed that this was changing. His personality had changed. His vibrant laugh was gone. She was worried that her father had suffered a stroke. She took him to see a doctor and then, about two years after the first event, she finally got the answer. He had Parkinson’s Disease. Initially, the symptoms were relatively manageable. He was stiff from time to time. His emotions were flat. At the same time, he was still himself on the inside. Unfortunately, this was not meant to last. Things started to get worse about two years later.

She learned that she was going to have to take care of her father full-time. The roles of parent and child had been flipped. She would have to bathe him, calm him, and make sure that all of his daily needs were taken care of. This took a toll on her because she saw the person that she had known her entire life was starting to evaporate before her very eyes. At the same time, she still had to take care of herself as well. That is why she developed a few rules that can help her, and others, serve as caregivers for members of their family.

First, caregivers need to take breaks. This is a necessity. Just because she is the primary caregiver for her father doesn’t mean that she isn’t allowed to take breaks. Parents take breaks when raising their children and caregivers can take breaks as well. Research has shown that caregivers can get stressed. When this happens, they also tend to make bad decisions. Therefore, take breaks and time for self-care. This will make someone into a better caregiver because they are going to feel more rested.

Next, remember that there is an age difference. Try to bridge this difference using love. Take pictures. Bring up old memories. Try to find a way to help a parent who is aging. By reminiscing about the good times, those who are being taken care of are more likely to have positive moments and interactions that will make everything else worth it. Try to focus on the positives.

Finally, remember that the disease and the person are not the same thing. The two are different things. By remembering that the person and the disease are different, caregivers are going to avoid placing blame on the person or resenting them. In order to remember that the person and the disease are different, remember the good times that were shared. This is going to help the caregiver fight through the bad times by remembering that their loved one is still in there somewhere.

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Amazing

Too Shallow for Swimming With Sharks

Shannon Jackson

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University of Florida student Stefani Luke loved the ocean. She lived to be on the water. She was given a surfboard when she was in high school, but growing up in Ft. Lauderdale didn’t offer her much opportunity to ride any exciting waves. Going to college in Gainesville, Florida would provide her with a chance to take weekend trips to the popular beach town, St. Augustine to check out some waves. 

One stormy Tuesday, Stefani and some friends heard the news about coastal swells reaching up to five feet. They loaded up their boards and began a caravan. There were 11 kids but only 8 surfboards. She was excited to finally have the chance to use her board on some real waves, but she was also very aware of sharks. She was a biology major, recently working as an intern at the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Most of her work there was done in a lab or in area rivers. The biggest risk at her job had been alligators. 

Stefani’s love of the ocean and interest in fisheries compelled her to stay abreast of shark activity along the east coast. She knew that in 2019, reports of shark attacks, either provoked or unprovoked, reached nearly 150. 

The kids arrived at the beach, ready for some refreshing water and salty air. Today was a day to enjoy a day out of school. They unloaded the boards from their roof racks. Stefani waxed her beloved board alongside her good friends. Since there were more kids there than boards, Stefani offered her board up to a friend to try first. She figured she’d just do a little body surfing to warm up her muscles before fully engaging on her board. 

The waves were slightly disappointing. The stories they’d heard about giant waves were exaggerated, topping out at maybe three feet. She swam into the surf and waited. She thought she was a good distance from the surfers with boards. The water was a little colder than expected, and she hadn’t brought her wet suit. She swam parallel to the shore for a bit, to warm up. She ended up swimming close to her friend who’d borrowed her board. She waited in the line up, just beyond the breaking point of the waves. She was ready to body surf and catch some waves. 

The waves were coming in sets of four. She took the first in a set. It picked her up and she swam with it. As she glided in toward the shore she saw the dark shadow of what she knew was a shark. Everyone knows that you don’t panic when you see a shark. You don’t thrash around in the water. You don’t show signs of distress that signal to a shark that you’re easy prey. She forgot all that. All Stefani could think was “I don’t want to get eaten by a shark today!” She swam for her life. She swam fast, and probably a little crazy. 

The realization of her frenzy made her calm down slightly. She dropped the panicky swimming. She stopped swimming to realize that she was only in about a foot of water! She felt very silly, probably looking like a fool to anyone who might’ve seen this spectacle. 

She stood in the water to see her friend that had borrowed her board. Her friend asked with excitement, “Did you see that shark?!” Stefani acknowledged that she had in fact seen it. Her friend offered her the board back. Stefani declined, “No thanks. I like my legs. I like walking”. It was at that moment that Stefani gave her board away. She was done surfing and never tried it again. 

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Culture

Cat Takes a Ride Among the Boxes

Kevin Wells

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If you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ve observed the peculiar affinity cats have toward boxes.  There are several reasons people love cats. They’re affectionate, cute, soft and generally low-maintenance. For an average family cat, the monthly expense is approximately $100. You could lower that expense by replacing fancy cat toys and play-houses with empty cardboard boxes.

The comfort and security cats find from lounging in cardboard boxes went a little too far for Millie McMahon’s adventurous cat Trixie. Trixie, like most cats, loves empty boxes. This worked out great for Millie when she was preparing to move from Boston to San Francisco. All the empty cardboard boxes around the house kept Trixie entertained and out from under foot while Millie packed her house.

As the moving truck retreated from Millie’s driveway, Millie let out a deep sigh of relief. Only a few essential items remained, which Millie would pack in her car for her own trip across the country. Trixie was one of those “items”, except Trixie was nowhere to be found. Millie waved it off as Trixie just being skittish about the packing and the movers, and her world being in disarray.

Trixie didn’t show up the next day either. Or the next. Millie began feeling worried. She couldn’t leave for California without her cat.

Meanwhile, traveling across the country in a moving truck, was Eddie. Eddie was no stranger to driving trucks. He found comfort in the humming of the wheels on the highway as he ambled along his route. He found it meditative. 

Eddie lost his meditative mood on the second day of his drive. On day two he woke from his motel, showered, ate breakfast and settled into the driver’s seat. Shortly after, as he rolled down the highway, he started to hear an odd squeaking noise. At first, he thought he was imagining the occasional soft mewing. By the end of the day he found it maddening. He ruled out engine issues after checking under the hood. He decided it had to be something in one of the boxes. The boxes, however, were too tightly and perfectly packed to unload and investigate. He’d have to just live with the unnerving noise.

Eddie finally arrived at Millie’s new house and began unpacking his truck. At the back of the moving truck, among a shelf of blankets, shone a pair of glowing yellow eyes. Eddie was startled to see the eyes.He was even more shocked when the cat to whom the eyes belonged jumped from the blankets and onto Eddie’s chest. Instinctively Eddie caught the cat and held him. This is the source of the three days’ noise!

He held the cat as he walked to the cab of his truck, not knowing where the cat came from or what he was going to do. He just sat and looked at the cat, as the cat stared back at him, purring. He poured water into his coffee cup and thought how hungry this cat must be. He made a short trip to the corner market for some kitty food. As he opened the truck door, Trixie jumped out and ran quickly behind the building. Eddie couldn’t see where the cat went.

Eddie returned to Millie’s house to be sure it was secured, knowing Millie wouldn’t be arriving for a few days. It was there that he spotted Trixie, sitting inside, in a sunny window! 

Eddie called the number that Millie had given him, for use in the event of an emergency. Millie was relieved to hear that Trixie had been found. Eddie left enough food and water for Trixie. Millie could now embark on her own trip to California knowing that her cat was safe “at home”.

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Culture

My Hero Mango

Shannon Jackson

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In 2019 Shawn and Rita Fitzgerald settled into the realization that they were never going to be parents. Rita had suffered multiple miscarriages. She found it difficult to spend time with friends who had children. It was painful for her to mingle among neighbors with children. 

Their neighbors across the street, Martin and Leslie had a young son, Owen. Rita had heard through the grapevine that Leslie was now expecting another child. Rita was devastated to hear this news, which for most women would bring excitement and job. Shawn was worried about Rita. 

On his way home from work one afternoon, Shawn stopped at the local animal shelter and met Mango. She was a sweet, quiet, caramel colored pit bull. Despite the negative stereotype pit bulls are known to have, Shawn filled out the application to adopt Mango. A week later, Shawn was driving home with Mango to surprise Rita. He was sure Rita would absolutely fall in love with her. 

He was right. Rita and Mango became inseparable. Rita’s melancholy demeanor dissolved slowly, despite having to watch Leslie’s belly grow through her pregnancy. By the time Leslie’s new baby, Aiden, was born, Rita was happy. Mango was exactly what Rita needed. As it turned out, Mango was exactly what Leslie needed, too. 

Leslie was a bit of a neat freak. She liked a clean house. She was a big fan of candles to enhance the fragrance of cleanliness. 

One quiet afternoon, after a long walk in the woods, Rita and Mango took a nap on Rita’s couch. Rita was startled awake when Mango jumped from his slumber and raced to the front door. Rita followed, looking out. Mango was whining uncontrollably. Rita started to open the door when Mango pushed her aside and raced out and across the street to Leslie’s house.

Mango nosed open the screen door of Leslie’s house and disappeared inside. Rita wasn’t sure what was happening. Then she saw the smoke billowing from the second story of Leslie’s house. Leslie’s car was in the driveway, so Rita assumed Leslie was home with the kids. She instantly called the fire rescue.

Rita let herself into the smoke-filled house, finding Leslie and the baby asleep on the couch. Owen was nowhere in sight. Rita was shouting waking Leslie. She ushered them outside to find the fire truck approaching. The firefighters disappeared for what seemed an eternity. They brought Owen out of the house, but not Mango.

Her fear about Mango turned into panic. She knew Mango was still in the house. The entire second floor was now entirely engulfed in flames. The firemen eventually retreated, without Mango and they continued working to extinguish the fire.

Hours later Rita sat in shock, knowing her beloved Mango was gone. She sat on her porch staring at the ruins of Leslie’s house, too stunned to cry. In too much of a shock to hear Leslie’s husband and toddler approach. The three of them sat in silence as Owen climbed into Rita’s lap. He rested his head on Rita’s chest and after a while he said softly, “Mango is my best friend”.  

It took Leslie and Martin more than a year to completely restore their home. During that time, Owen came to visit Leslie every day. He insisted on taking walks with Rita, asking questions about Mango. He got Rita to laugh, talking about her caramel colored hero.

On the anniversary of the perilous fire, Leslie and Martin accompanied Owen on his visit to see Rita. They brought a box which held a framed photo of Rita and Mango, Mango’s collar that had been found among the ashes, and a check for $25,000 that Leslie and Martin were giving to the animal shelter.

It didn’t bring Mango back to Rita, but it did make her happy that Mango saved this sweet boy Owen and that many animals would benefit from Martin and Leslie’s gift of charity.

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Culture

The Odd Pair

Renee Yates

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A piglet and a cat might seem like an odd pair, but the kitten named Sriracha and the little pig Batman have proved otherwise. The friendship and interactions of these two close friends are the most heartwarming thing you will ever see. Both animals lived at Rancho Relaxo – a non-profit rescue farm in Woodstown, New Jersey established by Caitlin Cimini.  They were more than just friends because Sriracha depended on Batman in a big way. 

Sriracha, a cute black kitten, suffers from a non-progressive and non-contagious neurological disorder known as feline cerebellar hypoplasia, causing walking and balance issues. There are seriously bad days when Sriracha has two seizures in a row and becomes a little “off”.  Feline cerebellar hypoplasia is caused by improper development of the parts of the cerebellum or exposure to infections, toxins, and nutritional deficiencies. It might be hard and sad to see the kitten shaking but, actually, such condition is absolutely painless. 

 When Sriracha was going through the bad period of her life, she found comfort and support from a two-week-old orphan rescued piglet. Caitlin Cimini says that Batman always felt when the kitten was about to experience a seizure. He rushed immediately to her to put his body on top of Sriracha’s and comfort his poor friend.  Caitlin wrote on her Instagram: “Sriracha found comfort in Batman. And Batman almost knew what he was doing for her. It was a beautiful thing to watch”.  The baby Batman did not leave his buddy alone. He cuddled up to Sriracha by keeping her company. Though the kitten cannot speak, she was definitely thankful for her little pink friend.  They got really attached to each other and became inseparable. 

Unfortunately, due to congenital problems, Batman passed away. Sriracha was devastated and brokenhearted by sobbing for a little pink buddy for days. However, fortunately, in an odd twist of fate, Caitlin soon rescued Batman’s bittersweet sibling from the auction and named him Dragonlord.  To everyone’s surprise, after Dragonlord warmed up, he started taking care of Sriracha even better than his brother Batman did. Dragonlord and Sriracha became very close best friends by spending a lot of time together. Just like Batman, Dragonlord comforts the kitten every time when she is experiencing a seizure. In return, Sriracha shows her love by grooming her supportive friend and showering him with kisses.  

Such a beautiful and unusual friendship of animals has captured the hearts of millions of fans around the world on social media. “That is why I do what I do” – says a founder of Rancho Relaxo on her Instagram. “This is the reason why my entire life is dedicated to helping animals. They are the most beautiful creatures on this planet”. So far, Caitlin and her husband have rescued already hundreds of animals, and they do not have an intention to stop. 

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Culture

Saint Bernard and Son Spoof Mom on Emergency

Renee Yates

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There is a saying that dogs are man’s best friend. In many ways, pets are a great way to teach Sean responsibility when they were growing up. In other cases, that’s can’t even pull pranks on their owners. This is exactly what happens when a mother got a call from her son.

A mom was surprised to get a panicked phone call from her son saying that you need to come home right away. When parents receive this phone call, they often think that their child has been injured or has fallen ill. At the phone call continued, this wasn’t quite what happened.

She listened to her son continue talking on the phone and realized that the dog had somehow gotten on the roof of the home. While most homeowners don’t even think about their roofs until there is a problem, this is probably not the type of problem the homeowner had in mind. The sun proceeded to tell her that the giant Saint Bernard, who weighs more than 100 pounds, had somehow climbed up to the roof.

At first, the mother thought this was some sort of prank. At the phone call continue, the details made it undeniable. Even if she didn’t quite believe it, she had no choice but to rush home and figure out what was going on. Indeed, when she got home, she could not believe her eyes. She didn’t think other people would believe her either. Therefore, she pulled out her phone and decided to film the entire incident. At the time, her biggest fear with the family die was going to jump from the roof of the house. This would lead to an absolute disaster.

She shared the video on social media. In the video, the dog can be seen standing on the slope of the roof. In this position, it is easy to see how the homeowner might have been afraid of the dog was going to jump from the roof. She shouts at the dog, in the process of figuring out what he’s doing up there. She says in a stern voice, like a mother to a child, that the dog needs to get off the roof.

As most pet owners will attest, pets don’t always do what they are told. In this case, her begging and commanding did not work. The St. Bernard stayed right where he was. He clearly had no intention of going anywhere quickly. Therefore, the homeowner did not have much of a choice. She needed to ask for help and call in the big guns.

She decided to pick up the phone and calling the local fire department. Eventually, a team of professionally trained firefighters came to the rescue of the dog. They deployed a ladder and leaned it up against the side of the house. Then, they climbed up to get the dog down. That is when the mystery was revealed. It was clear the dog had passed through a window. Then, the dog walked straight through the broken window out to the roof of the small house.

Because of the size of the dog, the firefighters decided that the easiest way to handle the situation was to push him back through the window from whence you came. Then, the dog is safe inside. To this day, the homeowner believes that the dog was mocking her in some way. She says that he was just having a good time hanging out on the roof. Of course, like most good pet owners, she would not trade her dog for anything in the world. She still loves him dearly. 

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