Angels with tails

Personal work

A popular saying says that when God run out of wings, he uses tails. Would that mean dogs are angels with tails instead of wings? I believe they become part of our lives to cheer us up, and to not letting us being alone.

This is the story of my dog. This is the story of Negrito.

Negrito came to my life in September of 1999, and he stayed with us for 15 years. I was eight years old when my mom’s friend brought three puppies. I remember Negrito was so busy biting his brothers’ ears. We choose him for being so mischievous. We hid him under my bed and stole milk from dinner. My mom did not take long to realize we were up to something.

In the neighborhood, everybody knew him. He used to pee in every corner and bark to all other dogs in his path. He used to scared people who were passing by our front garden. He was strong, stubborn, playful, and unconditional.

His favorite place to lie down was wherever we were sitting already. The only alternative was to move or make space for him. If the spot were not comfortable enough, he would push us back. I imagine he preferred a warmed up sit.




He didn’t like green beans. Not at all. He wouldn’t eat pure rice, but he loved rice with gravy instead. His favorite meal was homemade Tagliatelle.

He will give you its paw if you have food in exchange. We tricked him so many times with a hand closed, but nothing inside. We could tell the disappointment in his eyes. I feel such as evil person now.

He could have jumped high to catch the ball in the air. An empty bottle of water represented one of his favorite toys and also the most disturbing noise for everybody around.
He was there. He was there when my parents left to the US in 2002 until 2008. He was there when we felt ourselves alone in the world. He was old, and he was losing its vision. He was still there supporting us, wagging his tail and leaking our tears. In 2008, he celebrated with us when my dad came back.

I still remember his gray paws and beard. I will always remember him folding back his paw before going to sleep. With a broken heart, we decided to let him go. With a broken heart, I remember him giving his last breathe with us. With a broken heart, I woke up at the next day wishing all to be a nightmare. I felt with no more tears to cry.

He is in the family picture. He will always be.

“As young as I look, I am growing older faster than he. Seven to one is the ratio; they tend to say. Whatever the number, I will pass him one day and take the lead, the way I do on our walks in the woods, and if this ever manages to cross his mind, it would be the sweetest shadow I have ever cast on snow or grass,” by Billy Collis.


I miss him. I will always do.


The antidote

Personal work


In 1979, a man claimed he cured himself of a chronic illness by watching funny movies and taking vitamins. He survived 26 years longer than his doctor predicted. His name was Norman Collins. After him, this method started to be called Laughter Therapy or Humor Therapy.

Humor or Laughter Therapy is a complementary treatment for patients with cancer. We were born with the gift of laughing in a world in need of a reminder of how easy, healthy and contagious it is.

One of the most grateful and meaningful moments I have ever experienced is when I volunteer for a service called Siloe which consisted of going every Sunday to visit sick kids in the hospital. We carried with us color pencils, pictures to paint, puppetries, and red noses.

The small size of humanity has enormous hearts, big dreams, and brave stories to share. It was not about us anymore. Personal issues stayed behind. We became whoever person they needed us to be. A clown. A friend. A storyteller. A little puppet named Coca.


© Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Sick kids and patients, in general, do need a doctor on their side, but they also need something else. Laughter may be the only medicine is left to take.

The good feeling after a laugh remains even after the joke is over. It helps you keep an optimistic outlook to go through stressful situations and disappointments. It also gives the strength and courage to face problems and to find hope again.

Humor will not heal patients or may not cure any ills, but there are positives factors to start laughing with no control. In the short-term, a laugh can stimulate the heart, circulation, lungs, and muscles. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure leaving your muscle relaxes for up to 45 minutes after. It reduces the symptoms of stress and tension.

In an extended period, laughter strengthens the immune system. A person who is in the hospital is more likely to have negative thoughts. Those negative thoughts bring into the system stress and tension, decreasing, by consequence, the immunity system.

Positive thoughts release molecules that help fight potentially more severe illnesses. Laugh makes the body produce its natural painkillers. These natural painkillers are called Endorphin. They promote an overall sense of well-being by relieving pain and helping those who are laughing, to fight against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

“When you treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you will win, no matter what the outcome,” by Patch Adams.

My personal experience taught me how depressive a hospital could make you feel. Everything surrounding me it didn’t seem to be more than sadness, broken faith and zero percent of hope, but that’s another story.

Laugh. Laugh as your last day of life. Laugh until your tummy hurts. Laugh until you can’t feel your cheeks anymore. Laugh until you start crying.


© Réhahn Photography




Domestic Violence and Animal Cruelty Link


Same story, different targets.

While Kim Gentle was leaving the house in the morning, her partner of 3 months asked: “Do you mind if I take your dog for a walk? It’s the last time I will get to see her.” She accepted. The night before she had kicked him out. The night before she had realized the lovely man she fell in love with was gone.

Hours later, a phone call made everything worse. “You loved her more than you loved me,” he said. He threw her dog off a cliff and into the ocean.

There are many reasons why women don’t leave an abusive home. They stay because of fear. Because of low self-esteem. Because of their children. Because of economic dependency. Because of family pressure. Because of embarrassment.

They also stay for their pets.

There is an astonishing bond between domestic violence and animal cruelty. These are two forms of violence strongly related that should be dealt with side by side.

A remarkable 40 per cent of Canadian women do not leave an abusive domestic partner because they are under the threat that their family pet will be hurt or killed, according to Barbara Cartwright, CEO of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies..

“Perpetrators of domestic violence use the pet to keep their victim on hold. Victims know what will happen to their animals if they leave, so they don’t,” said Cartwright.

In a domestic violence situation, the abusive partner looks to exercise control over a vulnerable victim by using emotional, physical, and psychological torture. Seventy-five per cent of Canadian homes have a dog or a cat, and almost 50 per cent of the population considers its pets a member of the family.

The National Link Coalition which studies the relationship between animal abuse and human violence defines animal maltreatment as “the tip of the iceberg” and a warning sign of violence inside a home.

Domestic violence and animal cruelty are entwined issues.

The Humane Society of the United States says that 71 per cent of domestic abuse cases involve targeting pets and 88 per cent of families under investigation for child abuse had physical mistreatment of animals in their files.

The problem comes when a woman with a pet is running away from home and looking for a shelter.

According to Cartwright, it is usually housing policy at shelters to not accept pets. Thus, the creation of co-location centres for domestic abuse victims and their pets should be a priority, but a considerable budget would be necessary.

“Threatening to hurt the pet is an intimidation tactic they (abusers) use to keep the woman from leaving,” said Mary Zilney, Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. “It is important to conduct an investigation and encourage social workers to consider not only humans in the family, but also the pets, when it comes to dealing with domestic violence.”

Seventy per cent of victims who arrive at shelters report that their pets were hurt already; women facing domestic violence tend to stay in an abusive relationship two years longer if they have pets, according to Zilney.

With almost 40 years of supporting women and children to move beyond violence, the Waterloo charity made the decision to not include pets because financially, it would be “unrealistic”.

“We are not fully funded by the government,” said Zilney. “Our agency needs to fundraise over $500,000 per year just to cover annual operating cost. We decided to go for a partnership instead.”

Zilney’s agency works in partnership with the Humane Society by providing foster homes for pets until the woman is ready to start again and move somewhere safe.

According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, every six days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner and more than 3,000 women are sleeping in shelters every night.

Even in instances where a haven will accept a pet, they “only take your animal for a couple of weeks and a domestic violence recovery situation needs at least six months. This is how weak and antiquated the system we have right now is,” said Cartwright, noting her Federation will host a conference in November 2017 at which the issue will be discussed.

But the initiative of a pet-friendly shelter goes beyond desire. It faces considerable added costs and new challenges with other clients.

“You need to find the capital money to build a kennel, then you have to ensure to have the staff to take care of the animals. If you have three dogs at the same time, you need concrete rules to avoid fights. Besides, not all women like animals and that might defer them to come if they know we have pets,” explains Zilney.

According to the National Link Coalition, hurting an animal exerts dominance over the woman, and is a way to show what could happen if the woman disobeys.

For children, being a witness to animal cruelty in some cases might not only work as an early stage of disorder, but could desensitize them to other forms of violence.


The powerful bond shared by humans and pets doesn’t apply only to families. There is an even stronger connection with homeless people because pets are their only companions.

The reality is that Toronto does not have many pet-friendly shelter options. The following are some of them:

Fred Victor’s Caledonia shelter; Sistering’s 24-Hour Women’s Drop-In (962 Bloor Street West); and Fred Victor’s 24-Hour Women’s Drop-In (67 Adelaide Street East).

Sonia Zyvatkauskas, of Toronto’s Support Housing Administration, states that there are two cold weather drop-ins for people with pets to be accommodated overnight.  From December 15, 2016 to February 28, 2017, and during any Extreme Cold Weather Alerts, Margaret’s Toronto East Drop-In at 323 Dundas Street East and St. Felix Centre at 25 Augusta Avenue will be available.

“All new shelters will be required to be pet-friendly. Shelter Support and Housing Administration also hosted an information session on pets with service providers in October with representatives from Toronto Animal Services and Toronto Public Health” said Zyvatkauskas.

She also clarifies that Violence Against Women shelters are a provincial responsibility.

“At the cold weather drop-ins, there were an average of 2.65 pets each night over the 2015-2016 winter season, with a maximum of nine on a single night,” states Zyvatkauskas.

Zilney explains that there are options available to support woman and pet welfare, but it is an “individual choice” if they decide to leave.

“When women come here, many of them have limited resources. With our partnership, the Humane Society pays for the food and the vaccinations for the pet.”

Recognizing the link will help to address measures, Zilney believes, and it will provide tools to prevent violence in other forms.

“We have therapy dogs. We know that touching a pet helps calm people down and allow opportunities to talk about issues they feel uncomfortable at the beginning,” explains Zilney.

Cartwright, whose Ottawa-based advocacy organization represents about half the humane societies and societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals in Canada, also encourages the community to be aware of this violence link.

“We can save children by saving women and save women by saving animals,” expresses Cartwright.  

Kim Gentle suffered for over six months during her abusive relationship. She was forced by her partner to quit her job, which was her passion. She was barred from talking to friends and family. She was obliged to walk behind him and look down. She was suffocated on her 31st birthday.

Gentle escaped, and her partner was put in jail for the physical abuse of three women. She found comfort and healing in horse therapy. Now, 14 years later, Gentle leads a horse workshop and works with Indigenous children in Port Hedland. She moved on.


Women’s Crisis Services responds to aired makeup tutorial on camouflaging bruises.

Personal work

After a TV show in Morocco aired a makeup tutorial to teach women’s victims of domestic violence how to hide marks of beating, Mary Zilney,  CEO at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region says the video is a clear example of a lack of progression.

“How does covering bruises help an abused woman get on with her life? Inside this woman is falling apart.  Does the host think this was the first time she experienced violence?  She has no idea of how complex the issues are,” said Mary Zilney.

During the show on November 23, the makeup artist and host Lilia Mouline said she hopes women will use those “beauty tips” to “carry on” with their lives.

“The victim is living her life walking on eggshells, trying to “avoid” the next beating and deems herself responsible for triggering him (abuser),” said the CEO.

The Moroccan state television Channel 2M has apologized for the “error in judgment”, and it removed the clip from its website.

According to National Coalition against Domestic Violence, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the U.S., while according to Canadian’s Women Foundation, a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days.

While November is the Domestic Violence Awareness Month, for Mary Zilney it is vital to break the intergenerational cycle of abuse.

“It’s critical to include that children be taught to respect one another in their school’s curricula. Besides, domestic violence is still not an issue that people are comfortable talking about because they don’t want to be associated with abuse”, explained Zilney.

With almost 40 years of empowering and supporting women and children to move beyond violence, Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region had an increase of 7% of women seeking help in their agency compared to the fiscal year prior.

“It is a community responsibility. Just like drinking and driving, we need to speak up and say, ‘We are not going to tolerate this any longer because no one deserves to be a victim of abuse.’ We need to blend together to the break the cycle,” Mary Zilney concluded.

Photo: screenshot  


A look into Prosperity and who takes the credit for it


I came to Canada on December 2014. I came to Canada from Peru with family and it was not easy. We were part of the statistic of immigrants and found a truth that many other immigrants have experienced. This is not home, this is not our language, and this is not our people. I knew from history and some reading that Canada is a multicultural country. I knew Canada had o lot of opportunities for everybody and I knew since the beginning the path we were taking would have quite a number of obstacles. Granted. I look into my own eyes to see the efforts I make to fit. I look and I find myself proud of where I came from. But after a certain point , I’m also looking jealousy at how different everything could be. I find myself wishing to change things for myself because it does not feel just right.

I need to learn my new language better, to know more about the politics and culture of my new country.

These are the kinds of issues I heard echoed at the  6DegreesTO conference on September 20th and 21th, 2016. The two days inaugural ‘citizen space’ was presented by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and put a lot of emphasis on the immigrant experience and the challenge of language.

Recognizing the relationship between Prosperity and the experience of Immigrant entrepreneurs was especially helpful.

A panel titled “New Canadian Entrepreneurs: An under-appreciated contribution to Canadian Prosperity” provided many inspirational examples of the important roles such migrants have played in the Canadian economy. One theme that came up explored the question of whether Canada is leading the way to succeed together as  one country one, or are Canadians only emphasizing the boundaries and giving to much credit to themselves?.

For instance, the system does not recognize newcomers turning into potential well-growing businessmen. A new report by Statistics Canada based on tax data from 2010 says immigrants are more likely to have their own private companies, be self-employed and bring innovative products to the Canadian market.  6 Degrees TO explain how and why we should improve our laws and system to encourage long-term immigrants to start new business and keep contributing in Canadian prosperity. Conference panelists such as Sol Guy, founder of DAIS and creative producer and Shamina Singh, the President of the MasterCard Center for Inclusive Growth emphasized that we need regulations that help newcomers to move forward, grow and fit into a society that at the end of the day, like it or not, we all call home.

Other contributors to the discussion included were the Mayor of Iqaluit Madeleine Redfern, and Deputy Mayor of The Hague in Netherlands, Rabin Baldewalngh.

In the two-hour conference, the first issue discussed was prosperity, which could be defined as:, potential, connectivity, emancipation, identity, safety and freedom.




One of the most powerful experiences as part of 6 Degrees Conference was to get involved in the new Sidra Project which basically it is a virtual reality film for the United Nations. It is a initiative to stop only showing pictures and talking about of how is like to be in a refugee camp and instead, make the world feel themselves in there by using a virtual reality headset. Clouds over Sidra is made in the Zaatari Refugee in Jordan and it gives shelter for 130, 000 Syrians being persecute by war. Sidra is a 12 years old girl in the fifth grade and for her, being year a half in Jordan is long enough. The cloud over them is not the weather, that cloud is real and it is getting bigger. That cloud symbolize fear, suffer, war, starve, death and hope.