One of the truths learned while researching and writing about wellness is that truly healthy living doesn’t just happen at the doctor’s office, the church, the clubhouse, the bank, or between the pages of a good book. The road to wellness is paved with decisions we make every day, including one that will be addressed in this and upcoming articles: “Inter-species Social Wellness,” thanks in a large part to a wonderful movie about the endangered Mexican Gray Wolf that was watched by a full house at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque last Saturday evening, October 29. The film, talk, and wolf blessing that preceded the film were the work of Albuquerquean Elke Duerr, who heads the Web Of Life Foundation that is “dedicated to creating a healthy coexistence between wilderness and civilization, the reconnection of humans to the natural world and the recovery of endangered plant and animal species.” “Inter-species Wellness” is actually part of a trio of upcoming article categories that also includes “environmental wellness” and “nature wellness.”
“Stories of Wolves — the Lobo Returns” is a finely filmed and edited overview of the plight of wolves in general and of the Mexican Gray Wolf in New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico, as well as the truths about this animal over time, including how they are respected by the Natives who consider the wolf nothing short of a deity and, on the other hand, how the wolf’s portrayal in children’s stories like “Little Red Riding Hood” has engendered many misguided myths and false beliefs about the wolf.
The Mexican Gray Wolf once lived well in central and southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, western Texas, and south all the way to Mexico City. After several years of post-Conquest decimation by ranchers trying to protect their livestock, hunters, and government extermination campaigns, the Mexican Gray Wolf’s howl is once again heard in the mountains and plains of the southwest. Like many species protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Mexican Gray Wolf getting a second chance at life through a recovery program led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program. By the 1970’s, the Mexican gray wolf had been almost eliminated from the United States and Mexico. “We are privileged in New Mexico at a time when there are few places where we can peacefully co-exist with these marvelous animals,” said Elke before the film. “We share the space with them, and I feel that wolves often bring us beauty, healing, pleasure, love, and a sacred connection."
Nowadays, the Mexican Gray Wolf population area contains a wide belt crossing central New Mexico and Arizona, and 2400 square miles of lands managed by the White Mountain Apache Tribe are also open to Mexican Grays.People in central and western New Mexico are able to observe, photograph, and learn about wolves at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary south of Grants, New Mexico.
So what does this have to do with social wellness? Social wellness is the ability to get along and interact in an effective way with others—whether they are in one’s family, neighborhood, city, country, online, or in the world--while at the same time appreciating the diversity of people and maintaining satisfying relationships with them. Clearly, having healthy social relationships is key for one’s mental wellness. For example, researchers have found that loneliness can lead to disease and depression and benefits not only you, but also the health the people in your life and the community or the entire world as a whole. Why do we have to draw the line at “people?” Here are some reasons why perhaps we shouldn’t:
- If you Google search “Healing Power of Pets,” more than 750 web sites are listed.
- Many dog-owners already know that their dogs do something for them that many people cannot.People who share space with a pet experience less stress and have lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels than those who don't. An astonishing 97 percent of dog and cat owners reported that they talk to their pets, notes Alan Beck, director of the Center of the Human Animal Bond at Purdue University. In “Decoding the Mystery of Interspecies Communication” there are several stories experiences of people and their pets that have benefited from having regular interaction.
- "If you talk to the animals, they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them you will not know them and what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys." --Chief Dan George, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, British Columbia.
- According to the American Pain Foundation, “For many people battling chronic pain on a daily basis, pet time may be just what the doctor ordered to help alleviate many of the symptoms that accompany chronic pain…Simply petting an animal can lower blood pressure and heart rate, and lessen anxiety and depression. Exposure to friendly pets can also play an important role in patient treatment and recovery by relieving feelings of loneliness and isolation and providing a distraction from persistent pain.”
- Southwest Canine Corps of Volunteers (Albuquerque, New Mexico) is a group of dog owners who love their dogs and have trained them to visit patients in nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities. SCCVnow has over 125 members visiting in approximately 30 facilities throughout the Albuquerque metro area.
- Horses For Heroes –Cowboy Up New Mexico, Inc. , a non-profit corporation is a unique horse therapy, wellness and vocational rehabilitation program based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, free to Veterans and active military who have sustained physical injuries such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or combat trauma (PTSD) during their time serving our country.
- There are many reports of autistic children who have built strong relationships with individual animals, such as pet dogs or cats. When autistic children play with animals, any violent tendencies they may have will typically disappear. They take on quite maternal characteristics, taking special care of the animal including feeding, cleaning up after them, and interacting with them. Autistic children can also learn decision-making skills, problem-solving skills, and both language and social skills through interactions with animals.
- From a poem by Gabriel Pionkowski: “I have a strong longing to be able to run wild like the wolf. The wolf, like an infant, draws, or shows Nature in every act. Their eyes speak of the essentials of living; it is an honest conviction for the sharing of love in a struggle for life."
- Some Featured Presentations at a recent Human-Animal Interaction Conference:
- Shared Feelings: Neuropsychological Interfaces Between Animal and Human Emotions
- Wild Justice, Cooperation, & Fairness: What Humans Can Learn from Animal Play
- A Tale of Two Species: The Human Animal Bond
- The Power of Love: the science and the soul behind that connection we call ‘The Bond’
- Epidemiology of Dog Walking for Fitness and Health
- Role of animals related to children’s development
To watch a clip of the film, click here.
More wonderful events are still to come...For those of you who missed the Film Premiere:
- Friday, November 18th 2011, 6pm: "Stories of Wolves-The Lobo Returns"; Film Screening and Q&A, Open Space Visitor Center, 6500 Coors Blvd NW, Albuquerque,
- Saturday, November 19, 2011, 1:30 p.m.: A short film of Elke's called "Preserving Beauty-My environmental Hero" featuring 95-year-old rancher and conservationist Gene Simon, Albuquerque Guild Theater (during"Shorts in November"); Guild Cinema, 3405 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque. Admission is $5.00, which includes a raffle ticket.