Archive for March, 2014


Mother Knows Best : Life lessons from the animal world

This is Lucy the wombat, one of the stars of “Mother Knows Best: Life lessons from the animal world”, by Alex Cearns published by Penguin Books Australia. She lives at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and will soon be released back into the wild to spend the rest of her days in the bush, doing what it is that wombats do. She is on her journey …

Want to see more?

Filled with inspirational quotes and adorable images, and priced at just $19.95 + P/H, “Mother Knows Best” is the perfect heartwarming gift for Mothers Day, a loved one, an animal person … or just because.

“HOW DO I GET ONE?” you ask. From now until 23rd April we are taking pre-orders for MKB via our website – if you place your order during this time, your book will be posted out on 23rd April 2014, the national release date.

Visit place your order – and don’t forget to buy one for yourself too!


Kindest Heart – Phoenix, Greener Pastures Sanctuary

KINDEST HEART! This is the mighty Phoenix. She is soon to be 2 and a half years old and lives at Greener Pastures Sanctuary, a WA based rescue centre for farm animals. Her best friends are her animal companions (including dogs, cats, horses, sheep, chickens, pigs, goats, and an alpaca and a turkey) and she is such a sweet and gentle gal when it comes to handling creatures. On the day of her photo shoot she watched in fascination as a lady beetle walked around on her finger, then flapped her wings and flew away. Phoenix named her Ellie. She may be young, and she may be little, but she is already an exceptional human being – and thanks must go to Rachel and Dave, her amazing parents who are guiding and teaching her every step of the way. Very happy to introduce her as our next Kindest Heart.

QUESTION: Phoenix, what animal do you love the most?


QUESTION: Who would your favourite animal be here at the farm?

PHOENIX: Trey the piglet because he is funny.

QUESTION: He sounds cute! Can you pat him?

PHOENIX: Yes, I give him belly scratches.

QUESTION: Wow, that is so cool. What else do you you and Trey get up to?

PHOENIX: We have running races and I win.

QUESTION: What are the things you like to help with the most?

PHOENIX: I like feeding the animals and riding on the tractor with Daddy.

QUESTION: What do you do here for fun?

PHOENIX: I do trampoline (shows me trampoline), play tea parties (makes me a pretend cup of tea and gives me a piece of pretend chocolate cake), dig in the sand pile near the chickens with Dan Dan (Grandpa) and go in the padding pool with the pigs or sheep.

QUESTION: What would you like to be when you get big?

PHOENIX: When I get big I want to run the farm.

Well there you have it, what a big heart for such a small child.  

PICTURED: Phoenix rubbing the tummy of 7 month old Trey the piglet.

For more information on the wonderful work of Greener Pastures Sanctuary, or for details on how to donate, volunteer or adopt a rescue animal, please visit



Kindest Heart – Jayne Lavender from The Heart of Horsemanship

KINDEST HEART! Very excited to present our next Kindest Heart, Jayne Lavender from The Heart of Horsemanship. A friend, teacher, mentor, expert listener, observer, and incredible writer, she connects with animals on a whole other level. Have you heard the term ‘horse whisperer’? She is that too.

I have been lucky enough to learn the basic skills of natural horsemanship from Jayne and it has been an eye opening experience – to have a horse following me along the beach, right on my shoulder, responding to every twist and turn, without reigns, bridle, lead rope, is enthralling. The skills I picked up were then adapted into the studio as I came to understand the body language and intentions of my other animal subjects even more too. I realised they understand everything we say, everything we request of them, it’s just down to the way we ask. But I digress, this is about Jayne and not me.

Jayne mentions our Animal Photograph Course in her answers below and she attended one of them herself. I recall that we were both at the animal park looking at a brown horse who was leaning its head out to us over a solid wooden fence – which happened to be obscuring the rest of its body. I asked Jayne “Is he happy?”

Jayne replied with “He, sorry SHE, is resigned that this is her life. She is content.”

I said “What happened there, why did you correct yourself?”

And Jayne said “Because she corrected me.”

In my naive thinking, I was pondering how this could be true, so I climbed up onto the wooden rails of the fence and looked over at the underside of the horse. Sure enough, HE was a SHE. Jayne couldn’t see this from where she was standing and it was the first time I saw my friends special gift in action. I have seen it many many times since then.

I hope you enjoy this interview, and the wonderful words of this exceptional woman.

QUESTION: How did you start out working with horses?

JAYNE: Ha! The obvious answer to this question is 1999, when I started my own business as a Horsemanship Instructor; HOWEVER, I was once a lonely, outcast 11 year old child, bullied by other girls at school. Depressed (this was 1982, before such terms were used, especially in regard children), so my mother concluded I needed a hobby, new friends.

One Saturday, early, I was dropped at a horse yard belonging to a co-worker of my mothers. By the time my mother picked me up late afternoon, I had filled by pitchfork, carted, and unloaded, around 25 barrows full of straw stable bedding full of urine and manure. Nearly half a metre high, the “deep litter” of a foal and her dam. I was rewarded with a seat astride a pony, for around half an hour, while the owners’ teenage daughter chatted to her friends, occasionally telling me to pull the reins or kick the pony, for this was a riding lesson. I returned the following weekend. Then the next, with a girl from school, once my bully, now wanting to join me at the horse yard.

I worked another 2 years, every Saturday, often Sunday too, at horse yards and stables and riding schools. I loved every day I was with horses, even when the bullying caught up with me there, too. My experiences with people at the horse yards became unbearable, there were no yard left for me to go to. No more favours to my mum. I quit at 13, eventually I got a pony of my own around 14. The unpaid work of a stable-hand wouldn’t keep my pony in a rented paddock, hay and rugs, so I started paid work at a hairdressing salon!

QUESTION: When did you realise you had a special connection with horses?

JAYNE: Honestly, I always believed I was a horse-girl. Before I have memories of meeting live horses, I poured over old black and white images of my mother with her horse, Lady Primrose, whom she had as a teenager. Our neighbours had a small herd, and I was taken to visit, pat and be photographed with them. I really thought I had a connection.

Years later they mentioned, lightly, in passing, “You were so ungainly around the horses as a child. We thought you not a natural at all.” They meant I was not naturally cautious, not trained to keep a safe distance from the kicking end, the crushing hooves or the biting face. I believe that is the very definition of “natural” – but in the 1970’s, all the people I knew who had horses behaved in the military equestrian tradition. Genuine “natural” was soon replaced with rules.

As a woman in my 20’s I was drawn to purchase a horse, make the commitment of caring for a horse as I had done as a teen, once again. I view my interactions with each horse who led me closer to the path I now tread as a series of pivotal moments – every horse-hug, and every bruise, fuelled my spirit. I heard of Monty Roberts in 1995 and felt resonance; his work drew me to look closely. I also met Pat Parelli in 1995, and felt inspired by his work to leave my career and resume a life with horses. I read “The Horse Whisperer” and knew the lay of the land I rode into. There have been many pivotal moments – each worthy of being told around a camp fire, accompanied by a good red!

QUESTION: What does your daily routine entail?

JAYNE: I have the luxury of a life free of routine! I have a herd to care for, to tend, so I drive with my dogs to their home. I have consultations with horses and humans during daylight hours – all climes – baking wheat belt, soaking foothills, snow-capped fields in Europe! I study whenever I can – a second degree, and post-graduate research.

QUESTION: Who makes up your herd?

JAYNE: I’ve four horses for whom I have paperwork – proof of ownership, who are more to me than “livestock”. Cedar – Heart of Burgundy, came first. I was in my mid twenties and I wanted a good-looking, tall mare. She’s a thoroughbred, was bred via the Holmes a Court’s to race. As a reject galloper, I was one of the better options for Cedar. She was not yet 3 years old. We’re a best girlfriend, which means we’ve fallen-out many times, but given everything to the other since 1996!

When Cedar and I fell out (I fell off – A LOT!) I was advised to find a horse more suitable. I remembered all the things I loved about the pony I had sold to come to Australia, aged 15. Traits that in my memory were most definitely enhanced! I also wanted the opposite of the horse I’d chosen in Cedar. I took some months, but I found Bachelor Boy. He had been discarded, lacked spark. I saw right into his soul, and gained a sense of the future for us both – possibilities, that I nearly walked away from this sick, obese, brown horse. That was 18 years ago. Bach is patriarch of our herd. My right-hand man. My counsellor. My teacher. My guide. I’ve never met a better male.

In 2005 Presence of Heart was born into our herd. A herd of three by then, as we’d welcomed Whiskey some months prior. Whiskey was one of many horses I cared for when he was between humans. My intent, “I love you, but I cannot commit to you, for Cedar and Bach were here first. I will find someone for you…” but there was no someone for Whiskey. Too flighty. Too fearful. Too dramatic. Too dangerous! Sometimes a being joins you, and despite your best intentions, your full home, your stretched finances, they remain where others moved on – our cat Jason, one of many strays I’d tended. Circumstances conspired to keep Jason Cat in my life (it’s been 10 years now!). Whiskey conspired to deter everyone who expressed interest in him. Except my partner, who one evening when I returned from teaching, offered me a glass of wine and announced “I like that horse. Can we keep him?”

Since Whiskey did not leave, and Presence became number 4, I mean it sincerely when I tell each horse I care for now, “I’m not yours to keep, I belong to Bach, Cedar, Presence and Whiskey, but I will find you someone.” These horses also make up our herd from time to time.

QUESTION: What does Heart of Horsemanship do?

JAYNE: At first, I strove to teach, to educate and change the world for horses, as a one-woman adventure. Hundreds of horses conspired with me, guided me, inspired me, and I represented them, as I came to understand the laws of physics, the way of the horse and the meaning of life. Our work progressed from training tricks to sharing universal truths in ways that can be experienced, hence understood. I had been an advocate for Horsemanship for over a decade.

Now I stood at the Heart of it and held the keys, so our book of instruction came to be called “The Heart of Horsemanship”. Humans who invited me to co-create with them as they learned and grew, sometimes joined our herd, and now we have as many humans as horses, collectively known as “The Heart of Horsemanship”. Some of our individual work involves teaching children. Some incorporates art and environmental appreciation.

Drawn to Alex Cearns, three of our team have participated in her Better Animal Photography Workshops. Five of us now photograph horses for teaching, for art, for joy. Each of us cares for horses we have adopted, or foster. Each of us shares the best of ourselves with the wider community. We volunteer, we instruct, we mentor and we love. We also dream. We gather together, and imagine exhibitions dedicated to the horses we revere. We create new workshops for diverse seekers of happiness. We all study. Whatever we are passionate about.

At present we are self-funded. One day we imagine a sponsor will enable some of us to work “The Heart of Horsemanship” as it deserves – shared widely, and free.

QUESTION: Is there a particular horse who stole you heart?

JAYNE: At my surface, I do love each of my herd completely, none more than another. Each incomparable, and certainly their special traits un-measurable. If you spend time with me and the herd, however, you will notice I turn to Bach for strength. guidance and leadership. He is my mentor. We are co-dependent. I am his human avatar and I work for him. Likewise, I have expectations based on experience, of Bach, and trust he will take care of things I can’t – troubled horses are readied for me.

The herd are safe and well-mannered because of Bach. I think I’ve mentioned he’s my right hand man. I might be his… I could not love the herd more if I gave birth to them, but Bach is under my skin. There has never been a finer horse. He is amongst the greatest of beings to have graced this planet.

QUESTION: Is there a fond experience or special story about your work you would like to share?

JAYNE: Every day I spend with animals, all species, is awesome. I must salvage this comment with a story, however! There are moments such as saving a life, achieving a dream, the first ride on a horse ever, the last moments with someone before they die… I’ve watched frightened children become competent adults. I’ve met horses again, not seen in years, passed through many “owners” and experiences, to have them recognise me. “Black Beauty” moments.

Right now I’ve “perception” on my mind, for I’m writing a project on this subject. This moment’s story began in London. Many years ago I was asked to help a young woman and her horse. A horse in London seemed unusual enough for me, but most unusual was the capacity of this woman to communicate with animals. Beyond any ability I had, or could imagine, not psychic, not pretend. My student (I know – I was contracted to teach HER!) did not have eyes. I befriended a woman who had been given every advantage her father could offer – not financial – emotional. Not disabled, DIFFERENTLY-abled, in the presence of her horse and her dogs (guide dogs off the leash and rolling merrily in horse manure) I witnessed that communication with a non-verbal species was possible without body-language, without visual cues, and the other documented methods of non-verbal communication.

I came to understand what Bach and Cedar, every horse since 1971, had been teaching me. Not having been sighted, my friend knew no other way to communicate, so together we explored her skills, and I considered words and explanations for the phenomena we were experiencing.

This experience enabled me to take my work with people and horses to the leading edge. To this day I still research and seek to explain similar observations. My time in London with these two (later becoming three, we started a young horse together, to join her herd), inspired me. Every individual who has met me since has benefited.

QUESTION: What message would you like pass on to others about horses?

JAYNE: I know horses to be amongst the smartest beings on our planet. I value all beings, and cherish those repeatedly proven to be intelligent, such as Dolphins, Ravens, and Chimps. Horses are overlooked, in my opinion, for they have intelligence not measured by typical tests. They survive because they adapted to slavery. They have been used and abused for millennia, yet their honesty and compassion for our species is extraordinary.

To me, horses are genius, unnoticed amongst us. Much like the character “Will” who swept the halls of University in “Good Will Hunting” – Will and horses don’t fit the traditional standards of intelligence.

Furthermore, horses are well-documented for having a “small” brain, but they redefine intelligence, and their asset is their heart. It demeans them to perform, just like the dolphins in tanks who leap through hoops for frozen fish, perform behaviours ordinarily exclusively to express genuine joy, or express suitability to a mate, horses have more to offer us as friends than playthings or vehicles or entertainment.

QUESTION: Can you tell me something about horses most people wouldn’t know?

JAYNE: Horses know the meaning of life. Horses prefer the company of those who know the meaning of life too – usually the under 3’s, or others with fur, amongst us! As an academic, I know I must substantiate my claim, however. Horses are tolerant of humans, despite our crude communication, emotional threats, and abuse, and horses like to teach.

“Horses smell fear” my grandfather used to say, but it’s their sense of “emotion” that they trust, and use to survive US. YOUR frequency is detected in THEIR body. No matter your actions, your thoughts, a horse will feel YOUR FEELINGS and respond to you in kind. True, your fear will repel a horse.

Also true, your awkwardness around them, with a heart full of admiration, may initially startle a horse, but will captivate for Horses FEEL intent – intent has a frequency too. This is easy to prove, and I do this in every initial consultation I have with a human and a horse, any horse.

It’s so simple, many don’t believe what they have experienced, and revert to habits they’ve been taught by other people. Don’t disregard the very friend who can show you the path to everything you’ve ever wanted.

PICTURED: Jayne with Whiskey / Whiskey at liberty / Bach at liberty with Rex the dog


For further information on The Heart of Horsemanship please visit


Photography Animal Adventure Tour in India

Psst … wanna hear a secret? Mary Hutton, founder of Free the Bears Fund will be accompanying our World Expeditions eco-tour to the FTB bear sanctuaries in India this October. It will be Mary’s last sojourn to see her beloved bears and an amazing experience to be a part of. You get up close to beautiful bears, learn world class photography and have the chance to see tigers in the wild – plus immerse yourself in the culture of India. Who wouldn’t want to join this trip of a lifetime! Spaces are limited and booking fast, so get your spot reserved soon – only $400 deposit is needed to lock in a place. Details at down until you reach the “India Adventure” info)



Mother Know’s Best: Life lessons from the animal world

Seven week old boxer pup Taco is SUPER because he’s simply adorable, loves his Mum Bell, and is such a sweetheart!


Want to see more photos of adorable baby animals? Pre-order your copy of “Mother Knows Best – Life lessons from the animal world” by Alex Cearns / Penguin Books Australia at – released nationally 23rd April.




African Wildlife Photography Safari

Join me on my World Expeditions luxury African animal & photography adventure in June 2014. Stay in stunning accommodation, and visit the incredible parks of Tanzania – the country with the largest concentration of wild animals per sq km, with more than 4 million wild animals, representing 430 species and subspecies. This trip has been carefully planned to maximise wildlife experiences at each location. Visit for more info – Scroll down to “AFRICAN WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY SAFARI with Alex Cearns.”

PICTURED: The Arusha Coffee Lodge – Elewana Collection



More boxer puppies!

Last week it was eight boxer puppies. This week it’s nine!



Kindest Heart – Janice Girardi, founder of BAWA

KINDEST HEART! We have been working with the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) as a photography partner since 2011 and Janice Girardi, founder of BAWA, is definitely a modern day saint to the animals.

In January 2012, Deb and I spent a day with Janice visiting local rubbish tips to collect animals who had been discarded and thrown onto the trash heap – they were the unwanted and unloved. Both Deb and I have a limit to how much we can tolerate on a day like that, yet Janice puts herself out there 24/7 for 365 days a year to make the lives of Bali animals better.

BAWA doesn’t just help sick and injured animals – they also feed street dogs each day, run an island-wide animal ambulance service, provide education programs to children, conduct free spay/neuter clinics and were instrumental in the fight against rabies by commencing vaccination programs for dogs.

Janice funds BAWA through donations and the sales of her Janice Girardi Jewellery range but there is always a shortfall. We love her dearly not just for the work she does, but for the amazing woman she is. Our beautiful friend. Here is her story.

QUESTION: How did you come to live in Bali and start the Bali Animal Welfare Association?

JANICE: I first came to Bali in 1973 as a traveller. Dogs were much more integrated in to the Balinese society and culture then. No one chained or caged their dogs. The dogs were also healthier due to a much cleaner environment – there weren’t any cars on the roads, and the streams ran with fresh water.

When I came back in the late 70’s it was already changing, and Bali dogs (also known as Kintamani dogs) were being bred for sale. I rescued a puppy that was about to have his tail cut off and sold as a good luck charm. I quickly got attached and realised I had to find a way to live in Bali. I started a jewellery business and got a dog. I spent the next 16 years without electricity living on a river valley and it was amazing … and I learned a lot about the life of Bali dogs and fell in love with them.

The Bali Animal Welfare Association organically evolved over decades out of a need to help the dogs that were not being cared for, were hit by cars, or were thrown away due to over population. The problems were endless and there was no help for them.

I met I Love Bali Street Dogs Australia founders Paula and Natasha who were supporting a rescue group in the beach areas. They realised the need for help in Ubud and east Bali so donated funds to me for a van and team for my area. Then I opened a clinic with Listriani, a vet who previously worked with the beach rescue group, in Ubud where my street dogs could get treatment and she could have a private clinic.

Eventually we were evicted as I brought in too many dogs. Then I leased land and buildings for a shelter and started BARC with Linda from Australia. We tried to work together but I realised I was more suited for education, sterilisation, and street work rather than a shelter so she kept the shelter and I rented and managed the BAWA clinic and field programs. It was a win win situation for all of us.

Q: What does a day at BAWA involve for you?

JANICE: Well, it starts off with giving my 14 dogs at home morning treats and love. Then I follow my staff member Adi into Ubud. Adi rides a motorbike and has a huge container of food strapped on the back. I follow behind in my car to administer medicine as needed and pick up any injured puppies or newborns we find. We feed about 150 dogs each morning before I get to the office – all the while I answer calls asking for help on the 24/7 ambulance hotline.

I probably call the office 3 to 4 times on my way there rushing the ambulance all over Bali. Or I ask for help to meet me roadside to catch a puppy that’s escaped in to the rice fields. I also take photos of injured dogs so we can go back later to collect them. Once at the office I manage the BAWA staff, conduct meetings, answer emergency calls, and do anything and everything else involved in running all of BAWAs programs. We have approximately 50 staff and a whole island to help so it’s quite a big job.

Q: How many animals a year does BAWA assist, and what types of animals receive help?

JANICE: Gosh so many … we answer about 30 to 40 calls each day. Some of them we can direct to local vets or talk through solutions. Other calls we must rush to as real emergencies such as roadside accidents, dumped newborns, dogs with rabies symptoms.

We help all animals but focus on un-owned animals or animals owned by poor Balinese who do not have any other way to receive help for their animals. We respond a lot to chained animals, including sick monkeys, birds, owls, and of course many caged and chained dogs that have been left in cages for most of their lives.

We will send our emergency response and education teams out in these cases to hopefully convince the owner to give us the animal or work with them to take care of them. And of course we have to offer this for free as otherwise no care would be given.

Q: How many animals share your home, and who are they?

JANICE: Ha! Let’s see …. I have 14 dogs – Saki, Jaya, Raju, Hopscotch, Sophie, Nadia, Susi, Boy boy, Betsy Miranda, Sunny, Leyla, Lisa, Rahul and now Momo. I am trying desperately to find Momo a home though since she is still a puppy. I also have 6 office dogs and 4 at the jewellery shop and 3 at our jewellery workshop. Not to mention all of the village dogs I stop to see each morning or evening. I do live on a river valley so the dogs are free to roam, exercise, and swim in the river. It really is a doggie paradise.

Q: Is there a special animal who has touched your heart?

JANICE: I think dogs overall are so special. Each one I live with has touched my heart in some way. Every day I tell each one of them that I love them so much and love them the most. They all think they are top dog to me. All of my dogs are rescues and each one is a miracle child. Some came much more aggressive, some came very sick, some with distemper (and survived), and one arrived blind. I tend to keep the dogs that can’t be adopted for one reason or another or got adopted and returned many times. I suppose I am what you call a ‘foster failure’. 

Q: What message would you like to share with a wider audience about Bali animals / dogs / animal rescue?

JANICE: That animal rescue work is the most difficult and heartbreaking work I have ever done. But it is also the most joyful and rewarding. I thank the universe that this challenge was given to me. I can’t imagine a life without rescuing animals or teaching children about caring for them. They bring such endless unconditional love.

Q: How can we help BAWA from Australia, or as tourists to Bali / Lombok?

JANICE: Thank you for asking. Really we can always use supplies and our wish list is on our website or people can email us for the current list. We rely completely on donations to pay staff, keep our ambulances on the road and education teams going. We also always need food for our street programs that feed and medicate hundreds of dogs each day. We except volunteers that are pre vaccinated for rabies or would like to assist in our office as well. We are trying to open in Lombok and will need a lot of financial support and volunteer help to do so.

Q: Can you tell me something about Bali dogs that most people wouldn’t know?

JANICE: Bali dogs also are the oldest dog known to man (genetically speaking) so we are trying to educate the Balinese about how special their Bali community dog is and to not throw them away in favour of an import fashionable breed dog, or sell them to dog meat traders. Bali dogs are smart, loyal, and amazing animals and we hope we can prevent them from becoming a lost breed. Bali dogs share 50% gene pool with Australian dingos and are even older dating back 15,000 to 35,000 years.

For more information on BAWA or to donate, volunteer or view their wish list, please visit

PICTURED: Janice with several of her rescue dogs, at their river playground.



Mother Knows Best – Preview

This is Lucy the wombat, one of the stars of “Mother Knows Best: Life lessons from the animal world”, by Alex Cearns published by Penguin Books Australia. She lives at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuaryand will soon be released back into the wild to spend the rest of her days in the bush, doing what it is that wombats do. She is on her journey …

Want to see more?

Filled with inspirational quotes and adorable images, and priced at just $19.95 + P/H, “Mother Knows Best” is the perfect heartwarming gift for Mothers Day, a loved one, an animal person … or just because.

“HOW DO I GET ONE?” you ask. From now until 23rd April we are taking pre-orders for MKB via our website – if you place your order during this time, your book will be posted out on 23rd April 2014, the national release date.

Visit place your order – and don’t forget to buy one for yourself too!


Maximum cuteness

**WARNING – THIS IMAGE FEATURES THE MAXIMUM LEGAL LIMIT OF CUTENESS ALLOWED ONLINE!** How adorable are these 8 boxer babies! Left to right we have Sapphire, Jet, Gizmo, Archer, Samson, Murphy, Mack and Plugga. Score out of ten on the cute scale? I say 11! xx


Here they are in their crocheted hats.  For everyone playing along at home, the hats came from