Phoenix at November SoulPaws Workshop

I was speaking with a group of people today about guinea pig’s “life spirit.” It was a term that I had never used and frankly, don’t remember ever hearing before the moment it was coming out of my own mouth. I’ve used the often repeated words of “resilient” and “strong” to describe my guinea pig’s healing before, but I was speaking those words didn’t seem to give him justice. Life spirit did just seemed better.

I remembered how he was when my husband and I first adopted him; he was fearful and anxious. We had heard about him through a veterinary clinic that had received him from a family with a toddler. The toddler had accidently dropped him and then stepped on him. His injuries included a severely broken back leg that was so damaged that the initial recommendation was to humanely euthanize him. But he held on. It was finally determined to place him in a cast that he wore for six weeks while he little leg healed.

His physical injuries had been repaired but his emotional ones had not. He hid from us and struggled when we picked him up. His fear of being dropped again was clear. However, when we introduced him to our other two guinea pigs, the hiding and struggling began to subside. His life spirit was returning, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. That is now his name – Phoenix.

Through Phoenix’s healing he now helps to heal others. He had given comfort to the victims December 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack and in the Soul Paws Recovery workshops as a therapy guinea pig.

We all have a life spirit and Phoenix has taught me to continue looking for mine. I am an alcoholic in recovery…always in recovery. I have been in the ashes and have reemerged. The people who love me have helped me to rise from the ashes just as the people who love Phoenix have helped him to rise and find his life spirit.

I will do the same.





Dr. Annie Petersen is the Founder and President of the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies. She was previously the Education Manager for the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA and has worked in the fields of education, early childhood development and animal welfare for over 30 years.

As President and CEO of the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies, Dr. Petersen is responsible for program development, curriculum writing, grant writing and research. Her duties include coordination of Critter Companions programming, research development, and seeking out partnerships with other nonprofit organizations. She has also presented to people of many nationalities and most recently presented her findings from the study, The effects of experiences with animals on the reading comprehension skills of students in the seventh grade, at the University of Vienna, Austria.

Prior to her work with the Association for Human-Animal Bond Studies, Dr. Petersen was the Education Manager for the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, developing and implementing new education programs for the community of San Diego. She has held faculty positions in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, has worked in the education departments of San Diego Zoo Global and the San Diego Museum of Man, and was the Assistant Director for College Center Montessori School in San Diego, CA.

Dr. Petersen earned her Doctor of Educational Leadership and Management degree from Alliant International University. She holds an MA in Education, a BA in Liberal Arts from National University and an AS in Early Childhood Development from Grossmont College, El Cajon, CA.