Friday, December 25, 2009

A few comments..

One of my friends, who recieves this blog through email, sent me her comments and interpretations, which I felt were just too insightful, thougtful, and just plain good to not share. I have copied the email, which is a blend of my original blog, with her comments in between. Please enjoy, I did.

I also want to invite everyone to please feel free to share your comments on the books we read - I love learning the different lessons/thoughts that different people take away from a book, and I am sure others do as well.

So here are my comments and VK's. :)

If you have never read this book, in a few sentences or less, it is about one man's journey to enlightenment, and a better way of life. He meets this strange guru/mentor/hallucination named Socrates, who teaches him how to become more in touch with his natural self and life lessons , such as living and experiencing the moment for what it is, that there are no ordinary moments, and that there are no accidents. My favorite line/quote is "Only the supremely wise and the ignorant do not alter."
Everything happens for a reason; synchronicity; serendipity; be willing to accept the moments/things that come into your life. Realizing that everything comes to you for a reason. You may not need the experience now, but find that at a later time the experience you have had helps you understand or deal with a different situation.

We all had many questions for each other- is this just Dan's journey, or would this path work for us too? Was Socrates merely the result of a brain touched by the hallucinogenic drugs of the 1960s, or was he really a spiritual ambassador?
Does it matter how or who one is taught by? (Consider the old testament and Moses on the Mount? Or some of the other religous teachings.) Teaching should touch the heart and rings true and do no harm to others -- each person has to judge its value to them. Millman has said that the book is a blend of his experience and some fiction (dramatic license). It was written as teaching to help others find their path.
And really, how did he jump onto the building like that? Alyssa asked if it was possible to really just live in the moment, without a plan for the future or thinking ahead.
Some people think so, but they don't have houses, families and pets - all the responsiblities that tie us to having plans, money, jobs, etc. Our living in the moment san come from accepting and enjoying a beautiful moment in nature (like a sunset or an owl crossing the night-time sky). It comes from the simple things that we tend to take for granted and don't recognize in our lives. It can come from just stepping out on the porch to enjoy the sharpness of the winter air or the sound of snow falling. We don't have the liberty of setting aside our responsiblities, but we do have the choice to take "moments" in our lives and live in them.
I am not sure anyone really answered her or not; I do believe it is possible to live entirely in the present, but I don't think it is necessarily responsible or wise. This makes me think of the story of the grasshopper and the ant. The grasshopper plays all summer long, and does not prepare for winter, while the ant works hard, storing food for the long cold months to come. When winter finally does arrive, the grasshopper begins to starve to death, and asks the ant for a handout. The ant slams the door in his face, leaving the grasshopper to die.
You would feel sorry for any creature in dire straits. That is the nature of your heart. The grasshopper is going to die anyway, and he has enjoyed and celebrated his life. The ant is playing the odds that he will not be stepped on, eaten or his nest flooded out by a freak storm. The grasshopper if/when he dies will have enjoyed life to its fullest. The working ant hopefully enjoys working, because it has chosen that as its life plan. While neither party is wrong, both could balance their lives more.
I think this is a little uncharitable of the ant personally- sure, the grasshopper should have worked instead of singing and dancing and making fun of the ant, but the ant still could have shown pity to the grasshopper.
This would make you a Democrat or a humanitarian. The ant is a Republican, he says everyone is responsible for themselves and I have no responsibility for others outside of my family. Mind you the ant has a grudge, since he has watched the grasshopper play all summer and he has spent his time working and not enjoying life. And any act of God (or humankind) can take away all that the ant has working for, but nothing can take away the grasshopper's past enjoyment of life.
Maybe this is because Billy and I often compare ourselves to the grasshopper; we like to enjoy ourselves and live for today. Our New Year's Resolution this year actually is to plan at least a little for our future, to become more antlike and less grasshopperesque.
It is all balance. Life is balance.

So, my opinion on that question is obviously still up in the air.

My opinion on the book is that you should read it- if not for the writing style, which was not all that great, read it for the message and to see for yourself what you think. It is a spiritual book, that is supposed to change lives. None of really felt our lives were changed by reading the book, but we were glad we read it.
I think the writing style, while not great prose, did what it was designed to do - get people to read the book. Writing simply, is is gift.
Changing one's life, takes time. If the book only makes you focus for a second on a special moment or has you take the time to enjoy something. that you normally do in a different way. If you look for how life fits together and how lives intertwine in each other then the book has served a purpose.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Way of the Peaceful Dan Millman

December 2009:

The book: Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman
Place: Jill's house
Refreshments: Peppermint Martinis, roasted red pepper and goat cheese pie thing, spinach pie, shrimp, crab dip, little cheescakes, and of course wine. Yum to all.

This was Jill's pick, and the first book we have read like this in book club. It was a different kind of read for us, but it sparked alot of discussion.

If you have never read this book, in a few sentences or less, it is about one man's journey to enlightenment, and a better way of life. He meets this strange guru/mentor/hallucination named Socrates, who teaches him how to become more in touch with his natural self and life lessons , such as living and experiencing the moment for what it is, that there are no ordinary moments, and that there are no accidents. My favorite line/quote is "Only the supremely wise and the ignorant do not alter."

We all had many questions for each other- is this just Dan's journey, or would this path work for us too? Was Socrates merely the result of a brain touched by the hallucinogenic drugs of the 1960s, or was he really a spiritual ambassador? And really, how did he jump onto the building like that? Alyssa asked if it was possible to really just live in the moment, without a plan for the future or thinking ahead. I am not sure anyone really answered her or not; I do believe it is possible to live entirely in the present, but I don't think it is necessarily responsible or wise. This makes me think of the story of the grasshopper and the ant. The grasshopper plays all summer long, and does not prepare for winter, while the ant works hard, storing food for the long cold months to come. When winter finally does arrive, the grasshopper begins to starve to death, and asks the ant for a handout. The ant slams the door in his face, leaving the grasshopper to die.

I think this is a little uncharitable of the ant personally- sure, the grasshopper should have worked instead of singing and dancing and making fun of the ant, but the ant still could have shown pity to the grasshopper. Maybe this is because Billy and I often compare ourselves to the grasshopper; we like to enjoy ourselves and live for today. Our New Year's Resolution this year actually is to plan at least a little for our future, to become more antlike and less grasshopperesque.

So, my opinion on that question is obviously still up in the air.

My opinion on the book is that you should read it- if not for the writing style, which was not all that great, read it for the message and to see for yourself what you think. It is a spiritual book, that is supposed to change lives. None of really felt our lives were changed by reading the book, but we were glad we read it.

We are reading Stealing Buddha's Dinner for January- this sounds like another very interesting book, and I can't wait to start reading it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The wee little christmas tree

This year Billy and I had a Christmas Tree conundrum. For the past ten Christmases, we have had a mild mannered, well behaved American Eskimo named Chevis. Sadly, he passed away in April at 15 years of age. To fill our hearts and home in his absence, Billy and I now have one dog, two cats, and a foster cat. These animals are not like Chevis; he would leave things alone, while this trio is curious and strangely hungry.

When we adopted Penny from the pound, she was a scrawny, underweight little English Setter. She also had stomach issues, which took us a while to diagnose. Regular dog food, treats,
everything but her prescription I/D upsets her stomach. When she doesn't feel well, she desperately tries to gnosh on whatever she can find laying around the house. We didn't figure this out right away however, and a week after owning her, we came home to a pile of dog vomit on our bed - complete with fake Christmas tree garland with 1/4 round wire in it. We rushed her to the vet to find she still had a bellyful of wire and tree garland. She had to have an emergency surgery, which she recovered from very well. Can you see where this story is going?

In addition to Penny and her dangerous food choices, we also have two cats under the age of one. Making them kittens still in behavior and temperament. Making them curious, and playful, and slightly experimental.

So Billy and I reviewed our options- a fake tree, which Penny could eat if she felt like it, with ornaments that the cats could knock off and hurt themselves on the ornament hooks, or a real tree, minus ornaments. It looked like the real tree was going to be the winner this year, until I read that most evergreens are toxic to animals. With my crew, I didn't want to take the chance of them ingesting possibly
toxic tree. So Billy and I chose this- a completely all metal, indestructible, table top christmas tree. And it seems to be working out well so far! The animals don't really care about it, it is just another thing to sniff and walk around to them.

We have hopes that next year will be the return of a Christmas tree, but this year, we are happy to have each other, and Penny, Maggie, Miso, and our foster cat, Mouse. Because like they say in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and I am paraphrasing here, Christmas is not about the ribbons, and bows, and trees, and packages and presents- Christmas doesn't come from a store, but lives in your heart.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The empty page

This is not my usual type of blog - unlike some bloggers I read, I am not as skilled at reviewing books as I am at reading them. But I am going to try.

The Bottle of Wine Book Club is a year old now, and picking up steam. It started when I read The Jane Austen Book Club, and thought how fun would that be? I had always wanted to read all of Jane Austen's books, and what a great way to read them, with my friends. Well, this didn't quite pan out as I had thought. After our first one, and a meeting of just me, Chrissy and Kelly, we moved on to free choice of books of whoever is hosting the meeting. It has also evolved beyond the vegetable tray and hummus I served at the first meeting as well - we now serve meals to our guests, and wine, always wine. I wish I could remember all the books we have read in the past year together - the ones that stand out in my mind are Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Almost Moon, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Problem with Murmur Lee, Me Talk Pretty One Day, A Confederacy of Dunces, and Sense and Sensibility. We have also had some great meals; cucumber sandwiches and gazpacho soup, salmon, spinach pie, mini quiches, fancy desserts, mediterranean stew, great cheeses from Hirts' in Detroit. As for wine, lately we have been drinking alot of what we call Detroit Wine, which is really wine from the California Wine Grape Company in Detroit.

Now there are seven of us, all volunteers of the Wyandotte Animal Shelter, and we have more planned than just reading books in the year ahead. We are always up to something new and different! Looking into 2010, we are discussing a book club getaway somewhere, and sponsoring a needy child together, as well as a full year of good books, in addition to all of our animal rescue work, which we always discuss after the book. We just can't help it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Looking for good, honest food

I have been a vegetarian for more years than I remember. I have always had an off and on flirtation with vegetarianism my whole life- when I was kid, I hated red meat, and would not eat hamburgers or steak too often. I would eat chicken, and bacon, but that was almost the extent of my meat consumption. When I got older, a freshman in high school, I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and that caused me to become a vegetarian, for a short while anyway. It was hard to do on my own at that age, since I was dependent on my parent's choices most of the time, and being a vegetarian at that point in time was not as wide spread as it is now becoming. I danced around it again in college, but then finally made the leap for good when I moved out of my house and into my own place. Billy is not a vegetarian; but he does not eat meat at home very often, as I will not purchase it or make it. If he chooses to make it for himself, that is one thing, but when I make dinner it is meatless.

I knew this would be a tough decision- you get comments on it from everyone all the time- the same comments about "Well, I can't live without meat", and "Humans are supposed to eat meat," and so on. Most of the time it is from people who have very unhealthy eating habits, and won't even look at a vegetable or a piece of fruit at all, much less eat one. Which I don't understand either. But I feel good about my choice, although everyone feels they can comment on it all the time for some reason. I am not usually a preachy vegetarian either; I try to respect other people's choices, and wish they would do the same.

Eating today is not the same as eating 25 years ago; food is a major industry, and is not the image of pastoral wholesomeness as people may believe. I just watched the movie Food Inc, and while I would like to do more reading on the issues, most of the facts presented I have read before, in various places. Some of the things I learned were entirely new - such as the Monsanto Machine, that owns the patent on soybean seeds. That blew my mind - and left me feeling like there is nothing out there that I can eat anymore! Monsanto owning the patent on their genetically modified soybeans means that farmers can't save seeds from harvest to harvest; if one farmer does not use the Monsanto bean, but the neighboring farm does, and a breeze blows the Monsanto seed onto the first farmers land, he can be held responsible and prosecuted for using their seed without permission, essentially breaking their patent. 85% of the soybeans used in the US are these Monsanto beans, which are Round Up ready, meaning that they can be doused in Round Up, and they won't die. Which is disgusting as well. I had stopped drinking dairy because of the way cows are treated; now I feel I can't even drink soymilk, or consume soy products. I have been using Stonyfield Organic yogurt, which is an organic option, from grass fed cows, not corn fed. So at least I can continue eating this, which I eat every day! It astounds me that even the food we eat has become big business. I of course knew about all the growth hormones given to cows, about livestock being fed corn, when their digestive systems are not made to digest corn, forcing the farmers to give the animals chemicals to allow them to digest the corn, the inhumane treatment of all animals, the strange chickens that grow twice as large in half the time a normal chicken does- all reasons I stopped eating meat. But to learn that about soybeans has motivated me to go the extra step that I have been playing at, to commit to eating locally, seasonally, and organically.

The movie made a good point- they said that every time we shop for food, we are casting a vote. I want my vote to show that I want food grown naturally, without being chemically treated, or genetically modified. I want food I can trust. I felt sorry for the farmer, who seemed all but forced to comply with these big companies, or lose money or worse, their reputations.

I am going to seriously commit to shopping our farmers market, and making sure that I am buying locally grown food that is in season. I am going to start canning and storing food that I have canned- I want to know where my food comes from, and that it is natural, healthy, good for me, and not a science project.

You can read about the issues at To be fair, here is the link to Monsanto's rebuttal to the movie- Do some research of your own too, don't just take these sites word for it; I am going to do some more reading, but I am sure that what I will learn will support my new commitment to wholesome, natural food, grown and marketed honestly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A sweet little failure

Meet Miso..

She is our newest foster failure- the third in a row of our foster animals we have adopted. Miso is a tortie point Himalayan from a breeding/hoarding situation in our hometown. She was rescued with 28 other Himalayans from a one bedroom apartment.

She is enjoying our house, and loves playing with Penny and Maggie!! She and Penny are cuddle buddies, while she and Maggie tear up the house together. She also has a cute little meow, like she is a pack a day smoker, when I know she has not smoked a cigarette in her life.

An interesting fact: She has had many names since August: whatever the hoarders called her, Aurora in the pound, Kuroneko from her interim foster dad, Spicecake as her PAWS name, and finally now Miso, her true name.

She definitely found her way into our heart and lives.

Welcome home Miso.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

O'Dark Thirty

My family always calls waking up before the sun, O'Dark Thirty. I don't know anyone who really enjoys getting up that early, but I do know that getting up before 8 am makes me physically ill. Chrissy and Billy are not that good at it either. But the past two Saturday mornings we have pried ourselves from our warm beds to load up our cars and head to Detroit's Eastern Market, to set up for the Cinnamon Owl Studios booth at the Artisan Village at Eastern Market.

I am always amazed at the bustling activity around me - the vendors setting out their fruits and vegetables, the little old honey man putting out his jars, the other artists around us putting the finishing touches on their tables. There is the Beading Nutritionist, the Soy Candle lady, another jewler, and a lady who makes tote bags out of recycled materials. There is the Village Manager, Brian, who also sells handmade baskets from Africa.

Last Saturday was Cinnamon Owl's first day at the Village. It was probably the worst possible day to start this part of our venture; the weather was cold, windy, and pouring down rain. Chrissy and I froze, and felt damp the whole day - not a good combination. We did sell one photo though, so that was exciting, considering not many people were attending either the market or the village. It was miserable. But from that experience, we bonded with our fellow artists, something we may not have done had the weather been a crisp fall day. We began to feel like a small family of artisans, joking around with each other, sharing our food and coffee, stories, advice and backgrounds.

Yesterday was a much nicer day- the wind was a little too chilly, but the sun was out, and the day was dry. A small band that played music you would hear at the Renaissance Fair was playing nearby; when they were finished, a saxophonist started playing. Chrissy and I were content this time to sit in the warm rays when they were out from behind the occasional cloud, listening to the music, and this time, there were actually people visiting the market and the village. We met a few cool people who stopped by our table to look at our photos; the law student from Detroit who belongs to a student animal welfare group that fundraises to change laws for the betterment of animals; the guy who is getting married soon, who brought his super soft rescue dog over to meet us; all the other people who stopped to tell us about their dogs or cats, like the English Cocker Spaniel who hunts birds, and the cat in dogs clothing. Meeting all of these people and talking to them is actually very fun. And, we sold another photo!

The day was so nice yesterday that our families came to visit too. My dad, Shellie, Brayden and Caroline came down, bringing coffee, grilled cheese and cookies, which Chrissy and I greatly appreciated. Chrissy's dad and Terri stopped by too, and purchased a few of Chrissy's photos, which was also cool. Next time, our mothers are going to come visit us, and go out to lunch together. Billy always sticks around too, for a bit after helping us to set up, and watches the booth so that Chrissy and I can do a little shopping. I always buy bread from the Amish bread lady, who has the best baked goods ever- cookies, bread, breadsticks, tarts..I could go on and on. I also buy cheese from R.J. Hirt, and Billy and I eat it for dinner, with the bread and fruit I pick out from the Michigan vendors. I try to buy from the local farmers only, not from the people who sell produce that they hauled in. So usually what I am buying is seasonal to Michigan.

All in all, the experience is a very satisfying one, on many levels - camaraderie, family, the personal satisfaction of knowing other people like your work, and simply the visual and audial feast that Eastern Market offers. The next time we are going is November 14, and while I am not looking forward to that early morning, I am looking forward to seeing my Saturday compatriots.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Feline Forum Part II

Day Two started early! Or at least it felt like it to me, since I had been out having some fun with my friends Chrissy, Jill, Karin and Kris the night before. I spent the day attending more great workshops, and when 5:00 rolled around, I was ready to see Chicago!

Unfortunately Karin and Kris had to leave, which was sad because Jill, Chrissy and I had the best time!! First we shopped along the Magnificent Mile, dreaming of the Coach bags we are going to buy when we strike it rich (lol). We all had a different one we loved. The one I particularly liked was a red plaid - I loved it. Also, there was a sweet owl necklace with a black stone in it that wouldn't look too bad around my neck either.. I did end up buying a soft purple sweater from the Gap, which is more in my price range right now. I am dreaming of the day I get a "grant" to stay home and spend the day doing animal rescue work. By grant, I am thinking that Billy will "grant" me this wish. ;)

After trekking down the Mile, feet were hurting from the walk in high heels, so we headed over to the restaurant where we had reservations, Bistro 110, a French bistro, and had a drink while we waited for our table. Chrissy and I had Pinot Noir, and Jill had a drink called French Heaven, that really was divine. I think it had St. Germaine liqueour in it, but other than that I can't recall. It was pretty good though, and I usually don't like drinks like this.

Once we were seated, the french food frenzy ensued. The three of us decided to fully immerse ourselves in the experience, and enjoy as much as we could - literally. We split two appetizers, artichoke baked with brie, and escargot. I tried one little escargot, and did not care for it. (sorry Jill) But, I was going with the moment. The appetizers were cleared and we made way for our main meal- I had some sort of salmon, which was amazing, Jill had steak au poivre, and Chrissy had mushroom ravioli with some sort of delicous sauce.

And then, of course, dessert. This was after the waiter offered Jill a shoulder massage that she didn't respond to; he also asked Chrissy and I if we wanted a coffee with dessert. We turned that down, and ordered another glass of Pinot instead. We enjoyed our drinks, and couldn't decide which dessert we wanted. So, we ordered three, and split them all. We had creme brulee, Gateau Breton, and Profiteroles. Needless to say, by the end of the meal any plans we had to continue our evening were botched by full bellies. We were so full we could barely move, let alone even contemplate eating or drinking another thing. But it was so worth it - it was a bit of decadence in our do-gooding. (as Bruce Campbell called me a few years ago) I can't wait for next year, and I hope that more of us can go!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feline Forum Part I

I just spent the best weekend in Chicago at a conference devoted to all aspects of cat welfare, with 600 other cat advocates from places as far away as Hawaii and Alaska. (or advocats as the ASPCA called it) This sounds like maybe it could have been a little frightening, especially if we all focus on the crazy cat lady stereotype, who do exist, but are not usually the people who are working in rescue. We are crazy, just in a more overzealous, passionate kind of way.

The opening ceremony was emotional, as we all thought it would be. The speakers all had stories to share, with great imagery, such as the family cat being the go-between during the night, uniting a family in sleep with a touch to the nose with its nose. Another woman spoke of a Persian cat, Mrs. Beasly. Mrs. Beasly was the cat for her, the one that woke her up to animal rescue. She met Mrs. Beasly as a child, and Mrs. Beasly was a gorgeous spoiled Persian, who belonged to a friend. Mrs. Beasly had it good- for awhile. Through twists of fate, the her friend had to move to a farm with relatives, and could not bring Mrs. Beasly into the house with her. This fancy cat, who had only ever known love, warmth, and the indoors, was consigned to the barn, with the other barn cats, who had always been barn cats, and were that kind of semi feral cat tough. The speaker told of going to visit her friend, and watching the gradual decline of Mrs. Beasly; her once silky fur became matted and dull, she lost weight, and the life had gone out of her eyes. And then one day, Mrs. Beasly just was not there anymore, and the speaker never found out what happened to her. But she never forgot her, and with every cat she saves now, she honors the memory of that forgotten, mistreated Persian. She mentioned that back when that incident occured, people had different perspectives on animals, and the thought that this was not the way to treat a beloved housecat never entered into their thought processes. It was just a different time, one that we are moving past, a little bit at a time. We still have to work to change attitudes that cats do not belong outside, do need human care and love, that they are not totally independent, and do not really want to roam. But we are getting there, bit by bit.

The workshops I attended were fantastic! I took the creative, marketing track, all about how to promote your cats, dispel misconceptions, even how to "profile" the cats to match your adopters expectations. I was surrounded by such creative energy, that I was inspired, and now have a whole list of adoption promotions that should take me three years to finish!

I learned so much, and I know that the rest of my group, fellow P.A.W.S. of Michigan members and Wyandotte Animal Control Volunteers, had just as much fun, and also gained immensly from this forum. I made many contacts, and talked to many people about things that are working in their shelters and rescued. I feel fully armed with information that will get our cats adopted faster, and into the right homes for them, where they will be well treated and not returned, but instead have a loving home for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back to work

So, I have been extremely busy for the past couple of weeks, and I have been missing blogs- reading them and writing them. If only I could get paid for sitting at home doing those two things! I am glad I have some spare hours today to spend writing, and reading, and with Billy, Penny and Maggie. Penny and Maggie are glad to have me around again, I think they have missed me, if the fact that Maggie has been sitting on top of me all weekend, and Penny hasn't wanted to leave my side is any evidence.

School has started again, and I have been back getting the library ready for the students to circulate. This is always fun, I love the first couple of weeks of school, the kids are really excited about the new books on display and finding their old favorites again. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my mom would take me to the library - I loved the coolness of it in the summer, the coziness of the books and the building in the fall and winter. It was always quiet, a good place to think and relax. Now the Wyandotte Library is a good place to escape to, no one can call me there, and I can get lost in the stacks, looking at books and learning about whatever catches my eye that day. I only hope the students at our school can enjoy the library as much as I do.

I also have been getting ready for P.A.W.S. of Michigan's biggest fundraising event of the year, P.A.W.S. in the Park. This event is a dog walk/adoptathon, and is always quite a bit of work to get set up, but is well worth it. Just seeing all the different dogs us exciting! This year I also volunteered to give the nature walk, since our naturalist could not make it, and while the walk was not my most shining moment, I did ok, considering I only had a quick 30 minute lesson on trees and plants two days before the event. I managed to remember all the trees and flowers that I was taught, thank goodness. I had planned on winging it if I had to, but to my surprise I had a biology teacher in my group. I used her as confirmation of my identifications instead, since I wasn't going to be able to make things up if I got stuck.

Since it was a dog walk event, Billy and I took Penny with us. She had a blast walking through the woods, and getting tons of attention. She was exhausted by the time we got home, and so were we. My dad brought my stepnephew Brayden down, and it was so cute to see him signing "dog" constantly. He met Penny for the first time, and he just laughed and laughed. He also enjoyed seeing the dog pictured here - the car was remote controlled, and so it appeared this guy was driving around the park by himself.
And finally, Billy and I have been busy working on Cinnamon Owl Studios, our photography company. Eastern Market in Detroit accepted me as one of their artists for the Artisan Village that will run all year, so we have been picking out photos to take to the booth, and finishing the website. I think Billy did a great job, check it out at

Just a few words today, to get back in swing.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Hour I First Believed

Wow. What a powerful, moving book. I read this book on the recommendation of my friend Alyssa, and I am glad I took the 700 page journey. At times, the path seemed overcrowded, there was almost too much going on- Columbine, Katrina, prison, prejudice, sexual abuse, drug abuse, 9/11, the Civil War; it seemed like the author was taking on every tragedy the U.S. had in one book. But strangely, it worked for me. I alternately hated and loved the characters, was there in the library with Maureen during the shootings, with Caelum as he discovered his real history, with Velvet as she seemed to get her life together despite the crappy upbringing she had had. I could not stop reading this book. If you like to read, and are not afraid of a long book, check this one out.
I was most focused on the Columbine aspect of this book. Working in a school, this does cross your mind from time to time. What would you do if this were to happen? How absolutely terrifying? I can't imagine the horror of this happening at my school, but I know I would do anything in my power to protect those kids. The thought of harm coming to them chills my bones, and this part of the book really shook me up. Would I be like Dave Sanders? Or Liviu Librescu? How to even think about comparing yourself to such selfless individuals? What heroes these men are, or any of those teachers and staff out there who did not think about themselves, just about the students around them. My cousin's daughter attends my school, and even when we have drills, I look for her, scouting her out, making sure she is ok. God forbid this should happen. How tragic, how sad. There is a special place in hell for those people who harm children and animals, but what about when the killers are just kids themselves?

This book gives you so much to reflect on, I feel I will be thinking about it for weeks to come.

Friday, August 28, 2009

You would think

You would think that by now I would have fostered an animal or two or twelve. That is not the case, unless you count Penny and Maggie, who I tried to foster but ended up keeping, once they made themselves at home here they were mine. I also tend to want to keep every dog that comes into the pound, as well as every black and white cat or orange cat. So, when the Himalayans came in, I thought, this is my chance. I can be a successful cat foster! I am allergic to their long hair, and they won't be in my home long enough to get attached to them.

So I started with three - Spice Cake (whose real secret name is Yeti, for her big fluffy feet), and two kittens, Scotch and Soda.

So cute, aren't they? Scotch and Soda were adopted out, to a woman who volunteers with a Siamese rescue group. And really, as much as I loved having them here, I am relived they are gone! They had to have their rear ends washed a few times a day, they couldn't clean themselves yet. Apparently the mom cat does this for them until they are a certain age, and these two had not reached that age yet. So, that was something I was not counting on!

I still have Spice Cake/Yeti; Billy is falling in love with her Muppet face, and I am glad that we know two great people who may adopt her. Because I am determined that I will adopt her out- then I can say I have successfully fostered more animals than I have kept. The little sasquatch has wormed her way into my heart though, by climbing into my lap when I am on the computer or reading, by trying to catch my scissors when I am sewing, and by the way she loves to imitate Maggie, and follow her around. A little copycat. She is very affectionate and sweet, something I did not expect from a cat who came from a situation like she did. Now I have two shadows, Penny and Spice Cake. Maggie is too independent to follow me around, she likes to run the show, and tell me when I am going to pet her or cuddle her, not the other way around. Maggie and Spice Cake are even getting along now, and are BFFs.

So, you would think that it is too hard to foster an animal; too much work, too hard not to fall in love with them, too hard to adopt them out. And sometimes this is all true. I already can't imagine my house without bigfoot padding around silently, looking up at us with her confused little face. But I know that she will be going to a good home, and that I helped place her there. And that now, I can help another animal out, one that might be in the pound waiting to be let out of its cage and into a home. As much as I want to hold on, these cute little fluff balls have taught me that letting go can be a good thing too.

So not anything too entertaining or thought provoking today, just a little musing, brought on by the rain.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cat Trap Fever

It has been cat crazy around here lately. Last week, our local pound had a seizure of 28 cats and kittens, which were apparently being bred in a backyard breeding scenario. It was the feline equivalent to a puppy mill. I can't say much about this case, as it is still pending, but this is one reason I don't like breeding. Too many people look at animals as an easy way to make money, rather than think about the animals life, and what they are doing to it. Breeding to keep breed lines I think is not that bad, if they are responsible breeders, I mean we wouldn't want certain breeds to just die out. It is still difficult for me to get behind though, when I see so many homeless animals in pounds everyday.
I have spent the past five days cat trapping. This is my first time participating in this aspect of animal rescue, and it was pretty rewarding. My aunt and uncle have had feral cats visit their backyard for two years now, and we are finally working on stopping the cycle. Animal rescue is never glamorous- often you are wearing your grubbiest clothes because you know you are going to get dirty, whether by actual dirt or grease from the animals fur (they get dirty out there on their own!), or by other unspeakable acts. We are also spit at, scratched, bitten, thrown up on, all kinds of fun stuff. I can almost deal with all that. But trapping cats involves getting up early, something that I detest. Plus, you never really know what you are going to catch- it could be a cat, or it could be a raccoon, or a possum, or a skunk, not animals I really want to mess with, especially when they are angry about being trapped in a cage.
Yesterday morning though I caught a big old orange tom, with a giant head and an attitude. He wanted out of the trap so badly, I felt bad for him - he kept ramming his noggin into the trap bars trying to force his way out. He reminded me of Thomas O'Malley from Aristocats, and I just know he is the father of all the cats in the neighborhood, the dominant male of this pride. Yesterday though, ended his days of being a deadbeat dad, our rescue group took him straight to the vet where he was neutered. I also caught a small gray female tabby with him; she was smaller and younger, of course, probably a trophy girlfriend, who was also fixed at the same time. Those two will not be populating the neighborhoods of Riverview anymore.
Today my uncle called to tell me I caught another one. I was praying it was really a cat, and not a skunk, since my aunt told me only that it was a black and white animal. Thank goodness, it was a cute little "teenager." This one was less than a year old, and black and white and so cute. It was less feral than the cats from yesterday, and is currently at the vets right now, waiting its turn to be spayed or neutered. I have dubbed her ( I think she is a girl, although I am not sure) Mamie.
To me, all the evenings I have spent baiting these traps, checking the traps, getting up early, figuring out how they are getting to the vets and getting home, is worth it. In seven years one female cat can have 420,000 kittens. In a country where 6-8 million cats and dogs are euthanized every year because there are not enough homes for all the animals out there, we don't need this kind of population explosion. If the cat today is a female, potentially 840,000 kitten lives were prevented, which sounds kind of cruel until you think that most of them would never be a pet, they would live on the streets, where they could get diseased, hit by a car, attacked by other animals, even tortured by terrible people. And even if they ended up in a shelter, there is no guarantee they would be adopted, and would more than likely be euthanized. What kind of life is that to be born into? For every animal to have a home in the U.S. right now, every person would have to have 7 dogs and 21 cats. Just some things to think about before you adopt an animal.
Rescue an animal from a rescue group or a pound. If you want a purebred dog or cat, there are actually many rescue groups that just rescue purebreds, because believe it or not, they end up being unwanted too. And spay and neuter your pets- it is good for their health, and helps prevent overpopulation.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Thank You

In animal rescue, you realize, as much as you hate to think about it, admit it, deal with it, you can't save all the animals. Sometimes, you get an animal that just does not seem like it is adoptable as it currently is, but with a little work you know that it could be turned around and rehabilitated. Unfortunately there is not enough space at shelters, or even in foster homes alot of times, to allow the time for this to happen. There are not enough Cesar Milan's, and certainly not one in our area who will come to the pound and change a dog for us, and there are not enough sanctuaries out there like Best Friends in Utah to be able to take all the animals who are unable to live a normal life as a companion animal.

At the beginning of June, an overfluffed, matted, senior cocker spaniel mix was dropped off at the pound. She was a give up, her original owner had passed away, and the son of this person could not care for Buffy, which is her name. She looked to be very neglected, and had a very serious ear infection, that leaked black goo, caused her pain, and she understandably did not like anyone to touch her ears. She had a bit of an attitude problem as well - I took her to an adoption event, and after an hour, she was snapping and snarling at people who thought she was cute and wanted to pet her. I had to take her back to the shelter for the rest of the night, Buffy was not happy and I couldn't take the chance she would hurt someone.

The pound 501(c)3, Pound Pals, paid for Buffy to get her ears checked out and for medicine to clear them up. This was not an inexpensive procedure, as she needed to be knocked out for anyone to do anything to her ears. When she came back to the pound, she seemed a little better, since the hurt was gone. But Buffy's temperment was still not all that great, she didn't seem to like men or children too much, and didn't show well, meaning that when people crouched to see her in her kennel, she would bark and growl and look as fierce as a cocker mix can. When she was with the female volunteers who knew her, she was a sweet little thing, but for anyone else, she was a terror. It was like that line in the children's rhyme When she was good/she was very, very good/but when she was bad/she was horrid.

I have to admit, I kind of gave up on her-I didn't trust her, and didn't see how we could adopt her out to anyone. Even if the person adopting her was female, more than likely they had men or children in their lives for Buffy to menace. As much as I liked her, and as much as I understood that Buffy's demeanor was not her fault, she was obviously mistreated terribly, and therefore she didn't trust anyone, I didn't think we could feasibly adopt her out.

But thankfully, my friends at the shelter never gave up on her - they always believed the right people or person would come along, that we were there to take care of her until that happened. Even when hard decisions had to be made, Buffy made it through, because they believed in her that much. And maybe because of their belief in her, because they cared for her so much and kept the faith that her day would come, it did. Last week on a night I wasn't there, two girls, sisters, came to the pound looking for a dog. And they found Buffy waiting for them. Buffy loved them from the first, and they were familiar with quirks of cocker spaniels, so knew to expect some diva behavior from her on occasion. They filled out the application for her, the only ones who ever did in three months, and passed the vet check with a phenomenal check. Buffy had found a home.

I was there when they came to pick Buffy up to take home. I walked into the pound, saw this happy, perky, bouncy, cute cocker spaniel on a leash, bright eyed and wanting to play. I figured they had either found this dog, or were giving her up. I asked if I could help them, and they said they were there to finish the adoption paperwork. I peeked back over the counter on tiptoe, took a second look at this dog, and did a double take. This cute little happy pup was Buffy. Two volunteers from the pound had paid for her to get groomed, and she looked fabulous. I think the haircut, combined with an instinctual sense that now things were going to be better, transformed Buffy into a different dog. We have heard from them, and Buffy is doing great, without any agression to anyone, and just plays and plays all day.

So I learned from my friends and this dog, not to give up. Maybe I was becoming to desensitized; to volunteer at the pound, you do need to protect your emotions somewhat, and a scab forms over that part of your heart, and you protect to make sure that it is not torn off too often. But my friends and Buffy renewed my faith, opening my eyes again, showing me that good does happen sometimes for animals like Buffy. And I thank them all for that, and wish Buffy the best of love in her new home.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blueberry Summer

I both love and hate August. I love it because it means I still have one month before I go back to work, and hate it for the same reason.

My days recently have been a mess of frantically busy days and lazy slow days. I am either running around, to the gym, to the pound, to recycling, to different events - either socially or for our rescue group, or I am ensconced on our couch, windows open to the breeze if there is one, reading the day away. On days like that, I usually fall asleep as well. I have been eating alot of blueberries, yogurt and granola, usually for breakfast and lunch. My friend Jennifer, her son James, and I went blueberry picking the other day, where I picked two pints of blueberries (I think they were pints - they were big baskets). They have been sustaining me since then. Chrissy told me they are good frozen too, I am going to try that today. By the end of the summer I may look like Violet Beauregarde.

I think I have been taking lessons from Penny and Maggie - either they are sound asleep, flopped wherever they are comfortable, or they are racing around at top speed. Maggie will be sleeping on the table in a ray of sunshine, and an hour later be doing laps around our house that would put Speed Racer to shame. Penny loves to sleep on the couch when she is not outside; once outside she is a different dog, running so fast her back legs almost stumble her by overtaking her front legs! I read that English Setters and other breeds with strong hunting drives conserve energy when not outside on the hunt. Instictively, they save their energy for when they are hunting, when it is necessary for them to have reserves of energy. I like to think that is what my afternoons of reading and napping are about- just me saving energy, for when I need it the most.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Il bel far niente...

Il bel far niente means "the beauty of doing nothing" in Italian. That is where I am trying to find beauty this summer, in doing nothing. I am reading the book Eat Pray Love right now, and while I am slightly embarassed to admit that I am reading this, the author summed up what I am trying to accomplish in those four Italian words. The book really is not that bad; it is just not what I usually read, and the book seems a little too self-serving for me at times. At other times I whole-heartedly agree with things the author is saying.

I spent the past few days in my garden, not with a mission like usual, to get this done and that planted, but simply puttering around, enjoying the flowers, and the plants, the breeze and the sun. My garden this year is not as abundant, and my flowers not so riotous, but that is ok. I am trying to teach myself how to relax, little by little. Penny and Maggie certainly know how to relax, they are both currently napping in their spots- Maggie on the dining room chair, Penny on the couch. They do not have agendas or lists, they just live in the beauty of the moment, in the beauty of doing nothing. That the simple things are sometimes the best.

Yesterday I took Penny for a walk, eating a plum for my breakfast. It was a gorgeous day, a gorgeous moment, one of the pleasures of summer. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables everywhere, so many my refrigerator is bursting with them. Chrissy and I went to a farmers market Sunday morning, and bought a few of everything it seems. But Billy and I will eat well this week, I am actually excited to make dinners when we have these sort of ingredients. Tonight is one of my nights for the pound, so I am making a simple dinner, but a good dinner. We are having Panzanella, or Italian Bread Salad, with a fruit salad of nectarine, peach and blueberry. The basil in the salad will be from my very own basil plants. My favorite recipe is from Tuscan Recipes, it is the perfect summer dish. We will drink the rest of my gypsy wine, and follow it up with a few truffles. Tomorrow night we will have ratatouille, because I love Aubergines. (My friend Erik always calls eggplants aubergines, I like the way it sounds so much better than eggplant. Which would you rather eat, an aubergine or an eggplant?) We will have the leftover crusty bread that I did not use in the Panzanella to eat with our ratatouille - I am looking forward to dinner the next couple of nights!

These are the simple things that make me happy this summer - fresh food, nice weather with gentle breezes, good books, sweet wines and red wines, nights by a fire, time with my husband, my family, my Penny and Maggie.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Aliens, English Setters, and walking in the rain

Penny has the biggest, most expressive eyes. Large, brown, soulful- someone recently said they are like people eyes. Sometimes when she looks at you, she is looking at you so adoringly you can't help but reach down and pet her, which is something she works to her advantage, because when she does something she shouldn't do, she looks up at you the same way, and it is as if she is trying to hypnotize you into forgetting what she did. You did not see me try to eat that nail, that wasn't me who knocked over the garbage... Billy and I have read this is a breed trait, that English Setters have giant eyes that are meant to mesmerize their prey, and keep them in place until the hunter arrives. Although with Penny, they are most often meant to manipulate any humans around her.

At times, mainly in the middle of the night, around 3 AM, I wonder if she is a tiny part alien. I stumble into the living room, awake for who knows what reason, and she pops her head up from where she is sleeping on the couch, and her big brown soulful eyes reflect the light from the streetlights in such a way that they are transformed into shiny, black, buggish alien eyes. I have to go over and pet her to make sure it is really her, and not some alien dog.

Lately Penny and I have been going for a walk in the mornings, somewhere between coffee and the rest of my day. She knows this too, and will begin her aquatic dolphin sounds as soon as I take my final glug of coffee, and reaches full cresendo as I pull on my shoes. This morning it was gently raining, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go, but Penny made me. I grabbed my umbrella, rolled up my pant legs so I wasn't dragging in puddles, and linked her to her leash and we were out the door.

It is very peaceful to walk in the rain in the morning, I never realized. It was so quiet, I could hear sounds that usually on our walks are obliterated by noise pollution, like lawn mowers and edgers, and trucks and kids shouting. (Sorry, I guess kids really don't count as noise pollution, although sometimes they should- I work in a school library, I should know). I could hear my Converse squishing on the pavement, the light backpack looped over my shoulder whooshing against my jeans, the clicking of Penny's tags, and the light tapping of the rain on my umbrella. I was just beginning to find the sense of quiet and calm within myself that I find in yoga, when Penny stopped to check out a lawn. She does this occasionally, she is a hunting dog, and smelling things is like reading a newspaper or checking the internet to see who has emailed. (Oh a rabbit passed this way where did it go where did it go) I usually let her do this for a few seconds, to catch up on neighborhood gossip. While she was sniffing around this morning, I closed my eyes to really experience the scent of the rain, the sound of the rain, the hushed morning - and realized Penny was doing more than reading the newspaper, it was more like she was reading the newspaper in the bathroom. She chose to relieve herself of last night's large dinner on someone's front lawn, right in front of their statue of Mary, just to further embarass me. As I pulled the currently empty soon to be filled purple, lavender scented doggy waste disposal bag from my back pocket, I thought about what I was doing - I was about to pick up after my dog like a good citizen, but it made me wonder who is more trained here? Me or Penny? She doesn't perform this task for me, and it seems rather demeaning, if you think about it. Then I thought, not only do I clean this up after her, but I clean up after Maggie too! In a past life, were they royalty and was I the servant who cleaned their chamber pots? If so, why haven't I moved up in the scenario? My next thought was, as Penny looked at me with her big undecipherable eyes, if aliens did exist, and were to land next to me at just this moment, who would they think was in charge?

I am not sure I want to know.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A little bit about zoos

Zoos are always hard to reconcile your conscience with if you are involved with animal rights. They often use animals to their advantage financially, by breeding animals and selling them, sometimes to places of not very good repute; some zoos do not take care of their animals, and neglect them, while other zoos have the best of intentions in designing their habitats, yet do not take into account that the animals they are placing in the exhibits are wild animals, wired to be free and roaming, making the animals neurotic from being enclosed. Finally, the worst of all in my opinion, is how visitors to the zoo treat the animals.

You see stories all the time on the news where someone was attacked by an animal in the zoo- a polar bear, an elephant, a tiger. Everytime this happens, the animal was first provoked by the person, had been teased, had rocks thrown at it, had just not been respected in general. The purpose of zoos is to educate people and bring them face to face with animals they may never get to see, and to learn about the animal, and why the animal is endangered. But most of the time people stop and look for a second before moving on, or worse, they mess with the animal. And the animal always pays the ultimate price for man's stupidity and disrespect.

So it is hard to know these facts and still patronize zoos. I feel lucky that the zoo closest to me, the Detroit Zoo, is a progressive zoo. They were one of the first to no longer keep elephants on exhibit, understanding that these great beasts were used to walking hundreds of miles a day, and it caused enormous distress to the animals to be penned up in an enclosure. Also, the polar bears they have on exhibit are rescued polar bears, who had been part of a tropical circus. So I am proud that my city's zoo is taking steps to be more animal friendly, as you would expect a zoo to be.

My whole life I wanted to visit the San Diego Zoo. When I was a kid, I saw a television show about it, and heard that it was the best one in the country, and since then it had always been on my list of places to visit. So of course when I visited San Diego, we went. And the zoo is gorgeous, and huge at 100 acres. I have to confess, I loved seeing the cute little koalas and zebras, two of my favorites. And the pandas. And riding the double decker bus through the park, and then taking the skytrain over the park. And finally visiting the elephants, a source of mixed emotions.
In 2003 the San Diego Zoo was protested for removing seven African Elephants from Swaziland. The zoo's statement was that these animals were going to be killed if they did not take them in. I hope that this is the truth, and that the San Diego zoo is not ripping off wildlife for its habitat. Which is beautiful - it is around 2 acres of land for about 7 elephants, with what look to be quite a few enrichments, including a few pools of water, tall tree things with stuff hanging from them to play with, and different puzzles. The zoo also keeps an exhibit of dung beetles, that you can watch rolling the elephants dung into little balls, which was strangely interesting. There is an open sided Elephant Care Center, where they wash the elephants and perform other routine cares for the elephants while visitors can watch. The exhibit was fascinating. I did feel terrible for the lions however - I feel they were not exhibited the way the king of beasts should be. They were in a small enclosure, in my opinion, as part of the elephant odyssey, and seemed more like an afterthought. I know that male lions sleep during the day, but this lion looked so bored, and so tired, that when Chrissy took a picture of him, she had to delete it because he just looked dead. He was lying against the glass, with 15 or so tourists around the glass, talking, pointing, knocking, and he did not even open his eyes. I feel horrible that this is what one of the most majestic beasts in the animal kingdom had been reduced to. So my opinion of the zoo falls a bit when it comes to the lions.
Interestingly, the zoo left a line of empty cages along one road, that had been used in the 1940s. These cages were tiny, and looked exactly like the ones you see depicted in old cartoons or pictures of carnivals. The zoo has certainly come a long way from that era, with its huge acreage and more animal friendly exhibits. I have to confess, I am still up in the air about my visit to this popular and much talked about zoo; I feel the need to do more research on it. I am glad however, that I did not pass up the chance to go- when deciding how I feel about something, I like to experience things for myself, as much as I can. I am hoping in my research I find that the San Diego zoo is a progressive zoo, one that is striving to make changes for the animals for the better, and not just for animals in the zoo, but for their wild brethern as well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

California Dreaming

I knew when I sat down to type this blog, I wanted to talk about California, while the images, and scents, and sounds were still fresh in my head. But there were just so many experiences, I feel like I am still processing it all myself. I saw the Pacific, and stepped in its waves; I trekked up the Sierra Nevadas, and hugged giant Sequoia trees, that were possibly the largest things I have ever seen; I visited a vineyard, that was absolutely gorgeous with the mountains in the background; I ate at a great restaurant in Little Italy, San Diego, and I saw the San Diego Zoo. I feel like I saw a sampling of all California has to offer, but didn't get the chance to really delve into its flavors. Don't get me wrong, the trip was fantastic and magical and wonderful. I could just have stayed longer, much longer. Chrissy and I said all we needed were our pets sent to us, and the four of us could have stayed forever.

The restaurant in Little Italy was one of my favorite stops- as a confirmed foodie, albeit a veggie foodie, I love to dine out in different cities. Billy and I always try to eke out the local neighborhood pizza places in a city, and try their pizza on every trip. This time we went to Fillipi's Pizza Grotto, and it was awesome! From the storefront, you almost could not tell that there was a restaurant, it was a small Italian grocery and deli with a line out the door. (a very deserved line I might add) We waited in this line about 15 minutes, exclaiming over all the various products for sale around us, and finally we were led to our table, in the back of the store. It felt like we were underground, the lights were all of a sudden dim, like we were in a grotto, hence the name I suppose. Hanging from the ceiling were hundreds of Chianti bottles, the kind with the raffia basket wrapped around the bottom, with the names and dates of people who had eaten at the restaurant before us. Of course, we had to follow suit and order the large Chianti bottle to add our names to the ceiling as well. Each couple ordered a pizza, and it was possibly one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. The cheese was the right temperature, the crust was that perfect blend of crunchy and doughy- and the tomatoes were cut into bite sizes. I like my pizza with olives and tomatoes, and this was pizza perfection. On the way out, Chrissy and I each bought a bottle of the house Chianti. I am still debated whether or not I want to drink ours, or keep it for posterity.

Another little place I really enjoyed was Ocean Beach. It had this laid back, hippie kind of feel to it, and it is very dog friendly! Everywhere you looked there was a dog hanging out somewhere, enjoying the sun and the beach and the salt air. We walked along the beach, soaking up the atmosphere, just relaxing and enjoying the sights. We went into the cutest store there too, called Bone Appetit. They had rescue cats within the store, so of course I had to patronize them. I bought a watercolor of a cat sailing away in a pea pod boat, I am going to hang it on my wall of cat art. Another tradition Billy and I have is to buy local artwork when on vacation- it is usually inexpensive, beautiful, and reminds us of the places we have visited together. The proceeds of our purchase went directly to the rescue that works with the store. I wanted to bring a cat home with me too, but Billy told me no. Maybe next time. If I lived in San Diego, I think this is the neighborhood I would want to live in. Either here, or Little Italy.

As much fun as we all had on vacation, it was nice to be home. Penny and Maggie were very glad to see us, especially Penny it seemed. I missed them too, so it was nice to come home and cuddle with my Penny and Maggie again. Maggie spent the week at Chrissy and Devin's house, hanging out with their cat Maila. I think she misses Maila now though, sometimes she walks through the house with an inquisitive meow, like she is trying to find her. Penny spent the week at a boarding facility. I hated her being in one, but I had no other option. She seems to be ok, although our first day back she did not want to get in her crate when I left the house. I guess this makes sense, but I had to do it. Today she was much better.

We also had great rescue news while I was gone!! Riley, a black lab mix, had been one of our rescue dogs. At a recent event, she was adopted, and as her new owners were putting her in their car, she escaped! We have been looking for her for three weeks, hoping against hope that she would be spotted. She is a very shy dog, so we were scared she would not surface around people. But persistence paid off, especially the persistence of one of our volunteers. She plastered the area with flyers, gave them to all local businesses and mailman, and one day, she received a call that Riley had been spotted. The volunteer set a live trap for her, and the next day we had Riley! She is now safe at home with another volunteer, no worse for the wear except a little skinnier. It turns out she had been living in a cemetary all that time. We are all very relieved and thankful to have this girl back- she has had a rough life, and hopefully it can only get better. She was brought into the pound after being fished out of the Detroit River in the winter, and after a few weeks of being terrified, started to come around with the volunteers at the pound. Shortly after that, a volunteer took her home to see how she would do, and Riley got so freaked out she jumped the fence and took off. She was missing about a week that time, before she got picked up by Animal Control again. But hopefully Riley's story has a happy ending, I know that we will try everything to make that happen, most especially the volunteer she is now living with.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Day of Divine Intervention and Bedlam

Yesterday was one of those days, where your heart sinks, the day that you dread as a volunteer for a shelter. Early in the morning, my phone rang, with my friend on the other end calling to tell me that the day had that we had all been anticipating with great sadness and anxiety, knowing it was out there on the horizon. We had finally been at more than capacity for too long, and three dogs were going to be put down. We only have 6 dog runs at our shelter, and we have been at 12-13 dogs for a long time now. We just double up on the runs, and put one dog in the makeshift run behind the shelter. And we had been doing this for a month and half now, scrambling like mad to get our dogs adopted before this day came.

Fourth of July weekend is a bad weekend for dogs. We get so many lost and stray dogs due to people having backyard parties and leaving gates and doors open, or the actual neighborhood fireworks scares dogs so badly they leap their fences to try to get away from the noises. Dog that were never fence jumpers or runners find themselves now on the run, lost, and disoriented by all the explosions going on around them, like all of a sudden being thrust into a war zone. This is a very traumatic day for a lot of animals, and even the local shelters who don't often have dogs fill up this weekend every year. Which brings us to our overcrowded pound, on a holiday weekend known for large numbers of intakes.

One dog scheduled for the short list has always been a volunteer favorite. He is a dalmation/great dane mix, whose owners gave him up to us three months ago because he got too big for them. Why they didn't think about this in the first place before they adopted him, I don't know. This is something that happens alot, as well as people giving up their animals because they are moving, or because after five years they develop allergies and don't want to take medication. But, I digress. The other two dogs have just as tragic back stories, including a 7 month old boxer-pitt mix who had lived her entire life in a crate in a basement, before being given up to us because the people were tired of her. She has absolutely no training, and is basically like a giant, friendly, wild dog. Her owners have ruined her, and it will take a great deal of love, patience and rehab to make her a pet, and unfortunately, those homes are hard to find.

So, I was not looking forward to stopping by the pound yesterday afternoon. I had to stop in to drop off a key to my friend, and I was fully expecting sadness and grim expressions. Instead, I walked into a pound with an uplifted, joyous mood, the kind of feeling that you get when you escape something big and frightening by the seat of your pants. It was borderline euphoric, and everyone had giant smiles beaming from their faces. Three dogs had been adopted, including one of our death row dogs, the dalmation/great dane mix! This freed up cage space and left breathing room for our other dogs, at least for a little while. So, while the day had begun as the kind of day that you hate when you are a volunteer at a shelter, it ended as the type of day you love, the kind where the most needy dog finds a loving home.

My own home right now is chaos! We currently have Penny, our dog; Maggie, our cat; and Sassy, my brother and sister-in-law's dog. They all get along quite well, that is not the problem. The problems arise at feeding time, and at bedtime, believe it or not. Penny and Sassy both have special dietary needs, prissy little girls that they are, and have specific food to address these needs. Maggie is eating kitten chow, which is not that great for adult dogs, who usually get sick if they eat it due to the higher levels of fat and protein that is in food for young animals. And of course, they all want to eat each others food, and not their own. I have to chase Penny away from Maggie's bowl, and Sassy away from Penny's bowl, and Maggie away from Sassy's bowl! It is like a circus meets feeding time at the zoo around here at mealtimes. Added to this, Sassy does not want to eat really at all, because she is still getting used to our house, and is feeling a little bewildered. This morning I had to put Maggie and her food bowl on the ironing board, and close the door to that room; next I put Penny in the hallway with her bowl, and gated that off; and finally Sassy ate in the kitchen, after I added a tiny bit of Penny's bland wet food to her bowl to temp her into eating. But once they were all chomping away in unison throughout the house, I had to smile at the situation, and the fact that I absolutely love having a houseful of happy, loved animals.

Sleeping is another story- the past two nights Billy and I have gone to bed and woken up with two dogs and a cat in bed with us. Good thing we have a large bed, is all I have to say. Of course, Maggie has to sleep right on top of me, knowing somehow in her little cat way that I am allergic to her. She is too cute to push away though, so I just suffer slightly for her.

All in all, yesterday was a good day - dogs were adopted, my animals are doing well, and for one dog, who had been downtrodden and was at the end of his rope, he finally found freedom on Independence Day.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Baby Steps to a Greener Life

I am a little behind on the greening of my life. It is something I passionately care about, yet I find laziness gets in my way sometimes. I use my own cloth bags at stores about 50% of the time, I try to use eco friendly products, I am a vegetarian, which I believe is good for my health, the environment (it helps prevent pollution and waste of natural resources), and simply because I can't eat something that was once living, thinking, and feeling. But recycling has always been my achilles heel.

Last summer I decided that was going to be my summer project- Billy and I were going to start recycling. I bought bins to put the stuff in, and figured it would be easy, since the pound is right across the parking lot from the recycling center. I am there at least twice a week anyway, how hard could it be to make a drop off? Plenty hard for me, apparently. I started putting the stuff in the bins, and then let it sit there, full. Thank goodness the totes had lids! I didn't even start out recycling everything - just glass and plastic, thinking this would make it easier. It didn't.

So, this summer I made up my mind that I was absolutely going to do this - plus I still had all those empty wine bottles in my basement, and it was making me feel a bit like a closet alcholic to look at them. My mom even asked me once how much I drank, after she saw them. I told her they were collected over months, which they were. Nevertheless, I still felt my liver shrivel everytime I saw the box of bottles. They needed to go.

So I made four trips to my car - three with boxes of wine bottles, and one with plastic stuff. I was really hoping that my neighbors weren't watching! I felt so proud throwing my leftover garbage into the big recycling dumpsters, like I was really doing my part in helping to save the planet. I also could not get over all the bottles, magazines, mugs, plastic, and newspapers inside the dumpsters! I kept sticking my head into them all and exclaiming to Billy to look at all of it! I was absolutely fascinated by the piles. I am definitely going to start recycling more often.

Hopefully, though, I will make my second trip a little sooner than next summer.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wow, I can't wait for Monday?

I must be getting old. I am only 33, but I think I have left the better part of my late night dancing days behind me. I went out Saturday night with the girls for a bachelorette party, and I danced all night! I had such a fantastic time, I love dancing. But today, my abs are killing me! I apparently need to work on my core a little more at the gym.

Which is why I can't wait for tomorrow- yoga. It will stretch all my muscles back out, it always feels so good. I love yoga, I love the way I feel during yoga, and after. I have Chrissy to thank for dragging me to my first class, I never thought I could do it. But I loved it from that very first class. I actually love it so much, I want to master it so that I can eventually be a yoga instructor. I think my dream career life would be a yoga instructor/photographer/writer, all jobs I can do and still have time for animal rescue. While living on my farm, in a big old rickety house with a huge front porch I could relax on . With my goats, dogs, rabbits and cats. And apple orchard in the backyard.

We leave for California next week, and I am a little nervous about leaving Penny in a kennel. I wish I didn't have to do it. I was very picky though, about where she went, since we have only had her 6 weeks and she has already put us through the emotional wringer, running away the first week, and then eating Christmas garland, complete with wire, two weeks ago. I really wanted a place that would have 24 hour monitoring, late pick up times, close to my home so my mom could visit, and I also did not want her to go outside. I guess I just don't trust anyone to watch her the way I do. I couldn't find anything that fit all of these qualifications however. I did find a place I can live with, the vets office where Penny had her surgery. They are familiar with her, and the kennel is on the second floor, so I am not afraid of her escaping as much. It is close to my mom's house, so she can visit, and they do have late pick up hours, but not 24 hour monitoring. So they came pretty close! They are open until 10 at night, and the staff I talked to said more often than not, there are people there working until the wee hours of the morning, performing emergency surgeries, like Penny had. The vet stayed with Penny until 3 a.m. that night/morning, and that happens often I guess. So, she may only be in the building a few hours alone. It is the best I can do. I only hope she doesn't hate us when we get back for putting her in a kennel!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Maggie the Cat

Maggie is our foster cat, brought home from the crowded pound. She has a bit of an URI, so we are now giving meds to two animals. It is starting to feel like a clinic around here!

Maggie is a sweet cat, I am so glad we brought her home, even though we are only a temporary stop on the way to her forever home, wherever that may be. We named her Maggie the Cat after Elizabeth Taylor's character in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of my all time favorite movies. Our Maggie is so spirited, and all she wants is attention and to be loved. She also loves to watch TV, which is hysterical to my husband and I.

I have never had a cat before. It is so different from having a dog, it is hard to explain. Penny greets me with such energy and affection, she makes these little aquatic sea life noises to get my attention, and is just so excited to see me! Maggie I know is happy I am home too, but her show of affection is more subtle- she climbs up next to me and her purr motor just takes off. Dogs are just so obvious in their love, while cats make you work for it.
Penny really is funny with Maggie- she doesn't quite know what to think about this little furry thing running around our house. Maggie will step boldly up to Penny, and sniff her nose. Penny will jerk her head around to look at me, her eyes super wide, looking at me like she is in a panic! I have to tell her that she is a good girl, and that it is ok to make her relax. When she is in sleep mode, however, she doesn't care if Maggie is right on top of her. The other day Maggie flopped down in front of Penny on the floor, facing her, and put her tiny paws on top of Penny's big paw. They napped together like that for about 30 minutes. I wanted a picture so badly, but I knew if I got up for my camera they would both wake up to see what I was doing. They are both so nosy. Right now they are napping, which sounds pretty good to me also. I was going to watch Mamma Mia, but for some reason our DVD player is not cooperating. So I think I will imitate my animals, and take a nap too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kitten Season..

Spring and summer are always busy for those involved with animal rescue, and this summer has not been any diffferent. First it is kitten season, everywhere you turn there is someone there with a litter of kittens they found in a yard, a garage, or under their deck. This year is even more difficult, with the economy in Michigan being what it is. People are losing their jobs, their homes, and giving up their pets to rescues and shelters, and in some cases, just letting them loose or leaving them behind. So we volunteers are busy giving shots and medicating sick animals, taking pictures for petfinder, taking animals to events, hoping that an animal will not just find a home, but a good home that will love them, and take care of them. We also clean cages, socialize feral cats, and walk dogs. But all this work is worth it for that feeling you get when you leave the pound and all the animals are fed, their kennels are clean, and they are snuggled in content and happy, or when you leave an event knowing that a cat or a dog has found their perfect match.

Sometimes you lose your heart, and alot of times your heart breaks. Sometimes you take them home. I found my dog in the pound, an underweight English Setter, who was starved for love as well as food, a stinky faced girl who would look out at me from the bars every day with her big brown eyes, and get mad at me when I would put her back in the kennel after her walk. One day as I sat in the field across from the pound where I was walking her, she crawled into my lap, all 30 pounds and long legs of her, and I knew she was mine, and I had to keep her. Luckily for me, my husband is an animal lover, and fellow animal rescuer, and fell in love with her as well.

Penny has been a challenge, but one we are happy to undertake. We got her out of the pound a week after our much loved 15 year old American Eskimo Chevis passed away from lung cancer, and named her Penny. I believe that Chevis sent her to us to care for and love, she is our "Penny from heaven," as corny as that is. In the 5 weeks we have had her, she has escaped from our yard, gotten terrible diarrhea as we learned that she has a sensitive stomach, and then eaten christmas garland and had to have emergency surgery to remove the wires. This makes us sound like terrible owners, but really, truly we are not. She is a silly, sweet girl, who just has a nose for mischief. We are quickly learning her personality, as she begins to trust us. (she is also gaining her healthy weight)

The day Penny ran out of our yard, we had had her about a week. My mom and stepdad came over and opened the gate to our backyard, where Billy and I and Penny were gardening. Well, Billy and I were gardening, and Penny was patrolling for rabbits and squirrels. As soon as they opened the gate and came in, Penny ran up to them to say hi, and then noticed, hey she could get out of the yard and really investigate! She took off at the fastest run I have ever seen, and Billy and I lost sight of her within 40 seconds. I was panicking, scared to death the worst was going to happen to her, and I ran off behind her, Billy and my stepdad not far behind me. My mom was the smart one of the group, and ran for her car. She saved the day, and the dog, by spotting Penny in a parking lot. Not thinking about anything other than, I have to get her! my mother jumped from her moving car. Good thing mom was only going like 3 mph. As soon as mom called to Penny, Penny jumped in the car like nothing ever happened.
We are now taking Penny to dog training, where we hope she will learn some better habits. We also need to learn how to communicate with her too, so we have high hopes for this class. So far so good!