Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Edition - Thinking About Thankful Things

Wow, can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted! Sorry, y'all -- I was on the road and then the holidays got here and now...it's almost Christmas!

Here I am addressing a marketing breakout session at this year's annual Cat Writers Assn. conference in White Plains, NY, just before Thanksgiving. I met some fabulous new friends and decided to join the group. What a passionate and fun crowd!

So, I'm thinking about things to celebrate. Here's a brief list off the top of my head:
  1. I am a great aunt. I mean yeah, I am a great aunt -- I dig my nieces and nephews and I think they feel the same about me. But this year I became a Great Aunt, as in the title. Meet the Shafer clan's newest puppy, Connor Mark Beaudet:

  2. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, so it's all uphill toward the light from here! For those of us afflicted with SAD (seasonal affective disorder, also known as light deprivation syndrome), this is great and hopeful news. Hope you all had a great Solstice. Speaking of which, here's an awesome song that perfectly captures the wonderfully ethereal feel of being out in a snow-covered forest, surrounded by trees with ice crystals sparkling in the air: It's a song by Anuna, titled "Winter Fire and Snow."

  3. There's at least one little boy with his heart in the right place about Christmas. This evening, Orlando, Florida Cub Scout Zach Wilson was interviewed on NBC Nightly News as part of its "Making A Difference" holiday segment. He started an animal food pantry and it gave out an average of 800 pounds of food a week until Thanksgiving. The past four weeks, the demand has spiked, with the pantry distributing between 1800 and 2000 pounds of food per week. Read more at Animal Crazy.

    Zach is kewl. And couldn't you just squeeze those cheeks?

  4. This one's about me, but it's pretty cool: I learned yesterday that I've been nominated to receive the 2009 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award for editing Almost Perfect! This award best highlights the special bond between people and their treasured pets, promoting the strengthening of this bond and highlighting the special relationship between a dog and its owner, as well as between dogs and veterinarians.

    I am so honored even to be considered, and especially among such awesome company (our pal Barb Techel, Frankie's mom, won this year and she sure deserves it)! If I win, I'll probably explode with excitement as soon as I believe it's true. Of all the kinds of things one's work can be recognized for, I can't imagine anything I'd rather be acknowledged for than helping critters in some small way. Here's the announcement from Dog Writers Assn. of America.

Okay, so among many things, those are the ones I'm thinking about being thankful for right now. How about you -- what's warming the cockles of your heart with gratitude as you look back over 2009 and ahead to the New Year?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grab a hanky...

A friend of mine sent this link to me today, and now I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes. This was one of the most lucid, and just plain true, pieces I've ever read on the subject of dogs.

It's an excerpt from the book Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs, text by Gene Weingarten and Michael S. Willamson, based on a longer excerpt that originally appeared in The Washington Post.

There is one passage in it that infuriates me, and you'll know what it is. But everyone makes mistakes, and that this person had the courage to write about it in this way -- with such unflinching honesty, without excuses, and to be willing to open himself up to the criticism he surely knew would come -- allows me to imagine myself having done something like it and to have compassion.

What is it about dogs that makes us want to be better people?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We Have A Winner...

...in our Khyra Khares Khontest! Well...actually, two. Or three, depending on how you look at it. :)

The beautiful Scout and Freyja over at Loving For A Living were the first to reply, saying the project will be called the UGA Veterinary Training Hospital, and they're trying to raise $10 million. But then I realized my question was, what was the name of the FUND, not the project itself.

That correct answer came in with the next entry, which was from Jan, when she correctly identified it as Billy's Building Fund. And I figured: Well, they're both winners. And of course, Khyra will win a copy for having gotten this all started in the first place!

So, three copies of Twelve Days of a Canine Christmas will soon be winging their ways to these lovely folks and critters. I love a contest where everyone wins, and we all certainly win when we're looking out for each other and for those who can't look out for themselves, don't we?

Thanks to everyone who entered, and who sent comments and well wishes. Khyra, you certainly do have lots and LOTS of friends out there! No surprise there, sweet girl. Give your mom a high five and you can both do the happy dance together! We'll continue to visit Khyra's Khorner regularly and to keep doing what we can to help fight the good fight.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Nice to Share.

Hey, Y'all -

Sorry I've been AWOL for two weeks! I took a much-needed brief vacation to beautiful Cape Cod (the New York Thruway at this time of year is just full of incredible scenic beauty!). Then we weren't back even a week when both humans here at Hill House came down with God-knows-what; some kind of flu.

Is it the H1N1 or "swine flu" form? Not sure (and is it just me, or does that name read "hiney" if you look at it really quickly? Like "hiney virus" or "hiney swiney?" Okay, I'm done. No one's ever accused me of being overly mature...), but I can report with absolute veracity that I don't recall having been this sick in years...

But I'm back now, easing back into the work routine. In that vein, I thought it would be nice to steer away from some of the heavier stuff this blog has been dealing with lately. Instead, I'd like to share with you one of the blogs I follow.

Khyra's Khorner is just a lovely little blog where Khyra, the Siberian Husky (and sometimes her mom) share their many, varied and interesting thoughts on pretty much everything dog, occasionally about cats and other critters, and often about their humans, as well. I've never met Khyra or her mom, though we do live in the same state of "Pawsylvania." But I hope someday we DO get to meet, because these galz are both just sweet, kind and thoughtful beings who really care about others and use their blog to try to help many critter-related causes.

I learn so much about so many things on Khyra's blog (and did I mention the truckload of great photos she always shares with us? You can't help but be buoyed by the fantastic furries she features!). One of those things I learned about was that the University of Georgia's Veterinary School is in desperate need of funds to build a new teaching hospital. I think this is such a great cause that I'm making this offer:

Go visit Khyra's blog and find the link called "Let's Build A Hospital." Read all about it, and check out all the other kewl stuff there. Then, come on back here. The first one to email me with the full answer to this question – What's the name of the fund and how much money are they trying to raise? -- will earn a copy of "Twelve Days of a Canine Christmas" by Betty Linkinhoker, for themselves and one for Khyra.

It's a great little gift book and just my way of saying thanks for caring about this very important effort, and for Khyra's khonstant khalling of our attention to these khinds of things that really matter. So get in the holiday spirit and enter our Khyra Khares Khontest! And while you're at it, if you can afford a little gift of your own to the hospital's fund drive, I'm sure they'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another new book to check out!

Well, it may be a bad year for lots of things -- including the publishing industry at large -- but it's certainly been a good one for books about special critters! Here's the latest in the bumper crop:

TO THE RESCUE: Found Dogs with a Mission will be available from Skyhorse Publishing on November 1. This beautifully designed hardcover has a Foreword by daytime talk show host Bonnie Hunt.

It's the latest book from animal adoption activist Elise Lufkin, author of Found Dogs: Tales of Strays Who Landed on Their Feet (1997) and Second Chances: More Tales of Found Dogs (2003). In these touching stories, illustrated with poignant photographs by Diana Walker, people give their rescued dogs much more than just a good home: They train them to be certified service animals, whose missions include visiting hospitals, prisons, and nursing homes, guiding the blind and deaf, and detecting narcotics, bombs and even bed bugs.

In a world where cruelty and neglect impact the lives of children, adults, and animals alike, it’s truly inspiring to read about these dogs who bring comfort, assistance and happiness to others in need. Check out some great examples of such stories in this piece by TIME magazine. I like the second one, about Fred.

Fred was discovered, thin and mangy, in a park.
Now he visits elementary schools as a service dog.

It's an incredible book, and another great idea for holiday gifts...especially since ALL proceeds are donated to animal shelters and welfare organizations! Can't beat that: Kewl book AND good karma, all in one package!

In fact, as far as I can tell, there's only ONE thing wrong with this book: That I didn't think of the idea first! LOL. Put it on your wishlist, folks, and know you're doing a Good Thing. Which reminds me...we should make sure Martha knows about this...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Take THAT, Michael Vick!


Because the press can't resist any level of sensationalism, it pretty much seems like any story involving a pit bull has some measure of horror to it. They usually don't bother to cover the ones where the pit bull is the hero, but this one's different. Yes, there is an element of horror, but in the end, the dog prevails.

According to yesterday's Chicago Tribunal:

By all accounts, Red is a great dog. The 7-year-old pit bull knows more than a dozen commands – verbally and through hand signals. He is playful, smart, protective. And that last attribute almost got him killed.

Back in July, two gunmen attacked and robbed Red’s elderly owner in his West Side garage, beat him severely and tied him up. Then they burglarized the man’s home, where Red was. And they shot the dog. The attack is still under investigation, according to the Chicago Police Department.

“I guess Red was doing his job, defending his master’s property, and they shot him in the back, paralyzed him,” said the victim, a man in his 60s who asked that his name not be used.

Go to the full story to read more, where you'll find a heroic Red beating the odds to survive and, finally, thrive. Who's the man now, Michael Vick?

PS - I had written here about never buying another pair of Nikes OR Reeboks. I have since been informed that, though both seriously considered giving Vick an endorsement deal, both withdrew their offers after he was convicted of dogfighting and animal cruelty. So, I stand corrected.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

We're In Good Company!

We've been promoting Almost Perfect as the only book of its kind so far, devoted solely to a collection of disabled pets. There are several books devoted only to disabled dogs or other single species, or to one specific handicapped pet, and you should definitely check these out, too (especially our friend Frankie, the Walk 'n Roll Dog, who just got a great review over at Dawn Kairns' blog).

But so far, our book has pretty much been on its own as a nonfiction anthology with an "ensemble cast" of almost perfect critters. We were joined in August by a wonderful new book titled Where The Blind Horse Sings.

Unlike Almost Perfect, it's not solely devoted to physically disabled animals, but it does feature them prominently not only in its title, but in its true-life story of how owner Kathy Stevens created her unique Catskills Animal Sanctuary. Of course, it could also be argued that any animal that has suffered abuse is at least in some way emotionally handicapped, and clearly this is a topic broached at length by Where The Blind Horse Sings.

And I think that puts us in very good company.

Here's the review from Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.):
Giving up a thriving 11-year teaching career, Stevens bought a disastrously rundown farm on a vast number of acres, and with sheer determination, boundless compassion and limited funds turned it into an acclaimed haven for abused livestock, the Catskills Animal Sanctuary. In her first book, Stevens, though she humbly claims "our job was to love and nurture them without expectation," presents the heartening story of the difficult work that has gone into saving more than 1,100 lives since the sanctuary's 2001 founding.

The blind horse of the title appears among an eclectic company of pigs, sheep, cows, ducks and other animals with improbably Broadway-sized personalities-personalities revealed as the bond between people and animals strengthens, and the distinctions between them narrow. The anecdotes are fascinating, sometimes miraculous, and their power is undeniable: "I would not have believed that a rooster would so crave physical closeness that he'd demand to get in bed with me or that as he was dying, a gentle old steer named Samson would lick my face over and over until he took his last breath. But this stuff happens all the time." Though sentimentality in this case is
de rigeur (how could a book about love for animals avoid it?), the ideas behind Stevens's stories-such as the inherent equality and nobility of all species-are affecting and thought-provoking.
Those of us in publishing know what an honor it is to get a glowing review like this from such a vaunted trade publication, and we extend hearty congratulations to Kathy and to her sanctuary. And welcome to the newly scrappy world of book publishing -- always an adventure!

Kathy's book represents a growing -- and welcome -- trend in global consciousness-raising around the real value of all living creatures...one that we're very proud to be a part of. We're all working for the same thing -- loving and humane treatment of ALL critters -- and what helps one of us helps us all. The visibility of Kathy's book will raise the visibility of all such books, including ours, for which we are grateful.

So now you've got a great idea to add to your holiday wish list. I know it's going to be on mine.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Meet Yu Chan, An Almost Perfect Turtle

A little over a year ago Yu Chan, a 20-year-old loggerhead turtle, became entwined in fishermen's nets in the Kii channel in Japan. Her wounds indicated she had also been attacked by a shark. She'd lost half of one forelimb, and a third of the other. She was brought to the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, which uses a saltwater pond near Kobe Airport for some of their work.

Loggerhead turtles are classified by the IUCN as an endangered species, and the organization treated her with according respect. After a period of recuperation, the plan was to release the turtle back into the wild. But some citizens of Kobe objected, saying it would be cruel to release Yu Chan back into the ocean in this condition. Without her full flippers, she would be vulnerable to predators and other hazards.

Kamezaki Naoki, Director of the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, explains: "We were thinking about releasing Yu Chan in the usual way, but some of Kobe's residents objected and said that it would be cruel to release a turtle that had lost its flippers. And they were right."

So, a fund was set up to help finance Yu Chan's recovery, including paying for prosthetic limbs for the turtle. The Sea Turtle Association consulted Japan's largest prosthetic limb manufacturer, Kawamura Gishi, and the company began work on the fake flippers.

The group knows it will be a challenge: There is no known successful case of artificial limbs being attached to sea turtles, which have fragile bones and use their limbs differently in water and on land.

"By promoting development of prosthetic devices, we want to apply them to other animals as well," said Erika Akai, a 27-year-old researcher at the association who has studied behavior of dolphins fitted with artificial tail fins in Okinawa.

Read more and watch a video about this fascinating story.

There's more about Yu Chan and a related story about the American turle, Allison, here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sticky gets a new home!

It's been a bad month in Philly for animals. Among other things, some stupid dude duct-taped a small gray tiger cat from neck to toes and left her to die. Thankfully, he didn't finish the job by covering her breathing apparatus, and someone called animal rescue, so she was saved.

Here's the happy story, telling how "Sticky" was rehabbed and adopted by some kind family.

This is the kind of thing that helps me remember that for every evil, cruel slimebag roaming the Earth, there is a kind, decent, compassionate person worthy of being called "human." And some days, I really need to be reminded of that.

For instance, on the day I learned that the Philadelphia Eagles stooped so low in search of a Super Bowl berth that they would hire Michael "The Dog Torturer" Vick. I never liked the Eagles for any number of reasons (not the least of which is that I'm a Packers fan) before, but now I just cannot stand them.

Is this the kind of message we want to send to our children? That winning is more important than decency? Vick is NOT a rehabilitated criminal, and he is NOT sorry for what he did. He's only sorry he got caught. This little charade he's currently on -- where he delivers talks against dogfighting to high schools, etc. -- is just that: a farce. As soon as all the brouhaha dies down around his being picked up by the Eagles, that will stop cold, I'm sure.

The fact is, though, that not everyone will forget. Some of us are determined not to. Like these folks, with their "Ethics Over Athletics" signs, protesting outside the stadium on the day of the first game in which Vick appeared (he's still not allowed to play yet):

You GO, protesters!

But the folks I really admire are the ones from the Philly 'burbs, at Main Line Animal Rescue. They put their money where their mouths are with this full-page ad they ran in the Inquirer:

Woo-hoo! Talk about pay-to-play! This is one scheme I'm all for.

We need to keep up the pressure on the Eagles and the whole NFL. Every time Vick makes a play, instead of putting him up on the stadium big screen, they should show this guy, holding up a 60-lb. chain, used to "condition" fighting dogs. Three guesses what that little euphemism really means...
We can only guess at the number of dogs that have been maimed and tortured and turned into disabled animals over the years -- if they weren't just outright killed -- by these kinds of practices. I'd very willingly take that chain to Vick myself. Let's see how big and bad a man he is when someone turns his tactics back on his shameful self.

But then, I don't think I'd want to touch him, for fear some of the ugliness might rub off. I'll just have to concentrate on believing that the Karma gods know what they're doing and will take care of him in their own time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Counselors Are In

Found an interesting post over at Divine Caroline's blog about Rolling Dog Ranch, a great animal sanctuary we've mentioned on here before. But for those who haven't read about them, it's a great little refresher piece. Check out "Counselors Help Families Care for Their Disabled Pets." I think you'll dig it!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Super Man.

Christopher Reeve, Actor and Activist, 1952-2004

Today would have been Christopher Reeve's 57th birthday. Though I enjoyed the first Superman movie and his time-travel romance, "Somewhere In Time" (best part: the soundtrack), I can't say I was a huge fan of his film work.

Oh, he was a good enough actor. But it was what he chose to do after he became paralyzed by a fall from a horse that I consider his most important life's work. At a time when many would have simply given up and given in, Mr. Reeve became his strongest, most passionate self. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he and his wife (who, tragically, followed him in death not long after he died in 2004) created the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

One part of that foundation is its Paralysis Resource Center (PRC). This is a collection of publications, films and other informational items from which people can learn about paralysis is all its forms. Through these resources, families touched by this physical challenge can learn that they're not so all alone, and can make informed decisions about how they will handle their situations.

My publishing company, Word Forge Books, is very proud that our latest title, Almost Perfect, is one of the many books in the loan library of the PRC. We're honored that the Foundation found our little book worthy of inclusion in such a significant collection. We're in quite distinguished company there, among some of the most important books ever written on the subject.

And all because one man refused to allow the loss of movement in most of his body to stop him from contributing something of real value to his world. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, isn't it? His is the human version of so many stories we know about disabled animals who wouldn't even imagine allowing their disabilities to define their lives. Bless this incredible man for making the spreading of this message the most important story he ever told...and this time, he wasn't acting.

So, happy birthday, Chris. You were—truly—a SUPER man.

P.S. Thanks to our ever-alert Roberta for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Dragon Lives Forever...But Not So, Little Girls

Mary Travers, 1936-2009

Late last night, just before shutting down my computer, I learned I had lost someone who was very important in my early life.

Mary Travers, one-third of the trio "Peter, Paul and Mary," left us yesterday. She had battled leukemia for years, and I'm glad she's no longer suffering. But oh, how I will miss her, and them together.

PP&M's music is THE soundtrack to my childhood, and their songs were especially comforting during times of family upheaval. When things got loud and scary, my little sister would bring her albums into my room and we'd put them on my portable "close-and-play" style record player. We'd shut the door, crank up the volume, and for the length of an album side, we would feel safe and less stressed while we listened to their beautiful harmonies and uplifting songs.

Particularly -- and why I'm posting here -- we loved "Puff, The Magic Dragon." It was the song that introduced me to the concept that an animal's love could, indeed, make life wondrous and rewarding. It taught the lesson not to take for granted those whom you love, and who love you. And I will always be grateful for this ever-present spot of gentleness in a world that often feels like the tumble cycle in a dryer full of rocks.
I read a beautiful tribute to her this morning, and it moved me to want to post something of my own.

Thanks, Mary, for all the peace, love and awareness you brought into my life. May you now soar free and sing for eternity, perched on the gigantic tail of an emerald-scaled Puff; for a song once told me, "A dragon lives forever...in a land called Honah Lee."

And so I will leave you with this video of the young trio singing "Puff." The sound quality's not as good as later versions, but this is the one I fell in love and grew up with. They're all in great voice, with full octave ranges before they were ravaged by time and other influences. And don't we all want to be remembered as our best selves?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Of Great Redeeming Value

After the wrenching story of Edwina and my subsequent rant, I want to share with you something my dear friend Sandy sent me. Somehow my friends always know when to show up in my life, and I am so incredibly thankful. Please enjoy the healing of this video -- I hope it has a similar effect on you. :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Okay, I just can't even stand this...

WARNING: ANGRY FEMINIST RANT. Today's is not a happy post. You may wanna skip this one.


My new cyber-friend, Dusty Rainbolt (yes, it's her real name - wish mine was something interesting like that!), sent me a FaceBook invitation to join her "Helping Edwina" cause. I checked it out and it made me absolutely, physically ill late last night.

It's another example of a sick, twisted human willfully creating a disabled animal. It is so far beyond anything I can comprehend that my mind just can't wrap around the horror and senselessness of it. But Edwina still needs help, so if posting her story here can be part of bringing both her particular story and this general problem to light, I must do it.

I continue to imagine what it is that must drive these twisted individuals to hurt animals. And I can't help but see that cats tend to get tortured more than dogs, at least in these really sick ways. It occurs to me that our society tends to vilify cats for some reason, while it tends to sanctify dogs. And this issue vexes me, because I think everyone tiptoes around the root of it.

Well, I'm tired of this behavior, because I believe it is part of an almost unwitting conspiracy of silence that allows it to continue. So I'm gonna venture my opinion, since this is my blog and I can. I'm aware that I'm probably going to make myself a pariah to some people...and frankly, I don't care. SOMEONE has to speak up about this.

I think it started WAAAAY back when the species lived pretty much separately and didn't have much to do with each other. But at some point, dogs became domesticated and for the most part, fairly obedient, subservient and dependent. This sat well with the Rulers of All Things at the time: men. Because men like to think they're always running the show, even when they're not -- which is more often than they'd ever believe. (Guys, if this is a revelation to you, get over it. If it's not, then you've obviously got a few years on you and know it's the truth.)

I believe this whole attitude has always been the case, but that it became ensconced in cultural law in the Christian Bible. Right there in Genesis, where God says "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

My first thought is, What's with this "we" business? I thought God was supposed to have done this whole creation thing alone? And I am SO glad we don't have to still deal with the stilted "creepeth" kind of language anymore. But I digress.

The problem was that all the young dudes got it wrong when parsing out what this actually meant for them. They somehow mistook "dominion" for "domination," which effectively removed the latter side of the "power = responsibility" equation. And it's been an ugly scene for the critters -- and women, and pretty much anyone else who was under their power -- ever since.

But it's been particularly ugly for cats. And in my mind, the connection is much the same.

All those years of the Christian religion trying to eradicate the influence of the nature-based pagan spiritualities have taken their toll. It makes sense to me that the big boys of the Christian church would single out cats -- because they're solitary, independent and uncontrollable, everything that's anathema to this religion and especially to its men -- as being "Satan's familiars," and somehow attached to black witchcraft.

As Dana Carvey's Church Lady would say, "How conVEEEEEENient!" How utterly nice for them that they could culturally and legally subdue ALL that they couldn't control in one fell swoop... and all with the imprimature of the Holy Church. Every time I think of it, I just seethe.

All through the shameful Burning Times during our country's early settlement, cats were tortured and killed alongside any woman who dared live her life similarly solitary, independent and uncontrollable.

And apparently, that attitude has never left us. The endless stories of abused, battered and dead women is mind-numbing, and shows no sign of becoming any shorter. And I bet at least once a month I hear some guy make a remark about how much he hates cats. And cats pay for this all-too-ubiquitous hatred every day with their lives and their well-being.

I'll bet I'm not alone in conjecturing that more than one cat has endured such pain because it happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up standing in as a surrogate for the woman that guy REALLY wanted to hurt. But he knew no one would say too much if he just took it out on a cat. And it just makes me freakin' sick.

I apologize if I have offended any of my Christian readers, but I believe what I say is the truth. And I don't believe ANY religion has the right to use its holy writs as justification to harm any other living thing. And I don't believe that EVERY man hates cats -- I know better, and am thankful.

But am I saying that I'm certain that all these kinds of animal torture are inflicted by men? Certain -- no. I can't factually prove it. But my life experience tells me that I'm 99.9% sure that women -- at least those in their right minds -- just don't do stuff like this to animals.

Yes, they occasionally drown their kids, even dismember them and throw them in swampy areas to dispose of the bodies, and I don't take this horror lightly. I believe this behavior is driven by something related to what motivates men to torture and disfigure animals -- but in an absolutely opposite manifestation. And this is not the place to discuss that. Neither is right, but they're not the same. And I just don't think many women do this to animals.

Okay, end of rant. I don't hate guys. But I do hate a lot of what they do.

If you have the stomach for it, please read Edwina's story and do what you can to help. If you can't help, bless you for sending healing energy to this stray who didn't deserve what was done to her.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

TRIUMPH! A Tale of Many Cities

Thanks for all the feedback on my Aug. 31st post about Molly and all the sweet critters that have been helped with their own set of wheels. I got a great suggestion from Khyra the Siberian Husky (and sometimes her mom) not to forget about Triumph, another husky who has absolutely earned her name by coming through the most amazing of difficult circumstances with flying colors. So I want to share her story here:
Triumph's story began in Turkey where she was found on the roadside, bleeding. Her rear legs had been severed. She was taken to a shelter, where the first of many miracles began. They treated her wounds and kept her alive, instead of euthanizing her as many would have.

Her story was put in the local paper (above), and for the next two months, they tried to find her a forever home. Unfortunately, no one came forward. However, two volunteers who worked with the shelter took a liking to Triumph and began the huge effort of trying to find that forever person.

Renin -- one of those volunteers -- and her mother, Armagon, contacted a friend in Philadelphia. That friend, Coral, put the story up on the Web, with the same picture in the news clipping above. The look on Triumph's face was hard to ignore for those visiting the Siberian rescue sites, where it caught the interest of Belinda in Baltimore.

She posted it somewhere and it was sent via email to a woman in Nashville, who has worked for years with the most severely abused dogs, damaged either physically or emotionally. "Moe" (as she is called), would be the first to tell you that when she did the first reading of the story and got to the part that said the dog was in Turkey, she just didn't see what she could do, and deleted the story.

But fate was at work. That same day, another person sent her the same photo with the same plea: "Can you please help this animal?" At that point, it was obvious to Moe that she was supposed to do something about this dog. So she began gathering information and after 6 weeks of effort, Belinda, Coral and Moe were finally able to get a plane reservation to Turkey.

Read more to learn the whole, happy ending... Thanks, Khyra, for the great story tip!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wheels Are Wonderful!

The Mollinator in healthier times

This post is in memory of Molly, our next-door neighbor, who lost her struggle with old age and a host of worsening ailments last Thursday. She was a beautiful soul and a Lab from nose to tail. I adored her.

We moved into our current home more than ten years ago, and Molly came to our neighbors not long before. So when she had to leave it was strange, because she had been in our lives as long as we had been here. She was as much a part of our lives here as her parents, her Weimie brother Clyde, or any of our other neighbors. She frequently came over to visit us as long as she was able.

Then, when her back end failed last year, her dad, Alan, built her a cart out of PVC pipe and painted it bright, fire engine red. He made little pockets hooked to bungie cords to suspend her feet so they wouldn't drag on the ground and get hurt, because she couldn't feel them anymore. What a beautiful sight she was with that flash of red against her smooth, golden coat. How she whizzed along again in that lovingly built set of wheels!

And what dear parents hers are, who arranged the last few years completely around the schedule they needed to properly care for her. They even did "the wheelbarrow," holding ol' Moll's useless back legs while she would motor along on her still-able front paws down the steep slope to our place, which her cart couldn't negotiate...powered, always, by her still-willing heart. God, that dog had heart. Even though the back legs no longer moved, the tail beat back and forth with as much enthusiasm as ever, and Molly never ceased to bring joy anywhere she went.

Bless your hearts, Al and Jeanette, for sharing your girl with us, and for
giving her the love and care and dignity she so richly deserved until her very last moment. You are special, special people we'll always be proud to call friends.

And Molly, you will always be my big, yella dawg. I'll miss you forever.


Rollin' With Soul

One of the best things I ever did as a publisher was choose the photo of irrepressible Ruby for the front of our book, Almost Perfect. Every one of the critters profiled in the essays inside is worthy of recognition for his or her own specialness. But that image of Vicki Tiernan's Ruby cruising happily along in her cart with that impossibly large "stick" (okay, BRANCH is more like it) in her mouth just has that certain, unnameable something that embodies the inspiring, uplifting spirit we tried to capture in our stories.

And so I chose that shot, careful to make sure our great cover designer, Laura Pritchard, ran the length of that stick around the spine and onto the back cover as a visual metaphor for these creatures' outsized hearts and spirits. And it wasn't lost on most folks. I've received many comments, even emails about that image. So, from a publishing perspective, it does all the things an ideal cover is supposed to do...especially making people reach out to pick up the book.

But it also does something else.

That picture of Ruby brings to the fore the thought that dog carts/squealy-wheels/rump skates or whatever else you want to call them are not an object of pity, but a symbol of new-found freedom for previously trapped creatures who needed only a little help in becoming mobile to regain the joy in their lives. And this is something very, very cool.

Frankie knows wheels are kewl. (Frankie the Walk 'n Roll Dog)

  • Because--like removing the stigma of wheelchairs for people--this attitudinal shift allows people to get past the wheels and see them as just another facet of the wonderful, vital pet rolling along on them.
  • Because it reinforces the idea that, with just a little imagination and some money, we can restore to a previously active pet that which brings them the most happiness: freedom.
  • Because it helps make people aware that pets who have lost some natural mobility can still enjoy a full, happy life alongside those who love them.
  • And mostly, because it highlights the inventiveness shown by the companies who now manufacture these mobility devices for our sweet, furry and feathered friends. What heroes they are to these animals and to the people who love them!
Wheels: They're not just for dogs any more. (Lemon the Duck)

So, it is in this vein that I share with you a slightly dated but still interesting and relevant article from the Orange County Register from last March. I hope you enjoy it, and that you'll check out some of the wheel makers in the article and listed in our blogroll at bottom right. You never know when you or someone you know may need their services and products.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Puppy Update

Okay, y'all - just wanted to update you on my cousin Chris' new dog. Her name is now officially "GoGo!" And it fits her lively little Jack Russell self. Spoke with Chris yesterday and GoGo is adjusting well to her new home and surroundings. She has already been on several walks through the little tourist town where she lives, and is already making friends. I see good times ahead for Chris and GoGo, and will keep you apprised of any interesting developments. :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

A very LARGE disabled pet...

Well, okay. Maybe not a pet, exactly. But nevertheless, Motola is a disabled animal who belongs to someone, even if it's someone she worked for.

48-year-old Motola just got a new leg!

Ten years ago, Motola was seriously damaged when she stepped on one of the many stray landmines left over from several wars. She survived the blast, but lost her left front leg while working in a logging camp on Thailand's border with Burma. After she recovered, her owners fitted her with a large canvas "shoe" filled with sawdust. And that's how she got around until recently, when she was fitted with an artificial limb.

I'm sure you'll be as happy as I am when you read the rest of the story. There are still sad parts, but the world is definitely progressing when even in relatively poor countries, people find a way to help an elephant like this. Gives me hope. I hope it gives you some, too.

Thanks to Roberta for the heads-up on this tale.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Woo Hoo! A Promotion Comes Home To Roost!

Well, sometimes things just work out, ya know?

I am so very, VERY pleased and happy to report that my cousin, Chris Snyder, took to heart the message of "Adopt A Less-Adoptable Pet Day" and went out and adopted herself the cutest little Jack Russell terrier today! I went with her to pick her up and all I can say is WOW!

You see, Chris had another Jack for 13 years. Her name was Nip, and she did indeed resemble the little RCA Victor dog after which she was named. Sadly, Nip crossed the Rainbow Bridge about two months ago, and I think the time since then has been possibly the saddest and emptiest of Chris' life. That dog was so close to her, it was almost like a physical appendage. Anywhere Chris would go, you could be sure Nip wasn't too far away. Nip was Chris' daughter, her best friend and her closest confidante. When she left, I watched her take a big piece of my cousin with her, and she hasn't been the same since.

It was so hard to know how much she missed that little wriggling ball of love and energy. She fostered a dog for a bit, and has been taking care of some friends' dogs to fill the void a little, but it just wasn't the same.


Then on Sunday, Chris called and asked me to go to the Center for Healthy Animals online and take a look at Cherry, a little Jack that was up for adoption. Cherry was listed as having arrived as a stray, and they estimated her age at 7 years, though she may be a bit older. Her listing said, "Cherry is a sweet little dog looking for a loving home. Cherry gets along with other dogs and is eager to please."

We all know that age is one of those qualities that can count against a potential adoptee, but Chris didn't care. She knew there would never be another Nip, and she decided she'd just love a new dog for as long as she could. So we went to see Cherry on Sunday afternoon.

She was indeed a sweet, mellow little creature, and yes -- eager to please, but without seeming all needy and clingy -- very nice combination of characteristics. Chris, an active and athletic gal, was concerned that Cherry might not be up for the long walks she likes to take to keep herself fit. But as it turns out, no problem there. As soon as Cherry saw the leash, she was ready and rarin' to go.

We went back several times to look at Cherry and even a few of the other small dogs. We spent more than an hour at the shelter, which was typically full of many deserving critters all wanting someone to love them. Normally, I can't do this without leaving in tears, but the thought that we might be taking one of them home shored me up and I did well.

At the end, I waited outside while Chris filled out the application papers. I must say, the shelter was prompt on the followup, because she listed me as a reference and they called on Monday. Of course, I told the truth about how a dog couldn't have a more loving home than my cuz would provide. They also called her vet, who gave an equally glowing report, and they called Chris this afternoon to say they'd done a workup on Cherry and determined she was not only spayed, but micro-chipped, as well.

Chris called me and by 5 PM, we were on our way to pick Cherry up and bring her home! WOO HOO! What a happy trip that was!

When we arrived, what we found was a completely different dog. We joked that they must have sedated her on Sunday, because instead of a quiet, low-energy older dog, we found a lively, energetic, typical Jack Russell, jumping and panting in the 95° heat and wanting to go see the kitty room and get outside to walk! It was a hoot, and frankly, I think Chris was secretly pleased to see how much like Nip Cherry actually was.

After finishing all the paperwork, we put a leash and the new collar Chris had bought on Cherry. We learned that no one actually knew what the dog's name really had been, and Chris wasn't really hot on "Cherry." It's just too girly for this little four-legged package of personality, so as of right now, Chris' new older dog is testing out a few other monikers. I'll let you know what they finally settle on.

I know this isn't really about disabled pets, but I just HAD to share this wonderful news with y'all, and say that I feel this day of observance was not only observed but honored in the most profound of ways by my dear cousin. I'm so pleased to have been included in this important and joyous time, and look forward to many good times with Chris and what's-her-name!

Friday, August 14, 2009

An Easy Way to Promote the Xolos!

Pink, who's missing a leg, still manages to help others.

If you've read our book, Almost Perfect, you've read a great little piece by Sharon Sakson about Nancy Gordon, who suffers from chronic fibromyalgia. Her dogs, Pink and Toaster, are Mexican Hairless dogs, also known as Xoloitzcuintlee (pronouned "show-low-eats-queent-lee").

Toaster, Pink's mom, also serves as a therapy dog.

Because they're hairless, the warmth of their bodies radiates freely, and they serve as therapy dogs to Nancy and others, lying on the afflicted parts of the body and warming them like a living hot-water bottle.

Nancy and Pink

Nancy created an organization, Xolos For Chronic Pain Relief (X-CPR), to get the word out about this marvelous service. X-CPR has just been added to the wonderful fundraising websites called Good Search (search the Net) and Good Shop (shop the net). Using these social good sites is an easy way to donate to this worthwhile nonprofit, without any cost to you.

Just follow this link next time you need to do a search, and make sure the drop-down menu is designated for Xolos For Chronic Pain Relief. Then go to the search box and search for whatever you were looking for anyway. Each search generates one cent US for the group. This may not sound like much, but it really adds up if everyone uses this service.

To donate to X-CPR through Good Shop, simply use this portal to the stores you'd already shop at. Just by going through this doorway, you'll donate a penny to X-CPR. And all those pennies soon become dollars.

Don't forget to bookmark or favorite these sites for future use!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Today is "Adopt A Less-Adoptable Pet Day!"

Yesterday's guest blogger, our own Roberta Beach Jacobson, alerted me to the fact that today is a very special day, and I wanted to let you know about it.

Tabby's Place helps lots of less-than-adoptable kitties find forever homes.

Petfinder.com has designated August 12 as "Adopt A Less-Adoptable Pet Day."

They even have a special page on their website in recognition of this special day, with all kinds of information about adopting shelter pets deemed less-desirable in most people's eyes. But the fact that you're reading this means that you're NOT "most people." And most likely, at least some of your friends aren't, either. You're special, too...special enough to recognize that every living thing deserves a chance at a good, happy, healthy life full of love and as much compassion as we can give.

"Cow," a blind, deaf, hypothyroidal and incontinent
dalmatian has found a forever home!

So I ask you today to recognize this special day by talking to at least one other person--preferably someone you wouldn't normally talk to about this subject, because it does no good to preach to the choir--about "Adopt A Less-Adoptable Pet Day." Ask them to take a few minutes to visit Petfinder's special page, and to consider becoming the parent of a deserving animal that no one else can bring themselves to love.

The Senior Dogs Project looks out for older dogs.

Because I know what an amazing group we are, and how capable of doing the impossible (because I have seen it and lived it myself), I have faith that between all of us, we might be able to actually spur the adoption of at least one less-than-adoptable pet. And that will have made the effort worthwhile.

So please: Spread the word today and then let me know what happens...because I know something will.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meet Brownie: From guest blogger Roberta Beach Jacobson

Today's post is from guest blogger Roberta Beach Jacobson. Roberta is a contributor to Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them. She wrote the final piece in the book, Fritz: Pink Ears, Red Tape, about her experience with a cat whose ears were terminally sunburned from the intense sunshine on her home Greek island of Karpathos. With the help of her husband, Alf Meier, she runs Animal Welfare Karpathos, an independent, all-volunteer critter rescue on their home island of Karpathos, in Greece. 25¢ of each copy of the book we sell goes to support the efforts of this worthwhile organization.

Meet Brownie.

You could say we got tricked into this foster care situation. Greek tourists on our island witnessed the pointer mix dog get bumped by a car, later by another. He had no collar, apparently no owner, so they got him into their rental car to help him.

Where to go?

Someone gave them our telephone number. One of the negatives of living on a remote island is there's no vet or shelter. My husband Alf, a photographer, is the one called to patch up all the critters in trouble.
Alf and some of his charges

Brownie, as the tourists named him, got a fiberglass cast. He moved in with us. We assume he'd never been inside a house before. So he could go outdoors when needed, we started sleeping with the kitchen door open. Our regular dog flap is too small for the likes of Brownie!

For whatever reason (my guess is from his licking) he got an infection in one of his wounds. Off came the cast. He got braces and bandages for a few days.

With our gang of 33 rescue cats and three rescue dogs around the house, we're plenty busy as it is. Still, we're doing our best to accommodate Brownie. He got a new cast. We had no more fiberglass in our makeshift volunteer clinic (better said, what we had was dried out and worthless), so Alf went to the hardware store for some plaster and got to work on creating a cast.

The Greek tourists came by our house with bones and restaurant treats a few times, but their vacation drew to a close and they headed to the ferry to depart our island.

In the meantime, Brownie was up to a few dog tricks. The plastic cone didn't stop him from gnawing at his new cast, eventually shredding parts of it to bits. We tried to outsmart him. We stapled two cones together. We don't live in the sort of place where there's a pet shop or where we can buy needed supplies. Everything is improvised. We even put a cork at the bottom of the metal stabilizing bar in his cast. (Think of cork-soled shoes!)

Brownie has needed yet another replacement cast. With a little luck, this one will last six weeks. We hope he'll recover to have full use of his leg, but part of his bone was splintered, so that remains to be seen.
Roberta has her own blog at the Seattle Post Intelligencer online, and can be found tweeting about the beach on Twitter.