Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Celeste's Encounter With A Fence

This could have been a funny story if the fence was wooden and she face planted against it. I would have laughed, Mina would have snorted, and Celeste would have feigned ignorance.

The Story.

The ladies and I on a walk. We come upon a bend where a gate separates one pasture from another. As I open the gate, the girls hear a rustling in a bush. Mina chooses the scenic route, entering the field through the gate's opening.

Celeste is firm in her belief the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Her alternative route leads her to a barbed wire fence, which she commences to ram into at full speed. This is definitely how I know she is part sighthound.

I hear her squeak and, yeah well, I just start swearing. There is this moment as I watch her when I think she will get caught in the wire, and I will only be able to hold her, screaming (both of us, probably). I am thankful this moment passes, because Celeste has gotten free.

She comes running to me and sits. Unacceptable, I tell her. Absolutely unacceptable. Okay, she seems to be in one piece. This is good. I crouch next to her and start gently prodding. I remove burrs and notice a cut on her paw.

Dum dum head's pawIt is about a 1/2 inch long and I think, hey, that doesn't look bad. Then I pick up her paw and the wound spreads open and oh my god, I nearly faint, because what do I see gazing back at me but Celeste's actual tootsie bones.

Seriously. They are very white and really should not be exposed to the world ever.

But Celeste is totally fine with all of this. She is ready to continue the walk.

We don't, of course. We about-face as I frantically use my walkie-talkie to call one of my colleagues. Thankfully one hears me and drives out to pick us up.

Celeste is very excited to see this person, because if she could live anywhere else, it would be with this woman. I'm pretty sure she loves her more than me, and honestly I'm okay with this. In her excitement, her chest starts dripping blood and gets me panicking again.

Mina is also happy because she was getting tired and a car ride seems very nice right now.

Of course, it's nearly 6 pm. My vet is open but it's considered an emergency. Whatever, it is what with bones breathing air and a blood speckled chest.

Two and a half hours later, Celeste is all stitched up. And I've added another $400 to my CareCredit card.

Sad Celeste is absolutely sad, but also just fine:
Dum dum head all stitched up

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mina Is Awesome

In case you didn't know.



Last night, at 11:08 pm, Troy Davis was executed. Despite overwhelming evidence that he did not commit the crime for which he was convicted. Despite questionable witness testimony and 7/9 of witnesses recanting their statements.

I don't care how you feel about the death penalty. Really, I don't. Maybe you think it's awesome. Maybe you think it sucks. But I hope that, no matter what, you know that people make mistakes and people are fallible and the justice system is not perfect. People who committed no grievous crime have been wrongly convicted in the past, and they will be wrongly convicted now and in the future.

Our prison system is a reflection of a society that is deeply wounded. Troy Davis is yet another scar added to our map of wrongs.

Today I donated $11.08 to the Innocence Project. They have helped to exonerate 273 innocent people.

No matter your feeling on the death penalty, the voiceless need advocates. My passion is advocating for animals, especially farmed animals. I speak up because they can't. Those who have been incarcerated, wrong or right, deserve a voice - they are humans part of this sad system too.

If you feel Troy Davis was wrongly executed, donate $11.08.

If you believe our justice system needs all the fail safes it can get, donate $11.08.

If you support the death penalty but understand that new evidence can change a person's fate, donate $11.08.

Do it today. It's a small price to pay to help others like Troy Davis who, in the face of mounting contrary evidence, was still killed for a crime he most likely did not commit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Does This Say About Us?

A dark, windy road. Lightning flashing, thunder booming. A dark mass lumbers onto the road. The driver slams her brakes, stops. Her headlights reflect the dog's eyes, bright yellow. She gazes at her own dog, emits a few choice words, and pulls over.

The dog comes to her, and she stands there, flummoxed, torn between calling someone to help and standing there for hours until she can think of something easier than sticking this big, fluffy dog in the back of her car.

Decision made. Introductions between those two unknown dogs on that dark, windy asphalt go as smoothly as one can hope. But she has two other dogs at home, one of whom is a snarky pup. She drops the obviously shaved Chow Chow off at the sanctuary for the night.

I meet him in the morning. Mina and Celeste exchange words with him. Actually, they mainly just yell and he stares back confused.

I've been told Chows are one-people dogs. That they are arrogant, aloof, independent, cat-like, alien. That they are dangerous and unpredictable. I have yet to meet one of these deadly assassin Chow-Chows.

This dog is sweet. He is well-fed. He has been shaved, so someone took the time to cool him off during the hot summer months. He has a collar but only a rabies tag, which indicates someone took time to get him licensed and vaccinated.

I crouch down before him and he waddles up, entire body exuding happiness. His tail wags a gentle greeting. I look deeply into his eyes, and he looks back with a comfortable confidence. When I stand, he smiles and wags his body some more. When I move back, he moves forward. We could dance together, this brown, fuzzy dog and I.

We try to get in touch with his guardian, but officials won't give us personal information from the rabies license. We think this weird and a bad way to avoid putting dogs in the shelter.

When it is apparent that no contact will be made, he is driven to our local shelter. They have the database. They can contact the guardian. I wave goodbye to the fuzzy dog with the shaved body and the unshaved head.

Our shelter has a 98% adoption rate. Dogs are walked twice a day, at the minimum, by a team of dedicated volunteers. Their foster program is limited to sick dogs and those who need behavior modification - healthy dogs don't leave the shelter, unless it's to go home. It is not a bad place to go, if you are a dog or cat in need of a new home.

A few days later, I end up at the dog shelter, handing out flyers for an upcoming event. I cannot, in good conscience, enter the lobby of a dog shelter and not visit the dogs and cats inside. I just can't. When it's a shelter I know has a hi-kill rate, it's hard. But even at this shelter, knowing almost all of these dogs will go to homes, it's still hard. They shouldn't be here, period.

Then I see him. The chubby, shaved (but not the head), Chow Chow. Oh, I exclaim. I bend down in front of his cage and stroke his big fat head. He looks up, with recognition? I don't know. But no matter, his body sways side to side, his tail unfurls to wag as low and slow as he can get it. Even in here, in this small little prison, he is happy to see me. A little part of me shatters. Why wasn't he back at home?

I corner the staff person I know and demand (okay, inquire politely) an answer. They had contacted the guardian, she said. The man had adopted this dog nearly four years ago from a Chow rescue. The dog - Koda Bear - kept getting out during thunderstorms. The man did not want him anymore. It was too troublesome, he said.


Too troublesome.

Sometimes, there are big thunderstorms up in the hills here. They are deadly beautiful. Lightning twines out across night sky, filling it with power and electricity. Close behind, the booms of thunder lets us know its presence. Mina sometimes reacts poorly to thunderstorms. Not always, just sometimes. Especially if it is winter and already cold. She will curl up, go deep into herself, and shake. In those moments, I pull her close to me. To my chest and its pumping heart. I squeeze tight until the shivering goes away, until she settles head over heart on my body. I cover her with a blanket and we find comfort.

That is what Koda asks for, every thunderstorm. He asks to be respected and loved. Maybe he does not want someone to hug him, but he is afraid and he needs someone to understand. That is what is so hurtful. In his fear, at his most vulnerable moment, the one person who was supposed to just get it, set Koda up to fail. He failed this beautiful dog. And I can't say I don't find myself really angry at him for it.

Four years, tossed to the curb. Can you imagine if I did that to Celeste? If I found her inability to walk comfortably on slick surfaces so cumbersome, so irksome that I just got rid of her? If I just reacted to her fear with disdain? I would make this world a crueler place. This man already has. So many people have.

Koda is available for adoption. He gets along well with other dogs. I do not know too many dogs who would, in the face of my two screaming she-demons, stare gently, give off appropriate "I'm totally cool here" cues, and then gracefully walk away. I don't know how he is with small dogs, but he did meet big dogs and he was fine. I don't know how he is with cats, a couple shelter employees thought he would do poorly but who knows.

If you have a moment, spread the word about Koda. He is at the Nevada County Animal Shelter, which is run by Sammie's Friends. He needs someone to love him with fierceness and dedication.

I don't know exactly what Koda's story says about us. I read the cards of many dogs at this shelter, and well, I left unimpressed. Dogs left in homes, nervous biters - nearly unadoptable - given up because of a job loss, dogs abandoned to the streets, or dogs no longer wanted because they pee too much or too little or don't jump through flaming hoops to get the beer out of the fridge. I know that we can do better. We must.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chloe is Keely is Happy

Sensitive Chloe on March 16, 2011

Chloe Now Keely With An Amazing Ear
Chloe went to her new home nearly six months ago. I mustered the courage to email her home and find out how she is doing. This is the dog I would have kept, if circumstances had been different. She was my dream dog.

This is what her adopter says: "Keely is doing fabulous! We took a beginner obedience class and she did so well! She's the perfect little companion. She goes to work with me every day and plays with her puppy friend Dylan. They absolutely adore each other. She hasn't gotten much bigger, probably around 35-40 lbs now. She can be a little vaccum but she's learning. We've been on many camping trips and she's such a good girl and sticks around with all the other dogs. Her mange is pretty much all cleared up, still filling in a bit in two spots but definitely not as bad as it was. I am so happy to have her in my life! The pictures are the most recent I have of her. I took them in the last 2 weeks, with the exception of the one at the beach. She just recently decided she LOVES water! There's a little pond at the dog park by my house and she finally swims with the other dogs. Let me know if you have any questions and please feel free to contact me at any time! Her ear just about stands straight up on the one side and is floppy on the other; definitely gives her character!"

I'm so happy for her and her guardian. I couldn't have asked for a better home.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Lilac and Daisy Hanging Out

Lilac and Daisy Connecting
Daisy (right) is red because she was dust-bathing in red clay dirt, she's normally white

This is Lilac (left) and Daisy (right). Lilac is blind in one eye. She relies heavily on other chickens. Daisy is one of her closest friends. You would know this by simply watching them. Lilac circles Daisy, then leans into her. When Daisy moves, Lilac circles again, getting her bearings. Touching is very important for Lilac, so she always checks in and connects with Daisy.

Both are from the egg industry. Lilac was rescued in 2008 from a battery cage operation. She lived in a cage so small she could not spread her wings. Daisy is one of the lucky few production white leghorns who have lived past the age of 5! She was rescued in 2005 and turns 8 this year. Both have had a portion of their sensitive beaks cut off. Mutilation is necessary when you cram super social, hierarchical animals in close confinement.

Most egg laying breeds suffer severe health problems from over egg-production. Ovarian cancer is exceedingly common - it's what kills most white leghorns. Egg production kills birds - if it is not cancer, then they can become egg bound, suffer from egg yolk peritonitis, etc. This is because they are bred to produce 300 eggs a year instead of a normal 60. It's debilitating.

Lilac and Daisy are the lucky ones, although they don't know that. They live in an avian world that is vibrantly colored. It is a true joy watching them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And Then There Were Two

Alice went to her new home today.

Dragon Is Mine!
Home is where the dragon is!
Someone asked me if I was going to be okay about giving up Alice. They said it would be impossible for them to foster because we expect so much of dogs.

I foster because it is the right thing to do. For me, that is. It's not something I do because I find an inexplicable joy in potty training or child-proofing a room or broken plants and destroyed shoes. I don't, really. It's why I'm vegan - it's the right thing to do. Again, for me. The right thing is not always the easy thing and it is not always the thing that we seek out or necessarily enjoy. Hey, it took me nearly ten years to restart fostering ...the right thing can take time!

Don't get me wrong, I mostly like fostering. I do. Each dog brings with them uniqueness. It's a journey of patience and fun and ire and bonding.

I agree with this person about expectations, though. We do expect a lot of dogs. We expect them to thrive in shelters. We expect them to transition from a shelter to a foster home with little fanfare. And then we expect them, after they've finally shed the shackles of their previous neglect or abandonment, to leave what they're used to and adjust to something new - their (hopefully) permanent home. It's a lot to ask of another living being, one who cannot be told in words what is transpiring.

Since I cannot keep every foster, I invariably set dogs up for a failure which will ideally turn into a success. I will nurture them, train them, bond with them, learn from and about them, and they will return the favor. I will abandon them in the great hope they will find a love and relationship lasting their lifetime. If we lived in a world in which dogs were snatched from shelters with wild abandon and glee, foster dogs would have no need of me. They'd be adopted. They wouldn't languish in shelters. They wouldn't be threatened with death for being black or large or mouthy or a certain breed or type.

Until then, I'll keep on keeping on with the fostering. I'll take breaks, reassure Mina and Celeste that they're the best, and I'll continue to open hearth and home to perfectly troublesome canines. Because, for me, it is just the right thing to do.

Mina says fostering actually sucks and her side of the story should be told. In a picture. See what she has to deal with? Tragic.

No Means No!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nicholas Has the Funniest Hair


I'm not kidding - look at that cowlick? I think it makes him look totally geeky but my friend says that is the rudest thing you can say to a 4-yr-old steer.

Nicholas is a Jersey and he gets his name from St. Nick due to the fact we brought him home to the sanctuary on December 25th 2007. Holy crap, that is an epically long number of years. It's the year of Celeste too.

Anyways, Nick is what the dairy industry calls a by-product. Or trash, depending on if you are asking me or the dairy industry. Male calves don't produce milk. Nicholas is a Jersey, known for their butterfat and like super awesome eyelashes. Jerseys are a small breed of cow and don't grow at the rate of "beef breeds".

So male Jersey calves have very little value to dairy farmers. They are taken from their moms within minutes (up to 24 hours) of birth and trucked to auction. They will suck on your fingers and pray for milk. They will gaze, frightened and sometimes bold, into your eyes. They will curl into you. They will be bought and sold like chairs for less than $20. Cheap chairs.

Some idiot bought Nicholas at auction. I should call this person pure genius because without them, Nicholas would be slaughtered. Anyway, this idiot is from Berkeley. Berkeley is not known for its great expanses of bucolic pasture. Nicholas was tied up outside of an apartment complex, if you can believe that, and the neighbors were all I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT and then animal control was all DO NOT BELIEVE. But then they had to believe because there was a day-old bedraggled calf with his umbilicus still dangling there and the only thing available to him was hay and water.

Idiot from Berkeley apparently thought calves came magically ready to eat hay and drink water. Fail.

Nicholas nearly died. He had pneumonia. He had scours. He had to have a staff person sleep next to him and read him bedtime stories in my office. Seriously, I would show up at work and bam! calf telling me to give him some goddamn milk because he is STARVING. Now he is like ginormous but still rams his head into me, demanding milk, and I'm all afraid for my life because that shit is so not cute when he weighs 1,200 lbs.

Anyways, Nicholas is one reason I drink soy milk. Sometimes coconut milk if I'm feeling like I want a dose of saturated fat infused into my heart cavity. Or butt. Whatevs. Nicholas is totally worth it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Invention: Pocket Pits

True story.

I'm getting out of the car to go into a pet store. Mina is totes sitting in the back seat with her fat head sticking out the window.

Woman: Oh my gosh, is that a Pit?!?
Me: Yes!
Woman: Oh my gosh, roll down your window, I want to see her.
Me: Umm. Okay!
*rolls down window*
Mina: Yo.
Me: Yeah, she's a pocket pit for sure.
Woman: OH MY GOSH, REALLY? Where can I get one?
Me: Huh?
Woman: A Pocket Pit, where can I get one?!? My Pit Bull is like 70 lbs, I'd LOVE a Pocket Pit.
Me: Oh. Um. Hey! There's a ton of these special dogs at the shelter.
Woman: Really?
Me: Yeah, Pocket Pits are only for people with pockets.
Mina: Truth.
Woman: Wow.

If only I had not spayed Mina, I could be making a kajillion dollars off the sale of Pocket Pits.

This would be their awesome ad.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pit Bulls Only

You know when someone who is supposed to be an expert in their field says something that is so out of left field, you're just like, huh?

Yeah, I had one of those moments a couple weeks ago.

I was told by someone who should know better that "Only Pit Bulls greet nose-to-nose and that other breeds don't do this. And when Pit Bulls do this to each other, they know this is normal behavior, but when they do it to other breeds of dogs, problems can happen."

She said this after seeing Alice interact with other dogs.

First off, Alice is a mutt. Making claims on her greeting style being some kind of unique indicator of breed is irrelevant and irrational. Second off, last time I checked, a nose-to-nose greeting is a normal canine behavior that, yes, can lead to fights when other indicators are present. It can also lead to play. Go figure.

To verify, I went to YouTube, which is about as scientific as I can get for this purpose. Yeah, I know.

And guess what? Lots of dogs greet each other nose-to-nose. Obviously nothing particularly unique to Pit Bulls. Pit Bulls also know how to sniff buts (, for example) instead of nose-to-nose greetings.

Even adorable puppies greet nose to nose! Sometimes they even act like Chloe and hug bigger, adult dogs. This often gets them on the receiving end of a reprimand.

Mina Not Impressed With Hug

Friday, September 2, 2011


For the past several weeks, one or two turkey hens have arrived early in the morning to the sanctuary with their brood of 8-10 poults in tow. They would fly over the sanctuary fence, walk amongst the cows, and then head over to the pig pasture. In the late afternoon, I'd watch as the gangly turkey chicks followed their more graceful mothers back through the cow pasture and off to wherever they roosted at night. Although I had no part in the endeavor, it was hard not to feel a bit of pride and joy watching such peaceful, happy beings.

Today, as I left to go home, my eyes scanned for traffic and in the periphery was flapping. An incongruity. So I peered close and saw a wing. Literally. For a moment I thought the wispy feathers belonged to a crow or another smaller bird. Then I saw her. A few feet away, the body of a turkey hen.

Getting out of the car, I approached. Against all hopes, I thought maybe, just maybe, it was only a wing and she could be the one-winged turkey at the sanctuary. Stupid, I know. Of course she was dead. I touched bronze-colored feathers and felt the warmth of a cooling body. Moments earlier, she was alive. Moments! Her life in all its vibrant glory had been cut short by something a wild turkey should never ever encounter under any normal circumstances - a vehicle.

I could not leave her there. I just couldn't. I thought of her babies, and hoped they were with the other hen, that they would survive the night in a tree, motherless but with each other.

Driving back into the sanctuary, I grabbed a towel and garbage bag, and asked my friend if we could maybe bury her. Permission granted, I drove back to the end of the driveway.

You know how some moments leave you feeling like the world is just an awful, horrible place? Like we have just screwed up so much that only a mass exodus, a genocide of global proportions could cleanse away the harm we have caused? It's always been in these small moments that I've felt such anguish for this world.

Because as I picked her up, I felt how so very broken she was. So broken. Everything inside of her had crumpled upon impact. Her neck, spine, ribs, legs, all of it had collapsed against the sheer force of an inanimate, fast-moving object. I clutched her to my chest, willing her back to life. Demanding she stop being broken and start being alive. I hated us all in that moment.

There is no rainbow of hugs and puppies in this story. She should be alive and raising her young. She should be facing the travails of life in nature with its brutality and beauty wrapped up in a package of chaotic simplicity. She is not, though. Because someone decided going fast down a straight stretch of road was more important than a turkey. Because we, in all our great wisdom and intelligence and empathy, sometimes just really suck. We leave carnage in our wake.

Wrong or Right?

Every article I read about the influx of dogs and cats at shelters blames the "irresponsible public" and their inability to deal with the bad economy. While I do not deny there is a significant economic problem in this country, I have to wonder if this argument created a problem that did not exist previously.

I am unaware of any study that looks at intake rates at targeted shelters and at the socioeconomic status of those who drop off animals and claim it's because of the economy. Until there is, it's mere speculation why some shelters are seeing an increase in dogs and cats being abandoned.

Your thoughts?

On a tangential note, look at this article. It is about the Paulding County Animal Control and its problems with more unwanted animals ending up at their shelter. It's pretty depressing until you get to an interesting program they offer on Tuesdays, "But shelter officials are working to encourage more adoptions by hosting a new event, Save a Life Tuesdays"

Animals scheduled for death on Wednesday are offered for adoption at a significantly reduced fee of $10 on Tuesdays.

I liked the idea until the part about guilt-tripping people into feeling like if they don't adopt an animal, they might as well be signing their death certificate. It's the problem I have when I see people constantly posting about "WILL DIE TOMORROW SAVE HIM/HER!" as it puts the onus on people like you and me rather than on the shelter system that should be finding homes in constructive, positive ways. Researchers that study effective messaging note that guilt-based messages often have the opposite impact on the general public.

So while it is wonderful that 11 animals were adopted, I would wager that if they changed the program's public intent to "Save a Life Tuesdays - Awesome Adoptions for Only $10", they would adopt just as many - if not more - animals than if they told people it was because those animals would be killed the next day.

And why are they killing these animals at all? If they are adoptable, then they are adoptable and should not be killed. That seems like a no-brainer.