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Presentation to Manasquan River Artists Group (NJ)

Since 1990, I’ve participated in more than 500 art shows, my work has been displayed at numerous venues in the Tri-state area, and I’ve served as a board member and jurist, helping to organize several arts events. I’m grateful for all the judges, curators, colleagues and my clients who helped me to thrive as a productive working artist.

In my High School Art Studio, a perceptive art instructor encouraged me to use acrylics sensing it was a good medium for me (after watching me struggle with pastel and water colors). She also guided me to create my first painting on slate, a very forgiving surface. I’d go on to produce hundreds of these paintings. I still love working with the natural lines and quirks of each “rock” and find the slate surfaces (and now masonite) very receptive to acrylic paint, perfect for layering and changing one’s mind! Acrylic paints are also incredibly adaptable; just add water to thin for a watery effect, use additives to create body, highlight with oil pastels and spray on some gloss finish – magic!

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In 1990, I began working with vintage postcards making them the focal point of my work. Although I haven’t kept track, I’ve created and sold well over 1,000 pieces. My artwork hangs on the walls of offices and homes throughout the world. 

One of my former writing instructors once said to me that she believed writers were born, not made. Many feel that way about artists. Although art has always been a part of my life, I didn’t set out to have a career as a Fine Artist (or an author), but if it is true that we are born, or destined for a vocation, than the Creative World is one where I’ve learned I belong, even with all its inherent set backs.

The Art Show life presents many challenges; rain storms, high winds, blizzards, the ability (or inability) of an event promoter to promote, the health of the current tourism season (in the Northeast, H. Sandy ended many events), a weak economy and competitive venues offered by on-line options.

Then there are the long rides to get to show sites and the physical labor of putting up tents and displays and dealing with “neighbors” who encroach on your designated (and well paid-for) show space, or complain about how terrible an event is (I actually began writing as a way to shut out their negativity).

While I enjoyed my community of fellow-artists and customers, many who became friends, working so many weekends caused me to miss  numerous occasions like weddings and family reunions.

For the past seven years or so, I’ve spent time transitioning to the life of a writer, but lately, missing the painting process, I’ve spent more time on that side of the loft (see previous post). Now, my aim is to create on-line marketing initiatives to help promote my artwork, relying on my Social Media platform, while retaining a handful of in-person events. It’s also rewarding to reconnect with returning customers who are happy to reconnect and add some new pieces to their collections!

As I patiently await some publishing news (something that is ongoing and comes with the territory), I find peace, inspiration and “my rock” in the process of painting where I can just add water and go with the flow or start over when ever I feel the need.

To follow me along the Creative Path,  and of course check out art (and writing). Please LIKE my professional page and visit often as I’ll be posting paintings on a daily basis throughout December (and beyond). https://www.facebook.com/LisaBeginKruysmanAuthorAndArtist/

Thank you.

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Tomorrow on November 11, we honor those who have served militarily in all branches of service; even those who are considered man’s best friend (and of course, a woman’s, too).

In September, the American Legion Post of Brick Township, NJ, observed its Third Annual Yappy Hour on the Creek, co-sponsored by Tito’s Vodka for Dog People. The folks at Tito’s have made it their business mission to honor our dogs, and our veterans, so this was a meaningful collaboration on all fronts.

When we talk of Military Dogs, two images emerge – one of the militarily trained Dogs of War that physically serve in war-zones, and those dogs trained as Therapy and Service Dogs (There is a difference) that assist veterans when they return home; helping them with emotional and physical challenges; enabling them to be active socially and live independently.

To honor all of these deserving dogs, proceeds from our Yappy Hour were received by Ron Aiello of the United States War Dog Association and Brandon MacMillan, co-founder of the Argus Service Dog Foundation. This organization trains service dogs and pairs them with war veterans in need. Brandon is also the host of “Lucky Dog” a show where shelter dogs are transformed through his training and love before being placed in their hopefully forever homes.

Our Yappy Hour typically coincides with National Dog Week. That’s fitting, because its founder, Captain Lewis Wm. Judy was a decorated Army veteran and served as Commander for his American Legion Post in Chicago. Long before our nation understood the value of military and service dogs, Judy was sharing his vision with a public that was increasingly “going to the dogs”. Through his magazine, Dog World, and numerous books, Judy encouraged Americans to educate themselves about the value and potential of canines.

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A page from Will Judy’s book – Don’t Call a Man a Dog, 1949

Often I see  veterans proudly displaying baseball caps that proclaim their militarily service. When my husband Rich, who served as a Navy Corpsman (the medics for the Marines) wears his, I know it makes him feel good when someone thanks him for his service, so now, when I see someone proudly wearing theirs, I go out of my way to thank them.  I also thank my Dad, Jack Begin, and honor the memories of his brothers, and other relatives, who served our nation.

I read recently, that so few even know someone who is serving, or has served, our nation militarily. Organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War were established and exist to help spread awareness of sacrifices made by these dedicated men and women, and allow members to continue to serve their communities through fundraising efforts. Take a moment to learn about those organizations in your own neighborhoods, and to thank a few veterans as well.

Happy Birthday to the US Marine Corps!

 

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Most of my days begin with the battle of creative expression; do I head for the mouse first and draft a chapter or two, or grab a brush and finish a painting? Physically it isn’t a difficult choice, as my loft space is divided in halves; one side dedicated to drawing and painting, the other where the writing takes place.

Some days I let my muse guide me, others, I ask my dog to choose the side he prefers at the moment. It’s only fair as my writing often celebrates the canine-human bond. 

I’ve worked as a fine artist since 1989, so a few years ago, when people heard that I’d taken up writing, they’d assumed I’d be an illustrator as well. To them I continue to explain that I’m a painter, mostly landscape, and illustration is a very different animal. Also, up until recently, authors didn’t typically illustrate their own work (in fact, the two rarely even communicated to keep each one’s unique vision intact), although currently there’s an increased call for author/illustrators.

Recently, however, wondering how I could combine words and image in my own creative projects, I received a fortuitous call from the Program Director of a local arts guild. She’d heard about my paintings that incorporate vintage postcards, and my books, and asked if I’d give a presentation for their annual membership dinner in November. They’d even pay and feed me and allow me to sell books. Who could refuse?  I said, “yes,” then hung up, grasping the challenge of my audience; talented well-known artists. 

Because it’s a story that originates in New Jersey, I’ve decided to focus on Around the World in 1909: Harriet Fisher and Her Locomobile, (American History Press – 2014) a fun and informative book about the first woman to drive around the world. It’s filled with inspiration, history, travel and even pets!

For this event, I’ve created Postcard Paintings featuring three destinations in Harriet’s history-making journey; Paris, Lake Como, Italy and Japan. Time doesn’t allow for Fisher’s tour of Egypt, India, Sri Lanka, China, and back through the American West, but hopefully they’ll appear in subsequent presentations.

For the past several years, I’ve addressed historical societies, elementary schools, women’s clubs, a university association and although each event has focused on a different book, many people want to hear about the story behind the book, or seek encouragement to write one of their own.

Although my interest in writing and painting was evident early on, my official Path to Creativity began at age 30 when I left a great job in the entertainment industry, traveled to Italy for a painting course, returning home a Full-Time artist. Fifteen years later, after taking a writing course, I began composing short stories and drafted my first book. I believe that the discipline and professionalism gained in the corporate world in my 20s has helped me to structure my writing and art life. It hasn’t been an easy or straight-forward path, but I always tell those who ask for advice to think of a goal as a journey filled with small steps and to keep learning and form alliances with those who share your vision. 

My journey goes on. Currently, I’m “barking up” new projects, and my story of Teddy (our foster-to-forever dog) will be featured in an Anthology published by the Baker Publishing Group in Fall 2018. It’s always good to have several projects in the works because the path to publication has many twists and turns. And of course, it never hurts to surround yourself with great family members, friends and to have a loyal dog (or any loving pet) curled up at your creative feet, no matter what side of the studio your creative muse, or dog, dictates.

So, if you invited me to present at your next event, what would you ask, or like to learn? Please leave a comment, or reach me at lbkauthor@gmail.com. 

Happy musing! Here are the images for my presentation (all are 8 X 10 – acrylic paint on mat board. All postcards are originals from 1909-1914).

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Paris – postmarked 1914

 

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Lake Como, Italy – postmarked 1909

 

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Japanese garden – 1910

 

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Enter a caption – Flip side with postal markings.

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A New Look for the Week of the Dog!

     Welcome to the 89th Observance of a special time called National Dog Week. In searching for a quote to begin this post I opened my dog-eared copy of Will Judy’s Don’t Call a Man a Dog, 1949 (for it would be insulting to the dog) to let that quote find me! Please Note: Today, many dog-lovers don’t like the term “dog owner” however, many years ago, the Timeline of the Tail Wagger was still evolving and that term was commonly used. 
     The sentiment, no matter the wording, still stands stronger than ever.
“People own dogs for varied reasons. The reason is of small consequence; the important item is that the owners be worthy of their dogs. To your dog, you are a god. Do not do anything which destroys this delusion.”
     Captain Judy was trained as a minister, became a decorated WWI Veteran, lawyer and one of America’s most prolific writers. He published Dog World Magazine for several decades, influencing a new generation of dog-lovers and enthusiasts.
     Judy saw the value of artists and authors and was happy to include them in his magazine’s issues and campaigns to promote National Dog Week an observance he launched in 1928 just before the nation was plunged into the Great Depression. But how could a dog get a week when most humans couldn’t get one day? 
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Logos and Thems of Dog Weeks Past

     Captain Judy understood the power of the paw and prevailed and in that continuing spirit, next September, National Dog Week will celebrate 90 years of honoring the American Dog. I’d love to see it celebrated in the spectacular fashion it once was on the grounds of Rockefeller Center and elsewhere.  Suggestions on how to maket that happen are welcome.
     As one young man suggested the other day, it should be International. I’m happy to report that I often hear from people over the world sharing their stories and photos of their pups.
     This year, we’ve introduced a new logo. The image of a happy hound proudly posing against the backdrop of red, white, and blue is wishing on a star for so many reason. We hope you find it hopeful and inspiring at a time when something so “simple” as a dog’s love can help so many get through difficult times.
     Please join us in celebration by LIKING the official National Dog Week Page and posting photos of your dogs (and other pets if they’re feeling left out). If you’re an artist, author, blogger, rescue pr foster group or do work that is relevant, etc. please share your Links and experiences as well. https://www.facebook.com/NatDogWeek/
     I’ll leave you with one more quote from Captain Will Judy: 
“Dogs are an antidote to the machine-shop-precision and the speeding machinery of our present day tempo of living. Their naturalness, their lack of affectation, their use of the simple reactions of living – always naive, fresh and warm-blooded, are a balance wheel to our whirring life.“
     So come tomorrow, try to be the god your dog thinks you are (if only for a week)!
     Happy National Dog Week – Let’s keep its spirit alive year-round – 52/12! 
     Learn more about the origin and traditions of National Dog Week:
Or read Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland & Co. – 2014) https://www.facebook.com/Dogs-Best-Friend-Will-Judy-Founder-of-National-Dog-Week-1534832043432602/?ref=br_rs

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“Ted, White and Blue – Patriotic Paws”

Five years ago today, we said farewell to our beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Hooper. Named for the Matt Hooper character of  the blockbuster movie Jaws, she really did drive the boat, our house, our lives.

On a cold night in the winter of 2010, “Hoop Girl” was sitting by my feet at the moment I happened upon something called National Dog Week, a quirky yet poignant Canine American Holiday established in 1928. I fell in love with its colorful history, and began writing a biography about its Founder, Captain Will Judy, chronicling its unique, roller coaster-like legacy. In doing so, a new career was launched, and five books later, I’ve never stopped writing.

Alone with Hooper during the last moments of her life, I had an odd request. I whispered in her ear, “When the time is right, please send Dad and I a special new dog friend, and if possible please send one that likes other dogs and is calm, cool and collected.”

It seemed like a strange way to say goodbye to a loyal and loving companion, but in true dog-like fashion, within five months, my heart-felt request was granted when we fostered a little black and white Havanese-mix named Teddy.

Teddy came to us like a bright light in a bleak post Hurricane Sandy landscape. He wasn’t intended to stay, but stay he did, and has brought us much happiness. “Steady Teddy” couldn’t be any more different than “Hyper Hooper”. And unlike Hooper, Teddy adores other dogs. Now, with us for nearly four years, Teddy sits by my feet and inspires me to keep on writing, in fact, a story I wrote, based on his arrival in our lives, will be part of an Anthology released by the Revell Publishing group in October 2018. When the editor titles the book, I will let you know!

And another interesting thing happened with the Tedster by my side. I revamped my art studio and did something I’d wanted to do for a very long time, paint my first pet portrait. The painting of Teddy featured above, draped by the American flag, brings my creative life full circle, and reminds me why I continue to write about dogs and history, or anything else that inspires me. It also captures the spirit of National Dog Week that was established to encourage a collective and thoughtful period when we are mindful of all the ways dogs enrich our lives.

 

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Hooper, Ready for Her Close-Up

There are many exciting things going on in the Creative Front, and we’re working hard and visualizing some good days ahead; creating during challenging circumstances when the sun is temporarily hidden by fleeting clouds; welcoming the positive influences and encouragement from a dog that’s been sent to help makes it all worthwhile. That’s the ultimate gift.

The 89th Observance of National Dog Week will be celebrated the week of September 25th this year!

 

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Dogs Rule in the House of Tito’s

In 2014 while attending a beverage industry trade show in New Jersey, I had the good fortune to meet Bert Butler “Tito” Beveridge II, the founder of Tito’s Hand Made Vodka. Yes, Tito’s real last name is Beveridge and while the comparison of his name to the word beverage might get tiresome for him at times, his genuine concern for animal welfare does not.

Dapper, professional and genuine, Beveridge struck me as someone who just might like dogs. I’d wanted to ask him if he did, but it was a busy event with many people to meet. I didn’t get the chance. Later, while visiting the Tito’s official website, I detected a distinct dog-loving presence that confirmed my suspicions.

The following year, while participating as a panelist at the BlogPaws Conference in Arizona, I’d discovered that Tito’s Vodka for Dog People was one the sponsors for the event. BlogPaws is the world’s largest organization for those who support animal welfare through blogging and the use of Social Media. The collaboration made sense.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka was born in Austin, Texas. Commercial production began in 1997 when Beveridge formed Fifth Generation, Inc., establishing his Mockingbird Distillery. Tito’s Vodka “went to the dogs” when in those early days the budding entrepreneur wished to help the stray dogs  wandering near his distillery. 

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Tito and a Friend

Today, that commitment to help homeless dogs has manifested as a marketing platform with a mission; Tito’s Vodka for Dog People, a company established to help raise funds for animal welfare and non-profit organizations through the sale of Tito’s, product donation, event support and branded merchandise. Presently, Tito’s Vodka for Dog People collaborates with thousands of animal welfare non-profits groups world-wide, and partners with approximately 700 additional animal welfare groups on fundraising events each year.

According to Elizabeth Bellanti Pander, Program Manager, Vodka For Dog People this entity embraces the innate connection humans have with their dogs. As she explains, “Working with Tito Beveridge to bring his business dream to life for over 20 years, we’ve been committed to rescuing and protecting the dogs that have come into our lives through this process.” With the continual support of dedicated dog-loving friends and a growing fan base, their goal to improve the lives of pets and their humans far and wide has been successfully met.

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Enjoying his Tito Toy!

In their effort to support their work on behalf of dog welfare, Vodka for Dog People partnered with Emancipet, a nonprofit organization with a mission to offer low cost veterinary services and spay/neuter procedures in underserved communities. Through this partnership, Tito’s Vodka for Dog People and Emancipet have helped to reduce the number of pets euthanized in Austin, Texas and elsewhere. Amy Mills, CEO of Emancipet, her staff, and volunteers truly understand that pets bring immeasurable joy to the lives of their humans and that all pets deserve high-quality affordable veterinary care. Emancipet also assists nonprofits in the areas of rescue, transport, therapy and guide dogs.

On the Vodka for Dog People’s website one can choose from an array of products of dog-oriented merchandise including wearable items for humans, barware, dog swag and more. All profit from these sales go to aid Emancipet, a Texas-based nonprofit organization with a mission to offer high-quality spay/neuter procedures for area pet owners and affordable quality veterinary care.

In 1999, during their first year of operation, Emancipet provided 5,000 low-cost spay/neuter surgeries in the Austin area onboard a mobile clinic. In impoverished areas, Emancipet and the City of Austin partnered to offer “Free Days” for these procedures once a week. With the help of grants from PetSmart Charities and Impact Austin, Emancipet opened their first brick and mortar low-cost spay/neuter clinic, to serve pet owners inside and outside of Austin.

In 2009, celebrating ten years of successfully helping animals, they reached the milestone of offering 100,000 free and low-cost spay/neuter surgeries for pets in Central Texas. Within 2 years, Emancipet added a second mobile clinic expanding their service area to include the entire Central Texas region, spanning 7 counties.

The positive effect of their efforts is staggering. Since its inception, Emancipet has been responsible for the spay/neuter procedures for nearly 250,000 dogs and cats. By 2016 they’d offered veterinarian care for more than 100,000 pets in locations in Austin, Pflugerville, Killeen, and Houston, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Through a national social change training program, Emancipet continues to address the growing need for services; working to end animal homelessness through three primary initiatives—new clinics, training, and advocacy. This year, Emancipet opened a new clinic in the Lawncrest neighborhood of North Philadelphia. This clinic staffed by a team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians who’ve been handpicked now offer spay/neuter and preventive services to a population in need of these services

In this new Philadelphia clinic, a caring veterinary technician assists pet owners to determine the pet’s needs. Low-cost spay/neuter services are offered Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, with appointments required. walk-in preventive care provided by a staff veterinarian, such as vaccinations, microchipping, as well as flea and Heart Worm prevention are also offered at this location. Emancipet’s training team also offers training and support services to help local animal welfare organizations, spay/neuter clinics and public and private shelters.

This training aims to boost spay/neuter efficiency and impact, develop leaders and staff, improve customer service, strengthen organizational infrastructure and advocate for strategies and public policy that improve the lives of pets in underserved communities. Emancipet educates organizations to achieve these results through dynamic and fun training experiences that include seminars held in Austin, and elsewhere, providing private personalized training for animal advocates and groups.

Vodka for Dog Lovers continues to be innovative in their unique efforts to promote dog welfare. In January 2017 they opened a bar in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the venue for the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers games with a theme that embraces their partnership with Emancipet. A portion of proceeds from cocktails will help to fund their national expansion in the Philadelphia market and beyond.

Here’s to Tito Beveridge and his dedicated workers and partners who are enjoying amazing business success and paying it forward for the pets and people who need a helping hand, or paw, in Texas and beyond. May their business and philanthropic initiatives inspire many more to do the same.

To learn more about Tito’s Vodka for Dog People please visit: http://www.titosvodka.com/dogs/

To learn more about the services and locations for Emancipet: https://emancipet.org/

Photo credits: Elizabeth Bellanti Pander

Good News! Sagitta is scheduled for her Cataract Surgery next week. She will then go on to rejoin her dog brother, Ricoh. Thanks to all who contributed to this cause and/or helped to share the work of Carolina Poodle Rescue. I also thank you on behalf of Sagitta’s Forever-in-Spirit Mother, Gayle, who had to surrender her beloved dogs, but never stopped caring about their welfare. This development has brought Gayle a measure of happiness.

Also…thanks to Krisitn Avery of The Daily Pip Blog for allowing me the honor of being her first Guest Poster! To read, hop on over to: http://www.thedailypip.com/2017/03/fostering-ginger.html?showComment=1490449231001#c6476441075255727903

Carolina Poodle Rescue (CPR) has a passion for fixing what is broken, a passion shared by this supportive community of dog-lovers. Cataracts, for example, one of the most common genetic conditions experienced by poodles, can be fixed, increasing the adoption chances of even older dogs.  

In late 2016, CPR introduced a group of dogs in need of cataract surgery. Thanks to the generosity of many, nine have already had surgery and are starting new lives. Now, CPR introduces three more in need of help. With their eye sight restored, these dogs can be placed in new homes.  The good news is that half the funds needed for these dogs has already been raised, but your care is needed to see this fundraiser all the way through to a successful conclusion. 

Right now, CPR is offering a two for one offer for Mack and Max, two miniature poodle boys. According to Donna Ezzell, Director of CPR, “A generous angel will pay for surgery for one – if CPR can raise what is needed for the other.” Mack is about nine years of age and was surrendered to a shelter by his owners with no explanation.  Max is about ten, and came to CPR under the same set of circumstances. 

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Both of these special boys  have one more thing in common, diminishing eye sight. According to Donna, “The more their vision leaves them, the less they want to interact with other dogs and sadly, they’re losing interest in people.  When you can’t see and others bump into you or pick you up with no warning, even if it’s accidental, it puts a boy on edge.”  

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Then there’s Sagitta, a beautiful white Standard poodle. Loving and lovely, Sagitta has never met a stranger. Whether she’s preening like a model, or rolling in the mud at the barn, Sagitta has a zest for life that brings smiles to all she meets. 

Sagitta is much-loved  by her previous owner, Gayle. Gayle is no longer able to live on her own and now resided in an Assisted Living facility fighting physical battles of her own with Multiple Sclerosis. No longer able to care for Sagitta and Ricoh, a stunning black Standard poodle, she had to give up both. 

Sagitta

Gayle thought she had found a loving home for her dogs, but when that home did not work out, CPR reclaimed both dogs.  Donna notes, “At first, we did not know who their original owner was. When Gayle was healthy, she had volunteered with CPR and even though her name was not on the owner release form given to CPR, her information was on the medical documents and we were able to contact Gayle to let her know her dogs were with us.” 

Happily, Richo has been placed in his forever home, and now Gayle has become Sagitta’s champion, tirelessly fundraising on her behalf.  Gayle has already raised over half the funds needed for Sagitta’s surgery; $1200 of the  $ 2,100 needed.

CPR is now trying to help raise the other half so that Sagitta can have her cataract surgery and join Richo with the family who wishes to keep them together forever!  Ricoh and his human visits with Gayle at her Assisted Living facility on a regular basis and Gayle can’t wait for the time when both dogs can be reunited and visit together.

In her own words Gayle explains, “Sagitta is my current heartbreak. For me the most satisfying solution is to have her eye repaired and then to be placed with her beloved Ricoh. Donna did a wonderful job finding a loving home for him. Sagitta and Ricoh are like my children and never would I have imagined deserting them in their later years. It is quite ironic that I had to turn to CPR for a solution. I BELIEVE in rescue and tried to help when I was healthy. It bothers me that some think of rescue animals as throw sways. I just can no longer provide the care they need. The state has taken all of my property and allows me only $50.00 a month. Without rescue this very bonded pair of dogs who have been together since puppyhood, would be separated and would no longer be part of my life.”

Mack and Max, surrendered by no fault of their own, are living their golden years in the dark. Having their vision restored will increase their chances for adoption. Sagitta’s former owner is struggling physically. Having her girl near her will help her tremendously but only if Sagitta can be healthy. 

Here’s how you can help. Please support CPR during their  “$30.00 for 3 Dogs” campaign. Presently, we are seeking just over $3,000 to get these dogs on the way to health and new homes.  $30 .00 is a small gift that will mean the world to these three deserving dogs and to one very special,very brave woman who wants nothing more than to see her dog again.  CPR is a 501c3 organization, recognized by the IRS as a charity. All donations are tax-deductible. To donate, please visit our donation page and let us know that it’s for the gift of sight.   

Since introducing our first group “cataract dogs” in late 2016, CPR has raised funds for nine other dogs. Of that group, four have been adopted and the rest are recovering and the process of their rehoming has begun.

If you are interested in opening your home and heart to one of the CPR after they’ve undergone their surgeries, please visit our webpage at www.carolinapoodlerescue.org and complete the adoption application. If you are a pre-approved or previous adopter, please drop a line to applications@carolinapoodlerescue.org with the name of the dog that you’d like to meet. 

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A Happy CPR Match!

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Healthy and Happy CPR Adoptees!

This post received the North Shore Animal League America Special Award given by the Dog Writer’s Association of America on February 12, 2017 for excellence in the writing on the topic of Spay and Neuter Initiatives in the nation.

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Desert Landscape of Pueblo de Cochiti

A colleague in the animal advocacy community once declared, “We can’t rescue ourselves out of this mess,” when discussing the seemingly never-ending problem of pet overpopulation. For many, Spay and Neuter initiatives are regarded as the most humane form of rescue and advocacy. If we can stem the tide of unwanted pets, we can offer better care for those animals that will inevitably find themselves unhomed despite our best efforts.

At the BlogPaws conference in Phoenix Arizona in June, this topic seemed to “find” me as I became aware of how groups in different parts of the nation addressed these issue. BlogPaws represents the largest community of pet-professionals, advocates and writers in the world, with the common goal to improve the lives of companion animals. We sometimes, forget, however, that different regions of the nation face unique challenges when advocating for our companion animals.

At BlogPaws, I met Krystyn Bleda, a life time animal advocate from New Mexico. Krystyn and her husband, Raymond Sandor, are the co-founders of Desert Paws, Inc. animal rescue. Residing in Cochiti Lake, a small leasehold town on the Pueblo de Cochiti Indian Reservation, the couple with a slew of volunteers provides hands-on rescue, caregiving and transportation for Spay and Neuter procedures and veterinary care for tribal members animals from the neighboring three Pueblos.

Krystyn explains, “Moving from New York in 2003, we launched Desert Paws Inc. when we realized that there was an urgent need to help homeless, unwanted and injured animals in this area. Animals were being abandon, wandering around looking for food, warmth, help, some were killed on the road by vehicles, dumped from moving cars, close to death, some old, blind and unwanted. We obtained medical care for each one and then each was placed in foster homes, trained and finally placed into forever homes.”

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Dixie-A Happy Cochiti Success Story!

Eventually, the Governor of the Cochiti tribe invited them to sit down and discuss possible solutions to address this situation. Krystyn and her husband developed a low/no cost Spay and Neuter program and worked with a local veterinarian, developing a solution on how to handle their appointments and emergencies. They were also able to attract several long term donors to help sponsor their Spay and Neuter program specializing in a tribal setting.

The challenges of animal advocacy in these rural, sovereign tribal communities  are unique and significant. Although, many individuals care deeply about their pets, due to lack of resources on and around tribal lands many cannot easily obtain basic veterinary care, including Spay and Neuter procedures. As one of the poorest states in the nation, with a general population that is not well informed about the benefits of Spay and Neuter and lack law in their enforcement of  inhumane chaining of dogs and backyard breeding,  the municipal shelters of New Mexico are burdend by overcrowding.

Previously, veterinary students had come to the area to perform Spay and Neuter procedures, however, it didn’t work in many areas due to the lack of participation from locals. Many of the animals in the community are free-roaming, never even having been in a vehicle or a house making for surgery “round-up” efforts very difficult. In addition, tribal lands present unique challenges due to cultural beliefs stemming from agricultural lifestyles. People are not well- informed about common pet illnesses, treatment possibilities and yearly veterinary maintenance of a dogs or cats such as vaccines, heartworm, flea/tick prevention methods, and transmittable diseases.

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A Pair of healthy Cochiti Cats receive Veterinary Care

In thinking outside the box, Desert Paws Inc. launched their current program, “Door2Door Spay/Neuter & Veterinary Care” about 3 years ago.  In this successful initiative, Desert Paws Inc. volunteers pick-up animals from homes and bring them to their vet’s clinic where the Spay and Neuter procedure is safely performed. Raymond explains, however, “Our biggest challenge is transportation. Volunteers use their own cars to transport animals to our veterinary clinic that is over an hour away. Each Tuesday 3-5 animals arrive by 9:30 am and their stomachs must be empty. The following day, another 3-5 animals arrive and the animals brought in the day prior are returned safely to their families for monitoring and the process is repeated. Often, pets requiring other veterinarian treatments, such as for tick-born illnesses, bite wounds or surgeries for broken bones are brought in for medical attention, also.”

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Clementine – ready to be someone’s new Best Friend!

Krystyn points out the significant impact of strong Spay and Neuter initiatives. “For every dog, or cat, that is spayed or neutered, the births of six to twenty unwanted puppies and kittens are prevented. Pueblo de Cochiti, has a population of 1,500 people. With about two to four dogs per household (many of them are female) you can figure there are many dozens of reproducing moms at any given time that can typically produce a litter of 6-12 annually. That’s hundreds of pups born each year! Allowing for the fact that many of their offspring will not make it to adulthood, the area could still see a very substantial population spurt each year without a spay and neuter program in place. The cycle just repeats itself, growing and growing without intervention.”

Raymond notes that Cochiti Pueblo is one of the smaller pueblos, and now the goal of Desert Paws Inc. is to help the larger neighboring pueblos of Santo Domingo and San Felipe, and later on possibly expand the programs into the Navajo Reservation farther west and north.

Krystyn stresses that she and her husband could not accomplish all of this alone, saying, “Thanks to the relentless efforts of our board member and volunteer coordinator, Margaret Evans, we now have the best volunteer crew!” In order to grow and accomplish more, however, they are looking for more funding and sponsorship for the rescue and a reliable, newer vehicle for transport is needed immediately. In the very near future, Desert Paws Inc. also hopes to raise funds to purchase a building, which they will convert into a surgery/veterinary clinic and hold/recovery facility in a more closer, central location.

It is clear that Desert Paws Inc. and the Cochiti Pueblo’s government came together at the right time to prevent the cycle of pet over-population in their native land. Through community collaboration, the dog and cat populations have lessened and its animal (and human) members are much happier and becoming healthier. These ground-breaking efforts have created a model that can be and need to be replicated elsewhere whether on sovereign tribal lands or on any rural areas in America. Small rescues can and need to play a huge part of these efforts and state governments need to offer a helping hand (and financial sponsorship) for such rescue organizations and their programs.

Krystyn is also aware of the power of the written word. She credits the blogging community for helping  to spread the news about Desert Paws Inc. and their success. With conferences like the one recently organized by BlogPaws, Krystyn and her husband have faith that those who attended can use their blogging and writing expertise and influence to help increase awareness, share ideas and assist with the nation-wide implementation of programs like those started and offered by Desert Paws Inc. To learn more about Desert Paws Inc. or to sponsor their efforts/programs please visit their website at www.desertpawsnm.org or email them at desertpawsnm@live.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48n7i-R-wYs&feature=youtu.be

 

2016_NDW_Logo_Theme_epsIt’s been a hot summer here on the East Coast. But nothing beats the heat of Chandler, AZ, the place to which I travelled for the Blog Paws conference in June. BlogPaws is the world’s only organization comprised of pet bloggers and authors. Although it was extremely hot outside, I heard so many cool speakers inside it was well-balanced! A shout out for the top-rate facility and gracious staff of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort.

For me, it was a whirlwind experience; I attended many workshops and events and also got to participate in a Speaking panel and lead a lunch-table discussion. I was inspired by many and hope I was able to do so for others.

Here it is now, the end of August and I spend my time working with my hardworking agent, Donna Eastman of the Parkeast Literary agency. We’ve got some interesting projects circulating and working as a team, we hope that the right editor will reward us and lend their expertise and experience to bring these books to fruition (that’s fancy-talk for grant us a book contract(s)). Who knows what fall will bring. I thank all of you who continue to be so supportive and encouraging.

There’s also  my work on behalf of National Dog Week and my promotion of Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher (McFarland& Co., 2014) – the only account of Judy’s life and work ever written. It is filled with and interesting account of one man’s influence on America’s love-affair with its canines achieved through Judy’s prolific publishing, writing and editing efforts over the course of five decades.

This year, we declare that National Dog Week begins on Sunday, September 18th. But, if you wish to begin on Monday, or keep on celebrating the following week…no one will fault you! This year’s theme? “Readers Unleashed: Promoting Literacy with K9s” where dog-lovers utilize the power of the paw to encourage literacy and strengthen the dog-human bond. Does your library welcome Therapy Dogs, or does your shelter allow young people to read to the dogs?

I will also be guest blogging for the dog-loving folks at Tito’s Vodka for Dog People during National Dog Week. This all-American company founded by “Tito” Beveridge  fifteen years ago is sharing its growth and success to benefit canine well-fare across the nation.

I am currently  preparing for the Seaside Park Art Show held on September 3rd in Ocean County, New Jersey, combining my “dog writing” and art as presented in the work below. I hope you enjoy this scene that captures the magic of a fleeting season. Happy “Dog-ust”.

Postcard_Dog

“Boy, Dog and Sea” vintage postcard c. 1945, acrylic painting on mat board-8 x 10

 

 

 

 

 

BP Badge

So excited to be part of the Speaker Agenda at the            Eighth Annual BlogPaws Conference!

Barking News: Looking forward my participation in a Publishing-industry Speaker’s Panel with the Cat Writers Association of America and during a session with the BlogPaws  folks this weekend! Temperatures are soaring, but we’ll be inside exploring…during so many fabulous sessions surrounded by some lovely pets! Check out my recent contribution to Ruff Drafts https://dogwriters.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2016springsummer_members.pdf– page 11 , the official newsletter of the DWAA where I discuss my work with Laura Pople of Seer Farms. If you are part of the Yahoo on-line reading group DogRead, please join me as I discuss Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher. I am their featured author through June 30th! We are having a very nostalgic look back in time via our love affair (and Will Judy’s) with man’s best friend. And…Look for updates on the launch of my new kid’s Picture Book, Teddy Two-Tone and the Seven Days of Dog Week written for the youngest of eyes. I may have lots of questions when I attend a session presented by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, at BlogPaws. Happy summer!

 

National Cat Week

         A Poster Stamp from National Cat Week 1946

 “We like cats. They furnish running exercise for dogs and always win the race. They are a living, moving thing of beauty, softness and grace. They and the birds are among the few animals that wash themselves.” Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week, 1949

As I excitedly prepare to attend the 8th BlogPaws/CWA Conference in Phoenix later this month, it is not lost on me that although I have been writing and blogging about canines for several years now, in Phoenix, I will be part of a publishing-industry speaking panel organized by the Cat Writers Association of America. Preparing for this event has made me nostalgic.

Yes, I love dogs, but the truth is, more cats have blessed my life than dogs, and as I’ve discussed in past posts, I grew up in a menagerie masquerading as a house of humans.

My very first pet (although I barely recall) was a grey tiger striped kitten named mittens (I presume she had white paws). My only real memory of her was the day she jumped on our huge Christmas tree, toppling it full force onto our living room floor. The memories stop there.

Two bunnies followed – and I proceeded to let them out of their hutches early each morning only to have them return to their homes each evening (Don’t judge, I was 7 and it was the mid-1960s).

I also recall daily kick ball games that took place on our dead end street. One late afternoon, a mysterious car stopped and deposited a large duffle bag on to the curb. In those pre-terrorist days not filled with warnings of “see something, say something” we had no fear. We raced to the moving bag and unzipped it,  “unleashing” a parent’s worst nightmare; contained in that writhing bag were five gorgeous kittens suitable for Hallmark greeting card images.

We convinced our parents to let us foster them, (they were so adorable we had no trouble placing them). Gypsy, a black and white cat stayed with us and being an unaltered female, we faced the inevitable (don’t judge – it was the late-1960s). A year later, on the Fourth of July, my father was drawn to our garage by a strange wailing. Inside an open drawer that contained a folded American flag, rested one perfectly formed tri-color newborn kitten (red, white and black). My brother named him Jefferson.

Much later, my  brother Matt (RIP) answered (in a pre-Craig’s List world) a free-to-good-home ad for a kitten. I’ll never forget coming home from college for a holiday visit in 1977, expecting to meet a tiny ball of fur  only to meet Morrison (named after Jim Morrison) a cat much older than I had expected. My brother, upon meeting this charming young cat, couldn’t help but bring him home. Morrie lived life as an indoor outdoor cat (Don’t judge, it was the late 70s) and yes, he was neutered. He was one of the best family pets we’ve ever had.

Next came a little tortoise-shell cat that Matt brought home from a construction site. We named her Pita (short for pain in the you-know-what). Pita was a clingy sweet heart with a good disposition. Just a few years ago, after a very long life of over 21 years, she said good bye and went off to die in peace at a time of her own choosing.

So much has changed in the world, I recall a time when carefree kids ran about in the outdoor world, accompanied by their pets. Kids and pets need that, and so do we. So, on days when you are feeling frazzled by tweeting, pinning, instagramming, blogging and snap-chatting about your own pets and those of others, remember to unplug and take a break and enjoy this beautiful season.

Be it fur, hair, fins, hooves, or scales, we engage our hearts when we share our tales…It doesn’t matter our topic, good writing will engage almost anyone and you can even educate others in the process.

What a terrific  opportunity it is when we get to sit and chat with fellow authors and bloggers. It doesn’t happen often enough. If you are attending the CWA/Blog Paws Conference – please join me for my sessions: Friday, June 24th at 2:30 (joined by members of the pet-book publishing industry) and Saturday at noon, for a lunch time Table Topic about all things “writing”. If you don’t, and I have to sit alone, I might just revert to Middle School behavior – throwing spit balls (or hair balls), making fun of what your cats and dogs are wearing (I would NEVER do that), taking selfies, and passing notes, when the lunch monitors are not looking! Happy travels.

 

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”