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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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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 email@example.com
Before I present some special guest posts, I just wanted to relay that our dog, Teddy, the foster who came to stay, is settling in just fine. This sweet little dog has brought us so much joy. Teddy is a three year old shih poo who was surrendered by his owner. Some people upon hearing this ask, “How could someone do that?” I prefer to think that someone made a difficult decision and cared more about their pet’s long term care and made the right choice.
Today I was watching a segment on a local cable news station called, “The Pet Stop.” Its host, Dr. Brian Voynick, was interviewing a guest who had brought in an adorable dog in need of a home. He took this opportunity to suggest that someone might want to foster this little dog until his fur-ever home was found. It was nice to hear this option presented to his viewers. Hats off to Dr. Voynick.
Later, I received an e-mail from Jan Todd, a very dedicated foster dog-mom from the state of South Carolina. She asked if I might share this note from her friend Rhonda Sims from the Freedom Train Rescue Transport. http://www.freedomtraintransports.com/
It reminds everyone that many times life presents us with difficult circumstances and we have to make tough decisions. I said I would be happy to share Rhonda’s story.
Here is what Rhonda wrote.
Sometimes a person has no choice but to surrender their pet.
Meet Shiloh. Her dad is a young guy who lives near me. I’ve seen this 20-something young man on many occasions with his dog Shiloh, and I know he loves her dearly. I’ve also had him [Shiloh’s owner] come to me after catching a feral kitten and taming it so that it wouldn’t die, and ask that I place it.
Well, he came to me the other day in a panic. Several months ago he had decided to serve his country and they had called him to come the following week. He said he was sorry, that he didn’t mean to wait until the last minute to try and place Shiloh. I knew why…it was because he loves her and didn’t want to say goodbye.
And what was I supposed to say to this great young guy who wanted to do the right thing by his dog and his country?? On many occasions I would have had to say the unthinkable, due to there never being enough FOSTER HOMES. But, thank the good Lord, last week one of my wonderful Freedom Train volunteers said that she was ready to foster again after having to say goodbye to her beloved dog.
I was going to send Martin [another homeless dog] to her, but as it turned out I was able to transport him this weekend and he didn’t need a foster. So I called Stacy [another volunteer] and she agreed not only to foster Shiloh until I could place her, but to meet this guy at my vet’s office that morning to pick her up.
God is so good. He always provides when we trust in Him. I promised Shiloh’s dad that she would be in great hands, and thanked him for serving his country. My country. Taking Shiloh, who is a real sweetheart, was nothing compared to that.
On a final post note, my friend Judith Ayn Sobel, of Poway California, wrote to say that a portion of a previous National Dog Week blog post had been shared in Paw Prints magazine published by the folks at the incredible Baja Animal Sanctuary. http://www.bajaanimalsanctuary.org/
That made my day. Thank you Judith! Here is the excerpt:
“When you foster a dog or a pup (or cat), you become the CEO, administrator and head bottle washer of your own personal shelter. No cages, no stress, no loneliness. You are offering the most home-like sheltering situation possible for a displaced, scared animal.
Through your time with your foster pet, you can see them blossom. You help with their training, assess their temperament and give them emotional and physical care they cannot receive in a crowded shelter facility and their placements in their adoptive homes work because they are the result of good matches. By taking a dog or pup out of one of those facilities, you are freeing up a spot so that another pet can have a second chance at life.”
Remember that transporting, fostering and adoption are rewarding ways to help homeless Companion Animals, but we need to also find a way to reduce their population through the implementation and support of Spay and Neuter Initiatives and to encourage people not to purchase dogs from retail outlets. Many of those poor dogs find themselves homeless due to poor emotional or physical health. As our good friend animal advocate Willie Wonka of Project Pets – Spay, Neuter, Love, often says, “We can’t rescue our way out of this mess.”
Congratulations to all of those who foster, transport and work to improve the welfare of our homeless Companion Animals. Everyone can offer something. No action or effort is too small.
“But the dog is also an excellent teacher for children, in that he aids in their character building.” ” Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week, 1949
I would like to thank Project Pets, Spay, Neuter, Love for naming one of their Rescue Pups after my late dog Hooper. In late February I read the story about a box of puppies that had been abandoned in a parking lot in North Carolina. The pups were in need of veterinary care before they could be placed in good homes. Project Pets was allowing anyone who made a donation to the care of these pups to have the chance to name one of them.
One of the pups was black and white and made me think of Hooper (and also of our new dog, Teddy). Most of you know by now we lost Hooper, our Portuguese water dog, to illness last August. So, after I made a small donation I took them up on their offer and asked that this pup be named Hooper the Second. Of course I told them if his adoptive family wanted to use another name, I would understand. I am told he is now called Hoops and has settled into a great new home near Atlanta, GA. Good work PPSNL for all the strides you are making in Spay and Neuter Awareness. To learn more about their work please go to: http://spayneuterlove.com/
Captain William Lewis Judy, a decorated WWI veteran and dedicated dog-enthusiast often wrote about the special bond that exists between kids and their dogs. Inspired by this, we present a fun, yet meaningful theme, that captures this spirit for the 85th observation of National Dog Week; “Kids and K-9s: Celebrating the Bond between Youth and Dogs.”
With National Dog Week celebrated the week of September 22nd, we are just six months away from that very special time that was designated to honor the nation’s dogs in a collective and organized manner. If we all think hard enough, I am sure that each town, county or state of the union can think of just one way we can improve the welfare of our Companion Animals and the nation’s youth in even just a small way.
This September let’s count the ways kids go to the dogs, and the dogs in turn, go to the kids!
Here are K-Nine Ways some of the dogs and their humans have done so already:
1. Early this year, Bocker the Labradoodle, helped to comfort the children of Newtown, Ct, in the aftermath of the elementary school tragedy.
2. Sean Poser, of Kids Adopt A Shelter (KAAS) has continued to motivate young people across the nation to collect supplies for local shelters.
3. Author Barbara Techel of Joyful Paws teaches young people to appreciate the gifts and lessons offered by animals and humans facing special challenges through her writing and the establishment of “Walk and Roll Day,” (which falls on the first day of NDW this year)!
4. Audrey Hendler of A Fair Shake for Youth Harnessing the therapeutic power of therapy dogs to help at-risk youth develop skills and behaviors that will give them a fair shake at a better life.
5. Dogs are trained in lifesaving skills in which they are able alert young people to the onset of seizures and the detection of materials to which children are highly allergic.
6. Nikki Moustaki teaches scout and school groups on how to make cards with her Pet Postcard Project that helps to feed shelter dogs across the nation.
7. Teresa Lewin, and her work with the organization, Doggone Safe, educates children on how to avoid hostile encounters with dogs and to avoid dog bites.
8. Public libraries across America continue to welcome Certified and trained dogs for programs like “Read Aloud to the Dogs,” which allow young children to read to patient dogs without fear of judgement.
9. Dog make great writing prompts for literacy projects. In the 1930s the Humane Society sponsored essay contests for students who wrote about what National Dog Week meant to them. The photo of the contest winner appeared with the winning essay in the New York Times.
We think this is a good start, but we would love to hear what you have planned!
Please remember to LIKE our National Dog Week Page on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974?fref=ts
Thanks to blogger/author Kevin Middleton for this great interview last week. We talked about FULL SNOW MOON and SOMETHING’S LOST AND MUST BE FOUND. I hear his wife is a true lover of dogs, so hopefully they will become friends of National Dog Week! http://thebattleofthegatehouse.webs.com/apps/blog/show/13466053-author-interview-with-lisa-begin-kruysman
Rose Russo is a friend and a true advocate for man’s best friend. If her name sounds familiar, it is because she is very active among the New York City circle of animal advocates. A former NYPD Detective, Rose’s life was changed forever by the events of 9/11. Rose now dedicates her life to helping dogs as a trainer, groomer, foster and rescuer. To read more please see BLOG ARCHIVES of August 26,2010.
Recently, Rose told me the story of a little terrier she rescued while staying in Homestead, Florida. Rose tells it so well, I am just going to let her do all the talking!
BLOG NOTES: I just want to say a quick congratulations to Sean Martin and his Kids Adopt a Shelter Spring Drive. Hopefully we can provide feedback soon. I also want to point out that Project Pets Spay, Neuter, Love has a new website http://spayneuterlove.org/ . Every once in awhile, I will hit their donate button and donate a dollar or two. Just imagine how much money could be raised for the Spay and Neuter of more dogs and cats if everyone did the same.
Now for the story of Railan Russo as told by Rose Russo~
On Friday, January 20th, at approximately 6:30 PM, we packed the Ford Explorer, punched an address into the GPS and headed to the Sunshine State. I took the wheel and Penny-Lane and Lily-Pads were onboard for the drive. Originally, we had planned to leave early Saturday morning, but Mother Nature planned otherwise. With a pending storm bearing down on the North East, Saturday morning, we skipped the good night rest and left Friday night. Of to Florida we went. Even with the few stretches of bad weather we continued straight through only making a few stops to nap and freshen up.
I had never been to Homestead, Florida; I actually never even knew it existed. Because we had to get back to New York for Westminster our time was limited. We were meeting Designer Kiki Hamann for a Pre-Westminster dress fitting. Kiki Hamann is one of the premier designers for the event. The ride to Kiki’s home was astonishing, the cows, the farms and all the stray dogs. Once I arrived at Kiki’s home I learned that Homestead was a wonderfully close community that is unfortunately burdened with the reputation of being a place to abandon dogs. Many individuals end up caring for seven, eight and more dogs. Kiki herself has 8 dogs, most she has rescued. I remember growing up in Brooklyn and seeing dogs walking in packs, but we are in the 21st century I thought those days were long gone. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and of course my heart went out to them.
At Kiki’s home, I was greeted not only by Hamann’s 8 dogs but by one little guy lurking near the fence. I think he was checking us out. The next morning, while the Hamanns had to run some errands, I stayed behind. Well back came our little visitor,, and it seemed as if he wanted to come over and play but being cautious he kept his distance. As he saw me sitting in the field, playing and rolling around the grass with my dogs, he became more curious. He was so adorable looking, and I knew behind all that smell and crusted matted hair, he had a beautiful coat.
When the Hamanns came home, the little guy had been groomed and looked like a brand new dog. Kiki couldn’t believe her eyes, she told me she had been trying for months to get close to him and pet him but he kept his guard. I took the task of grooming many stays that day and It was priceless watching their faces during and after being groomed and pampered. I would do it again and again, because every fur baby needs to be groomed and pampered once in their lifetime.
As my visit grew longer, he began to stay with. I would go to sleep and wake and he would be there, I would go out and come back and he would come looking for us….OMG what to do? As my departing date was getting near I went through the neighborhood looking to see if he belonged to someone. No one looked for him, asked for him….nothing. I wasn’t looking for another fur baby, but I guess he was looking for a family.
As I was packing the truck the night before he stayed as if he knew what was going on. The very next morning the girls and I got onto the truck. As he watched me with those little green eyes of his, I opened the door and asked him if he wanted to come – He jumped right in the front seat and didn’t care one bit, all he cared was that he had found a family, finally a place to call home.
I always think people meet for a reason, well the same applies to animals. We never know why paths cross just that it is something meant to be. But I tell you this little dog came to me at a moment I wasn’t feeling well, I was stressed with family matters and he just let me care for him.
As the girls and I were driving back, I realized that he needed a name. Little-Man was a thought but this didn’t fit for someone who is small, feisty, sweet, caring and loving soul. He came from a farm country place so I wanted to give a name that would fit him, I threw some names out there but the one he liked was “RAILAN” Railan Russo. We drove twenty-two straight hours and he did well on the return trip. Most importantly the girls were good with him and he was a gentleman with the girls.
February 10th arrived quickly and we arrived at the Pre-Westminster fashion show in New York City, organized by Ada Nieves. Penny-Lane and Lily-Pads were modeling Kiki Hamann’s designs. Now Railan, a new member of the family got into the act. Kiki Hamann gave him a black and white blinged harness, but it wasn’t just a harness, it looked like a tuxedo shirt and amazingly it matched the girls beautiful venetian-styled gowns. For Railan’s first exposure to our crazy life, he did very well. Railan has become very good around people and other fur babies. Penny-Lane and Lily-Pads have shown him how to interact and be calm around other fur babies. He still looks for me and wants to be around me almost like a security blanket. I have had people ask me if I am looking to place him. I tell people he is not ready yet, for now he is a Little Russo.
Railan is a long hair silk terrier, approximately between 1 and 2 years of age, with a great personality. He learns quickly and wants to please. He is affectionate and loves to hang and sunbathe with Penny-Lane and Lily-Pads. He would make a great addition to any family and has brought some new life to ours.
Thank you Rose for this beautiful story. Your life-story and work on behalf of our dogs epitomizes the true mission of National Dog Week!
Thanks for stopping by. To learn about my biography of Will Judy, The Founder of National Dog Week and other writing projects please see ABOUT. I will be speaking at Booktowne on Friday, Feb. 3 at 5:30 in Manasquan, NJ. Topics will include SOMETHING’S LOST AND MUST BE FOUND and my work on the biography of Will Judy, the man who founded National Dog Week.
A couple of weeks ago, on the occasion of my birthday, I wondered what I could do to make the day really count. As it was a Saturday morning, it occurred to me that it was a perfect opportunity to ask people in my Facebook Network to support a cause I felt strongly about.
I quickly set up a weekend-long event on Facebook and asked my friends to contribute just one dollar to an existing Chip In account set up by Project Pets – Spay, Neuter, Love. https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Project-Pets-Spay-Neuter-Love/160594203971240
I figured if I could just raise $50.00 it would be enough to pay for one female cat or dog to be spayed or neutered. On Monday morning, Jo Burchfield, President of Project Pets presented me with a list of donors and their contributions; it was enough to pay for several procedures; female cats and dogs cost $50.00 and male cats $35.00. While some gave the requested dollar, others went above and beyond and each gift was appreciated. We have contacted each donor personally to thank them for their generosity.
Before you think that this is not significant, Jo will tell you that, “Given that two (unaltered) cats can add up to over 420,000 cats in a seven year period, it’s easy to see how many lives are saved by spaying/neutering as many as possible.” As those active in the cause like to say, spaying and neutering is the most effective form of rescue there is.
A recent article in the Asbury Press written by Associate Press reporter, Sue Manning, confirms this fact. According to this piece, “higher rates of spaying and neutering in recent decades have cut the number abandoned puppies and kittens, which in turn have cut euthanasia rates.” The article goes on to note that prior to 1970, approximately 20 million companion animals were destroyed per year in the United States, but in 2011, fewer than 4 million homeless animals met that sad end. That is still an unacceptable figure, but demonstrates the positive effects of spay and neuter initiatives.
Today, I read that retail giant PetSmart is helping to promote S/N awareness. Congratulations to them! http://www.petsmartcharities.org/spay-neuter/low-cost-spayneuter-program.html
The following presents my recent interview with Jo Burchfield (be sure to scroll down for photos below):
Please share how this organization got started. The idea to start Project Pets came after I tried cat rescue. For the 6 animals we could pull, 10 more would show up at the shelter the next day, and another 7, etc. It didn’t take me long to realize that there was a need for more opportunities for spay/neuter, and specifically free spay/neuter options for the pet owners who couldn’t afford to pay for the procedures. In some areas, even the low cost clinics were still too expensive.
What are your plans and goals for the upcoming year? Obviously, we would like to grow and get more donations so more animals are spayed/neutered. We also want to start focusing on education as many don’t understand how important spay/neuter is and how in fact it does save lives. Yes, by preventing the birth of homeless babies, we also prevent the death of the ones that are not rescued.
I hear you may be getting your own website soon, can you elaborate? In order to be found online, I have contacted a firm and they are designing a web page for us. I met the owner on Facebook and he’s an animal lover himself, specializing in web pages for pet companies, groups, etc.
When you talk about educating the public, how would you do this? At what age level do you think it is appropriate can you reach out? The best way to educate is to reach the children. During a spay/neuter seminar, I found out that the 3rd graders were pretty much the best one to reach. And since children are the next generation of pet owners, it’s important that they understand and respect the lives of animals. Kids are also the one who can go to their parents and tell them they want their pets to be spayed/neutered because it’s better for them.
And that last point is a major one. Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week got it right when he wrote, “We think dog ownership prepares the children early in life to develop into whole-souled members of the community, of what we term society and the state.”
Knowing how important responsible pet “ownership” was to Will Judy, I am almost certain he would fully support the humane teaching of this most effective method of “forward thinking” rescue to the young.
What happened when I asked some Facebook friends to donate just a dollar to a great group called Project Pets – Spay, Neuter, Love? Stay tuned for a posting sometime next week with the gratifying results and enjoy an interview with the President of this organization. Its Vice-president, animal advocate, “Willie Wonka” has launched an informative blog, too. You can read the current post at http://askwilliewonka.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-need-to-help-thomas.html?spref=fb
The other day, someone on Facebook posted about a young woman who was promising the owners of aging horses that she would (for a fee) take their beloved horses to an animal sanctuary. Turns out, she took their money and then sent their horses to a slaughterhouse. This deceitful and arrogant “human” then said there was nothing illegal about what she had done…but ahh…she has now been charged with Theft by Deception. At least it is something. In my next post I will introduce some material on the things all those who wish to be involved with only honest and reputable rescues and Chip Ins, should know. It hurts animals, and good causes, when these groups are allowed to continue with deceptive practices.
Now, back to good thoughts and words….Yesterday, my husband said he didn’t know what to read next. I told him about Beautiful Joe, a book I had down loaded when I had received my Kindle as a gift last fall. I loved the book so much, I always recommend it to others. Rich started reading it that day and commented on how it made him think about the feelings that animals are capable of. I noted that it is striking how issues regarding the welfare of animals,and the resultant literary works, appear to endure; always touching the heart and inspiring us to be better humans.
In my last post I mentioned that I had three writing projects in various stages of play…my short story collection became a soft cover book last month (See ABOUT for LINK) and my Young Adult Novel, Full Snow Moon, found a home and will be e-published next month (loving the cover the publisher has designed) and I’ve recently signed with McFarland Publishing for the publication of my Biography of Will Judy and his National Dog Week Movement (2013). This blog was lovingly launched two years ago to build interest and support of this national celebration that occurs each September. Busy times are in store, but I do have several new blog posts in development…please enjoy this “repeat.”
NOTE: Since launching the National Dog Week Community Page late last summer, we’ve added many new members. Go on over and LIKE us. I’ll be giving away a free copy of my book SOMETHING’S LOST AND MUST BE FOUND at the end of the month to a randomly selected LIKER. http://www.facebook.com/mobileprotection#!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974.
Now, here is a post (slightly updated) borrowed from last year.
The other day, a Facebook friend sent me a message asking me if I’d ever read the book Beautiful Joe. She said that the book reminded her of me. I have to admit, I’d never even heard of it. Discovering that it was available as a free Kindle book, I made it the first download on my new device. Beautiful Joe was written in 1893 by Marshall Saunders as an entry for a Humane Education Society writing contest. It is a fictionalized autobiography of a “cur” name Beautiful Joe, told from the dog’s point of view. The real story took place in Ontario, but the author “relocated” it to a town in Maine.
At its heart, a little terrier-mix is rescued from the hands of a brutal dairy farmer and becomes part of the menagerie of an animal-loving family. Turns out author, “Marshall,” was actually a woman named Margaret who thought she had a better chance of winning the writing contest using a man’s name. Not only did she win, but her novel was the first Canadian book to sell over a million copies, going on to sell millions around the world.
I am only half-way through, but the story is so moving and well-done. But two things strike me most. How the lessons from our animals can make us, especially young people, more sensitive and caring and that things haven’t really changed that much since 1893. One of the heroes of the story, a young woman named, Laura, is a saint to all animals. She sees to it that the brutal dairy farmer is punished by law, while caring for the unfortunate animals that have suffered at the hand of bad humans, something I see a lot of people doing today.
Back in the 1940s, National Dog Week Founder, Will Judy, knew how important animals were for the development of care-taking behavior in the young. He wrote, “Caring for animals, which depend knowingly upon humans, pulls a child or an adult out of his selfishness and away from his own narrow cell.” This summarizes the true message behind Beautiful Joe.
Because I teach, and write, I think my Facebook friend saw similarities between Margaret Saunders and me, something that is very flattering. However, I will say “write” here, I see myself more as a reporter of events, someone trying to give the “quiet heroes” a place where they can reach out to others. They don’t have a glossy magazine, or a popular TV or splashy Radio Show. But these people are the real deal, on the front line of meaningful reform and new ideas. And most of the time, by the way, not only are they not making any money, but using their own funds to make things work. If you scroll back in the “Archives” you’ll see what I mean.
I’ve enjoyed learning about Will Judy, the man behind the National Dog Week Movement, a man responsible for making the world better for both dog and human. At one time, National Dog Week was so popular that over 200 cities, including New York, went over the top to truly honor American dogs. The week had slogans and posters with themes like “A GOOD HOME FOR EVERY DOG…” and celebrity spokespersons. We are slowly but surely restoring its place of honor on the American calendar and hope you’ll be joining us in September (and year-round), embracing its message.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from an author about the recent sale of his book to a publisher. We happen to be represented by the same Literary Agent. I asked him about his writing “path.” It turns out that he is 84 years old and has had three agents. He started writing using an old Underwood typewriter and wrote every single day of the year, even if it was just one page a day. He actually has three other books written and ready to go. I congratulate him on his success and as he said to me, “Never give up.” I thank him for this uplifting story…It is never too late to achieve what you’ve set out to do. Never forget this!
In closing, I would like to thank all of you who do so much, in the “real” world and on-line, for animals and people. I thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, and for commenting here, in e-mails and on my Facebook page. It really does mean the “dog-word” to me and it might even do some good. I sure hope so.
“Let sleeping dogs lie – who wants to rouse ’em?” Charles Dickens, English, 1812-1870
I hope this post’s title drew my regular dog-loving readers in and in this case, those who are not necessarily big fans of our Companion Animals. Why you ask? Well, the answer is pretty direct. As it is sometimes pointed out to those of us who write and work on behalf of the nation’s pets, we are often preaching to the choir. Most people who read blogs like mine are already committed to the love and care of animals and those that need help. But what about the others? Yes, let’s talk about those others. (For the sake of this article, we will focus on canines).
I don’t know about you, but I can spot a fellow dog-lover in a flash. Just look at the expression and movements of those who are greeted by your dog or dogs upon entering your home. I have come up with a scale (1-4) that helps to define what kind of situation you’ve got on your hands.
Type 1 – These individuals love dogs. They may have several dogs of their own they have rescued…they are thrilled to meet your canine friends, some will drop to their knees, arms wide-open, some may even wrestle with your pack, rolling around on the ground or floor making dog-like sounds. At the dinner table, they may sneak scraps off their plates and discretely feed your dog under the table or have the dog pre-rinse the plate with its tongue.
Type 2 – These people like dogs, they have had one or two in their lives and may be even thinking of having another one at some point. They will smile and say something like, “Oh, nice doggy…now, now,” while pushing your dog’s head away (if you have a chronic over greeter on your hands). During meal time, they are happy to have your dog in the room, but at a respectable distance from the table.
Type 3 – Indifferent. These people never grew up with a pet. They will step away from your dog and their eyes glaze over if you tell them a cute story of what your dog did that morning. They think dogs are messy, noisy, too much work and highly over-rated. They wouldn’t protest if you locked up your dog in a room or outside while they visit.
Type 4 – These people actually dislike dogs. They may be fearful of them (perhaps having had a bad experience), they may be allergic to them, or they just don’t get anything about them. These are the people that encourage you to stop by while you are driving to Florida (or elsewhere) then suggest that you leave your dog tied up outside or in their garage while you join them for dinner or overnight. These are also the people a dog-lover will never visit again or invite to their own home.
Okay, so I assume that Type 1 and 2 might enjoy a blog about dogs and of course National Dog Week. But it is types 3 and 4 who can really help our animals the most. These are the people we need to enlist in the Cause for the Paws. Why? Here are points to ponder…
Tired of homeless pets roaming around your neighborhoods and overcrowding the local shelter down the road? You animal dislikers can really help. Do something that will lessen their numbers. Support low-cost Spay and Neuter programs, talk to your local animal shelters and veterinary practices about ways to have more of your local dogs and cats “Fixed.” You will be rewarded as you won’t have to see so many of these animals walking about “bothering” you and disturbing your life. February is National Spay and Neuter Month. You can also support groups like https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Project-Pets-Spay-Neuter-Love/160594203971240
Fed up with going to the local mall just to have your shopping trip ruined by a retail store selling puppies? Shoot, you were just going out for a bite to eat, or to purchase new shoes and NOW you had to see a bunch of cute caged puppies staring at you as you ponder what kind of bagels you are going to get or what size latte. But you can do something. Banish that puppy retailer. How? Help to organize a Peaceful Protest outside of one of these shops (I will present some who really do this in an upcoming post). Educate your friends about how bad these stores are for our homeless pet population. Dissuade them from buying a pup at these stores…make the supply go away by cutting off the demand.
Just finished cleaning your closets and wondering how to unload all those old blankets, sheets and towels? You can let those shelter dogs and cats know you think they are second rate by donating this material to a local sheltering facility. As the lonely cats and dogs snuggle in warmth and comfort, they won’t even curse you for giving them your rags.
Think our dogs have become lazy and need to get jobs? You are right. Hey, with 70 million dogs in the United States, shouldn’t more of them be doing what they were born to do? Help finance programs that train and maintain K-9 dogs and Military Dogs so they can go help the Police and Military Personnel protect you and your family from harm (they won’t even ask if you like them before risking their lives to save you). Make sure they get the protective gear they need and the food and medical supplies they need to keep them tip top so they can work harder to serve you better.
Tired of visiting an elderly relative at the nursing home? Get more of those lazy dogs that are languishing in shelters back to work. If you get more of them trained as therapy dogs, you won’t have to visit the lonely and sad so often, the dogs will do all that nice stuff for you. Think it is burdensome to help a disabled person perform chores and get about in the world? With more dogs certified as Service Dogs, you will be free to do more important things while those “useless” annoying dogs make a difference to more people. (Did you know there is a difference between therapy and service dogs-more on that at a later date).
And here’s the best part…if those of you who really don’t get it ever need the services of these dogs at some point, they will never hold it against you that at one time you didn’t see their value. They are incapable of comprehending an unloving or unappreciative nature. They don’t judge or hold grudges.
So, I hope those who really don’t care for dogs at all can use this dislike to help the dogs and cats of the world. You just might benefit some day.
I thank the hardworking rescuers, cross-posters, transporters and all the others who make a difference in the world of our Companion Animals. It has been an honor to come to know so many. We do need to keep preaching to each other, supporting causes by sharing information and occasionally providing a much needed smile or laugh!
Please continue to support the National Dog Week Community Page and help it grow…https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/National-Dog-Week/218596591491974