Animal Shelters Need Volunteers: How You Can Help

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Whether your means are big or small, you CAN make a difference in the life of an animal.  Won’t you consider volunteering?

Ways You Can Contribute

  • Jump right in: Walking dogs, folding laundry, cleaning cages, and grooming animals are just a few of the many ways you can help our animal friends in need. Only occasionally have time to spare?  Volunteer a couple of hours for an adoption event; make flyers, set up tables or get an animal to/from the shelter.
  • Animal (and human) Enrichment: Getting your hands into fur is therapy for most of us, and spending a few minutes simply snuggled up to a purring kitty, or throwing a ball for a dog to chase will do wonders to relieve the boredom and anxiety all shelter animals face.  Have training skills, or want to develop some?  Bring a sack of treats and pick out a shelter dog or cat to work with.  It’s amazing what a treat and a little patience can do to help a unmannered animal learn a trick or two.
  • Going My Way? Headed to a nearby city, across the state or country? Call your local shelter with as little as a days notice and you may be able to transport an animal to a new foster/adoptive home, or meet up with another volunteer to help an animal on one leg of a longer journey.
  • Exercise Partner: Do you run or walk and want a bit of companionship?  Consider incorporating the shelter into part of your exercise routine.  Shelter life is stressful at best for all of the animals housed there.  There is always a dog there who would be suitable for teaming up with you, no matter your fitness level.  Stop by, grab a leash and you will help to enrich the life of a canine in need!
  • Temporary House Guest: Not ready to be a forever home, but still want an occasional animal to love?  Foster a grateful dog or cat while it waits for his/her forever home.
  • Break Open the Piggy Bank: If you are short on time, but have a few dollars to spare, there are always dogs and cats that require medical attention or training most animal shelters cannot afford. Improve the quality of life for a sick, injured or behavior challenged animal and increase its chances for being adopted.  Donate money earmarked for vaccinations, spay/neuter or training; or donate funds  to a volunteer run organization like Idaho ACTS (Idaho Animals in Crisis Transport and Support). They transport animals facing euthanasia due to overcrowded conditions to the safety of foster homes and rescues across the United States.
  • Join an Organization: Besides the shelter, there are many animal rescue groups you can work with on a local and national level.  Like certain breeds of dogs?  Consider joining a local rescue organization. For every breed there is a rescue, and a volunteer happy to help you find just the right place for you to get involved.

The Four R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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Jan. 2011 Trying to use less, want less, waste less… Today I created an account with DMAchoice.org to reduce the HUGE amount of paper mail I receive.

“DMAchoice™ is an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association to help you manage your mail. This site is part of a larger program designed to respond to consumers’ concerns over the amount of mail they receive, and it is the evolution of the DMA’s Mail Preference Service created in 1971.

For the purposes of this site, direct mail is divided into four categories: Credit Offers, Catalogs, Magazine Offers and Other Mail Offers. You can request to start or stop receiving mail from individual companies within each category—or from an entire category at once.”

I discovered a useful blog- The Zero Waste Home This family is light years ahead of most of us on reducing waste.  Bea and her family were the subject of a lovely Sunset Magazine (West Jan 2011) “The zero-waste home

 

Among other feats, Bea’s closet is as close to perfect as I could dream.  She  keeps 7 tops, 7 pants, 2 skirts and 7 pairs of shoes. Same idea goes for  her husband and two sons. Each has 7 casual tops, 1 dress shirt, 4 bottoms, 3 pairs of shoes, & 1 pair of pajamas per season).   My goal this year is to develop a mindset that will allow my closet to more closely resemble hers by year end.

Thanks for the inspiration!

 

Feb 2011

 

 

 

 

Great re-use/upcycle project for Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Do You Know Where Your Eggs Have Been?

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Even though I live in suburbia lot, I want to grow my own food. If I have to supplement with ‘store bought’, I buy from local, family owned, organic sources who I trust to not contaminate my food with hormones, pesticides, etc.

Recently, our city changed an ordinance allowing residents to care for up to six laying hens. Tending my own hens gives me control over a high quality source of protein for my family.

We have been too far removed from knowing about the food we eat.

To a small-scale gardener like myself, chickens are “pets with benefits”.  I give them my kitchen scraps, and free range access to grass and bugs. In return, they give my family fresh eggs, weed and pest control, fertilizer for the lawn and garden, and loads of entertainment.

Hens are also  GREAT  intruder detectors! They are notoriously territorial so strange person or animal can go skulking through our backyard undetected.

I already mentioned the entertainment factor, right?  Who needs tv or even a trip to a movie theater with hens around?!  Nothin’ beats watching a flock of chickens livin’ large in the backyard.  There’s comedy, drama and action ‘o plenty amongst a flock hens. Just pull up a chair and don’t forget the treats!


These days, keeping chickens makes me part of the ‘in’ crowd.  People no longer think I am weird for having hens.  Some even keep them as inside pets!  There is a multimillion dollar industry that has sprung up around urban homesteading and keeping backyard hens; and in these hard economic times, that is a blessing on many levels.

Fancy chicken coops, chicken tractors, chicken diapers… just listen to this NPR story Backyard Coops Make Chicks Chic for more! Don’t stop reading now!.  Google information about your food, you may be surprised about what you learn.

I am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with nature and provide healthier food for my family.  Hope you are motivated to move in a similar direction!

The Soldier

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I am watching fireworks on the 4th of July

when I think of you,

soldier.

We met once in an airport.

I, headed home to family

 and a BBQ at a neighbor’s house.

You,

were going off to war.

The pictures you showed me of your

 family were beautiful.

You lingered  tenderly over each dog-eared photo

as you replaced them in your wallet;

and your face

spoke of your sadness in leaving them.

We chatted

about the weather and such,

and just before boarding our respective planes,

we shook hands.

You asked me to not forget you.

Your gaze caught mine for only a moment,

but in your calm steady eyes

I saw every soldier

who had gone to war before you.

I knew with certainty

that I would not

ever 

forget.

The affect our meeting has had on my life

will stay with me always.

Mere words cannot express the gratitude I feel

for your service to our country.

So every day I am mindful

of the liberties I enjoy.

I exercise my freedoms and rights

 knowing somewhere

there is a young mother

forging ahead in raising a soldier’s child

while he risks life and limb for his country.

I pray often for you and yours.

 Whenever I vote,

or disagree publically, whatever

the topic of discussion.

When I express my personality

by wearing some daring fashion,

or even when I get the idea

that I NEED ice cream

in the middle of the night.

I picture you, and give thanks

that I am free to be and to do-

anything my heart desires.

I think it would be nice if you were my neighbor. 

We could share a scoop of rocky road

and talk about the weather, or our kids.

Instead,

you are a thousand miles away

and in harm’s way.

I pray you return to your home soon,

and find satisfaction, peace and happiness

that our country is as you left it.

I want you to know

that no matter the politics,

 no matter what war,

I support you soldier.   

I will strive always

 to show, in thought and deed

that I haven’t forgotten

what freedom means.

Fostering Einstein: A Success Story

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April 2010

Before being surrendered at an Idaho shelter, this young American Bulldog lived his life confined to a crate. Urine scald and feces covered his body.  He was malnourished and had not been socialized.  The neglectful owner said “The dog is too stupid to learn anything.”

 

Although shelter staff found the young male to be friendly and playful, his breed and lack of socialization made it unlikely he would be adopted.  As a longtime  animal rescue volunteer and lover of the “bully breeds”, I fell for his big personality and took him home.  Little did I know that this dog would be my greatest challenge.

Dogs end up in shelters for a variety of reasons.  Some are sick and need medical care.  Others are perfectly happy and healthy, but lose their homes due to death of an owner, or an owner may lose a job and the means to care for a beloved pet.  Other dogs have behavior issues from abuse and/or neglect.  Mostly, animals end up in shelters because they were poorly matched to the energy level and lifestyle of a former owner.

The majority of these animals simply crave what all living creatures need…love, a warm bed, proper nutrition, regular exercise, consistent training and discipline, and the gift of time. Some dogs take a short time to adjust.  Others, need the investment of a great deal of time, love, effort and money to be able to go on to live a good life.  Einstein was a dog who fit in the later category.

In  just a few months time “Einstein”, as he was named, began to blossom into a beautiful, healthy dog.  Because he spent his entire life lying down in a confined space, he initially had little muscle tone and even less stamina.  I found our first weeks to be magical.  Einstein had little life experience- watching him discover the world was  heartwarming, funny and touching.
He was neutered within a day of coming into our home, got his shots and began basic obedience training.   Initially his care was pretty easy.  He was exhausted most of the time.  Einstein couldn’t walk more than a block before literally, collapsing.  I  had to carry him home from short walks several times in those first days. His muscles continued to develop, but simply running across the yard resulted in somersaults and other comedic stunts.
Early on, his best loved activity was riding in a car on errands, which provided stimulation and opportunities for social interactions with humans and canines. He loved riding along in the car so much that for a time I had to drag him out of the car at the end of every trip!
Everything was new to Einstein.  He experience and skill set was that of a puppy, but his body and hormones were of an adult male bulldog.  Upon intake at the shelter he didn’t even know how to hold his bladder.  He would pee and poop while walking or even while laying down.  He caught on quickly though, and was housetrained within 3 weeks time.  I spent about a half hour a day doing formal basic training, but really, in those initial weeks we were living ‘in training’ with Einstein.  He was exercised each morning and evening, and every day was in contact with other people and animals.
As the weeks passed, I  realized that Einstein would need more time and training any of my previous foster dogs.   When neglect and isolation occur in a powerful breed like the American Bulldog, even an experienced handler can need help training a dog.  Many people were instrumental in helping to shape Einstein’s behavior in those early weeks.   He benefited from regular visits to ” doggie day care”, Wiggle Butts, where directed play within a canine pack helped him learn to read social cues from other dogs.

When Einstein began showing aggression towards other dogs while on leash, he lived with an experienced trainer  learning calm submissive behavior for several weeks before finally finding his forever home.

 

July 2010

 

Einstein, a wonderful family companion

Einstein was an extraordinary dog.  For all the suffering and abuse he experienced, he remained loving, intelligent and eager to learn.  He transformed from an unruly dog on the edge, to  a well-mannered, disciplined family pet.

 

Einstein and his foster family

 

 

Resources

forthcoming upon final edit

Pit Bull Rescue Central

Animal Farm Foundation

Don’t Bully My Breed

Best Friends Animal Society

Pit Bull Rescue Central

Children balance joys and sorrows of volunteering at animal shelter

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I have always been an animal lover.  One of my earliest memories is of  laying in the grass of  a neighbor’s yard, while a litter of puppies covered me with puppy breath, tiny tongues, and soft fur.  I have had many pets throughout my life, but with the current state of pet overpopulation in our country, I have begun to wonder about the ethics of “owning” another living creature.  Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated…I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by people from the cruelty of human kind.”

My boys, ages 9 and 11, love animals as much as I do.  In order to give my children quality ‘fur time’ and experience the joys of living amongst animals,  while trying to make sense of the sorrows associated with unwanted pets, we have been volunteering at our local animal shelter.  My hope is that by spending time with animals in such an environment, they will learn lessons that will make them better stewards of animals than previous generations.  

Like most public shelters ours is underfunded, understaffed, overcrowded and desperately in need of upgrades.  Because of the conditions that persist there, despite a dedicated staff, there are days when we are so busy, the boys don’t get to sit and cuddle a puppy or kitten (the ultimate reward)  before we have to leave; and though it has been a year since we started, they continue to want to go back.  We clean cages, feed animals, do laundry, sterilize equipment, groom animals, walk dogs, vacuum carpets, pick up poop (yea, not my favorite task,) basically anything we see that needs to get done, we jump in and do. 

When the work is done, the boys can groom a puppy or cuddle with a kitten

I do not sugarcoat the experience.  The work we do is dirty, stinky, physically demanding, and has elicited tears.  Yet, the boys find reward in the adoring gaze of the animals, in the wagging of tails that beat and swish when they walk by, and in soft, warm fur they sink their hands into on occasion.

Of course, their favorite part of being at the shelter is interacting with the animals, even the ones who aren’t “pet shop pretty.”  The boys have been exposed to every kind of dog imaginable while there. Some are old or sick, abandoned by their owners. There are  those who have been, obviously,  physically abused or have been neglected and starved; and some who may not show physical signs of abuse or trauma, but are just plain broken. 

Hard truths about the failings and weaknesses of humans have become  apparent to my young children in witnessing the sadness that persists at the shelter; and we have many long discussions about how and why animals end up at there.  My children understand that there are legitimate circumstances such as when people lose their jobs and are no longer able to care for a pet; or when the owner of an animal dies. Harder for all of us, is to see a dog, so abused and distrusting of humans, it lashes out at us for merely appearing before it’s cage.  We have seen the wounds inflicted on a “bait” dog, so they know that there are people who intentionally harm animals.  Many tears were shed by all of us on that day. My children also know that people just lose interest in pets and they see the sadness and stress the animals suffer as a result.

Shelter life for animals is stressful at best.  Imagine being locked in a concrete cage with 30 other stressed and barking (often nonstop) dogs. You smell the fear of all of the animals there; the sickness, and death.  The animals sleep, eat and defecate in that small space. Scores of humans pass by the cages each day, poking, cooing and talking, but always leaving.  And still, the animals (the majority of them) want to be close to us.

We are constantly amazed by the spirit of shelter animals.  Most of them, no matter how horribly they have been abused, still trust that humans are good, and kind and caring.  There are days when I wish I had that same undying faith and loyalty in mankind, but 30 minutes at the shelter on any given day reminds me that some humans are not worthy  of such faith.

Fortunately, my boys are not so cynical.  They simply want to spend time with animals.  They find satisfaction in seeing a family consider a dog they have suggested, and joy in watching a cat, they spent time grooming, being adopted by a family.  More often, they are fortified, as am I, simply by the feel of a puppy’s soft tongue on their hand, and the purr of a cat as it arches it’s back into their hand. 

For my children, I hope the boys take away from their experiences at the shelter a better sense of how to care for creatures dependant on us humans. It’s a start to changing a bigger ideal, and that is enough, for now.

Animals are great teachers. Volunteering at the animal shelter helps my boys learn to balance the joy of caring for another living thing with the sorrow of  life at the animal shelter.  Hopefully, as they grow up, they will be kind and responsible stewards of all creatures.

Shari’s Restaurant Holds Pie Eating Contest – Local News Story – KIFI Idaho Falls

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As part of his summer fun, Jacob entered a pie eating contest at Shari’s restaurant. 

Assessing the task at hand- cramming a pie in your face......faster than all the other kids!

looking neither right nor left, he set upon devouring that pie

with absolute concentration. He made sure every bite was eaten...

and was declared THE WINNER!

He was awarded a $100 gift card to Toys R Us and made the local news

 

We are so proud.  Have decided to liquidate Jacob’s college fund to finance a career in competitive eating.  

 If you wish to see the local news story, click here.