Friday, January 30, 2009

Friends Forever

A headline caught my eye on the Fox 5 animal webpage where our puppy cam is hosted. It read, Family Allowed to Adopt Fallen Son's Dog. The December 2007 article told how Lex, Marine Corporal Dustin Jerome Lee's K-9 partner, sat whipering from his own injuries, and had to be pulled away from the slain Marine's side after the deadly mortar attack. The bond between the the dog and the Marine compelled Corporal Lee's family to adopt the 8-year-old German Shepherd. The military, however, expected Lex to perform two more years of service.

The family knew that their son would want Lex to live with them. They already had Corporal Lee's first canine partner, Doenja, living with them. The Lees lobbied the military for months, launched an Internet petition and sought the help of North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones, (R. N.C) before Lex was given special permission to retire from the Marines to live with the Lees.

This real life story reminded me of a book I read two years ago. Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam. This book is so much more than a heart-warming, gut wrenching story embedded in the horrors of war. Newberry award winning (Kira Kira) author Cynthia Kadohata focuses on the power of the human animal bond during a time in U.S. history that is rarely discussed. When Rick Hanski signs up for the army, leaving the security of his Wisconsin home and a waiting job in his Dad’s hardware store, he is ready to “whip the world.” Hanski, however, quickly begins to second guess his decision and ability when, as a dog handler, he is teamed with strong-willed German Shepherd named Cracker.

Initially, Cracker is leery of everyone. She does not understand why her former best friend, a boy named Willie, gave her to the army. Hanski and Cracker, however, soon develop an understanding and form a bond that goes beyond friendship; they become one of the most sought after and respected U. S. Army dog search teams in Vietnam.

The novel, recommended for ages 10 and up, is told alternatively through Hanski’s and Cracker’s points of view. It is graphic, but not gruesome. Kadohata does not sugar-coat the heroics of the dogs for reasons based on facts. An author’s note reads “...at the war’s end [dogs] were considered surplus military equipment. Although precise records were not kept, most historians agree that at least 4,000 dogs served during the war and are credited with saving some 10,000 human lives. About 1,000 dogs died from combat, jungle disease or other reasons. At the war’s end, only approximately 200 dogs were reassigned to other U.S. military bases. The remaining dogs were either euthanized or given to the South Vietnamese Army. The fate of those dogs remains unknown.” The book has a bitter-sweet ending. Cracker and Hanski survive the war. Unfortunately, true to the hazards of war, other characters, dogs and soldiers, do not.

According to the article about the heroic Marine team of Corporal Lee and Lex, the military currently has 1,700 dogs working alongside American troops. These relationships, real and fictionalized should be noted and celebrated. I cried when I read about Hanski's reunion with Cracker. I cried, too, for Corporal Lee, for his family and for Lex, one of the best dogs currently living in Mississippi.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

SNOW Day!!!!!

This picture was taken earlier this morning

Max & Nigel are now warm and dry inside.

Enjoy the snow, but be sure to dry off your dog's feet after a romp outside.

AND, keep your cats indoors!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Danger Alert

The Washington Post publishes a feature called Animal Watch in its Sunday Metro section. Today's Animal Watch headline read, That Isn't Your Engine Purring. The cute play on words failed to highlight the tragedy that was fortunately avoided.

The blurb detailed how an unsuspecting driver heard a kitten (meowing) from under her car's hood. She drove to a veterinarian's office where an animal control officer came and safely retrieved a 4-month-old kitten. That was one LUCKY kitten.

Many times kittens and cats will seek warmth under the hood of a car. What happens is the kitty crawls up the front tire and beds down in the warm engine of a parked car. An unsuspicious driver comes out and starts the car. Sometimes the cat takes a warm ride, like the kitten in the article. Oftentimes, however a tragic scene is played out -- the driver starts the car and YEOW!!!!! the cat is mangled or killed by the fan belt. Best way to avoid the deadly CAT-in-ENGINE situation is to keep your cat safe and warm indoors!

**** Tell drivers to bang on the hood or honk the horn before starting the ignition. The loud noise should be a warning to napping kitties to find another spot.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Catastrophe!! Too Many Cats and Not Enough Homes

What do Aggie, Starbuck, London, Aberdeen, Aruba, Jamica, Wooshie, Wynken, Argle, Repeat, and Spanky all have in common? They are all cats who have lived at the Washington Animal Rescue League for 6 months or more! Valentine's Day marks Aggie's one-year anniversary at the League. We would love to celebrate that day with Aggie moving on to a real home. One where she will be loved and cared-for -- forever!

To help us introduce the absolutely purrrfect cats to prospective adopters, we are hosting a special event, CATAPALOOZA, on Saturday, February 14th.

The day will be jam-packed with activities ranging from workshops presented by veterinarians, adoption experts, and behavior specialists to a designated place to shop for cat unique art and books. Plus, there will be a story hour featuring cat tales and a make-your-own cat toy workshop especially for kids. Of course, we'll have refreshments. And cats. Lots of cats. More than 60 cats will be trying their very best to capture the attention, and heart, of that one special person, couple or family who will say, "That One! I want to live with that one. Forever and ever!"

Even if you cannot adopt a cat, stop by the League on Valentine's Day. Tell your friends to come to Catapalooza. We will be introducing visitors to Artimis, Gee Gee, Remy and all of the other spectacular cats who will be here, counting the days until they find their forever homes!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What's In a Title?

Okay, look at the cover of this book. My Big Dog, what's it about? If you said a dog, you would be only partially right. In fact, the dog is a very minor character in this book. We see the dog a lot, and the dog moves the story along -- well, sort of -- but the story could just as easily have been called, MERL, ONE ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIC, FABULOUS, PERFECT CAT or I AM MERL THE GREAT, DO YOU REALLY EXPECT ME TO LIVE WITH THAT?.
My Big Dog is about Merl, a tabby cat who rules the roost, that is until a sloppy, dopey, gangly golden retriever puppy invades Merl's space. When Merl cannot take one more nasty dog kiss, he decides to take drastic action -- Merl moves out. Life outside of the house where Merl has My dish. My sofa. My chair. My mouse. My bed is not so good; and in the end, it is the dog (whose tag reads Violet") who rescues Merl and brings him home.
My Big Dog is about friendship, tolerance and compromise. The illustrations in My Big Dog are so much fun to look at, you will want to look at each one for a long time before reading any of the text. This is truly one of my very favorite books. When my son Max was little he would beg me NOT to read My Big Dog again because it was the only book that I wanted to read.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Check out the Washington Animal Rescue League's new Puppy Cam, http://media.myfoxdc.com/petcorner/homecam.html.
See puppies play, eat, nap and poop! Remember, if you view the puppy cam after hours it may be dark; puppies need their rest. AND, for an entertaining in-person show, stop by the League and see lots and lots of kittens in our three lobby display windows. The kittens are tumbling, pouncing, and leaping right now. Check out the League's web site, www.warl.org for current visiting hours.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Week

It is inauguration week and Washington is the place to be! The historic inauguration concert yesterday brought together nearly 500,000 people. I was there. It was lots of fun. People were happy and enjoying the music and cheering crazily every time the jumbo-tron screens flashed to President-elect Barack Obama and his family. The soon-to-be first family was bopping away to the tunes. President-elect Obama encouraged the concert goers (and home viewers) to join forces and work together to make our nation a better place.

Security was tight. I was glad to see that people followed the directions of the concert organizers.; They left their dogs at home. One man, who wasn't going to the concert, was walking his dog on one of the streets that led to the Lincoln Memorial concert site. He was talking with the soldiers who were manning one of the many streets that were closed to vehicular traffic. Like everyone else, the soldiers were happy and enjoying the positive mood of the day. The man asked the soldiers to pose with his dog. They happily stood for a quick photo, including the one that I took. It could have been called a day of national friendship. I hope that the mood lasts.

The Obama family is looking for the right dog to join them in the white house. They move in tomorrow. In honor of their big move and big decision to choose the right dog, three polls were added to the blog. Read them, and let me know what you think. I think that the President and Mrs. Obama and their daughters could definitely find the perfect dog for them at the Washington Animal Rescue League. We are right down the street, in their new neighborhood.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Recycling Projects -- Think Animal Toys

What can you do with one old sock? Fill the foot with catnip, knot the ankle and give it to a cat who wants a toy!

Do you have a stuffed animal or two that you don't cuddle with any more? Donate them to the League or another local animal shelter. Not all stuffed animals are okay, they need to have the batting-type of stuffing -- not sawdust or beans.

You can make fun tuggy toys with old towels. Tear (or cut) them into strips and tie them together, pull the knots super tight and then use the tuggy toys to play with your dog. You can sneak some dog cookies into the knots and watch your dog untie the toy!

Can't get the last little bit of peanut butter out of the jar? Bet your dog can. Peanut butter is a yummy treat. A dog with a nearly empty jar of peanut butter can be occupied for a long time.

There are lots of reuse/recycle ideas that can be used to create fun cat and dog toys, do you have some that you have created? Please share them here. Let's reuse and recycle ideas so our animals will have lots of fun things to do.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Little Savings Goes A Long Way

Way back in August I heard a radio report about a NYC family, the Humphreys, who collect spare change. They find pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters on streets, sidewalks, in stores and just about every place they go. In December the radio program did an update; the family reported that their loose change total for 2008 was more than $1,000.00!! That's a lot of cat food.
What does found change have to do with cat food, or dog food for that matter? Well, if I set up a "change pot" and pick up every penny, nickel, dime and quarter that I see discarded wherever I go, I could save enough money to donate lots and lots of cat food and/or dog food and toys, too, to the League. That would be a very generous donation. Every penny counts. Organizations like the Washington Animal Rescue League rely on donations.

Without donations the League could not take care of the hundreds of dogs and cats that depend on us every single day. We find cats and dogs permanent, loving homes. Our medical center helps people on restricted incomes get veterinary care for their animals. In a perfect world all animals would have wonderful, forever homes and everyone would be able to afford the very best of veterinary care for their animal companions. Although our world is not perfect and there are lots of homeless animals that need care, the Washington Animal Rescue League is there to help. My change pot and lots of other change pots, can help the League provide the very best care for London (pictured) and all of the other cats and dogs in our care.

Check out the Huphrey family's blog at changepot.blogspot.com

Monday, January 12, 2009

Five Things YOU Can Do to Help the Animals During These COLD WINTER DAYS!!!! BRRRRRRR!!!

It's winter, it's supposed to be cold -- but 26 degrees for a high seems way too cold for Washington, DC. That's what is predicted for Friday, January 16th -- just 26 degrees for a day time high and only 15 degrees for the low. Brrrrrrr! That means if someone leaves their dog outside with a bowl of water, the dog's liquid will be one giant ice cube in no time AND it will stay that way, with no thawing in sight. That's not right. Whether you live in the District of Columbia, Wisconsin, or even Alabama, dogs, and cats, should not be left outside in the cold.

The bone-chilling cold that is hugging the nation is responsible for highs like -2 degrees in Altoona, Wisconisn and 2 degrees above zero in Des Moines, Iowa (with a low of -6) and only 56 degrees in Auburn, Alabama with a low well below the freezing mark. This is a good time to think of all animals. What can we do to make sure that dogs, cats, and area wildlife are protected from the latest arctic blast?
  • Keep dogs and cats inside

  • If there is snow on the ground and/or salt in street, make sure to wipe your dog's pads with a warm water cloth after a walk

  • Tell drivers to knock on the hoods of their cars to frighten away any unsuspecting cats who may have climbed up under the hood seeking warmth in the car's engine

  • If you know someone who leaves their dog outside, make sure the dog has a proper dog house. That means that the house is elevated off of ground, has a flap over the entry way to keep out wind and has hay or shredded newspaper inside for bedding -- not a towel or blanket. Better yet, also alert the local animal welfare agency and let them check out the dog house

  • Feed the birds and other wildlife. It's hard for birds, squirrels and other animal friends to find food in the winter. Put seed and/or suet in a convenient place. Once you commit to feeding the birds, don't stop until spring. The animals will be come dependent on your generosity and come to feed regularly at the designated spot.
Only 67 days until spring!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Good News for Life Living Under The Sea

Major News Flash!

Yesterday -- President Bush moved to create three new marine national monuments in the Pacific Ocean. Renee Schoof of the McClatchy Newspapers reported that The monuments — in the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific, the Rose Atoll off American Samoa and remote islands in the central Pacific — cover 195,280 square miles, the largest protected area of ocean. The Marianas Marine National Monument will protect the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth — deeper than Mount Everest is high and explored for the first time only in 1960. The monuments also protect corals and the ecosystems that include large migratory, resting and feeding sea birds, and endangered animals such as sea turtles.

Search the web. Learn more about this historic environmental protection designation.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Quick, Funny Back-to-School Story to Start Off the New Year

This morning my son, Max, decided that before he chose a jacket to wear to school he should test the weather. He went out onto our screened-in porch . It must not have been too cold because he was able to stay out there long enough to do his best imitation of a cat wanting inside.

Max got on all fours and meowed loudly at the door. That's what Merl, our brown tabby, does when he wants inside. I laughed and Max meowed louder. Bruce and Merl came running from other parts of the house to see who the new cat was. Max meowed again and our tough guy cats crouched down into one of those, "I'm not so sure about you" positions.

When I opened the door to let Max-cat in, Bruce hissed, ran away and hid under a chair. I think he was embarrassed by being fooled by Max. It took several minutes of coaxing before Bruce came out, acted like nothing happened, and was content to bat around his favorite toy, a teeny, tiny blue crab.

Bruce in one of his favorite positions