Thursday, July 30, 2009

At the Beach

We arrived at Hilton Head, South Carolina on Saturday afternoon and immediately headed onto the beach. It was low tide and my daughter, Natalie, and I were walking long after the life guards put away the beach chairs and umbrellas and after most people had headed off to dinner. We were enjoying the saltwater lapping at our ankles, the end of the day sun, and the solitude of the near empty beach when we saw a flapping sea creature washed ashore. I thought it looked like a shark, Natalie said it WAS a shark. The thing is, there are many kinds of sharks; this little guy was definitely not a great white, he was a juvenile to be sure, and he was stuck in the sand. There was nothing around for me to pick up to use to push him back into the ocean. We saw a family up on the beach, closer to the dunes, they had a net. Perfect. I ran up there and asked if I could borrow the net to help the shark. The mom said it wasn't uncommon for the young sharks to be washed up and that her son would come with us. He did. He grabbed the shark by the tail and set him free in the water.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Author and illustrator Carla Golembe shares her home with two cats, Zippy and Zoe. When Zippy was a year and half, Carla realized, that as much as he loved Carla, Zippy would be happier if he had a cat friend, too. So, in 1999 Carla visited the Washington Animal Rescue League, and that's where she fell in love with Zoe.

Carla recently shared their story with me and I am happy to share it with you.

Marq in the cat room introduced us to several kittens who were cute and nice but they didn't really connect with us. Then he told us he had a kitten who was a little bit older but a real sweetheart. He brought Zoe over...she was named "Sink" at the time. She was 6 months old and had been left at WARL at the age of 3 months. I took her in my arms and she looked right into my eyes and reached her paw out and stroked my face! We fell in love.

When we brought her home Zippy took one look at her and ran to his litter box and threw himself on top of it spreading all 4 legs out as if to say "I'm not sharing with you". But within a month they became great pals.Zoe has lived with us for 10 years.

Five years ago we all moved to Florida, Zippy and Zoe didn't like their ride from DC to Florida in the car and they meowed and howled the whole 1000 mile ride. But they love living here. They are indoor cats but spend time on our screen porch where they see lots of birds and lizards and enjoy the fresh air. They have been featured in a lot of my artwork including the "Zippy and Zoe" series...a group of 6 picture books published in Taiwan.
Best Budies -- Zoe (Black and White) and Zippy (Brown Tabby)

When my daughter, Natalie was younger (she's now 16), I often read Dog Magic and Annabelle's Big Move to her. Carla wrote and illustrated those books and has written and illustrated many other books, too. To learn more about Carla and her many roles as artist, illustrator, writer and teacher visit http://www.carlagolembe.com/

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

30 Chickens For Every Person

Chew on This, a book discussed in today's KidsPost section of the Washington Post, is filled with all sorts of food facts including, About 9 billion chickens are killed for food each year in the United States. That's almost 30 chickens for every person. 9 billion chickens.

Nine billion chickens trapped, wing to wing, toe to toe, in small cages prior to being killed for human consumption. I could rant on and on about how wrong it is that we treat animals like commodities and that, despite all we know about a vegetarian diet, we continue to not only eat animals but to keep them in overcrowded conditions, pump them full of hormones so they will grow faster, and kill them in loud, noxious, and dirty slaughterhouses. But I won't.

9 billion chickens

Monday, July 20, 2009

Feral Cats: A Fight to Survive

Gladys bathing in her younger days

My cat Gladys is moving very slowly these days. She is at least 18-years-old. She came to live with me the year before my daughter, Natalie, was born -- and Natalie is 16. Gladys was a young adult cat at the time of her rescue by a District of Columbia Animal Control Officer. She had been chased up a utility pole. According to witnesses, some kids sicked their pit bull on Gladys and she ran for her life. A couple of days after the chase she was still trying to figure out how to safely get down.
No one came to the shelter to claim her. Like so many animals in a city shelter, Gladys would have been euthanized (humanely killed with an injection of a drug sodium phenobarbital) -- simply put, there are way too many animals and not enough homes. Skinny little Gladys with the loud purr spoke to me. I decided to foster her. Gladys was spayed (operation so she can't have kittens and given all of her vaccinations) Obviously, my home became hers -- permanently. She's lived inside three houses with me over the last 17 years.
What if Gladys had not been rescued? What if she had been left on the streets? An un-spayed cat can have up to three litters of kittens a year. What happens to those kittens? Without human handling they become wild, or feral. A feral cat is a domestic cat who is abandoned and left to fend for itself -- eventaully, feral cats become fearful of all humans. Kittens born to feral mothers , essentially born in the wild, may never be socialized; feral cats lead very hard lives -- they must find food on their own; un-neutered, they get into many fights and are often injured; their illnesses and wounds go untreated; and their life expectancy is quite short compared to a well-cared-for, domestic house cat. Some times people will adopt a a colony (a large group) of feral cats. They will put out food for the cats at "feeding stations", trap them and have the cats spayed or neutered and then return them to the colony. Trap and release programs help to reduce the number of reproducing feral cats.

The Washington Animal Medical Center works with volunteer groups to reduce the feral cat population. We offer a feral cat spay/neuter clinic once a month. I've been at the League more than a year and so I've seen more than 12 feral cat spay/neuter days. Every time the volunteers bring in 25-50 feral cats. Since feral cats are weary of humans, the volunteers catch the cats in humane traps and bring them to the Medical Center in the traps. The veterinarians spay or neuter each cat, check them for diseases like feline leukemia, vaccinate them, and notch their ears -- the notched ear identifies the cats as those being looked after in the colony.

Old, creaky-bones Gladys spends her days sleeping on a chair or sunning in the window. She could have been killed by that dog more than 17-years ago, or she could have escaped and been left to fend for herself giving birth to litter after litter of unwanted kittens.
Feral cats are a problem. I'm glad that the League's Medical Center is helping to control the feral cat crisis. But, there is still so much more to be done. What do you think should be done to reduce the number of feral cats who are left on own to survive?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bashert Settling In

Alana's updates

Bashert before and after bath and haircut

July 15th -- Since I last wrote not much has changed , except Bashert did go to the groomer on Tuesday. She looks like a new dog -- they cut her very short and puffed up her fro. She really looks like a poodle -- she is so soft.
July 13th -- Since we got Bashert, she has become much more active, outgoing and a lot more fun to be with.

She did have a rough day on Friday, but she’s fine now. She’s adjusting to us giving her the ear medicine every day. At first she really didn't like it; after we were done she was pretty scared for awhile. But now she knows that we’re not trying to hurt her….now she stands still (it’s a spray medicine.)

July 10th -- The last couple of days have been pretty eventful. First of all she went outside (fenced in backyard) without her leash - that's pretty impressive - most puppy mill dogs have to wear a training leash for a couple weeks. Second, she's getting used to going on long walks.
Today wasn't the best day for her. My dad took her to the vet (she seemed lethargic) and it turns out she was dehydrated , had an ear infection and an eye infection and she was constipated poor thing!!!!!!!!But all in all it's been pretty cool having a new dog.

Sweet dreams Bashert!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

City Green -- An All Time Favorite Book

Across the street from the Washington Animal Rescue League is a community garden. In the winter it looks like a huge vacant lot. But, come spring, little by little the lot is no longer vacant. People start weeding their plots wearing heavy winter coats. Planting begins right after the last frost. And then -- like magic -- the vacant lot is transformed into a burgeoning, bountiful garden right off of Blair Road, a busy street connecting the District of Columbia to Maryland.

By this time of year sun flowers are tall and in full bloom; gardeners harvest an assortment of vegetables for their dinner tables; and Roberta, a League volunteer, cuts flowers from her garden plot and decorates the shelter and medical center's lobby and waiting room with bouquets of color.

The c
ity garden across from the League reminds me of one of my favorite books, City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. It's the story of how an abandoned lot smack in the middle of a city block. is transformed into a place of beauty and purpose. It also tells how the newly created garden brings neighbors together. When Roberta recently took me to see her plot in the garden across from the League, she introduced me to a fellow gardener, a woman whose thriving plants gave the appearance of a small farm. She and Roberta talked plants and swapped stories about other gardens.

Truth by told, I am not a gardener. I plant a few tomato plants each year, some years I'm successful, some years not. You don't have to be a gardener to be inspired by the Oglethorpe Street community garden across the street from the League. However, reading City Green, and the plans for starting a community garden listed at the back of the book, just may give you an inkling to try your luck at planting. If I remember correctly, I planted one of my very first tomato plants shortly after reading City Green.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Nine Lives of Travis Keating -- Read it and Cheer!

The odds are definitely against Travis Keating. His mother recently died of cancer, his father (a doctor) couldn't save her; instead, Dr. Keating uproots Travis for a year long experiment living far from the home Travis knew, far from where he lived happily with his parents, his best friend Grady, and his winning hockey team. In Fiddler's Cove, a tiny coastal community in Newfoundland, Travis is bullied by, if not the world's meanest bully, then at least the meanest bully in all of Cananda. Everyone is afraid of Hud Quinn -- so afraid that when he instructs the entire school not to befriend Travis, they obey. The story has so many twists and turns the reader will be gasping for breath with Travis one minute and then crying tears of joy the next. You'll root for Travis, his friends Prinny -- a neglected waif whose alcoholic mother is known as the town drunk-- and Hector, the third of the invisible kids on the bus, and Abe, a crotchety old fellow who not only befriends Travis, but who helps Travis rescue the cats.

The cats, a feral colony, becomes Travis' project. He feels personally responsible for them. Travis is determined to save them from starvation, disease and Hud. There is no sugar coated story here -- our hero does not save them all and we are told just how horrible life is for the abandoned lot of cats. If you loved Because of Winn Dixie or Shiloh, you must read The Nine Lives of Travis Keating.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Interns Gain Experience While Helping the Animals in the Medical Center

Jasmine with a dog recovering from spay surgery.

Charlotte holding a dog who will be spayed next.

Interns are trainees who obtain experience through temporary assignments. The Washington Animal Rescue League Medical Center is fortunate to have interns year-round. Not only do the interns gain valuable experience, but the hospital benefits from the additional help. Some interns are veterinary students gaining practical experience in shelter medicine, others are high school students completing student service learning hours requirements while checking out possible career choices. Hospital interns are responsible for a wide range of jobs. Two of our summer interns, Charlotte, a rising high school senior, and Jasmine a veterinary student will share their experiences in this space in the coming days. Check back soon to read what Charlotte and Jasmine have to say about their work in the hospital.

What do you think it would be like to work in an animal hospital? I've never worked in a hospital, but as a casual observer, I think it is safe to say that no two days are ever the same!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

UPDATE from Alana & Bashert

On the first day we had a schedule taking Bashert out every hour. Now, she is almost completely house trained, and we are on a schedule taking her outside every 4 or 5 hours. Even though we have only had her for only four days, she knows not to disturb us while we are eating and she knows what couch to sit on and what couch not to sit on.

Also we have learned stuff about her -- she likes hot dogs and meat balls, but not peanut butter. She likes bones, but not kongs. We’ve also figured out that after every big walk she needs a 3 hour nap (minimum).

She is also learning to trust us more and more.

*Bashert chews on a bone in the privacy of her crate.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Meet Guest Blogger Alana and the Newest Member of her Family!

I am very happy to share this space today with Alana, WARLKIDS' very first guest blogger.

Even though we have only had our dog for 48 hours it seems like she already owns the place. Her name is Bashert which in Yiddish means meant to be, soul mate…. She is a standard poodle who is apricot colored and a little bit white. She is 3, almost four and she weighs 60 pounds.

We adopted her from WARL and they got her from a puppy mill but she is nothing like [a puppy mill dog] -- she is very social and relaxed in her new home.

The first day she would not pee outside, she went 2 times inside but on the newspaper. And the next day she went outside almost all the times we took her out, and she has not had an accident inside yet.

We even got her to respond to a command (come). She did chew on her harness but we fixed it. All in all it is pretty good and the best part we have a new family member.

(Pictured above is Alana, her brother Aaron, and Bashert preparing to sleep on the kitchen floor on Bashert's first night in her forever home. Also pictured is Bashert checking out the sofa.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fabulous Fireworks and Frightened Furry Friends

The band plays America the beautiful, neighbors eat corn on the cob and slurp watermelon, and fireworks light up the sky with a
boom, Boom, BOOM.
And, dogs and cats throughout the community are scared! Really Scared. Really, Really scared!!
Make sure that your animal friend is secure inside your home. Cats shouldn't be outside anyway, but especially tonight. The loud sounds may make them run so fast and so far that they become disoriented and can't find their way home. Even a leash cannot keep a dog close with those 4th of July firework blasts. It's not unusual for a dog to be so frightened that he bolts trailing the leash behind him. In Washington D.C., thousands and thousands of people gather on the National Mall to see the light show. Leave your dog at home. Very few dogs are comfortable in an overcrowded setting -- add loud noises and you've got a disaster.
Enjoy Independence day, but be sure to keep cats safe inside and leave your dogs at home. On July 5th animal shelters throughout the United States receive numerous phone calls inquiring about lost pets that got away during the fireworks celebrations. To ensure that you aren't one of those callers, check to make sure that your home is secure,;nbe sure that there are not any open windows that a frightened cat or dog could bolt through trying to escape the deafening explosions; leave your dog with something fun to do -- give him a stuffed kong or other long-lasting treat; and as an extra precaution, double check to make sure that your furry friend is wearing a collar with current identification information.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Puppy Mill Dogs & Those Animals Left Behind

Yesterday the puppy mill puppies and dogs, confiscated during the execution of a search warrant of the Almost Heaven Kennels and brought the Washington Animal Rescue League, were made available for adoption. You would have thought that we were giving away 100 dollar bills. Prospective adopters started lining up outside our doors before 9:00 a.m. -- the League opens at 11:00 a.m. People were nice. They talked about how excited they were, they asked about the conditions of the dogs and, then when we opened, they visited with the dogs and made their selections. It is WONDERFUL to see animals, former cast-offs, adopted into loving, permanent homes.

I wish we had people lining up at our doors every day to consider adopting the many wonderful dogs and cats who are patiently waiting for their forever homes. We NEVER have empty dog dens or cat condos. There are always animals who have been given up for one reason or another -- she's too big, he's not big enough, we don't have time for a dog, the dog isn't playful enough, the dog plays too much, the cat scratches the furniture, my child doesn't take care of the cat, I just don't want him anymore -- Imagine, someone saying that they just don't want the dog or cat any more like an old pair of jeans or a broken toy.

I hope that all of our puppy mill dogs are loved and cared for by their new families forever. They deserve it. They've lived in horrible conditions. But Irina, Knox, Tomtom, Angel, Peeko and Saraya deserve good homes, too. And, they are still here.
(Pictured above is Knox, a basset hound mix, who looks like he could be on a greeting card and has the a very sweet disposition.)