Aging Gracefully, part 2: Stem Cell Therapy, the first weeks

It has been a week and a half since Sally went in for stem cell therapy. No further blood tests or other diagnostics were necessary, the tests and radiographs performed at her visit a few weeks ago were all that was needed in order to begin.

We dropped Sally off at the vet’s office around 8:30am on March 22nd. Around 1pm, we were able to call and check on her. Her stem cells were going through processing still, but she was doing well. At around 2, we were told that we could pick her up any time! Wow!

What happened while she was at the vet: an incision was made by Sally’s shoulder, a few inches long, and a chunk of fat was removed. The fat was treated with a patented enzyme compound and treated under an LED light that helped to break it down and activate the dormant stem cells therein. The stem cell solution was then injected into each of her stifle joints (rear knees) and hips, the places where she experiences the most arthritis. The remaining stem cell mixture was then injected intravenously so her body could distribute them however needed.

You can see the shaved areas where the fat cells were removed (near front shoulder) and two of the injection locations (hip and knee) here. Taken first night home.

When we picked Sally up, she was doing some more severe limping than normal, which we were told to expect due to inflammation, but was pretty spry. She was able to eat that evening, and she was acting normal, just sore. We let her rest that night.

The next day, we began a week’s worth of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication (Keflex and Rimadyl) and started doing rehab therapy. Our instructions were to walk on leash for 5 minutes 2-3 times each day, and follow all rehab with ice packs on her affected joints for 20-30 minutes. I have a confession to make: We never made it to 20. Baby girl starts fussing after 10-15 and so we stop. She seems to be doing just fine.

During this time, we have not had to do anything all that special in terms of limiting her. She is allowed to go up and down the stairs, get on the furniture, and move normally at a casual pace around the house and yard. We have not been allowing her to run, so she hasn’t gone into our bigger yard to play, but she’s really enjoying her walks and wishes they were longer.

Observations, I took careful note during the first week because I had read a lot about fast-acting changes post-treatment:

Day 1 after procedure: very stiff and sore, doing okay. Slipped on the floor a couple times due to being overly cautious.
Day 2: limping worse than before treatment, but happy and bright. She also, for the first time in years, felt and gave in to the urge to jump on our very tall waterbed. I could count on one hand the number of times in the last five years or so that she’s done this, with most of them being the whole five years ago… I think she’s feeling much better!
Day 3: limping is only occuring after walks, then goes away. Sally starting to pull harder on leash during walks, wants to go longer.
Day 4: limping a bit after ice therapy, but no other time. Bounces on hind legs when excited to go on walk.
Day 5: does “sit” faster than she’s done in almost six years.
Day 6: really wants to go-go-go on leash.
Day 7: caught limping after she went to sleep on the hard floor for a while, not sure if her leg fell asleep; goes up the stairs faster, acting really normal and very happy.

Last Friday, the rehab changed to 10 minutes of walking 2-3 times daily and some “assisted sit-stand” exercises with 15-20 minutes of *heat* afterwards.  Sally does not like the heat but she is enjoying her walks tremendously and is not limping.  Ten minutes of solid walking on pavement would have led to stiffness and limping later before, but because of the heat and presumably, her treatment, she is handling it well and building up strength.  Assisted sit-stands are simple exercises where the dog must sit squarely, then be assisted to her feet via a sling or human hand, and hold the stand for up to three minutes (at our current level.)  I’m honestly not sure if I’m doing it right; she doesn’t seem to be getting much exercise from it, but we continue as instructed!  This level of rehab is two weeks long.

Summarily, it seems that Sally is truly improving already, but this is a long, hard process.  I highly recommend taking into consideration the time constraints of rehab/therapy if you are looking into doing this procedure.  Be prepared to give up a lot of your day sitting with numb hands holding ice in place, going for walks, even in the rain or snow, and keeping your dog fairly calm.  While not all vets use the same protocol, our veterinarian works very closely with Medi-vet, the most sophisticated stem cell therapy company, and he travels the country (and beyond) educating other vets regarding the procedure.  He is one of the most experienced vets in the United States in this therapy.  We are happy to follow his protocol and recommend others do the same.

Stay tuned in weeks to follow for more updates on Sally’s progress, and that arthritis meds/supplements post!  Do you have any questions about arthritis management or stem cell treatment? Leave a comment!

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Aging Gracefully- Part 1: A new hope for arthritis?

The mortality of our oldest dogs, their presence a staple in our lives, looms over our home and our hearts like a rain-filled cloud.

Sammy has always been my number one companion on hikes; no longer.

These days, Sammy drags behind after a mile or so on a leash walk, can’t go off leash because he doesn’t hear well once he gets a little way away from me, and someday in the not so distant future he will no longer be able to hear me tell him I love him.  There was a time when thunderstorms meant reading Harry Potter out loud to Sammy, something for him to concentrate on other than the booming sound he heard in the background.  No more of that.  I’m not complaining, but every thunderstorm is a reminder of how life is changing as our dogs age.

Sally still loves hiking, but if we are out for more than twenty minutes it comes with a heavy price.

Sally was my first dog, hard as it is to believe after the experiences we’ve had.  So many years have gone by with so much change, growth and adventure, and she has been there through it all.  From that first tentative step into life with a dog until now, she has been the steadfast friend and family member that has set the standard for all who would follow in her wake.  For now, she’s still here but her eyes are growing ever more cloudy, white hairs speckle her face and she can’t go on hikes anymore.  At ten, she’s not so old that her joints should have benched her permanently but unfortunately, it has happened due to an early onset of arthritis resulting from an injury years ago.

These two dogs are the keystone of our family.  The ugly truth is that they are aging and now senior citizens of the canine world, and we’re being forced to accept that their bodies just can’t last as long as their legacy will.  We’re fighting tooth and nail to protect our dogs until the end, though.  We can’t stop them from getting older, but we can protect them from certain ailments.  For instance, arthritis.  There are many things you can do to reduce the impact of this painful condition on your dogs (and in humans, as well.)

  • Keeping your dog at a healthy weight or even a bit on the lean side is one of the most important changes you can make.
  • Instead of high-impact exercise, swimming with your dog allows them to work their muscles without putting stress on their joints.
  • Pain relief therapy pretty much becomes status quo once a dog experiences arthritis.  This consists of both pain medication from the vet and more natural supplements designed to help.  We’ve had Sally on Fish oil, Vitamin E and a Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM supplement for years, only giving NSAIDs on her “bad” days.  For more information on holistic and medical treatments, I highly recommend checking out Dog Aware’s Arthritis Page, or watch for a future post here which will cover the medications and supplements we’ve tried (and some we haven’t) in detail.
  • Alternative or homeopathic treatments such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, etc have been used with varying levels of success.  I have not gone this route, myself.

Is that all you can do for your dogs?  It used to be, for the most part.  Now there is a newly accessible therapy for arthritis, hip dysplasia, ligament and cartilage injuries (and more!) that is being used with great success.  It is called Stem Cell Regenerative Therapy (for brevity, I will abbreviate to SCRT in the remainder of this post.)  The therapy itself is not new, it has been done for a long time in animals.  The new therapy, though, is done via the Adipose Stem Cell Procedure versus the older way of harvesting bone marrow.  The doctor that owns one of my vet clinics is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable in the world in regards to stem cell therapy, and so we have decided to take the plunge.  The price for this in-house procedure currently sits at about $1800 in most clinics in the country.  Some clinics do not have the equipment to perform the procedure in house and will quote you a much higher price, sometimes twice that, so it’s worth checking things out in terms of perhaps calling other vets.

So how does this work?  SCRT is done via Adipose Stem Cell extraction.  A small sample of fat tissue is removed from your dog via a small incision; the dog must be under anesthesia for this.  That fat tissue is just loaded with dormant stem cells.  The sample is treated with a special patented enzyme mix to break it down.  The extracted cells are formally called the Stromal Vascular Fraction, “which include bone marrow stromal cells, follicular dendritic cells, & mesenchymal cells along with many beneficial proteins that encourage bone formation, liver cell regeneration, nervous system regeneration, wound healing, vascular rebuilding, skin repair, damaged cells to repair themselves, and cell re-growth.” (Source: Medivet)  The SVF is filtered and sterilized and then using an LED, the cells are stimulated so that they become highly active, dividing and ready to work.  If left inactivated, the body would be responsible for this process and would likely not activate all the cells.  This way, they are amped up and ready to go so that as soon as they re-enter the body, they can begin repairing cells.  The cells are divided and injected into the body where they are needed most, and then the remaining sample is given intravenously so the body can put them to work where it sees fit.

Sally’s procedure is scheduled for the 22nd.  I will be chronicling the entire process, so stay tuned!

An upcoming blog will cover supplementation in detail; if you have any questions you’d like researched or answered about any particular kind of medication or supplement for arthritis, leave a comment!

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A Life Shattering Experience

On this day last year, I was at a vet’s office while my elderly cat underwent surgery when I got a text message.  “Check Facebook.  Bunny and Brock are missing.” Bunny is the single most special animal I’ve ever fostered.  I almost didn’t let her go, and every day for the last year, I have wished that I hadn’t.  She was worth giving up the rescue for, to me.  She was worth it all. When Bunny arrived  in our care, she was one of the most fearful dogs I’d ever seen.  She was nearly feral.  She was born in a shelter as evidence in a hoarder’s animal cruelty trial, and spent the first eight months of her life without leaving her kennel or seeing daylight, or grass.  She and her siblings were said to be so afraid of grass that they collapsed on it and crawled, dragging their handlers to the sidewalk where they could at least feel the familiarity of concrete.  Volunteers for a border collie rescue had helped to socialize them, driving for hours  each week to arrive at the shelter and work with the 20 dogs that were left out of the original 30 or so (some died in the kennels, including some of the pups that were born there, and Bunny’s mother.)

When we took Bunny in, it was a lot of work, effort and a heck of a learning experience for me.  We went through so much together.  It was just a completely fulfilling experience for me, though, as I really learned about the kind of dogs that I love to help.  I would take in a million Bunnys just to see them blossom the way she did.  She was here for over a year, and she was a huge part of my life.  I was close to keeping her with that “perfect” home came along, and I was able to let her go so I could continue my rescue work.

A year later, that text message came, and my world was shaken, rocked, off its foundation.  We launched into action.  A Facebook page just for the two dogs and their search effort quickly grew to over a hundred people.   Volunteers donated an incredible amount of money to help cover advertising costs, and my husband, best friend and myself spent well over 30 hours the first week searching on foot, searching with dogs, and hanging flyers and posters to try and find the dogs.  I spent every day making a trip out to hang more posters or to search, even if I was alone.  In addition to ads, we contacted media, had the dogs’ story make the front page of the paper locally here and featured in a large spread in a weekly paper that comes out in a large area locally.  We had send calls out to thousands of neighbors in the area to report the dogs missing.  I took and made phone calls daily as nearly every stray dog sighting in a huge radius was called in to me- with not a single one showing any hope of being the dogs.  While I didn’t know Brock that well, we never narrowed our search for just Bunny.  It’s our hope that if she is alive, so is he.

We never had a confirmed sighting of the dogs.  After a month, our efforts on foot dwindled.  We kept our flyers updated, kept checking Craigslist and other sites, but nothing really seemed to stand out.  It’s like they disappeared.  In fact, some theories came out that perhaps their adopters gave them away (I hope not, and am not accusing them of such,) or perhaps they were stolen, or picked up and moved far away.  I will probably never know.

It’s been a year, and I’ve never stopped thinking about Bunny.  I’ve never stopped missing her.  My heart has not been whole.  I have never regretted one of my mistakes in rescue as much as I regret not keeping her here, with me, where she never would have ended up in this situation.  Some days, the misery I feel over losing her is unbearable.  In terms of closure and the ability to move on, it would have been better to find her lifeless body than never to have found her at all.   I fear I’ll have this pain with me for the rest of my life.

In the past year, it has been more difficult to allow rescued animals to go.  I have a harder time parting with fosters, a harder time trusting adopters, and an emotion of protectiveness that overcomes reason too often.  I can only hope that this will fade, or I  may have to give up my rescue for Bunny after all.

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Puppy power!

I haven’t had the time to prepare the next blog post that I was hoping to write, because things have been pretty busy here processing applications and working on rescue business.  Another hindrance is the temporary addition of a puppy here while we help her prepare for her (hopeful) new home.  Bella is learning sit, down, a recall, and we’re working on housebreaking, by which I mean we’re mostly working on just making sure she doesn’t pee in the house- this is much more difficult than it seems, as she tends to just squat where she stands and piddle.  She always gets rewarded for pottying outside; she hasn’t pottied once without my being present, and I’m hoping it helps her realize that’s where she needs to go but until she starts to understand, I’m basically spending all my time following her around or taking her outside.  This of course means I’m not spending as much time at the computer.  Ah, well.  In the absence of a meaningful post, here are some cute Bella photos to tide you over!

Taken yesterday:Image




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Pet Adoption Tips: Good photography places pets.

With exceptional resources like,, and, it is easier than ever for people to see and choose adoptable pets.  For potential adopters who get overwhelmed with emotion when walking through shelters, or who are sensitive to the sounds or smells of crowded facilities, these resources prevent the need to step foot in a shelter until a potential match is found.  Websites such as these have made it possible for people to “visit” many shelters at once, scanning hundreds of animals in just a few clicks, without having to drive from place to place.  With the help of the internet, foster-based rescue groups have emerged as an incredible force in  animal adoptions, all made possible because of their ability to present their animals on the web for people to see. This media outlet- what I like to call “virtual shelters”- comes with a couple limitations.  The sheer number of animals available to choose from when searching online can be such that it is easy for pets to get overlooked and so first impressions are a must, and in that vein, a picture really does say a thousand words.  When scanning pages on Petfinder, for example, you see a pretty simple list without a lot of personal detail, and you must click to read more detailed biographies.  What makes the difference?  Tiny thumbnails.

Here you have one dog straining on the leash, disengaged, one dog that has no photo at all, two photos that don't stand out really well in thumbnails and have typical shelter backgrounds (leash, half-bodied volunteers, Helen looks a little nervous...) but Tasha's photo stands out AND she looks happy.

Here are some tips that will help with your pet photography in general but especially when concerning adoptable pets.  You do not have to be a great photographer to take great pet adoption photos!  These tips are for anyone at any skill level or with any camera.

  1. Get up close and personal.  Especially when petfinder thumbnails are concerned, you need to fill up the space with a nice shot that will draw someone in.  Engaging the viewers with a soulful glance can make a huge difference.
  2. Get down on their level. Typical top-down photography is a staple among shelter volunteers, but this can really create a disconnect.  Top-down angles are generally unflattering, and without a zoom (or an edited crop) they create distance between the viewer and the animal.
  3. Watch your lighting. Natural lighting is always best.  Try outside on an overcast day for best results, or in a well-lit area.  Good light will eliminate blurry photos and give you a great opportunity for action shots. Sunshine is not always your friend, although sunny days can bring out the shine and features of black animals, especially.  Be sure, though, to use an indirect angle.  Do not put the sun behind the animal you’re photographing, as you may end up with a pet silhouette in front of a glaring bright spot.  Be careful when using a flash so that you do not end up with unflattering “laser eye” effects, which creates another disconnect.  A direct flash can also wash out features or create distracting shadows.  That’s not to say that there aren’t great opportunities for wonderful flash photography, especially when you are going for action shots or the dog is backlit.
  4. Catch the side of the pet that you want to promote.  Candid shots of animals having fun are sometimes the best, most engaging photos.  Don’t show dogs straining on a leash, barking, jumping up, or cats hunkered down in a litterbox or hiding in the corner.  Playing with toys, showing off tricks, running and having fun, all these things are great ways to show off what this pet has to offer.  It may take some time to get an animal to warm up and come out of its shell, but it’s good for them to have that interaction and it’s worth the time in order to help them present better in their photos.  Happy expressions will make people happy but sad, depressing photos of animals that look like they want to shrink into nonexistence will not win anyone but the saddest saps (yours truly!) over.
  5. Editing can be your friend, just don’t overdo it.  A photo doesn’t have to be perfect right off the camera in order to make a great web shot.  A few minutes spent adjusting color and exposure, cropping, editing out intrusive background distractions, etc, can make a huge difference.  If you have Photoshop or a similar program and some extra time, try removing leashes, clutter, even people if possible so that your photo looks more natural.   However, not every problem can be easily fixed and some things are just best left the way they are.  I have seen an increasing trend lately where enterprising photographers use something like Microsoft Paint or other basic editors to basically paint black irises over the “laser eyes.”  This doesn’t look so bad at thumbnail level, but it becomes pretty obvious when the photos are enlarged and can give a creepy look to the photo.

    Borrowed this pic from a shelter on Facebook

  6. Look behind/around the pet.  Staging photos doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it does pay to practice and learn and to really examine what’s going on in the viewfinder before you snap a picture.  Leashes and cages and concrete floors make for dull scenery- just adding a colorful backdrop can make a big difference.  Taking photos in kennels or cages with urine or feces present is a huge turn-off for people- if you get home and find out that there is some waste in your photos, use a photo editor or toss those pics and try again.
  7. If you have multiple photo slots, use them wisely!  Don’t take multiple similar photos and load them up.  On Petfinder, for example, you have the option to upload three photos.  I suggest you try to have a head shot (as we covered!), a good profile or other body shot that helps people see what the animal looks like, and then a just plain for-fun shot.

Good luck and happy shooting!

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The Not-so-Great Dane video: Patience ≠ Permission

Before reading my post, please watch this video, (sorry I’m unable to embed here for convenience.)

To summarize the video for those that couldn’t see, it shows a great dane being used as a piece of furniture by a toddler.  She crawls around on him, playing to the camera, digging her elbow, feet, knees, hands and butt into the dog while she mumbles and her parents record proudly.  The video is called “Why Great Danes are Great!” and the description says: “One very patient Great dane and one adorable little girl. Listen for her to sing her Bumble bee song.”

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.  This dog is indeed very patient, and very tolerant.  That doesn’t mean that the poor thing is okay with what is happening to it.  In fact, from the very beginning of the video, the dog looks uncomfortable.  He is offering stress signals as though he is reading them from a text book.  Initially, he blinks, looks away, and then starts to pant rapidly.  Throughout the video, the dog avoids eye contact with the camera/mother and the child.  His ears are drawn back.  He yawns.  The little girl tries to grab his face to give him a kiss and he pulls away- gently, but deliberately.  These are clear signs of distress.  As he tries hard to convey his discomfort, the mother says, “wanna try and give him a kiss again?”  At this point, the little girl stands and kneels on the dog, her knee jamming into his back as she steps on his hip/haunch with her other foot.  The response from behind the camera? “Climb careful.”

At this point, the dog would be completely within its rights to bite this child.  The fact that he doesn’t speaks volumes for this dog’s temperament.  The little girl now sits on the dog like a bench and slides her butt across his ribs, scooting closer to his face.  The dog freezes, lips tight, head down, moving only his eyes to make indirect contact with the offending toddler.  She bends forward and gives him a kiss on the head while he is in this state.  This is so dangerous.  A dog that freezes has moved beyond simple stress signals.  Freezing is a WARNING sign, and is often followed by fight-or-flight type response.   The family continues to give her instructions on what to do next, and she begins using her bottom to rock back and forth on the dog’s ribcage as she plays with his ear. “Dane,” the dog, is holding his breath.  This lasts for around a minute, the dog staying frozen in place as the girl’s parents tell her to move closer to his front, and then she starts singing and clapping her hands with her arms outstretched fully, right in the dog’s peripheral vision.  He yawns, tightens his ears closer to his head, and begins panting again.  He looks away, pulling away from her clapping hands.  His brow is now significantly furrowed as he looks back and forth.  The little girl eventually climbs onto him entirely, laying on him like he’s a mattress, while still fidgeting so that her legs are rolling around on his ribs.  He has now frozen again, brow still furrowed, ears pinned, lips tight, holding his breath. She digs her elbow into the base of his neck and then puts her face against him.  She sticks her foot in between his body and his haunch (I call this the “legpit”) and pushes into it.  He does not move.  The father says “say nighty night,” and shortly thereafter this 2 and a half minute dog torture session comes to an end.  I shuddered at the words “nighty night” because it was clear that this family had no idea that they were putting their child at risk by allowing this behavior.

I’m not sure which is more abusive, the physical discomfort that this dog has to be going through because dogs are not pack horses and are not meant to be sat on, ridden, stood on, etc, and great danes in particular are prone to a lot of pain-riddled health issues like dysplasia and arthritis; or the blatant disregard of the dog’s gestures meant to put an end to this uncomfortable situation.  I am concerned about the behavior that this little girl believes is acceptable due to the encouragement of her parents and how this will progress into more painful abuse of the dog, but more importantly, I’m concerned that the dog will be pushed beyond its tolerance threshold one day and will respond naturally, only to be euthanized as a “dangerous” dog.  In the case of great dane vs. toddler, could mean serious or even fatal injury to the girl.

Body language is so important to dogs.  They can’t say, “I am uncomfortable with this” in English.  This dog spends the duration of this video using stress signals because it is the only way he knows how to convey that this situation is upsetting him.  When you ignore- or are simply ignorant about- the signals a dog gives to you, sometimes it creates a scenario where the dog now feels as though he must increase the level of his signals.  This could mean that he escalates to a growl, or it could be a snap- with or without body contact.  Sometimes, though, the dog simply feels compelled to attack- and why shouldn’t he?  Obviously his signals are not working, and he has to protect himself if his adult caretakers will not take action to defend him.  The family will then say, “he just TURNED on us.  He was always so good with her… he even let her climb on him.  This was totally unprovoked!”

Don’t let your dog or child pay the ultimate price.  Learn about canine body language and how to read the signals your dog is sending.

Here are some resources to help you:

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary guide to help demonstrate dog body language.

Dog bite prevention post by Dr. Sophia Yin.

This excellent post by my friend Tena uses photos as a guide to help understand ways a dog may signal that it is uncomfortable.

Books on canine body language:

Canine Body Language: a Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff.

Dog Language: An Encyclopedia of Dog Behavior by Roger Abrantes (note, I have had this one recommended to me but have not read it)

Canine Behavior: a Photo Illustrated Handbook by Barbara Handelman (tons of photos, I’ve not read the whole thing but lots of good information.)

If books aren’t your thing or you want to see dogs in action displaying different behaviors:

The Language of Dogs: Understanding Canine Body Language and other Communication Signals (DVD) by Sarah Kalnajs


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Defining success: I didn’t go to college

Some classrooms don't have a blackboard.

Recently I was asked if I would consider going to college, and told I should look into it.  This is something I’ve heard repeatedly over the years.  I knew when I was in high school that I didn’t want to go to college.  I don’t deal well with social situations anyway, typically, but I especially didn’t want to spend so much of my time with people I didn’t know, in a culture I didn’t care for, to get a degree in something I wasn’t sure I wanted to pursue.  I had been accepted to an art school when I was sixteen, but due to family finances and my parents telling me that I would have trouble making money as an artist, I had to turn that down.

As a high school freshman, I began working in a retail store locally. I was pretty good at my job, but it was an easy job to be good at.  I was placed at the service desk  often where I really enjoyed helping people. I was lucky to have that job, even if it was only a tiny bit above minimum wage, but eventually I started feeling  disconnected from it.  I knew that this job was just filler, not a career. A year and a half or so after high school graduation, I saw a listing for a part time kennel worker at the Humane Society, and thought that I would really like to try it.  When I was told that I had been chosen for the job, my heart sang.  I really wanted to try this.  It seemed like a dream job.  I worked morning shifts and some weekends at the shelter and continued working at the retail store part time.

I discovered pretty quickly that working at a shelter really isn’t a dream job.  Some days it’s a nightmare.  What it is, though, is fulfilling.  Even on the sad days, you know you’ve made a positive impact on the lives of animals- and often people- that need you.  This isn’t enough for some folks, and shelters have a high turnover rate because of that.  I couldn’t imagine not working with the animals, though.  I loved my job, even though I was underpaid, stressed out and had to say goodbye to animals that I loved and cherished.   I realized something then: for better or worse, this is what I want to do with my life.  I’m good at it.  Maybe it’s my calling, if you believe in things like that.    From the moment I cleaned the first cat cage at that shelter in 2003 until present day, I have been completely immersed in my work, helping homeless animals.  I was only 22 when I founded my animal rescue.  In different paid shelter positions as well as my position in STAR, I have spent a lot of time educating pet owners and even other rescuers because of the knowledge and experience I’ve obtained over the years- much of which couldn’t have been learned from a professor.  If I had gone to college, would I have taken the path that I am on?  Would it be better if I wasn’t?  I sort of get the feeling sometimes that it’s what people think- that I could be something different, better, had I chosen another route.

I realize that business classes might make me more efficient at what I do, or that having any career would help me earn money to take care of myself and the pets here so my husband wouldn’t have to support us- but our financial situation is our business, no one else’s.  At the end of the day, does my level of education or the wages I earn (or rather, don’t earn) really make me less of a person?

So have I “thought about going to college?” Sure, and I’ve decided it’s not something I want to do.  I know that questions like this are meant to be thoughtful and caring, and that people that ask them are doing so because to them, there is significant value attached to going to college and that it could help me to “do more,” somehow.  My husband has a college degree in a field that he didn’t pursue.  Five years of schooling, thousands of dollars that we’re still paying off and probably will be for years, and he found a job he enjoys that his degree has no bearing on.  No, I didn’t go to college, and I don’t plan on it.  You don’t have to believe that I took the right path.  I will continue to grow and hope that if I become successful, it is in doing something that I love and that makes a difference.

And though I may not know the answers,
I can finally say I’m free.
And if the questions lead me here, then
I am who I was born to be.
Susan Boyle, Who I was Born to Be

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