Category Archives: Philosophy

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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Filed under Make a Difference, Personal, Pets, Philosophy, Rescue

Life for a rescue foster

Recently, we have had to deny some applications.  These people are nice, caring folks who, for one reason or another, didn’t meet the criteria for the pet in particular they were interested in adopting.  Two of these applicants were sure to tell me that they were disappointed by my selfish behavior, denying my fosters a “chance at a loving home.”  One suggested that I didn’t actually want to find homes for the animals in my care, and another asked “isn’t any home better than staying where she is?”  One applicant wasn’t denied, but she withdrew her application because I asked questions that weren’t on the application.

The misconception that animals in rescue are in need of rescue is one that I hear all the time.  When you adopt a pet from my organization, you’re not rescuing it from me.  You’re contributing to the rescue process, an admirable and fantastic choice, but please stop to think about what you’re implying when you suggest that foster care is a bad thing.

Noble and Sully were cats that lived outside on a hoarder’s property, eating cat food that was dumped on a piece of vinyl siding every several days. They’d never seen a vet, had to find their own shelter under broken-down cars or in the neighboring woods, and went without food for sometimes days.

We arranged for transport and the cats were removed in the nick of time.  The hoarder that owned the animals was so distraught when the first group left that she refused to let rescuers back to remove the rest of them.  I drove almost two hours to meet Noble and Sully’s transport, picking them up at around midnight.  They had had accidents in the carrier they were brought up in, and so in the back of my car I moved them to clean bedding in new carriers, and settled in for the drive home.  Once I got back, I was tired but had to clean them up before I could go to bed.  I bathed both cats with Dawn to kill the fleas and ticks that were on them, then again in a soothing oatmeal shampoo.  I cut their nails and gave them exams.  The Siamese was underweight by a few pounds and missing some teeth.  He had an upper respiratory infection but all things considered, he was strong and “healthy.”  The orange cat was another story.  He is a tall, large cat but he stood in front of me as a skeleton.  Emaciated, he weighed less than five pounds.  He was so thin that I could close my thumb and middle finger around his waist.  I found that he was missing almost all of his teeth, his eye socket was infected, and a film covered his remaining eye.  He appeared to be blind, though over the weeks we realized that he does have vision in that eye.  I set the cats up with high quality canned food and kibble, started them on antibiotics, dewormer and ear mite medication, and I fell into bed sometime in the wee hours of the morning.  They remained quarantined in our large bathroom for the next month or so.

Noble before and after

Sully quickly recovered from his respiratory infection, gained back his weight, and kicked his parasites.  He was neutered and had a dental cleaning.  With two more feedings per day than the rest of the cats in the house, Noble has DOUBLED his weight and is still lean but a healthy and sleek body shape, and his infections and parasites are gone.  His right eye wasn’t missing but instead, underdeveloped, and so it was removed when he was neutered.  He continues to do well but seems to have irritable bowels.  We were hoping this was a result of his starvation and that good diet and some steroid therapy would help him on the right track, but we are still managing it and attempting to get it under control. Both cats tested negative for feline lekemia and feline immunodeficiency virus. They are now up to date on vaccines and have been microchipped.

Sully recently, looking the picture of health!

The boys now live with our cats, freely roaming our home, getting attention when they seek it, playing with toys, getting into trouble (I’m-looking-at-you-Sully,) and enjoying a life they might never have had otherwise.  Sully spends every night plastered to us like static cling, and Noble takes the morning shift.  They have pet beds scattered throughout the house, play and receive enrichment daily, and they are cared for as we care for our own pets.

Rescuers are, with few exceptions, just doing the best they can to find permanent homes for the pets in their care.  When we take in these animals, care for them as though they were our own,  spend money from our pockets and time from our days to be sure their needs are met, we aren’t fulfilling our own agenda.  We don’t know you personally, you are strangers to us.  If we don’t approve your application for Sully because we don’t believe cats should live outdoors and you prefer yours to live that way, I’m not making a judgment of your character, it simply means that we are not a good fit for each other.  If you are denied for one of our pets because you don’t believe in going to a vet, I’m not snubbing you.  I’ve seen the good that comes from routine exams and medical care and that is what I want for my rescue’s pets.  When I ask questions, please don’t take it personally, I just want to get to know you.  They’re not numbers whizzing through a facility, in danger of euthanasia any day.  Foster homes are not your standard dog, cat, guinea pig, rat, etc. lovers.  We have created a lifestyle around caring for animals that needed advocates, giving them our time, money, and our hearts.  I care about you, and what you are looking for, but that can’t be my first priority.  Maybe my decision has caused us to miss out on a fabulous home- yours- but please understand why I’d rather pass up a good thing than make a decision that could result in stress or tragedy for our fosters.

One more thing- now that you know this, please don’t think that these animals don’t need adopted and that you are better off going elsewhere.  Foster homes often help animals that aren’t ready for adoption, and so adopting from us means opening up space and giving another animal a chance that they wouldn’t have.  Those fearful dogs that have never stepped outside puppy mills, animals like Noble who have health issues that need sorted out, they need foster care.  Adopting from a foster home benefits you in that you have a first-hand account of your new pet’s behavior that you probably couldn’t get from a shelter, and it opens up space for animals that need the specialized care a foster home can provide.

Thank you to everyone that fosters, adopts, or applies to adopt.  You are part of the rescue community and you are making a difference.  I’m sorry if it didn’t work out between us, but I still wish you the best.

Noble supervises from the arm of my recliner while I write this blog post!

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Filed under Make a Difference, Pets, Philosophy, Rescue

Rescue means rescue

Cody's rescue backed out of their commitment to him, leaving his fate uncertain if we had not stepped in to take him.

I wish I didn’t feel that there was a need for me to make a post like this, but after the experiences of the past week, I know that there is.  If you are following my blog or know me on Facebook, you already know that I am an animal rescuer (among other things…)  I assumed that responsible rescue was something with a real definition and generally understood protocol that were in place, but now I see that mileage varies among people in the “rescue” world.

What is Rescue?

I cannot speak for others, unfortunately, but below are the six key parameters that outline “rescue” to me.  These are the principles that govern the way I make my choices and take my actions.  I can’t say that I do the “best” job, but I can tell you that I do what is right.

1. Rescue is a lifetime commitment. We say this about adoption and attempt to drill into the public’s mind that when you adopt an animal, you are adopting it for “life.”  We tell them to be ready to commit to 5, 10, 15 years or more and we expect that they will.  What some rescuers don’t realize, however, is that RESCUE is a lifetime commitment, as well.  Once you have raised your hand and verbally agreed to accept responsibility for that animal’s life- this is, before it is even in your arms; do not SAY you will help if you don’t intend to follow through, your word is your reputation– it means you will do whatever is necessary to care for it in a way that meets or even exceeds the standards and expectations that you hold your adopters to.  Rescue requires making sometimes huge sacrifices for the sake of the animals you have agreed to help.

2. Rescue is a safety net. There must always be someone ultimately responsible for the care of each animal that is rescued and you must be prepared to be that person.  You do not get to remove it from a shelter, hand it to someone else, pat yourself on the back and move on.  Foster home placements fail, adoptions fail, things happen that we were not prepared for.  You must be that animal’s safety net because when others turn their backs, you are the one that made the original lifetime commitment to that animal (see #1.)  Note: You should microchip (and REGISTER) the animals you place because you can never be sure that anyone is going to be perfectly responsible with the animal you entrusted to them and this step can keep them from ending up in a distant shelter or PTS.

3. Rescue means rescue. The Merriam-Webster definition of rescue is “to free from confinement, danger, [harm: by proxy via “save”] or evil: to save, deliver.”  Rescue is not simply taking an animal from a bad situation or the threat of a bad situation and placing it in something kind of better.  Your duty is to keep that animal safe from all harm and danger.  This requires proper veterinary care and husbandry with no boundaries.   This means spaying and neutering to prevent your rescues from adding to the population of pets needing homes.  “Any place is better than no place at all” does NOT apply.  We hear and see stories almost daily about animal “rescuers” who “got in over their heads” by hoarding, keeping animals inhumanely or not providing proper daily care or diet.  Pulling an animal from a shelter or a bad situation in order to keep it in an inhumane or irresponsible way is NOT rescue.  Additionally, you must PLACE these animals with proper care and attention to their future homes, matching them with people that will understand and meet their needs.  Adopting them out to just anyone versus taking the time to properly screen homes is lazy and dangerous.   Take what you can handle and appropriately place, and leave what you can’t.  You are not a superhero, and rescue work is about quality, not quantity (the Starfish Story tells us this.)

Baxter had dangerous animal aggression and a human bite on his record but was not a candidate for permanent adoption in our home. In order to keep others safe without condemning him to life in a crate, we said goodbye to him. It is hard to read (harder for me to write) but this was the (unfair) decision we were forced to make.

4. Rescue sometimes means goodbyes and broken hearts. In the past, I have gone above and beyond what many of my rescue friends tell me they could have or would have done for animals in my rescue.  I have adopted most of my fosters that turned out to be “unadoptable” due to temperament or health so I could focus on giving them the life they needed and deserved, but sometimes that isn’t an option. In the saddest of cases, the last thing I can do for an animal in need is hold him in my arms and tell him that I love him and that this was not his fault, as he is put to rest forever.  This is hard, but it is a part of rescue.  If you do not have the heart to euthanize an animal and would instead let it suffer with low quality of life (mentally or physically) or languish in a cage for the rest of its life because you are too selfish to make that trip to the vet, you have NO business being an animal rescuer.  “Suck it up” and deal with the heartache, because this isn’t about you and if your emotions are more important than the animal’s well-being, you’re not a rescuer anyway.

5. Rescue is a people business. If you are rescuing animals because you “like them more than people” or think that it is an opportunity to feel superior to others, you may want to re-think your line of work.  Animal rescue is about educating others (see #6) and helping them to become better stewards for their pets.  It is about completing families and helping them find the right fit for their home.  It is about working together, with volunteers and other rescue groups, to save lives. If you are a  mean, jaded, bitchy individual, and you do not try to put on a professional front, shame on you.  The face YOU put forward is the face of all rescue.  I do not care to be considered a peer to someone that treats other people poorly.  At all times, you are responsible for maintaining the reputation of animal rescuers everywhere and that means first and foremost, you need to be NICE to people.  Return your phone calls and emails, don’t be too judgmental and don’t treat others like they are an annoyance.  Rescue is non-profit work, but it is still a business and you are supposed to be a professional.

6. Rescuers are teachers. At some point in your life, you were probably not as good a pet owner as you are now.  You didn’t know the things you know, you didn’t have the experience you do now.  Please do not assume that every person that is taking poor care of their pets is doing so because he or she is evil and abusive.  Many are simply uneducated or lack the resources to do better.  Sometimes, opening a friendly line of communication about animal care can encourage people to do some research and become better caretakers of their pets.  Sometimes, we need to be more direct and tell them what changes they can make.  Sometimes we simply grab the animals from a bad situation and run with it, but no matter what it takes I believe in the “teach a man to fish” perspective.  Yes, I want to get animals out of bad situations and that is the first priority, but if I can prevent future pets for that family from being treated inhumanely or being cared for poorly due to ignorance on the part of the owners, then I am doing more for the animal population in general.  You must be friendly and polite (see #5) even when you don’t feel like it, but if you manage to get through you may have saved many more lives than the one cradled in your protective care now.

This job is about making people happy, and helping them become better pet owners.

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Filed under Make a Difference, Pets, Philosophy, Rescue

Pet Adoption Tips: “Furever” means FOREVER.

Pet Adoption Tip #2:  Understand the definition of “commitment.”

com·mit

[kuh-mit] , verb

“To bind or obligate, as by pledge or assurance; pledge: to commit oneself to a promise; to be committed to a course of action.”

When you bring home a new pet, you are making a commitment to fulfill the needs of that animal for as long as it lives.  You are obligated to provide for it, at whatever cost, in sickness and in health,’ til death do you part.  You may have to pass up on the new apartment you REALLY want because you have to find one where your furry family members are allowed.  You might have to rent a commercial carpet scrubber and pay extra vet bills because your cat has a bladder infection and has been soiling outside the litterbox.  You might have to read some books on dog training or even take classes so your dog will be a better canine citizen.

Shortly after Nola's adoption, her new "mom" got more than she bargained for when it was discovered Nola had Cushing's disease. Sending her back to rescue never crossed her mom's mind. She thrust herself into Nola's care, providing top notch holistic and internal treatments. Four years later, she is thriving!

On my application there is a question that asks, “Under what circumstances would you give up this pet?”  It’s a trick question.  Sitting innocently at the bottom of the first page, you don’t realize that the purpose of the query is simply to determine whether or not you understand the commitment you are making. The answer to this question can end the adoption process.  I have added to my application a question asking what you think the life expectancy is for this animal, to see if you are aware how long your new pet may be in your life.  For cats, life span can max out at 15 to 20 years.  Dogs average 8-15 years depending on breed.  Rabbits, anywhere between 5-10 years.  Guinea pigs, 3-7 years.  Rats, 2-3 years.   To us, the amount of time we have these animals is very short even from baby to old age, but it’s “forever” to them.  (Then there are the long-lived pets; small birds such as parakeets can live to 15 years or more and large birds, like macaws, can live to be a hundred.  Are you really sure you are ready to commit to spending the rest of your life with this animal, meeting its needs through all your life changes and aging?  If not, don’t!) Ask yourself where you’ll be in three years, or seven, or ten or 20 and whether or not you see that pet in that future image.

Willow was surrendered to our rescue for urinating outside the litterbox. It was discovered she had a urinary tract infection. 10 days of antibiotics later and she's doing well and she has never failed to use the litterboxes in her foster home. This surrender could have been prevented with simple veterinary medication.

Adoption contracts state that you understand that this animal is now your responsibility and you are the caretaker, protector and provider.  So when you see “Under what circumstances would you give up this pet?” on my application and you respond with “Not housebroken,” “Going outside litterbox”, etc, you are showing me that you don’t understand what a commitment is.  Housebreaking is something you must teach.  Litterbox issues are most often related to medical problems.  This is par for the course with pet ownership and you should expect to have to provide training, veterinary care, and meet the basic needs of this animal.  How can you expect perfection from a pet when they can’t expect basic responsibility from you?

In my last Pet Adoption Tips blog post, I talked about “return policies” and how having a “temporary” mindset sets adoptions up for failure.  If we go into adoptions with the firm understanding of what our responsibilities are and the attitude that we will be there for our pets for the rest of their years, there will be no issue that we can’t overcome.

Adoption groups call us “forever homes” for a reason.

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Filed under Pet Adoption Tips, Pets, Philosophy, Rescue

Resolved

Resolutions I Always Make- and the ways I sabotage them.

  1. “I will make more time for myself.”  There are so many things on my list of chores that must be done that I tend to feel guilty if I purposefully set time aside for “leisure” activities.  Of course, I don’t want to do the chores either, so I procrastinate.  But I can’t spit in the face of my tower of to-dos by procrastinating with a book!  If I try to read a book when I feel I have something “better” to be doing, I can’t concentrate.  I feel guilty and end up wasting time on the computer in a self-deprecating spiral of self-worth devaluation.
  2. “I will lose weight!” Oh, please.  Aren’t we all naive for making this a “resolution” as if that will make us any more likely to stick to it?  I know now that the resolution isn’t to lose weight, it’s to make solid, positive changes to my routines that will empower me to do what is best, rather than what is easiest or more immediately appealing.  I really enjoy going for walks, and enjoyed exercising with my EA Sports Active for the Wii until a crippling ankle sprain benched me in early 2010, but I demotivate myself too easily.
  3. “I will learn to budget and save money.”  Unfortunately, we live without the things we want so often that when I do get money to spend, I tend to let my impulsive nature take over and buy whatever it is that I want.  The instant gratification helps me get through living a life that is far from glamorous with at least a little sense that we don’t have it so bad.
  4. “I will <complete some huge home improvement undertaking.>”  This goes back to finances.  I can never save enough money to replace my kitchen cabinets, the collapsing porch, or the privacy fence.
  5. “I will learn how to…” Play guitar, paint with oils, (effectively) use oil pastels, shoot a bow, the list goes on and on.  Some of these dreams have been long standing and some have actually cost money (e.g. I actually bought a used guitar.)  It could be that I just want to try these things, like that tempting dish on a buffet, but I’m not ready to commit to ordering the meal.   In some cases, I tell myself I lack the aptitude instead of accepting that it’s really just the discipline to practice.  In others, like guitar, I feel I need someone to teach me or I will never be able to learn.

__________________

Battle of wills!

I’m making UN-resolutions this year.  Or not.  But I’m at least willing to recognize that the tradition of declaring my intentions to make huge life alterations is a futile endeavor.

A prime example: the dreaded diet.  This isn’t a New Year’s resolution.  It’s not much of a resolution at all.  All year long, I tell myself “I’ll start eating better tomorrow,” or “I don’t have health food in the house, I’ll have to wait until I can get to the store.”   You’re only granting yourself permission to procrastinate with this mentality.  It’s taken me this long in my life before I realized that a “resolution” is not a wishy-washy daydream of some future perfect life, it is a decision you make in the moment.  I don’t choose to lose weight, I choose to have salad instead of “uber-mega-heart-attack nachos” for dinner (and I recognize that if said nachos are on a bed of lettuce, a salad it does not make.)  I don’t choose to “exercise more,” I am bored and have nothing pressing to do so I choose to take the dogs for a walk instead of lounging in the recliner playing Rummikub on Facebook.  Don’t say, “someday, I want to make a difference in the world.”  Say “please” and “thank you,” drop some change in a donation jar, hold a door open for someone, smile at someone that looks upset.

Start now.  Make the choice to make the change every day.  Don’t make a list of resolutions, make a list of things that are important to you.  Put it somewhere and read it every day, and ask yourself what you’ve done to improve the presence of those important things in your life.

When the confetti is swept up in Times Square and the leftovers of a solidly packed crowd one million strong have faded away, it’s not down to empty promises you make to yourself- or yell from a rooftop.  Change doesn’t start with a proclamation, change starts with a tiny step followed by a thousand more.

Happy New Year.

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Filed under Holidays, Personal, Philosophy

Looking Back at 2010- Part 2

For the first half of the year, click here.

While the first half of the year had come and gone rather quickly, the events that took place in July made me wish I could transport right out of 2010 altogether.  This may have been the worst month I’ve ever had.  We came right into the month with Callie’s health going downhill fast.  She refused to eat, it was difficult to find anything she’d take from us.  She was a little more wobbly on her feet because her lack of nutrition kept her weak.  We took her to the vet after giving it our best to encourage her to eat, but we found out when we arrived that she’d lost more weight than we’d realized and her kidney values were very elevated.  This little dog that had been the center of our world- home-preparing foods for her, giving her fluids/meds/supplements, providing hospice care towards the end- died in my arms at the vet.  I don’t pray, but I did for her, hoping that she would be able to see her beloved dad again- we were never her “owners”, her “mom and dad,” I feel like we were simply her caretakers until she could be back where she belonged, and so I prayed that Heaven was real and that she’d get there safely.  I didn’t want the essence of “Callie” to be snuffed out that quickly, with her last days, months, years having been full of illness and the loss of the life she had known.

“Today, I emptied the refrigerator and washed the dishes used to prepare and store your last meals.  I put your supplements and meds in the mail to help others like you in need.  I picked your bed up off the floor.  Slowly, I’m removing the last traces of evidence that you were here, because your ashes are proof that you aren’t anymore. <3

The next week brought more pain and suffering when I got a phone call that a young friend had shot himself.  Towards the end, he had become a shell of the person I’d known and it was difficult being around him because his behavior was something I couldn’t condone.  Instead of realizing there was something seriously wrong and being a good friend to him, I’d let him slip away and had not showed him that I was there for him.  While I don’t know for sure if that would have made a difference in the final outcome, it couldn’t have hurt for him to know that there was someone else there that cared and wanted what was best for him.  He flew back to live with his family, apparently to try and get help for his depression and drug issues, but I think it was mostly to say goodbye.  I never spoke about this on Facebook because it was private, and painful.  But despite my grievances with his behavior, he was a good person and a friend and we didn’t get to celebrate his 22nd birthday this year (which comes three days after mine.)

A couple days later, I noticed that Lilly, my favorite (shh, don’t tell) guinea pig and the steadfast matriarch of my herd, fell ill.  An appt was made to take her to the vet and I thought I discovered it soon enough that she would make it with me helping her eat and keeping her warm, but she died overnight.  While some won’t understand the loss that can come from losing a small animal like a guinea pig, those that have the privilege to love them understand that their physical size is not a representation of the place they hold in your heart.

I couldn’t wait for July to be over, with all its spiteful death and illness.  If I never have to deal with a month like July again, I will be blessed.  August came and with it came volunteer work for the dog training club, classes with both Toby and George, and lots of caching in the wee hours of the morning when it wasn’t so hot outside.  I tried to stay busy and it helped until I was sufficiently beyond July to start functioning normally.  A new face tugged at my heartstrings and without much convincing needed, I pulled Buster Brown the pit bull who desperately needed saving.  When he arrived, he initially chased, pounced, grabbed, picked up and tried to shake the cats.  I was concerned that even tethered to me in the house, he would not be safe.  It was clear that he was playing, not prey-driven, but he did not know his own size.  Of Mice and Men, anyone?  I worked so hard to get him to a point where he could be in the house safely with them and by some miracle, it worked!  he started to thrive with our training sessions and we started obedience classes with an understanding of all the basic cues already!  Our pigeons were adopted and a pair of guinea pigs that had been with us for 2 years found a forever home.  Wow!

September brought laminate floor project that has given me a lot of peace.  I am now okay with people stopping by the house.  The house looks cleaner by sheer comparison to the 30 yr old carpet, and I keep it cleaner because it’s easier to do and looks so nice.  September ALSO brought the adoption of our remaining two pairs of long term guinea pigs fosters, marking the end of an era here!

October was mostly quiet aside from a week with a boarder, thankfully, but Buster Brown was adopted.  His adoring fans on Facebook shared in our joy!  With his departure, we were able to bring in a shelter dog, Daisy.  On her transport, one of the drivers found a stray beagle and sent her along as well.  We’d arranged for one of our friends to be the second to last leg so we could say hello and see each other.  It may have been fate, as Debbie fell in love with the little “extra” beagle. Within a week, we were making plans to get her back to them, for her forever home with folks that already feel like family- now they’re part of our adoptive STAR family, too. :)

In November, I voted!  The month brought not another STAR dog, but Beauty, an Ohio English Setter Rescue foster.  My birthday came and went and generous friends donated to the rescue for me.  Daisy was adopted.  Tragedy struck when one of my STAR dogs that had gone through a prison program was set to be returned to the rescue with a bite history.  We surrendered him to the prison program because of a conflict in the way that we felt the situation should be handled.  It was horrifying for me, and I am grateful that we’ll likely never have to deal with that situation again as we don’t intend to use the prison program in the future.  I found my 320th cache before the end of the month, and that is where I sat exactly one year after I’d begun caching- not bad, eh?

December arrived and we now had only one foster- Beauty- and all was well and quiet.  We prepared for Christmas, which came quickly and involved spending more on charity and helping people than we ever have before.  In the weeks before the holiday, I personally adopted two guinea pigs from a Pittsburgh shelter.  Afterwards, I needed supplies to expand my pigs’ cage, and went to get them from a guinea pig rescue friend.  While there, she told me of a local pig that she’d received word about and I agreed to take him in.  He is set to leave tomorrow (January 2nd) and has been an absolute joy to have around.  L’orange needed surgery the week before Christmas and stressed me out, but it looks like she’s recovered very nicely now.  We rolled out of  December leaving 2010 behind happily.

Loss counterweighted by new family members and friends were the theme this year, and rescue took somewhat of a back seat so I could tend to Callie, personal issues, dog training classes and my new hobby: geocaching.   I have made wonderful friends, mostly through Facebook and some in person, and have had a wonderful time taking a step back to appreciate the things I have and the things around me, especially the environment and nature’s wonders (thank you, caching, for putting me back in touch with that.)  I am feeling renewed and ready for 2011.  It’s all about making a difference, and that’s what I intend to do!   On 1-1-11, I promise that I won’t lose sight of my goals.

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“Season’s Greetings?”

A common theme I’ve seen over the last few years is an increasingly intense dislike of the term “Happy Holidays.”  Too many people seem to believe this phrase was put out there to strip Christmas of its religious meaning.  Some politicians have set a standard by trying to act more secular outwardly, and this gives people the false impression that they are trying to disrespect Christ and Christians.  Some even accused Obama of calling them “Holiday trees” and banning any religious content from them whatsoever (that is not true.)  Some schools have opted to show more equality by removing Christmas-themed programs and replacing them with “Winter Festivals” and “Winter concerts.”  It seems that the biggest beef, though, comes when businesses choose to go the “safe” and secular route and wish everyone a happy holiday.  Christians accuse atheists (primarily) of causing this “problem,”  saying that atheists get “offended” by the term Merry Christmas and have now caused businesses to “take the Christ out of Christmas.”  This is not about you, it is about recognizing that our country has become a place of religious diversity, whether you like it or not.  If people want to publicly wish you “happy holidays,” they are acknowledging that you are part of a greater whole, this season isn’t all about you, but they are still including you in it.  They are also doing the same for the rest of us that celebrate at this time of year, a courtesy that we deserve as well.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.

“But this is OUR holiday!  It’s called CHRISTmas!”

Actually, it’s not really your holiday- or at least, it wasn’t.  And it wasn’t called Christmas, because it existed long before Christianity was born.  Even the date was already taken by Roman holidays.  Holidays taking place at this time of year include(d) Roman holidays such as Saturnalia, the purported Dies Natalia Solis Invicti (“Birthday of the unconquerable sun”) and Roman New Year; Scandinavian Yule; Germanic mid-winter festivals; and pagan solstice celebrations.  Some say that when the date of Christmas was chosen by Pope Julius I, as there is no date of Christ’s birth listed in the Bible, it was partly because of this season of festivals.  (Others believe that Christ was conceived in the spring, around the equinox, which puts his birth nine months later.)  Other holidays that take place at the end of December are Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and more recently, Festivus (for the rest of us! ;))

Even the traditions that are solidly planted in Christmas today were mostly taken from other religions.  Bringing a tree into the home and decorating it with ornaments and trimmings is a pagan tradition.  Yule logs were Germanic.  Hanging greenery (wreaths, garland, etc,) giving gifts, lights and the general merry “spirit” and a focus on charity are all present in pre-Christian Roman winter-holiday traditions.  In fact, very few Christmas traditions at all have anything to do with Jesus.  And that’s okay.

Today, even Christmas is observed by many non-Christian people, some from other religions.  “Your” holiday has become so much more than “Christ’s Mass” and instead of being offended, be amazed.  The messages of hope, joy, and love that are spread during this time of year are so powerful and wonderful and believe it or not, often have nothing to do with Christ.  People from all faiths can share in the spirit and cheer, the traditions and the festivities, adopting them for their own as mid-era Christians adopted them and they can choose to call it Christmas, or not.

No one is wishing any harm to you by wishing you “Happy Holidays.”  They are including you- and you should be grateful that they thought to do so- how many people speak to you with a cheerful smile and heartfelt greeting in the other eleven months of the year?  They are including me, too, which doesn’t happen often.  So let’s not focus on the “War on Christmas” but instead LOOK AROUND YOU and revel in the magical wonder that all over the world, people with your religion, another religion, even NO religion are celebrating in a very uncommon display of unity.  The “reason for the season” is a deeply personal thing; for me, an atheist since childhood, inspiration is a fleeting glimpse at what could be.  If you could see what I see- people from so many faiths and walks of life celebrating together in spite of the general disharmony in the world, you might be inspired too.  So let’s not get offended, angry and upset if someone wants to respect both of us because the way I see it, peace and brotherhood is what it’s all about.   Happy Holidays.

———————-

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, `til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

-Dr. Seuss


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Filed under Holidays, Personal, Philosophy