HELP ME - CENTRAL

HELPING THOSE WHO CAN'T HELP THEMSELVES

Blog: Finding My Voice

Mortality and Remembrance

Posted on June 10, 2012 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

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     This past week has been a roller coaster of emotions for me.  On Monday my son and I travelled to the veterinary clinic at OSU in Columbus for our dog Ballantine’s last chemotherapy treatment. At the moment Bally’s physical condition gives every indication that all is going well. She has gained weight, her skin is taut with muscle below the surface, her fur shines, her eyes are clear, and her appetite is good. Even better, Bally has returned to the dog I remember before the specter of cancer darkened our lives. She is physically active, playful, affectionate, curious, alert, and naughty...hunting for little creatures in the backyard late at night instead of coming in when I call.  At the clinic Bally took an interest in every new dog who entered the waiting room. For some unknown reason, Bally dislikes large dogs. Of course, 90% of the dogs at the clinic on Monday were large....a Great Dane, a Bullmastiff, a Pit Bull, a Boxer, a Hound/Lab Mix puppy, and two Golden Retrievers. When one of the Golden Retrievers dared to walk in front of us, Bally attempted to leap from my lap to challenge him. I had forgotten what the pre-cancer Bally was like.


     On Tuesday I began to despair and second guess myself.  Now that Bally’s chemotherapy at the clinic has ended  her oncologist has placed her on a chemotherapy drug called Palladia, which is the only cancer drug for dogs that has been approved by the FDA.  I was told that this drug has been successful in shrinking and, in some cases, destroying visible tumors in dogs with cancer.  Bally does not have, and never had, any visible tumors. Her oncologists hope that this drug will destroy any cancer cells that remain after Bally’s most recent surgery and chemotherapy treatments. Unfortunately, Palladia comes with many risks. The possible side effects are daunting - loss of appetite, loss of weight, lameness, liver and bone marrow problems, gastro-intestinal problems, internal bleeding, and in some cases death. Bally is doing so well at the moment. I spent the day regretting my decision and had a sleepless night imagining the worst. Was I doing the right thing by going forward with this course of treatment when the risks appeared to be almost as terrible as the disease we were fighting? I don't want to make a decision...every choice seems right and wrong.

 

     On Wednesday I buried one of our new koi under a large rose bush in our backyard. This was the fifth fish I have buried in the past few weeks. One, a comet, had been ill, while three others, all koi, died unexpectedly without any signs of illness. A fifth, a large beauty named Kabuki, apparently jumped out of the pond. I found him on the grass when my dogs and I went outside for our noon fish feeding. Today I buried Nishokki in my oriental garden. He was a white fish with a red spot on his head. He reminded me of a Japanese flag. My husband, youngest son and I dug the pond in our backyard several years ago and it has brought us much joy...and heartache. We name each new fish and spend hours watching all of the koi and comets as they explore the small circle that is their home. They fascinate and entertain us with their simplicity and beauty. Each time I bury one I feel a loss and experience regret and guilt because I chose them and as a result their lives ended far too soon.


     On Thursday several family members, including my daughter who lives in Nashville and other family members from Washington, Nevada, and Florida, gathered at my elderly mother-in-law’s house for dinner. My mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and it appears that her battle will end soon. Her birthday is in July, but we are afraid that she may not last that long, so family members were advised to visit now.  The evening was bittersweet. It was like being at a wake with the deceased loved one present. We shared stories, memories, and photographs. We enjoyed our time together and the meal prepared by my son (who is a chef) and my sister-in-law. For most of the evening my mother-in-law remained in her bedroom, too tired and weak to join us. After dinner she felt strong enough to sit with us in the living room. Sitting in her wheelchair, she was a shadow of her former self...both physically and mentally. She was extremely thin, weak, and seemed to be almost unaware of what was happening around her. She took a few bites of the food that was fed to her and when she spoke her words were soft and few.  When the cake my son had made was placed in front of her and we sang “Happy Birthday,”  my mother-in-law seemed to be focused on something none of us could see or understand.


     On Friday I posted the news that all the cats and kittens, including mamas and babies, who had been in danger at the Pulaski County Animal “Shelter” in Somerset, Kentucky had been killed. The “shelter” also euthanized several dogs and three to four month old pups for space. I can’t get their faces out of my mind. I keep trying to focus on other things, but I keep thinking about those poor, sweet, unwanted animals who were relinquished to a shelter that is always overcrowded and kills for space. I can’t justify the unjustifiable. Killing for space is not a solution. Next week the shelter and many others like it will be faced with the same problem.


     On Saturday my daughter returned to her apartment and life in Nashville. I have finally admitted to myself that Louisville is no longer her home. When she returns to our house it will be as a visitor who lives out of a suitcase and looks forward to returning to her own place.  During my daughter’s visit we talked, shopped, watched television, and shared meals and memories...and the whole time I kept thinking "This is all temporary. These oh so pleasant moments will soon come to an end."


     As I reflected upon this roller coaster week I acknowledged and accepted the fact that life passes much too quickly. I thought about how much I love my family, the human and non-human members, and how much I treasure the many good memories we share. I also thought about all of those lives that ended in shelters and how inexcusable it is for the continual killing to occur. The events of this past year and past week have lead my husband and I to discuss how we want to be remembered. I am not a religious person, so when I leave this world I don’t want a church service or comforting words said in front of a group of people standing over my grave. I don’t care where I am laid to rest. This morning I read an article/tribute to Ray Bradbury in the local newspaper.  Ray Bradbury’s epitaph might be in his own words in "Farrenheit 451."


     “Everyone must leave something in the room or left behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.”


   I will be in my garden. Something I created with my own two hands that gave me much joy.  But what about the animals that were killed in shelters? What is their legacy? Where and by whom will they be remembered? Not by their former “owners”, who discarded them like trash, who didn’t look for them when they wandered off, who allowed their cat or dog to reproduce and then left them and their unwanted offspring to die by the hands of others.  You and I will not, cannot, forget them...their sad, pleading eyes, their confusion, their pain, their desire to love and be loved. I refuse to forget, cannot forget, those who have died because of poor decisions humans have made. They will be remembered.



     He took my heart and ran with it, and I hope he's running still, fast and strong, a piece of my heart bound up with his forever.  ~dog quote by Patricia McConne


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Failing Foster 101

Posted on November 14, 2011 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

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Six years ago, after our two elderly dogs died ten days apart, my family adopted two Scottish Terrier puppies. Ballantine and Pinch had been rescued from a puppy mill. Nine months later we adopted a third puppy, a wheaton Scottie, from the same rescue. Macallan was a kennel release who had been auctioned to the highest bidder. Luckily, a rescuer had the winning bid and not the puppy mill operator who was bidding against her. The third addition to our family made our family complete...or so we thought. Two months after we adopted Macallan, I received a phone call from the rescuer asking for a favor. Two six-year-old Scottish Terriers were being surrendered to animal control because their elderly owner had died.  The rescuer needed someone to drive to Cincinnati, take possession of the dogs, and ultimately put them on an airplane so they could reach the rescue.

 

     My husband and I drove to Cincinnati that afternoon. The dogs were temporarily at the home of the deceased woman's son and daughter-in-law. We were invited inside the house to complete the transaction. As we talked, four Scottish Terriers stood in a row outside the house with their noses pressed against a sliding glass door and looked at us. It was late May, but very hot. One of the Scotties was the mother of the dogs being relinquished. The daughter-in-law pointed to the two dogs she wanted to surrender, describing them by the color of their collars. The son advised us that the dogs' names were Rocco and Yoko Ohno. He handed us a folder which contained vet records and “baby” photos of the siblings, walked us to our car, patted both dogs on the head, and walked away.


As we drove back to Louisville, the dogs sat silently in the back seat. They were much larger than our Scotties and both were muscular and beautiful. They had been recently groomed and both had muttonchop beards which gave them a menancing look. I was almost afraid to turn to look at them. These two dogs were strange to me and I was a stranger to them. Despite my initial wariness, we soon discovered that both dogs had sweet dispositions. I couldn't understand how anyone could give them away or why the son gave us the photo of him holding a very tiny Rocco or the one of the litter of puppies with their mother whom the son still had. 


     Our three dogs readily accepted the newcomers and Rocco and Ohno showed no aggression towards our dogs. Initially, we kept Macallan separate from the others as a precaution because he was still a puppy, but within a few days all of the dogs were roaming the backyard as a pack, sleeping together, and sharing their food bowls. The new dogs even began to play/fight with Macallan just as Ballantine had when we first brought him home.


Our plan to put Rocco and Ohno on a plane were thwarted by the continuing high temperatures which made flying unsafe. The drive to the rescue was an eight hour trip one way and the rescue was overflowing with unwanted dogs. The hot weather continued. I quickly became attached to Rocco and Ohno. They accepted us as their new family and looked to us for for affection and companionship. When I took the two dogs to a veterinarian for their health certificates, they both pressed close to my legs as we sat in the waiting room. Looking at them with their sad brown eyes, I could barely keep myself from crying. These poor trusting creatures had lost the only home they had ever known, the person who loved and cared for them had died, and they were to be transported from one temporary home to another in the hope that someone, somewhere would want to adopt an older bonded pair of siblings. At that moment I realized it wasn't going to be easy to part with them.


     As the days passed, my affection for the two homeless dogs grew. Within a short period of time, we became a foster family. Days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Rocco (whom we started calling Walker) and Ohno bonded with our family and we with them. We began calling the five dogs our "herd of puppies" and their antics kept us constantly entertained. At some point my husband and I realized that we would never be able to find a "suitable" forever home for Walker and Ohno because they were already home. They completed us. As a failed foster mom, I have to admit...they had me at hello.  


 

The dogs in our lives, the dogs we come to love and who (we fervently believe) love us in return, offer more than fidelity, consolation, and companionship. They offer comedy, irony, wit, and a wealth of anecdotes, the "shaggy dog stories" and "stupid pet tricks" that are commonplace pleasures of life. They offer, if we are wise enough or simple enough to take it, a model for what it means to give your heart with little thought of return. Both powerfully imaginary and comfortingly real, dogs act as mirrors for our own beliefs about what would constitute a truly humane society. Perhaps it is not too late for them to teach us some new tricks.  ~Marjorie Garber


 

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Changing Minds & Lives One Step at a Time

Posted on November 8, 2011 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

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Spaying is a compromise in terms of reverence for life, but perhaps a necessary one in a society which kills millions of dogs and cats a year in "animal shelters".  ~James Marcus


Five years ago my daughter left home to attend a state university.  During her first week at school she visited a tobacco farm in a rural area several miles from the university. The farm was owned by the grandparents of another student who lived in the same dorm as my daughter. While the girls were touring the farm, a scrawny kitten started following them. When my daughter asked about the kitten and others she had seen around the farm, the grandmother stated that she had two unwanted litters of kittens...and both litters and two mama cats would soon be “leaving” the farm. The grandmother explained that they had more cats than they needed, so she was planning on taking the cats and kittens to a local high kill shelter, placing them in a bag and dropping them off a nearby bridge, or taking them for a “ride” and abandoning them on the side of the road. She had used all three methods to dispose of previous unwanted litters.


     Of course, my daughter was horrified. As soon as she arrived back at her dorm, she called me. I told her I would try to find places for the unwanted cats and kittens. Over a period of several days I called and emailed every rescue I thought might be able to help. I received some suggestions, but no offers of help. The following week, my daughter drove back to the farm. The grandmother placed nine kittens in a cardboard box and handed it to my daughter. She then tried to force the two mama cats in the back seat of my daughter’s car. One of the cats jumped out and ran off.


Two hours later my daughter brought the one mama cat and nine kittens to me. All were dirty and flea infested. The mama cat was skinny and had a dislocated hip. I spent the next several hours washing all of the new arrivals twice with Dawn dishwashing liquid to remove the dirt and kill the fleas. I then handed each one to my youngest son who carefully dried them and used a fine tooth comb to remove the dead and dying fleas. The following day I took the mama cat and kittens to a veterinarian who weighed and examined all of them. Surprisingly, all were in good health. I was advised to feed them high quality cat/kitten food and that the mama cat's dislocation would resolve on its own. A few days thereafter a cat rescuer responded to my plea for help. My family fostered the mama and kittens and the rescue provided vet care. The kittens and cat were fully vetted and posted on the rescue’s Petfinder site. Several of the kittens were adopted. The remaining kittens and the mama cat are still with me.


     The story didn't end there. The week after the mama cat and kittens arrived at my house, the rescuer called the grandmother and offered to spay the remaining mama cat and any other cats on the farm for free. The grandmother refused the offer. She saw no need to have the remaining mama cat spayed even though she had planned to dispose of the cat and she had spayed her personal “house cat”. The remaining mama cat and any future offspring were of no value to the farm. They were considered to be disposable and easily replaceable...and that is one of the reasons why shelters and rescues are overflowing with unwanted cats and dogs. Too many people are set in their ways and are not open to change or new ideas, even if the cost or inconvenience to them is minimal and the benefits are long lasting and save lives.


A Cat's Prayer ~ I ask for the privilege of not being born...not to be born until you can assure me of a home and a master to protect me, and the right to live as long as I am physically able to enjoy life... not to be born until my body is precious and men have ceased to exploit it because it is cheap and plentiful.  ~Author Unknown


     So how do we solve a problem created by ignorance, indifference, and irresponsibility? How do we convert hearts and minds that are resistant to change? I wish there was one simple solution; one quick, easy fix that would prevent abuse, neglect, abandonment, and the constant killing, but more than one strategy is needed. We need new approaches, innovative ideas, and low-cost programs that reach and destroy the roots of the problem. I recently received an email with the message posted below. Please read, share, and donate if you can. Ideas like this will bring us one step closer to becoming a truly humane society where all life is valued.


Subject: Spay-A-Thon


Hey everyone,


     Please take time to go to our website and view our new video.  http://flemingregional.com/  or view it on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGvs5TKP1mM&feature=youtu.be


     We are beginning the journey of our lives and could really use your help spreading the word. We are on a mission to drastically reduce, and possibly even eliminate (yes, it's a lofty goal), the number of unwanted animals in this area of rural eastern KY.


     We have started by convincing owners of pets with litters to spay the mother and in return, we will alter the entire litter at no cost at the age of 7 weeks. It is working!


     We are working hard to stop the suffering, the feeling of being all alone, the gnawing hunger, the weariness of wandering, and the shear fear of what will happen next. We want to put it all to a stop, and we will with the help of others. We need funding immediately. If everyone who watches this video could give $1 to $10, and then passed it on to only 10 of their friends, imagine what that would do for these animals! Think of how many births we can prevent. Just think of how many lives will be saved!


     The animals you see in our video are the animals that we worked endless hours to save. We have been a shelter, a rescue, a transporter and now, a spay neuter clinic. These very animals, along with so many more, have brought us joy, despair, hope and heartbreak . And with it all, just when we feel we cannot continue, we look into their eyes, and once more, they inspire us to push on.


     We hope everyone who sees this video featuring these precious beings will find it in their hearts to give what they can. If you cannot give anything towards this goal, please pass this on to others, post it on your facebook pages, and help spread the word far and wide. Please help us prevent other animals from the fate they face if we do not stand up for them and make it stop!


     Please send this to every contact you have and ask them to do the same. We will need the continual support and funding to get a grip on this situation.


     Thank you to all who support us in this journey of saving thousands from suffering by one spay at a time.


     To see our inspirational video and/or to donate, go to flemingregional.com


     Thank You!


     Tim, Stephanie and Taylor Stamper


PLEASE CROSSPOST WIDELY!!!!!!

 

CONTACT: Tim Stamper [email protected] with any questions


 For each CAT we spay and neuter, we prevent the birth of 74 unwanted kittens in ONE YEAR.  For each DOG we spay and neuter, we prevent the birth of 100 unwanted puppies in ONE YEAR. ~The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)


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Grave Matters

Posted on October 20, 2011 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

 

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In our garden repose the remains of those that possess beauty without vanity, strength without insolence, courage without ferocity, and the virtues of man without his vices: our pets. ~Lord Byron


My backyard isn’t very large, so I have divided it into “rooms” with a central grassy area. Gardens hidden from view and pathways make the yard look much larger than its actual dimensions.  Over an extended period of time, I have created an oriental garden, a vegetable garden with two small raised beds and a grape arbor, an herb garden, a “French” garden planted with miniature fruit trees, a pond area, a berm planted with roses, annuals and perennials, a patio area, and an area reserved for a future tropical garden and hopefully, a bali-type deck. The yard also has a small woodland area with a bird feeder, pathways, and a bench where I can sit, read a book, reflect, or escape the heat when I work in the yard on a hot summer day. This area is also the final resting place for many of our dogs, cats, and other non-human family members. At least three dogs, five cats, a chameleon, two hamsters, two guinea pigs, several frogs, two hermit crabs, and 100 fish are buried under the shade of the trees and covered by hostas. When I sit on the bench I often think about those who are no longer with us and whose absence has left a tear in the fabric of our family. They were loved; they are missed; and they are remembered.


     Several years ago while my family was saying our last goodbyes to Windsor, our 13 year old West Highland White Terrier who died unexpectedly, the bells at a nearby church began to ring. This occurred at 6:00pm and was an unexpected source of comfort as if someone other than our family noted Windsor’s passing. This was the beginning of a family ritual. Every burial in our woodland garden is now held at 6:00pm. We say a few words over the grave, read a poem or quote, and always cry as the church bells ring. The lives of those little ones who are gone enriched our lives and their deaths have created a void that can’t be filled.


     The deaths of dogs and cats who are killed at shelters for the most part go unnoticed and unheralded except by a few shelter employees, volunteers, rescuers, and others who do all they can to save the lives of society's cast-offs. Instead of a memorial service with mourners and a final resting place, these poor unloved, unwanted creatures end up in trash cans, incinerators, landfills, or freezers where they await sale to a university or research facility.  


     We criticize and demonize countries where dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and other animals are considered as food sources, yet many people find nothing wrong with the practice of killing unwanted animals as a “solution” for shelter overcrowding, overpopulation, and homelessness. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the first humane society in the United States, was founded in New York in 1866. The first animal shelter in America was created in 1869 by the Women’s SPCA of Pennsylvania. Over 145 years have passed and our society still hasn’t progressed beyond the warehousing and killing of unwanted animals. Why do we continue to believe that killing is a reasonable and acceptable solution? Why hasn’t our society embraced no kill and low kill shelters, spay/neuter, and creative solutions to a problem created by humans?


     We need to change our mindset. We need to think outside the box and convince others that killing unwanted, homeless animals is wrong, unjust, inhumane, and immoral. People who murder, rape, and commit other horrendous crimes are given shelter, food, health care, educational opportunities, and other benefits that many Americans can barely afford, yet we give a death sentence to innocent animals whose only “crime” is to be homeless. Animals don’t deserve to be warehoused and condemned. They don’t deserve to die alone, nameless, and unremembered. Killing is not a solution.


The bottom line is that as long as people believe that killing homeless pets is one of those "necessary evils" that can never be stopped,

then it will never be stopped.

~ Michael Mountain

 

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Expecting the Unexpected

Posted on October 12, 2011 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

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What can we take on trust in this uncertain life?

Happiness, greatness, pride - nothing is secure, nothing keeps.

~Euripides


Several years ago my youngest son, my husband, and I decided to dig a pond in our backyard on the site of our no-longer-used trampoline. The grass below the trampoline had died long ago and the location received sun for most of the day. The project was ongoing for several years. My son started the excavation and dug out roots from long dead trees that crisscrossed the area. As the work progressed, my daughter and her friends camped out by the site and my husband built a bonfire in the excavated area. After two years of stop-and-go efforts, we created a round pond 18 feet across. The pond was 3.5 feet deep at the deepest of its three levels, and included a small stream and waterfall.


     The first year we stocked the pond with a few fish. We purchased two 3 to 4 inch koi at a local pond store and named them Keiko and Hot Lips. We also purchased four comets and three shubunkins. Over the next few years the koi grew, the comets and shubunkins reproduced, and we added more small koi that we purchased at a pond store and at the Louisville Koi and Goldfish Club's annual koi show and fish auction.


     We were lucky. Our pond had few casualties and the fish were healthy. We took pride in the fact that we were so successful in keeping our fish safe and alive. Unfortunately, we failed to heed the axiom: expect the unexpected. One  day in midsummer we discovered that one of our fish, a large yellow koi named Sunshine, had become caught in the filter and had died when the water level had fallen. He was the first of our koi to die. Although we blamed ourselves, we realized that accidents do happen and some are not forseeable or preventable. Little did we know that the worst was yet to come.


     The following week the daily temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. My husband was out of town on business. Unbeknownst to me, my son put the hose in the pond because the water level had gotten low. My son became distracted and forgot about the hose. When Macallan, our wheaten Scottie, came into the house with wet feet, I was confused because we hadn't had any rain in weeks. My investigation led to the pond, which had overflowed its banks. Fish were floating on their sides. It was one of my nightmare's come true. I called some "experts" for advice and was instructed to drain some of the water and then add more water by spraying a hose on the pond, which would also cool it down. In our panic we failed to recognize that it wasn't the heat that was killing the fish, but the chlorine from the newly added water. Over a 24 hour period we lost 11 of our 13 koi and over 100 comets and shubunkins. They died a slow and agonizing death. All of our attempts to help them failed. As my son buried the fish in a mass grave in our garden, he measured Hot Lips who had grown from 3 inches to 22 inches in a few short years.


     We were devastated by the loss. I had blamed myself for playing a role in Sunshine’s untimely death, but in retrospect Sunshine would most likely have died with the others. Whatever luck we had enjoyed with our pond was gone. Having to accept that we killed over 100 of our fish was bad enough. What made it even worse was the knowledge that koi can live 100 years. I had assumed that our koi would outlive me.


The loss of almost all of our koi and 100 other fish within a few days time was unbearable. I kept reliving those awful days in my mind and wondering what I could have done to have prevented the tragedy. Trying to find answers and looking for solace, I thumbed through some photographs I had taken shortly before Sunshine had died. One of the photos had something in it that I had previously overlooked. A trick of the light or a reflection looked like the face of a demon floating on the water. If I was superstitious, I could almost believe it had been a warning or omen of bad things to come and I, in my ignorance and naievity, had overlooked it.


     For the next two years I lost interest in the pond. It was painful to look at the two koi and the few comets that had survived the holocaust. I no longer took joy in daily feedings and I had no desire to watch the fish which had previously enthralled me for hours. When I worked in the garden I missed hearing the smacking sound that Kieko used to make as he ate algae. As time passed and the ache lessened, we slowly restocked the pond. On Memorial Day weekend of the year following the accident, we attended the annual koi show and purchased four small koi and named them Jin, Sun, Akage-ru and Migoto. Unfortunately, Jin and Sun - named after two characters on the television show "Lost" - did not survive for long. I have come to understand that life is precarious and that our happiness hangs upon a thread that can be broken at any time.


     The pond currently has 13 Koi, including Noname and Sashimi - the two koi who survived the accident - one shubunkin, and many comets. Although I feed the fish every day and spend time watching them as they glide in the tranquility of the pond, it will never have the same attraction for me. In the back of my mind I can't help thinking of all that we lost one hot summer day and all who are buried in my garden.


I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. ~Gilda Radner


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Haunted By Ghosts

Posted on October 10, 2011 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

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One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house;

The brain has corridors surpassing Material place.

~Emily Dickinson


      I am haunted by ghosts. Not the kind that go bump in the night or send shivers up your spine, but memories of the unwanted and unloved in our society. They come late at night on silent paws and disturb my sleep. They are the ghosts of dogs and cats that never lived in my house or felt the touch of my hand, but their sad, hopeful, confused faces in photos posted online or sent to me in emails are permanently etched in my mind.

 

These two dogs, #149 and #347,  were in a rural high intake/high kill shelter. They had no names and were given numbers to identify them. They were not adopted, rescued, offered a foster home, sponsored, or given a reprieve within the small period of time allotted to them, so they were killed.


    Yesterday was like every other day at an animal shelter. Unwanted dogs and cats were euthanized due to lack of space or, in some cases, “because their time was up.” The HSUS estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. At this time, there is no central data reporting agency for animal shelters, so these numbers are estimates.


     While some shelter employees were going about their work of selecting and dispatching the cast-offs of our society, others were sending out pleas and begging for help for the dogs and cats whose only crimes were to be unwanted and homeless. Last December #149 and #347 were two of those unwanted animals. More dogs and cats were coming into the shelter, so room had to be made. Several dogs and puppies were placed on “The Euth List” and messages were sent out that they had to be removed from the shelter IMMEDIATELY or they would be killed. Some of these dogs were eligible for euthanization the day they were available for adoption/rescue. No cats or kittens were mentioned, but presumably they too were in danger.


No other disease or condition of companion animals takes as many lives as euthanasia. In fact, no other disease comes close. ~Janet M. Scarlett


     Today, shelters euthanize around 4 million animals, while there are more than 135 million dogs and cats in homes.  An animal in a shelter is killed every 1.5 seconds. Only one animal in 10 born in the U.S. gets a good home that lasts a lifetime. In Kentucky alone, 285,000 animals are relinquished to shelters or are abandoned each year. Kentucky is ranked #1 as the state to be an animal abuser and #50 in animal protection laws.  Eighty-five percent of homeless animals in the state are euthanized. Kentucky has more than three times the average number of animals in shelters and the kill rate is 15% above the national average. Cats and kittens are the step-children of the rescue world and do not get the exposure given to dogs and puppies. Some shelters kill 90% or more of their cats and kittens.


     People have sent me angry emails and messages accusing me of making them feel guilty because they have relinquished a pet to a shelter or because they "can't afford" to have their dog or cat spayed/neutered, resulting in unwanted puppies and kittens. People have also criticized me because I post updates about animals that have been euthanized. Recently someone posted on the website's Facebook page and stated that they were "unfriending" me because I had posted an update for a dog that had been killed in a shelter. Someone came to my defense and posted the following:


     "Those of us who spend countless hours each day and each week sharing, posting and cross-posting to expose the urgency of the dire plight of these pets' situations - through NO fault of their own - NEED to have closure on the animals we spend so much time networking. We share and cross-post numerous times for each animal and we feel a connection with these precious creatures. We don't just click "Share" and don't give them another thought; we think of them each and every day and as we try to fall asleep at night their images are the ones we see before finally drifting off to sleep, only to have their pleading, soulful eyes haunt us in our dreams.


     NO, we don't and CAN'T forget them, and they stay in our minds and in our hearts until we know they are safe. And for the ones who aren't lucky enough to make it out alive and find their rescue angel or furever home...they never leave us and it is for them that we continue to do what we do, as heartbreaking as it all too often is. So, YES, we need to have these updates; as upsetting and disturbing as they may be.


     But, what is even MORE UPSETTING AND DISTURBING is that these precious innocent souls end up in these Hell holes in the first place! The more eyeballs that see what is really going on - the good and the evil, the happily-ever-after and those that never get their happy endings - the MORE precious innocent lives can be SAVED! We CANNOT filter out ONLY the happy endings and pretend they will all be saved."


(Thank you Kacie C. for expressing so eloquently what many of us feel.)


     The memories of dogs like #149 and #347 haunt me. They did not deserve to die abandoned and alone, cowering in corners of runs and cages, pleading for love and life with sad, frightened eyes. Euthanizing and warehousing animals in shelters is not a solution to over-population and overcrowding. The way these animals were treated was cruel, inhumane, and unconscionable. Until we take responsibility for our actions and find reasonable, rational solutions, the killing will continue...and my dreams will be disturbed.


       R.I.P. #149 and #347. We will not and cannot forget you.


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Take a Chance on Me!

Posted on September 28, 2011 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

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Sometimes being overlooked in a shelter is not a bad thing. “Archie” was a young yellow and white tabby in a high kill rural shelter in Kentucky. The shelter policy was to kill every animal in the shelter every week.  A volunteer did her best to find homes and rescues for the death row inmates, but she was always fighting a race against time. “Archie” had been in the shelter a few months. The volunteer posted a plea to a Yahoo group, “This young cat has been overlooked for weeks, but this week his time is up.”  At the time I was fostering a mama cat and nine kittens. I had made an appointment with a veterinarian located in a county adjacent to where the shelter was located to have the female kittens spayed and I offered to take “Archie.” I thought one cat similar in age and color to our foster family would go unnoticed by my husband and “Archie” needed a place to go.  My offer to foster was accepted.


    When  I arrived at the vet’s office, “Archie” was already there, having been transported by the volunteer from the shelter. An examination of “Archie” prior to surgery revealed that he, was in fact, a she. I renamed her Angelica because it was close to Christmas. Angelica was spayed along with the other kittens and when I returned the following day, she came home with me, hidden amongst the others in a crate.


     Angelica made an easy transition into our home. Having one more kitten underfoot  didn’t make any noticeable difference. The other cats accepted Angelica as one of their own. My husband didn’t realize we had a stowaway until the day when he took the time to count all of them. As the weeks passed, some of the kittens found forever homes. Angelica’s angel never came looking for her. Angelica is now four years old. She is a small, slender girl. Like her namesake in the Rug Rats cartoon, she is talkative, inquisitive, and makes certain we are always aware of her presence. She enjoys sitting on my son’s lap when he sits at the computer and sleeps with him at night, snuggling under the covers. Angelica is safe and loved. She is home.


BUZZ  Pit Bull ~ EUTHANIZED ~ Buzz was a sweet 1 yr old boy who was brought in as an owner surrender. He was a nice boy and didn't mind the other dogs at the pound.  

 

     Unfortunately, most overlooked shelter animals like Angelica do not have a “happy ever after" story. The few that  are accidentally overlooked for euthanasia are ultimately discovered and killed. Many others die in shelters because they are ignored or intentionally overlooked by potential adopters and rescues. People deem them to be unadoptable or unacceptable because they are the wrong color (black), the wrong breed (mixes and Bully breeds), the wrong age (seniors and  teenagers in the awkward stage), or the wrong size (large breed dogs).  Some are not pretty enough to catch the eye (plain brown dogs and gray tabby cats) or they are too shy or frightened by the noise and chaos of the shelter. Some have minor flaws, disabilities, or special needs. All are deserving of love and homes. Since many dogs and cats have only a small window of opportunity in which to find a home or rescue, those who don’t make a good first impression, who are seen through the bars of a cage or run, or in a blurry, poorly taken photograph posted online, often lose their lives. Sometimes we have to look beyond the dirt, the fear, the uncertainty in those pleading eyes and take a chance. Like me, you may find a diamond in the rough.


It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;

what is essential is invisible to the eye.  

~Antoine de Saint-Exupry


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Evidence of Things Not Seen

Posted on September 25, 2011 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

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Many years ago when I was in high school I read a book (maybe a short story?) with the title “Evidence of Things Not Seen.” Even though I can’t remember anything about the book or story, the title has stayed with me. Every time I post a plea on the website or on Facebook, I feel as if I am taking a leap of faith that someone will read the plea and either help or pass the message on to someone who can help.


     Many times I don’t know the outcomes of the poor unwanted animals that I post.  All too often the person who sent  the initial request for help doesn’t send out a follow-up email or the shelter listing is removed from their website without an update. In those situations I try to think like a person who believes the cup is half full and assume that the tragedy set in motion by thoughtless, uncaring humans has had a happy ending.


     Every so often I receive an email from someone who had seen one of the posted pleas and for whatever reason was moved to take action. These thank you notes are totally unexpected and much appreciated. They are beacons of light in those dark moments when I lose faith in mankind. Below is one of those testimonials to faith.


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     On March 1st, someone posted this, which I believe you originally posted: "Can ANYONE step in and help this poor soul? This picture is worth a 1000 words... Frankfort, KY: BLIND DOG IN KILL SHELTER (I don’t see her on their website, so I don’t know if she is safe) - This blind girl was brought in as a stray. She is about 6 years old and is blinded by cataracts. She is an Australian Cattle Dog/Heeler. She is scared and snaps at you when handled because she doesn't know where she is or who to trust and this place is noisy and smelly. Can anyone pull her from this county shelter that is overrun? Franklin County Humane Society "


     I wanted you to know that I'm the one who, with the guidance from God and my beloved WigglesBlue Heeler (who returned to Heaven on Sunday morning, December 5th, 2010, after gracing my life with his loving gentleness for more than 12 years), drove to Frankfort, Kentucky (200 miles each way) to adopt "her." "She" turned out to be a petite male whose name is now "Good Boy" and who is living a much better life these days.


     Just wanted to thank you, albeit all these months later, for posting this dear dog who so needed love and a home, because my broken heart and I sure needed him! God bless you so much for helping God and WigglesBlue Heeler help both me and Good Boy!


      Please see http://wigglesblueheeler.blogspot.com and also WigglesBlue Heeler at Facebook.  Good Boy's photos on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.198129503539273.48197.100000266756981&type=1


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So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  ~2 Corinthians 4:18


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The Death of Common Sense

Posted on September 22, 2011 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

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As my family well knows, I am constantly ranting and raving about  something, whether it be the plight of animals or some other issue that is important to me. My morning routine includes reading the local newspaper. More often than not I can find something that makes me shake my head and think, “What is wrong with people?” These are just a few of  my “pet peeves.” - Killing, abandoning, and abusing children, animals, and the elderly; The senseless killing of neighbors, friends, family, and strangers; Destroying or taking another person’s property; Refusing to acknowledge there are others in need and looking the other way instead of helping; The lack of tolerance for others; The dumbing down of America; The promotion of ignorance, selfishness, and greed by the media; The hero worship of celebrities, reality show stars, and other self-promoters unworthy of adoration or emulation; The destruction of our planet; and Failing to protect the interests of future generations.


     Someone posted the eulogy below on Facebook. I wish I had written it. I was beginning to think I was the only person who thought we had lost some virtures that in the past were highly valued. With a little online research I discovered  the name of the author. The version below is slightly different than the original, but despite the changes the message is the same.  


                 The Death of Common Sense

By Lori Borgman


     Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: - Knowing when to come in out of the rain; - Why the early bird gets the worm; - Life isn't always fair; - And maybe it was my fault.


     Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies - don't spend more than you can earn - and believed adults, not children, are in charge. His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.


     Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.


     Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault. Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.


     Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife Discretion, his daughter Responsibility, and his son, Reason. He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers: I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Someone Else Is To Blame, and I'm A Victim. Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not, do nothing.


(Note from Lori Borgman: This piece was first published March 15, 1998 in the Indianapolis Star.-  http://infohost.nmt.edu/~armiller/commonsen.htm - It has been "modified" and "edited" by others and circulated on the Internet, even sent to me several times. Imagine my surprise to see it attributed to some guy named Anonymous. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I take having my work circulated on the web as a compliment.)


     I truly believe that many problems, including those involving animals, could be solved or prevented if people used common sense and acted responsibly. We have become a nation of name callers, finger pointers, and shirkers who don't know the meaning of words like sharing, commitment,  and compassion. We have no self-respect and no respect for others. We fail to realize that just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it.


     So for the problem creators out there, the humans who act as if the world revolves around them, who never learned what it means to be responsible, who don’t have common sense or proper role models, who have lost their way or their religion, and/or who lack guidance or a moral compass, I want you to know that it isn’t that difficult to make good decisions or to determine how to do the right thing. Before you take ANY action that could possibly affect ANYTHING THAT LIVES, there is a general principle that has a long history, and has been embraced and restated by many philosophers, religions, and people of good will: REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE! - “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” Living by this simple tenet may not solve all of society's problems, but it could go a long way in making the world a better place for everyone.

 

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The Last Butterflies

Posted on September 21, 2011 at 2:55 PM Comments comments (0)

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Butterflies, they are like dream flowers, childhood dreams, which have broken loose from their stalks and escaped into the sunshine. Air and angels. ~  Miriam Rothschild


     Today is the last day of summer. Weeks of sun and heat have been replaced by endless days of gloomy rain and cooler nights. The last visitors to our butterfly bush have made their appearance.  During the summer the butterflies and moths visiting the bush changed as the season progressed. First to visit were the small cabbage whites and the eastern tailed blues, who were soon replaced by the least skippers and red spotted purples.  In midsummer the bush was covered with ever changing vistas of larger butterflies in hues of black, blue, and yellow - a variety of swallowtails and red admirals. Last week both my son and I noticed the monarch butterflies had returned. I can’t say which butterflies are my favorite, but a butterfly bush with ten to fifteen monarchs fluttering from branch to branch is wonderous to behold.


     Since one of my goals in gardening is to attract butterflies to my yard, I always plant flowers and herbs that butterflies enjoy as well as those upon which caterpillars feed.  I have fennel, parsley and dill in my herb garden, marigolds, goldenrod, and coneflowers in the berm, and milkweed planted next to the pond near the butterfly bush.  One day when I went out to feed the fish I noticed one of the milkweed plants was bent towards the pond and the fish were nibbling at the leaves...In fact most of the leaves were gone. I ran into the house, did a quick search online, and discovered that milkweed is poisonous to some animals. In a panic I rushed outside and pulled out all of the plants that were in close proximity to the pond. Many times during the day I went outside in fear of finding my family of fish floating on their sides, but the fish seemed to be unaware of the poisonous nature of the milkweed plant and none ever showed any sign of being ill.

 

 

  Having weathered that storm, my family and I waited patiently to see if the remaining milkweed plants would attract monarch caterpillars. In September we noticed the milkweed leaves were being devoured. A close inspection disclosed several yellow, black, and white striped caterpillars. After two weeks we discovered two cacoons hanging from the denuded milkweed plant. The monarch's chrysalis is unusual in being a beautiful, smooth object, green with golden spots. There are four generations of monarchs. The total life cycle of one generation from egg to butterfly is six to eight weeks. However, the fourth generation monarchs are the ones who make the long journey south, and they live six to eight months.  


     Every day we would go out early in the morning with great expectations, hoping to see a newly emerged butterfly sitting on a rock while its wings unfolded. That was not to be. One morning we found both chrysalis were empty and the butterflies gone.  These small  miracles had fluttered off on fragile wings with no one to witness their departure.


To make a wish come true,

whisper it to a Butterfly.

Upon these wings it will be taken to

heaven and granted, for they are the

messengers of the Great Spirit.


Native American Legend


     When I joined the Bone Cancer Dog Yahoo group, several people posted about finding pennies. I couldn't understand why they were bothering to post about such a minor occurrence. After reading the posts I realized that people were writing about seeing or finding something that to them symbolized a message or reminder of their lost loved one. For some people, the symbol was a penny or something that had a special meaning. For me, it has been butterflies. Nine years ago both of my sons lost friends - two in a horrific auto accident and the third due to cancer - within a period of three months. On one of those days when the loss of these three young people seemed unbearable, I said to myself, "When I go outside, if I see a butterfly I will know all is not lost.” And when I stepped out my front door, three butterflies were resting together on the front walkway. What took my breath away was the fact that they were three different kinds of butterflies.


What the caterpillar perceives is the end, to the butterfly is just the beginning.   ~Anonymous


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This is My Letter to the World...

Posted on September 18, 2011 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

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Actually this is my long overdue letter/ thank you to those who made donations for my dog Ballantine’s cancer surgery, sent me emails, and gave me hope when I had none. Without your moral and financial support, Bally would not have survived and I would be a totally worthless emotional wreck of no use to my family and unable to post and cross-post for those in need.  Because of the surgery, Ballantine is alive today. She eats well, plays with her fur siblings, hunts for critters in the backyard, enjoys walks, gives kisses, keeps the pack under control as the alpha female, and spends her evenings cuddled close to me on the sofa. I could not have hoped for a better outcome.


     My family and I are grateful for every day we have had with Bally since her cancer was aggressive, the prognosis was grim, and we did not have the financial resources needed for the surgery which was the only treatment option offered to us. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel. Knowing that strangers were willing to open their hearts (and wallets) for a dog in need without knowing anything about me and Bally was a leap of faith and showed great kindness and compassion. These strangers renewed my faith in humans when so often I feel despair.  The personal stories that they shared with me and the encouagement I received gave me the strength to make a very dificult decision for Bally. 


I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives.  ~Tracy Chapman


BALLY'S ANGELS


Perla Chiaffitella (NJ) 

Hirbod Khatir  (CA) 

Toby De Simone  (MI)

Lynda Gilley   (TX)

Coyote Windsong   (MI)

Barbara Reinert  (CA)

Catherine Watson (PA)

Carol Minkus  (OR) 

Bonnie Crosby (SC)

Patricia Molloy  NY

The Hip Dog  CA)

Mary Zecchino (NJ)

Marilyn Royle (MI)

Lori Najdzin (NJ)

Sharon Lee  (IN)

Darla Alexander  (Mi)

Michelle Stone (MI)

Karyn Harden (KY)

Lois Yancy (VA)

Scott Zuchiewski (MI)

Cyntha Jordan  (GA)

Shelly Siminski

Sandy Gianetti


     And last, but not least, I want to thank Megan Slattery who was a lifeline for Bally and me. She was there when I needed a friend. Megan emailed me daily with words of support, created a chip-in for Bally, and cross-posted to her friends who reached out to Bally and me. Without Megan and her friends, Bally would not be here today. 


THANK YOU!


NOTE: The photo of Bally was taken the day before I drove her to OSU for her cancer surgery. We had a severe thunderstorm that evening and Bally howled and barked as the storm raged. I thought this would be the last photo I ever took of Bally and would be one of my last memories of her. Now when I look at this photo I think of Bally looking into a future without hope and seeing flashes of light in the darkness. 


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Missing Napoleon

Posted on September 13, 2011 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

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The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.  ~Charles Darwin


Every year at least one of our non-human family member dies. This is the price we pay for having so many dogs, cats, fish, and other critters. This year we lost Napoleon. Napoleon was a chamelon. My son purchased him when he was very young and less than two inches long from a local breeder.  He lived with my son while he was away at college and grew from a little thing that could sit on one finger into a big beautiful boy. When my son returned home, Napoleon took up residence in the room where I have my desk. Sitting at my computer, I could see Napoleon out of the corner of my eye, perched on a branch close to the light in his cage as if it was a beam of sunshine. He tried to be inconspicious, because that is what Chamelons do, but with his unique look and furitive moves, he drew your attention. He did a good job of blending in with the background, but his eyes...when he wasn't napping...often gave him away.


     Napoleon was a sight to behold. His color would change with his location in the cage or with his mood. As he grew, his skin would shed, which gave him a scary demeanor. You couldn’t say Napoleon was cuddly or affectionate, but he was a good companion. I believe we shared the same taste in music. With Napoleon in the room, I never felt alone. I could hear him rustling the leaves on his plants as he moved about the cage, especially if he was in the process of hunting for crickets. The fact that he required live food, crickets and mealy worms, was pretty much the only thing I didn't like about him. I would often leave the room when it was meal time.


     Although I never held Napoleon and never made an attempt to touch him (my son fed him and cleaned his cage), I believe we had a bond that can only exist between animals and humans.  When a stranger approached his cage, Napoleon would hiss and puff himself up in order to scare off the perceived threat of danger. However, when I opened his cage to water his plants, he would look at me with eyes that rolled around in several directions, but didn't indicate in any way that he felt threatened. I think he knew I would't hurt him and he tolerated my intrusion into his space. 


     This spring we began to notice that Napoleon was beginning to lose weight. He was still eating, but he wasn't as quick to approach his prey and the skin began to hang loosely on his body. Napolean was getting old. The lifespan of a chameleon is five to seven years and Napolean was over six years old. My son held crickets close to Napoleon's mouth and tried different "foods" hoping to entice him to eat, but his decline continued. One morning Napoleon didn't open his eyes when I turned on his light and, as the minutes ticked by, he didn't move from his perch on the branch.


     Napoleon is buried in our garden. The cage stands empty in the corner of the room as if waiting for Napoleon's return.  Even though months have passed, when I enter the room I still expect to see the light on in the cage and hope to catch a glimpse of Napoleon staring at me with his wandering eyes. I am constantly amazed by how much I miss him.


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911

Posted on September 11, 2011 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

***********************************************************************    Everyone who is reading this probably remembers where they were and what they were doing ten years ago today. It was one of those moments in time that becomes frozen in our memories due to the nature of the occurrence. I was with my oldest son. We were parking our car in the parking lot of a local electronics store and someone on the radio stated that an airplane had flown into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  We assumed it was some sort of terrible accident. When we entered the store every television screen was aglow with the same image. The surreal was made real as we watched the events as they unfolded. Strangers spoke with one another and tried to make sense out of what was happening. We were able to see the damage to the building, the smoke eminating from the damaged areas, and  the fear and confusion expressed  by commentators and eyewitnesses. As the day passed we learned about the other hijacked planes, the attack on the Pentagon, and the crash of Flight 93 in a field in Pennsylvania. We saw the second plane hit the second tower, people jumping to their deaths, and ultimately, the collapse of both towers. The pictures of that day stored in my memory are almost as clear today as when they occurred 10 years ago. Some things cannot be forgotten.


     When we hear “911” we immediately think of that day...but we also think about what 911 also symbolizes.  A call to 911 is a plea for help. Whether we need a police officer, a fire fighter, or emergency medical services, it is the number we are advised to call for assistance. I imagine the majority of people who call 911 feel fear, panic, and stress. They are in a situation that they are unable to handle on their own and must reach out to others for help.


      I started this website approximately three years ago. At that time I was a cross-poster. I would read a post or receive an email about a dog, cat, or shelter that needed assistance and I would send out emails to rescues and repost the pleas to Yahoo Groups hoping that someone somewhere could help. I would get up early in the morning and go to bed late at night to send out one more plea and hope that the right person would receive the message and respond in time. In these situations, time is always of the essence. Ultimately, the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness became so overwhelming, I decided to start a website. The logic behind the decision was that I would be able to reach a wider audience if information could be found on one site and those who visited the website could pay it forward and cross-post. One plea for help would become many.


     Unfortunately, not much has changed in three years. Every time I receive an email, post on the website, or cross-post on Facebook I feel that same sense of urgency and panic. I can hear the minutes ticking by and the voice of despair whispering in my ear...Too many needing help, not enough time to post all the pleas that need to be posted, and not enough people who care. My only comfort, and hope, is knowing that there are others who are doing what I am trying to do...save lives.  So today of all days I hope we remember that  we are not alone and that one small act, one email, one click on a share button, can make a difference.


None of us can ever save himself; we are the instruments of one another’s salvation, and only by the hope that we give to others do we lift ourselves out of the darkness into light.  ~Dean Koontz


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