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Petfinder.com
Sep12

Petfinder.com

A few years ago, I became active in some town council meetings in my community when there was discussion about the creation of  a no-kill program. Before I got up to speak, I did my homework and discovered some startling facts about the local Animal Control, which euthanizes up to 70% of all animals that come its way. I’ve also done countless roadside rescues and reunited lost dogs (and, recently, a cat!) with their guardians. Thank goodness they didn’t get picked up and taken to the pound, where the clock starts ticking and the time runs out much too soon for most of them. I have friends who feel an affinity to a certain breed, and a couple of them have even adopted beagles partially in honor of my own beloved beagle Pushkin. However, the urgency to put an end to dog breeding while we have so many shelter animals in need of loving “furever” homes cannot be overstated. Adopt, don’t shop — Please! Petfinder.com makes it easy to find animals locally. The site is a hub for more than 13,000 adoption groups, offering more than 300,000 adoptable animals. This year is the site’s 15th anniversary, and they’ve facilitated more than 17 million (!) adoptions! In addition to facilitating adoptions nationwide, Petfinder.com is a terrific resource for information about Pet Care, Health, and Training. And its Online Partner Store, The Animal Rescue Site, has a whole host of items, with proceeds from each sale going towards a great cause. Petfinder.com reminds us that there are millions of homeless animals looking for loving families. So please remember, whenever you’re considering adding a nonhuman member to the family: ADOPT, don’t shop! Petfinder.com makes it so easy to find a companion animal that’s a perfect fit for your home. And please spread the word to your extended family and friends. Lives are depending on it....

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Teagan’s Story: A Happy Beginning
Aug31

Teagan’s Story: A Happy Beginning

Last October, my friend Nicole, who lives in Portland, told me about this beautiful dog she was adopting. Teagan, a German Shepherd, was found on the roadside in Mississippi. She’d been starved down to almost nothing, shot, and left for dead. One arm was caught up in her collar; and, because a bullet went through her eye, she now has a permanent wink. Thanks to the Rocky Ridge Refuge in Arkansas, Teagan was rescued and slowly nursed back to health. Her care required several surgeries and treatment for a major infection throughout her whole body, possibly caused by bullet fragments still in her body. Nine months after my conversation with Nicole, at the end of June, Teagan finally was well enough to make the trip from Arkansas to Oregon… home. I joined Teagan’s Fan page on Facebook immediately, and I’m looking forward to meeting her in a couple of months when I’m in Portland again. I’m especially moved by Teagan’s story because it is an amazing example of the resiliency of animals and humans alike. A year ago, Nicole lost her beloved German Shepherd, Alec. Theirs is a true love story: when Alec became paralyzed and wheelchair bound,  Nicole and Alec worked together to get him walking again. (To read more about Nicole and Alec’s journey together and his therapy, you can visit Nicole’s blog.) In the last year of his life, Alec walked without his wheels. Alec’s passing — and so soon after this achievement — has been a devastating loss for Nicole. I know she will carry Alec with her everyday, just as I still carry Pushkin. But life gives us new opportunities to open our hearts and to love. Teagan and Nicole have opened their hearts to each other in a way that shows courage, compassion, healing, and hope. I had the privilege of meeting Alec, and I have the privilege of having Nicole as a friend in this lifetime. I know that, now, Alec is close by and watching over Nicole and Teagan. And he’s welcoming Teagan, who traveled all the way from Mississippi to be part of their family. The only thing better than a story with a happy ending is one with a happy beginning. So much to look forward to, as they just start down the road together. Peace and love to Teagan and Nicole! About State Cruelty Laws Teagan’s abuser was never found. Had he or she been arrested, the charges would have been based on Mississippi’s animal cruelty statutes. In Mississippi, the penalties for animal cruelty: “fined not less than ten dollars nor more than One Hundred Dollars, or shall be imprisoned in the county jail...

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Educating Africa: Children in the Wilderness program
Aug18

Educating Africa: Children in the Wilderness program

As a former educator, I’m especially enthusiastic whenever I discover programs that focus on younger generations, inspiring them to be independent thinkers and compassionate do-ers in this world. By offering an environmental and life skills educational program to children in Africa’s rural communities, Children in the Wilderness fosters an appreciation in these children of their natural heritage and, importantly, instills in them a sense of responsibility for taking care of that heritage throughout their lives. During the year, Wilderness Safaris closes some of its camps in Africa so that it can host groups of rural children, ages 10-17, for a five-night program. The groups range in size from 16 to 45 children each time. Children in the Wilderness originated in 2001, when actor Paul Newman traveled to Africa with his family and connected with Wilderness Safaris. With his help, Children in the Wilderness held its first children’s camp in Botswana in December of that same year. Now, there are camps held in Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, the Seychelles, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (at Hwange National Park, one of the national parks I visited during my own safari adventure!). According to its most recent annual report, the Children in the Wilderness program: practices and teaches sustainable environmental education develops leadership qualities in Africa’s children exposes the children to new experiences and new friends helps to build  self-esteem and teaches life skills inspires the children to continue with their education focuses on everyday issues pertaining to their particular situation, including topics such as HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and poaching provides the children with a sense of hope and opportunity As of December 2010, the program had hosted 3,502 children at its various camps. Follow-up programs and the establishment of Environmental Clubs at schools reinforce what the children learn during the camp programs. And — the ultimate success story for any program — graduates of the program often return to the camps as mentors for other children. In this way, Children of the Wilderness not only instills values and appreciation, but it also enables communities to take care of their own.      ...

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Anti-Poaching in Africa
Aug17

Anti-Poaching in Africa

On the plane flight to Washington D.C., when I was heading to the Taking Action for Animals conference before moving on to South Africa, I was reading the August issue of Vanity Fair. In it, a sixteen-page article on the ivory trade, which results in the slaughter of thousands of African elephants. At the conference, three different sessions I attended brought up the ivory trade problem again. Finally, after the conference weekend and during our hour-long refueling stop in Senegal, I got into a lively discussion with a group of college students sitting near us on the plane, along with one of their faculty chaperones who was an Ethics professor: all were very interested to learn more about Animal Law and eager to discuss issues ranging from whale hunting to companion animal cruelty cases. Once the stop in Senegal was over and we all sat back down in our seats to continue on to Johannesburg, one of the students passed me a magazine: “Have you seen this?” The Vanity Fair issue. Among the places my husband Seth and I would be visiting was Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, which was featured in the article; however, poaching is a widespread problem throughout the continent. Particularly after all the pre-trip ivory trade talk, I landed in Africa with open eyes and open ears. I was curious to hear what those living there would have to say about the issue and to learn more about local efforts to end the atrocities. We weren’t five minutes in the Johannesburg airport before we saw the first sign of awareness and activism: an anti-poaching poster with the ghastly picture of a dead rhinoceros, blood dripping from where his horn used to be. Although the rhinoceros horn is not made of ivory, the animal is also the target of poaching for its unique feature; like elephant tusks, the rhinoceros horn is a top commodity on the illegal wildlife trade market. According to the Vanity Fair article, there has been an increase in the demand for ivory, largely attributable to a nouveau-riche class in China that desires such ostentatious signs of wealth. It’s estimated that up to 100 elephants a day are being killed; in addition, the rhino is endangered — we didn’t even get to see one during our trip.  As far as the laws are concerned, most African countries have a ban on the sale of ivory. For example, Kenya has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the sale of ivory. Making a strong statement against the trade, Kenyan officials burned the country’s old stores of ivory back in 1989. However, other countries allow for the sale of...

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Taking Action for Animals conference, 2011
Jul14

Taking Action for Animals conference, 2011

      This weekend, I’ll once again be participating in what has become one of my favorite events of the year, the Taking Action for Animals Conference in Washington, D.C., hosted and organized by the Humane Society of the United States. People from all over the country come together to learn, to share their own efforts and inspirations, and to celebrate the victories on behalf of the animals for the past year. For me, the fun starts on Friday night with the Pro Bono Litigation Awards, a cocktail reception to honor all the attorneys and law firms who give their time, energy, and expertise to help animals throughout the year. One thing that’s really cool about the conference is that it organizes sessions along different “tracks” that coincide with different interests that the 1000+ attendees may have as their personal focus: Building Skills (campaigns and strategies for advocacy) Learning the Issues (from puppy mills to factory farming) Public Policy (attorneys, lobbyists) Reaching Out (media, grassroots) In between sessions, there are wonderful vegan snacks and lunches to enjoy while mingling with people from all over the country, not to mention the swanky dress-up banquet on Saturday night that features a lavish dinner (vegan), top-notch entertainment, and an inspiring talk by CEO & President of the HSUS, Wayne Pacelle. In addition, my husband Seth and I keep extra-busy because we are both attendees and exhibitors at the conference, through Letters to Pushkin. For the second year in a row, we will be at our table in the Exhibit Hall helping to spread the word about LTP, a free web site that gives people the opportunity to use letter-writing as a means of coping with the loss of a loved one. Inspired by my own grieving process after the loss of our beagle Pushkin, I wanted to honor the memory of Pushkin by creating a place of comfort and healing for others. The collection of shared letters also serves as a testament to the special role companion animals have in our homes as members of our family: since its creation in September 2009, more than 125 letters have been shared publicly on the site — to dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, horses… and human family members, too. And the LTP facebook page has more than 5100 fans!  Needless to say, I’m very grateful that such good can come out of what was a devastating loss for me and my family. It warms my heart whenever someone comes up to me and says Pushkin’s name aloud. And I always hope that somehow the spirit that came to me in a little beagle body knows what’s...

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Broadway Barks! NYC Event
Jun23

Broadway Barks! NYC Event

Since my early childhood, I’ve always adored Bernadette Peters. Among the many favorite performances of hers I could mention, I remember her one-woman show that I caught while I was living in Austin, Texas. In addition to the regular showstoppers, she sang “We’re in the Money” from 42nd Street in Pig Latin… in reverse! A voice and a sense of humor. The woman dazzles me every time. When Ms. Peters came out with her children’s book, Broadway Barks, I added extra points to her cool quotient. Not only is it a great little story, but there’s also a CD that comes with it — a song she wrote for her own dog, Kramer. Beyond the book, there’s the Broadway Barks program that she founded with her friend Mary Tyler Moore. The organization brings the Broadway community together each year for an event held in Schubert Alley. Homeless animals from shelters throughout the city — the true stars of the day! — are represented at the adopt-a-thon. Some Broadway actors participating this summer: Edie Falco (The House of Blue Leaves), Nick Adams (Priscilla Queen of the Desert), Nina Arianda (Born Yesterday), Kerry Butler (Catch Me If You Can), John Benjamin Hickey (The Normal Heart), Beth Leavel (Baby, It’s You), Judy McLane (Mamma Mia!), Bebe Neuwirth (The Addams Family), Rory O’Malley (The Book of Mormon), and Elizabeth Rodriguez (The Motherfu**er With the Hat). Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore are legendary talents. It’s particularly inspiring to see how these two women have found such a special way to create awareness and change so many animals’ lives. Definitely worthy of a standing ovation! Mark your calendar! The 13th annual Broadway Barks event will take place at Schubert Alley on July 9th,...

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