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PAW Team: (p)awesome non-profit!
Jun20

PAW Team: (p)awesome non-profit!

There are so many displays of compassion that illuminate our world, countering all the instances of abuse, neglect, and inequity. Portland Animal Welfare (PAW) Team is among these shining lights — a non-profit organization that helps the homeless people of Portland, Oregon by helping to make sure their companion animals are healthy and fed. Through its monthly clinics, PAW Team enables a group of veterinarians to offer services such as basic health exams and vaccinations; volunteers hand out food and supplies and coupons for spay/neuter services. Animal guardians sometimes line up for hours beforehand, just to make sure their four-legged loved ones receive the care they need. I just learned about this organization from my friend Nicole who is volunteering with them; and, as it turns out, so is another of my Portland friends and recent ALDF scholarship winner (Congratulations, Laura!). I know that some might question whether homeless people should have companion animals at all. It’s a valid concern, but there’s the fact that many of the people had their companion animals before they became homeless, especially in these hard economic times. Can you imagine if a person were forced to lose his or her companion animal, too? Sometimes, Fido is the only thing a person has left. Also, with millions of sheltered animals euthanized each year in the United States, the last place we want these animals to go en masse is the local shelter, provided they’re getting the basic necessary care. In addition, the situations of homeless women raise at least a couple of other issues: first, a dog may be a homeless woman’s only way of staying safe, either on the streets or in shelters where assaults or theft are not uncommon; second, in cases of women who flee their homes because of domestic abuse, they often take their companion animals with them because the animals otherwise would become the target of retaliation by the abusing partner. While I was traveling around Nepal several years ago, I was struck by the number of stray, sick dogs. I was heartened to learn afterwards of an organization in Katmandu, Street Dog Care, comprised of two veterinarians and volunteers that were going out each week to offer these dogs medical care. Now, here’s a a similar coordinated effort by veterinarians in the U.S. and, in Portland, the organization is helping animals and people. WIN-WIN! I applaud PAW Team! I’m looking around now to see what other cities, if any, have similar initiatives going on. If there isn’t one in New York City yet, don’t be surprised if you hear about a “new project” of my own once I’m...

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A Visit to Equine Voices Rescue & Sanctuary

A couple of weeks ago, members of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund and friends (including my nephew Nicholas!) made the trip to meet some amazing horses at the Equine Voices Rescue and Sanctuary here in Tucson. Since 2004, Equine Voices has saved the lives of hundreds of horses — mainly mares and foals from the Premarin industry. These horses, for the purpose of collecting their urine in order to manufacture the hormone replacement drug (Pregnant Mares’ Urine), are subjected to horrible, stressful conditions and abuses; and each time the mares give birth, their foals are quickly sold off  to slaughter. Thankfully, there has been a decline in the use of Premarin; women are now seeking alternatives, including natural remedies. If you are taking Premarin or considering hormone replacement therapy, I urge you to speak to your doctor about suitable cruelty-free alternatives. Recently, Equine Voices has expanded its mission to include rescuing horses from abuse, neglect, and starvation. During these tough economic times, there has been an increasing problem of horse abandonment. In these cases, criminal prosecution under the state’s animal cruelty statute is a possibility, and the Tucson Animal Cruelty Task Force is hard at work rescuing these horses and enforcing the law. Equine Voices also rescues horses from the illegal drug trade: horses, weighed down with packages of drugs, are forced to journey across the border from Mexico, then left in the desert to die. In 2010, Equine Voices became the first Equine Sanctuary in the State of Arizona and the third in the country to receive the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries’ accreditation. Thanks to Karen Pomroy, founder of Equine Voices, for taking the time to share a wonderful morning with us! horses are frequently overloaded with drugs to cross the...

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Fun with the Pup: Charitable Events
Mar30

Fun with the Pup: Charitable Events

Good times for a GREAT cause! As a follow up to yesterday’s blog about the FAIR organization, I wanted to tell you all about the Tucson Canine Classic: it’s the city’s largest dogwalk and companion-animal festival, and it’s happening again next month on April 23rd! This will be the third annual Classic, and Galileo and I will be walking for the third time! Part of the proceeds go to FAIR, so it’s become one of our “Mommy & Me” things to do… our way of giving back. In addition to the dogwalk, there are lots of exhibitors on the scene with all kinds of fun stuff. Each time, we’ve made sure to buy some extra special treats to bring home and share with Otis.  Also scheduled for this event, a vaccination station providing free microchips to the first 100 participants. Fantastic! Don’t have a dog but want to share in the fun? Last year, my friend Camille took advantage of the Rent-A-Pet option and had a blast with her new canine friend, Arnold. I encourage all Tucsonans to register today and come walk with us! If you’re not in Tucson, you might want to look into similar events in your own hometown. Local shelters and rescue organizations need all the support they can get. Events like the Classic are a fun way to help out and, at the same time, spend some quality time with a companion animal. For my NYC friends! The American Cancer Society’s Bark for Life takes place each year in Riverside Park. This year it will take place on Sunday, May 1st. I remember the time Pushkin (beloved beagle) and I were on our way to the dog run and found ourselves in a sea of approximately 1500 dogs and humans who were participating in the walk-a-thon that day. WOW! It really is amazing to see so many New Yorkers gathered in support and having some fun together! And, should you decide to venture to the park this year for the event, look for Pushkin’s memorial bench right outside the dog run at 105th Street...

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Foundation for Animals in Risk (FAIR)
Mar29

Foundation for Animals in Risk (FAIR)

Happy 5th Birthday, Galileo! Today is the day we celebrate the birthday of our youngest family member and resident angel. It was actually May 26, 2006 when we first met, but he was already “about eight weeks old”  by then.  My father suggested we celebrate his birthday on March 29th because it’s the anniversary of the Battle at Quaker Road (my father is the author of a book on the Civil War), and also because it marks my grandfather’s birthday. In honor of our little one’s special day, I’d like to say thank you to the Tucson non-profit, no-kill rescue organization that brought us together. Foundation for Animals in Risk (FAIR), located in Tucson, is one of countless organizations doing amazing work of rescuing animals and bringing families together. It’s also a great example of how an organization that facilitates animal foster care, in addition to adoptions, can save the lives of so many animals who otherwise would not have the chance to find their “furever” homes. Each morning, Galileo’s routine includes lying in the sun for a while on his pillow on our patio. When it’s time for breakfast, he comes into the house with that faint “doggy” smell that comes from getting a little warmed up. I tell him he’s soaked up the sunshine and brought it back into the house for us.  Truly, he fills our home with sunshine, even on cloudy...

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A Visit to the National Elk Refuge

On our recent ski getaway to Jackson Hole, we had the opportunity to visit the National Elk Refuge. The visit was not something we’d planned ahead of time. I had no idea such a place existed until we arrived. I like to call these surprises when I’m traveling the “bubble gum in the Blow Pop” moments — you remember the lollipops with the bubble gum at the center? The “bubble gum” moments make what’s already a great trip even better. Each year, thousands of elk migrate from their higher elevations in Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone to the 25,000 acres of refuge in Wyoming, where they will spend the winter months. Established in 1912, the National Elk Refuge is one of 550 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge system. Our visit on January 6th was the first day of this season when the refuge, managed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, distributed pellets of alfalfa hay to the elk — providing them with food when it is most scarce. Here, some 6,000 elk will remain until the weather grows warmer and the snow line recedes up the surrounding mountains. Typically, the elk on the refuge range from three to ten years old, though elk can live upwards of twenty years. According to our guide, about 65% of the elk are female (called “cows”) and about 60% of them are pregnant during this winter stay. Although the cows tend to be more timid than the male “bulls” with their impressive antlers, one cow came quite close to us, and stood there gazing for a while before moving on with one of her female friends of the herd. As she stood there and she and I sustained eye contact, I had a few moments of what I can best describe as pure peacefulness. Being so close to wildlife, witnessing nature going about an ordinary day, is as humbling as it is awe-inspiring. Interesting tidbit: The bulls shed their antlers each year, starting to grow new ones right away; and their antler patterns remain the same each time, which is helpful for identification purposes. At the Elk Refuge, local Boy Scouts have the sole permit to go onto the refuge to collect the antlers left behind, once the elk have gone back up into the surrounding mountains. The antlers can be worth in total more than $80,000. The Boy Scouts get to keep 20% of whatever is made at the annual antler auction held in the latter half of May, and the rest goes back into funding for the...

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Operation Smile
Dec13

Operation Smile

A couple of years ago, my husband Seth and I donated for the first time to Operation Smile. For just $120, we were able to cover half the cost of a surgery that would change a child’s life. With one simple and inexpensive surgery to correct a cleft palate, a child who might otherwise face a lifetime as a pariah will be able to have a completely normal life — no disfigurement, no speaking problems, no social stigma. Everything changes with just $240. WOW. And I have a reason to be extra-excited about Operation Smile: months after our donation, I learned that the organization was co-founded by an alumna of my own high school, Academy of the Holy Angels.  Another “angel” out there making a difference – I love it! This year, we’ve made a family decision to commit to providing one cleft-palate surgery each year, by donating to Operation Smile at the start of Christmas week. What better way to reflect on all the blessings in our own life, including the things that are so easy to take for granted, like a healthy smile… and pass the blessing along, in the true spirit of giving each holiday season. For us, it will be a wonderful way to start out each holiday season. I know… the holidays are already an expensive time of year. Many of us will spend as much as the cost of a cleft-palate surgery on the groceries to prepare a holiday dinner for a houseful of family and friends; many of us will spend even more than the cost of a surgery on holiday gift shopping.  As always, the key to living a kind life is to start by being kind to ourselves — adding another $240 to the month’s credit card bill may not be a healthy idea for everyone right now. However, if we each just do what we can, when we can, we all will be working together to make this world better for all living beings. Maybe, instead of donating now, you can plan to make a contribution mid-year; maybe you could donate the cost of a surgery, in full or in part, in the name of your spouse, sibling, or friend, and make that your gift to them this holiday season. Humans & Nonhumans — Everyone Matters Most of the time, I’m talking and writing about animal-related efforts, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that helping animals does not preclude helping humans. Often, when the subject of animal-related causes comes up, people say to me: “Let’s take care of the humans first, and then we can worry about the animals.”  My reply is always the same: We can do both! I’ve had more than a...

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