Blog: Finding My Voice

Living With Hope

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)


Yesterday my youngest son and I drove to the Veterinary Clinic at Ohio State University in Columbus for Ballantine's monthly checkup. We were hoping to receive good news so the monthly visits could be changed to quarterly visits. We had high expectations. Ballantine has been looking and acting healthy. She consumes her three daily meals with gusto, she plays with her fur siblings, she pulls on her leash when we go for walks, and she constantly monitors our back yard to ensure the "alligators" stay away. At the clinic, when I spoke with the fourth year veterinary student who greeted us and took a short history, I mentioned that my only concern was that Bally appeared to have lost a little weight. Her skin wasn't loose like it had been after her initial diagnosis, but when I lifted her up or rubbed her back she seemed a little leaner than usual.

     The examinations at the clinic generally take three to four hours. My son and I followed our usual routine. We ate lunch at the Garden Market, then went to see a movie at a nearby theater. When we returned to the clinic, I signed in at the reception desk and waited almost an hour before my name was called. As the time grew, so did my anxiety. As soon as Ballantine's oncologist walked out to greet me, I knew the news would be bad. Seven months ago, when Ballantine's cancer returned, the oncologist, not the veterinary student, had been the one to greet me.

     The news was good and bad. During the examination it was noted that Bally had a lump in her salivary gland near the location where cancerous lymph nodes had been removed seven months ago. The lump was aspirated and cancer cells were detected. Bally also had a small nodule, presumably cancer, near one of her lungs. A scan was performed. Unbeknownst to us, the nodule had been present during one of Ballantine's previous visits, but that information had not been disclosed to us. The "good" news was that the nodule had not grown in size.

     We talked about Ballantine's prognosis. The salivary gland could be removed without interfering with Bally's quality of life. The main risk of the surgery was that the salivary gland was near the nerve that controlled the tongue. If this was damaged during the procedure, Bally would no longer be able to eat. We had faced this risk when the original surgery to remove Bally's lower jaw was performed 15 months ago. The oncologist said eventually the cancer near the lung would spread and engulf the lungs, limiting Bally's ability to breathe. They still had some forms of chemotherapy that could be used to hopefully slow the progression. The oncologist was blunt. Ballantine had cancer and there was no cure. She softened this death sentence by stating that when she first examined Ballantine 15 months ago, Bally had little to no chance of survival. Ballantine had surprised everyone. She was a living miracle.

     We discussed the options further. We could wait and see, and hope that the cancer in Bally's neck did not spread and the nodule did not grow. The other option was to remove Bally's salivary gland immediately. The visit to the clinic was $400 and surgery would be an additional $800. I had to pay half now and the Balance when we picked up Bally after the surgery. I called my husband and shared the information. He said the choice was mine. For me, there was no choice. For fifteen months we had endured stress, scrimped, sacrificed, begged, and done without so Bally could have a chance at life. If I had to make the decision today about Bally's first surgery knowing what I do today, I would still make the same choice. Bally was given 15 months that she would not have had if I had taken the advice of the diagnosing veterinarian and euthanized her immediately. Because of the decisions we made, fourteen of those fifteen months have been pain free with a good quality of life.

     Several months ago I was working in my back yard with my five dogs nearby. My neighbor and three of her six grandchildren were kicking a ball around in their backyard. Some of my dogs poked their noses through the fence and barked, wanting to join in the game. My neighbor commented on the fact that I really loved my dogs. The first words that came out of my mouth were, "They are the grandchildren I don't have," and after I made the statement I realized that this was true. My dogs (and my cats) bring me joy. I love watching them play and enjoy their different personalities. They are my companions and they cheer me up when I feel stressed and sad. I live daily with the knowledge that like my fur companions of the past I will most likely outlive them, but that does not diminish the joy they bring me today.

     Bally will undergo surgery this afternoon. Words cannot express the sadness and anxiety I feel at the moment. All I can do is place my trust in Bally's surgeons and wait. Her fate is not in my hands. I am trying to stay optimistic, but I can't help thinking about worst case scenarios. When I spoke with Ballantine's oncologist yesterday, she said she could give me an approximate guess at the  progression of the disease and the time Bally had left. I said I didn't want to hear it because I wanted to live with hope. Every day of the past fifteen months I have tried to live in the present and be thankful for every good thing that comes my way, be it a butterfly, a flower blooming in my garden, a day when the sun shines, or one of my furry companions vying for my attention. Every day is a gift. Today I will live with hope.


An Inconvenient Truth

Posted on July 24, 2012 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)


Several years ago I was a guest at a Christmas party at a neighbor’s home. During the evening the host’s mother, who obviously had never heard that you shouldn’t discuss religion and politics at social functions, began bashing Al Gore and his belief in global warming. No one disagreed with her or questioned her reasoning. I kept silent, but I wanted to ask her one question, ...“Haven’t you seen changes in your own backyard?”

Every year for as long as I can remember, the azaleas in my yard were in full bloom for Derby week, which is a big occasion in Louisville. The year of the Christmas party I had noticed that my azaleas bloomed two weeks before Derby, the robins in my yard had appeared earlier than usual, winter was drier with less snow, and spring was warmer than it had been in the past. Over the years the changes have accelerated. This year my azaleas bloomed five weeks before Derby. We had much more rain than usual (four inches in one hour during one spring storm), and the weather turned hot earlier, with record breaking temperatures - ten days over 100 degrees in late June and early July.

“You don’t need a weatherman

To know which way the wind blows.”

Bob Dylan (Subterranean Homesick Blues)

Many people still scoff at the idea of global warming and/or its causes. Some people believe that the recent phenomenons we have been melting glaciers, intense hurricanes, tornadoes, and rain storms, heavier snowfall, droughts, and raging wildfires...are part of the normal cyclical changes we should expect in nature. I don’t know what is causing the changes, but I do believe that charges are occurring. I have seen them with my own eyes. My gut feeling, that little voice inside me that on many occasions has led me to conclusions that have proven to be right, tell me that man is the cause or  a major factor.

Yesterday our newspaper was not on the front steps when my husband went out to to retrieve it. He took a short walk up and down the street to see if our neighbors had the same problem. Two houses down he saw a buck and a doe standing in our neighbor’s driveway. We don’t live in the country. We live in an area that is a short drive from the center of downtown Louisville. Those poor deer and other animals like them, who are forced to live in pockets of green that have not been paved over or turned into lawns, were foraging for food and water. They are the victims of human actions and decisions. Everything man touches, the changes and “improvements” we make in the name of progress or to benefit ourselves, has unintended consequences. For whatever reason, we believe we can do whatever we want to do. After all, aren’t we superior to every other creature on Earth?

The Earth does not belong to man; Man belongs to the Earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. ~Chief Seattle



Posted on June 28, 2012 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)


Ballantine and Macallan when Macallan was a baby.


   Last night Ballantine played with a ball. Not a large one, but a small ball that, if she had a lower jaw, she could have picked up and chewed. This milestone is a small miracle. Thirteen months ago Bally was given a death sentence. She was diagnosed with a highly aggressive cancer of the lower jaw which, in a two week period, went from undetectable to the destruction of her lower jaw.


     Last night Bally searched for a toy in the toy basket, discovered the ball, and pushed it around with her nose. Macallan, our Wheaten Scottie who has malformed front legs, soon joined in. Despite his handicap, Macallan is highly mobile. Every evening he entertains us by streaking around the family room and dining room, sometimes with the others in pursuit, but most often all by himself. His walking gait is a little slow and wobbly, but he can run like the wind.

     The game between Bally and Macallan became  a battle of wits.  Macallan would grab the ball and run off and Bally would pursue him, nudge the ball with her nose, and roll it away. When the ball rolled behind the door, Bally pushed the door with her nose and retrieved it. The game continued back and forth with each dog momentarily getting the upper hand. When both dogs tired of the game, Bally the victor sat with the ball between her front legs.

     Watching Ballantine and Macallan play, I was reminded of the adaptability of animals and their strong will to live.  Humans complain and lose patience over the most trivial things...the red light is too long, the person in front of us in line has too many items or is taking too long to pay, our cell phone has lost reception.  We assume that we are superior to animals, but I believe that the ability of animals to adapt and overcome the seemingly impossible is a trait many humans lack. Instead of adapting, we change the world to suit us...which often harms others and causes more problems.

     Ohno and Walker, our two senior Scottish Terriers, came into our home as six year olds after they were displaced by the death of their elderly owner. They quickly become members of our family and found their place in our pack more easily than I had expected.  Macallan runs, plays, and dominates all of his fur siblings except for Bally even though he is the weakest member of the pack. And Ballantine, who lacks a lower jaw, has learned to bark, play, and enjoys life to the fullest.

      Living with my dogs has given me a different perspective on life. Things that we believe we cannot achieve and problems we think we cannot overcome should not stop us from trying. As stated by Daniel Pinkwater, “The old saw about old dogs and new tricks only applies to certain people.“


Mortality and Remembrance

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


     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


Failing Foster 101

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


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



Be Thankful

Posted on November 12, 2011 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)


For many years, when my daughter was still living at home and then when she came home on breaks from school, we had a nightly ritual - we would watch the Jay Leno Show together. We enjoyed his guests, his brand of humor, and his verbal exchanges with Kevin, the show's bandleader. However, our favorite part of the show was the regular feature before the guests were introduced. The ones that always made us laugh were Jaywalking, The Photo Booth, Headlines, Gas Pump News, and Favorite Finds at the Dollar Store. We could identify with Favorite Finds because we occasionally shopped at a local store that sold everything for a dollar. The items shown on the Jay Leno Show were always a little “off” which was what made them humorous and the reason why they were being sold at bargain basement prices at a dollar store.


     One day while my daughter and I were shopping at our local dollar store we came upon a candidate for the Jay Leno Show: a three inch tall combination vase/magnet with the words "Be Thankful” written on it. What made this object so unique was the fact that the words had been applied upside down and backwards. To clearly read the message you had to hold the vase/magnet upside down in front of a mirror. The vase had to be mine. For a brief moment I thought about submitting it to the Jay Leno Show, but that would have meant sending it off to Los Angeles. Once the vase/magnet was in my possession I couldn’t bear to part with it. This “treasure” now sits on my desk next to my computer where it is a constant reminder for me to “Be Thankful."


     This week my husband and I drove to the veterinary clinic at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio for our dog Ballantine’s five month post-op visit. Bally underwent surgery to remove her cancerous lower jaw on June 14th of this year. At the time of diagnosis, Bally's prognosis was grim. The diagnosing veterinarian had recommended that Ballantine be immediately euthanized. Grasping at straws and searching for hope, I sought advice from others and ultimately received a referral to the OSU clinic. As a result, we have had five additional months with Bally that we had not thought possible. If I hadn’t listened to that little voice in my head that told me not to give up and had not taken a leap of faith based on my intuition, heart, advice from others, and in truth, plain stubbornness, Ballantine would not be with us today.


     The fact that Ballantine is living with cancer has changed my perspective on life. I have learned that we must take joy whenever and wherever we can find it. Having my five dogs greet me every morning, watching them play together, and seeing Ballantine as part of our “herd of puppies” are gifts I receive every day. I know that I made the right choice for Bally and that she enjoys each day she has been given despite the pain she has endured and the losses she has sustained. I can see it in her eyes, in the dirt on her nose after she digs somewhere in our backyard, in the way she eagerly laps up her food, by the fact that she has resumed her role as the alpha female, and in how she seeks me out and snuggles close to me on the sofa every evening.


      Both Bally and I have suffered losses and our new lives are different than our old lives. I no longer throw a ball in the backyard for my herd of five because Bally can’t participate since she has lost the ability to pick up a ball. Special treats like chew sticks are rare and handed out only if Ballantine is in another room having one on one time with us. The days when all five dogs would line up and patiently wait their turn while I handed each one a tidbit left over from a meal have become treasured memories. There are no more games of tug-of-war.


     Ballantine’s most recent checkup was not the clean bill of health we were hoping for and expecting, but we knew there would be good days and bad days when we chose life instead of death for Bally. On the dark days when I am on the brink of losing hope, I look at the little vase/magnet on my desk to remind me to “Be Thankful.”


The birds they sang

at the break of day

Start again

I heard them say

Don't dwell on what

has passed away

or what is yet to be...

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That's how the light gets in.

From “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen


A Failure to Communicate

Posted on October 26, 2011 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)


Unseen they Suffer, Unheard they Cry, in Agony they Linger, in Loneliness they Die! ~Author Unknown

Dogs and cats died in shelters yesterday. Pleas were sent out asking people to help, to share, to cross-post, but the messages weren’t sent far enough, fast enough, or wide enough to reach the people who might have been able to help. At the moment I can’t bear to think of how many poor creatures were killed. I failed them; you failed them; we failed them. They were at shelters that don’t adopt out to the public, at shelters that are constantly overcrowded due to high intake, and at shelters that kill just because that is what they do every day or every week.

     At the moment I feel only sadness, but soon that will turn to anger. Why were these animals in shelters? Some were turned-in by their “owners” who knew or should have known that surrendering their dog or cat would probably result in a death sentence. Some of those who died were strays. Why didn’t the humans who previously fed, sheltered, and presumably cared for them make an effort to find their lost animals and bring them home? Shame on those poor excuses for humans who left their dogs and cats to die. Their actions were irresponsible, thoughtless, and, as far as I am concerned, criminal. By leaving their dog or cat at a kill shelter, they were an accessory to murder. Their photos should be plastered on telephone poles and pinned on bulletin boards in post offices where they post the “wanted” posters. Their names should be published in newspapers and posted on the internet. They should be held accountable for their actions.

What part of “Thou Shalt Not Kill” don’t you understand? Stop abandoning your pets at kill shelters - Keep your pet for life! ~Author Unknown

Innocent lives were lost yesterday and more will be lost today. These dogs, cats, kittens, and puppies are in unfamiliar places and suffer stress, fear, and loneliness before they are “humanely euthanized” - a nice euphemism for killed. Their “owners” are unaware of the moment when these poor helpless creatures take their last breathes...and probably they don’t care. Unfortunately, my rant will not be seen by the people who need to hear the truth. Their irresponsibility has caused misery and death...and they will feel no remorse while you and I lose sleep over those we couldn't help.

     Animal shelters are enablers. They allow the irresponsible people in our society to dispose of animals without having to get their hands dirty. Some shelters make it convenient for irresponsible people to dispose of their unwanted dogs and cats by providing night “drop off” boxes. Those who are too lazy to drive to the shelter can allow their dog or cat to run loose or wander off. Someone will eventually call animal control if the dog or cat isn't killed by a car, predator, or miscreant who takes pleasure in harming animals.

When I tell people that I have a website to help animals, they usually ask me questions and I am ALWAYS astounded at how naive, uninformed, or oblivious the average person is about animal overpopulation, shelter overcrowding, and euthanasia. Many people don’t know the difference between a kill shelter, no kill shelter, and low kill shelter. They are unaware of the number of animals that are killed each year in shelters or the methods used to dispose of society’s unwanted. Many people don’t realize that the majority of kill shelters have a minimum hold time for stray animals or that owner surrenders can be killed immediately.

"What we've got here is a failure to communicate." ~The Captain/prison warden and Luke (the prisoner) in the movie “Cool Hand Luke.”


     One of the reasons we are constantly and continually confronted with the problem of shelter overcrowding is our failure to communicate. First, the victims - the animals who are being abandoned and left to die - can’t speak. They must rely on humans to communicate for them. Second, even with the internet, sites like Petfinder and Death Row Dogs, and 1000’s of people posting, cross-posting, sharing, and emailing, we are often unable to communicate the message to the people who are able to help - rescuers, adopters, and sponsors - within the small window of time often alloted to death row animals. Third, we aren’t reaching the people who need to hear the real message. If you are reading this, I am preaching to the choir. You are probably already aware of the problem and are doing something about it.  The people who fail or refuse to spay/neuter, who cannot or will not make a lifelong commitment, and who view animals as commodities to be sold, given away, or disposed of like inanimate objects are the ones who need to be educated and “converted.”  

     If more people were made aware of the facts, maybe more lives could be saved.  We need to speak for those who can’t speak, advocate for them, and educate others about their plight.  So, before you go to bed tonight, do something to help an unwanted animal: send an email, cross-post, share on Facebook, sponsor a shelter animal, volunteer to drive a leg of a transport, make a donation to a rescue, offer to foster, convince a friend, neighbor or family member to spay/neuter their dog or cat or to rehome an unwanted animal instead of dumping them at a shelter or on the one small thing that will make tomorrow a better day.

Now take my hand and hold it tight.

I will not fail you here tonight,

For failing you, I fail myself

And place my soul upon a shelf

In Hell's library without light.

I will not fail you here tonight.

~ Dean Koontz



Grave Matters

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



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



The Bully Syndrome

Posted on October 18, 2011 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)


First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.  ~Martin Niemöller

     The word bully has many connotations, most of them negative. A bully is a person who purposely tries to hurt others. Bullying is when someone keeps doing or saying things to have power over another person. Bullies like to instill fear and trepidation in their targets. This gives them power and feeds their self-esteem. Cyber bullying is the misuse of email systems or Internet forums for sending aggressive flame mails.  And then there is the Bully breed dog which is any dog having bulldog lineage. Unfortunately, many people believe these dogs to be mean, aggressive and dangerous.

     We are becoming a nation of bullies. We are quick to attack and rush to judgment with little or no proof of wrongdoing. Once Pandora’s box has been opened, it is difficult to sort through all the fabrications and determine who is the perpetrator and who is the victim.

This dog is Dominic. DOMINIC WAS BEGGING FOR A CHANCE. He was a black dog and one of those “bully breeds”...and that meant a lot of people would not want him. He was a young boy, barely two years old. Dominic was euthanized.

     Dogs like Dominic are killed in shelters every day. They are demonized because of their breed, which is unrelated to their temperament, and they are the target of breed specific legislation. Previously, German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows, Huskies, Great Danes, Boxers, St. Bernards, and many other breeds were declared to be dangerous and ownership was banned in cities throughout the country. The result of this stigmatization is that sweet, adoptable animals are being relinquished to shelters and killed. In cities where bully breeds are banned, these dogs cannot be adopted out and their only way out of a shelter other than a body bag or trash can is rescue.

     Animal behavior is learned...just as children are born innocent and are taught to hate. If people want to prevent dog attacks and aggressive behavior, they need to focus on the cause of the problem: humans. Banning specific breeds is punishing good dogs and good owners for the wrongful actions of others. The type of people who breed and own aggressive dogs are usually dog fighters and criminals...and they are not deterred by breed specific legislation.

     The media has to shoulder much of the blame for stigmatizing these dogs. There have been cases where a Pittie has been reported as involved in an incident when it was another breed. According to testing of 122 dog breeds by the American Temperament Testing Society, the American Pit Bull Terrier achieved a passing rate 85.3 percent of the time. Golden Retrievers 83.2 percent, Collies 79.4, Beagles at 78.2 percent, and Standard Schnauzers, a surprisingly low 63.5 percent. Check out this link to see how your breed did:

     A form of bullying can be seen in some animal shelters. Many small towns are controlled by people who act like mini-dictators because of their position or social status. Management of animal shelters is given to friends and/or relatives or their off-spring who have no background in animal care and who, in many cases, do not like animals. These shelters are poorly managed, the animals get minimal care, and there is little or no effort made to find homes or rescues. These shelters are warehouses for animals awaiting slaughter. Many people don’t realize that an animal relinquished to a shelter can be killed IMMEDIATELY or that their stray cat or dog will not be taken in by a Good Samaritan or find a forever home with a loving family. It is more likely that these animals will be held for the minimum time required by law and euthanized.

     Shelters are traumatic places for animals. They are noisy and crowded. Animals that in other circumstances would be adoptable become stressed, depressed or aggressive...which moves them to the unadoptable category. There are people who try to save shelter animals. In many cases, these people are from outside the community. Their efforts are often thwarted by politicians, dog wardens, and shelter managers who view outsiders as a threat to their authority. They use the helpless animals as leverage to intimidate those trying to help. They ban rescues at whim and refuse to make changes that would improve shelter conditions and reduce the number of animal intakes. These bullies seem to take pleasure in killing animals instead of finding solutions to the problems of animal overpopulation and shelter overcrowding.

     There are also bullies in the animal rescue community. Instead of working with others toward a common goal, there are some people who believe they are the sole authority on the subject. These self-appointed despots of rescue are constantly patting themselves on the back when something good has been accomplished and are quick to go on witch hunts when they perceive they are being threatened...without considering the consequences of their actions. Their usual course of action is to take a grain of truth and create a mountain of lies to demonize a group or individual, much like the accusers in Salem, MA so many years ago.

     It is too late for Dominic. The bullies of the world made him and others like him unadoptable. However, there are dogs and cats on the Help Me-CENTRAL website, posted on the website’s Facebook pages, and in shelters who are in danger of becoming another sad statistic. They need your help. Please don’t let the bullies of the world win. Become a voice for the voiceless.

All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.

~Edmund Burke


Eaters of the Dead

Posted on October 16, 2011 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)


A dead cow or sheep lying in a pasture is recognized as carrion. The same sort of a carcass dressed and hung up in a butcher's stall passes as food.

~John Harvey Kellogg, M.D.

We humans are cannibals. We might not eat our own kind, but many of us don’t think twice about eating non-human mammals and other animals. I am not a vegetarian, but not a day goes by when I don’t think about the dichotomy between my love for animals and the fact that I consume the flesh of a chicken, pig, or cow in some form every day. I don’t try to justify my actions. I know that my body does not require animal flesh to be healthy. Millions of people have chosen to remove meat, fish and fowl from their diets and this has not had a negative impact on their lives or health. In fact, studies consistently show that people who consume less meat and more fruits and vegetables have fewer health problems and live longer than their carnivorous counterparts. I know through personal experience that I can remove animal flesh from my diet and that it isn’t difficult to do.

     Every year I give up something for Lent, mostly out of habit because that is what I did when I was a child. Lent is supposed to be a time of repentance and self-examination. I usually choose something I constantly crave like ice cream, candy, and/or chocolate to give up. This year I thought I would be more creative and decided to stop eating anything that had eyes...except potatoes. Everyone in my family thought I would fail miserably.  For forty days I ate grains, pasta, pizza, veggie burgers, rice, beans, peanut butter, and other foods that contained no meat. I became more creative at planning and cooking meals - stir frying with no meat, making my own pizzas, and trying different versions of meatless pasta. I also added lentils and beans to our meals and  tried  grains like quinoa that are high in protein. As the weeks passed, I found that I actually enjoyed not eating animal flesh and lost my desire to consume my animal friends. When my husband and I went out for dinner at a local steak house, I ordered a vegetable platter and was very satisfied with my choice. Unfortunately, after Easter I gradually fell into the old pattern and at some point began to consume meat again. My lunches still mostly consist of peanut butter, yogurt and fruit, hummas with crackers, or a salad, but I am ashamed to admit that fish, beef, chicken, and pork are now part of my evening meals.

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.

~ Sir Paul McCartney

     So why do humans eat animals? I think the answers are fairly simple. First of all, because we can. The animals that end up on our tables have no rights and no voice. They can't protect themselves from us. Second, humans are lazy. it is easier and more convenient not to be a vegetarian. When we are hungry, we can pick up something from the deli department at the local supermarket, order take out, go to a fast food restaurant, or put a hamburger on the grill or a chicken in the oven with very little thought or effort.  Third, we don’t  have to kill our own food. Their is a disconnect between a pig, cow, lamb, and fish...and what ends up on our plate. The majority of us don’t have to hunt or fish to put  food on our tables. We can go to a local store or market and purchase almost any kind of creature we would like to consume. The cellophane wrapped package that we bring home bears no resemblance to the living, breathing animal from which it was cut. The suffering of the animals being readied for market and their slaughter on the kill floors are far removed from us...out of sight and out of mind.

       Some things have changed at my house since I engaged in my Lenten experiment. My family no longer has meat, fish or fowl at every meal. More of the meals I prepare do not contain meat or meat is only a small part of the meal instead of the main focus. I have come to like quinoa and I try to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains in our meals. Now, when I look at the beef, pork, fish, chicken, and lamb in the meat aisle at my local supermarket I see beyond the packaging and acknowledge the fact that everything I am looking at was once as alive as you and me. At one time they all had eyes.

A hamburger stops a beating heart. ~Author Unknown




Expecting the Unexpected

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


What can we take on trust in this uncertain life?

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


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


Something Wicked This Way Comes

Posted on October 2, 2011 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)


On a Sunday morning three years ago, I sat at my computer and read my emails, as is my usual morning practice, and discovered a message from one of my “friends,” someone I had never met, but whose path I had crossed online while cross-posting to save unwanted animals. The message was unexpected. I had been accused of pulling four dogs from a high kill shelter, contacting someone’s veterinarian without permission with the intention of charging vet fees to this person's account, sending out emails asking people for money and threatening to return the four dogs to the shelter if the people did not comply, lying to a rescuer, and abandoning other dogs at a boarding facility. There were other accusations, all animal related. Some were lies. All were distortions of the truth and misrepresentations of fact.  My “friend” also informed me that I had been banned from a group to which both of us belonged and I had been labeled "Do Not Rescue." When I attempted to respond to the email, I discovered that I had been blocked from sending messages to this “friend.” That was the beginning of what was for me a nightmare.

A man's reputation is what other people think of him; his character is what he really is.  ~Author Unknown

     I am not an animal rescuer and have never claimed to be one. I am an animal lover and consider myself to be a resource, a facilitator, a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. As far back as I can remember I have viewed every living creature, whether it be an ant, a mouse or a dog, as something of value who deserved to live as much as I did. I remember when I was a child feeding crushed crackers to ants, moving worms from the sidewalk after a rainfall so they wouldn’t dry up in the sun, and releasing a mouse that I trapped in my bedroom...many years before the practice of catch and release had ever been considered as an alternative to killing.

     The accusations against me were inaccurate, hurtful, and harmful to those I was trying to help. For two years I had been cross-posting animals in need,  driving legs of transports, and fostering unwanted cats and kittens. With the help of another woman, I had been trying to save the animals at a high intake/high kill rural shelter that listed only a handful of its animals on the shelter’s Petfinder site and killed every animal in the shelter every week. We were having great success. Even though neither of us lived near the shelter, with the miracle known as the internet, we were able to spread the word about the conditions at this shelter and the animals in need. Others joined in our efforts and within a short period of time the kill rate at the shelter decreased dramatically. All that changed in a moment.

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

~ William Shakespeare

      The allegations made by one person whom I had never met spread like wildfire via the internet that I had used to help save lives. I was not given an opportunity to defend myself and my efforts to help the animals who were on the shelter’s new kill list were greatly hindered. I was banned from other groups, people blocked my emails, and anyone who attempted to defend me was treated like pariah. The following week EVERY animal at the high kill shelter was killed - puppies, kittens, cats, and dogs - fifty-eight precious, innocent lives. Their only crime was being in the wrong shelter at the wrong time. They were collateral damage. All of those animals died needlessly because of the allegations made by one person who had never met me, knew nothing about me, and who chose to condemn me for reasons unknown based on her own preconceptions and misconceptions. There was no evidence to support the accusations and none of the people who read the posts and emails about me made any effort to substantiate the claims. I had never been to the shelter or town where it was located, had never been in contact with the boarding facility where I had supposedly abandoned dogs, never threatened anyone, never lied to anyone, and would never surrender or return an animal to a shelter.

A truth that's told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent. 

~ William Blake

     Every week I receive  emails about someone who has been designated “Do Not Rescue, Do Not Adopt, or Do Not Transport." I read the emails I receive and the messages posted to groups...and I put them in a personal file for future reference. I never cross-post them. I believe the majority of the people being accused probably deserve the designation...they were neglectful, irresponsible, abusive, or intentionally cruel. Because of their actions animals were placed in dangerous situations or died. Most of the time the person who sent out the initial warning had personal contact with the person being accused, included proof to support the facts alleged, and the victims, helpess animals, had suffered actual harm. Unfortunately, because of my experience, the messages sent to me will not be forwarded, posted or cross-posted. Others will have to pass on the warnings. Wickedness in the form of false accusations had come my way and, as a result, there are some things I will not do, even if it may prevent harm or save lives. I know firsthand that actions may have unintended consequences.

   And what was the fate of the four dogs pulled from the kill shelter? Were they returned to the shelter? Did I abandon them at a boarding facility? Were they harmed in any way? No. I fostered them for five days and then helped transport them. All went on to find rescues and forever homes. One of the dogs was pregnant and had her puppies in a safe place. The four dogs who were the subject of this tale had happy outcomes, unlike the fifty-eight who were forgotten and left to die in the kill shelter. No one made any effort to save them, least of all my accuser.

Your torments call us like dogs in the night. And we do feed, and feed well. To stuff ourselves on other people's torments. And butter our plain bread with delicious pain ~ Mr. Dark in Something Wicked This Way Comes

(Book by Ray Bradbury and movie with the same title)


A Cricket on the Hearth

Posted on September 30, 2011 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)


Yesterday I performed one of the tasks that I always postpone as long as possible...bringing in the plants. Every year my house plants go on a mini-vacation in the backyard and spend the long, hot days of summer nestled under trees and bushes, flourishing in the humidity and brightening my patio. It is a vacation for me as well, because I am freed from the task of watering...unless the weather doesn’t cooperate. The house always looks empty without the houseplants, but I soon become accustomed to the uncluttered look of my home and, since I spend many hours outdoors, I get to enjoy seeing my plants in a different setting.

      As most gardeners know, the rule of thumb is to bring houseplants back inside one month before you turn the heat on. In Kentucky, this usually means late September/early October. Before the plants can come back into the house, they must be sprayed to remove insects that may have taken up residence in the dirt or leaves, dirt must be removed from the sides and bottoms of pots, dead or ragged leaves must be removed, and if necessary, plants must be repotted. The process takes several hours and then the hardwork begins of carrying many heavy pots into the house and finding the perfect location for them.  All went well yesterday and the majority of my plants are inside, although some are in temporary locations. Every year I rearrange the plants like furniture since some have died, some have increased in size, and I always acquire a few new ones that I couldn’t resist while perusing the aisles at local garden stores.


      This morning when I woke up I heard a familiar sound in the living room - a cricket on the hearth. Its chirping was incessant. I assume that it was overlooked in one of the plants that I carried into the house yesterday. It reminds of the days when Napolean our chameleon was still alive and the crickets we purchased as food for him would seranade me. The chirping crickets would remind me of the long summer nights shared with my family, lightning bugs, and cicadas. The songs of the caged crickets were always bittersweet to hear because I knew that their days were numbered.

     Most common male crickets have four calling songs. The one I heard early this morning, and continue to hear, is a loud calling song to attract females. Crickets also have a courtship song, a mating song, and a fighting chirp. Depending upon where you live and what you believe, a cricket on the hearth is considered to be a portent of what is to come. Some people claim it foreshadows death, while others believe having a cricket in your home is the luckiest thing in the world. In some South American countries, it is a sign of impending rain or, depending upon the color of the cricket, illness, money or pregnancy. In China, crickets are considered lucky and kept in cages.

     My resident cricket has a loud chirp. I can hear his song in every room of the house. A loud song is a sign of good things to come. I will wait to see what this day brings.

When the moon shall have faded out from the sky, and the sun shall shine at noonday a dull cherry red, and the seas shall be frozen over, and the icecap shall have crept downward to the equator from either pole . . . when all the cities shall have long been dead and crumbled into dust, and all life shall be on the last verge of extinction on this globe; then, on a bit of lichen, growing on the bald rocks beside the eternal snows of Panama, shall be seated a tiny insect, preening its antennae in the glow of the worn-out sun, the sole survivor of animal life on this our earth.~ William Jacob Holland


The Death of Common Sense

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


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.- - 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.



The Last Butterflies

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


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


It's Not Fair!

Posted on September 18, 2011 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)


Anyone who is a parent or has been in a position where they have to deal with children is familar with the phrase - “It’s not fair!” The grass is always greener somewhere else and someone always has a bigger piece of the pie. Unfortunately, it is one of the harsh realites of life that we don’t always get what we want or deserve.

     My daughter is employed as a teacher at an "at risk" high school, her first “real” job since graduating from college in May. Even as a young adult, she is still having those “It’s not fair” days. Every week she calls home with some new problem, crisis or complaint...the long hours she works; the time and expense of the commute to her school which is located outside the county where she lives; the low compensation she receives...which is much less than the salary being paid to her roommates who are teachers employed at schools within the county; the fact that she has no free time and no life between teaching, preparing for classes, and going to graduate school at night; the high cost of rent for an apartment in a nice, safe area. My daughter isn’t seeking advice and she isn’t really complaining. She is just having a difficult time making the transition from college student to the real world and accepting the fact that life isn’t always fair.

     I am constantly reminded of the inequities that exist in the real world.  Every day, as I post dogs and cats on the website and cross-post them on Facebook, I realize that the outcome for most of these poor unwanted creatures is determined by something over which they and we have no control...the state, city, and shelter at which they are located.  Is the state forward thinking or in the dark ages?  Is the area rural or urban? Is the shelter high kill, low kill or no kill?  Does the shelter director really care about animals or is it just a job? Do they make an effort to save as many animals as possible? Are they willing to work with rescues and volunteers? Is the shelter open to the public and do they allow adoptions?  Do people in the community support the shelter?  Do they kill every animal every week as a matter of policy or do they wait until the shelter is full? How long is the mandatory hold time? Do they immediately kill owner surrenders or do they give them an opportunity to find a new home? Too many ifs.

I have always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end.  ~Mahatma Ghandi


     The fact that a dog or cat is in a shelter where chances for adoption or rescue are limited and that the same dog or cat would have more time or opportunties in a different shelter, area, county or state is something which we can't change. However, there are things we can do to make a difference:

1. ADOPT and save a LIFE!   

2.  SPAY/NEUTER your dog and/or cat.


4.  DONATE money and/or supplies to a SHELTER or RESCUE.

5.  SPONSOR an animal at a shelter, rescue or sanctuary.

6.  FOSTER a dog or cat at a SHELTER or at a RESCUE.

7.  SUPPORT and promote animal protection LEGISLATION.

8.  EDUCATE your family and friends about humane treatment of animals.

9.  JOIN an animal related ORGANIZATION.

10.  Offer to DRIVE a leg of a TRANSPORT.

11. Act RESPONSIBLY!  Adopting a dog, cat, or any animal is a LIFELONG commitment.

12.  RECOMMEND  the HELP ME- CENTRAL website to a friend, post to a group, and/or cross-post! ~ One seemingly simple act may save a life!



State of Wonder

Posted on September 17, 2011 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)


I recently read the book “State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett. The story focuses on a doctor/researcher who is sent to Brazil to  gather information about the progress being made in the development of a new drug in a remote area of the Amazon jungle. This character is also sent to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a colleague who had previously made the same journey. What intrigued me about the book wasn’t the characters or the plot line, but the descriptions of that part of the world... intense rainstorms, lifestyles vastly different from our own, and the tremendous variety of people, plants and animal life in the Amazon jungle.  To those of us who feel stressed by problems that are really minor irritations, who are inconvenienced by changes in the weather, or who are annoyed by mosquitoes that disrupt their enjoyment of the outdoors, the book is a real eye opener.  What we consider as hardships...the loss of electricity during a storm, a plugged-up drain, the long line at the grocery store, or poor cell phone reception...are trivial compared to the harsh realities of life in other parts of the world.

     We have lost our connection with nature. Too many people look at the world as being created for humans and forget about the other forms of life that share our planet.  We pollute the water, strip the mountains and forests, destroy habitat, and kill for pleasure or personal gain...all in the name of progress, to enhance our life styles, and to give us short-term benefits that can't be sustained without further destruction of the environment. Profit, greed, and selfishness have become the gods of modern man. We have  forgotten that everything is interrelated and that by destroying one thing we set off a chain reaction with unintended and unanticipated consequences.

    We have also lost our sense of wonder.  We are often reminded to “stop and smell the roses,” but how many of us go about our daily actitivies without considering the varied forms of life that surround us? How many of us have the time or inclination to contemplate the wonders of nature, to consider the industriousness of an ant, or to watch the clouds as they float overhead?  One of my favorite activites is to sit in a chair near the small pond in my backyard with a dog on my lap and several at my feet. As I listen to the birdsong and REALLY look at all the life that surrounds me, my every day worries and complaints fade into the background. In those quiet moments I can almost imagine I hear the earth breathing.


The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.  ~Joseph Campbell


Questions & Answers About the Website

Posted on September 16, 2011 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)


Why have changes been made to the website?

     The website celebrated its 3rd birthday August 26, 2011 and at that time I deemed it necessary for it to undergo some changes.  I thought it needed a name change to reflect the fact that it encompasses more than just animals in Kentucky, and with that change it required a new look and new domain name.  I chose a notepage template because it was similar to the original template for the website, but not as cluttered. Both templates reflect my long time habit of making lists and writing notes to myself.  I asked for name suggestions for the revamped website and I liked many of the suggestions, but I settled on “HELP ME-CENTRAL” because it was the only one for which a domain name was available.    

Why a sunflower logo?     

     I am an avid gardener and I love flowers. The photo of the sunflower on the home page is a sunflower that I was able to successfully grow in my garden. Even though I plant sunflower seeds EVERY year, that particular sunflower is only one of two that made it past the sprout stage.  I chose a sunflower to represent the website because it exemplified what I was trying to achieve - a central site with information that could be used to solve problems. Sunflowers are cheerful flowers that are not only beautiful, but are also useful.

Why are many pages incomplete?

     I have many plans/ideas for the website, but not enough time, so I am contstantly constructing and reconstructing pages in parts. If a page is too outdated, I make it invisible. If the page contains enough usable information, I keep it online.

Why are many of the posts not updated?

    Again, not enough time and too much to do. Because the website contains a lot of information that is time sensitive, it constantly needs updating. I am only one person maintaining a large website and two Facebook pages. I also try to have a life away from the computer. I am constantly begging for help, and I have had a few offers, but when people discover how time consuming it is to maintain even one page, they seem to disappear. I try to include links in every post whenever possible, so visitors to the website can easily click on a link to find the most recent information available.

Why aren't all pleas posted on the website or on the Facebook pages?

     Many people send me emails and/or post pleas on the wall of the Facebook pages for me to cross-post.  At the moment I have 114 unread emails in my inbox - and that is for only one of my email addresses - and several posts on the walls of the Facebook pages that need to be re-posted.  I read every email and post...and I would love to post and cross-post everything I receive, but that just isn’t possible due to time constraints. As a result, I post /cross-post the oldest pleas first unless a plea indicates that time is of the essence. Sometimes pleas get overlooked and/or by the time I get around to posting them the problem has been resolved one way or another.

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.  ~Edward Everett Hale


Dropping Like Flies

Posted on September 15, 2011 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)


 I have often heard people use the phrase “dropping like flies,” but until recently I had never really considered what that meant. Last week I noticed that our house was being overtaken by flies. I’m not talking about the usual one or two flies that find their way inside when someone opens a door. We had SWARMS of flies and they were everywhere. They were caught in spiderwebs that I like to overlook in the corners of rooms and were crawling over window panes trying to find a way out. When I prepared meals, they crawled on the countertop and our usual evening routine of watching television was disrupted by our dogs making clumsy attempts to catch the flies that buzzed overhead.

     I have always been a catch and release type of person and the thought of killing anything, including flies, is something I didn’t want to contemplate, but eventually I realized that drastic measures had to be taken. I was convinced that something had died in one of the walls of our poorly insulated older home and that maggots were dining on the carcass, resulting in the fly infestation. My husband consulted with the experts at our favorite local hardware store and returned home with a can of something that supposedly would alleviate the problem without harming the dogs, cats, and humans in the household. 

     Our dogs were forced to spend some time in the backyard, while my husband sprayed every surface and crevice where a fly could possibly hide. After the fumes abated and I had washed every surface that could be contaminated by what I assumed to be poison, the dogs were allowed to return. It soon became apparent that the flies were dying. However, it wasn’t until the following day that they started to “drop like flies”. I began to feel like I was a character in a Grade B science fiction movie. I didn’t see any flies flying around, but every time I went into the kitchen I would find small flies lying on their backs with their tiny legs thrashing. I kept expecting one of the flies to speak and call out “Phillipe, Phillipe”... just like the main character/fly in the original “The Fly” movie when he became caught in a spider web. The fact that the dying flies were fairly small seemed to confirm my carcass/maggot theory.

     So what is the meaning and source of “Dropping like flies”? According to the Phrase Finder “The origin of this phrase isn't known. It is clearly a simple allusion to the transitory and fragile nature of an insect's life.” http/


I wish no living thing to suffer pain. ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

      I'm sorry that the flies had to meet an untimely end. I believe that everything has a purpose, even a fly that has a lifespan of only 22 days. Why do I feel regret about killing an insect that seemingly serves no other function than to carry disease and serve as food for something higher up in the food chain...while there are those who can shoot a dog, drown a cat, or abandon animals with no more thought than swatting a fly? What is lacking in some of those we proclaim to be the highest form of life?



Posted on September 13, 2011 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)


Three months ago, one of my Scottish Terriers was diagnosed with cancer of the lower jaw. The diagnosing veterinarian advised me to immediately euthanize Ballantine. He said that the cancer had progressed too far (even though Bally had been given a clean bill of health two weeks earlier!), there was no treatment, no hope, and Bally’s demise would be swift and painful. I almost said yes...please end Bally’s suffering!...but then a little voice in my head told me to sleep on the advice before making a decision. The next morning my husband retrieved Bally from the vet’s office and I spent the next week frantically seeking information, advice, and hope.  Bally subsequently received a referral to the veterinary clinic at Ohio State University, underwent surgery to remove her lower jaw, and today she is a survivor, living with cancer...with a good quality of life.*  Every day with Bally is a gift.

     Some people have questioned my decision. After all, Ballantine is "just" a dog.  Why spend money on one most likely terminal dog when there are millions of animals in need? "Every year, between six to eight million dogs and cats enter U.S. animal shelters; Between four to five million of these animals are euthanized because there are simply not enough homes.  The animals killed in our shelters each day include kittens and puppies that never had a chance, adults, seniors, purebreds, owner drop-offs and strays.  Many shelters are so full that any animal that is an owner surrender is immediately "put to sleep".  The number of animals killed each year in shelters does not include animals that die on our streets and in our neighborhoods due to abandonment, injury, starvation, or neglect."*

We ought not to treat living creatures like shoes or household belongings, which when worn with use we throw away. ~Plutarc

#25  Female 4-5 year old Beagle Mix - PUT TO SLEEP

     Every day I post and cross-post animals in need on this website and on Facebook...dogs, cats, and other animals who have been abandoned, abused, neglected, and/or surrendered to kill shelters.  I post pleas from shelters hoping to find foster homes, adopters, rescues, or sponsors for animals that will be euthanized if no one steps forward, pleas from rescuers who have gone into debt trying to save animals on death row or in need of  medical treatment, and requests from people who need to re-home animals because of circumstances out of their control.  Many days I lose hope and think all of the time I have spent online has been wasted and futile. There are just too many animals in need and not enough people who care. 

     During several of my visits to the OSU clinic I sat in the waiting room and watched  people come in with their cats and dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages, and breeds.  Some of the animals were healthy, some looked like they had undergone treatment of some sort, some looked ill, some were missing limbs, but all of them had something in common...they were accompanied by someone (more often than not an entire family) who loved them. They were not "just" dogs and cats, but family members. I had refused to give up on Ballantine because she was an important part of my life, and from what I observed in the waiting room, I am not alone in my feelings.

"Hazel & puppies 319174 Pit Mix Female 1 yr ~ Hazel was at the shelter for at  least two week before she gave birth, and you could tell her heart was broken. SHE WAITED TO BE RESCUED BUT NO ONE CAME.   Her babies were still born/deformed. Hazel (mom) was sick and suffering. All were euthanized. RIP."

     And this is what I find difficult to reconcile. What is the difference between the people who love animals, who consider the non-humans in their household to be family members, and the people in our society who view animals as things to be used, abused, and  expendable? Why do some people spend much of their time and money trying to save animals while others don’t search or care when one of their dogs or cats goes missing, think nothing of dumping an animal at a kill shelter or on the side of a road when mostly likely their actions will result in death, or think there is nothing wrong with leaving a dog  in a hot car or outside on a chain without food, water, shelter or companionship?

"TAZ Pit Bull Terrier Medium Adult Male  EUTHANIZED - RIP   Sadly with the Pound flooding today, any dog showing aggression had to be put to sleep, as there was no place to move them. These are the days we hate. We had a dog that LOVED people, but not other dogs so much. Because of this and his breed mix, nobody would show interest in him for adoption or rescue. He wagged his tail and gave kisses until his dying breath. We're sorry the human race let you down, friend. "

     I hope that someday people can understand it's not "Just A Dog." It's the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "Just a man or woman."  ~Unknown

     Some days I have to step away from my computer because the sadness, frustration, and anger are overwhelming.  When I receive an update that a dog or cat has been rescued or adopted, it is a small victory, but it is the ones we couldn’t  save who haunt our days and dreams...and who give us the motivation to post one more animal or cross-post one more plea.