Friday, August 27, 2010

Animal Heaven - Part I

This post is presented in two parts because it is much too long to read at one sitting. I do hope you will read it all the way through; the message is worth it. Thank you for stopping by. Please, please feel free to comment - I love to hear what my readers have to say!

If there is a Heaven I know just what I want to do for eternity. When I arrive at the gate and the gatekeeper hands out assignments, I hope he/she sends me to be the assistant of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is legendary for his love and dedication to animals. This morning as I sat in my own little heaven, surrounded by my menagerie of pets, I knew that to be among animals and to be responsible for their care would be a job I could do forever. In Heaven the animals would never suffer, there would be plenty of love and food galore, and none would ever want for anything. I wish it were the same here on earth.

I shield myself from exposure to sad things when it comes to animals; that means I don’t go to animal shelters and I turn the channel when ads or programs show abused animals. I step up, however, when I’m confronted with an animal in need. I have come to the rescue of more animals in my lifetime than I can count. It started as a young child when I came across a nest of baby birds or rabbits. In my naiveté I assumed because the mommy was gone the babies had been abandoned. I would take them home and try to care for them only to have them die. That was my first lesson in letting nature do her job without interference – sometimes. Nature is both giving and cruel, as are people, and without help, sometimes the weakest become the most vulnerable and suffer at the hands of both. This was never more apparent to me then a recent trip through the magnificently beautiful, yet harsh land of the Four Corners region of the United States.

On my way to Mesa Verde National Park I stopped at a McDonalds for a break. There was a black lab dog running through the parking lot. Suddenly I heard both a motorbike and barking and when I looked up I saw the dog chasing the bike as it headed out of the lot. Coming in was an SUV, which the dog ran headfirst into; the sound of impact was loud. The dog ran off and I hoped it was okay; needless to say watching it was hard on me. When I headed into the restaurant I saw the dog; it was sitting next to its apparent owner. “Sir,” I said, “your dog just got hit by a car!” His response shocked and disgusted me, “That’s okay, its happened before. It’s a good lesson for him.” The dog looked okay but I know he had to be injured. As there was nothing more I could do I walked away but have thought about that poor creature many times since. My next encounter was just as difficult for me to forget.

Stopping at a gas station I encountered around seven adult dogs sitting in the bay areas. They were skinny and panting; some I could see were nursing mothers. They were obviously looking for handouts so of course I complied giving each of them a bit of beef jerky. I wasn’t as worried about them as I knew they were old enough to fend for themselves, especially when fools for animals like me happened by. It was the next stop on my way back home that has caused me the most distress both emotionally and financially.

It was by chance that I stopped at one of the many remote outposts where the Native People set up plywood booths to sell their wares. When I let my own dogs out for a stretch I soon lost sight of them. “Where are my dogs?” I asked aloud. A young girl behind a counter said, “They are trying to play with this abandoned puppy.” Uh oh. Those are words that I can’t hear. “May I see?” I asked. Under the stand was a small, frightened pup. I immediately picked it up and held it close. I soon learned that wasn’t such a good idea as upon close inspection I discovered what a poor state the pooch was in: he was loaded, I mean loaded with ticks. From the inside of his ears to every crevice of his body those loathsome parasites were attached. His eyes were crusty as was his shoddily-docked tail.

Picture taken just after rescue on 8-8-10
Upon hearing the words abandoned puppy I already knew I would be taking the animal with me to find a home for it, but when I realized what condition it was in I panicked a bit. How would I transport it in my packed car? The ticks alone, not to mention worry about disease, caused me to rethink my decision. But I knew I could not leave him; there was no way that was an option. It took a bit of thinking but I acted on instinct and did the best I could under the circumstances.

I carry with me Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap, a natural castile soap infused with pure peppermint oil. I asked one of the vendors if anyone had both a bucket and a box. Luckily someone had both. I could see both disdain and compassion on the faces of the people as they watched me go to work. I bathed the puppy hoping the soap would dislodge most of the ticks. Unfortunately, I found I had to remove them by hand, a job I hated doing. But I was determined and just did it. Satisfied I had many of the larger ones off and hoping the soap would work on the others I dried the puppy and placed him in a box lined with paper and towel. I worried about the ride home which would take about four hours. I placed box and all in the very back of my car and set off; stopping once at a store to get food that when presented to the puppy was wolfed down. As difficult and nerve-wracking as the trip was, we made it home. My daughter, another animal caregiver, was waiting with flea and tick shampoo, as well as tweezers and when I handed her the puppy, she picked up where I left off. We weren’t out of the woods yet.

Still worried about the ticks and illness, I kept the puppy outside in a secure area away from our house and pets. The next morning he went to the veterinarian. I explained to the vet that rescue was something I did on a regular basis, meaning I spend a lot of money I can’t afford to spend and that I would need to be very conservative in the treatment. I found a sympathetic ear (a rarity) and considered myself lucky to be charged only $140.00. The treatment included a bath, hand-picking ticks ranging in size from minute to engorged, fluids for severe dehydration, and deworming. When I brought the little guy home, and for the next week, he seemed to thrive on several small meals a day and the company of our pack, both human and canine. One week to the day of his rescue, however, he stopped eating and drinking and became lethargic. The next four days were touch-and-go as to whether his valiant effort to survive would work.

Fearing he was carrying the dreaded dog disease of Parvo or distemper I kept him isolated. I left him alone for the first day, not forcing any food or liquid on him, taking him out to urinate and see if diarrhea followed. Thankfully it didn’t.

Feeling very unwell 8-17-10
By the third day he was on Pedialyte® for rehydration but felt he needed more fluids than I could provide. Another trip to the vet and a decision came next. The vet that first saw the puppy was off and the one that examined him showed little compassion for the situation. All I wanted was for the puppy to be placed on fluids to give it a boost. The estimate to do so was $233.00. I declined and took him home to carry on my own treatment and hope for the best. My instincts and experience paid off.

I was pretty sure the puppy was not stricken with a disease; he showed none of the aggressive symptoms. Rather, I believed that the procedures he was subjected to were too much for his malnourished and weak body to process. I was right. By the fourth day I incorporated food along with the liquids. He had no interest in eating so using a syringe and liquefied dog food, along with the high-calorie food supplement Nutri-Cal, I force fed him. By the evening of the fourth day he was perking up. Although his body has suffered (you can see his rib and hip bones), I knew if I progressed slowly he just might make it. By morning he was spry, playfully chasing a ball and our dogs and cats. He ate brown rice and cooked chicken all on his own.

Feeling much better and ready to play 8-26-10
With a lot of small meals and lots of love and exercise, I think we’ll have a healthy, happy puppy on our hands. This, of course, is the last thing I need! With the number of dogs and cats (many of them “fixed” ferals), and a pig, I don’t need another mouth to feed or dog to care for, but I am not sure I can part with one whose story I am so wrapped up in. So, I’ve done what I do best and came up with a way to use this opportunity for good.


Animal Heaven - Part II

This is part two of Animal Heaven.  To read part one, click here

About five years ago I incorporated a non-profit in Nevada: Acres of Animals, Inc. My intent was to provide a sanctuary for animals that were abused and neglected or to care for them until a suitable home could be found. I never followed through, however, in getting the non-profit tax status filed. I am rectifying that and have started the process of doing so now. That way I can solicit donations and do fundraising to help the animals I just know are in my future that need rescuing. Once in place I plan on using this happy, healthy puppy to help me educate and inform.

Going to places like the Indian reservation and other poverty-stricken communities, Acres of Animals will provide services to help people treat their animals more humanely. To that end, education is a must and I know just where to start: the young people. Perhaps they are like I used to be, innately drawn to animals and their desire to help them is instinctual. Convince the young people and they will elicit the change that is needed.

So I will ask forgiveness of my faithful blog readers. I promised myself I would never use my blog as a way to generate income using ads to do so. But I think this experience warrants a change of mind. I will at some point in the near future provide a link to accept donations on behalf of the animals I take in. Anyone interested in providing a good home to one, please let me know.

My grandson, Aiden, with me at the time of the puppy’s rescue thought long and hard on what to name him. He came up with the name, “Lucky,” because he reasoned, “He was lucky we came by when we did.” I’m pretty sure that we are the lucky ones.
Initiation into thePack
Video taken in 8-27-10, 11 days after rescue
In the video is "Lucky" with Candy (pit bull I think reminds the puppy of his mother, Mya and Ivy.  Another dog, Grubb, is not interested in welcoming the new addition) 


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time To Rethink Our Approach to Life

Things are pretty tough out there. When the economic crisis first hit and the subsequent months that followed, my family was not hit too hard. We have been lucky because we’ve pretty much lived a modest lifestyle for years, some of it due out of necessity but much because my husband and I just didn’t buy into the commercial aspect of consumerism.

We have not had credit cards for over ten years and much to the dismay of those we share this with have not needed them.

Our utility bills are small; we have a high electric bill in the summer months here in Las Vegas but other than that we don’t use heat in the winter, we have a well so don’t pay for water and have no natural gas on our property. I can’t tell you how NICE it is not to have a mailbox full of bills spilling out.

We have a few debts that take a chunk of our monthly income but before the downturn we were able to put a bit away and still live comfortably.

That said, we are now feeling the pinch and while there is no need yet to panic we are starting to examine our situation and consider where else we can adjust, be it cut out or bring in more. Trouble is, there isn’t much wiggle-room; we’ve pretty much cut everything to bare bones and frankly there aren’t any jobs that are taking on new hires. I teach college and before summer had enough classes to teach to bring in an adequate income. The summer was lean but I expected fall to pick up. Not so; enrollment is down so I’ll be lucky to come away with two classes, which isn’t enough to matter. I have a couple of contract prospects but nothing has been finalized.

Where’s the money going to come from? Our biggest expense is our house payment, as it is for most people. After contacting our mortgage company we discovered that according to them our financial situation is not dire enough to warrant a reduction, even a temporary one in our payments. I am not one to get cynical and point the blame but really, would they rather we become one of the many desperate people instead of giving us a leg up? Their unwillingness to help, other than to say, “Perhaps one of you can get a second job? How about asking the church to help?” is offensive.

My belief in living on land and becoming virtually self-sustaining is even rubbing off on my husband and he’s figuring out just how we can manage it and live as debt-free as possible in the coming years. All those books on my shelf that I’ve collected over the years: Putting Food By (Janet Greene, et al) and Producing Your Own Power (Carol Hupping Stoner, among others, are going to come in handy is my guess. 

It's been my secret wish to live like this all along.  I long for the days when we lived on farms, produced all our needs required: food, soap, labor that I find myself somewhat grateful for this opportunity to put my dream life into practice. 

I'll let you know how we are coming along.  In the meantime, best wishes to all of you in keeping your heads above water during this uncertain time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ADHD and My Family Tree

Anyone who knows me knows I suffer from a pretty acute case of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I’ve been this way all of my life; of course when I was a child they didn’t have a name for it other than to refer to me as “hyper.”

 For the most part the disorder serves me well: I am a master multi-tasker and can do several things at once. Sometimes, however, I get so bogged down with my ambition that I don’t do any of things I attempt well. Right now I have so many ideas floating in my head and started that I don’t know which one to tackle first, complete, and move on.

The one project that is taking over my life right now that I enjoy so much I could do every day all day is my family history research.

My research began when I was seeking information about my mother and father. For those of you that have followed my story since I began this blog will remember that I was only a year old when they died so I know nothing about them. Going in search of documents and pictures, news articles and reports, interviewing people who knew them was a way for me to discover who my parents were. That initial foray into family history was opening a Pandora’s Box for me; once I started it I couldn’t stop. Since then I have researched the family tree and connected the dots from Batavia, New York to Sicily, Germany and Canada. My research becomes so involved I forget to eat, the house gets messy and the work that pays our bills gets placed on the back burner until a deadline looms. I’m hooked on genealogy research.

This week I am on a quest, following the trail of Charles Oberlander, world traveler, adventurer, humanitarian. I haven’t quite figured out Charles’ connection to me: he might be my great-grandfather but I’m still working on it. What I do know is he lived a very colorful life. He tried to advocate on behalf of Chinese being mistreated by the Mexican and American governments back in 1892. He traveled to Cuba.

Charles in Cuba

I don’t know yet what he was doing there but I am going to find out. His father Alexander Oberlander and his brother Fredolin were pastors in Syracuse, New York for the Evangelical Lutheran Church; his brother Oscar was a practicing physician. He was one of fourteen children. Sounds like a fascinating story, doesn’t it? And I’ve only scratched the surface with Charles Oberlander; what will I discover with his siblings, parents, and his own offspring?

That’s just the Oberlander branch of my tree. There are others to work on, some I have done extensive work on: Gioia, Gengo, Scibetta; and others I am just beginning to research: Wardynski, Wleklenski.

Wardynski/Wleklinski Family

Grandmother and Grandfather Gioia

I haven’t even really started on my husband’s line yet, but that, too, is an amazing tale. My husband's ancestor is Charles B. Mecum, one of the survivors of the Death Valley 49ers, those brave souls who traversed the harsh desert landscape and made it out alive back in 1849. He is written about in books on the subject.

So I parcel out my time, trying to fit in all my responsibilities such as housework, work-work, and this hobby. Thank Goodness I am an ADHD; it’s the only way I can get all of this accomplished.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Judge Not Others, If You Can Help It

Like all young people on the verge of adulthood, I questioned the teachings I received from authority figures, the adults in my life responsible for my upbringing and education.

I went through the normal transition of discovering for myself my views on things that would transform me into the woman I would become. I often wonder just how and why I came to the various ideas and viewpoints that I am comfortable with, or at times passionate about. What I believe in comes to me from my fifty-years of experience, contemplation, peer influence, and empathy for others. My opinions and views are my own and my right as they are for each and every one of us humans.

Speaking my mind or sharing my opinions is something I have never been very comfortable with.

It is my opinion, and here I am contradicting the last sentence, that everyone has a right to their opinions and no one has the right to judge or condemn others for their personal beliefs. That is why I do not espouse on religion, politics, or lifestyle. To each his own. Unfortunately, not everyone is of the same mind. It is their strong belief that they must convince anyone who does not live according to their morals and values to change their ways.

I have learned over the course of my years that keeping quiet might prevent confrontation, but speaking up is necessary at times. I have met that challenge over the years and although I have lost some people who cannot accept me as I am and disappointed others, I have no regrets about being true to my convictions.

By the same token, I have found that I have wanted to convince others to do it “my way.” Especially when it came to my children, I would tell them how things should be done, share with them my ideas about things with the hope they would follow suit, which of course did not happen. They, too, had to go through their transitory period and eventually come to their own conclusions. I admit there were times I pushed my ideas hard, especially when I believed I could save them from eventual heartache or worse, a major mistake. Through experience I have found that while I have some influence resulting in a like-mind, it didn’t happen because I forced my beliefs on them; rather it was by living my life based on my beliefs so that I became a model to my children and others. From that they picked up from me what would work for them and created their own ideas, values, and convictions. That is at it should be.