Mid-Month Marvels: Fostering Hope

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

I just love it when people think outside the box, and their workplace is supportive of that thought process. According to this article, back in 2018, Teresa Johnston had one such thought. As the Director of Sales in Home2 Suites outside of Biloxi, Mississippi, she noticed that many of the guests seemed lonely. This is an extended stay hotel, and having stayed in one myself for several months, I can attest to the fact that the loneliness in those places is palpable. The very corridors seem to be whispering, “I want to go home.”

So, Ms. Johnston began thinking of ways to make the guests feel more at home. What were they missing? One thing, she realized, was their pets. So she coordinated with the Humane Society of South Mississippi to have the hotel foster one dog at a time. The guests could play with the dog, walk it, or even have it spend the night in their room.

If a guest or employee fell in love with one of these dogs (and who wouldn’t?) they could adopt the pet right at the hotel with a 50 dollar adoption fee. Because of such encounters, the hotel’s “Fostering Hope” program has adopted out 60 dogs to date. This just proves my theory that home is where the dog is.

I’ve never been to Biloxi, but now I’m tempted.


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“I Bought a Dog Today.”

Dear reader, take heart. All is not lost. There is still kindness and decency in this world. Despite all our divisiveness and infighting and moral decay, the milk of human kindness still flows. The story below is a true one. The good deed was done by a friend of my husband’s, who gave me permission to share it with you, as long as he remained anonymous. The picture is not of the actual dog in question.

It’s important to share the good news, to remind us that now is not the time to abandon all hope. Love still wins. It’s still here.

For all of you out there who spread goodness in ways big and small, thank you.

I bought a dog today. I was taking the feral kitten we caught to the shelter today and there was an old man there trying to pick up his dog. He explained that he had been in the hospital and that his dog was there. He wanted to take it home. They explained to him that it had been there for a while and it was up for adoption. He said he just wanted to take him home. She said he would have to pay the adoption fee and expenses. She told him the cost and he said he couldn’t afford it. I bought a dog today.


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Black Dog Syndrome

For years now I’ve been hearing that black dogs, especially big ones, are far less likely to be adopted out of shelters than dogs of other colors. I’ve known several shelter employees and volunteers who swear this is true. It’s called Black Dog Syndrome, and several studies verify that it actually happens.

But just as many studies prove that it doesn’t. I hope it doesn’t. I hope our silly prejudices don’t extend even to the hair color of dogs. I must admit that of all the dogs I’ve owned in my lifetime, Quagmire has been the only black one. But I don’t think that’s due to any conscious effort on my part. It just seemed to work out that way.

But I will make this solemn vow: every dog I adopt from here on out will be one that is harder to place. Give us your three legged, your half blind, your greying muzzles, your black dogs yearning to breathe free! I will make my home the island of misfit dogs, two at a time, until I’m too old to care for myself or them.

Because we misfits need love, too.


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On Being Someone’s Person

My dog Quagmire is hysterically clingy. That’s partly due to his breeding—Dachshunds can be that way. But it’s also partly due to all that he’s been through in his life. He was found dirty and starving and wandering the streets. He spent a lot of time in dog rescue facilities, which, despite their best intentions, probably felt a lot like puppy prison to him. It’s got to be traumatic to be jailed when you’re innocent.

And then I adopted him. I became his person. Now, when I’m home, he sticks to me like glue. If I’m sitting, he’s on my lap or nestled under my arm pit. He even accompanies me to the bathroom. He sleeps curled beside me. If I roll over, he repositions himself for maximum body contact.

Mostly I love it. Sometimes it drives me nuts. It’s like I suddenly gained 18 pounds of furry fat.

But when you adopt a pet, you make a commitment. You are responsible for the health and safety of another living thing. You don’t get to take a day off. It’s like being a parent. If you cannot provide a child with constant love and security, then maybe you should not take on this lifelong task.

Once you tell someone or something that you will provide a forever home, you need to keep that promise. Ideally, you will do so happily. It’s okay to have your moments. We all do. But don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. The damage you cause will ripple outward.

And it will also say something extremely ugly about you.


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Adopting Older Pets

I just love puppies and kittens–when they belong to someone else. The chewing, the accidents, the level of hyperactivity is all just a bit much for me. No, give me a well-established dog or cat every time. I want a companion with a certain level of independence.

Another good thing about getting a full grown dog is you already know just how full grown he is going to be. No size surprises. And with both dogs and cats, it’s kind of nice to have a pet whose temperament is already evident.

And think about it. Here’s your chance to be a hero. It’s MUCH harder for shelters to place older animals with loving homes. Many of them die in these places for that very reason. Would you want to end your life in a cage, surrounded by other howling animals, scared and confused, with no one to love you? That’s my definition of hell.

And think of the huge deposit that would go into your karma bank! Somehow older pets seem more grateful for a forever home. It’s almost as if they know, on some level, that they just dodged the euthanasia bullet. (Quagmire, my hysterically clingy Dachshund that I adopted in his golden years, couldn’t agree more.) Older animals have a lot of love to give.

So if you’re thinking of getting a pet, don’t forget the seniors out there. They’re waiting for you. Calling your name. Crying out for help.


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Coming to the Rescue

I just had a long talk with my newest dog, Quagmire. Don’t panic. I’m not Son of Sam. I’m willing to acknowledge that the conversation was rather one-sided. But just by being the dog that he is, he was able to tell me quite a bit.

Before I adopted him, he was found dirty, terrified, and on the street. That’s no place for a little Dachshund. He had no microchip or collar, and although the rescue organization kept him for quite some time before putting him up for adoption, no one came for him. That astounds me, because in the short time I’ve had him in my life, I know that this dog is the pure embodiment of love. How could anyone not move heaven and earth to find him?

I will never know his whole story, but it’s clear that he’s been through a lot. I’m beginning to suspect there are health issues that we’ll have to contend with. And he’s the clingiest dog I’ve ever known. He has to sit in the bathroom when I take a shower, or else he’ll stand outside the door and cry. He sticks to me like glue. When I come home from work, he’s practically hysterical with joy. He likes to bury his little head in that space between my shoulder and my ear, deep under my hair.

I will always take good care of Quagmire. I’ll keep him as healthy as I can, and I will always make sure that he feels safe and loved. My life may not be perfect, but I’m going to make his as perfect as it can possibly be.

That’s one of the many joys of rescuing a pet—exercising the ability to give something the perfection that it deserves. Excellence often eludes us. As my mother loved to remind me, life isn’t fair. But when you take on a pet you have the power to give them heaven on earth. You are creating your pet’s entire world, and you can and should make it wonderful. That’s a heady feeling, and there’s no greater gift. For both of you.

“Get off the computer, mama, and give me some love.”

Baby Farming

“Yeah, she farms her kids off on other people all the time.”

I’ve heard that expression on more than one occasion in my life, but I never really gave it much thought. I always knew it wasn’t a compliment. For some reason I decided to look into it the other day, and I was horrified by what I found.

According to Wikipedia, baby farming was common in Great Britain, and to a lesser extent Australia, New Zealand and America in the late 1800’s. It all started in England in 1834 when the parliament, in its infinite wisdom, passed the Poor Law Amendment Act. This act basically took away the obligation of fathers of illegitimate children to pay any type of support. This really put women in desperate situations, because there was such a stigma to having a baby out of wedlock that they often could not find jobs. They weren’t even allowed in the work houses.

There was also no real regulated system of adoption at the time, and I suspect that abortion was mostly known as a route to painful death, so what you would see were advertisements in the paper. Either the mother would be asking for a caring family to take in a child, or else a family would advertise that they sought to give a child a loving home. For a fee.

It’s possible that this system started off with the best of intentions, but as the decades passed it became rife with corruption. People who wanted easy money would take in these children, and if they were at all disruptive they would dose them with opiates, called “Mother’s Helpers”, to shut them up. Here’s one brand.

mothers helpers

[Image credit: suboxoneassistedtreatment.org]

The more these products were used, the more the children became listless and apathetic and disinterested in food. Many would die of starvation. If the baby farmers had received a flat fee, they now had that money with no additional expense. If they took a weekly payment, many of them would send letters to the mothers, implying that the children were still alive so that the money would keep rolling in. Those types of farmers would change their addresses frequently so that they’d be harder to find.

At the most horrible end of the spectrum you find Amelia Dyer. She is actually the most prolific female serial killer in history, having killed off about 400 babies. It amazes me that she is not well known, but her story seems to have been covered over by the sands of time for most people. She was a baby farmer for decades, and probably would have gotten away with it if not for the fact that she disposed of a few of her victims in the river, and they were discovered. She buried many others in the back yards of the various houses in which she lived after having strangled them within minutes of bringing them to their new and “loving” home. There’s a rather upsetting documentary about her on Youtube.


Amelia Dyer. How desperate would you have to be to leave  your child with this stranger?

[Image credit: wikipedia.org]

Thanks to Ms. Dyer, a lot of laws have been drastically changed, and Baby Farming is a thing of the past. The next time I hear about someone farming off their children, I’ll realize that they most likely have no idea about the gruesome history of that comment. But it will still give me a chill.

The Pope and Higgs Boson: Too Much God to Digest all at Once?

So, we have a new Pope. That’s a load off. Not that I’m Catholic, mind you, but I think it’s never a good thing to have a vacancy for the position of God’s representative on earth, do you? He’s from Argentina, he’s chosen the name Francis, and he’s a Jesuit. All of these things are firsts, and for the Catholic Church, firsts are usually avoided, so this impresses me. And the fact that he was never a Hitler Youth is a big fat plus in my book. He’s also the first Pope in 600 years to have to deal with a Pope Emeritus, which can’t be easy, but so far he seems to be handling it with aplomb (a word I don’t get the opportunity to use very often).

During the great outpouring of admiration that we’ve all witnessed, you learn that he is a man of the people. He’s humble. He cares about the poor. He has held mass for the homeless and the prostitutes of Buenos Aires. He wants to be a populist Pope. Again, all wonderful things.

But I’m having a bit of trouble reconciling all of the above with what the Christian News Service says about him:

“In 2010, when Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, Cardinal Bergoglio encouraged clergy across the country to tell Catholics to protest against the legislation because, if enacted, it could ‘seriously injure the family,’ he said.

He also said adoption by same-sex couples would result in ‘depriving [children] of the human growth that God wanted them given by a father and a mother.’”

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips says that until now, Pope Francis’ conservative views on birth control, homosexuality and women’s roles in the Church have not made him popular with his relatively progressive Jesuit brothers. That, to me, is a bad sign. If you are a steadfast conservative within a progressive group, what does this say about your ability to be a Pope who listens to Catholics in the modern world, particularly ones with diverging viewpoints?

How can you be a Pope of the people and shun homosexuals? These are our brothers, our sisters, our nieces, our nephews. Are you saying that pedophilia is more acceptable? It certainly seems to be in many areas of the church. And how can you view women as subordinate in the 21st century? Our mothers, our sisters, our daughters. And most important of all, how can you preach to prostitutes and yet believe that birth control is a sin? Isn’t that tantamount to a death sentence for them?

It will be interesting to see what message he brings to those countries in Africa where entire populations are on the verge of extinction due to AIDS. When it has been proven, time and time again, even by your own priests, that abstinence is not going to work, it’s time to wake up and move into the present. But that is probably way too much to ask of a man who is 76 years old, and a religion that is at least 1900 years old.


In other news, the very next day in CERN, they announced that they’re confident they’ve discovered the God particle, also known as the Higgs Boson. According to Hayley Dixon of the Telegraph, “Finding the Higgs plugs a gaping hole in the Standard Model of physics, the theory that describes all the particles, forces and interactions that make up the universe.” That, my friends, is HUGE. In my opinion, Higgs Boson is where God and science intersect. And I firmly believe that they can intersect, if you have an open mind.

According to CBS News, it is “the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.”

WHY ISN’T EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT THIS? I’m stumped. I guess the building blocks of the universe got overwhelmed in the news cycle that is Pope Francis. And that’s a shame, because if you have any faith whatsoever, both of these events will have a sweeping impact upon you, whether you’re aware of it or not.

Or maybe it’s just that we mere mortals can only digest so much God in one sitting. Either way, hold on to your hats. This is going to be a bumpy, albeit fascinating, ride.