The Great Rescue Dog Migration

More and more southern rescue dogs are being sent northward. Here’s why.

American history is riddled with stories about domestic migration. It’s a rare citizen who lives their whole life in the place they were born these days. Humans relocate for many reasons. They move to industrialized areas from agricultural areas in order to gain employment. They move to avoid slavery or oppressive laws. They move to avoid high crime rates and high taxes. They relocate to secure better education for their children. They flee parts of the country that no longer offer affordable housing. When the political culture of an area becomes unpalatable, or the intolerance becomes unbearable, they vote with their feet.

Humans are nomadic by nature. We go West, young man. We head for the coast. We go North to Alaska. We retire in Florida. It will be interesting to see the ripple effects of the increased opportunities to work remotely. It’s a safe bet that we’ll see more people living where they want to as opposed to living where they have to.

We come by this honestly. The first peoples were nomadic as well. And it is often said that we’re a nation of immigrants. Wild animals quite often migrate, too. They move with the weather or the food and water or the mating opportunities. It is the most natural thing in the world for a living creature to want to improve its lot in life.

But there is a new migration taking place in this country, and it is probably one of the very few good things to have come about, in part, due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It’s called Pet Transport, and it’s the relocation of rescue animals, the vast majority of which are dogs, from the Southern US to the North. Before these transports became commonplace, the kill rate at Southern shelters was obscenely high, sometimes as much as 70 percent.

There are many reasons for this abysmal statistic. Many Southern dog owners can’t afford to have their pets spayed or neutered, and they also struggle to care for them when they fall ill and therefore some pets are abandoned. The increased heat in the south means longer breeding seasons, and more issues such as heartworm disease and parvo. In rural areas, animals are often allowed to roam free, and are not exactly treated as members of the family. In some cases, animals aren’t spayed or neutered because of the mistaken impression that they won’t make good hunting dogs after that procedure, or people believe they will make great profits from puppy mills and wind up dumping puppies on the side of the road instead. This leads to rampant overpopulation and increased transmission of disease.

There always seem to be more dogs to adopt than there are people to adopt them in the South. When I moved from Florida to Washington State, I was quite surprised to realize that I didn’t see stray dogs everywhere. In Florida they ran around in packs. Here, I think I’ve seen 4 strays in 9 years. Total.

Recently, one of our dogs went to Rainbow Bridge, and we miss her terribly, but my dog Quagmire, in particular, was suffering from that loss, so we decided to adopt another dog. I had always wanted a Golden Retriever, but I quickly discovered that finding a dog is not easy in Washington. There were no rescue Goldens to be had. (Yet another thing that has been ripped off my bucket list against my will in recent years.)

But I quickly realized that, somehow, I always manage to adopt the best dog in the whole world anyway. And besides, mixed breeds tend to be healthier. So we looked at the websites of area shelters, and then went to my old standby,

Naturally, there were hundreds of dogs to choose from, but we wanted a young, female, larger breed dog, so that narrowed the search considerably.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of Pit Bull mixes out there, and you can read my thoughts on that particular breed here. Bottom line, Pit Bulls are a hard no from me.

I was starting to get really discouraged, because we just weren’t seeing any local rescue dogs that “spoke” to us. (Woof!) But I kept seeing notices for “Out of Town” dogs, and that’s when I learned about pet transport.

According to an article entitled “Rescue Network Sends Southern Puppies North”, this transport trend started because many dogs had been abandoned as their owners had to flee hurricanes. So a volunteer network cropped up to get these animals out of the path of the storms and their resulting destruction, and it was a huge success. Rather than being part of an ever-increasing southern shelter kill rate, these pets were rehomed to families up north.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, where there are so many people who responsibly spay and neuter their pets, there are usually more adopters than there are pets to adopt, which on the whole is a good thing for the dogs in question, but it makes it rather difficult for those of us who are looking to add a new furry family member to our household.

After reading up on pet transports via that article, and also on the Petfinder FAQ, I thought maybe we could look at dogs that are a bit farther afield than we had originally planned. It is important to work with a legitimate adoption agency to make sure you’re not getting caught up in a scam where they take your money and don’t produce the dog. But I trust Petfinder. Read their FAQ and it will tell you all the questions you need to ask before getting involved in this process.

We were lucky in that we found a rescue organization with an excellent reputation. Helping Paws Okanagan is an organization out of Canada that helps place dogs from Texas into homes in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They have a network of trusted foster families in Texas, and they work closely with shelters in Texas that are always full to bursting with dogs in need. They also use a transport company that takes excellent care of the dogs in question once they’re adopted by a northern family and need relocating.

Helping Paws also guarantees that your new pet is already given a clean bill of health by a Texas veterinarian, and all the dogs are vaccinated, spayed or neutered, microchipped and treated for parasites before they’re even sent to your home. They also give great advice on the best way of transitioning your new pet to reduce its stress.

And believe me, the trust has to go both ways. Helping Paws is very good at vetting humans, too. (See what I did there?) They require recommendations from your friends and also your family vet, as well as pictures of your living conditions, and phone interviews long before they’ll send a dog off to a new home. It’s quite clear that they genuinely care about animal welfare. That made me feel secure. So we were sold on the transport idea, and decided it was time to look at some out of town dogs.

That’s when we saw Ashley.

Who could resist such a uniquely beautiful dog? This is her puppy picture. She has grown a lot since then, but she still has that unusual grey coloring in front, and red in back, and the sweetest, yet most enthusiastic disposition you’ll ever see in a dog. At 50 pounds, we have to take the training seriously, or she’ll bowl us over if we’re ever standing between her and food. She is a kibble vacuum.

We got Ashley on April Fool’s Day, ironically enough, and we renamed her Coda. Quagmire is quite intrigued by her, but is still insisting on showing her who’s boss. I’m sure they’ll settle in in no time, but meanwhile they are only allowed to interact with supervision and for brief periods.

We are so grateful to Helping Paws Okanagan, and her foster family in Texas, and the vets there and here, and the transport company. They all took such good care of our girl. She’s been through a lot. She was found as a stray, wandering around in the county just east of Houston. Then she was in a pound with a high kill rate, then in a very patient foster home for many, many, many months, then she traveled about 2,300 miles to her forever home with us. None of this could have happened without a lot of really caring human beings that we’ll always think of fondly.

I’m sorry to say that many people are giving up pets that they acquired during COVID lockdown. That, along with a depressed economy, means rescue organizations are having a harder time placing pets than they ever have before. So, if you’re looking for a dog, now’s the time to step forward. I highly recommend Helping Paws Okanagan. Check out their available pets, and contact Lesley. If you’re a good match, I’m sure she’ll make it happen for you! She can be reached at

Even if you aren’t currently able to take care of a dog, this organization could sure use your support to continue doing their good works. Since they’re in Canada, donations from America won’t be tax deductible, but it’s still a worthy cause. Send your donations through Paypal, to that same email address above. Tell them Barb sent you! Your American dollars will stretch even further in Canada!

I’ll leave you with some pictures of our sweet Coda making herself at home. Now she can live happily ever after. Don’t you just love a happy ending?

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This News Will Give You Butterflies

For the past two years, monarch numbers have been on the rise. Let’s continue this trend!

One of my many travel dreams has been to visit central Mexico where the monarch butterflies migrate. Seeing their giant orange clusters overhead would be awe-inspiring, and it if I timed the trip around Halloween, it would also give me the opportunity to witness Día De Los Muertos in the many village cemeteries in that same region. It would be such a cultural and environmental treat to bear witness to these things.

So many travel dreams, so little time.

I had all but given up on this particular dream due to global climate change and other environmental disasters. The prevalent news in recent years about monarch butterflies has been that they’re fluttering towards extinction. It is upsetting to contemplate.

As we humans encroach on their habitat, there has been less milkweed for these butterflies to consume. Our overreliance on the weed killer called Roundup is destroying not only milkweed but a whole host of other native species, and it’s migrating into the food chain. (Please, please, PLEASE do not use Roundup! Ever!)

Then, add deforestation, roadside mowing, real estate development, and water diversion, and you present these creatures with some pretty insurmountable hurdles to fly over. And human-caused climate change, with its droughts, fires, and mega storms, has been a disaster for monarch populations as well.

But there is some moderately good news. For the past two years, the monarch numbers have been on the rise. The most recent count was 335,479 monarchs observed in the known overwintering sites in California and Arizona. That’s a stunning increase over the mere 2,000 counted two years ago. The next count was 250,000, which was exciting, but more than 335,000 is miraculous.

Unfortunately, monarch migration is still considered an endangered biological phenomenon. These recent counts, while encouraging, could be a minor blip in the statistics. These numbers can vary drastically from one year to the next. To maintain a stable population, we would need numbers to be in the low millions, preferably for ten years in a row.

There are ways we can help, though.

  • Do not use Roundup or insecticides. (EVER!!!)
  • Plant milkweed that is native to your area. Join me in purchasing seeds from Save Our Monarchs. They even provide ways to get free milkweed seeds from them, but if you can afford to pay, it will help their cause.
  • Only buy FSC certified wood for your construction projects. Illegal logging in Mexico is destroying monarch habitat. Certification by the Forest Stewardship Council ensures that you’re not purchasing wood from these forests.
  • Educate others about the plight of monarch butterflies.
  • Volunteer for the Monarch Count here.
  • Support all pollinators by joining the Xerces Society.

There’s still so much to do.

So, will I be taking the Mexican butterfly journey of my dreams anytime soon? Well… it’s complicated. I’m struggling with the concept.

Part of me thinks that if I ever want to see this migratory miracle, I should go now, because it probably won’t last much longer. (That’s also how I feel about seeing glaciers and islands that are barely above sea level.) It’s discouraging, feeling like you’re racing against a destruction clock to see the beauty of the natural world. But there is something to be said for bearing witness while one can. If that were all there was to it, it would lead me to think that I need to go sooner rather than later.


Tourism is one of the very things that is pushing these butterflies off the cliff. The oyamel forests of central Mexico get 150,000 visitors each year during monarch season. These people pollute. They trample the soil, they cause erosion and forest degradation. And more and more businesses are created to cater to that tourist trade, using up more resources and creating even more pollution. In our own special way, we are loving these butterflies to death.

So maybe I should set aside this dream permanently, for the sake of the butterflies. But then I won’t be able to blog about the experience and educate a wider audience. I don’t know. I’m so conflicted. Where should I draw the line? What do you think?


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Out of Eden Postponed

Paul Salopek must be the world’s most patient man.

I was practicing my daily self-torture by reviewing the numbers out of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. I realized that as of the time of this writing, there have been more than 1,900,000 reported deaths worldwide. That’s an horrific number, made even worse by the fact that it’s probably on the low side.

Suddenly I sat up straight in my chair, thinking, “My god. Where is Paul Salopek?”

I’ve blogged about Mr. Salopek a few times before. He’s the guy being sponsored by National Geographic to do the Out of Eden walk, and write dispatches along the way for our reading pleasure. His path follows the migratory route of humanity, and started in January, 2013.

He began his walk in Ethiopia, where humans first evolved. From there he went to Djibouti and crossed the Red Sea. That took 5 months. From there he spent 14 months walking through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. It took him a further 20 months to make his way through Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. From there he crossed the Caspian Sea and traveled along the Silk Road, through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. That took him 22 months. From Pakistan he went to India, and into Myanmar. That was a further 23 months, and then (insert sound of record scratch) he was stopped cold by the pandemic in March, 2020.

He’s been in Myanmar ever since. I was glad to see that he’s alive and well. At the time I wrote this, his latest dispatch was only a few days old. He’s passing the time by writing a book.

Salopek must be the world’s most patient man. Personally, as much as I adore travel, after about 12 days, I want to go home. For him, it’s been nearly 8 years, and he still has a long way to go. The entire journey was only supposed to have taken him 7 years.

His plan, from here, is to go up through Asia, across to Alaska, down the west coast of the United States, into Mexico and Central America, and then all along the West coast of South America, ending in Tierra del Fuego. But first he has to wait out this pandemic.

What must it be like, being away from loved ones that long, and only having the friends you meet along the road as you’re passing through? What must it be like to live with only what you can carry on your back? What happens to your concept of stability and permanence and home?

That, and his feet must be killing him.

Just as with the rest of us, I’m sure this pandemic took Salopek by surprise. But he seems to be coping with it. In the meantime, he has a lot of fascinating stories to share. I highly recommend that you check out the Out of Eden website and enjoy his journey vicariously just as I have done.

Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!

I Am My Mother’s Mother

I come from a long line of strong, risk-taking women.

Recently, I watched an amazing movie, Life Itself. I highly recommend it. It’s a multi-generational tale, and it shows how the actions of one generation impacts the next and the next and the next. We all are intertwined, part of a legacy. We each carry with us the choices of our forefathers. Here’s a quote from one of the characters in the movie, Elena Dempsey-González:

I’m not sure whose story I have been telling. I’m not sure if it is mine, or if it’s some character’s I have yet to meet. I’m not sure of anything. All I know is that, at any moment, life will surprise me. It will bring me to my knees, and when it does, I will remind myself that I am my father. And I am my father’s father. I am my mother. And I am my mother’s mother. And while it may be easy to wallow in the tragedies that shape our lives, and while it’s natural to focus on those unspeakable moments that bring us to our knees, we must remind ourselves that if we get up, if we take the story a little bit farther… If we go far enough, there’s love.”

This got me thinking about my own family. I’ve written a lot in this blog about how, at age 49, I moved all the way across the continent to Seattle, a place where I had never been and knew no one, just to start over. People tell me that this was brave. I just thought I had nothing to lose, and it turned out that I had everything to gain. But I am not the first person in my family who has taken a leap like this. Far from it.

My mother, at age 48, moved us all from Connecticut to Florida. She, too, felt she had nothing to lose. I wish, for her sake, that that risk had worked out as well for her as mine did for me. I landed on my feet and then some. Her situation became much, much worse, in terms of finances and lifestyle and location. It’s really heartbreaking to think about. She deserved so much better.

Her mother, my grandmother, came through Ellis Island when she was 23. She learned English on the way over, using an English/Danish dictionary and the Saturday Evening Post. She had $10.00 in her pocket, and she was met in New York by a Danish minister. Her husband, my grandfather, worked his way over on a Danish ship.

My great grandmother and my great great grandmother on that side seem to have never left their home places, but my great great grandmother’s husband committed suicide, leaving her with seven children, and that must have been a challenge all its own.

My great great grandmother on my grandfather’s side was born in Sweden but moved to Denmark in her 20’s. That may not seem as extreme, but back then, I’m sure it was still a huge transition into the unknown. It would have been a language change. She went there looking for work. She most likely brought the BRCA1 genetic anomaly to our family as well, and many of us have been paying for that ever since. (Not all legacies are good ones.)

I don’t know as much about my Father’s side of the family, but I do know that his mother came to America from Ireland, young and single, and hoping to make a better life. She met my grandfather because she was a waitress in his restaurant. He liked to say that he only married her so he could stop paying her. In any case, he left her with 4 children to bring up on her own, which was far less than she deserved.

We each carry on a legacy. We each add to that legacy. I come from a long line of strong, risk-taking women. Sometimes those risks worked out, and sometimes they didn’t. But I’m grateful for all of them, because they led to me.


Hey! Look what I wrote!

A Senseless Monument to Ego

Creating an environmental disaster to score political points.

Even as you read this, bulldozers are plowing a trench through some of our most precious landscape. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is theoretically federally protected, but it’s the federal government that is doing the plowing.

Why? For Trump’s border wall. Because he wants to get re-elected, he’s trying to score political points. Never mind that this is a designated International Biosphere Reserve that is recognized by UNESCO. Forget that it will go right through one of the oldest inhabited places in North America, and the ancestral home of the Tohono O’odham nation, which has existed on both sides of the border since at least 1450.

According to this article, this 30 foot wall will impede the migration patterns and habitats of mountain lions, javelinas, the endangered pronghorn, and countless numbers of bird species. And talk about draining the swamp. This will impede Arizona’s last free flowing river, and as aquifers are drained to make the concrete, it will decimate the habitats for the endangered Quitobaquito pupfish and Sonoyta turtle. It will also cause light pollution with its continual spotlights, in a place where you could always see millions of stars in the night sky.

Trump has waived countless laws to make this travesty happen, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act. He claims this is a national emergency. Pfft. This area sees about 5 percent as much human migration as the Rio Grande Valley in Texas does. This catastrophic monument to Trump’s ego is poorly thought out, a taxpayer drain, and an environmental disaster, all for an emergency of his own construction.

I’m so angry right now.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

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Crazy Like a Fox

I’m impressed with this little vixen.

According to this article, Scientists recently put a tracking device on a female arctic fox that was less than a year old, and discovered that she traveled 2,176 miles in 76 days. That’s an average of 28 miles a day, but apparently on some days she covered more than three times that distance.

Many creatures migrate even farther than that, and with global warming, some creatures are being forced to migrate farther than ever before. But I’m impressed with this little vixen. For me, she’s a symbol of adaptation, survival, determination, strength, and abilities beyond my comprehension.

We have so much more to learn about the natural world. Maybe we might want to try not to destroy something that we know so little about. There’s a thought.

arctic fox.jpg

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Ancient Wisdom

We should take wisdom where we can find it.

It amazes me that so many of us are wont to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is this view of ancient wisdom that seems to go like this: “Everything from long ago was inaccurate and based on myth and magic, so it shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

We come by that belief honestly. No doubt about it, a lot of what was considered truth hundreds of years ago has turned out to be bunk. Bleeding people by hand or with leeches, when they are already weak from illness, generally will not have a happy ending. Dumping sewage into waterways is not a good idea. No sacrifice is required during a solar eclipse in order for the sun to come out again. Drilling holes in one’s head is more apt to scramble the brains and introduce infection than relieve the pressure. Backbreaking child labor does not make for strong, healthy adults. Not every tooth that causes you pain must be yanked from your mouth. Killing all the predators in your area causes unexpected consequences. And yes, sometimes there are answers that are less extreme than amputation.

Those things mentioned above are the bathwater. Feel free to throw those habits out. But, now, more than ever, we need to take the babies where we find them. We need good ideas if we’re going to survive.

For example, I don’t really understand why so few westerners are willing to try acupuncture. We may not understand how it works, but it’s been around for centuries. I’ve written about this before. I swear by it, and I know a lot of people who have had positive results with acupuncture when no Western medicine seems to be working. So why not try?

I’ve also written about bee pollen. I recommend it to people all the time. But I’m usually ignored. Which is a shame, because I haven’t had an allergy problem in 5 years, and have only had two colds. That’s saying something.

And as this article attests, there’s a lot of native knowledge out there that we’d benefit from if only we took it more seriously. For example, having a holistic view of the ecosystem, as aboriginal peoples do, is very important to species survival. They know that an increase in beaver populations will reduce spawning habitat for salmon and that means less prey for whales. The great web of life should not be ignored.

Indigenous people have much to tell us about how to cope with climate change. They know about the use of controlled burns to manage our forests so that catastrophic wildfires will not occur. They are also more sensitive to altered migration patterns, which are early warning systems of change. They also knew about the importance of biodiversity long before we even considered the concept.

It’s about time we checked our egos at the door and take wisdom where we can find it. Before it’s too late.

Ready to Dance

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Portents of Summer

Summer is only a month away, but as usual here in Florida we get it early. People envy us, until the temperature tops 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 100 percent humidity. Then, not so much. (And I want to know how it’s possible to have 100 percent humidity without having rain. Could someone please explain that to me?)

When I was a child up north, my main signal that it was summer was no more school. But I have since put away childish things and moved southward. Now I have other signs. For example, two inch long dead cockroaches start showing up in my shower stall. I have no idea why, but it is always thus. And slugs start sliding up my windows. That always adds a certain something to the view.

Back when I still owned a house, salamanders would congregate on the ceiling of my front porch. Love bugs threaten to choke our car radiators, and everything gets covered with a thick green coating of pollen. My sinuses pretty much slam shut until October. And then there’s the barking of the baby crocodiles. All. Night. Long.

As a bridgetender I get to see all the rich people migrating back up north in their sailboats, and I can look up and see the Canada geese heading the same direction. We also get even more joggers trying to run across the bridge, delaying our openings as the boats are bearing down upon us. And not one, not one captain offers me a day out on the water to beat the heat. The nerve of some people.

Another common indication that it’s summer for me is that relatives and friends start asking if they can sleep on my couch on their way to Disney World. If it weren’t for Mickey Mouse I’d probably be a recluse. It’s a small world after all.


Small, yes, but they make one hell of a racket.

It’s Worth a Shot #1:Touching a Tiger

Ever since I wrote the blog entry about writing a bucket list, I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by the number of things I’ve longed to do but may never achieve. Last night it occurred to me that in some cases I might achieve my goals by simply asking. So occasionally on this blog, you’ll find entries called “It’s Worth a Shot”, in which I’ll write completely insane letters to people who will have absolutely no reason to comply with my requests, but, hey, the worst they can say is no, right? And there’s also the remote possibility, what with six degrees of separation, that one of you may read this and be able to help me out. You never know. If I get any responses to these letters, or I get to achieve one of my dreams, I’ll definitely let you know in my blog! Here’s the first letter. (Some identifying information will be blocked out, because you could be a stalker. You have that look about you. )

To: xxxxxxxx, Senior Veterinarian,Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens

Dear Dr. xxxxxxx:

I have been a bridge tender here in Jacksonville since 2001. I currently open the xxxxxx and the xxxxxxxx Drawbridges. Sitting in one place 8 hours a day and looking out the window at the same view gives you a great appreciation for the natural world. I watch the migration of birds, and the passing of the dolphins, the gators and the manatee. The opportunity to be able to observe this makes me feel like one of the luckiest people on earth.

Having said that, and as I’m sure you can imagine, my income is a great deal more modest than I would like it to be, so I don’t get to visit the zoo very often. I also have a great many dreams and aspirations that I’m beginning to realize I’ll probably never get to achieve in my lifetime.

One of the things I’ve done while sitting up here on the bridge is create a “bucket list”—things I’d like to do before I die. Most of these things are way beyond my reach, but it occurred to me the other night that I have absolutely nothing to lose by asking for assistance in achieving some of my goals.

That brings me to the point of my letter. One of the things on my bucket list is to touch a tiger. Now, I know that the Jacksonville Zoo does not have tigers, but you do have other big cats, so I’m writing to ask you if by any chance I could be present the next time you have to sedate one of them for a medical procedure, even if only for a moment or two, to touch it’s fur and maybe take a picture. I long to see for myself if the fur of a big cat is soft or coarse. This type of generosity on your part would mean the world to me, so I’d appreciate it if you’d take in into consideration.



Cross your fingers, everybody!