An Amazing Bit of Reconstruction

I came across this little article with the cumbersome title, “Parrot With Damaged Beak Gets Second Chance at Life With New Prosthetic Beak” and I was instantly intrigued. Not only do I have a friend who has a parrot (Hi, Feathery A!), but I also went to dental laboratory technology school at one point, so I’m very interested in appliances that help fix your teeth (or beak, in this case).

I will warn you that some of the “before” pictures in this article are a bit upsetting. The only reason I could stand to look at them is that I knew there was a happy ending. This bird was found in terrible shape. Not only does an all-but-nonexistent beak mean it can’t eat, but it also can’t climb or protect itself. Without intervention, it wouldn’t have lasted long.

Having created dental appliances in a lab myself, I know that this reconstruction was even more complicated than it looks. If the shaping had been even one millimeter off, the bird would have been in constant pain. Just imagine if you had to go through life with your jaw slightly crooked, and you’ll see how uncomfortable it would have been for the parrot. And since parrots use beaks like we use hands, to interact with the world, it would have been like a jaw ache compounded with carpal tunnel syndrome at the same time. Yikes.

But from the looks of it, they did an excellent job, and the bird looks very happy. It seems to have made a full recovery. I’m so happy to know that there are organizations in this world that are willing to go out of their way to help animals in distress. Well done, Renascer ACN!

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Wolf Connection

Once again, by listening to NPR on my commute to work, I’ve learned something that has broadened my horizons. This time it’s about an organization with a unique way of helping at-risk youth. It’s called Wolf Connection. (You can hear the inspiring 4 1/2 minute story here.)

This organization serves a variety of amazing purposes. First, it is a wolfdog sanctuary. Many people think having a wolf/dog mix will make for an exotic pet, but soon learn that they can’t really handle the responsibilities thereof. Often these animals get abused or neglected or put to sleep, as most shelters will not put them up for adoption. Fortunately, in cases like this, Wolf Connection can sometimes step in and give them a forever home where they work with handlers who understand their unique qualities and special needs.

This group also does presentations for schools and organizations. Using wolves as a focal point is an exciting way to teach students about the environment, human history and evolution, teamwork and ethics. Wolves are, after all, the first creatures that we humans made a long-term connection with.

But for me, their most exciting mission is their Wolf Therapy program. This eight week program for troubled teens who have been abused, or have been in and out of foster care, or were in gangs, is a really impactful way to reach kids who have rendered themselves unreachable out of pure survival.

First of all, they can relate to these animals, because they, too have been abused. And wolves don’t judge. Wolves can teach us much about teamwork and cooperation. They show us the value of being okay with who we are, just as we are. They teach us how and when to trust. Working with these animals can increase confidence and self-esteem and teach valuable vocational and life skills. The program also teaches you to be more introspective.

I love it when I see so many positives coming out of an organization. You can sponsor one of their wolves, too. By doing so, you’re also investing in the future of our youths. Win/win.


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What’s a Potcake?

I’m so glad you asked. I only just found out myself. A potcake is a mutt that can be found on several Caribbean islands around the Turks and Caicos, usually a combination of German Shepherd, Labrador, and various types of terrier. They are around 50-60 pounds, full grown, and come in all sorts of colors. Potcakes got their names because people used to feed them potcake, which is basically the scrapings of leftover peas and rice at the bottom of a cook pot. As a general rule, potcakes are very intelligent and good-natured dogs.

Dog lover that I am, I just found out about the best vacation ever. On the island of Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos, there is an organization called Potcake Place K-9 Rescue. They let you help socialize their adoptable puppies by taking them out on the beach. I can’t think of anything more delightful than romping with a puppy on the white sands of the Caribbean.

And if, as I’m sure I would, you fall in love with your pup, you can adopt him or her. They already have the system worked out so that you have all the necessary paperwork and health certificates to fly them home with you. What a wonderful way to end a vacation!

Even if you choose not to adopt, you can help socialize the dogs. You can also act as a courier for someone who is adopting a dog but can’t fly out to pick him up. And, of course, you can donate money or dog-related items to the organization.

I love the idea of an island where dogs play on the beach and find forever homes. I hope I get to go there some day.

Three little potcakes, no doubt gossiping about the tourists.

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Who’s the Animal in This Scenario?

One of the most distressing features of social media is that it really highlights the more despicable aspects of humanity. If I’m not reading about some sick $&*@(% who buried a dog alive, leaving only its snout exposed, causing its eventual death, then I’m seeing pictures of men cheering as roosters slice each other to ribbons. If I’m not hearing about people who get off on torturing black cats at Halloween, then I’m learning that the Amish (whom you would expect to have a moral compass), are some of the worst perpetrators of puppy mills, because they see dogs as livestock to be exploited. And how does one hunt not for food, but for fun, Trump Junior?

And then there are all those animal rescue videos. It warms your heart that all these animals are saved, rehabilitated, and given forever homes, yes, but it’s horrifying that they were abandoned in the first place. Seriously, how hard is it to spay or neuter your pets, or, here’s a thought, not take the responsibility of owning one if you don’t have the maturity to follow through?

And don’t even get me started about people who tie their dogs up in the back yard, all alone, even in the worst weather imaginable. Because I’ll cut a b****, if I have to, to prevent that. I really will.

There is nothing lower than someone who abuses, neglects, abandons, or tortures a helpless creature. How do people who do that carry on with the rest of their lives? How do you send out for pizza while you have dozens of animals starving in their own filth in a shed somewhere? How do you read your kid a bedtime story after having reveled in the painful death of a creature that you’ve forced to fight for its life? How do you decorate your Christmas tree after dumping kittens on the side of the road like so much garbage? How does that work?

Trump Junior

A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

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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An Evacuation Rant

As I write this, Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on Florida. After living there for 40 years, I still have a lot of friends in that state, so I’m very worried. The only good thing about hurricanes is that they generally give you a few days’ notice, so if you have to leave, in most cases you can.

But as per usual, I’m hearing a lot of stories about people who are ignoring evacuation orders and riding out the storm. This attitude never ceases to infuriate me. Do you think that by sticking around you can somehow protect your property from a wall of wind and water? Do you think that’s the top priority of the people who love you? Selfish. Selfish. Houses can be replaced. You can’t.

It’s one thing if you can’t physically or financially leave. Some people are trapped by circumstances, and I can think of nothing more terrifying. But what really enrages me are those people who voluntarily ride it out, and then have to be rescued in the aftermath. If your stupid ass is sitting on what’s left of your roof based on your poor choices, it takes time and money to row out to get you. Time that could be better spent elsewhere. Helicopters aren’t cheap, either, nor is medical care. That’s money that your now devastated city can ill afford. And you are putting your rescuers at risk as well.

Here’s something I’ve never understood. We, the taxpayers, are left holding the financial bag when these people need to be rescued and/or buried. Why aren’t they (or their estate) presented with a bill? If you’re under a mandatory evacuation order and you ignore it, that should be your burden to bear.

End of rant. Please stay safe, everybody.


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Traveling with Quagmire

Way back in March (my, how time flies) I adopted a little black Dachshund and named him Quagmire. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with him ever since. To say that this dog has issues would be putting it mildly.

First of all, I had no idea how stubborn Dachshunds are as a breed. But then add on top of it that this particular dog was abandoned to wander the streets of Olympia, where he was found dirty and half starved, and then, from his perspective, he was put into puppy prison for God knows how long before I came to his rescue.

What you get is a headstrong dog who finds it nearly impossible to trust, and even less possible to relax. He is extremely territorial. If someone even walks down the street in front of the house, he barks incessantly. And for such a little dog, he has a big, deep, “I’m really a Rottweiler” kind of bark, which is impossible to ignore.

He once busted through the screen door and nipped a cop on the ankle. Well, actually he gummed him on the ankle. He has no front teeth. When I adopted him I discovered they were all cracked and had to be removed. Still, I’m amazed he survived that one.

He also barks and lunges at what few visitors I have. This does not make for a warm welcome.(As if I didn’t already have a hard enough time finding a boyfriend.)

When I come home, even after a short absence, he’s hysterical with joy. He’ll throw himself into my arms, wrap his paws around my neck and press his forehead firmly against my lips, all while crying. He sticks to me like glue. He has to come into the bathroom while I shower or he’ll stand outside the door and cry. He spoons with me in bed. When I’m lying there working on my laptop, he sort of perches on my shoulder and the pillows, presses his ear against my cheek and watches the screen intently.

Quagmire is the neediest creature on the face of the earth.

When it’s just the two of us, I don’t really mind. He’s a love sponge. And since there’s really no way to explain to him that he’s safe, he’s home, and he’ll never be abandoned again, I just do my best to reassure him. I know what it’s like to have been through a lot. I know what it’s like to have been let down. I know what it’s like to want nothing more than to be loved.

I just could do with a little less barking. And I wish he wasn’t such a bully to my other dog, Devo, who is sweet beyond words and wants nothing more than to be Quagmire’s friend. And I’ll probably never travel with him again.

I took them both with me recently, for a vacation on the Oregon coast. It was a 6 ½ hour drive. For the first 3 ½ hours, Quagmire sat in the back seat and whistle/cried. The first hour I tried ignoring him in hopes that he would settle down and fall asleep, which is what Devo always does. That didn’t work. Then I tried shouting “No!” That only encouraged him. I tried singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall in hopes of drowning him out, but by about bottle 63, I realized that it was a futile endeavor. I was beginning to see why someone abandoned his annoying little ass. I thought I was going to lose my mind.

After our second dog walk break he finally, finally went to sleep, and a very relieved Devo followed suit. I had tried to sightsee along the way, but Quagmire would bark and lunge at the other sightseers, so I gave up and just continued to our destination. I missed a lot of interesting things because of him.

After venting my frustrations to a friend, she said, “You know, you could always give him back.”

But he’s not a flaming bag of poo. I can’t just drop him on the front steps of animal control and run. I made a commitment to this dog. This is his forever home. I just wish he understood that.

At the end of our vacation, I left them in the room while I packed the car, and this freaked Quagmire out. He must have thought he would be abandoned all over again. So on the last trip from the room to the car, he bolted past me and ran down the stairs.

I dropped everything and chased after him, shouting, “Quagmire! Quagmire!” but he kept running. Now I was the one to be scared. Too scared to think how strange it must have looked to see some frazzled woman running down the street screaming quagmire for no visible reason. (That’s not something I had considered when I named him.)

I didn’t want him to be hurt. He charged around the corner and toward the street. I was sure I’d lost him. Then I rounded the corner and there he was, scratching at the car door, as if to say, “Take me with you.”

We stared at each other for a minute, and then I scooped him up in my arms and said, “I’m never going to leave you. I promise.”

But that didn’t stop the little shit from crying for another 3 ½ hours on the way home.


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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.”

Paris Hilton Needs (Another) Reality Check

Okay, I’m disgusted. Paris Hilton just spent $13,000.00 on what is supposedly the world’s smallest Pomeranian. This is wrong on so many levels.

First of all, do you have any idea how many dogs could be rescued with that amount of money? (Neither do I. But I guarantee you it’s a crap-load.) At a time when city budgets are being squeezed and therefore cause massive monetary cutbacks in shelters everywhere, this money would have made a huge difference. A lot of dogs could be spayed or neutered for that kind of money, thus reducing the amount of suffering strays.

Another thing is that now a lot of people are going to want micro-Pomeranians. Granted, the dog is cute. But breeding freaks of nature needs to be discouraged, not encouraged, because when you start overbreeding these dogs, health issues creep in and it’s the animal that ultimately suffers for its cuteness.

I also can’t help but think that she could have made 520 microloans on with that money. That’s 520 lives that could have been changed, 520 families throughout the world who would have been given the ability to work their way out of crippling poverty and malnutrition. But Ms. Hilton found it more important to have a cute little dog.

I know $13,000.00 would change my life. Even less than half that would. I’ve been trying to raise 5,000.00 through my indiegogo campaign to get myself out of a financial nightmare due to a series of life setbacks, and I have only reached 39 percent of my goal. And yet here is Paris Hilton, who will never have a financial worry as long as she lives, through no effort of her own, and she pisses 13k away as if it were nothing.

Apparently she didn’t learn a single thing from her jail time. She must not have talked to her cellmates or even cared about learning the way that most people are forced to live their lives. Here’s a woman who could make a huge difference in the world, who could be a philanthropic hero, and instead she buys a Pomeranian. Sad, really.


An Osprey Update

Last year I wrote a few blog entries about a pair of ospreys that had built a nest on the traffic light of one of the drawbridges where I work. In the first entry, Battle of the Birds, I talked about how this couple would build their nest, and then the Department of Transportation would disassemble it based on a permit from Fish and Wildlife because the nest was in a construction zone. The next day the nest would be back. Finally, the pair were nesting on eggs, so their home could no longer be disassembled. They just decided not to replace that particular traffic light. Yay!

Unfortunately, in an entry a few months later entitled Ospreys as Analogies, I had to break the news that the chicks never hatched, and that the ospreys had eventually abandoned the nest. This really upset me for a long time because I was drawing parallels to my life. They were struggling, I am struggling. I desperately wanted to see them succeed, because I needed that sense of hope that maybe I could turn things around in my life, too. Alas, no.

So imagine my delight when they came back to try again this year. This time they made their nest on the traffic light at the opposite end of the bridge, which meant I had to walk under it every time I’d leave or come to work. Mama Osprey did not like this one little bit. She’d squawk at me every time, day or night. I got into the habit of speaking calmly to her. “It’s okay, Mama. I’m not here to hurt your babies.” Usually she’d settle down then. It was like she was telling me she saw me coming, so I better behave myself, and by responding, I was telling her I wasn’t trying to be sneaky.

And then one day as I was walking off the bridge, I looked up, and oh, joy! Two ugly little baby bird heads poked themselves up over the edge of the nest. She’d done it! Her babies had hatched! I was so proud.

For the next few weeks I’d watch her with binoculars. Papa Osprey would come and bring fish, and when it would rain, Mama would stand over the babies with her wings spread to shelter them. It was really a beautiful sight. Nature taking its course. God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world, as Robert Browning would say.

Then the other day I got a phone call from a coworker who said he had bad news. My heart sank. I knew it was the ospreys before he even told me. Apparently Mama had been hit by a car and she had been found lying in a ditch, her wing broken in three places. It brought tears to my eyes.

Fortunately BEAKS came to the rescue. BEAKS, which stands for Bird Emergency Aid & Kare Sanctuary, is an organization here in Jacksonville, Florida that rehabilitates injured birds. They took Mama in. But my coworker said the babies were still in the nest, and Papa was nowhere to be found. I was freaking out. Were we going to have to watch these babies starve to death? I don’t think I could have handled that.

But I spoke to my supervisor today and he told me to check out this article on line. According to the Florida Times-Union, the babies were later rescued via a cherry picker, and reunited with Mama at BEAKS. This is a picture of them, below, with Mama’s wing wrapped up. The article includes a video that shows the amazing rescue.

It’s looking like Mama may never fly again, but when the babies are ready they will be released into the wild. So there is a happy ending to this tale. It may not be pretty, it may even be a bit messy and painful, and I certainly feel horrible for Papa, who finds himself all alone, but thanks to BEAKS, the very best was made of a bad situation.

To learn how to donate to BEAKS, visit their Facebook page. They are a very worthy organization and definitely need our support to keep doing their good work.

Update: A coworker told me that Papa Osprey stood in the empty nest with a fish in his beak for hours today. Heartbreaking.


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