California is on fire, and I am hiding in my guest bathroom.
Not from the fire, but from the despair I feel about the world right now. I’m not just sitting in the dark on the floor in the bathroom. I have the current foster cat family in with me. Or they are letting me hang out with them. It gives me comfort. But still, I consider it as hiding.
I want to help, but I don’t know how. My anxiety keeps me from making a move. I can easily donate money (not much, but some), but I want to DO something. Yet here I sit, playing with kittens, feeling defeated. The most I’ve done is obsessively share Facebook posts about resources for help. Cooking also gives me comfort. But instead of volunteering my services to help feed evacuees, I cook for the 2 of us, and we eat in front of television.
The things I “should” be doing today seem so unimportant. Folding laundry, who cares? I could be writing scholarly papers for school; my PhD is important to me of course, but I can’t focus on anything. It seems trivial when people are losing everything, some even losing their lives.
People do come forward to help in emergencies. Volunteers are helping at evacuation centers. Animal rescuers are helping find shelter and foster homes for displaced animals. Others are organizing donations of supplies for the evacuation centers and animal shelters. I want to be one of those people.
The world seems like it’s falling apart. The hurricanes and the continuing devastation left behind, especially in Puerto Rico. The Las Vegas shooter. The never ending issue of racism and inequity in this supposedly civilized country that treats its own people like garbage. A “president” who couldn’t care less about anyone but himself.
It’s like the modern-day Fall of the Roman Empire, or how I imagine it.
I was already feeling it. Whenever I drive around Oakland and Berkeley, I see more and more homeless encampments. Oakland is turning into Tent City. I despair for my own city and its people.
We’ve been watching the Ken Burns series on Vietnam, which I am finding so painful to watch. I am ashamed of how ignorant I am about the times in which I was born and raised. It hurts me to see the the death and destruction, not just of the American youth sent to fight a senseless war, but the countless civilian deaths of the Vietnamese on both sides of the fight. Children killing children. Hate mongering. Old white American men thinking of lives in terms of numbers and “kill ratios”, and continuing a war for their own egos.
And now a place I hold dear to my heart is being destroyed by fires. (Why can’t the idiots in power face up to climate change? It’s for real and the effects are being felt right now.) I lived and worked in the Napa and Sonoma areas not so long ago. I didn’t want to leave to live in Oakland, but life doesn’t always work out the way we think it will. I still have friends in the area, some of whom I know are safe as I write this. Others I haven’t heard anything about, and it scares me.
And lest I get complacent thinking I’m safe, the fires continue to spread. I never think it couldn’t happen here. It did happen here. There was a fire not so long ago that destroyed a large swath of the area where I live now–the Oakland Hills Fire in 1991. It’s only about 40 miles from Oakland to Napa, and the fires are now approaching the rural area around Fairfield, among other places.
I don’t have an emergency plan. We’ve never prepared any kind of earthquake kit (the usual recommendation in California) or thought through how we’d get all of the animals and ourselves safely out of here.
My heart is breaking for the world, but I bury my head in the sand. I care, and caring is a good first step, but sometimes we have to do something with that caring. It’s is too close to home this time.
Believe me, I hate asking for money as much as anyone. I could never work in development in any of the non-profits where I’ve worked or that I support. I am terrible at schmoozing, and I’d love it if we didn’t have to ask. But we do.
Yes, we all work hard for what we have. Most of us have causes near and dear to our hearts. I give money when I can, usually to animal shelters and rescues. I know people are in need as well, and I am glad that there are advocates for children, the homeless, the hungry, the environment.
In searching for numbers, I found that in 2015, Americans gave $373.25 billion to charity in 2015, a record whether measured in current or inflation-adjusted dollars. That is incredibly generous. Americans also gave their time. Also in 2015, about 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization. Non-profits depend on generosity of heart, mind, and, obviously, wallet.
My cause of choice is animal shelters and rescue. For more than 6 years I volunteered at the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, California. I made many friends and met some of the animals who now live with me. I still try to help out by fostering cats and kittens.
Baseball’s Tony La Russa founded ARF after the famous incident of a cat, later named Evie, running onto the field of an Oakland A’s baseball game.
Located in Walnut Creek in the East Bay area of California, ARF is a wonderful facility. A private shelter, we rescue animals from the over-crowded public kill shelters and give them the time they need to find their forever homes.
ARF offers many wonderful programs and services in addition to adoptions: many youth programs (my favorite being All Ears Reading), dog training, the Pet Hug Pack therapy animals, FoodShare (pet food pantry), the ARF Emergency Medical Fund, low cost spay/neuter services, a mobile clinic, and the awesome Pets for Vets program.
So, here’s the part where I ask for money.
I am fundraising for ARF’s yearly Animals on Broadway event, a pet walk and festival on Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek on Saturday, May 20. I won’t be walking in the event, as I have to be at work at the shelter helping adopt out animals! I am a virtual walker, a walker in spirit.
My fundraising goal is fairly modest, at $500. I have $300 as of the writing of this blog post. Thank you from the bottom of my animal-loving heart to those of you who have donated. I love you all!
If you can give any amount, please consider helping out. If not to my fundraising page, to someone else’s, or to your local shelter, or to whatever cause is important to you. If not money, time if you have it. Getting involved was the best decision I ever made. You won’t regret it.
Now that we are all in love with our current foster kitten Chiclet, here’s why this won’t be a foster fail. If you believe all of this, great! I’m trying. I haven’t been quite this attached to a foster since I’ve been fostering for the East Bay SPCA.
Last night, Bob broached the conversation of keeping her. Not because he thinks we should, but because he knows I want to. This was such a sweet gesture, and he firmly keeps the World’s Best Boyfriend crown on his head.
Of course I wanted to squeal in delight and jump up and down, but I was trying to be sensible. Silly me!
Here’s the rundown:
She is highly adoptable. The minute she’s available, there will be people falling in love with her and wanting to give her a loving home. If I am going to foster fail again, I’d rather save my Keep the Cat card for one who is going to have a harder time. You know, that 3-legged, 1-eyed, snaggle-toothed one with a personality disorder. Who won’t have everyone oohing and aahing and filling out adoption paperwork at blink of a kitten eye.
2. We have 3 cats and a dog living with us already. I don’t want to be a hoarder.
3. Sara is going to be 19 this summer. Does she really want another kitten in the house? We recently added Marble, aka the Tasmanian Devil, to the lineup. Maybe Sara would like some peace and quiet in her twilight years.
4. Poor Einstein can’t catch a break. He’s a very patient dog, but will another cat be the last straw? And he’d like some time and attention, too! Walkies!!!
4. The aforementioned Tasmanian Devil.
Marble isn’t a year old yet and is a handful! When we tried introducing him to previous foster kitten Pepper, he grabbed her by the throat. Not good. If I have to spend my time making sure one cat doesn’t kill the other, I will not be happy or pleasant to be around.
5. Misty. When we adopted Misty, she was considered “unadoptable” because she really doesn’t like people. Can’t blame her. She was treated roughly during the 4 years before she came to us. She’s slowly coming around, but VERY slowly. She’s great with Marble, and might be fine with Chiclet, but like Einstein, she could use some more special time and attention.
6. The family just waiting to meet Chiclet. It would be selfish of me to keep her. I imagine the 8 or 9 year old me meeting Chiclet and falling in love. How can I stand in the way of another child’s destiny??? Those moments at the animal shelter when I hear a child say, “Mom, I NEED this cat!” are why I work there.
7. We aren’t getting any younger. If Marble lives to be 20 (perfectly possible), I will be 75 and Bob will be 81. Should we really keep getting kittens? Maybe we should adopt older cats when we adopt more. Senior cats need homes too, and what better match than a senior with a senior?
8. When I take Chiclet and her mother Sugar Cube back to the East Bay SPCA, I make room in our home for another foster family, helping to continue the cycle of saving lives. Isn’t that the point? We have fostered 32 cats for the East Bay SPCA since we started back with Abracadabra in 2015.
This count does not include Marble, who was a rescue of a different sort (that might or might not have been entirely legal but it was definitely in his best interest).
Will it be hard taking her back to the shelter? Yes. Will I be sad? Yes. Will I sing sad songs? Undoubtedly. I’ve already got one picked out, Irving Berlin’s What’ll I Do? as sung by Rosemary Clooney.
But I’ll get up, dust myself off, and find out who my next foster family is. I’ll fall in love again. Life goes on.
Up next: Take Me Out to the Ball Game!, in which there will be no mention of cats but lots of baseball, the Arizona desert, and a side trip to the Musical Instrument Museum. Stay tuned!
(Thank you Robert Ward for your patience with the ever-changing array of guest felines.) But now I am here to say I am offically a Foster Failure. I actually don’t like that term; it makes it sound like I lost the cat or something bad happened. What it means is that I finally met my match and can’t part with one and he is now staying here as part of the family. That’s a good thing!
My first attempt at fostering was more than 18 years ago. That one was a fail too, and I didn’t try it again until last year, as part of my volunteering with the East Bay SPCA.
Our first guest was little Abracadabra, who needed to gain a few ounces before she could be spayed and enter adoptions. What a little delight she was!
It only took her a week to get up to weight. I was dreading taking her back to the shelter, but I knew she’d find a good home quickly. In the week she was here, she was a great helper.
Unfortunately, black cats and kittens take longer to get adopted, so she waited a couple of weeks but the right match came along, and she went off to her new life.
We were ready to jump in and take the next step: a mother cat with a litter of kittens. So Mouse and her babies Ratticus, Sugar Glider, Ferret, and Chinchilla came to occupy the guest room, now known as the foster room. NOTE: I am not responsible for any of the cat and kitten names; don’t blame me if they seem ridiculous to you.
From the amount of blogging I did about them, you can tell that Mouse and babies had a big impact on me.
We decided to go with another “singleton” for the next one, and along came Honeysuckle. She had a broken front leg and a shattered ball joint in one hip. She needed a place to recover from the broken leg, and then have surgery on the hip.
More than likely hit by a car, this Maine Coon mix sweetheart was a real trooper and made good progress recovering from her injuries.
When I took Honeysuckle back to the shelter, I was asked if I could take another “broken” kitty. Of course! Meet Kianna.
Kianna had a broken tail and a fractured pelvis, also likely hit by a car. Two words–purr machine! She looks intense but what a love!
Once her pelvis had time to heal, she was taken in to have the tail amputated, and then came back for more recuperation time. She was welcome to stay as long as she needed!
For reasons I can’t begin to understand, she waited at the shelter for a long time for an adopter. We thought long and hard about whether to adopt her ourselves, but the East Bay SPCA wisely transferred her from the Oakland adoption center to the one in Dublin and she was very quickly went home from there.
There was a wintertime slow-down in the need for fosters, but like clockwork, it was kitten season again! Our first foster of 2016 was another short-term singleton, Babou. Talk about a lively kitten!
Again we had a vacancy. Thus, Mars and the candy bar kittens–Dove, Milky Way, Twix, Snickers, and Reeses–took over the foster quarters. You can read more about them here:
Mars had a much different approach than Mouse; where Mouse was ready to have the kittens independent after 4-5 weeks, Mouse was extremely devoted to her babies and kept close watch over them the whole 2 months they were here.
Five kittens seems like a whole lot more than four! As they got older, the foster room seemed to get smaller and chaos ensued as the kittens became mobile. But entertaining, that’s for sure!
The house seemed so quiet when they were gone, and as expected, everyone found homes quickly. Have good lives, little ones! While they were here, we briefly had little Raisinette, rescued from the mean streets of Berkeley by Alex. We tried adding him in with the bigger candy bar kids to see if momma Mars would take him. She reluctantly let him for a bit, but a better mother/baby group was found for him.
Going outside the “system” for the first time, two amazing people, Eliana and Mark, involved me in a rescue of two little beauties at the Office Depot in Berkeley. It was not easy to catch these girls! Mark was like a kitten rescue ninja! They only stayed with us a few days; a home was found for them with friends of Eliana and Mark.
And next, the three French Sisters: Joelle, Amelie, and Elodie, featured in:
Très précieuse! I hate to admit to favorites, but Amelie (top center) was the one I thought would lead me to foster failure.
The girls all made their age/weight goal for adoptions, and I sadly took them in to the shelter to go on to their new lives. Bonne chance!
Well, in a major fluke of timing, that same morning my awesome friend Molly had come across a kitten in need of a place to crash. Long story that I won’t go into. I said, sure, I can take him, thinking I’d put him in the foster room for a day or two and then see if they had a spot for him at the shelter. That was more than a week ago and many vet bills later. The poor little guy, Marble, ended up needing some serious vet care. Again, thank you Robert Ward!
For the record, I was not the first one of us to suggest we keep Marble. It was in fact Bob.
He was having trouble keeping food down, and of course it was the weekend, so off to the 24-hour clinic, Pets Referral Center, in Berkeley. The nicest people in the world work there!
We were afraid he would need surgery for a possible obstruction, but with medication and monitoring he is on the mend. He does not like medication time! But he’s eating and playing and cuddling and making himself indispensible.
I was afraid he was cold in the foster room (it is a bathroom and has no direct light), so he is now ensconced in what was my office until he is fully recovered and can start being introduced to the other residents. In the meantime, he is my right hand assistant and keeper of the laptop.
It looks he’s here to stay! Whether another foster comes to use the foster room, aka guest bathroom, is yet to be seen. I hope so!
You, dear reader, can also have some of this adorableness in your life. And if dogs are more your thing, the East Bay SPCA has those too! There are lots of animal rescue groups for other small animals, including birds. (And no worries about vet bills when you foster for an organization; they take care of all that.)
Many who foster make it for years without a so-called “fail”. You would be doing an amazing service for a shelter or rescue group, and helping to save a life.
And should you have a foster fail, don’t worry. There are lots of us! We even have a Facebook page.
Please consider being a foster for your local shelter; you’ll be glad you did.
There are three sisters living in my spare bathroom. They are very beautiful girls, each different from the other and I love them all. Their names are Joelle, Amelie, and Elodie. They are in fact triplets, although there is a big, middle, little connotation to their size and attitudes.
I find myself reflecting on sisters and sisterhood. I am the youngest of three sisters (the youngest of four siblings, but my brother isn’t getting much space in this post; sorry Steve!). Our mother gave us each one of these pins several years ago. I rarely wear mine, not because it doesn’t have meaning, but because I just don’t wear pins often. Mom, bless her heart, never seemed to understand that we didn’t really want to dress alike or get the same gifts.
There are many stories of sisters. I found several versions of Native American legends of the three sisters and planting “three sisters gardens”. This version is from the Cherokee:
Once upon a time there were three sisters. The first sister was very tall and strong; her name was Corn Girl, and she wore a pale green dress and had long yellow hair that blew in the wind. Corn Girl liked to stand straight and tall, but the hot sun burned her feet and hurt her. And the longer Corn Girl stood in her field, the hungrier she got. And every day more weeds were growing up around her and choking her.
The second sister was very thin and quick and fast, and her name was Bean Girl, but she wasn’t very strong. She couldn’t even stand up on her own. She was good at making food, but she just had to lie there stretched out on the ground, and she would get dirty and wet, which wasn’t good for her.
The third sister, Squash Girl, was short and fat and wore a yellow dress. She was hungry too.
For a long time, the sisters didn’t get along. They each wanted to be independent and free, and not have anything to do with the other two. So Corn Girl stood there with her sunburned feet and got hungrier and hungrier. And Bean Girl lay there on the ground and got dirtier and wetter. And the little fat sister Squash Girl was hungry too.
So Bean Girl talked to her sister Corn Girl and said, “What if I feed you some good food, and you can hold me up so I don’t have to lie on the ground and get all dirty?” And Corn Girl thought that was a great idea. Then little Squash Girl called up to her tall sister, “How about if I lie on your feet and shade them so you won’t get sunburned?” Corn Girl thought that was a great idea too.
So the Three Sisters learned to work together, so that everyone would be healthier and happier. Corn Girl helped Bean Girl stand up. Bean Girl fed Corn Girl and Squash Girl good food. And Squash Girl shaded Corn Girl’s feet and kept the weeds from growing up around them all.
And that’s why the Iroquois and the Pueblo people and the Aztecs and everybody in between planted their corn, their beans, and their squash together in the same field – the Three Sisters.
I accept my role as Squash Girl happily!
Unfortunately, my sisters live more than 3,000 miles away and we don’t get to see each other very often. I don’t have many photos of us together, and it is very rare that there is a photo in which all three of look as gorgeous as we really are. Pictures from our childhood are all packed away and not yet digitized.
Continuing the exploration of sisters, on the serious side there is the play The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, written in 1900 and first performed in 1901.
The three sisters in Chekhov’s play, Olga, Masha and Irina, are living in a drab town a year after their father’s death and finding life tedious. From IMDb:
Olga, Masha, and Irina Prozoroff lead lonely and purposeless lives following the death of their father who has commanded the local army post. Olga attempts to find satisfaction in teaching but secretly longs for a home and family. Masha, unhappy with her marriage to a timid schoolmaster, falls hopelessly in love with a married colonel. Irina works in the local telegraph office but longs for gaiety. Their sense of futility is increased by their brother’s marriage to Natasha, a coarse peasant girl. She gradually encroaches on the family home until even the private refuge of the sisters is destroyed. They dream of starting a new life in Moscow but are saddled with the practicalities of their quiet existence. Despite their past failures, they resolve to seek some purpose and hope when the army post is withdrawn from the town.
There are also several geographical sites named Three Sisters.
But I prefer popular culture sisters. In Little Women, there are four sisters, so that never worked out for me to label them as me and my sisters. Meg was clearly my sister Cathy, sweet and nurturing and maternal. Jo was obviously Ellen, funny and athletic and the one who holds them together. But was I kind, sweet, sickly Beth or artistic, selfish and temperamental Amy? I think I was a bit of a mix, without the sickly part. Of course, we all had a bit of each sister in us.
Then we get to the Gabor sisters. I don’t think there are any personality matches there (thank goodness).
As a child of the 1960s, I watched endless reruns of Petticoat Junction.
And I can’t leave out the Brady sisters! Oddly, my favorite was poor maligned middle sister Jan. I couldn’t stand goody two-shoes Marsha or insipid youngest Cindy. And Jan had the long beautiful hair.
My favorite isn’t a story of three sisters but of two. The 1954 movie White Christmas is not the best (or the worst), but at the beginning of the movie comes the song Sisters, by Irving Berlin.
Sisters Sisters There were never such devoted sisters
Never had to have a chaperone “No, sir” I’m there to keep my eye on her
Caring Sharing Every little thing that we are wearing
When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome She wore the dress and I stayed home
All kinds of weather We stick together The same in the rain or sun Two diff’rent faces But in tight places We think and we act as one
Those who’ve Seen us Know that not a thing could come between us
Many men have tried to split us up but no one can Lord help the mister Who comes between me and my sister And Lord help the sister Who comes between me and my man
In the film, the song is performed by the Haynes sisters, played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Vera-Ellen was a dancer, not a singer, so for this song, her lines were actually performed by Clooney as well (i.e., Rosemary Clooney sang a duet with herself).
I, however, am partial to the version done in the film by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.
But you are here to see kitten pictures! Here you go, the three beautiful sisters at their weigh-in yesterday.
Please consider fostering for your local shelter or other animal rescue organization. Not only do you help them save more lives, you get the wonderful opportunity to spend time with some amazing animals such as Joelle, Amelie, and Elodie. I foster for the East Bay SPCA in Oakland, CA. It’s one of the best things I do in my life.
(Note: This is for an assignment in Humane Education 640: Culture and Change at Valparaiso University.)
The Emperor Ashoka (died 232 BCE), third monarch of the Indian Mauryan Dynasty1, is quoted to have said: “No society can prosper if it aims at making things easier. Instead, it should aim at making people stronger.”
Ashoka statue, Kanaganahalli, Gulbarga, Karnataka, India (photo by Alene Devasia)2
In this spirit, Bill Drayton founded the organization Ashoka, in 1980, with the mission: “To support social entrepreneurs who are leading and collaborating with changemakers, in a team of teams model that addresses the fluidity of a rapidly evolving society. Ashoka believes that anyone can learn and apply the critical skills of empathy, team work, leadership and changemaking to be successful in the modern world. “3
Ashoka is a global network with Ashoka Fellows in 70 countries. Fellows are divided into the six broad categories of
Drayton, an assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Carter Administration in the 1970s, began searching for people to bring about change in areas he saw as critical human needs.
As described in a 1998 profile in The Atlantic, Ashoka “looks for people who will become references in their field, who will set or change patterns at the national level or, in the case of a small country, at a larger regional level. Ashoka searches for people who, in Drayton’s words, will leave their “scratch on history.” When the foundation finds a bona fide social entrepreneur, it elects him or her to a fellowship, provides financial and professional support to help launch the fellow’s idea, and connects the fellow with other social entrepreneurs working on similar problems. Like a venture-capital group, Ashoka seeks high yields from modest, well-targeted investments. It seeks returns not in profits but in advances in education, environmental protection, rural development, poverty alleviation, human rights, health care, care for the disabled, care for children at risk, and other fields.”4
If you don’t meet the stringent criteria or no one has had the sense to nominate you as a Fellow, you can volunteer with Ashoka through its Everyone a ChangemakerTM program.
What makes a successful social entrepreneur? According to Adnan Mahmud, founder and CEO of LiveStories and Co-Founder of the non-profit organization Jolkona, which works with students and young adults to build a new generation of philanthropists, “successful social entrepreneurs lead by example and have fun at the same time” (i.e., “love what you do”). 5
How do social enterprise ideas differ from traditional business ones?
“Social enterprise ideas, unlike conventional business ideas, typically result from a desire to solve a social need; similar to how many non-profit and charity organizations find their beginning. Traditional business ideas can also come from identifying a social need. But, the difference between a social enterprise idea and a traditional business idea is the motivation of the entrepreneur. The primary motivation for a traditional entrepreneur is more-often-than-not a desire to make money; a social entrepreneur is driven more by a passion to solve a social problem, and only chooses to use business as a mechanism to solve these problems.”6
One successful example was begun more than 60 years ago by Pennsylvania Mennonite Edna Ruth Byler (1904-1976), who on a trip in 1946 to Puerto Rico was struck by the poverty she witnessed. She believed market opportunities in North America would provide economic opportunities for artisans in developing countries. She started by selling handcrafted items out of the trunk of her car, and eventually the fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages was established.7
One of the most famous examples (and famous founders) of a social enterprise is the company Newman’s Own, founded by the late actor Paul Newman in 1982. All royalties and profits from the sales of its food products go to the Newman’s Own Foundation, which has granted over $450 million to thousands of charities.8
You can also eat well for a good cause by supporting social enterprise restaurants and cafes, many of which provide job training and skills for people with barriers to employments as well as raising money to support social missions. An example in the Bay Area is the Delancey Street Restaurant on The Embarcadero at Brannan. The Delancey Restaurant opened in 1991 and was built by the Delancey Street Foundation’s residents, former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless, and others in need of help to live in mainstream society.9
Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I also found examples of animal-minded social enterprises. Twelve of these companies were profiled by Trend Hunter in 2013.10
My particular favorite is Rescue Chocolate (no surprise, again). Who can resist the slogan “the sweetest way to save a life”?11 The chocolates are all vegan and 100% of the net profits go to animal rescue organizations around the United States. They also incorporate educational messages in the names and labeling of the chocolates, with:
Peanut Butter Pit Bull (crispy peanut butter and chocolate, countering the negative public image of the pit bull-type dogs)
Pick Me! Pepper (sweet ’n spicy dark chocolate with peppers, highlighting the advantages of choosing pets from animal shelters instead of breeders or pet stores)
Foster-iffic Peppermint (dark chocolate with peppermint, highlighting the need for people to provide foster care for shelter animals as they await their forever homes)
The Fix (plain 66%, highlighting the importance of spay and neuter)
Mission Feral Fig (fig, cranberry, almond, and spices, highlighting the humane solution for feral cats, TNR)
Fakin’ Bacon (smoky, sweet and salty, a salute to farm animal sanctuaries and compassionate gourmands)
Forever Mocha (hazelnut praline and coffee, highlighting ways to help people make and honor a lifetime commitment to their pets)
It’s kitten season! I love kitten season, and I hate kitten season. Kittens are absolutely adorable and so much fun. But there are so many of them all summer, and the sad truth is that when there are kittens available at the animal shelter, the wonderful adult cats tend to stay longer waiting to be adopted. Until the spay/neuter message really gets out there, there are more kittens than the shelters can care for. In steps the foster brigade, of which I am a proud member since last summer. The foster team at the East Bay SPCA, led by Joseph and Mimi, does awesome work facilitating the program.
After a short winter break, we have our new guests in the foster quarters, aka the guest bathroom. Mother kitty Mars came to us with her 5 babies on April 9 when they were about 4 days old. Of course, I immediately fell in love with them all!
Mars is such a devoted mother, after 2 weeks still only leaving them to eat and use the litter box.
And the babies, though still tiny, get bigger and more active every day. Their eyes are open now. Even though Twix is the smallest, she was first to see the world!
Their personalities are also starting to shine through. Dove is the loudest and the pushiest, always in best position at the milk bar and most likely to be on top of the kitten pile. Milky Way was the first to purr, and is like a cuddly, sleepy teddy bear. The orange twins, Reeses and Snickers, are always together. Snickers is defnitely going to be the Classic Orange Tabby. And little Twix, feisty and determined but still a mama’s girl. She’s the one who tugs on my heart strings.
The family has been with us 2 weeks now. The kittens had a weigh-in yesterday; Reeses is the biggest at 11 ounces, Snickers, Dove, and Milky Way all came in at 10 ounces, with little Twix pulling up the rear at 8 ounces. Just remember, great things come in small packages!
They change every day. More fun times and updates ahead!
I don’t refer to myself as an artist. When I was much younger I wanted to be “an artist”, yes, but as I have worked in the arts for many years now I have realized that a lot of the game of becoming a “successful” artist is knowing how to market yourself. And that’s the rub. I have no desire to develop that side of my personality. But I do love to draw still.
We recently started an art group at Direct Action Everywhere, and I was amazed at the wonderful artists in the group. It’s an honor to have been included.
Here is an artist statment I wrote not long ago when I was approached by art group organizer Leslie Robinson Goldberg, aka the Vicious Vegan of Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) about a series profiling activist-artists.
As a shy and anxious kid, drawing and animals were two of the ways I connected to the world. My mother was always very tolerant about taking in the strays that my siblings and I brought home. At one point, we had 4 dogs and 7 cats sharing the house with Mom and the 4 of us. I drew a lot of pictures of cats, needless to say.
In college getting my design degree, drawing classes were always my favorite. My first job out of college was as an archaeological illustrator with a company in Sacramento, working on environmental impact reports and historic building surveys. After a couple of years, I was being phased out by computer applications, so I went back to school and shifted careers into arts administration. My love of drawing had really suffered, but never my love for animals! By finding a community of artists with the animal activism world, I’ve finally felt inspired to get out my sketchbook.
The project that I am contemplating working on focuses on the animals I meet and love during my volunteer shifts at the East Bay SPCA. I plan to do a sketch a week, picking the animal that most touches my heart during my shift. I mostly volunteer in the cat adoption area, but I’d love to start including dogs as well. The challenge will be finding the best way to include their stories with the sketches.
I think what bring me back to drawing is the personal connection I feel when I am with the animals at the shelter. My heart is involved, not just my eye-hand coordination and attention to detail. Someone suggested that I offer the shelter animal drawings to the eventual adopters of the animals, and I really like that idea, if I can bring myself to part with them!
I went through all of the work I have accumulated over the years, and was surprised at how little of it involved animals. I included an older piece (the endangered Smith’s Blue in the DxE blogpost, link below) because it is a drawing I am still happy with years later and it was one of the rare chances I had as an illustrator to draw something that made me feel like I was doing something important (plus it made me happy).
The other 4 drawings, all unfinished, I included are of animals I recently spent time with at the The East Bay SPCA, the wonderful shelter where I have volunteered sine 2009. I plan to keep doing a sketch every time I go to the shelter, focusing on the animal that day who most tugs at my heart.
Tofurkey, the sad-eyed chihuahua mix, has since been adopted! Yay, Tofurkey! I can’t decide if I hope they changed her name or not.
I started a new piece last night, of my newest foster kitten Babou. He is the sweetest, funniest little guy. He makes me laugh and I know he will find a wonderful forever home, thanks to the East Bay SPCA.
When I applied to a Ph.D. program on an impulse last summer, I knew my life would be busy, but I didn’t realize just how busy. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I thought, sure, I can go to school full time while working full time. It hasn’t been the easiest thing I ever decided to do, and I have many more semesters to go. But having now submitted my last paper for the first semester (YAY), I can look back and reflect on just how crazy the last few months have been.
One of my first moves was to get a big dry-erase calendar to organize my life. I hung it, planned out the semester, and then pretty much ignored it until today, when I am wiping it clean for next semester.
As would be expected in any doctoral program, books are involved. Lots of books. Some I really enjoyed. Some I struggled with. And I faced the reality that I have to pick and choose what to read; I can’t read it all. Or I’m going to have to take a speed-reading class.
My dictionary stays open to the “h” pages–I can’t remember the definitions of heuristic and hermeneutics to save my life.
I did have to change some things in my daily routine. My obsession with making the bed every morning is a thing of the past, I hate to say (sorry, Mom). As much as I like to do laundry, the laundry room is now the least visited room in the house.
We might not ever eat homemade meals if not for the Purple Carrot. Similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh!, it’s a service that ships the ingredients and recipes for 3 meals a week. Purple Carrot happens to be vegan, and has the caché of having Mark Bittman on the team.
Of course, we do end up eating on tv trays in front of television most of the time. But that’s not new.
Have I mentioned coffee? There’s a lot of coffee in my life. Funny thing. it’s mostly decaf, but still gotta have it!
I have managed to have some fun down time. Maybe that’s why I scramble to get my papers in on time, but my idea of fun down time is going out on marches and protests, and I think of those as a part of my humane education program. As my friend and fellow future Ph.D. Suzy Fisher says, don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.
A trip to Chicago was one of the highlights of autumn for me. I got to live my Ferris Bueller moment at the Art Institute of Chicago and attend a wonderful concert by the National Brass Ensemble, thanks to the generosity of world’s best boyfriend and amazing brass player Robert Ward.
There’s always room for food in my life, maybe too much so sometimes, and cooking classes are a great way to spend the spare time I don’t have.
I bake for the monthly bake sales held to benefit animal sanctuaries by the Berkeley Organization for the Advocacy of Animals at UC Berkeley.
I continued to volunteer for East Bay SPCA. It’s because of my experience there with the animals that I am on this path, so I can’t give that up! And I’ve added fostering onto the list of things I do. Our guest bathroom has been turned into a foster cat habitat.
During all of this, work was chaotic too! The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive moved into a new building. Moving is never easy unless you have truckloads of money to pay someone else to do it while you go on vacation.
I had a wonderful time volunteering at the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose.
At the Fairmont in San Jose
And just when I got settled into a new office and a new neighborhood, I found a wonderful opportunity to work at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Let the commuting begin! Only it didn’t begin so well. My car should be done at the MINI service center soon.
Ask me how I’m doing:
One day it will all be worth it: I will be one of the new Doctors of Philosophy getting to wear the coveted sash.
I couldn’t be doing any of this without the love and support of aforementioned Robert Ward. Thank you!
And for any possible naysayers out there (thankfully that would not be any of my friends or family), I will leave you with the wise words of Harold. Please excuse his language.
Disclosure: I am writing this to fulfill an assignment for Introduction to Humane Education, a wonderful course in my first semester as a Humane Education PhD student at Saybrook University in conjunction with Valparaiso University and the Institute for Humane Eduction. I am reading The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird (awesome names). The assignment is to bring these elements to others through my teaching. Since I am not a teacher in a clssroom, I am applying the elements to how I might approach pet adoptions during my volunteer shifts at the East Bay SPCA. The views expressed are solely those of the author, not of any organization. I am paraphrasing the 5 elements, not quoting the authors.
So, you want to adopt a shelter pet?
Element 1: Examine your understanding of the basics.
Why do you want a pet? Ask yourself why you want a pet. You might be surprised at the real reason and it might be that a pet is not right for you or it is not the right time. The following are responses I’ve heard and my reaction to them:
“My kids keep asking for a dog/cat.” Not the best reason if it’s the only reason. Knowing as the parent that unless your kids are extraordinary you will be doing a lot of the pet care (and paying the expenses), do you want a pet? And why does your kid want a pet? If it’s because of a cute movie like 101 Dalmatians, chances are the pet will end up back at the shelter. Celebrities with pets are often not good role models either.
“I want a cat to catch mice.” or “I want a guard dog.” At shelters, we are looking to place companion animals as members of families, not working animals. And we can’t guarantee that a cat will be a mouser.
“I want a present for my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/child/children.” Are you sure the recipient wants a pet? Wouldn’t it be better for them to meet the pet, and make the choice themselves? Giving pets as surprise gifts is not encouraged. At the East Bay SPCA everyone in the household must be on board and present to meet potential adoptive pets.
“I have a cat/dog at home who is lonely and needs a friend.” Maybe. Maybe not. Do you know your pet gets along with other animals? Maybe your cat/dog is happy as an only pet. If you have a dog and want another, be prepared to bring your dog in to meet potential adoptees; it’s required at the East Bay SPCA.
“I love animals, grew up with them, can’t imagine life without them and have done my homework on adoption.” First, I will ask for permission to hug you. Then I will start introducing you to the animals. Gold star!
We will get to more questions in Element 3: Ask questions!
Element 2: Learn from your mistakes.
Meet several potential animals and find the temperament that is right for you. Take your time and find the right fit. If you meet an animal that you don’t connect with, figure out why and look for a pet with the characteristics that would facilitate a connection. Some people want lap cats, some want aloof cats, some want dogs that they can dress up, some want dogs that will go jogging with them. Are you a couch potato? A highly energetic pet won’t be the right one. There are couch potatoes waiting for you at the shelter, too! An older person might do well to consider an older pet. Senior pets are wonderful! Some animals might be shy at first; is that okay with you or do you want instant bonding? Don’t feel shy about having a conversation with the shelter staff or volunteer helping you; they generally know the animals and can make recommendations based on what you are looking for. And remember, it’s not all about looks. Personality is much more important!
Once you find the pet that you think is the one, it’s time for adoption counseling.
Element 3: Raise questions!
When adopting a pet, there are many issues to think about and at the East Bay SPCA, a volunteer adoption counselor or a staff associate will guide you through some questions and answer any you have. For example:
Where will the pet sleep at night? With you? In a crate? (Please don’t say outdoors.)
What behaviors can you tolerate and what not? Have you ever dealt with problem behaviors in pet before? There are ways to correct behaviors if you are willing to put in the effort.
Do you have the willingness to deal with litter boxes or picking up after your dog? Potty training a dog?
Have you considered the cost of toys, grooming, veterinary services? At the East Bay SPCA, you will be informed if they are aware of any pre-existing medical issues, but the cost of care will be yours.
Do you have time for keeping your pet from being bored? Dogs need walking, cats need activities.
Do you have your landlord’s permission?
Who will look after the pet if you go on vacation or have an emergency?
The list goes on!
Element 4: Add it all up (look at the “flow” of ideas).
After going through all the pluses and minuses, are you still on board? Have you met a pet that you can do everything in Element 3 for? Do you feel like all of your concerns have been addressed in the adoption counseling? You can change your mind and there won’t be any judgment. The shelter wants what is best for you and the animal. Don’t feel obligated!
Element 5: Embrace change!
If you adopted an animal companion, congratulations! Your life will change, for the better. The human-animal bond has mutual rewards. And if you have children, there will be lots of learning opportunities ahead. If you didn’t adopt, think about why not. Did you decide maybe the best pet for you isn’t a dog or a cat but some other small animal? There are plenty of private rescue groups for rabbits, birds, all kinds of creatures. Oakland Animal Services, not too far from the East Bay SPCA, has other small animals for adoption. Maybe a younger pet takes more time and energy than you have so you want to look into senior pets. Or if you realized it’s not the right time for you but you’d still like to be involved with animals, you could look into volunteering at a shelter. And start planning for the future when the time is right.
This week is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week; consider making a donation, becoming a volunteer, and/or adopting a pet in need!