Writing for animals and an RV surprise!

Writing for Animals!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Writing for Animals — It’s a course!! It’s a book!! It’s — it’s — it’s what I want to do!!!

If you read my last post, you know that something I have been thinking about doing, off and on, for a while now, has been to go on the road and write about animals. Visit a lot of animal sanctuaries and rehab facilities and then write about my experiences there. In the process, the goal is to educate myself and others to the myriad of species out there — both wildlife and domestic. Visit state and national parks along the way and see how climate change is affecting them both in terms of their wildlife and plants/trees. Again, write about them and educate myself and others in the process. Who knows? Maybe it could eventually become a book someday.

So when Ashland Creek Press, whose email list I subscribe to, informed me that they were going to be offering a four-week writing course in January entitled Writing for Animals, using a book by the same name as one of its texts, I jumped at the chance! I’ve already received the book and started reading through it and am excited for the course. The course is already full, but because there was such a good response to the inaugural session, they will be holding at least one more. You can sign up for their mailing list here and learn about the course’s leaders here (Midge Raymond and John Yunker).

Reading through the text, I am reminded of some of the lessons from the courses I took through the Institute for Humane Education, or IHE as it’s known. Always be very aware of your audience and be extremely aware of the language and terminology you use. For example, what’s the difference in referring to an animal as he, she, or it? It makes a difference and can sometimes show some insight into the upbringing or experiences of the writer. for example, using the term “it” can demonstrate speciesism, intentional or not. Even my choice of image below conveys certain ideas about how I view animals and desire others to view them. I can’t wait for this course!

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

RV Surprise!

Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay (This is what a Class C RV looks like.)

My brother and sister-in-law have been traveling through Latin America and South America for a couple years now, in a truck and camper. You can read more about their adventures at It’s Not a Slow Car, It’s a Fast House. (I highly suggest you do, as Geneva is a really good writer and you can learn a lot about so many different topics from reading her posts.) Before the truck camper, they traveled throughout the US and Canada with a Vanagon named Alta. They know I tried out RV living a few years ago when I was in Utah, working for Best Friends Animal Society, when I had a 30 foot fifth wheel set up in a mobile home/trailer park. That wasn’t the right fit for me for many reasons: remote location, stationary location for the RV (and my inability to tow it on my own).

My brother sent me a link to a Cruise America video and said “this would be the perfect size for you.” It’s a Class C motor home, 19 feet in length. (If you don’t know what the different classes of motorhomes are, think of the ones that have a bunk over the cab. Not a van-type body (those are Class Bs) or as long as a bus (those are Class As). Now, I am familiar with Cruise Americas from my time working in Page, Arizona at the Wahweap RV and Campground at the Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas. And if you click on that link and are wondering, does it really look like that? Um, YES!! It really is a gorgeous area located near the Navajo Nation’s Reservation. But I’ve never driven a motorhome myself, even though I’ve been in many a travel trailer and motorhome during my life.

So, I decided I would start saving to rent one in the spring and take my animals along for the ride; see how my fur family and I handle being together in such a space as i am considering buying one when my lease is up in July. Geneva and Mike mentioned to me that they have a friend who rented one of theirs once as part of a transport for the company, and got a good deal on the price of the rental and many free miles. You can learn more about that by clicking here. So that’s what I am doing! I am flying to Boston on Christmas Day. My flight was $37!! On Jet Blue!! How insane is that?? And then I will drive it back to Florida!

I am taking Snuggles with me for a few reasons. First, Jet Blue limits you to flying with a pet and carrier that combined are only 20 pounds. My Sophie girl alone is 23 pounds, so I can’t take her, plus she might be a bit too long or tall for flying under the seat. Second, Snuggles and Sophie are both my early warning systems when there is danger (or what they perceive to be danger or just a human being, or animal) nearby. And third, I know he gets very depressed when I am not around. When I went to my nephew’s wedding in Arizona in March 2019, my friend Sarita said he moped the entire time I was gone and didn’t want to come out the bedroom. Sophie is a bit more independent and happy go lucky, so while she will miss me and I will really miss her, I know she can handle the separation better than he can.

Upon arriving back in Florida, I will be hooking up to the electric (and water if there is an outside connection) to the guest house where my brother is staying (I got permission from him and his in-laws whose guest house he is staying in) for a few days. That will be my opportunity to get Sophie and the cats and see how they all do in such a space, or to find out if the next size up might be a bit better. There are Class Cs that are 22, 23, and 24 feet as well as much longer, and Cruise America has a 23 footer. It’s my thinking a Class C might be good because the cabover bed may be a great way for the cats to have their safe sanctuary away from the dogs when needed. So you could say this is my TEST run! Maybe it will be too small. Maybe it will be too big. But maybe, it may be just right. 🙂

Cruise America and Cruise Canada do sell their units, refurbished, after they are about 3 to 4 years old. The mileage is on the higher side but on the other hand, you will know the maintenance history and they are also upgraded in ways to withstand the wear and tear of rental use. For my trip, it will cost me $39 per night and I get 2500 free miles, more than enough to make the trip from Boston to the Orlando area. (Actually down to Naples and then back up to turn in the RV.)

This will be the first time I make this drive between Mass and Florida without it being in my small Mazda2 crammed in with all The Herd and my stuff! Whatever will I do with all this space???

But aren’t you worried about Covid?

So you may be aware that I have already had Covid. While it is extremely rare, I know you can get it more than once. So I am being very careful on my end, as my friend in MA with whom I will be staying for a couple days is pregnant and in her second trimester. I will be getting a Covid test within 72 hours of my flight.

People see the news and think that everyone in Florida is partying on the beach without a care in the world and basically inviting Covid into their life. Don’t believe everything you see. Stores pretty much require masks. Restaurants require them until you are seated at your table, and restaurants practice social distancing with less than full capacity — I think they are allowed 50 percent capacity at most. Last couple of months, I have been running outside or going to the beach to walk or run, for my exercise. Wear a mask when in public around others. Honestly, I’m home a lot. And a great number of people down here take social distancing and the advice of wearing masks to heart. We are just lucky in that we have good weather all year round so we can be outside and social distance more easily than in cold climates. Rest assured, the idea of going through that experience of Covid again is not at all appealing to me. I will be careful both before, during and after my trip.

So anyway, that’s my news!! The trip begins December 28th! For safety reasons, I won’t be posting real-time photos, but will let some folks know my itinerary once I figure it out and where I am.

For now, I am off to research cat harnesses and to attempt to find a second hand winter coat for my trip. Wish me luck — the odds of finding one in southwest Florida are somewhere between slim and none!

Thanks for reading!

“Just a thought” in my mind becomes a new dream

Great blue heron seen recently on a jetty along Naples Beach. Just looked so majestic, standing there for the longest time

So here is something I have thought about doing over the years. If I ever get my big girl pants on and decide to travel in an RV or some other form around the US, I would like to see a bunch of national parks. BUT what I ALSO want to do is visit a ton of animal sanctuaries, especially wildlife sanctuaries/rehab facilities. I really enjoyed the time i spent with the Peace River Wildlife Center, and one of the things that i have really liked about living in Florida is the wildlife. It is freaking amazing!!

One of my favorite things to do here at the beach is to watch the pelicans dive bomb for their food from the sky, or fly so low and close to the water that I’m amazed that they don’t get their wings wet while doing it. If you have ever seen a pelican dive, or even if you haven’t, then you will want to check out this video on YouTube: Pelicans Dive Bombing Once they enter the water, they open up their throat pouch, which can hold as much as three GALLONS of water, and catch fish, which they then turn around in their pouch, if need be, to swallow the fish whole, face first.

I watch the sandpipers run up and down the sand, in and out of the path of the waves. I watch the willets near the shoreline. If I’m lucky, I get to see a great egret or snowy egret stalk some prey (ahem, fish). And on the really awesome days, i get to see dolphins. Of all the days I have spent mornings or sunsets at the beach, I have only been lucky to see some jumping out of the water. (I used to think they were playing but have since found out that they do that to be able to see the fish better, or to cover more “ground” than just by swimming.)

Brown Pelicans on pilings

The pelicans closest to me (the camera) are juveniles, which you can tell by their coloring on their heads and necks (gray). Toward the middle of the photo and at the back, you will see two with white necks. Those are adults. They don’t get their adult coloring until they reach the age of three.

Anyway, I digress. Anyone who has worked in animal welfare knows it doesn’t pay well. It is a true “labor of love.” One of the last things those folks do have is time to market themselves or publicize their work. Many depend on volunteer labor to get everything done. What I would like to do is travel to these sanctuaries, volunteer if possible, talk to the folks who work there or run them, and then write about them or get their good deeds known to others. Still brainstorming the best ways to do that. TRANSLATION: Anyone have any good ideas about that? (Instagram, YouTube, podcast?) Please comment below!

Hand in hand with this idea is another one that occurred to me while on a recent run. There don’t seem to be a searchable database of these types of organizations/wildlife sanctuaries. I can find some for animal shelters but not wildlife rehabilitation centers or sanctuaries.

The librarian in me will never die — I would love to create something like that for others like me who care about the animals of the world and how we can protect them, donate to help them, or volunteer our labor as well. While I do think I am adept at learning new things, a software engineer or database creator I am not. However I am sure there is someone out there who could help or at least point me in the right direction to get this idea cracking. So if you are reading this blog and know of someone who can assist, even in some small way, with info, ideas etc., PLEASE share this post with them! I know I can create a web page that organizes that info in possibly a table format, etc., but there has to be a better way!

Information I’d like to include about the sanctuaries/rehab facilities would be:

  • Name of sanctuary
  • Location
  • Populations/Species of animals cared for
  • Information on donating to the sanctuary (via links, posssibly)
  • Information on volunteering at the sanctuary (via links, possibly)
  • Information on the mission or vision statement of that sanctuary
  • Thoughts on the sanctuaries that I do visit as well as links to my writeup/podcast/video, etc., on that sanctuary

Any other ideas any of you might have out there? I know I am not the only person in the world who loves and appreciates wildlife and wants to do whatever they can to help them in these times of climate change and shrinking habitats. I would like to use my talents and skills to do my part. And, I feel like this suits my me more than pursuing a marine biology degree because science and math are truly not my strong suits. I felt like for those few months of school just recently, I was pounding my head against a wall, trying to do something which I am just not naturally suited for. Writing, educating, organizing and speaking are where I excel much more.

Photo of recent sunset along Naples Beach, just because.

What do you think? A worthwhile idea, or am I just crazy??

Clearly, it would take time to develop but over time, little things add up. My thinking is that this adventure of traveling to the sanctuaries could start late 2021.

All About Animals: Birds Edition

I mentioned in a recent post that one of my happy places is the Peace River Wildlife Center where I volunteer on the weekend as a tour guide. I love that I get to be around beautiful animals but cannot be tempted to bring them home with me because well, it’s illegal to have wildlife in your home as a pet. And if you’ve taken a look at The Herd page, well, you know I really don’t have room for more!! Nor can I afford to take care of any more!

PRWC is a small wildlife rehab center and sanctuary that does amazing work for the budget that it has.  It is run on private donations and most of the folks that greet visitors are volunteers such as myself but there are some paid staff such as the wildlife rehabilitator and techs and an office manager/volunteer coordinator/she of many hats! I find that as I am learning more about the animals and the organization, my time at PRWC is becoming more and more important to me each week. I truly look forward to the hours I spend there, and have now joined their outreach team. (The photos below that were taken with humans around were from an outreach event about a week ago.)

If you’d like to help PRWC’s cause (or any one of a number non-profits like them), then when you shop on Amazon, go instead to Amazon Smile and pick the charitable organization of your choice. At no extra cost to you, that charity will get a small percentage of the cost of your items donated to them. It may only be pennies at a time but over time, believe me, it can add up.

Down here in Florida, I am fortunate to see a lot of wildlife so I am sharing some in this post that I have seen since I’ve moved here along with some photos of ambassador animals from PRWC. The ambassadors go to outreach events to let people know about the center and serve as great sources of education and inspiration for anyone who is able to see them up close.

By the way, these brown pelicans shown below were waiting for a fisherman who was cleaning off some fish, to throw them scraps. PSA: fisherman should not throw them parts of fish. If there are any bones sticking out, it can really do a number on ripping up their throat when they eat it. It’s best for a pelican to eat a fish whole.

Two adult brown pelicans as seen in Naples last year. You know they are adults because their necks are white. They don’t get their adult colors until they turn three. The one appearing closest to me as the photographer appears to have a chestnut colored neck. That means he or she was in mating/nesting mode. They don’t get this dark chestnut color until they turn at least three. After nesting season is over, that color will molt off and they will return to their full white necks. We have many of these pelicans at PRWC!
Black crowned night heron – this one was seen at the Seaside Bird Sanctuary, Indian Shores, Florida. This one was not a resident of the sanctuary but seemed unfazed by all the humans walking right by him/her.
Okay, it’s not a bird but a gopher tortoise. We have one named Legoless (a few amputations on her foot due to being attacked by a dog) at our sanctuary.
Saw these flamingos at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’ve been told that, similar to the roseate spoonbill, they have pink feathers due to their diet. My sanctuary does have a roseatte spoonbill named Spork. He was almost dead from starvation when found, as he couldn’t fly. He has had a wing amputation and is one of my favorites at PRWC.
Cruiser is an American Kestrel. Smallest type of falcon in North America. One of the types of birds where the male is more brightly colored than the female (his wings have some blue to them.) Named Cruiser because he was hit by a car and found by a biker who picked him up, put him in his saddlebags and brought him to PRWC. That was about two years ago. He is estimated to be about three years old.
Here is a close up of Cruiser’s beautiful face!
Luna is a very rare Eastern Screech Owl if not the only one that is totally white! Eastern screech owls are the smallest owl to be found in Florida. Usually they blend into the background of a tree where they may be hanging out. Luna does not have the pigment needed to help him protect himself in the wild. Eastern screech owls usually live about three years in the wild. Luna turns 7 on April Fools Day! (No joke!)
Isn’t Orion majestic?? He is a three year old barred owl that imprinted on humans at a very young age. The story about him is that as a baby, he tried to fly. Didn’t go so well and he found himself on the ground. A lady found him and called the Fish and Wildlife folks who put him back in the tree. But she had become enamored with him and would go out and talk to him and sometimes feed him. So he never learned to hunt for food on his own. So now he, along with Luna and Cruiser are just a few of the ambassador animals found at PRWC.
Here is another photo of Orion. Owls have many more vertebrae in their neck than humans, which is what allows them to turn 270 degrees!! I believe at the time I took this photo, he might have been giving a dog the stink-eye!

So that’s it for this post. I plan on adding more information to the Animal Rights and Welfare Groups page and have some thoughts about adding an Educational Resources/Tools page to this blog. (You really can take the girl out of the library but not the library out of the girl.) Let me know what you think about that, and I hope that you enjoy these photos and the little bits of information I was able to share!

On Sharing, Being Awake, and Vegan Dog Food

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

When I interviewed for the Humane Education program, the director asked me how I would deal with coping with some of the information I would learn about.  How would I keep my spirits up when some of what I will read and see is the sort of thing that most people would turn their eyes away from, like the ASPCA commercial that has Sarah McLachlan’s song, “Angel” playing in the background?

To be honest, it’s been hard sometimes. Luckily, one of my coworkers went completely vegan at the beginning of the year so I have someone else to talk to about the whole factory farming thing and why we have both gone vegan. With her, I don’t have to hear “I’ll never be able to NOT eat meat,” or “Why don’t you eat dairy?  The cow has to give milk and it’s not like they’re killing her for the milk.” She “gets it” when I say that I don’t want to be part of causing any animal pain, and she doesn’t look at me like I’m nuts when I say that I’m considering feeding my dogs a vegan diet such as V-Dog.

It can be kind of depressing (or maybe disheartening is a better word) to see what is happening to so many animals every day and know you can’t stop all of it.  Add to that the quandaries you find yourself in, trying to figure out how to best spread the message about becoming vegan or vegetarian, or how our climate is changing every day, or why it’s better to adopt an animal or rescue one off of the streets instead of buying one from a breeder, thereby encouraging the use of puppy mills or the existence of backyard breeders.  Some days, you wish you could still be ignorant of a lot of the pain and suffering that animals go through for humans.  But deep down, you know it’s better to be awake and aware, than to not know what really goes on behind slaughterhouse walls.

So, you push through things and you watch or see images that hurt your heart.  But you do it because the animals need someone to be their witness.  Someone to be their mouthpiece.  I also tell myself that my brief suffering of watching the event is nothing compared to having actually gone through it.

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

I’ve found that I have needed to spend some time out in the sun and a lot of time holding Snuggles close to me, especially when watching documentary films like The Witness or Earthlings.  I’ve also found writing in my journal to be so helpful in guiding me through the crazy maze of my thoughts.  Posting on here has been cathartic too.

I try to not beat myself up for having eaten animals and related products in the past, or for having worn wool and used products that involved animal testing. That was when I didn’t know better.  All I can do is help the animals now, going forward, both by my own actions and lifestyle choices and by writing posts like this one from January.  (In case you want to see more animal issues awareness posts of mine, look here.  And for other posts about my love for animals, look here.  Of course, there is some overlap.)  In case you are wondering, yes, I still have plans to make lots of updates to this website and making changes to incorporate suggestions that some of you generously offered in response to my post of last December when I requested input from you, my readers!

Last night, I came across a job board called VeganJobs.com.  You have no idea how excited that made me!  These past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been spinning circles, trying to figure out how to earn a living wage while still working in an animal-related job.  Unless you are the executive director of a shelter or sanctuary, the jobs are usually very low-paying and as I have my student loans, I can’t afford to take a job at any less than what I am now.  It’s hard enough at my current salary level.

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

It was on VeganJobs.com that I came across the website, Bite Size Vegan and her corresponding YouTube channel.  She has so many educational videos on her channel, and many can be shown to kids or young adults. I want to help spread the word about the incredible work she is doing so I am sharing it here.  Please go give her some love!

My last few posts have been longer than normal, so I’ll stop this one here today.  Today, I’m feeling more upbeat and hopeful about things.  I may not be chosen for the jobs I’ve  applied for but now I know there are jobs out there that I would love to do and for which I feel qualified.  There is light out there at the end of the tunnel.

As always, thank you for reading.  Please share if you know someone who you think can benefit from reading it.  And as always, comment if you have any thoughts!

 

 

Embarrassed to be a human sometimes

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image from pixabay.com

The above image is what most of us would like to think is how most cows live.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

I spent most of my afternoon watching different videos for my Animal Protection class, and one of them was the 2005 film, Earthlings, which you can watch for free by clicking here.  (I must warn you, the film has graphic images.  The first link goes to the Wikipedia description.)  If you watch it, I can guarantee you will be changed as a person.  I cannot believe what some humans are capable of doing to another living creature.  I really can’t.

Now, I know that telling people all the things that they are doing wrong will just result in their tuning you out. So I’m not going to do that.  But I will say that it caused me to rethink the cavalier way that I sometimes react when I really want a cookie and it might have been made with eggs.  “Oh, it’s vegan today!”  I sometimes say.  Crunch, crunch.

Well, no more.  The images from that movie are seared into my brain.

Chickens crammed into cages so tightly they can’t even move or stretch out their wings.  Dairy cows unable to move from their milking area all day long, pumped full with antibiotics and pesticides so that they will produce more milk, having had their babies ripped away from them on the very first day of their lives.  The slaughter scenes are what really did me in, as I knew they would.  (I’d already known what happens in those buildings but seeing it again is something else.)

Another thing.  In the past, I thought I could be in a relationship with someone even if they ate meat.  I don’t think that I could do that, going forward.  If I were dating someone, and they sat down across from me at the table and started to eat a raw steak, I think it would be nearly impossible to not imagine a cow being slaughtered and the immense pain it suffers from how it’s treated.  I would hear its cries as my partner munched away.  And I really don’t think I can do that again.

I choose to no longer be a speciest. 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, speciesm is defined as the following:

Definition of speciesism

1prejudice or discrimination based on speciesespecially discrimination against animals
2the assumption of human superiority on which speciesism is based
When I was eating meat and using dairy, I was being a speciest without even knowing it.  I was raised to think that eating meat (even veal) was just something everyone did.  Animals were put on this earth to make our lives easier.
I’m not condemning others who eat meat.  But I do think that more people should step out of their comfort zones, and open their eyes to the suffering that goes on every day with so many thousands of animals who are raised for purposes of our food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research.  I no longer accept the phrase “Yeah, I’m good.  I don’t want to know,” as being a valid excuse.  In this day and age, we have so much information at our fingertips.

It may sound like I might be going to too much of an extreme in saying I can’t be with someone who eats meat.  However, I realized today, watching that movie and holding Snuggles closely to me, my animals are all I need.  I don’t need a romantic relationship in my life to make me feel complete.  A few very good friends, located near or far, are enough for me.
A line in the film really stuck with me.
Humans are the one species on this earth that inflict pain just to inflict pain.  No other species does that.
Animals may inflict pain on one another but it’s for survival reasons.   The predator kills and eats his/her prey.
Humans have so many other choices for food and clothes.  We don’t need to kill an animal just so we can have the newest “cute” handbag or “sexy” boots or softest fur coat.  We have so many other options.  The only vitamin a vegan needs to take in order to supplement their diet is B12.  The rest can come from foods that don’t include dairy or meat.
I will add links to some of the other videos I watched to my animal rights page of this blog in the near future.
If you’d like to leave a comment below, please do so.  If someone else’s comment goes against what you believe in or think, please respond in an above-board way.  A healthy exchange of ideas is best.
As always, thank you for reading.

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Chasing your dreams, even simple ones, can be difficult sometimes

 

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Image via pixabay.com

I just found out the other day via LinkedIn that a former coworker of mine just left Harvard Law to take a new position at another university, and from the sound of her title, it sounds pretty high up there.  I’m sure the salary corresponds to it well.  This person is a very smart cookie and knows how to negotiate.  (It was only after she got hired there several years ago that myself and another coworker were then given substantial raises in salary (ahem, readjustments.))

Why do I even mention this?  Because it made me feel kind of crappy.  I mean, I was happy for her.  She has always been a very hard worker and an excellent librarian.  She manages working full time with twins and has since had another baby.  And now she has this big-time sounding job. And here I am, scrimping to get by on just under $25K per year, not counting in my freelance work.  It made me question myself.

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Image via pixabay.com

Experiencing Compassion Fatigue and Feeling Burnt Out:

I think I have begun experiencing what they refer to as compassion fatigue.  Receiving multiple calls, day after day, from people who have just adopted a pet but can’t afford to take care of them, can really get to you.  Getting a call in which someone says “my pet just got hit by a car, but I don’t get paid until next week,” is really rough.  I’d love to say to them, “I can help you pay for that,” but the reality is that on $12.50/hour, it’s just not possible.  I have my own bills to take care of.

I’m taking a class in Animal Protection this semester.  I’m going to have some hard emotions to work through.  I already know that.  When I read about factory farmed animals, I experience physiological changes.  I feel it in my heart and in my throat.  I want to yell, scream, or hit something. (Not my pets, of course.  They actually help calm me down.)

The film Earthlings is assigned for us at one point.  (That link goes to the Wikipedia description of the film.)  The teacher has made it clear in the syllabus that we have the option to not watch it.  I haven’t yet figured out if I will or not.  I don’t want to have nightmares as a result, but in learning to be a humane educator, a part of me feels it’s necessary to bear witness to what is going on in this world so I can better advocate and educate humans for those who can’t speak.

Did I also mention that I have been trying to find extra side work with a few transcribing companies?  I have, and going through the assessment process can be somewhat stressful.  But the good news is, this morning I found out from one that they would like to work with me.

Stressing about finding a job in my field or determining what that field is:

In addition to feeling a bit burn out, I’ve been starting to feel a bit down about finding a job that really makes me feel like I’m making a difference and having the funds to make a move sooner rather than later.  (I’d like it to be in the next year or two.)  I spent some time talking/texting with my friend Dan, and applied to be a member of the APHE (Association of Professional Humane Educators) so that I could start networking with others in the field.  My application is currently pending.

They (the APHE) are hosting a conference this March in Orlando, Florida so I’m considering going, but it would be a substantial financial investment for someone at my income level.  And while I like meeting people, and can be extroverted at times, I hate the idea of schmoozing.  I’m just not a schmoozer.  Makes me nauseous when I see others doing it, and my past experiences at conferences showed me that a lot of that goes on.  I hope this field is different, though. So I will let you know if I decide to go.

All of these reasons are why I haven’t posted in about a week.  I just didn’t feel I had anything positive to say, and you know what they say – if you don’t have anything good to say, best to say nothing at all.  It could be the cold weather we have here in ABQ, or the fact that it’s winter, or the fact that payday is still two days away, but I’ve been feeling a bit down.  I’m working through it the best I can.  And trying to get enough sleep.  But nothing is a miracle cure.

Change in my personal life:

Oh, and I broke up with the Canadian boyfriend a few weeks ago.  I’m sure that having that in the background of my mind doesn’t help.  We still talk occasionally.   I know it’s for the better but I think subconsciously, it brings back some feelings I experienced when I left my marriage.  That fear of being alone for the rest of your life and wondering if there’s something wrong with you.  However, truth is, I think I’m not in the right head space or life space to be in a relationship right now.  Not when I’m trying to figure out a lot of things.

I hope you are all doing well, despite the cold and heavy snowfall a lot of the country has been experiencing lately.  Please drop me a line and let me know how things are going for you, or if you’ve felt down at times, and what you’ve done to pull yourself out of it.  Or share this post with someone you think would appreciate or benefit from it.  And as always, thanks for reading.

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Low-Cost Animal Healthcare Options

If you find this post helpful, or know someone who it can help, please share it because as they say, “Sharing is caring!” 🙂

 

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Morgan, giving the puppy dog eyes as only she can do!

 

As a veterinary receptionist, I get so many calls every day from people who tell me about a pet that needs help, or that needs to be spayed or neutered, and when they hear what my hospital charges, they say “Well, I can’t afford that.”

The other day I was volunteering at a food pantry, giving out pet food as we do every third Friday of the month, and some ladies told me that they were trying to feed 15 cats that were just dumped on them.  The daughter seemed at her wit’s end, having called a few different organizations and not hearing back, or being told no over and over.  And I was at a loss not knowing of some low-cost spay and neuter clinics, but I did give her the names of some foster care programs if she could trap the cats.  Being a former librarian, that just didn’t sit right with me!!

I went to an outdoor festival on Saturday and met a volunteer with Animal Protection of New Mexico.  Their literature states that there are about 40 different spay/neuter programs in New Mexico alone, so I made a note to find that information and spread it on here.  Please note I’m not intending for these few paragraphs to be all inclusive of every single organization that helps out with low income spay and neuter clinics — that’s impossible to do for the entire globe.

For those of you reading this in New Mexico, click here for a list of spay and neuter programs listed by county, in alphabetical order.  Also, check out the SpayNM spay and neuter program website for another listing of spay and neuter clinics.  SpayNM also provides information on TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs to help deal with feral cat colonies, and PACA (People’s Anti-Cruelty Association) is also helpful in the area of TNR.  And in case those don’t have enough information for you, then check out Love That Cat’s listing by state of spay and neuter programs (note that some only work with pet animals and some only work with feral cats).

Not in New Mexico?  That’s fine.  Here is the link to the ASPCA’s website that has a listing of clinics and programs which you can search for within 50 miles of your zip code.  Not in the US?  That’s ok – go to this listing compiled by the HSUS that includes TNR programs in Canada too!!

If you are reading this from outside of the US or Canada and know of similar type programs in your country, would you kindly drop a comment below so I can share that information on your behalf?  I’m thinking of creating some pages on this blog with helpful resources like this.  It could be a lot of work but the librarian in me will be happy to be kept busy and have her brain engaged. Do you think something like this would be helpful? Please drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

And enjoy this video below of my two nut job dogs (Morgan and Snuggles) playing!

 

 

 

 

Comforting animals at the end: a plea for them

 

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Capturing Snuggles mid-shake, enjoying his walk in the cool mountain air

I would like to ask a favor of you, the reader.  As you read through this, if you feel like it’s touched you in some way, or you think that there is someone out there who can benefit from reading it, I would ask you to share it with them.  Thank you.

I came home from work yesterday and said to my roommate, “I need to go somewhere with Snuggles and feel the sun on my face.”  You see, right before I left work, some folks brought in their 14 year old dog to have her euthanized.  She was a total sweetheart, and I could tell that they loved her.  But when it came time to be with her at the end, they decided they couldn’t be there through the procedure with the doctor.

I brought treats into the visiting room for her, and she eagerly gobbled them up.  (Chicken and yogurt, in case you’re wondering.) When her parents left the room, she tried to scramble after them.  She thought she was leaving too.  But her arthritic legs wouldn’t let her move fast enough. It broke my heart.

I took her into the back to our treatment area, and offered her treats again.  She had no interest in them whatsoever.  She kept staring at the door toward where she had last seen her family.  Why weren’t they with her?  I could see the confusion in her eyes, and knew she was afraid.  I petted her all over her back and hair was just shedding off of her nonstop.  A coworker got her some water in case she was thirsty.  But no, her panting was stress panting.  I kept hugging her and kissing her head on the head.  It’s all I could do.

One of the nurses said it used to bother her when owners wouldn’t be there during the euthanasia procedure with their pets, but she’s gotten used to it.  Me, I NEVER want to get used to that.

I wished I could offer to take over her care and let her live just one day longer.  But I couldn’t, and maybe it was truly her time to cross over.

 

snuggles profile.jpgA few times, when we have not been busy out front at the desk, I’ve asked my coworkers to cover for me so that I can comfort an animal at the end.  I tried to do this for this pup, whispering to her, “it’s okay, it’s okay, shhh, shhh,” but the doctor was having problems with her veins, and finally the pup lost her patience and nipped at her.  So I had to leave as she was muzzled.  If she bit me, my doctor would get into trouble for it.  I’m a receptionist who loves animals, not a veterinary technician.

Imagine at the end of your life, you’re scared, you don’t know who any of these people are with you, but you see a white coat and it scares the crap out of you.  So you lash out and for that, you get a muzzle put on you.

I understand why they had to muzzle her.  I do.  The human part of me does, anyway.  But that inner child that has always felt like I sometimes understand animals better than I do humans — that part grieved for her.   I wanted to be with her, to tell her that she was loved, that she was going to be okay, and wouldn’t feel any more pain as she slowly fell into a very deep, never-ending sleep.

The vet that performed the procedure is amazing when it comes to her love of animals, and that is why she is my vet.  She’s been a vet for many, many years, and I’m sure it doesn’t get any easier.  I’m sure that’s part of why she tries so hard to heal them and keep them alive.

Here is my plea to animal parents out there.  I know it’s hard to say goodbye to your pet.  I know, believe me.  I’ve comforted so many of you in our visiting room as you make that difficult decision.  And each time, it touches another part of my heart.   To many of you, I know they are a member of your family.  Please think of how it would feel to you at the end of your life, to not have one familiar face around you.  You’re not sure why you’re being stuck with needles, and you’re confused.  No one can explain it to you in a language you understand.  Please rethink not being with them at the end.  Your pet has given so much love to you during their (comparatively) short stay here on this earth.  Think of this as your last gift that you can give to them, to be with them at the end.

And if you still cannot bring yourself to do it, then just know that there is at least one person who will love them and hug them and comfort them at the very end.  That person is me and the countless other “me’s” that just wear other faces. We will do the best we can for your baby, but just know it’s not the same as feeling the comforting hands and kisses and words from you, their parent.

Please know, I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or sound like I am lecturing.  I am simply trying to give a voice to those who can’t speak in our language, but who definitely feel many of the same emotions as we do.

Please enjoy the pictures of my little Snuggles enjoying his “mommy and me” time as well as the beautiful flowers I saw the other day at the ABQ BioPark.   Take time out to savor the little things in life.

Thank you, as always, for reading.  And if you think there is someone out there who should read this, please do share it with them.  Thank you.

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

As a veterinary receptionist, or as my official title says, “client service representative,”  I take many phone calls every day from owners who have pets with major health problems, yet have limited funds with which to care for them.  I would also count myself in their numbers, but luckily, I work for the animal hospital so I do get many services at a hefty discount and I am allowed to carry a balance.  (However, they do charge 18% on an unpaid balance, so it’s not such a huge benefit in that sense.)

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Many times per day, I refer callers to low-cost animal clinics, who, I am sure, get overrun with walk-ins or appointment requests.  A lot of times, I think the problems can be easily prevented.  Take, for example, vaccinations.

Many times, people don’t bother to get their animals vaccinated after they adopt them.  It may be ignorance – they just assume that the dogs or cats have received everything that they will ever need to get, by the time they are adopted.  (We definitely hear that from some.)  Or, it may be that they think the vaccines are too costly, and they might not take the time to actually call around and get pricing info on them.  If they did, they might find some low-cost vaccination clinics, or as is the case with my animal hospital, certain days of the week when the vaccines are given at half price.  Yes, HALF PRICE! There are also places like Vet-Co where you can go to get vaccinations.  Sure, they might not spend as much one-on-one time with your pet as they do at my hospital, but you are getting the bare bones care that is really NEEDED for your pets to stay healthy.

For dogs, these are the vaccines we generally suggest:

  • Distemper/Parvo (2 boosters and a third one that lasts for a year) starting when the animal is about 6-8 weeks of age.  Boosters should be given about 3-4 weeks apart.
  • Bordatella (commonly known as the vax for “kennel cough”).  Again, get boosters, and a third one that lasts for a year.  (Some places may say it’s only good for a year – check with the vet to see how long the one lasts that your pet is receiving.)
  • Rabies!!  Your pet can get a yearly vax as soon as they are 16 weeks of age.   Once they have had the one year vax, when they come back the next year, you can get a three year vax.

If you are going to take your dog to a dog park, or the groomer, please please PLEASE get them vaccinated.  I can’t tell you how many calls we get about dogs who have come down with kennel cough after they go to a grooming appointment.

Also, if you have a puppy, please don’t take them to a dog park or walk them on the sidewalks where a lot of other dogs venture, before they have had all their boosters.  This is something i never knew growing up.  Then again, as a kid, I never heard of parvo.  Parvo is one of those disesases that is very easy for a young pup to contract and which can be SUPER expensive to treat if you have your pet hospitalized.   Parvo is an illness that can be noticed by signs such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea (usually with blood in it) and many times, it can be fatal.  Pups with parvo end up not wanting to eat or drink, and if they do, they can’t keep it down, or inside them. (i.e., the diarrhea).  Oh, and when they have the diarrhea, trust me, it smells something AWFUL.  Parvo is something you want to catch early, because for young pups, it can be FATAL.

For cats, these are the vaccines we usually suggest (and require to board at our facility):

  • Feline panleukopenia
  • FVRCP
  • Rabies (once they are 16 weeks of age)

Many times, people think that if cats don’t get outside, they can’t contract something contagious from other cats, or contract rabies.  Well, have you ever had a bat fly into your house?  Because I have.  And while I don’t intend to make people afraid of bats (because they are actually kind of cute in their own way), they are known for being carriers of rabies.  Or, if your dog gets into a fight with another dog that has not been properly vaccinated, (and, especially if yours has not been also), it might be at risk of contracting rabies, and therefore, passing it onto your cats.  So, at the very least, get them vaccinated for rabies.

Another good preventive health care step to take for your pets:

SPAY AND NEUTER!!!

I cannot stress this enough, and I KNOW my friends who volunteer at shelters or sanctuaries will back me up on this — there are SO MANY unwanted pets out there in the shelters.  So many shelters, whether it be for lack of funds and/or lack of space, euthanize dogs and cats on a daily basis.  And SO MUCH of it could be prevented!! It really could!! Spaying or neutering is also good for their health! It can prevent a lot of problems such as a higher risk of cancer and plyometria (which requires surgery, pronto), just to name a few.

While people may be shocked to hear what some hospitals charge for spaying and neutering, they should ask some questions when they are calling around for pricing:

  • Do you have any wellness plans that can bring down the overall cost to me or provide me with additional services that I can utilize all year long? (We do!)
  • Do you know of any low cost spay or neuter clinics when I can have my pet fixed (or “altered” as we call it) for a fraction of the full price?
  • Are there any shelters or sanctuaries that provide spay or neuter services to low-income individuals?
  • Do you base your pricing for services on the income of the pet owner? (While it’s rare, some do.)

Keep in mind, also, that some cities, such as Albuquerque, charge pet owners more per year to have an intact pet than a spayed or neutered pet.  It’s part of the city’s way of encouraging owners to be responsible owners.  So in addition to preventing a lot of unwanted animals and health problems for your pet, why not save yourself some bucks, and do the responsible thing by getting your pet spayed or neutered? 🙂

If you do end up having a health emergency, ask the hospital if they do take payment plans, but be prepared to hear them say “no.”  Many don’t.  But many may take something called Care Credit, which is a credit card you can use for your own health or that of your pet. While it is a lifeline to some, and can give them some breathing room because the hospital can offer to input certain promotion codes depending on the charge applied (for us, it’s 0 percent for 6 months if the charge is over $200), keep in mind the interest rate that kicks in after that promotional period is pretty hefty.  As in 26.99 percent. Let me write that again.  26.99%.  To anyone who applies for it or uses it at my hospital, I tell them to make sure that they either get it paid off or make sure that balance is transferred off the card by the time the promotional period ends to avoid that hit.  Because it’s huge and who can afford to pay interest at that rate??!!  I certainly can’t! (And please don’t think I am endorsing Care Credit, I just mention it because like I said, for some, it is a lifeline when they can’t bear to say goodbye to their pet, but can’t afford the hefty vet bill all at once and don’t have other means to pay for it, credit card or otherwise.)

If you have enjoyed this post, or think someone can benefit from it, please do share it and pass it on! And please drop me a line if you have a comment or suggestion.

And please note that all the opinions expressed herein are my own and not that of my hospital. I only speak for myself in my posts.

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