Getting in the Christmas Spirit

The unusually warm weather for this time of year is making it very hard to believe that Christmas is only a few short days away. Two weeks ago I went to the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. The gorgeous trees with its lights synchronized to classic Christmas music, and the entire production with all its festive decorations certainly helped to get me into the Christmas spirit.

But despite the Illumination and all the houses I drive by dressed in green and red costumes with front lawns pinned with giant plastic Snowmen and blown-up Santa Clauses, I still feel that the holiday has crept up on me.

All this even after I purposely made sure I went to see the movie, Krampus, just to be certain the Christmas spirit stayed with me. And maybe it did a little because for a couple days after seeing that movie, I walked around the house yelling, “I believe! I believe! Do you hear me, Krampus? I believe so you don’t have to come for me on Christmas morning.”

Still, I think I’ll lock my bedroom door when I go to bed on Christmas Eve, just in case. And Phil may not know it yet, but he’s definitely sleeping in my room that night, even though my dog prefers a certain family member over me. This little habit of my baby favoring someone else took time for me to accept, and I am often compelled to remind Phil that I was the one who took him from that over-crowded shelter, with its constant barking and utter chaos, and gave him his furever home. 

But I don’t say that to him because I don’t want Phil to remember his life before he had a home.  Because dogs live in the moment, I’m quite certain he doesn’t dwell on the past or wonder about what the future holds. He lives in the “here and now” and as long as that “here and now” consists of lots of comfy blankets, bowls of food with scraps of chicken or steak, fresh water, a tennis ball and a soup bone smeared with peanut butter, Phil doesn’t worry about the future, only the “here”. 

I love that about dogs. Their ability to move on, even from the most abusive pasts, and love and trust again, absolutely amazes me.

This Christmas I’ll be thinking of all the dogs in crowded shelters, waiting for someone to come rescue them, many with only days or hours left to their lives.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog for Christmas, and remember they could be a 15-plus years commitment, please consider visiting your local shelter. If you can’t afford to care for a dog right now, but would like to have one, please consider fostering. The shelter provides everything for the dog. There is no cost to you, except to love the dog. If you don’t have time for an animal in your life right now, please consider sponsoring a shelter dog or cat.

All of these will help to save a dog’s life.

If you’re looking for a puppy, please know that shelters have lots of puppies, too. You don’t need to go to a pet store or a breeder for a puppy. But the more time I spend around animals, the more I appreciate and love older dogs. Puppies are cute, but it’s hard to explain the feeling that overcomes me when an older dog looks me directly in the eyes and licks the top of my nose.

It’s as though they’re saying, “I’ve known and met a lot of humans in my life, but not all of them have deserved a kiss on the nose, but you do.”

Aww….nothin’ beats that.

Since Christmas has sneaked up on me, I will be running around tomorrow, and possibly early Christmas Eve, picking up last-minute gifts.

And to be sure that I am in the holiday spirit come Christmas morning, tonight I will watch a couple of my favorite Christmas movies, It’s a Wonderful Life and You’ve Got Mail.  Okay, maybe You’ve Got Mail isn’t technically a holiday movie, but it does have some Christmas scenes in it and it is sweet and revolves around books and online romance, a couple things I know very well (only one is kinda unfortunate).

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

 

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Our Wells are Running Dry

It was in my fourth grade science class that I remember learning about water conservation for the first time. In the text book, there was a picture  of a boy standing in front of a bathroom sink, brushing his teeth. Beside the picture, was a lesson about the need to conserve the earth’s most important chemical compound, water – because all living things will die without it.

The reason for the insert of the boy brushing his teeth was to teach kids to turn the faucet off while they brush. Maybe that message didn’t stick with the other kids in my class, but it stuck with me. And today, at 39 years old, I still shut the water off while I brush my teeth.

It’s become second-nature to me now. If I’m in the bathroom while someone is brushing their teeth and the water’s running, I’ll rush to turn the faucet off.

“Doesn’t that noise drive you crazy?” I ask.

“What noise?” Is the response I usually get, with a weird look.

Oh, right. People who are used to brushing their teeth while the faucet is on probably don’t even hear the water running anymore, while to someone like me, who is used to silence while she brushes her teeth, a running faucet sounds like Niagara Falls.

At a young age, I learned to turn the water off when I wasn’t using it. And now, it seems, it may be time you learn to do the same because our water is running out.

The Chicago Sun-Times featured an article about the global crisis of vanishing groundwater. The three-page feature scared me more than any Stephen King novel ever had because this story was much too real.

The article centered on a four-generation farm family in the plains of Southwestern Kansas, who’d been farming in that region since 1902. But now, the family farm may not survive another generation because “the groundwater they depend on is disappearing.”

The High Plains Aquifer, which lies underneath eight states, is the lifeline of “one of the world’s most productive farming economies.” An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock…from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well. (wikipedia)

These wells are going dry.

“Much more water is pumped from the ground that can be naturally replenished. Groundwater levels are plummeting.”

A study was conducted on 32,000 wells in a span of two decades and it “found water levels falling in nearly two-thirds of those wells.”

Across the nation, water levels have declined 64 percent.

Thirteen counties in five states have water levels averaging declines of more than 40 feet since 1995. In one of the country’s largest depletion zones, “the average water levels in more than 4,000 wells are 13.2 feet lower today than they were in 1995.”

Two-thirds of the nation’s fresh groundwater is used for agriculture. According to Huffpost, to produce just one pound of beef requires about 1,847 gallons of water, where a pound of chickpeas uses about 500 gallons. It’s no wonder why the governor of the drought-stricken state of California responded to the lack of water in his state, by saying, “If you ask me, I think you should be eating veggie burgers.”

High meat consumption is using up a lot of our drinking water.

Just like climate change, “groundwater depletion has become another human-made crisis that could bring devastating consequences.”

In just five years, the amount of water pumped from the four-generation farm family’s wells fell 30 percent – in just five years.

During World War I, American soldiers and their allies were facing starvation because farms were destroyed and turned into battlefields. Food was scarce. Selected by President Woodrow Wilson, future President Herbert Hoover formed a program that asked Americans for their patriotic support in reducing their consumption of wheat, meat, sugar, and fats. There were slogans like, “Food will win the war,” that encouraged people not to waste food, and to eat less meat so more could be sent to hungry soldiers protecting our freedom.

According to History.com, as a result of the conservation efforts, “food shipments to Europe were doubled within a year, while consumption in America was reduced 15 percent.”

This country came together once before to save food for our soldiers, we can come together again, but this time, to save water for each other and for our planet.

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Below are a couple of links with easy tips on how you can conserve water every day.

http://www.bewaterwise.com/tips01.html

http://eartheasy.com/live_water_saving.htm

http://www.home-water-works.org/water-conservation-tips

*I don’t own the picture above. I believe it is public domain, but if it is subject to copyright, I will take it down.

*Also, all the quotes that weren’t cited directly were taken from the Chicago Sun-Times article noted in my blog.

We Could Save Them All if We Wanted To

I spent a couple hours today at the the animal shelter I volunteer at. The unusually warm weather we’re experiencing for this time of year affords me extra time to take the doggies out into the yards.

Like many people, dogs don’t really like the cold weather. Unless, the dog is a husky. If the dog is a husky then it relishes the cold and snow.

We don’t have any huskies with us right now, so while this awesome weather is around I intend to take advantage of it and get my furry friends outside as much as I can.

But I was a little more adamant today, than other days, about setting aside time for the shelter. Last Friday, my shelter took in fifteen dogs from animal control in Oklahoma because they were overflowing with dogs, as many animal controls unfortunately are. All of these dogs were on their last day, scheduled to be euthanized. 

While I was in the yard with one of the rescued dogs, Heather, a brown lab mix, I thought about all the poor babies that never make it out of the horrible places their trapped in. Being in rescue you hear a lot of stories, and their all terrible, but the horror of it all is more real, palpable, when you can hold a dog and understand why it is shaking, or look in a dog’s eyes and are aware why they’re petrified; because you know their story.

Heather is a young, very scared dog because she was taken from a property that had over two hundred dogs and one large trough. The big, stronger dogs got all they wanted, leaving the weaker, smaller dogs to fight over scraps.

Heather was shy and unsure when I took her out of her kennel, and she didn’t want to follow me right away. But when I gave her the time she needed and showed that I wasn’t going to force her, that she was in control, she slowly made her way toward me.

Once we were in the yard, I let go of the leash and let her roam and smell wherever her nose led her. I sat down in the gravel, hoping she’d trust me enough to come near me. I saw her look my way a couple times as she explored the area along the fence. She was definitely curious about me.

I left her alone, until, finally, curiosity got the best of her and she came over to me. I petted her gently on her back and sides, and that was all it took. Like most neglected dogs, Heather deeply craved attention and affection. She wasn’t interested in the toys in the yard or the treats in my pockets, all she wanted was love.

Heather is going to be a super-loving dog for a very lucky person someday. That is, if that person is willing to give a shelter dog a chance. Shelter dogs aren’t broken. From what I’ve seen, they have survived some of the most cruel and gruesome living conditions I’d never want to imagine.

That doesn’t sound very broken to me, in fact, it sounds pretty damn strong and resilient.

I’m so glad Heather was able to escape what fate, it seemed, had in store for her. I wish every dog did.

My shelter is a no-kill shelter. That fact means I don’t have to experience a very real side to rescue; killing dogs (oh, the irony in that). I feel for the people who have to administer that fatal, life-stealing shot to a completely healthy dog knowing the only reason the animal is seconds away from death is because someone couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take the poor baby in as their loving pet.

According to OxfordPets.com , 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized by U.S shelters every year, yet only 18% of owned dogs were adopted from an animal shelter.

What the heck is wrong with people? Why, when so many wonderful animals are being killed every day, year after year, would anyone buy a dog from a pet store, online, or even a breeder.

Whenever I see “Puppies for Sale” signs, I take them down. If I’m driving, I pull over and yank them out of wherever their hanging while cursing under my breath how people should get real jobs instead of contributing to the animal overpopulation by charging thousands of dollars for puppies.

Pet stores only take back the dogs they sell for a limited time, no refunds after a couple weeks. Shelters will take back one of their dogs any time in the dog’s lifetime. Because of this, we do get animals dropped off at our shelter that were bought from pet stores. Some of these dogs are sick because most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills, which are inhumane and the mother pups receive zero veterinary care.

As if pet stores, puppy mills, and breeders weren’t enough, recently, I was told about a new craze called “Puppy Parties.”

Apparently, a group of people can rent puppies and gush over them like idiots for an hour or two. Scratch their ears, kiss their noses, and hold them like a baby.

My first thought when hearing about this was,”What happens when these cute little puppies aren’t cute little puppies anymore?” Puppies grow fast. To stay in business, there must be a high-turnaround rate. Which means, now dogs are being bred to produce puppies to keep adults amused.

How pathetic and how sad. When these puppies are grown, they will most likely end up in an already over-crowded shelter, maybe even a high kill-shelter.

So, if you ever attend one of these despicable parties, and you give a puppy a kiss, please ask yourself who will be kissing that puppy in a year, if that puppy will even still be alive.

Puppies are not here for your entertainment.

Strippers are here for your entertainment.

Use them instead.

 

*Note: If my writing about puppy parties made anyone reading this want to throw a puppy party, despite knowing that the puppies’ futures are precarious, (at best); you’re kind of a jerk. I hope the puppies poop all over your carpet, couch, and a couple of laps, too.

 

Below are four of the fifteen dogs that were about to be put-down. They are in a good place now. Waiting for their forever homes. Heather is the brown lab mix with the big ears.

Please adopt and don’t shop!

This is Why I Write

A reader of one of my novellas, Her Name, recently contacted me on Twitter to tell me how much she was enjoying my book. She was halfway through at the time.

Now, she has finished my book and has written a pretty amazing review of my book on her website, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. I have learned that she is also a writer, which, for me makes this review a bit more special.

Thank you, Ms. Avery Rose, for not only taking the time to read my book, but to write a review, as well. I am excited to read your work, too.

Below is the link to her website with her generous review.  Please check it out because this is why I write – to make people feel deeply and reflect on life.

http://averyrfox.com/2015/12/02/whats-in-a-dream/

 

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