Going Vegan

I’ve been a vegetarian for over seven years, a change in my eating habit that was fairly easy to make. Especially since the last seven years have brought many new meatless products so good they make giving up the real thing feel like you’re not giving up anything at all. But making the change to go completely vegan was more of a struggle for me.

For a long time I thought it was good enough that I ate “mostly” vegan and that the cheese pizza or grilled cheese I occasionally ate wasn’t incredibly harmful because I wasn’t eating meat. What a ridiculous thought.

Even though I’ve watched pretty much every vegan documentary available, Forks Over Knives, What the Health, The Game ChangersCowspiracy, and a few others, it wasn’t until I watched Earthlings that everything changed. I could no longer make what I thought were harmless exceptions to my diet. I was going full vegan, and I was going all the way. I bought a vegan leather jacket, as well as vegan leather handbags, and cleared my closet of anything that was a result of animal cruelty. I was thankful that my favorite pairs of Converse Cons were vegan. 

Going vegan, you are consciously deciding to no longer take part in the torture of the living beings, brutally slaughtered to end up on someone’s plate. 

Eating a compassionate diet, a diet not comprised of the suffering of any life, has helped me to find my inner calmness, even during these unstable times of a deadly global virus and thousands of domestic terrorists trying to overtake the U.S government.

As I watch these disturbing and violent clips, I turn to veganism and the vegan community to remind me that there are people who empathize with the pain and suffering of others, and are activists in trying to stop it. We need a world filled with more people like that. 

If you’re interested in giving veganism a try, since 2014 there has been a non-profit organization that encourages people to go vegan called Veganuary where people pledge to go vegan for January and longer. Veganuary | Home | The Go Vegan 31 Day Challenge

Rogue, A Shelter Dog

I volunteer at an animal shelter, so I’m obviously a big advocate for adopting over shopping for a pet. There are millions of loving animals who need homes. And since I have a pit bull mix who is the sweetest hunk of love you’ll ever meet, I, of course, advocate for pit bulls. 

Don’t believe everything you read or hear about this misunderstood and misrepresented breed of dog. Pit bulls make wonderful companion dogs. They love their humans and are very protective of them. They’re goofy. Love to cuddle while licking your face off. You’ll never be lonely because they follow you everywhere you go. 

There’s a pit bull mix at the shelter who I’ve been spending some extra time with. He’s going to be a great dog for the person who decides to take him home. I’ve been working on commands with him, though he gets impatient after a while because when he’s in the play yards, he’d rather play. His name’s Rogue. He’s young and has a lot of energy to exert.

We go on walks. He’s a great walking partner, although recently he got spooked by some Halloween decorations. It was quite funny. We were walking along the sidewalk and then he just came to a dead stop. I didn’t at first know why he had stopped. I looked down at him, and he was staring at something behind me.

On the front lawn of a house were huge blown-up Halloween decorations. One was of a Frankenstein-like monster and the other was of a huge black cat with a moving head. I’m pretty sure this was the one that stopped Rogue in his tracks. The cat was in attack position. 

Rogue wouldn’t budge when I tried to tug him forward. But I couldn’t blame him. If I were a dog who didn’t know what the heck Halloween decorations were, I’d be terrified too of something that looked like a giant cat. So we walked across the street and continued on with our walk.

Rogue was happy because we didn’t see anymore scary Halloween decorations. 

If you’re looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. And while you’re there, please don’t pass up a dog just because it’s labeled a pit bull.

My Dog, Phil.

 

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My dog, Phil, has arthritis, mostly in his right back leg. So when he started favoring that leg, I gave him an anti-inflammatory I keep on hand for such occasions. Within a couple days, the limp went away and I stopped giving the anti-inflammatories. But four days after the initial limp in his right leg, Phil started hobbling, while favoring his left hind leg. This was unusual. The left leg wasn’t the usual favored leg, and the limp was never that drastic. So I called the vet the next morning and got Phil in for an examination that day. The doctor felt a tear, but I would need to see a surgeon to confirm. In the meantime, Phil’s anti-inflammatory was upped in dosage. This was on a Friday. By Thursday of the following week, my dog was dying of liver failure.

I had an appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday (before I knew about his failing liver), and a few nights before this, Phil was throwing up and not eating. I chucked it up to the stress he must have been feeling related to his injured leg. But blood tests showed morbidly high levels of liver enzymes, and I wasn’t prepared for the call from the surgeon telling me she was extremely concerned about my dog.

Just a few weeks ago, he’d been a completely happy and healthy dog. For an eleven-year old, Phil had avoided major health issues until now. Other than the usual yearly check-ups, I’d only had to take Phil to the doctor for an innocuous eye infection and common stomach issues.  So it was crushing to accept that my dog was suddenly sick enough to die.

Phil sick

I spoke with my vet, and Phil was immediately given fluids that evening and put on seven different medications. His eyes and gums were heavily jaundiced, and it worried me. The hope was that we’d get enough fluids in his body to flush the liver. He was drinking on his own, but hardly eating, even with an appetite stimulant, but at least what he was eating, he was keeping down. Our go-to food was my mom’s homemade meatballs. Even with a failing liver, homemade Italian food was apparently hard to resist.

For the next few days, he went to the vet for IV fluids. After five days of almost no improvement, the doctor told me she wasn’t very hopeful, but if this was her dog, she’d give him a couple more days. A couple more days? Those words cut me deep. We were standing in the vet parking lot. The tears were hard to stop, though I don’t remember trying.

While Phil was at the vet getting fluids, I spent the time without him browsing through pictures on my phone, some taken at a park a mere two weeks before this happened. Those were emotional pictures to look at, because I knew the me in those pictures, with my dog, couldn’t fathom the reality that was in store in the short future.

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I couldn’t stand being without him all day while he got his fluids, and I thought if my time with him was limited, I needed to be with him as much as I could. The vet agreed and she gave me fluids to put under his skin at home. You don’t go through a vein, you just stick a needle, attached to a long tube connected to a bag of fluids, in his skin. My brother did the honors of sticking him. I just couldn’t do it.

My brother loves that dog as much as I do. All you have to do is utter the word “Uncle” in front of Phil, and Phil’ll jump to his feet, tail speed-waggin’, in search of his favorite person.  It’s heart-warming knowing my dog is so well-loved by people other than myself. Aside from his “Uncle”, Phil has a “Grandma”, “Aunties”, and “Cousins” who were all concerned for him. I had so much support from my family, I never went to a vet appointment alone. My brother was with me for every one of them, as well as for the fluids done at home

Phil loves sitting outside in the grass, so we sat outside as much as he wanted. Because Phil was filled with so much fluids, he needed to go out three or four times during the night. At three o’clock in the morning one night, Phil wanted to lie underneath a tree, near the street in front of our house, his favorite spot. It was a still and cool late July night, and I sat beside him and watched him take the night in. Phil was always so content and happy being outside.

One Sunday afternoon, a few days later, we sat underneath that same tree, and I thought this would be our last Sunday afternoon together. I kept noting the time, so that the next Sunday, I could look at the clock and say “at this time last week, I was lying in the grass with my baby”. Or, “At this time, I was rubbing Phil’s stomach.” I wanted to be able to look back on that Sunday and remember how every moment was spent with him.  I was so conscious of my time with him. I suppose that’s what you do when you think you are living your last moments with a dog who is your everything.

The only other thing Phil loved more than sitting outside, was going to the park. My brother and I took him for a ride to his favorite place, and we took a lot of pictures. I hated thinking this was the end, but I wanted these days documented. I wanted to be able to look back at the possible last days of my dog’s life and know that despite everything he was going through, Phil was happy. I didn’t like thinking that way, but the vet’s words of hopelessness never left my mind, though it was hard to accept.

Still, after those “couple of days” the vet said she’d give her dog had passed, there was no doubt we were continuing with treatment. After a few more days of fluids and medication, we did another blood test, and though the levels were still high, they were lower than the previous test. And that was all the hope I needed. And when you’re pathetically desperate, as I was, all you can ask for is hope. Phil was still jaundiced, but we continued on.

About three weeks after getting the blood results that had showed his liver was failing, another blood test revealed all of his levels were back to normal. My dog survived liver failure. It is a major understatement to say that I am relieved and so appreciative to be allowed more time with my baby.

As Phil continues to age, I knew this wouldn’t be the last of his ailments, but I didn’t expect the next thing to happen so soon. The day after that last blood test, I noticed Phil’s right ear looked a little red. I thought it maybe have been an allergic reaction to something, so I left it be. But the next day it was even redder, so I called the vet. By the time I got an appointment, the infection was in both ears. A double ear infection seemed so innocuous compared to the liver failure he’d just survived, so I wasn’t very concerned. Phil was prescribed ear drops, but after three days of giving him those drops, my dog had completely lost his hearing.

I called the vet, and was told an ingredient in the drops, gentamicin, can cause hearing loss. The vet expected Phil’s hearing to come back after a couple days and periodic flushing, but it’s been five days now, and he still can’t hear his mommy’s voice.

In the last two months, Phil tore his ACL, survived liver failure, and is currently deaf. I wonder what is going through his mind. I know he’s confused, because he’s even needier towards me than he used to me. It’s as though he needs extra reassurance from his momma that he’s gonna be okay.

I haven’t given up hope that he will hear again, cuz what do you have if you haven’t got hope? If we got through liver failure together, we’ll get through this. Despite what happens, Phil will be okay because he’s loved so much, and I can only hope that he knows it.

My Shelter Dogs

The animal shelter I volunteer at has a program called, The Buddy Program, where during non-shift hours volunteers can buddy up with a dog and take that dog for car rides, walks to parks, or give them just some extra time playing in yards. This program is especially beneficial to the dogs who have been at the shelter a long time, or the dogs who have behavioral issues and need some extra training.

I enjoy the buddy program and have adored the bond I have created with the dogs I have buddied up with.

This is Sevvy. She was at the shelter for over two years. She was my buddy. She loved car rides and trips through the drive thru for cheese burgers (no onions or pickles) and vanilla ice cream. This girl has finally found her furever home and I hear she gets car rides to parks every day (weather permitting) and I couldn’t be happier for her. Sevvy doesn’t live far from me and it is my hope that one day I will run into her.

 

Gypsy was a sweet pit bull with the most gorgeous clear eyes. She loved snuggling with her blankets in her kennel. Whenever she’d see me walk into the shelter, she’d raise her front paws onto the chain link and wait for me to come to her. I’d pet her through the fence and she’d try to clasp onto my arms and lick my face. She was a snuggler that was finally adopted after two years.

 

 

Rupert was a brindle boxer mix that spent around a year or so at the shelter. He was a typical boxer in his crazy and fun (unruly at times) demeanor. He came to the shelter as just a young untrained boxer who wanted to do nothing but run and jump and chew and tug on everything, especially your sleeves. He needed a lot of extra training. He became my buddy and I took him to a lot of training sessions. The progress was slow but steady, and eventually Rupert calmed down and he was adopted last year. I’m so happy for him. I ran into Rupert at an event for the shelter last summer and it was so awesome to get dog kisses from him and know that he remembered me.

 

Sable was my first buddy, and as they say, you never forget your first. I was a couple months at the shelter when I took her on as a buddy. I was still getting used to being around a lot of dogs at once, mostly highly stressed dogs who were very unsure of me. I’ve learned some dogs will take to you quickly while others, pending on how they were treated in their past, take some time. Sable was a dog who I just loved the moment I saw her and she showed no reservations toward me. We simply took to each other from the start. She was a sweetheart and she became my buddy. I spent extra time with her in the play yards and it got to the point where every time I’d walk in the shelter, even during my regular shifts, she’d jump up and stand in front of her door, waiting for the guillotine door to open.  I always felt so bad because she couldn’t understand that I was there to clean the kennels, not take her out to play. So she’d just watch me with perked ears, waiting for me to walk to her dog run and open the door.

When I got word she was adopted after many months of loving my time with her, I went and said goodbye to her. I brought with me a bag of treats for the family to take and sat with her in her dog run and cried. It was my first goodbye with a dog from the shelter that I had grown attached to, so I was a bit emotional. I handle these things better now. I still cry, but they’re happy tears now.

 

I once asked a man who’s been at the shelter over twenty years how he handles saying goodbye to long-term dogs. He responded, “It’s like sending your kids off to college. You know they’re on to better things.”

Very good way to put it. That’s what every volunteer at a shelter hopes for. That every animal that leaves finds a better life. I’m grateful that I volunteer at a no-kill shelter and know all the animals there will get all the time they need to find a home. Dogs in kill shelters sometimes only get days.

If you’re looking for a pet, please consider you local animal shelter. If there’s a high-kill shelter near you, visit that one first. A dog’s life is running out somewhere.

 

 

Pictures I Think a Lot of Us Need Right Now

I sat down with my laptop tonight, unsure what I should write about. The first thing that popped in my head was Donald Trump, because every day we are bombarded with wild headlines about a corrupt president who is using the U.S government to do his personal bidding. These certainly are crazy times, and I wonder in decades to come the questions people who weren’t “lucky” enough to live during this messed-up, chaotic time will ask those of us who did. I hope I have good answers like, “Yes, Donald Trump did all of those criminal things and that’s why he went to jail and stayed there until the day he died.”

But we don’t yet know how this will all end. (Oh please, please, please let me be right about the jail thing!) But if you’re paying attention, you’re probably feeling anxious, stressed, angry, frustrated, hopeless, and maybe more. I know I am. Luckily, I have a very cute dog with the best poses who even if it’s just for a minute or two, can ease my mind of all toxic thoughts and make me smile.

So for anyone who may need this, here are some of my favorite calming photos of my goofy little baby, Phil. I hope it helps you as it has helped me.

 

 

 

 

 

Adopt a Rescue Dog

Two weeks ago I was given news I had spent years asking the universe for. Sevvy, a dog that had lived over two years at the shelter I volunteer at, was finally adopted. We’ve had some teases before of pending adoptions that never went through, but finally it seems that Sevvy has found her home.

Sevvy is a five-year old pit-bull mix who had been adopted from the shelter as a puppy, but brought back, adopted out again, and then returned again when she became possessive of her toys with the children in the house.

Finally, after two long years, Sevvy has found a home, and I hope she never steps foot in the shelter again. As much I love and miss her, I hope to never see her face again, except through a chance meeting at a park somewhere. It would be wonderful to run into Sevvy and see her enjoying life on the “outside.”

There are so many loving animals in shelters all over the country like Sevvy who are great dogs, but have been let down by humans. I don’t know if the couple who rescued Sevvy really understand the importance of what they did. Sevvy was taking anti-anxiety medication because life in a shelter is chaotic and loud and unsettling. Sevvy was showing signs of distress that only medication could help. Hopefully Sevvy doesn’t have to take anti-anxiety medications anymore.

If you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local animal shelter or animal control facilities. There may be an anxiety-ridden dog there like Sevvy who desperately wants to get off her meds.

 

 

Victor

Last week I went to the animal shelter I volunteer at and was meant with tragic news. A dog that had been with us for over a year had died some time during the night. The news was devastating, but not shocking. Victor had been going through medical issues for a while. The shelter had been asking volunteers for months if anyone would take him in an a permanent foster so that he could live out whatever life he had left in the comfort of a home. The problem was that Victor needed to be in a home with no other pets. Most volunteers, like myself, have pets at home.

It was sad to watch Victor spend his days in a loud and crowded shelter. It’s a stressing place to be. No place for any dog, let alone a sick, older guy. He was nine. He had come to the shelter when he was eight. The circumstances to how he ended up with us are not fair at all. Victor had been living a good life with his owner on property the owner managed. Then a new landlord came in, took one look at Victor (an American Bulldog) and said that dog’s got to go. Suddenly Victor found himself in a shelter where he stayed until the day he died.

Victor didn’t bite anyone. He didn’t attack anyone. He did no harm. Yet, still he got locked up. That’s what a shelter is to a dog. Even shelters like mine, who treat their animals with loving care and give them all the medical attention they need, are still prisons to these dogs. Shelters are not supposed to be permanent homes, but way too often, too many dogs die there. Either naturally due to medical/age reasons. Or by euthanasia because there is juts not enough space for all of them.

But there would be if more people got involved to help with this overpopulation epidemic this country has. I saw a picture on social media last week of a line of people waiting to foster dogs before hurricane Florence came. My first thought was, where are all these people when local shelters and animals controls have to kill dogs for lack of room? Why is the thought of a dog dying in a hurricane so much worse than a dogs getting a needle or the gas chamber that people flocked to line up to take these dogs in? I’m glad they did, but where are they all the other times a dog’s life is in danger, which is every day?

Maybe because there’s more hoopla with a hurricane. People feel like they’re doing a bigger deed when they foster or adopt a “hurricane dog” as opposed to just a regular dog from the local shelter. I remember when Hurricane Harvey happened and many local shelters, including my own, took in many of those dogs left abandoned and people came out in droves to help out.

Again, it’s great that they do that, but where are they when dogs are killed every single day? It is beyond frustrating. You’re not a bigger hero when you save a hurricane dog as opposed to a dog sitting in a kennel with the clock ticking against it. Most dogs run out of time. Maybe shelters have to be more vocal about what will happen to these dogs if they don’t get out. The shelter I volunteer at is no-kill. I have that luxury of knowing the dogs I come to love, like I did Victor, will get all the time they need to find a home. But they’re still racing against the clock because the older a dog gets, the less likely a person will adopt them. And as in Victor’s case, sometimes your health takes you before you find a home.

Victor deserved better than taking his last breath alone in a kennel. He deserved to be in a comfy bed or snuggled on the couch with his human who loved him, but he was cruelly taken away from his human. He just wanted a home with a bed and lots of hugs and kisses.These breed-specific-laws and breed discrimination has to end. Victor wasn’t a danger to anyone. He was a shelter favorite.

Victor was a goofy, gentle, and playful dog, despite the pain his condition put him through. Make no mistake, Victor was loved where he was. It’s hard seeing his kennel empty and will be even harder to see his kennel with another dog in it because for over a year I have been used to seeing his beautiful face. Miss you. Love you.

If you’re looking for a pet, please visit your local shelter. Please don’t go to breeders or pet stores while shelter animals die.

 

 

Give a Shelter Dog a Look

I was talking to a fellow volunteer at the animal shelter tonight and with a very somber tone she told me that fifteen of her friends have gotten their dogs from breeders, some just recently.

She was disappointed because everyone who knows enough about her to be considered a friend, knows that she volunteers at a dog rescue. Yet, not one of those friends had inquired about any of the dogs at the shelter.

She expressed to me her disbelief that her friends had not considered giving a home to a shelter dog since millions of dogs are killed each year because shelters run out of space to keep them. “They all want purebreds,” she’d said hopelessly.

I knew what this woman was feeling. I have friends, family, and neighbors who got their dogs from breeders, and I have a hard time with it too. I know everyone has the right to get their dog wherever they want (a breeder or those dreaded pet stores), but it’s so hard to understand why a person wouldn’t jump at the chance to save a life.

When you’re involved in rescue and see these amazing animals that are so deserving of loving homes, as well as being around other volunteers who also see adoption as the only option, it’s easy to forget there’s a whole part of the population that has never stepped foot into an animal shelter or have any consideration for their lives.

People in rescue think about the lives of these animals all the time and want to save them all, and it’s easy to assume everyone else does too, because…why wouldn’t they? These are homeless dogs we’re talking about.

Yet, there are people who think shelter dogs are broken and dirty and don’t live up to the status they feel having a pure-breed brings. Not everyone is like this, but I’ve seen and heard stories about enough of them to know there is sometimes a stigma attached to rescue dogs.

I’d like to help break this. If you’re reading this, and you have never considered rescuing a dog, please do. Give a shelter dog a try.  I promise, it will quickly become the best thing you’ve ever done.

I have a pit bull mix that I adopted. I would say pit bulls are my favorite breed, but really, rescue is my favorite breed.

Please rescue your next pet.

 

This is Sevvy. She’s a dog who has been at my shelter for almost two years. She is great with people, but has issues with other dogs. Still, she is so deserving of a loving home because she is am absolute sweetheart.

When searching for your next pet, please don’t overlook the ones who may not be perfect on paper, like Sevvy. She may need some extra work and patience to overcome her dog aggression, but she is definitely worth it.

Thanks for reading.

Why You Should Adopt Your Next Pet

I write a lot about shelter animals on this blog. They’ve been a passion of mine since I rescued my pit bull mix, Phil, from my local Animal Control facility seven years ago and started volunteering at my local humane society.  I advocate for people to get their pets from shelters, as opposed to pet stores or breeders, because I’ve seen first hand the many dogs in need of homes.

Human failure is usually the reason these innocent babies end up in shelters and the reason for these dogs’ pain, so humans should be the reason they are saved. We owe them that.

For every scared dog, there is a human who brought fear into its life.

For every dog needy for attention, there is a human who never showed it affection.

For every dog emaciated, there is a human who let it starve.

The place I got Phil is an open, public facility. They have room to house 300 dogs, and last week they sent out an SOS all over social media that they are full, and they put out a list of super urgent dogs–dogs that are days or even hours away from being killed.

Last month, this facility was in the same situation they’re in now. They were full and begging for people to adopt or foster their dogs. The public came through, and there was a record number of adoptions for January.

Lots of dogs were saved.

But then February crashed the party and adoptions slowed, while the line of people surrendering their dogs to the facility splayed out the door. If eleven dogs were adopted, twenty-nine were left at the shelter by their owner.

This is another way humans fail these dogs–they give them up. Shelters are filled with animals people no longer want. The most common reason is the dogs’ families no longer have time for them.

It’s heartbreaking because after a life of living in a home, these dogs are left in a stressful, crowded place, filled with barking dogs. These confused dogs have no idea what is happening or why they are there.

Some dogs simply shutdown.

I’ve been monitoring the Animal Control’s Facebook Page to keep up with the status of the most urgent dogs, and it seems I’m not the only one. There is an entire community of people networking for these dogs. It’s so inspiring to see and gives me so much hope that more people are seeing that dogs in shelters are not broken, and they are deserving of a home.

Millions of dogs are killed every year. Please adopt your next pet. If financial reason are keeping you from adopting, please consider fostering. Shelters and rescues pay all expenses. If you’re concerned about getting attached to a dog and then having to  say goodbye, I understand. I’ve considered that, too. But I decided my temporary heartbreak is worth saving a life.  If fostering isn’t an option for you, volunteer at your local shelter, or support them by donating.

Phil wants the rest of his furry friends to find their furever homes, too.

 

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Rupert, A Shelter Dog

A week ago, I received the best news. One of the dogs that had been at my shelter for eight months was finally adopted. I was ecstatic. I cried a mixture of happy and sad tears.  Happy tears because this little guy, Rupert, was so deserving of a loving family (they all are), and sad tears because I had developed a special bond with Rupert.

I was his handler for over five months of training courses. He wasn’t a very good student and together we failed the first Basic Training class, but in the second go-round we were head of the class. 🙂

Rupert had come to the shelter as a rambunctious 7 month old boxer/pit mix whose previous family used drugs in lieu of proper training to keep this energetic puppy under control. This lazy approach wasn’t effective, but with a lot of work from all the shelter volunteers, Rupert learned his manners and became a very polite little boy.

Three days ago, Rupert’s new family returned him to the shelter. I was shocked because I couldn’t imagine anyone taking this sweet baby home only to have second thoughts. But despite the tremendous strides Rupert had taken in his behavior, a chaotic life with young kids may have been too much for him. When Rupert saw the children playing he most likely got overly-excited, and when he decided he wanted to play too he scared one of the kids.

That was all it took for Rupert to find himself back in the confines of his little kennel. I went to see him today. He doesn’t seem too phased by what happened. Maybe he thinks he was just away on a mini-vacation. I hope that’s the case. The last thing I want is for this little guy’s morale to break. I’ve seen dogs shut down in shelters and it’s an awful sight to witness.

Until the day some other lucky family discovers this gem of a dog, I’ll enjoy whatever time I have left with this sweet baby and give him all the love I can.

If you’re considering getting a pet, please visit your local shelter. So many wonderful animals, like Rupert, are waiting for their furever home.