I had the pleasure of meeting with an inquisitive group of students taking Writing for New Media with Jennifer Marlow at The College of Saint Rose in February. Invited to guest lecture, I spoke with them about how building an online social network has helped to rescue dogs in our immediate area and how social media reaches beyond local boundaries in order to make a difference.
Anthony Acosta and Gidget
One student in particular, Anthony Acosta, asked me to be part of his journalism class project and, a month later, my blogging friends and I were being interviewed for his semester’s final piece.
While it feels a bit egotistical to post an article about myself here, I do so proudly. None of what I have achieved has been accomplished alone. This article celebrates all the people I’ve worked with to launch Be the Change for Animals, a national animal activism site asking you to “spend just a minute and never a cent” to help animals in need, and Dog House Adoptions, a dog rescue serving New York’s Capital region. I am beyond grateful for the dedication of every team member on both projects. The successes laid out below belong to us all.
So, without further ado, I present to you…
What Can Blogging Do for Animal Welfare?
A Guest Post by Anthony Acosta
Blogging has become increasingly popular. Through the democratization of the Web, ordinary everyday people can express their opinions on specified, yet infinite topics. Although personal diaries and other less-than-useful blog entries make up the majority of the blogosphere, Kim Clune has strategically harnessed the power of new media to enhance animal advocacy efforts both domestic and wild.
Clune has a strong online presence in the field of animal advocacy. As the founding member of multiple blogging sites, she promotes events, disseminates information and provides avenues that allow people to participate in these efforts. Recently, Clune has dedicated most of her time toward dog rescue, helping to launch Dog House Adoptions, Inc. in April, 2012. She jointly runs the organization with her husband Tim Clune, Lori Harris and Audra Bentley.
Lori Harris, Audra Bentley, Tim Clune and Kim Clune
“We crafted our mission to reach beyond simply rehoming local strays. It is our goal to demonstrate that these dogs are not throwaway items. They have tremendous value in our community,” said Clune. Approximately 3-4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in the United States each year. That’s about 10,000 cats and dogs executed daily. According to Clune, these are often perfectly healthy animals who were innocent victims of human negligence.
Sarah McLachlan is an avid, well-known supporter of the ASPCA. She produced the popular commercial featuring the song “Angel,” in attempt to muster involvement and monetary donations.
“McLachlan is a fantastic and effective voice fundraising for the ASPCA, but it pains people to watch her commercials. They react out of overwhelming sadness and then look away. The heart can only take so much,” said Clune.
Clune’s tactic for educating the public and making a difference in the community is to highlight the pros rather than the cons. She and her team have chosen a path of sustainability, celebrating their dog’s milestones and adoptions. She tackles the issues with a sense of humor instead of disseminating gory images and graphic storytelling. This has proven to be successful.
“By creating an environment that is hopeful more often than grueling, our long term goal is to keep our volunteers and ourselves energized for the long haul – this all happens by building a relationship with one dog at a time,” said Clune.
Clune wears many different hats in the development and maintenance of Dog House Adoptions, Inc. She is the media liaison, fundraising and event promoter, WordPress tech, theme designer, graphic artist, author, photographer and videographer. “I’m also a real-life community ambassador, dog chauffer and puppy cuddler.” Animals are Clune’s passion and she does everything she can to help them, devoting her life and career to ensure their well-being.
“Kim is truly impressive in everything she does. She’s also a warm, caring, funny and incredibly passionate woman – those very same qualities are what shine through in her blog, drawing so many people to it daily,” said Kim Thomas, one of Clune’s managing editors.
The pioneer of Dog House Adoptions, Inc., Bristol is a young black lab mix. She came to Dog House Adoptions pregnant and covered with scars from untreated bite marks. With time, money and compassion, Bristol was fostered for 8 weeks from puppy delivery to puppy rearing with help from Lisa Drury, a reputable Rensselaer County lab breeder.
Lisa Drury with Bristol/Chrystal
Drury helped transition four puppies from newborns to adolescents, working in conjunction with Dog House Adoptions to secure wonderful homes. Today, all four puppies are fully healthy, loved and recently celebrated their first birthday along with Dog House Adoptions, Inc. April 13, 2013.
Because of Bristol’s prominence in the local community, Drury, Kate O’Hara and O’Hara’s grandmother started a fund to raise money for Bristol’s recovery. After receiving $120, Bristol was spayed, nursed back to health and able to attend The Animal Hospital’s Pet Adoption Day in Slingerlands. There, Bristol met her new family who renamed her Chrystal for being the gem of their lives.
Kate O’Hara with the Friends of Bristol veterinary check.
Along with Dog House Adoptions, Inc. Clune also wears many hats in the creation and maintenance of other successful online organizations including This One Wild Life and Be the Change for Animals.
This One Wild Life & Be the Change for Animals
This One Wild Life is what spearheaded Clune’s success in media and animal advocacy. In 2009 it started out as her own personal blog discussing her experiences when connecting with domestic animals and encountering wildlife. After her readership blew up, she quickly realized how powerful blogging was in terms of spreading ideas toward social change.
This One Wild Life celebrates the joy humans experience while interacting with animals, whether domestic or wild, advocating for animal health and welfare in both the rescue and pet world. This One Wild Life produces a plethora of multi-media content regarding animal activism and stories regarding adoptive efforts and numerous events.
Generally these organizations work hand in hand to share important information to maximize their impression on the community. Be the Change for Animals provides an avenue for people to help animals in a pace that doesn’t overwhelm. They highlight one cause every week and provide information on how readers can help. Clune’s organizations don’t just ask for donations, calls to action typically involve the signing of petitions, Facebook “like” campaigns or participating in letter-writing campaigns for the protection of voiceless animals.
“We invite the community to share their favorite causes during Blog the Change. During these events, we link participating posts together to build community-driven relationships and promote sharing,” said Clune.
Amy Burkert, Peggy Frezon, and Kim Clune from BTC4animals.com
Peggy Frezon, an editor for Be the Change for Animals, is working on a project to spread awareness for National Volunteer Month. “We’re blogging about people who volunteer to help animals and encouraging others to blog,” said Frezon. She has also recently created posts about spaying pets, puppy mills, and the illegal ivory trade. “I hope by spreading awareness and compelling writers, we can get others to care enough to act.”
How to strengthen your blog
Back in February, 2013 Clune visited The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY – where Clune received a bachelor’s degree in English literature – as a guest speaker teaching students how to maximize their blogging potential. Below is a set of tactics used by Kim Clune and other established bloggers.
1.) Interest: Write about something you are passionate about, because maintaining a blog will consume hours of your time. While writing allow yourself to feel something and convey that emotion.
2.) Simplicity: Don’t try to use fancy words and phrases. Write simple, as if you were talking to your friends. Be concise, people tend to read less online, no one wants to read pages of content.
3.) Know your audience: What makes them tick? What turns them off? Keep an eye on which posts get the most traffic, likes and comments.
4.) Multi-media: Written content is important, but providing photos, videos and other visual media will increase your traffic tenfold.
5.) Socialize: Use all types of social media platforms and connect them to one-another. This way you don’t limit yourself to the people using a single network. Offering multiple ways a reader can receive content is a great way to enhance your impression.
6.) Cross-posting: Whenever you create new content on your blog, post a status or send out a tweet. Advertise your writing through your social networks.
7.) Build relationships: Do some research and find people who are interested in the same topic. Have a conversation with them in their own space to lure them into your space.
8.) Share: After a relationship is established, see if the other blog/online-organization will integrate with your own. That way when you post, it will automatically appear on their page as well.
9.) Interact: Respond to every comment left on your blog, this engagement sets you apart from your competition. Depending on the magnitude of your readership this might be hard to keep up with, but it’s worth the effort.
Thank you, Anthony, for sharing our story and for taking such an interest in our work being done on behalf of animals in need.
Students of the New Media class, using what they’ve learned, have created their own civic projects. Give them your support with a click and a comment…
I just received an email from Sara Tenenbein, a long time rescue advocate and wife of Comedian Steve Hofstetter. It reads:
Two days ago, my husband and I found an abandoned dog in a gas station parking lot. My husband, who was not a dog person before I met him, caught the dog, fed it, and cared for it.
He wrote a piece for his Facebook about it because, in his words, “I wanted to create something beautiful for him.”
It is both a heart warming and heart breaking story. I am very proud of what he did, as well as what he wrote. I wanted to share it with you in hopes that you would share it with your readers, and it would inspire a few more people to take action and help.
When interviewing Hofstetter for Be the Change for Animals, I was moved by his unlikely shift toward becoming a rescue advocate and using his celebrity for good after he and Sara adopted a little dog named Bea Arthur. The story he shared yesterday has rocked me to the core. And so I am compelled to share his words with you here. I do so not just at Sarah’s request, but because this story reaches into the heart of what rescue is about: excitement, frustration, anguish, joy, sadness, relief and much, much more. When you reach the end, you’ll understand.
Today was the day that everything changed.
Just before noon, my wife Sara and I stopped in Modesto for lunch. I was driving us from San Francisco to Visalia, and couldn’t find a viable healthy restaurant on the way. Traveling with our dog, Bea Arthur, limited our choices to just those with outdoor seating. And Bea spending most of the trip whining increased the urgency of getting out of the car.
We finally settled on what we thought was a cute café. Once seated, we discovered the place had the menu of a Denny’s with three times the price, and the one open table was next to three women who made the cast of Sex And The City look well adjusted.
The women were actively complaining that their boyfriends were paying too much attention to them. Keep complaining, ladies. That problem will work itself out.
On top of that, it was cold out. We ate fast and got back in the car. Many miles and a two stomach aches later, Sara finished a delayed conference call and I pulled over so Sara could finally drive. And that’s when we saw him.
There was a mutt that couldn’t have been more than ten pounds, running around a gas station. I threw the car in park and Sara started chasing the dog. He was extremely fast – Sara couldn’t come within ten feet of him. I grabbed Bea and started chasing as well. We watch a lot of Animal Planet and this was not as easy as they make it look. I’d imagine I’d also be shaking my fist at HGTV if we ever renovated a house.
Someone from the gas station yelled to us that Animal Control had been trying to catch the dog for weeks. “Not trying hard enough,” I thought. I was not going to let this ten pounds of cute outwit me. I noticed the dog was going in circles around the gas station so I had Sara chase it into the station’s retired car wash tunnel as I ran to the other side.
When I was in college, I played tackle football with no padding every January. In a game of ultimate frisbee, I ran into someone so hard it took my face three weeks to heal. I once caught a Spring Training home run ball with a slide on concrete. But I have never been so proud of a tackle as I was today. Partially because it’s been ten years since I’ve exercised with any sort of regularity.
With Bea’s leash in my left hand, I got my right hand on the mutt’s back enough to stop it from running. The poor dog was terrified – it peed so much I felt like I had squeezed a water bottle. Sara took Bea from me and I tried to feed the mutt a few treats. It was too scared to eat. In fairness, if something 18 times my size scared me so much I peed on myself, my next thought wouldn’t be “oooh, snacks!”
Having found the dog in a car wash, I decided to call him “Suds MacKenzie.” Sara grabbed a blanket from the car and we did what we could to clean Suds off and wrap him up. After ten minutes of heavy petting, Suds finally started eating. Again, I was reminded of college.
We drove to a nearby Petco and bought $50 worth of supplies. We figured we’d be back home in LA in two days – we could stop by a vet in Fresno to have Suds checked out, and then find a no-kill shelter in LA or a neighbor in need of an adorable friend. We bought a collar so we could walk him, some wipes to finish cleaning him off, a bunch of Nature’s Miracle to make sure our hotel would be fine, and some wet food since Suds’ teeth were mostly gone.
Suds wouldn’t walk in the parking lot, probably having never been on a leash before, so I carried him back to the car and tried to find something more conducive to calming a dog than a strip mall. According to Google, the nearest dog park was back in San Francisco. But I saw a patch of green on the map and headed for it.
Then something amazing happened – the patch of green was a dog park, and it was the nicest dog park I’ve ever seen. It was large, covered in grass, and empty. Meanwhile, the 60-degree day had magically warmed up to 68. This was order in the universe.
The cosmic nature of what was happening hit me. Bea’s whining, the terrible lunch, Sara’s delayed conference call – it all led up to us finding this amazingly sweet animal. And I was wrong – this dog’s name was not Suds. It was Carlin. It had to be. Part for the play on words that I met him in a car wash. But mostly because he inspired me to re-appreciate the universe in an entirely non-religious way.
There is also something amazing about having a dog named Bea Arthur towering over a dog named George Carlin.
We let Bea explore while we fed Carlin and tried to get him to drink water and get some exercise. But even off leash, he wouldn’t walk. He ate a little bit – but he wouldn’t drink any water. We tried coaxing him by putting some of his food in the water bowl, but nothing. We tried getting him to walk towards the food, and he refused. He tried a few times, but his legs wouldn’t let him.
Something was seriously wrong. When we first picked him up, we attributed Carlin’s twitching to fear, his weakness to hunger, and his missing teeth to a life on the streets. It was becoming increasingly clear that Carlin was very sick – and a lifetime of running had only made it worse. He was so scared when we found him that even starving and with bad legs he still outran us. It was simultaneously impressive and sad.
But he wasn’t running from us now. He trusted us enough to just lay in the grass, alternating between eating and sleeping, two things he wasn’t able to do with any sense of certainty just an hour earlier.
We knew that we had to take him to a vet or a shelter. If this was New York or LA or a dozen other places, I’d have been able to find someone who could help. But we were a few miles north of Fresno – and after a few desperate unanswered posts to Reddit and Facebook, our only choice was to bring him in. I didn’t call Animal Control – they were the same people who couldn’t bother themselves with saving Carlin in the first place.
As we drove to the SPCA, we knew there was a good chance Carlin would be put down. We might have been saving his life – but the odds were we just gave him one nice afternoon after a lifetime of fear.
Two years ago, this story would have been impossible. I grew up terrified of dogs. I misinterpreted affection for aggression, and I let ignorance get the better of me. It wasn’t until I watched Sara volunteer with strays and we eventually adopted our own that I truly got it. Dogs are a human problem – we created them and we overbreed them. It is our responsibility to protect what we shaped. I love Sara for many reasons. But showing me that my fear was nothing compared to the fear of the four million dogs who go abandoned every year? For that, I will be eternally grateful.
Carlin cuddled into Sara’s lap and fell asleep as I drove. Bea’s whining stopped, and she silently laid down in the back seat. Her new little brother was sick, and she somehow knew it was not the time to be selfish.
The Fresno SPCA knew Carlin was in trouble immediately. It was obvious to them that Carlin had an incurable condition called distemper, a disease that proves fatal in most cases. Though completely avoidable with a simple vaccination, distemper is one of the worst diseases a dog can contract, and it causes tooth loss, trouble walking, and dehydration with no desire to drink. The worst part is that, while incurable, distemper is treatable if caught in time. Had Animal Control – or anyone else – bothered to catch a scared little dog, while a long shot, his disease may have been manageable.
The optimist in me wanted to pay the several thousand dollars for a distemper test to make sure. The realist in me accepted what was happening, and gave my little gremlin one last hug goodbye.
I placed the bag of supplies we’d bought on the counter of the SPCA, muttered “keep them,” and walked away. I wish the story ended differently. I wish I could show you pictures three weeks from now, where Sara and Bea and I are all playing with my new doofy little gremlin. But I can’t.
When I say today was the day that everything changed, I don’t mean for me. Yes, I am more resigned to help any stray I see, to donate money to rescues, and to use my stage to influence others. But today, things didn’t change for me – they changed for Carlin. His life of fear ended quietly in a hospital instead of in agony in a gas station parking lot. And it ended with three things he’d never had before – love, protection, and the dignity of a name.
Not every story has to have a happy ending. Some can just have a happy couple of hours.
Thank you, Steve, for writing this so beautifully, and to you, Sara, for sharing it with me.
UPDATE: Some good news from Sara…
Thanks for your kind words – it means a lot. Carlin was a very special dog. There is a silver lining of the story – after reading it our landlord has decided to relax her one dog policy and let us adopt another one. Carlin’s story is saving another life and his legacy will live on.
Keep doing what you do –
And the good news just keeps coming! Read the full scoop on Steve and Sara’s happy ending!
Over the past seven years, the honeybee die-off known as “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD), has claimed 5,650,000 hives, valued at $1.61 billion, according to the Organic Consumers Association.
Italy, France, Slovenia and Germany have taken action to limit the use of bee-killing pesticides. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about to approve a deadly new neonicotinoid called Sulfoxaflor.
Environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA, claiming the agency has failed to protect one of the Earth’s most vital pollinators from dangerous pesticides. Join in the fight for our food!
Why it Matters
If bees die, they cannot pollinate, and 1/3 of U.S. food crops cannot reproduce fruits, vegetables, nuts, and livestock feed. (Visit this impressive list of crop plants pollinated by bees.)
In the short term, dead bees mean less hives, higher hive rental fees, smaller crops, and a rise in food prices. The sharpest bee decline yet in 2012 brought much of these consequences with it. Long-term, the implications are far greater, from economic family struggles and health troubles to food shortages, small farm collapse, and environmental justice issues.
In addition to mites and viruses, the presence of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are largely being blamed for the increase in bee decline. The largest threats are neonicotinoids. These systemic pesticides are embedded in seeds and the plant carries the chemical that kills insects that feed on it.
It’s a dastardly domino effect. Many bee-keepers feed their colonies high-fructose corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup is made from Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn and that corn is treated with Bayer’s neonicotinoid insecticides.
New York Times journalist Michael Wines reports in “Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry:”
But while each substance has been certified, there has been less study of their combined effects. Nor, many critics say, have scientists sufficiently studied the impact of neonicotinoids, the nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths.
I think the critics he refers to are criticizing the lack of Monsanto’s scientists to study the impact. The 2012 study from Harvard School of Public Health was pretty clear that the link between neocotinoids and bee deaths is obvious.
And, in case you missed it, that’s right. Other parts of the world have determined a deadly link between bee die-off and neocotinoids, but the U.S. presses on. Why? According to the Organic Consumers Association’s article, “Stop the Death of Bees:”:
Poland is the first country to formally acknowledge the link between Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn and the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that’s been devastating bees around the world, but it’s likely that Monsanto has known the danger their GMOs posed to bees all along. The biotech giant recently purchased a CCD research firm, Beeologics, that government agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture, have been relying on for help unraveling the mystery behind the disappearance of the bees.
Now that it’s owned by Monsanto, it’s very unlikely that Beeologics will investigate the links, but genetically engineered crops have been implicated in CCD for years now.
Tell the EPA to protect the food chain, not the biotech companies. The lives of every single being, not just bees, depends upon it. And what human wants to eat corn that kills bees? What, then, is it doing to us?
This post is part of Blog the Change for Animals hosted by Be the Change for Animals. Spend just a few moments and never a cent to make the difference for animals in need! Join in the 15th of every January, April, July and October!
For every tweet and blog post featuring the #BTC4A hashtag (short for Be the Change for Animals) from October 22-27, Petco will donate $1 for rescue pets – up to $5000 – at BarkWorld!
This is one of those topics that gets me right here. Pictured above is Trex. He’s one of our adoptable dogs at Dog House Adoptions, one of roughly 30 who we’ve offered shelter from the streets in Rensselaer County, NY since our founding 6 months ago.
I know, first hand, how much small, local rescue does on-the-ground in communities like yours and mine. I also understand that general donations are the most helpful means of spaying, neutering, giving vaccinations, heartworm testing, and treating injuries or illness. Yes, I had a hand in creating this fundraiser based on this very knowledge. Why not make these goals as easily attainable as possible?
Trex was neutered last month, and he’s ready for his new home. His story can be the story of many other rescued pets with your help. It’s so easy!
- Tweet this now through Saturday, October 27th at 11 AM (EST) :
Rescue pets receive $1 from @Petco at @BarkWorldExpo for each #BTC4A tweet from Oct 22-27! Learn more: http://ht.ly/eEls7
- Blog about what rescue means to you, now through Saturday, October 27th at 11 AM (EST). Add #BTC4A to your post title. Add your post link (not just your domain) to the blog hop list below to be counted. Bonus: Each time your post is tweeted, you’ll earn more money for rescue pets!
- Nominate your favorite no-kill 501(c)3 rescue or shelter at the Petco booth through Friday, October 26th! (BarkWorld Attendees only.)
Why It Matters
Animal organizations need funds for food, vaccinations, spays, neuters, treatment of injuries and illness – expenses that adoption fees don’t fully cover. General donations allow an organization to address their most pressing needs. Together, we can raise $5000 to assist local, no-kill rescues and shelters!
We animal lovers at Be the Change for Animals, BarkWorld, Petco, and Two Little Cavaliers believe that helping rescue pets is important. We know you do too. Make the difference. Be, Blog and Tweet the Change for Animals!
The BIG WINNERS will be announced this weekend during BarkWorld’s Petco session on Saturday!
You DO NOT need to attend BarkWorld to participate.
Simply tweet or post and help us raise $5,000!
We’ll let you know who wins, right here!!
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the jaguar on the US endangered species list in 1997, after urging from the Center for Biological Diversity lawsuits and grassroots organizers. Moving forward, U.S. Fish and Wildlife has now proposed to protect a few key mountain ranges along the Mexican border as “critical habitat.” While the Center for Biological Diversity calls the proposed areas vital, they also say these areas are “not nearly enough to ensure the big cat’s recovery.”
According to the Center for Biological Diversity:
The agency has omitted the best jaguar habitat north of the border – the wild Gila ecosystem of New Mexico and the adjoining Mogollon Rim of Arizona — as well as travel corridors that would allow jaguars to move freely between mountain ranges.
From Catty to Fishy
Why do you think that is? If you smell corporate favoritism, you’d be spot on. The Center for Biological Diversity goes on to say:
A foreign-owned mining corporation that wants to build the Rosemont Copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, southeast of Tucson, Ariz., is lobbying hard to block protections there. This open-pit mine would strip thousands of acres of all life and leave a mile-wide hole in Coronado National Forest. A jaguar was seen last year in the Santa Rita Mountains, and a photo of a jaguar tail was taken in September southeast of Tucson.
Aren’t we all just a little tired of big money overtaking the Earth’s natural treasures?
I just did.