Oh, This One Wild Life, our passions once ran so deep that the story of our love spilled effortlessly over countless pristine white sheets. Hand in hand, we ignited a fire within the hearts of even our most distant of blogging friends. We planned to change the world together, and we did our best to try but, somewhere along the way, that blaze was dampened to a smoldering ember until… I’m sorry, This One Wild Life, but can’t you see? We’ve been losing our spark for some time.
Just look at past letters to the Pet Blogger Challenge, evidence of our dimming light…
2011 Pet Blogger Challenge Beyond the Honeymoon. Our relationship once reached toward limitless horizons representing all that life had to offer – until your animal welfare addictions and product review promises eclipsed my vast and varied interests. I began to resent your commitment to others over your commitment to my desires. I ached to indulge in South American travel logs and fully flesh out Ghanaian volunteer notes into colorful adventures with you by my side. These needs utterly starved for your attention.
2012 Pet Blogger Challenge The Others. They Make Me Sick. When your heart was hacked by a ruthless interloper,I was chronically ill at the time, struggling through my sickness to rebuild your trust. I devotedmonths of determination to revive the contents of your soul — only to have you, my love, relentlessly courted by and committed to brands who cared nothing about your true interests the way that I did. Engagement with other blogs seemed my only recourse, an open relationship without selling myself out. “I could love my blog deeply and monogamously again, but I think we should start seeing other people,” I said. I hoped you would notice my wandering eye, but that didn’t work for either of us.
2013 The Doggone Dirt on Pet Blogging The Final Throw Down In a fit of malcontent, I threw out every 2013 Challenge question and threw down my top five bitter blogging gripes. Point #4 was “Pushy Product Review Requests? Lick My Cat.” 83 comments roared up in a chorus that proved I was not alone in my growing frustration. Hallelujah! But somebody was ready for a full-blown time out. I broke from your lackluster embrace, the one I once loved, only casually falling back into bed with you when I needed a good friend to talk to. The heart wants what the heart wants.
It’s difficult to admit but, what one thing made me most proud about my bloggingin 2013?
Living my life without reporting back to… who? Who would miss me when I was gone? You? I’m not fishing for kindness here. I celebrate the answer. Nobody. To realize that, I finally felt FREE.
In order to move forward with my life, I forgave myself, This One Wild Life, and I hope you can too…
for allowing you to dictate the direction of my every thought for years.
for pimping out my beautiful animals.
for selling products that nobody cares about.
for making myself so sick of dog topics, I cringe at all I see.
for hogtying myself to a specific niche, neglecting my many other interests.
And I accept your apology, This One Wild Life,
for always begging that your insatiable pages be filled, asking for more when I had nothing left to give.
for changing the locks, making me hang my head in shame as I asked the admin for access previously granted.
for your shitty response time when I tried to reconcile. (Although, even now, you load with hesitance. We truly must work on this.)
for your constant quirks and needy updates.
In all honesty, I’ve missed you, my darling blog. I never stopped loving the stories we crafted and shared together. I’m still drawn to the shape of your layout and the brightshade of your accent, the way you caress my words between your borders.
I’ll eagerly meet you half way, freely giving gobs of love toward your animal interests. Please, just tell me you’ll support my non-animal desires, too, entertaining musings from human experience. (I’ve finally started compiling notes this week, six years after visiting Africa. Exciting, no?)
However this happens, if this happens, can we agree to swirl our toes around in these crisp, cool, new waters, drawing in a fresh breath of air as our flirtatious giggling is carried on a light breeze? If this can’t fuel our souls with passion once more, I want no part. We each deserve better than mediocrity, as do those who bear witness to our re-blooming love. We deserve full immersion in amazement at the world around us, our booming,ecstatic voices rising over the dull din of white noise. We deserve all that This One Wild Life has to offer. And we shall take it and claim it as our own or be forever silenced by the golden mean.
It’s been a year since the GoPetFriendly RV was parked in our driveway and, boy, do Tim and I miss it. Taking a break from traveling the country reviewing the best pet-friendly places to visit, Amy and Rod Burkert and their dogs Buster and Ty spent a full month with us, although not by choice. Here’s how that happened.
We Blew Up the RV
To make our week-long guests more comfortable, Tim had an outlet installed to run the RVs air conditioner. Our attempt at being good hosts went bust. Once connected, flames shot from the fusebox. The microwave went Ffffft. Well, the whole RV went Fffft, really.
And so we made the best of a month of repairs, but not before Amy, navigator extraordinaire, got us lost for 2 hours in my own home town. And we killed my car battery. And we jammed my hood shut on said battery – with two freshly altered rescue dogs in the back seat on a 90 degree day. After all that, we were still nowhere near even. But we were still laughing. Should I mention that all this happened on the same day?
Can I Get a Fffft for Friendship?
Our husbands, who had never met before, fast tracked a friendship that Amy and I already enjoyed. They talked RVs and lifestyle while Amy and I resized our wedding bands. As a foursome, we celebrated our wedding anniversary, Tim’s birthday, and Rod’s birthday, all within 2 weeks. Amy and Rod dog and house sat during my grandmother’s memorial service and crashed our nephew’s graduation party. Everything we did was fun. Even flinging dog poop was a game, which was the only way to survive our clan of four big dogs in a single dog yard. But the best was the 4th of July…
Can I get a Fffft for Fire-free Fireworks?
Stumped on Rod’s birthday present, Amy suggested an iPad, and other fun thoughts. Rod, a pretty content guy, had no pressing wants. But he did have a bucket list, and on that bucket list was skydiving.
On the Fourth of July, Rod was about to fall from the sky like a firework. He just didn’t know it. But his good friend Tim wouldn’t let him go it alone. Why make Amy the only widow when we could do that in pairs too?
With the RV in for repairs, the Burkerts moved a few things into our man cave for their extended stay. Solid footwear was not one of those things. So we told Rod we were going on a hike in Saratoga and that he ought to wear something more stable than sandals. At the shoe store, we stifled our snickering as we watched Rob prepare himself for what could be his last birthday wish – given our luck with vehicles and fire.
Can I get a Fffft for a 200+ MPH Freefall?
As we pulled into the the small airstrip and passed the skydiving sign, Rod thought we were on our way to a trail head. Amy dropped the bomb. Rod said “Nooooo” with wholehearted conviction, as if it would change the plan. Threatening rains prolonged dreadful anticipation, but then the skies cleared and the plane took off…
Amy and I weren’t the ones in need of new shorts, but Saratoga Skydiving Adventures provided us with complementary thongs all the same – which we promptly modeled for our brave fellas. We may not be crazy enough to jump from a perfectly good airplane, but we rock all the same.
If you haven’t already heard, the Life With Dogs website is a world leader in dog news and entertainment. You’ll find dogs in the news, reviews and giveaways, fun dog and puppy videos, and the co-home of the Saturday Pet Blogger Hop.
The site, now managed by multiple authors, leaves little to be desired for the dog obsessed pet lover. Except for Life With Dogs’ creator, Neil Brogan. Oh, he’s still around in an advisory capacity, but he’s also shifted focus on life, love, and how to best use his talents to impact dogs’ lives going forward.
I miss Neil’s larger-than-life presence, and I recently caught up with him (interview below). Doing so brought back lots of memories.
Life With Dogs: The Early Years
What I treasured most about Life With Dogs: The Early Years were Neil’s hilarious, shoot-milk-out-your-nose memoirs and comics. If you’re new to the site, you’ve missed spectacular stories about what it meant for Neil and his wife, Mrs. Author, to be pet parents to dogs Nigel, Sola and Truffles – and Cracker, the oft dog-snubbed cat.
One precious gem entitled “Who You Gonna Call?” offers a voyeuristic glimpse into life at the Brogan household. Neil writes:
For some reason not known to me, Nigel, Sola and Truffles share a common goal: complete and utter fruitbowl decimation. Not a day passes without a paw, tail, or deliberately thrown snout making contact with my nether regions. It is not at all uncommon for Mrs. Author to walk around a corner to find me writhing on the floor, cursing one of our critters.
SPOILER ALERT: Mrs. Author crafted this fashion accessory in Neil’s defense. Meet Mr. Strainer … and then go read the whole bit. It’s 100% worth it.
Where in the World is Nigel Buggers?
Dog lovers identified a bit of themselves in Neil’s stories, and a special bond grew. But Neil didn’t stop at storytelling.
Nigel’s print appeared around the world – from posing with Elvis and Gene Simmons impersonators in Vegas to crashing tropical island weddings. And Neil shared every picture that came in saying:
This journey continues to astound me, and I am ever so thankful to this gutsy, humorous, dog-crazy group of fun loving people who continue to push the boundaries of good taste in the name of charity.
The Funtastic Fudge and Friends
The site also became home to Jason Dodge’s Fudge and Friends comic strip, complete with story line competitions that earned winners a comic strip featuring their own dog.
To see our winning entry, visit Our Favorite Dog Word: “Fudge!”. Although our use of fudge is a euphemism for another delicous F-word, Fudge in Life With Dogs’ terms refers to Neil’s beloved dog Truffles who is also nicknamed Fudgepants.
LWD Turned Activist
One of the more difficult shifts for me to watch was the very conscious decision Neil made to raise awareness about the not-so-pretty life of dogs. In 2010, the passion of pet bloggers attending a conference opened Neil’s eyes to the power of online animal welfare education. So moved by the community, he decided to use Life With Dogs to shed a bright light on the dark underbelly of animal abuse.
As an animal advocate often working in the trenches, it is too difficult for me to follow abuse cases of situations that I cannot change, and so I stopped frequenting Life With Dogs but for the fun and funny post that would grab my attention on Facebook. I know many others who felt the same way. But we are clearly in the minority.
Life With Dogs’ popularity rapidly grew and, while dog lovers rallied in anger behind the abuse stories, they also frolicked in the fun stories, cried at the most endearing stories, and laughed out loud at the most silly dog situations. What Neil says he prided himself on was daily care and attention to always mix it up. You never knew what you were going to get at Life With Dogs but you’d often experience every emotion available to humans.
An Interview with Neil Brogan
So, how did Neil manage all this, a career in IT, a marriage, and still remain connected to his 4 pets? I asked him to spill the beans…
TOWL: Neil, what kind of commitment did it take to run Life With Dogs and how did that level of commitment change over the years?
NB: Those are two entirely different questions – because the focus of the site changed so dramatically. Initially, I only worked when inspiration struck. Once it was apparent that an audience was building, I had to reevaluate where my time was best spent. So for the first year or two I had a normal, sane life. Then everything exploded.
When our content focus shifted I felt self-induced pressure to stay on top of all things dog related. That is impossible of course, but holding myself to a high standard benefited the site in the long term. I considered it sweat equity. And for the last two years, LWD ate up my entire existence. There isn’t a single night in that period when I got more than 4 hours of sleep. I worked around the clock.
TOWL: How did two-legger Mrs. Author, survive it – (or has she)?
NB: Just barely. Were she not the most patient woman I know we could have ended up in trouble. She jumped in to help with giveaways, PR and reader relations. And it was still too big for both of us. For the last year, we had no time for non-essential communication. We had a million visitors a month and were receiving 150-300 e-mails a day. So call her a saint…
TOWL: When Life With Dogs eventually became about all things dog, advocacy suddenly and often took center stage. You began to share and track dog abuse stories in order to raise awareness – a move that felt very different from LWD historically. What was the specific impetus for this shift?
NB: I shifted the focus – away from myself and my dogs – because I knew that a large audience could actually impact some of the greater challenges facing this wonderful species that gives us so much more than we were able to give back.
TOWL: How did your readers react?
NB: Surprisingly well. They rolled with it and I did not expect that. But by this time many readers were also friends and were willing to support the change.
TOWL: What was your most popular type of feature?
NB: Given our demo (75-80% female readership) stories that featured women saving dogs or dogs saving women were always a hit. And our features regarding dogs that had languished in shelters for years were shared far and wide. Each ended in success, and those were my personal favorites. Seeing a dog go home after 8 or 10 years in a shelter was a huge relief.
TOWL: Have you been involved with any real-life advocacy projects beyond Life With Dogs?
NB: We were instrumental in getting public support for a bill that outlawed roadside puppy sales. We did news interviews and helped make Vermonters aware of the bad breeders who were coming here from other states to peddle puppy mill dogs.
We celebrated the passage of the bill, and shortly thereafter, three dogs we rescued from a mill breeder (who was selling sick dogs on the side of the road in Vermont) all died in a one year span – and all from complications caused by bad breeding. It was a heartbreaking exclamation point of sorts.
TOWL: What has the latest transition at Life With Dogs been like?
NB: Hard. I am very much a hands-on person and am no longer allowed to be. I am retraining myself. I like to roll up my sleeves and get in the trenches and I have to resist that temptation.
TOWL: How involved are you still?
NB: I remain involved in an advisory capacity. I no longer create daily content. I need time to grow the non-profit I’ve founded and can’t find enough time in a day to do both.
TOWL: What do you like most about Life With Dogs now?
NB: The fact that it has so much reach and impact. It continues to grow to this day, and I’m smart enough to realize that at this point it would probably continue to do so without me. I like that.
TOWL: How are the dogs and cat enjoying semi-retirement?
NB: That question assumes that they have worked at some point. If they have, I want their jobs!
In all seriousness, this has been great for them. It’s ironic – I created a website for dogs that became so busy I had little time for my own. When I realized that was the case, I knew it was time to step back and reclaim my life. Hence, the merger. Now we have time again, and it’s been a blessing.
TOWL: What does the future hold for the Life With Dogs clan?
NB: We’re getting ready to launch a new non-profit. If all goes well, it will provide millions in charity (on an ongoing basis) for shelters and rescue organizations.
TOWL:Neil, this is all very exciting, and I wish you all the best! I do hope you’ll come back and talk about your launch.
And to you, my dear reader, I suggest you keep a lookout. From everything I’ve learned about Neil’s exciting new non-profit, its grand scope will make an enormous difference for dogs in need – in a way that every pet lover can take part.
While trading in his punchy personal essays for a massive IT challenge, Neil remains dedicated to the many loves of his life (in addition to Mrs. Author, of course)…. dogs. And we’d expect nothing less from the man who brought us that special online community with the grandiose life of its own, Life With Dogs.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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?