An army of animal advocates descended upon the Legislative Office Building for New York State’s 4th Annual Animal Advocacy Day on Wednesday, May 28. This free, bipartisan, and yearly event, hosted by Senator Greg Ball and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, enables animal supporters to network, share information, and lobby legislators. This year, topics ranged from creating a registered list of NYS animal abusers to the prevention of horse slaughter.
While I attended as president of Dog House Adoptions, the dog rescue I co-founded in 2012, my humane interests have long revolved around all animals, domestic and wild. This was my impetus for co-founding the community based animal advocacy site Be the Change for Animals in 2010 (which will be resurrected on June 28th). The site highlights causes that advocate for humane treatment of circus elephants, captive exotics, mill dogs, migrating birds, whales of all types, and more.
John Hargrove of Blackfish
Thanks to that last hot topic, a significant highlight of my day was meeting John Hargrove, one of many former SeaWorld killer whale trainers featured in the documentary Blackfish. As the film’s website descibes:
Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.
John is co-sponsoring the Orca Welfare and Safety Act in California and similar proposed legislation in New York, hoping to end the use of killer whales in captivity for entertainment. A petition in support of the New York legislation has received over 10,000 signatures. To sign the petition visit: http://www.nysenate.gov/webform/sign-petition-end-torture.
John is the [Photo] Bomb
Slated as a special guest speaker for Animal Advocacy Day, John was running a bit late. As the remainder of attendees filled the stairwell of the Legislative Office Building for a group photo, John slipped in under the wire and addressed us all. The most poignant point he made is that awareness is an evolutionary process.
We start as trainers because you love those whales. You want a life with those whales. And then, as you progress higher through the ranks, you start to see things from the corporate end of it, the corporate greed and exploitation that you don’t agree with. And, even as a high ranking trainer, you cannot stop those things from happening.
But John knows that you can stop it from the outside using pressure from the media. And he’s now taking every opportunity to do just that. He followed up with this note to me:
You were awesome and it was incredible for me to be around so many who care about animals just as much as I do- regardless if you’re experience is with killer whales, dogs, horses, or whatever/ we all have the same heart and [were there] for the same reasons. I had a great day- and we are winning this fight. It’s really happening.
Watch John’s Talk
Shooting video from a tripod during the final photo, and with my DSLR on me as I stood in the crowd, I felt lucky to have captured a distinctly moving talk from a man who spent 14 years so intimately working with captive whales, knowing their suffering and acting as their voice. Now you can experience that, too.
More on Blackfish
If you haven’t yet seen Blackfish, you can view it through iTunes, Netflix and on DVD.
For more about John’s thoughts on his career and the treatment of the whales, watch DP/30’s interview of John with Blackfish documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
How fun is this?! This screen grab is a picture I posted to my Facebook timeline, which John then made his profile picture…
Stray Dogs’ new video, “PICK ME!,” if nominated for the DogTime Petties Awards, would truly help orphaned dogs in one local community – and around the world.
At the very least, We can spread the adoption message to a LOT of people, and that alone is a huge win. Reaching the voting round spreads the word through DogTime.com, a website that touts 40 million unique visitors each month.
You can nominate once daily through Friday, June 28th, 2013 at Midnight PST.
One lucky rescue gets a whopping $10,000 from DogTime during their 2013 Petties Awards!! Category winners receive a personalized Petties trophy and a $1,000 donation to the shelter or rescue of their choice.
Following Comedian Steve Hofstetter’s dog journey, I grow more and more fond of the funny man. Yes, I’m a fan of his comedy, but I’m an even greater fan of his compassion and commitment to animals.
Steve went from respecting his wife Sara’s animal welfare interests at a distance to adopting a rescue dog now named Bea Arthur and using his celebrity status to promote rescue. Offering a stray dog named Carlin the only comfort of his last few days on Earth last month, now Steve is turning animal activist to change the outcome of a topic so large that it hasn’t been properly tackled to date – ending puppy mills.
Steve’s latest message gives me hope. I share it with gratitude for the work he and Sara are doing to make a very real difference. We can rescue mill dogs all we want, but the problem will always be bigger than the resources available to cope – unless we eradicate the problem’s source.
My wife Sara reached out to you with our story about Carlin, the abandoned dog we found in a gas station parking lot that had to be put down. The support and kind wishes we received were overwhelming, as close to 250,000 people read and shared Carlin’s story.
I wanted to reach out with a thank you, and some good news. The heartbreak inspired me to start a legislative campaign to end all puppy mills once and for all. With my contacts in the media and government, passing this is a realistic possibility. And Carlin’s story convinced our landlords to let us have a second dog – so we might not have saved his life, but his life saved another.
If you’d be willing to share this story [featured below], it’s a lot more uplifting than the last one, and will hopefully inspire more people to adopt.
And if you’d like to join our campaign to end puppy mills, please visit EndTheMills.com. Even one petition signature helps a great deal, as we’ll be pursuing legislation on a federal, state, city, and local basis.
Thank you so much,
The Happy Ending
It’s been 18 days since my wife, Sara, and I found a stray dog in a gas station. It’s been 18 days since we cleaned him off, fed him, and named him Carlin. It’s been 18 days since we learned Carlin was in the advanced stages of distemper and we had to put him down. It’s been 18 days since I cried for the first time in years.
I knew I’d become a dog person already. What I didn’t know was the extent. For two years, we had a little Puerto Rican roommate named Bea Arthur that showed me just how much I could love a dog. But in just a few hours, Carlin taught me that loving one was not enough.
I will never forget the shock of the vet telling me that Carlin had distemper. We knew something was very wrong. But the optimist in me thought everything would work out. The optimist in me likes to get my hopes up just enough to set up an impending heartbreak. Turns out the optimist in me is also a sadist.
There was a brief moment when I was thrilled that the vet agreed to take Carlin in, before I realized that he was taking him in just to end things mercifully. That emotional cliff dive was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I went from the relief of knowing Carlin would be cared for to the anguish that this was somehow our fault. We were happy to give Carlin his literal moment in the sun. But, as illogical as the thought was, I couldn’t escape the fear that we were partially responsible.
I wrote a column about Carlin – both as catharsis for me and a tribute to him. I must have re-read it a dozen times, hoping that somehow the results would be different. But you can’t change the ending. Ilsa gets on the plane, Soylent Green is made of people, and the boat always sinks. Sara and I weren’t whole for days.
The oddest part was when we’d interact with other people. When you’re that emotionally distraught, it’s difficult to understand that everyone around you isn’t just as sad. Even a world champion in empathy can’t truly relate to someone else’s loss. We couldn’t connect to anyone.
Well, we connected to a few people. We live in the top floor of a house, owned by a wonderfully sweet couple named Larry and Lee who have an adorable mutt named Hannah. Months ago, we’d asked if they would allow us to have a second dog; we assumed that due to our shared love of everything pup that they’d relax their previous one dog policy. We got a resounding no.
After we lost Carlin, a second dog wasn’t even on our minds. We knew the rules – and having just lost our brief friend, we were gun shy. But Lee could tell something was wrong. Having trouble explaining what had happened, I pointed her towards the column. A few hours later, I received an email from them that didn’t just allow us to get a second dog – the email pleaded for it. This time, we didn’t ask for them to let us get a second dog – the universe did.
It turned out that Larry and Lee had just rescued another pup of their own, and they could see just how good of a home we would be for one more. That email was the first time I’d truly smiled since we lost Carlin, and I had done a show the night before. Outwardly, I’d smiled plenty. But that was the first time I meant it.
I was excited that Carlin’s death would save the life of another dog. And the sheer volume of support we received regarding Carlin was staggering. Close to 250,000 people read the column, and it was shared all over Facebook, reprinted in blogs, and even appeared in some newspapers. Carlin’s life hadn’t just touched us – it touched everyone we told.
I was inspired. I spent a few days building EndTheMills.com, a website based around the idea that with simple legislation we could end puppy mills forever. I didn’t want Carlin to just save one dog. I wanted him to save them all. It was an immediate success – through signatures, publicity, and donations, there is a realistic possibility that my little gremlin could be the catalyst to end the systematic overbreeding and abuse inherent in the mill system. The ending of Carlin’s part of the story couldn’t change – but the movie wasn’t over yet.
Sara went home for a week to visit family, and then I had a few gigs. So this weekend was our first chance to adopt a little brother for Bea. I’d gone through the seven stages of grief – shock, guilt, anger, depression, the turn around, reconstruction, and hope. As much as those few hours with Carlin will always be with me, I knew that the real way to end the movie was to find the first dog who’s life Carlin would save.
We went to No Kill Los Angeles, an adoption event sponsored by Best Friends Animal Society where dozens of rescues and shelters bring over a thousand animals to be adopted. We didn’t know if we’d meet “the one” there. But it was a great chance to try.
I never imagined that I would be looking for a second dog – let alone a Chihuahua mix – but I wanted to find a dog that reminded me of Carlin. The first dog we met was Jack – a sweet little guy from Best Friends themselves. But it would be ridiculous to fall in love with the first dog we met. And one named Jack? That’s the grandfather I wanted to name a child after. Fate couldn’t be that obvious, could it?
After meeting several more with too much energy for a family of couch potatoes, we found a second candidate. Charlie had been fostered by a rescue for close to a year, and was incredibly chill. He was great with people, great with other dogs, and grateful that we wanted to meet him. But our heart, somehow wasn’t in it. Maybe it’s because Jack looked more like Carlin. Or maybe because Jack was smaller and needed more help, or maybe because we just met Jack first. Whatever the reason, Charlie reminded me of the platonic friend you know would be a good choice to date, but there’s just not enough spark to go through with it. Sorry Charlie – we’re just going to be friends.
So where is the happy ending? I’m writing this, sitting on my couch, while Bea Arthur and Mitch Hedberg are asleep next to me. We changed Jack’s name to Mitch – I may not ever have a son, but if I do, I’m keeping the name Jack available. Besides – Mitch is a fitting tribute to Carlin, another one of comedy’s greats. And Mitch Hedberg was a one-liner guy. Seems right for a dog small enough for me to palm.
Bea is a wonderful big sister. Despite how selective she can be with other dogs, I feel like somehow, she knows. She understands that Mitch is family.
It’s been 18 days since everything changed. It’s been 18 days since I started grieving. And it’s been 18 days since we got to spend one afternoon with Carlin. But that afternoon will allow us to spend a lifetime with Mitch. And hopefully, it will inspire other people to help us end the mills permanently, preventing street dogs like Bea, Mitch, and Carlin from ever needing a home again.
The movie isn’t over yet. That happy ending is up to you.
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…
Asking for votes to help my dog rescue feels like staring down your hot, steamy bowl of delicious free time while salivating on your slippered feet. Like any good dog, I’m doing it anyway. I’ll either get shooed off or you’ll give in.
Please, I beg of you. Give in. This contest is EASY, FAST, ADDICTING, and FUN!
VOTE SARATOGA SPRINGS BEST CITY FOR PET TRAVELERS!
The first three rounds have been nail biters, cities screeching by with a single vote in the final hour. Saratoga made the Sweet Sixteen dance. If Saratoga wins the Final 4, I’ll give all the prizes to Dog House Adoptions. That means we all win by helping homeless dogs in Upstate, NY!
WHAT MAKES SARATOGA SPRINGS DOG FRIENDLY?
Saratoga isn’t just pet-friendly hotels and scenic parks. With it’s 40+ dog-friendly downtown businesses featuring a sticker to signify that entry with your dog is cool, no questions asked, it’s a model city for every destination pet travelers want to go. I wrote all about it here.
Defeating Sonoma, Vancouver, and Sante Fe for being the dog-friendliest, now Saratoga faces it’s greatest challenge, Annapolis, MD. Their voters are fiercely committed. We need the same. So, get your March Madness on and GET IN THE GAME!
VOTE SARATOGA SPRINGS BEST CITY FOR PET TRAVELERS!
WHO IS DOG HOUSE ADOPTIONS?
With just 5 core volunteers and terrific help from upstanding and committed dog lovers, Dog House Adoptions has spayed, neutered, vaccinated and rehomed 33 Rensselaer County orphaned dogs since our founding a year ago.
Our dogs come from the streets. When not claimed from their 5 day hold, the towns expect them to be put down. But we step in…
We care for the wounds of dogs, body and soul, and celebrate the healing of these discarded and vulnerable pups. We earn the precious gift of their trust and watch them blossom when nurtured with love. Then we seek the perfect companions for each one, sending them on to a joyful life with a family of their own – orphans no more.
The work is constant and our love never wanes – from the minute these dogs arrive until, well, infinity. Just because they leave us doesn’t end our caring.
HOW DOES MY VOTE HELP DOGS AGAIN?
To continue our work requires more funding. If Saratoga wins, the following prizes will further our fundraising. Wouldn’t these entice you to bid at our birthday party?
A three-night stay in the super pet-friendly Kimpton hotel of your choosing
a plethora of pet travel gear from Kurgo valued at over $300
dog food, supplements, and treats from The Honest Kitchen
a Critter Zone air purifier, a convenient travel bag set, complete with folding bowls, from Petmate
a snazzy matching collar and leash set from 2 Hounds Design
and a Sherpa soft-sided pet carrier.
It’s just a vote. It can help a dog. You can feel good about it. Please… I beg you.
VOTE SARATOGA SPRINGS BEST CITY FOR PET TRAVELERS!