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Tag: help

Feed the hungry … dogs

Mention the idea of food stamps for dogs and you’re likely to get one of two reactions:

Those touchy-feely animal lovers (such as me) will say it’s a great idea that could help keep dogs from being surrendered to shelters, abandoned, or worse, by owners who can’t afford to feed them anymore.

Those “It’s-just-a-dog” types will say its ludicrous, that they’d hate to see their tax dollars used for something like that, and that, if you can’t afford a dog, don’t get one in the first place.

When the idea does float to the surface, there’s usually some quick debate — then it vanishes as quickly as a bowl of kibble.

Now, in a way, the concept is back, and it’s being carried out on a national scale — with no involvement from government, and no use of tax dollars, it should be noted. It’s the mission of a nonprofit organization formed by a New York man who describes himself as a stockbroker, journalist, entrepreneur and business consultant — a frightful combination if ever there was one.

The organization is called Pet Food Stamps, though no stamps actually appear to be involved. Instead, low income individuals can submit applications, which, if approved, lead to six months worth of deliveries of dog food from Pet Flow, an online pet food store. It’s all to be funded through private donations, founder Marc Okon says.

Pet Food Stamps and Pet Flow announced their “exclusive partnership” in February:

“Pet Food Stamps aims to provide pet food for pets of families receiving public assistance and for food stamp recipients who otherwise could not afford to feed their pets. Based in New York City, the program is open to anyone in the United States. More than 80,000 pets have already been registered …”

Okon, 36, said the idea was inspired in part by a friend going through some economic hard times who told him “she sometimes fed her cat before herself,” Wall Street Journal columnist Al Lewis reported. Also, he says, doing something philanthropic helps remove the bad taste that remains from some of his previous employment experiences in corporate America.

Okon says he briefly worked for a firm that sold dubious medical benefits to seniors in the South. “Their whole corporate philosophy was to manipulate seniors who didn’t have any type of insurance,” he said. “I could only do that for about a week and half,” Okon said. The article calls him “a man so disgusted with the lack of ethics he witnessed in private enterprise that he founded a nonprofit to hand out dog food.”

While many a humane society operates similar programs on the local level, Pet Food Stamps says it has been swamped with applications — 45,000 in the first two weeks alone, according to a press release.

Okon says the applicants often describe how they’ve lost their jobs and homes.

“Millions of pets are surrendered to shelters each year and euthanized because their owners can’t afford to feed them,” he said.

Okon says he isn’t against the idea of the government providing food stamps for dogs, but that it’s not part of the current picture.

“We’re not looking for government funding at this point,” Okon told ABCNews.com. “Should the government be willing to provide assistance further down the line, we will look into it.”

It seems a noble idea, and we hope it’s nobly carried out — with enough transparency that dog lovers who make donations know exactly how much money the organization is receiving, how much of that is going to buy and ship dog food, and what profits, if any, the private dog food company is making.

We’d point out, too, that people unable to afford to feed their pets can check with their local humane society or SPCA to see what programs might be available in their area. Some food banks distribute dog food and cat food, and some chapters of Meals on Wheels deliver pet food, too.  In 2006, Meals on Wheels started the We All Love Our Pets (WALOP) initiative after finding some of their clients were sharing their meals with their pets because they couldn’t afford pet food.

For a state by state list of programs offering free and discounted services — from food to veterinary care — check out this Humane Society of the United States link.

Highway Haiku: Adventures in unpacking

 

Pieces of my past

Freed from their dark cardboard jails

What the hell is this?

We’re at that point in our unpacking now where there are just a few lingering boxes, and they all contain what I will loosely call junk — items that I’ve hung onto for reasons sentimental, hopeful and, more often, unclear and irrational.

All those 34-inch waist blue jeans? Hoarding those paid off. After decades of wishful thinking, they suddenly fit now, after our near year on the road. My baseball autographed by Willie Mays? It — though his name is fading – still falls into the category of forever keeper.

But what of all the rest — the five unpacked boxes that remain: a jumble of shoelaces; matchbooks; cables, cords and adaptors that I have no idea what they go to; marbles; sea shells; little green plastic toy soldiers; a doggie Christmas stocking; old dog collars; artwork by my son; artwork by my self; unlabeled VHS tapes that contain who knows what and I have no way of finding out; cassette tapes of which the same can be said; old sunglasses; remote controls with nothing to control; owner’s manuals for things I haven’t owned for a decade or more, old keychains, some of them with mystery keys; a set of large plastic ears that fit over your real ears; a fake severed finger in a pool of blood; balls of all kinds; musky smelling pipes; business cards for people I can’t remember ever meeting, mysterious names and numbers scrawled on bits of paper?

All, mostly, things that served a purpose, things that were important, once; and at least one item that, as mentioned in our poetry above — it has been some time since our last Highway Haiku – we’ve never been able to figure out.

Mixed in with these are souvenirs accumulated during my travels as a writer — some Korean money; two stuffed dogs from a company that clones dogs; chips of wood from the woodpile outside the Unabomber’s isolated cabin in Montana, a framed get-out-of-jail-free Monopoly card; a matchbook from the Mustang Ranch in Nevada, a no-longer-greasy stone from the Exxon-soiled shores of Alaska; a photo of a twenty-something me swilling Thunderbird wine with two hoboes on a dirty mattress in Lexington, Kentucky.

They, too, occupy the boxes of items not essential to everyday life — boxes labeled “junk,” though not all fall under that rubric. (Speaking of which, where did I put my rubric? I thought I packed it away with my milieu, under my ephemera.)

I remember a time in my life when I only had one junk box. How did I get up to five? It seems once we outgrow and leave behind our childhood toys — hey, there’s my squirtgun! — we find other stuff to squirrel away, in my case enough to fill a box every five years or so.

In these boxes – oh look, a yo-yo! — are items of great sentimental value, nestled with items of questionable value (plastic vomit, anyone?), nestled with items of no apparent value and, sometimes, no clear purpose.

Which brings me to these wooden things — pictured atop this entry.

I’ve probably had them for a couple of decades at least, and I believe they came from the home of grandparents. I haven’t a clue what they are, yet I’ve held on to them, moved them from home to home, and packed and repacked them away in junk boxes.

Maybe you can help me out.

Allow me to describe them. They are made of wood, polished on one side, grooved wood on the other. They interlock. They have a brand name, “Blitz” emblazoned on one side. They are slightly bigger than your average blackboard eraser, about the size of a telephone receiver, or what used to be size of telephone receiver.

What they do — or ever did — I don’t know. My best guess, given the grandparents I think they came from were once in the laundry busines, is that they have something to do with the maintenance of garments.

If you know, I’d love to hear. If you just wish to hazard a guess, I’d love to hear that too — for often there can be more fun in the guessing than the knowing. (The first person to provide the correct answer will receive some slightly used plastic ears; I won’t just lend you an ear, I will give you two.)

We are nearing the last of our boxes, and have made five trips now to the Goodwill donation center down the street. I love that place. One can drop off unwanted items with such ease — you pull in, drive over one of those gas station hose bell ringer things, and a smiling man comes out with a cart to help you unload. Then you’re off. It all goes so smoothly — unlike much else in life — that I’m tempted to start dropping off items I actually need.

Need, of course, being a relative term. If we learned anything during our travels it’s that so much of what we think we “need” is really just what we want, or are convinced we must have by advertising and the media. In our 11 nomadic months, food, water, coffee, something to sleep on, a roof when the weather’s yucky, an electrical outlet and, of course, each other, sufficed nicely. Not until Ace and I moved into a structure of our own did I start feeling the need to accumulate things – even as I’m doing the opposite of that, getting rid of the junk.

I really shouldn’t call it that. It’s an overly broad term that’s unfair to some of those items that reside in the boxes so classified. “Accessories,” or “accoutrements,” would be a kinder label, but those are too easily misspelled, and take too long to write on the side of a box.

And, in truth, they have value. In a way, these items — your junk, my junk — are like life’s loose change: However seemingly trivial they appear, taken together they amount to something. We keep them because, even when packed away, they are pieces of our identity, they’re what makes us us, and throwing them away is like throwing pieces of ourselves away.

That, in my case, those pieces include yellowing newspaper clippings, whorehouse matchbooks, big plastic ears and a severed thumb in a pool of blood, says something.

I’m just not sure what.

Dog keeps vigil amid tsunami’s devastation

We don’t know the story behind these two dogs — other than they are obvious victims of the tsunami in Japan.

We don’t know the outcome — whether they’ve been rescued or not.

We don’t know what the commentator is saying.

But we do know this: It’s going to make you cry.

The video was brought to our attention by Karen, an American living in Yokohama, Japan.

“I’ve been a fan of your blog for some time, and today I want to bring your attention to a news footage uploaded on YouTube about two dogs surviving in the ruins of a city destroyed by the tsunami.

“It was filmed by a TV crew of Fuji Television, who mistakenly attributed the dog’s behavior as ‘stay away’ when in fact it was probably seeking help for the second dog, which the reporter assumed was dead.

“The dogs apparently were just left there, and there is no update as to whether they were subsequently rescued (I doubt they were). People have been writing to Fuji Television asking that they disclose the whereabouts of the dogs and assist in their rescue.

“I hope you can write about this the dog that stayed behind to take care of its friend, and ask your readers to pray for the dogs’ safety.”

UPDATE:  An unconfirmed report states the two dogs have been rescued. Kenn Sakurai, whose Facebook page describes him as the president of a Japanese pet food company who is helping with the rescue of animals, reports on Facebook that the two dogs have been rescued:

“We have already got these dog … Both dogs brought to Mito, Ibaraki. One is staying at the vet clinic and the brown and white one is at the shelter,” he wrote.

How much is that dog book in the window?

Four of my favorite things — dogs, books, bargains and good causes — will come together this weekend at The Book Escape in Federal Hill.

The Baltimore bookstore will feature not only me, signing my new book, but a storewide used book sale. Ace will be there, and your dog is welcome, too. (The Book Escape, located at 805 Light St., is dog-friendly.)

And to top it all off, we’ll be donating 20 percent of the store’s Saturday sales of “DOG, INC.” to the Franky Fund, which helps provide care for sick and injured animals at Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter.

The signing will be Saturday (Feb. 5) from 1 to 3 p.m.

The Book Escape has made “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” its featured selection for the month — giving it prominent display not just on its website, but in its storefront window.

Ace and I, temporarily living in a friend’s empty house as we continue, for now, our roaming ways, are located right around the corner. So we pass the window often, sometimes pausing as I point out to him my book … look … right there … in front of Tom Wolfe’s. It fails to impress him.

In addition to the signing, The Book Escape will be holding a big sale this weekend, according to owner Andrew Stonebarger.

All used books will be 50 percent off for “book pass” members, and 25 percent off for everyone else. Book passes cost $50, but those who buy them get $50 in store credit at regular prices, on top of reduced prices everytime they present the card.

Stonebarger says that means a person who bought two copies of “DOG, INC.” –  one for themself and one for a present, he suggested (and who am I to argue with that idea?) – would “get a free book pass and get big discounts for the whole year.”

In light of this week’s disturbing revelation of another pet set on fire in Baltimore — a cat named Mittens who, thanks to the Franky Fund, is recovering — we (meaning The Book Escape and me) will be donating 20 percent of each sale of “DOG, INC.” on Saturday to the special BARCS fund.

It’s not the first time I’ve worked with BARCS (where Ace came from), or raised money for the fund, which I’m a fan of because it gives a chance to abused and neglected dogs and cats that, because of serious injuries, might otherwise not have one. In addition to passing along all profits last spring from my photo exhibit, ”Hey,That’s My Dog,” I’ve done a couple of stints as Santa Claus, for ”pet photos with Santa” fundraisers.

Saturday’s book signing seemed a good opportunity to raise a little more for the Franky Fund — without having to dress up in a funny suit, freeze, or swallow wisps of polyester beard hair.

Ace and I hope to see you there.

Sailor finds some friends in South Philly

Neighbors in South Philadelphia found a bruised, battered and hungry dog, took him in, and have raised enough money for him to have surgery tomorrow.

Apparently, the 6-month-old shepherd mix, who they’ve named Sailor — given he was a bit of a shipwreck when they found him at 15th and Federal Streets in South Philadelphia — had been abandoned, and hit by a car. Three of his legs were injured and he was barely able to walk, CBS in Philadelphia reported.

When his rescuers brought him home, Sailor was so emaciated some weren’t sure he would make it, but he has gained 10 pounds since then, and he’s scheduled for surgery this week, at a cost of about $5,000.

“A lot of vets told me to put him down right away,” said Clair Sauer. “The surgeons were ready to operate on him yesterday, but I had to tell them ‘I don’t have the money.’” Sailor’s foster family set up a Sailor website to help raise the money. In little more than 24 hours, they reached their goal.

According to the website, the surgery will be performed at CARES in Langhorne, Pa., by Dr. Brentz. Sailor will have his rear femur cut and “put back into place with lots of metal…”

“Recovery will be long and will take patience, but we will be there for him! He will need lots more x-rays to monitor how his bones are healing. And, when he is ready, physical therapy. These will incur more costs, but we will stay optimistic!”

Once Sailor recovers from his surgery, he will be put up for adoption.

Copse and robbers

How do I describe the winds that swept through North Dakota this week? They were relentless. They sliced right through you. They were cold and mean. In a word, they were criminal.

When I finally pulled out of Fargo, I was certain any visions of fall colors were over. No way, I figured, could any leaves still be clinging to their trees. Those winds, like a heartless gang of thieves, surely stripped them bare.

But, as Ace and I traveled west across the state, there were a few bright exceptions: groves of yellow-leafed trees — birch or aspen — that, by virtue of being tightly grouped together, still sported their fall colors.

The only way I can figure it, they were saved by the copse.

By being huddled together in a group, they – at least those not on the periphery — were able to keep their leaves a little longer. They, like early American settlers, bees in a hive and the huddled masses everywhere found safety in numbers.

You don’t hear the word “copse” that much anymore. In “Travels with Charley,” it shows up a few times. When John Steinbeck camped, it was usually in a copse, alongside a river, which is where you’ll generally find the copse — despite what you might have heard about donut shops.

Driving along, I wondered if the copse might hold some lessons for us humans, or at least remind us of some.

When pioneers set forth across America, they did so in groups, depending on each other, and each other’s skills, for their survival. When Indians attacked, pioneers circled the wagons, recognizing that forming, in effect, a copse, was the best defense. They established towns for the same reason — so neighbors would be close, so that help would never be too far away.

And long before that, cavemen and cavewomen learned — apparently from sources other than reality TV — that, by forming alliances, they could better protect themselves from the elements, evil-doers and scary creatures.

For long time Americans lived a copse-like existence. We established a home. We dropped our seed. We watched it grow. Once it did, it stayed around, mingled with other hometown trees and dropped its own seed. Children lived where parents lived. The apple didn’t fall, or roll, far from the tree; it stayed in its parent’s shadow, at least until it ended up in a pie.

Somewhere along the line, that went by the wayside. Children grew up and ventured off, carving their own paths. Mom and dad, once on the periphery of the copse, shielding us from the nasty winds, were relocated to places they can get some assistance with living.

The copse-like closeness has diminished not just in the family, but in the family of man. We’re less inclined, I think, to help each other out. Rather than thinking we’re all in this together, rather than the stronger helping the weaker, the richer helping the poorer, the franchised helping the disenfranchised, we look out for No. 1.

And the more insular we’ve become, the more we fail to stake up those in need of support, the more we turn away from those stuck out in the cold, the more robbers we produce.

In the 21st Century, when it comes to protection, we rely on the cops.

But maybe the real answer is the copse.

More help for the big dogs of St. Bernard

It has been more than a month since our extended road trip took us through Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish, where we reported on how cash-strapped fishing families were finding it hard to continue caring for their pets since the oil spill ruined their industry.

Now, we’re happy to report, more help has arrived, which could help stem the tide of people surrendering their dogs because they can no longer afford them.

Twenty tons of Kibbles ‘n Bits (for large dogs) – donated by Del Monte Foods and transported by Best Friends — was dropped off earlier this month.

Large dogs, you’ll recall, are numerous in the parish southeast of New Orleans because many residents used them to guard their properties while rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

“The people who are coming in have big dogs,” says Beth Brewster, director of the St. Bernard Parish Animal Shelter. “They can’t afford to feed them.”

Brewster told Best Friends that many families picking up free dog food bring photos of their dogs with them, and share their dog’s story. “They have tears in their eyes. They’re very, very thankful,” she says. “It’s one less thing they have to worry about.”

The Louisiana SPCA has collaborated with Brewster and Best Friends, as a part of Best Friends’ First Home Forever Home campaign, and is setting up distribution sites, in St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

To get the food, residents fill out an application, present a commercial fishing license or proof that they work as charter boat operators or in another field affected by the spill.

“These families have not only lost their livelihoods, but also their way of life practically overnight. They shouldn’t have to face losing members of their families, too. It’s just too much to expect anybody to bear,” said Ellen Gilmore, campaign specialist for Best Friends’ First Home Forever Home.

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