Monday, March 30, 2009

Pets Delight at the Kern County Animal Shelter

This is a wonderful video showing the folks at Pets Delight going to the Kern County Animal Shelter to adopt out animals and take them back to their pet store in an effort to find them loving forever homes. Many thanks to Pets Delight for choosing this option instead of purchasing from backyard breeders or puppy millers. And thanks to the KCAC for allowing them to try and give these pets a chance at a better life.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Kern County Dog Show fun

Toys, toys and more toys were immediately evident at this year's Kern County Kennel Club dog show, held at the fairgrounds on March 28 & 29. What wasn't evident were any of the local rescue groups or dog activity groups. Maybe with the economic downturn they didn't have the funds in their coffers to be able to attend. If that's the case, it's too bad, as these events are the perfect opportunity for dog enthusiasts to share their passion with other, and a chance for the public to get a little up close and personal with some of the groups who are diligently trying to reduce the number of homeless pups in Kern County. I missed seeing them.

On the other hand, I also missed seeing...people. While my husband and I were there, it looked like fewer than 200 people were in attendance as visitors. Maybe that's another reflection on the economy, but since we spent all of $10 for parking and admission, I just want to let people know they missed out on a gorgeous day full of equally stunning dogs. My apologies in advance for the sad photo quality. I've really got to learn how to properly take a picture.

This young Afghan was busy getting buffed and puffed prior to ringtime. Such a beauty!

I caught a brief shot of the gaggle of Goldens, having just exited the ring.

This Beardie was busy getting some finishing touches before heading off for judging.

The Bouviers were being judged as we passed by. Despite their teddy bear looks, these are some seriously protective dogs.

A Saluki and a Whippet taking a snooze in one of the vendor's booths.

A Miniture Schnauzer waits for his moment in the ring.

A Westie busy getting beautified.

A Whippet patiently waits amid all of the ruckus in the exihibition hall.

Two of the sweetest Cavilier King Charles Spaniels of the day.

As you can see, our own critters got in a good snooze while we fawned over some other pets for a change.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On reading The Underneath

"There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned on the side of the road."

I saw a wonderful column back in December in the SF Chronicle about children’s books that featured animals as their main characters. Within the column were two lists, one of classics and one of “not quite classics.” The Underneath, by Kathi Appelt, fell into the latter category.

Based on the description provided within the column, I knew I wanted to make this book part of my holiday gift list. The book was described as a children’s book, but one that could easily be enjoyed and appreciated by adults as well, in much the same manner as the Harry Potter series. That was all I needed to hear. Come holiday time, I asked --- and I received, along with several other books.

I purposely waited until I finished the other books I received over the holidays before beginning this one, as I had a feeling that this book would be something memorable and wanted to be able to linger a bit with it.

I’ll say this much --- the book definitely lingers with you. Part animal tale, part mythological journey along with a dose of easily one of the very baddest bad guys ever to be featured in children’s lit, The Underneath is a book that defies an easy summation. It only took the briefest of introductions to the bad guy for me to decide that, children's book or not, this dude could haunt a couple of dreams. Is he too scary for kids? I still can’t decide. Perhaps as an adult who has seen the ramifications of animal abuse, the villain strikes me differently than he would a child who has yet to be acquainted with those who commit acts of meanness against the vulnerable.

Part of me felt the material was for a much older audience than it was being recommended for, while another part remembers some of the books I read as a child. They certainly had their share of less than honorable characters and fairly “mature” themes and I clearly lived to tell about it.

The Underneath weaves a number a storylines simultaneously, jumping from plot to plot in an almost frantic manner. Once I got the rhythm, it was interesting the see the way all of the pieces were woven and how it would all tie together in the end, and I was not disappointed.

Part fantasy, part love story, part adventure tale, The Underneath frequently struck me as a nearly perfect book to be read aloud to youngsters, as the author’s use of syntax seemed uniquely suited for narration.

400-plus words later, for those inclined to animal stories, it's definitely worth a look.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Crusin' the book store

I headed over to Barnes & Noble today in search of Elizabeth Hess' other book, Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter. As I pretty much expected, the book wasn't in stock there, though I was pleased to see two copies of Nim Chimpsy on the shelves (in case the three other people who occasionally peek on this blog are interested). No biggie. That's the beauty of the Internet; what you can't find in person you can find online.

I have a couple of reasons for wanting the book. First, it is subject matter that interests me. All you have to do is click on just about anything I've posted to know that. Second, as a hack (read: unpaid) writer of critter-related material, I've been so completely pleased to have had a couple of exchanges with Ms. Hess that I figure it's the least I can do. Not that I wouldn't have checked it out if she hadn't responded to my post, because I would have, but perhaps not as soon.

Frankly, I could converse with her every week. She's a published author who writes on topics I actually care about and she's taken time out of her life to acknowledge my little blurbs. I'd love to communicate with her about all sorts of issues as they relate to writing and animals. How many opportunities am I going to have to actually talk to a real, live, nonfiction writer whose subjects are animals?

However, I don't want to give the impression that I'm some kind of Annie Wilkes whack-job on the Internet, and I'm not really sure how I can accomplish one objective without the possibility of bumping up against the other, so I'm at a bit of a loss. Still, I am curious if she's working on anything else at the moment and, if so, whether it's also animal-related...

The Great Ape Protection Act

Funny how worlds sometimes collide. Right now before Congress is the Great Ape Protection Act, legislation that would require the government to phase out invasive research on the more than 1,000 chimpanzees still living in U.S. labs and begin the process of retiring approximately 500 government-owned chimps to a sanctuary. Watch the video, then encourage your legislator to co-sponsor and support the Great Ape Protection Act, H.R. 1326.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Note for Elizabeth Hess

Dear Ms. Hess,

Nothing in my world was more exciting (and less expected) yesterday than to have you comment on my post about Nim Chimpsky. Would I have thought that in a million years you would have read my comments regarding the book I would have laced my post with the dozen or so questions I was dying to ask at the book's conclusion.

Now, on the even-more-incredibly-off-chance that you might see this post as well, and would be so kind as to reply, the one thing I would most love to know is how it was that you decided to write about Nim at all. You mentioned in your comment that so much about his life was hidden, so I can only imagine the enormous effort it took to gather all of the material to go forth on a project such as this. Of all the subjects in the world to choose from, why this one? What was it about Nim that made you compelled to spend years recreating his life?

Vicky Thrasher

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nim Chimpsky, the book

I finished reading Nim Chimpsky: The chimp who would be human, by Elizabeth Hess. It was, predictably, a moving book that certainly left me with a lot to think about.

Funny how a few hours away from the page-turning helps to organize your thoughts. As I was reading the book, there were times that I wanted to call Ms. Hess and ask her if there was anyone who could live up to her seemingly open disdain. There were few characters in the book who came across seeming to possess even a small measure of respect, and since a few of the characters are individuals I've admired for one reason or another it was hard to read repeated, unrepentant critiques of their character or motives.

It was only after I put the book down and stepped back a bit that I got it. Regardless of their motives (some of which were more noble than others), just about every person who involved themselves with primate language experiments had no real idea what they were doing. And with every stumble, frustration or upheaval the one who truly always paid the price was Nim. I'm sure that those who claim to still feel guilt or sorrow over his story are telling the truth, but that doesn't change the fact that when they reached the ends of their collective ropes, it was Nim who was left hanging at the end of it, dangling.

Nim Chimpsky is not easy reading, especially if you are someone who has deep feeling about sentient creatures, but it is an important book. Having taken a little time after closing the cover, if I were to call Ms. Hess now I think I'd simply say "Thank you."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"I don't know where you get it from"

My mother calls, as she usually does on weekend mornings, to catch up on the banalities of our days. As part of our usual ritual, she asks me if I'm reading anything, as we're both pretty big readers. I tell her I'm knee-deep in Nim Chimpsky, knowing as soon as I say it how the conversation will go from here.

"What's that about?" she asks. I take a deep breath before I give the barest of synopses about the subject matter, a biography of a chimp used in sign-language studies in the 70's.

"I don't know where you get it from, all that animal-stuff. You sure didn't get it from me," she replies. She continues to extol for the next several minutes on how she simply doesn't understand how I turned out the way I did, as it relates to my feelings about animals and their well being.

She's right, but only partly. Certainly as I was growing up my family viewpoint about pets and animals was substantially different than the edicts I live by as an adult. We had pets --- many, many pets when I was young. But the dogs remained forever outside, regardless of weather, age or health. We had cats, too many to name. While they were all spayed or neutered, they were fed the almost-cheapest food at the grocery store, allowed to roam fairly freely and should one get injured or ill it was almost certainly a death sentence, as my family felt it was ridiculous to spend money on treatment when there were reams of other animals available for replacement. Taking animals to the pound who "didn't work out" was also acceptable, for the same reason.

So when she looks at me and sees who I am, when it comes to pets and animals, she sees someone utterly unrelated to how she raised me. I see something else. I see myself as someone who is an absolute product of my environment. Back then, I was young, too young to have much say in the events of the household. I tried, sometimes to the point where I was punished for not knowing when to declare the battle lost, but I made little impact on their world. It was not beyond me to make an impact on mine. I read everything I could find about animals --- companion animals, farm animals, research animals --- animal training, animal behavior, physiology, and the relationship humans have with animals of all stripes. And I became the person I am, the one she can't quite reach when it comes to matters concerning fur and feathers.

I don't blame her for it, nor do I think it bothers me as much as it does her. There are so few people who share my life who get how deep it all goes, and fewer still who wish to venture even part of the way down the path with me, into the shadowy places that cause you to question the very nature of humanity.

People hear me talk of small things and assign the "animal lover" badge to me, then move on, having neatly boxed me into a label. I know they don't get it. How can they? Most of the time I feel like a walking freak show, the animal weirdo who spends an awful lot of energy, time and money trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. It makes me awkward. It makes me wish I could turn it off, the way people change the channel on the television when they've had their fill of a particular program. But I can't. I can no sooner change the passion I have for animals and their well being than I can change the color of my eyes. I can only hope that along the way I maybe touch a person or two, and a person or two can touch me back.

And when we do, we won't have to ask "where we got it from", because we'll already know.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bakersfield SPCA Open House

I go to the Bakersfield SPCA's Open House for two reasons. One, I want to be able to take a few photos and give them a teeny, tiny bit of publicity, unless this is one of the few blog posts to get more than four hits, in which case they'll get a smidge more. Two, because it's an excuse to go there that my husband can't argue with. Since we've been by there three times in past couple of months, he'd be well within his veto power to say no, but there's no way of getting around a special occasion. He picks where we go to breakfast before we head out, his small consolation prize.

It's busy. So busy that cars are parked a goodly distance from the BSPCA. We get a great spot just a couple of businesses down, next to a driveway so we can't get blocked in.

The bright yellow sign is the first thing I see. This is the entrance to the cat spay/neuter clinic. I love these clinics and can't figure out why we can't find the money to do more. It's desperately needed.

As we walk I take in the booths and the people who are here to support the BSPCA and get a little pet care.

Next up is a Sheriff's dog. Though I'm not a huge fan of the prong collar, as I watch him, he's definitely more "dog" than he is "Sheriff" right now, so it's all good.

Lots of vendors are at the Open House, educating folks who came by, and in many cases donating services and goods on behalf of the BSPCA's mission. I'm grateful that local businesses are willing to donate their time and services, even during this horrid economic time.

Some of the great raffle prizes that were donated.

I'm thrilled that a shepherd mix that I fell in love with a few weeks ago has been adopted I see his photo on a sign. The BSPCA named him Scruffy. Maybe now that he has a new home I won't see him in the back of mind so much anymore.

Doesn't much matter. As we walk down the rows of kennels a quiet girl, staying amazingly calm in the midst of the chaos, slowly sidles up to the fence. My heart is lost in her attempt at dignity. Note how rusted the gate is. There are a lot of places at the BSPCA that are showing their age. Wouldn't it be amazing if a fence company or fence contractor stepped up and donated some new fencing to them? What a public relations coup.

I head to the cat house, half-hoping Romeo has been adopted, half-not. If he's here, maybe today will be the day I bring him into my life forever. Romeo (my name, not one given to him by the BSPCA) is a brilliant flame-point mix with gorgeous blue eyes and a sparkly personality.

Fate holds. Romeo found a home. I apparently have a decent animal sense, as those who catch my eye catch the eye of others as well. Of course, being at the shelter, there's always another cat to fall in love with.

This week it's two grey kittens (although only one of them would sit still long enough for my pathetic photo skills). I take one look at them and have two simultaneous thoughts --- I don't have one that color and They're the exact same color as our carpet. We'd never notice the additional pet hair.

But they're kittens. Gorgeous, sassy kittens who will find a home with relative ease. It's the adult cats who are languishing here, and were I in a space where I could bring home another cat, I'd be taking one of the older ones who are as desperate for another chance at being part of a family as any kitten.

I've seen enough. My past heartthrobs have moved on, there's a really nice turnout for the event, over 100 cats will be altered before the day is out, and the weather is perfect.

I've got to get back to my pets at home. They're waiting for me.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Assistance for shelters to help animal victims of foreclosure

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is offering grants of up to $2,000 to shelters and rescue/adoption groups (must be a 501(c)3) to establish, expand or publicize programs to help people care for their pets during this time of economic turmoil. To apply for a grant, click here.

To view some of the other grant opportunities and financial assistance programs that are available, click here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pet Emergency Funding Assistance

Given that these days are fraught with so much economic uncertainty, there are sure to be occasions when someone you know is one pet emergency away from having to give up their pet.

Before that happens, please be sure to check out all of the resources that may be available to assist you in the event of an emergency. United Animal Nations has compiled a list (though neither they nor I am claiming that it's comprehensive) of resources to check into if you find yourself in need of some emergency funding for your pet's medical needs.

To review the list, click here. Additional resources may be found here.

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