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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Speak Loudly for the Silent Ones...

Thursday marked a two year anniversary.  The term anniversary makes you want to, roses, a nice dinner.  But this isn't an anniversary you would celebrate in a romantic way, although it brought many of us together.  It is an anniversary that makes you wonder why, makes you ask yourself what happened and why was it allowed to happen?

Two years ago, an unlicensed rescue in Eldora Iowa was raided.  Over 15 animals were found dead with over 45 others starving, neglected, and in need of medical care.  For those that died, their bodies were left where they died, or they were tossed into a dumpster. No respect, no remorse, not an ounce of compassion.

Here is a link to the news story .

The anniversary of the rescue was marked by a Memorial Vigil to celebrate the lives that were saved, and to remember the animals that suffered and lost their lives at the hands of a woman who has fled the state without going to court for the crime that she committed, and may be comitting again in her new town of Tremont Pennsylvania.

I once considered Michele Kintzer a hoarder.  But as I learn about the case, I no longer consider her a hoarder.  I now consider her a heartless animal abuser.  Hoarding is a mental illness that usually has the animal's best interests in mind,  and the person involved usually has good intentions, until the disease overwhelms the hoarder's ability to care for the animals.  This woman just let the animals go without food, without food, and with no effort to rehome or relocate them to another rescue during her "illness".  She sat there as animals died in her backyard and in her house.  There were no good intentions in this story.

HEART ( Hardin Eldora Animal Rescue Team) stepped in and with the assistance of volunteers and other rescues, they saved the dogs and cats that were still alive.  Despite two veterinarians writing letters that the animals were neglected and in need of medical care, the county prosecutor never pressed charges.  The charges pending on Michele Kintzer are due to a individual citizen's concern.  She found an attorney willing to press charges, and did it all at her own expense.  This case is just too big to ignore.

The link above tells the story the best, I don't need to reiterate what is done so well there. Stop here and watch, listen, and share it. I will wait for you...just be sure to come back and finish reading...

Welcome back. 
This blog is about the Second Annual Memorial Vigil.

HEART organized an open vigil to be held outside the Hardin County Courthouse in Eldora.  My staff and I attended.  I expected to see the photos I had previously seen in newscasts and on the internet.  I expected that there would be an air of sadness for the lives lost.  And I expected that there would be celebration for those animals to whom we helped find loving families.

But there were things that I did not expect.  There were moments for which I was unprepared.  These were the moments that make me glad that I attended.  These are the moments that motivate animal rescuers.

Three of the dogs that were rescued from Waggin' Tails attended the vigil.  They were fat and happy, and you would never know that these dogs were half starved at the time of their rescue.  They donned bandanas that said, "I survived".   I was not expecting to see them, and was not expecting to feel the way I did when I did see them.  I have placed hundreds of animals into new homes.  Some of them came to me as pampered pooches, and some were in very bad health when they came to me.  Some of them I see on occasion for vaccines and health care, and I am thrilled when I do see them.  But this was different.  You forget that animals can rebound from adversity quite well.  I am certain that they do not forget the past.  I have seen too many incidents to believe that they forget.  But I do believe that they forgive.  And these dogs have forgiven.  These dogs have forgiven the people that we, as humans, cannot forgive.  They are not burdened with depression, or rage.  I remember hearing a story of a man throwing his dog off a bridge into a river.  The dog swam to shore and greeted the same man with a kiss.  Forgiveness.  Forgiveness that some may not deserve, but nonetheless, it is forgiveness.  These abused dogs have accepted their new families and their new lives and are so grateful to have them.  I respect animals for having this ability.  It is a gift we humans often lack.  Never let it be said that we cannot learn by example from other species.

That being said, one of my favorite quotes is by Martin Luther King, "The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people."  The people who investigated this place initially said the conditions were okay.  The prosecutor who would not prosecute the offender, his silence made these conditions okay.  But photos and videos show that the conditions were not okay.  And while the dogs have recovered, we, the people, the rescuers, have not.  We are angry, we are sad, and yes we are happy when we see the survivors.  HEART acted when others were silent.  And with this vigil, HEART Rescue Team is still screaming out of the silence.

Meet Zeus.  Zeus is a lab mix. He was featured on a poster with a photo of him at the time of his rescue. To see the before photo and the healthy dog standing right in front of you, and knowing it is the same dog is a wonderful feeling.  Who could ask for more than that.  Such gratification.  Look at the ribs and all the other bones that are showing in the photo on the sign.  And look to the right at that alert, pampered, healthy pooch standing next to it.  It is the same dog, but with a new leash on life, no pun intended.

Moose arrived with his new guardian, Tony.  Moose is a handsome chocolate labrador retriever.  Moose was full of energy and just happy to be around people.  He is at a good weight, and has a beautiful shine to his coat. 

Then something amazing happened.  Zeus and Moose saw each other, and before even coming nose to nose, their tails wagged in recognition of their reunion.  It was not a meeting between two dogs that had never met. It was a meeting of past friends with shared past experiences.  In this case, they shared the same nightmare.  There was no doubt in anyone's mind that they remembered each other.  We were all in awe as tails wagged and kisses were exchanged.

King's arrival could not compare to this reunion... or could it?  King was the skinniest dog retrieved from the rescue, and his new rescuers were fearful that he would not survive the first night.  He did survive.  He spent the first several nights at a volunteer's house.  The volunteer was Melissa, and she pampered and nursed King to get him to eat, drink and sleep to aid in his recovery from this nightmare.  Upon his arrival, King trotted over to the croud of people at the vigil.  Melissa saw him, and cried out, "King's here"!  She bent down to hug him and just started BALLING!  I proceeded to gently kick her in the booty for making me cry, and others soon followed.  By followed, I mean that they cried too, they didn't kick her in the booty.  I would love to insert a photo that I took of that moment here, but I was so caught up in the moment as King wiped her tears with his kisses, that I neglected to snap a photograph! There goes my Pulitzer Prize for catching a moment in time on film, or should I say on memory card? 

A friend has allowed me to post this photo of  "the moment"...

UPDATE: After reading this blog, a friend sent me a photo of the exact moment I discussed... and here it is...booty kick and all!

As we drove to the vigil, I told my staff that I didn't intend to stay very long.  We closed the veterinary clinic so my entire staff and I could attend the vigil.  We planned to show our support and get back to work.  We stayed longer because we were surprised at the commeradery we felt.  We were overjoyed by the success stories we heard and saw.  We were thrilled when people honked their horns in support of our efforts.  Two gentleman stopped and spoke with us about why we were there that day.  Before we knew it, they were holding signs and memorializing the more than 15 animals who we could not save. 

It is odd how awful times can bring us together and create beautiful moments.   The animals that died at Waggin' Tails Nightmare died in a way that no animal or person should ever have to endure.  They died an awful death, but they are not forgotten.  HEART Rescue is making sure of that.  I like to think that moments like the ones I described above give proof that those animals that died, did not die in vain.

Visit HEART Rescue's website to see the animals they currently have for adoption, or send them a note of thanks for their efforts at

Here is a slide show about the case...  Click to view it.

Thank you Amy for being my friend, for being so courageous, and for speaking so loudly for the silent ones.


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Monday, February 22, 2010

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Comedy and Tragedy.
Yin and Yang. 
Up and down.

It all happened in moments, making it impossible for me to be completely in one moment or the other at one time.

Today, I picked my daughter up from school.  I was a few minutes late as we received ten puppy mill dogs that were responsibly surrendered by their breeder into rescue.  They did not arrive until just before 3 in the afternoon and I had to leave at 3:30.  (Special thanks to our committed transport volunteer for making two special trips for us today, bringing Casper to his eye surgery appointment, and bringing these ten new souls to us!  You know who you are and we love you for it!)
At a hectic pace, I continue on to pick up my son and bring both kids to their tumbling class.  We actually arrived early, which rarely happens, and with no major meltdown during the drive!  I expected meltdowns since the only snack I had for the ride was apples and granola bars.  My son is usually the one that fusses on the trip to class.  "What!? No fruit snacks?!"  But they were both happy with apples and never even got to the granola bars as we pulled into the parking lot of tumbling class.

My son hops into his tumbling class that runs from 4:30 to 5:00, then my daughter's class runs from 5:00 to 6:00. 

While he is in class, I watch a few of his stunts, then decide to walk through the sidewalk sale at the mall with my daughter. She sees this claw machine filled with teddy bears.  One of those machines you see in arcades that kids load their change into, and rarely if ever walk away with one of the toys inside it.

She decides she wants a teddy bear from the machine.  I try to explain to her that just because you put money in this machine, does not mean that she will get a bear.  It is not like a gumball machine with a guaranteed outcome.  I keep walking and she starts begging for the teddy bear.  I gave her two warnings as we walked through one of the stores that she needed to stop asking or we would go back to class instead of walking through the mall.  She doesn't stop.  As a matter of fact, she gets louder. 

As we head back to the class, we walk passed the machine and she gets louder, and louder and louder.  I go into class and sit and she cries and begs.  I try to keep my wits about me but it just keeps going on despite all the logic and rationalizing and bargaining I can come up with to solve this dilemma in a rational way.  "Miranda, your friends are watching you act like a baby.  Miranda, go do a time out. Miranda, how old are you?  Miranda, if you don't stop acting like this you will not stay for your own tumbling class."  Other parents of the toddler class are watching my six year old act like a terrible two-ser!  I cannot help but get extremely self conscious as all of this is going on.  I realize in this rational moment as I write that most parents would sympathize with me, as we all experience completely irrational tantrum moments in public with our children.  But in that bazarre moment, I felt as though the other parents were thinking how inadequate I was as a parent, and how that child must be completely out of control all the time.

Twenty minutes later, still amidst constant cries, begging, sobs, and lots of six year old noise,  just moments before the toddler class is over, my cell phone rings.  It's the vet clinic.  I sigh an aggravated sigh, because with all I am dealing with at this moment, the stresses of work are not a welcome distraction even though they are usually mild compared to this raging tantrum my daughter is having.

I press the little green button.
"It passed!  The puppy mill bill passed in the senate!" 

I could barely muster up a "that's great" in the moment I was in.  Nothing felt great at this moment.   This moment was the screeching owl, nails on a chalkboard, chewing on tin foil, indian burn, paper cut moment of my life.  It was all bad.  I was MORTIFIED, EMBARRASSED, and so sad for my daughter and whatever internal strife was causing this aberrant behavior, and yet wanted desperately to be thrilled about this amazing news of progress. 

Why did it happen now!  Why couldn't I get the call at a time when I could be elated?  Why couldn't I get a call at a time when I could celebrate?

I can tell you why.  This bill was not about me. This bill was not intended to make any one person happy.  This bill was not the success of one person or even a group of people.  This bill is intended to provide a fail-safe for the breeding dogs of our state.  If the federal inspectors fail them, our hope is that our local inspectors will correct any wrongs.  This bill is intended to provide protection to those who are so often left unprotected.  This bill happened because it needed to happen, not because I need to celebrate it.

Tomorrow morning when I go into work, I will have ten puppy mill survivors depending on me to take their photos, get them healthy, and find them their forever homes.  Tomorrow morning I hope some of this victory will taste sweet. 

But tonight, it is my son's turn.  I am listening to him say, "I hate you, Mom" for putting him to bed about a dozen times while he insists on walking around the house rather than staying in bed.  Tonight the motherhood battle seems more difficult than the rescue battle. 

While both battles have their difficult moments, and both battles are very personal,  I hope both will end in sweet victory with my children living in a state, and on a planet full of people that take responsibility for their furry companions and no longer consider them just a disposable product of commerce. 

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox, you need to go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Be the Change You Want to See

Internet Explorer cannot display the Webpage. I have grown to seriously dislike seeing those words, especially when I am so eager to jump into my blog. It’s like getting your bathing suit on during your first day of a vacation, heading down to the hotel pool, and finding out the pool is closed for repairs. ARGH!

I drank an extra soda tonight for the caffeine so I could stay awake and have the energy to research and type another blog, only to discover that I cannot get online. So here I sit in Microsoft Word, waiting for an idea to pop into my head.

And it just walked through the door for the third time. Hello Connor.

My son is having a tough time going to sleep tonight. So instead of reading yet another book, for the first time ever, I started improvising. I started creating my own stories, very short stories, with the lights off, while he is lying down in bed, tucked in, and hopefully getting drowsier by the second. I have already improvised three stories, all starting the same way.

“Anudder once upon a time?” he said.

“Connor, you need to go to bed.” I said sternly with no intention of reading or making up another story. I am just not that creative.

“Pweathe?” he said with his hands on his hips, his belly out, his eyes squinting into little sideways crescent moons that make your heart melt.

Sigh…“Okay, let’s go.”

I tucked him into bed for the third time tonight, and I started the story off with those age old words that are so new and exciting to him.

“Once upon a time, there were two puppies. The puppies were playing in the yard outside their house one day when one of them went out into the road. Suddenly, a big tractor started coming down the road toward the puppy. You know what can happen if the puppy stays in the road, don’t you?”

Connor stopped and thought. He gets a really pensive look on his face. He is great at pondering and coming up with an answer that on occasion doesn’t quite fit the question.

“Puppy goeth to the houthe,” he said.

“Yes, the puppy needs to go to the house because the puppy can get hurt playing in the road. Right? All of a sudden, Spiderman comes swinging in from out of nowhere.(I continue being very dramatic.) He shoots his web, psssssssshhhhhhhhh, (and yes, I made my wrist do the Spiderman web shooting thingy) and the web wraps around the belly of the puppy (as I wrap my hands around Connor’s belly). Then Spiderman pulls the puppy out of the road and back into the yard. “

Now if you could see my son’s face at this point, you would just laugh. He is gasping in complete awww of the excitement of this wonderful story. It has everything he loves in it, Spiderman, puppies, tractors…ah, well I guess I did leave out the football.

“Then Spiderman and the two puppies sat in the yard and watched the tractor drive by their house. Spiderman and the two puppies waved to the tractor. (Yep, you guessed it, I waved) And the man driving the tractor waved back at them. The End.”

I kissed my son, who of course wanted another “Once upon a time”, but I insisted he go to sleep. Since I am still typing, I have not been interrupted again, so he must have finally gone to sleep.

I admit that I am not a terribly creative or imaginative person, or I am terrible at being creative or imaginative.  I was a TV kid growing up. People say that too much television leaves little room for a child to create their own fun, limits their imaginative growth, and shortens their attention span. If this is true, I am sure that this is also happening with the “new” technology of today… i.e. internet, videogames, Ipods, cell phones. Kids no longer need to invent games to play by themselves or with others. They just hop onto their Nintendo that they keep in their back pocket and play games. Instead of calling their friends, they will text them, even when in the same room. The amount of social interaction that kids are getting today is so limited for some, that I believe that is why many of these kids, when they find employment, don’t realize how important it is to smile, look at the customer in the eyes, and say “Thank you” or “Have a nice day.” Or when you say, “Thank you” or “Have a nice day”, to them, their response is “Yup”, instead of “Thank you. You too” said with a smile.

There is no need for a child to invent invisible friends. I can remember my Mom telling me she used to play in her back yard as a little girl and pretend she was married to Dick Powell of “Dante’s Inferno” fame. Not sure what “pretending to be married” entailed as a little girl, perhaps making him invisible supper, or waltzing around at an imaginative Ball, but it involved the imagination. Her choice of husband surprised me greatly as she was a huge Frank Sinatra fan, but obviously Dick was her man before she “met” Ol’ Blue Eyes. I wish I could ask her more about that.

There are a lot of people who are compassionate and caring and want things to change. That change could be political, social, or otherwise. And yet it is the minority of people who step up and try to help in making that change. Too few people realize that their small effort, combined with many other people’s small efforts, can create a big change. Is this lack of initiative also a result of too little social interaction? I just don’t know. I’m not sure anyone really does know.

I ask people who want change in animal care issues to write to their legislators regarding insufficient or absent laws. The response is often, “I am not a good writer”. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE! The legislators just want to know what their constituents want. Those legislators want to know your feelings on the issues they deal with daily. Perhaps your letter will open their eyes to a new perspective that they had not yet heard or considered. Just a small letter or email from a few people is huge in their world.

Perhaps you think your small town library needs new books, or shelves. Perhaps your town pool needs a make-over. Perhaps your volunteer firemen deserve a plate of brownies and a show of gratitude. Then you need to act. You need to commit to being the change you want to see. Perhaps you want your group of friends to get together more often. This may not seem to be a big deal, but it may create a support group that one of you may rely on some day. Find your desire, and help the project by getting some friends together, brainstorming ideas, and making them happen. Even the smallest change can bring about a big change. You might be surprised at how many people share the same interest or desire and they just need you to get them motivated.

My son doesn’t know that I am not a good story teller. He sat and listened and enjoyed the story I created. It made a huge difference to him. He thinks his Mom is Charles Dickens. You don’t have to be a professional at something to make a difference, but you have to start the story…

”Once upon a time… (Insert your passion here.)”

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox, you need to go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!)