Thursday, April 30, 2015

Beatrix's Big Day

Lest you think it's all animals all the time around here, the people are up to some pretty great stuff as well.

Today Beatrix got a Leadership Award at her school. We got to attend the leadership assembly to see her get it, which was great! When the kids get up to get their award, all the kids sitting around them give them high-fives and make a big fuss over them. I'm very proud of her award, and so glad for her many good friends.

Then tonight was the opening for Beatrix's circus show (she's in 6 shows over the next week, 3 for side by side and 3 for acrobatics — plus a ballet performance and a piano recital after that). Here she is before the show with her good friend Meara:

Beatrix has been doing circus for 5 years, so I was surprised at how emotional I was. This year, since she started to do specialized acts, as the first year she wore circus make-up and was really part of the show, instead of the kind of opening act the toddlers and minders are. And boy, did her team knock it out of the park! They rehearse in a back area, so I never have gotten to see their routine; the act was great and Beatrix was fantastic, if I might brag just a little.

I am a very proud mama right now!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Craigs List and Rescue Dogs

I got some great responses to my last post about rescue dogs, but I wanted to address one in particular:

"But why shouldn't you put your dog on Craigs List?"

Many of you know how much I love Craigs List. I have had extraordinary luck with it, finding Clara to care for Beatrix, the apartments in Spain where we stayed for our honeymoon, our handyman, and yes, our previous keeshond Geronimo. But I have been extraordinarily lucky.

Let me tell you about my friend A, one of the heroes who rescues dogs. A few weeks back, A was called by a  rescue site that specializes in puppy mills to go and get some dogs a "breeder" was willing to release. Here I'm going to let A tell the story, because she tells it best:

So, about a month ago, on a Wednesday, T called to ask if I could help; could I travel to a breeder to pick up two Kees? 
Me, "Sure. When?"
Theresa, "They need out by Saturday or they probably won't make it out at all."
Me, "OK. . . Where am I going?"
Theresa, "That's the thing; this is the same breeder that had Ziva."
**silence for several heartbeats**
Me, " umm. . .yea, well. . .tell me where I'm going." (Yes, my stomach was churning.)
Theresa gave me the contact details and I scrambled to arrange the trip across 2 1/2 states. Some of you know the rest. You cheered and supported me as I drove. You all lifted me up as I secured the dogs and shook hands with the devil. I will never forget her; that woman's face is imprinted in my brain.
Would I go back there? Absolutely - I'd grit my teeth, try not to vomit on her shoes, grab the dogs and head back for home. What other alternative is there?
Marta and Frieda both tested positive for stage 4 heartworm. Marta had mammary tumors, ovarian cysts and a number of uterine tumors. All were removed. Both girls were started on medications in preparation for heartworm treatment.
 Frieda's heartworm load was severe and she was blind. Eight days after rescue, her blood pressure dropped, she collapsed and we had to let her go.
Radiographs revealed a smaller than anticipated heart worm load for Marta, but also showed two cancerous tumors in her chest. She is on a drug cocktail to do what we can to prevent the heartworm from proliferating, while monitoring the tumors. We hope and pray for her. Join us if you will.

Marta sitting, Frieda in front:

When A took the dogs to the vet, she also discovered that Marta had THREE microchips. None were registered correctly, but A did some detective work and was able to find out her history. I turn the story back to A:

The oldest chip went back to a woman in Kansas who shared that she and her husband had three kees that she sold about seven years ago. "They were Jim's pride and joy," but when her husband developed sudden severe Alzheimers - she was unable to care for him and the dogs. 
She cried when I told her of Marta's condition, saying, "Jim would be heartbroken. I'm glad he isn't here to know what happened to his baby."  
No, I didn't ask much more other than to learn the dogs were young and she thought Marta was about 18 months. The woman was crying so hard understanding her was difficult. She said all three went to the same woman, but after so many years, no longer had the records.  
The second chip wasn't registered properly either, but through the distributor (a company that caters to commercial breeders) I learned that this chip was sold as part of a "lot" about seven years ago. Yes, Marta went from a home to a breeder. Likely she stayed there until a couple years ago when she was sold/traded to the woman that released her to me. 
So, the mystery of three chips is solved, sort of. I guess, given the level of stress the original owner was under, she did what she had to do. Rescue groups were not so easily found even 7-8 years ago and I doubt the owner even knew they existed. 
I can’t even imagine how hard it would have been for Marta’s original owner to give her up, and to learn later what horrible things had happened to her baby dog. And we all hear the (unfortunately true) stories about animals that are acquired on Craigs List and go on to be abused, or used as bait, or other terrible things.

Look, I know things change, and that you can’t always keep an animal that you had the best of intentions for. But if that happens to you, let me know, and I will help you try to find an organization to help. Craigs List is a great and wonderful resource — for all manner of things including the ways I have used it. But, I am coming to see, not so much for pets.


PS: I mentioned Ziva’s story above. It’s not for the faint-of-heart, but if you want to know more:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rescue Dog

If you ask what I have been up to lately, I've likely given my stock answer of "busy."

But one of the non-work things that has been taking up a lot of my time is learning about the world of dog rescue (specifically keeshonds).

I stumbled upon a Facebook group on kees rescue when we were looking for a new dog. It's on that group that I found Wendy, who drove to Wisconsin in January to rescue Lacoya from an unscrupulous backyard breeder.

Wendy's landlord does not allow dogs, so as I became active in the group, we were allowed to adopt Coya (as she became called, to separate her from her old life). Since she's come to be with us, we have spayed her, gotten her chipped and vaccinated, and run a battery of tests to ensure she was healthy (it's not uncommon for rescued dogs to have a litany of issues, from fatal heart worm to broken bones to burns from the kennel headlamps to various parasites).

When Coya came to us, I began to learn a lot more about the community, and I am ever-impressed:
-  by the people who drive hundreds of miles to rescue dogs from breeders and other bad situations
-  by others who foster the dogs, find foster homes, place the dogs, and provide transport in between
-  by those who take on thousands of dollars in vet costs to help those dogs get better
-  by those who understand all these costs and find innovative ways to raise money to help with the myriad costs
-  by advocates who lead the charge to get these puppy mills shut down, to keep people from putting their dogs on CraigsList and instead find more trustworthy homes, to close down false dog "charities" that are not in truth raising money for the cause, and who work to raise awareness daily

The breeder stories are beyond horrible, and I can't find the strength to go into it right now. For someone like me, who had always naively supposed that people bred dogs only because they love them (and truth be told, those kind of greta breeders are the only ones I had previously met), it was a real wake-up call.

Tonight we had a really special moment. For a dog who has been through what she has, Coya has bonded with us incredibly well. We wanted to get her some more socialization, though, and some obedience training. As a spayed dog, though purebred she is show-ineligible, but we may rally-train her in the future.

I had been looking around for classes, and met a wonderful woman at a neighborhood gathering who specializes in rescue dogs. Today we brought Coya in for a free consultation, and knew right away that Cheryl was the person to work with. She easily understood Coya's personality and issues, and taught us so much about training her in just an introductory hour (plus Coya got to play with another dog there, which was wonderful to see). It's a whole new insight into our dog, and I am looking forward to our classes there.

It's going to be a long road with Coya, but an incredibly rewarding one. I can't imagine doing it any other way. And for the people she has led me to, those who perform heroic deeds every day just because it's the right thing to do for these dogs, I am forever grateful.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

You Reap What You Sow

Today was a great day because I got to have lunch with my friend Heidi. I got to know Heidi in the 1990s, when I got the chance to work with NEMAA as they began to grow and got the Arts District established. Over the years, she's become a true friend — someone who knows me very deeply, and who (still, or in spite of that) always has my back. I adore spending time with her, and her family.

Heidi was talking about things she is working on and things she is passionate about. She discussed Chowgirls new landlords at the Solar Arts Building, and how much they give back to the community. She glowed when she told me about several community groups that she is working with, and the impact they have. I love this about Heidi, her never-ending work to make the world she lives in a better place.

At one point, she said she was "lucky" to have the life she has, and I responded with one of my favorite quotes, by Thomas Jefferson — "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." She kind of laughed, and then mused that maybe it was worth it, that all the blood sweat and tears of NEMAA, and all the long hours establishing Chowgirls (not to mention everything else she gets involved with), might be bearing fruit now to lead to the kind of life and community that she strongly values.

I couldn't agree more. Truth be told, a lot of my great and enduring friendships stem from the NEMAA phase of my life (you know who you are). Its impact resonates still today.

Maybe I ought to head to Art-A-Whirl this year.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Judith Malina

It's 1985. My friends Carolyn, Jennifer and I are in the theatre section of the Hungry Mind bookstore, looking for a book to give the mentor from our internship. While we are there, I pick up The Diaries of Judith Malina — and in that one moment, my life changes forever.

Malina followed the I Ching, and that book became my I Ching. Every page of my copy is underlined, notated, dog-eared, remarked-upon. For my whole life since then I have had a ritual; that book sits beside my bed, and periodically I will thumb through, find that day in her diaries, read what is written there. It is inevitably spot on. Malina has few entries from this date, but on April 10, 1956 she wrote "Lately I can feel the drive like the application of a whip. Whatever I touch becomes a straw to clutch at."

Today, April 10, 2015, Judith Malina died at age 88.


When I saw the news come over my feed, everything just stopped. I looked at my computer, disbelieving. I said to Andrew "Judith Malina is dead." (he said "I actually don't know who that is.") And it was quite a few minutes before the world seemed to move again.

Indeed, you might not know who Judith Malina is. Or the importance of the Living Theatre. I suppose in this modern age wikipedia or the theatre's web page, might give you the facts. There are grainy online clips available on YouTube of Paradise Now and The Brig. 

Truth is that the Living Theatre, and Malina's life, was radical in a way that I don't even think can be fully understood anymore. It was raw early theatre-that-is-now-classic (Chaikin and Brecht and Stein), and revolution taken to the streets, and theatre space upon space closed by government agencies, and exile to Europe, and true raw power.

I would not be in theatre if it were not for Judith Malina. I would not be the woman I am today. This is a strong thing to say about a woman I had never met, but it's 100% accurate.

I dreamed about Malina last night. And I awoke, and she is gone. The world is a much less fierce and luminous world without her presence.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Dear Superintendent Silva

My seven-year-old daughter is a first grader in the Saint Paul Public Schools. Her school, Randolph Heights, is an old-fashioned, tradition-filled school that we love. We joke that is is the "reading magnet," because there is so much emphasis on reading. She loves her classmates, and teachers; we love the experience she is getting, and the other parents, and what she is learning.

It's a "hot spot" school, which as far as I can tell, means it's pushing hard at the class-size envelope. Her class has 28 kids, which I think might be a bit much for her teacher. There is a great librarian, but only a very part-time nurse. Unlike other schools, it still maintains music, art, and science weekly, but a lot of the special services (especially G&T) seem strained.

What Beatrix has learned, both from school and at home, is the idea of accountability. She knows very well that if you make a mistake, you have to apologize. If you do poorly at something, you need to practice and to get better. And if you don't care about something, or it you show up and don't really show that you are working at it, people can see that right away, and you have to go back and make yourself care, and prove to those around you that you care about the issue and want to make it right.

It's that last point that perhaps you could take a few lessons from a first-grader on. Though I'm a devoted Saint Paul Public Schools parent, I can't say I've been that impressed by your leadership to date; this last week, even less so. So I guess it's your turn to take those accountability lessons to heart, and to see if you can match some of your students in what they can prove they can do.

We'll be watching.