Since I short-changed my planned Advent Giving Calendar by quite a few days, I’ll tack on a couple more suggestions before the month ends! These two groups are – once again – personal favorites. Working Dogs for Conservation uses the kinds of scent-work techniques used to train dogs in search-and-rescue, cadaver recovery, and narcotics detection, but trains the dogs to sniff out signs of endangered or invasive plant and animal species, instead! WDC dogs have helped biologists monitor bears in Alaska, Cross River gorillas in Cameroon, bog turtles in New Jersey, invasive snails in Hawaii… all kinds of cool stuff. This short-but-sweet video from Terra gives you a sense of how it’s done. (Update2: alright, alright… I give up on embedding that video.) I’ll wait while you watch it.
Am I right? Is this not a cool project? Donate here.
Another long-time favorite, the Search Dog Foundation, recruits rescued dogs and trains them to become search-and-rescue dogs! The dogs are screened, trained, and paired with a search-and-rescue handler, and then the team is trained some more. Their training and matching methods are top-notch: teams work together for years, and have been sent all over the country, as well as Haiti and Japan. Go here for some great photos of the search teams. Right now, your donation will help them meet a $10,000 matching grant challenge.
I have cheered for BADRAPbefore. They are one of my favorite-ever rescue/advocacy groups – rehabilitating, rehoming, and advocating for pit bulls. This summer, I came thisclose to getting a volunteer gig with them, but I suddenly went from underemployed to over-employed, and there was no time left to commit to a regular volunteer shift at The Barn in Oakland. I’m still hoping to work that out, but in the meantime, I can advocate for them!
So for today’s “Advent Calendar” giving suggestion, I steer you to BADRAP. Seriously, these people do amazing work. I hope they are writing a book about their mission and methods (do you hear me, good people of BADRAP?), because they are miracle workers. Send money, send bullysticks (preferably all-natural and domestically sourced), send rugged toys and furnishings… I’m betting they would welcome it all. Check out their wish list on Amazon. And speaking of calendars, you can order one of theirs, “Happy Endings.”
There is some irony in the fact that Advent – the season of watchful waiting and being prepared – always catches me off guard. As a kid, the advent-of-Advent was marked by the big wreath-making party in the church fellowship hall, and the hanging of the Advent calendar (the doors of which I always wanted to open ahead of schedule) at home. I anticipated Advent almost as much as Christmas. I loved the rituals of the season: the aforementioned calendar-opening; the nightly candle-lighting/Gospel-reading my family conducted (with the little devotional Advent book from the press then known as Fortress); the lighting of Advent candles at the beginning of the church service, edging closer and closer to that big, fancy Christ candle in the center; the song-cycle building toward The Big Day…
Now the first Sunday candle-lighting ceremony in church startles me: “What?! It’s December, already?!” I get anxious about what didn’t get done in the previous months, I spend most of the month fretting about the budget, and resenting the crowds and hassles on the few occasions I venture into stores; I try in vain to summon “the Christmas spirit,” but end up looking forward to Christmas Day mostly as a quiet day off.
Maybe that will change this year: I’m preaching on December 23rd, so I must necessarily immerse myself in the texts in these coming weeks (I take a very long time to write a sermon; I’d be lucky to manage one a month if I tried to do this any more often than I do). Maybe some of those admonitions and pronouncements will get under my skin.
Last year I fantasized about creating an Advent calendar for the blog this year. It didn’t happen. But here’s a nice one from the Society of St. John the Evangelist.
Here’s one that will certainly help raise Christmas – ahem – spirits.
And in lieu of my own Advent calendar offering, I’m going to aim for a daily giving suggestion. Each day – either here on the blog or via Twitter – I’m going to link to a small non-profit group that could use your support. Here’s my suggestion for today: Second Chance in Fort Bragg, CA. Second Chance was co-founded by my “outside reader” on my dissertation committee, Steve Sapontzis. The group works to help low-income families keep their pets, by providing pet food, supplies, flea treatments, and assistance with veterinary bills. It’s a small, low-budget, amazingly effective group. Learn more about them here.
Update: my former classmate Sam Laurent has a wonderful Advent sermon posted here. (Link corrected; apologies to those of you who get an email every time this blog changes! But that was an interesting link error: instead of the sermon, I inadvertently directed you to a great little jam session between Jake Shimabukuro and Char.)
Some of you dear readers recall that we adopted a rescued doberman a few years ago, summer of 2007. I found her through a favorite bird blog; where else would you expect to find information about adopting dobermans? 🙂 The blogger posted a sweet picture of the doberman his family had taken in, and linked to a favorite rescue group, Special Needs Dobermans. Powerless to resist, I clicked through. I ended up writing to the group to ask if they had any senior dogs they were trying to place – someone who could be a nice companion for Baxter.
Longtime readers might remember Baxter. He was a “NYC street dog” who attached himself to me and my other dog, Bear, one evening in 1994 as Bear and I walked to Fort Tryon Park. He was malnourished, banged up from a fight, and dragging a dislocated leg (yes, his own). He was about 1 year old, and was gracious enough to hang around with us for another 15 years. Baxter seemed quite lonely after Bear died in 2005, and eventually we thought it might cheer him up to have another companion. But since he was getting on in years, we wondered if he would prefer someone close to his age and temperament. Hence my inquiry about senior rescue dogs.
Special Needs Dobermans put me in touch with another rescue group, Doberman Pinscher SOS here in California. We didn’t start this process thinking, “we’re going to adopt a doberman.” Never really crossed our minds. But the photos I saw, and the profiles I was reading, and the information both rescue groups provided about how hard it is to find homes for adult dobermans, were sucking me in. I wandered around the Dobie SOS web site, still intending to look for an older dog. But suddenly I saw “Tia’s” picture and was captivated. I called the Better Half over to look, and we decided we had
to meet her. Eventually, we learned Tia’s story: an LA county shelter called Doberman SOS to alert them that a doberman had been turned in. That dog was not Tia, but the rescuer took a quick walk through the shelter while she was there, spotted Tia, and decided to take her, too. Just like that, Tia’s luck changed: she went from almost-certainly-doomed, into the safety of an amazing rescue group that will take care of its charges all their lives if they never find a permanent home. Would that millions of other dogs a year get this lucky. We drove 3 hours to meet Tia, fell in love with her, made sure Baxter approved, and adopted her.
She instantly bonded with Baxter. But when Baxter died in 2009, Tia had to get used to being an only dog. We fostered a rescued hound for several months last year, but he couldn’t stop chasing the cats. With the help of Beagles and Buddies, Cooper found a more appropriate home. And Tia was alone again.
Then last summer, the Better Half read a story about Muttville, a Bay Area-based group that specializes in rescuing and placing senior dogs. Once again, I scoured the web site reading sad stories and looking for cat-friendly dogs. I spotted this wonderful guy – a (then) 10-year old miniature poodle, “Sheppy,” who needed a new home. We met for a play date, Tia seemed to like
him, and we adopted him.
All’s well that ends well… except for one weird complication. Tia is a worrier by nature – a “stressbot,” as her vet says. She needs lots of exercise to burn off the energy that she would otherwise devote to worrying. Before Sheppy moved in, Tia and I had developed a pretty good running routine in McLaren Park. Sheppy is in great shape, but he has to do a lot of work to keep up with a human and a doberman, so he couldn’t run with us. But if he’s not coming, Tia won’t go! I leash her up, take her outside, and as soon as she figures out that I’m actually thinking of leaving without Sheppy, she sets her parking brake and refuses to budge. If I get too insistent about it, she will actually collapse to the ground – dead weight.
Lots of it. As a result of her firm “I won’t go anywhere without Sheppy” stance, Tia has put on at least 5 pounds in the last year. That’s a lot of poundage for a dog, the equivalent of a nearly 30-pound weight gain for you or me. I was desperate to figure out a way to get her running again. “What about a jogging stroller?” I asked the Better Half, who looked at me like maybe I wasn’t quite grasping the connection between running and weight loss: how would a jogging stroller help Tia lose weight? “To put Sheppy in! We could strap him in, and Tia can run alongside!” We both know it won’t be THAT easy; Tia – who is near-phobic about novel objects – will need to be introduced and then gradually habituated to the stroller before team-running is possible. But it seemed worth a try. Now… to find a stroller.
Enter Freecycle. Last night, a Freecycler posted an offer for an 8-year old, well-loved jogging stroller! I wrote and told her my plan, and she gave it to me.
Now I just have to fix the brake (although, at 20 pounds, Sheppy won’t exactly turn this buggy into a runaway train) and make certain that Sheppy can be securely strapped in. Then we begin habituating Tia to her big blue running companion. THEN we’ll make our maiden voyage. I’ll keep you posted.
Each of the rescue groups I mentioned here is doing amazing work in very trying economic times, and can really use your support:
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