Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Kinda Evil Orvis Bed

Did you ever have a creepy toy when you were little? You know, you begged for it because it looked cool in the Sears Christmas Catalog or it caught your eye in the Zayre toy aisle, but when it arrived under your tree, it was a little too freaky to be liked.

Maybe it was because its eyes seemed to follow you around the room, even after you hid it in the back of your closet at night? It might have smelled funny, like those baby dolls that smelled like baby powder and strained peas. Maybe it did something weird, like vomit and then you got the pleasure of cleaning it up - which you suddenly realized was only cool on the TV commercial. Yeah, there were plenty of toys out there that looked good in theory that could scar a kid.

I kinda see my girls' relationship to the evil Orvis bed like the love/hate one might have for such a desired toy. They love that they got the bed, but hate that I force them to like it. Let me clarify - Roxy humors mom and pretends to like it.

So, after the initial dis of the bed (for my new readers, you can get the background on this on-going saga here) and reviewing the results of the online poll (Kev's underwear was the winner) I decided to try the combo of some batting, shredded old undies and removing more beads. After removing a ton of beads from the guts and turning my living room into a scene from one of those claymation Christmas movies and adding in the contraband stuffing, I thought for sure that I had created the perfect ratio of beads to cloth. Still, no takers.

I moved on to the runner-up suggestion in the poll and took on the challenge of attempting to clicker train Roxy to love the bed (also known as dog bribery). After all, I'm too hard headed to send it back now. Plus how am I going to explain how my husband's old underwear ended up inside the bed?

Now, Roxy loves that darn clicker. The clicker is a magic hot dog dispenser. When mom touches the clicker, she knows what's about to happen and will offer up anything she knows to beat me to the punch before I ask her to do something. Prior to taking Jen's class, this included sitting and laying down consecutively as fast as she could. Now she has way more tricks up her doggy sleeves - but I digress.

After about five minutes and three whole hot dogs later, Roxy figured out that when I say "on your bed" I wanted her to get on the evil Orvis bed. I started by rewarding any touch of the scary, pellet filled monster, which she quickly picked up on. It was like a giant touch the cup game for her (for those of you familiar with clicker training methods). Touch the bed progressed to "stand on the bed", which became "put your bum on the bed", and then finally to "down on the bed" and lastly "stay on the bed". Roxy figured out that "on your bed" equals hot dogs.

Seka, on the other hand, thinks Roxy is crazy and no matter how many hot dogs are involved, the Orvis bed is filled with red hot coals. But just like any kid who has a toy that they longed for and it may not be all it's cracked up to be once you get it, they still play with it every now and again when no one is looking. And I've caught Seka sleeping on it once of twice.

While Roxy only chooses the evil Orvis bed 1 out 5 times as her place to relax, it's becoming more popular as time passes. The more I work with her, the more eager she is to go over and try it out unprompted with the hope that I notice and reward her for her "bed trick." She doesn't get a treat every time she uses it as I don't want her to think she's doing it just to please me.

However, I don't worry about the expensive bed not getting usage, unlike my parents did with the doll I begged for that you cared for like a real baby and that I didn't touch again after she burped one time and it smelled like real vomit. I have caught at least two cats sleeping on it at the same time on a regular basis.

One dog's trash is another cat's treasure.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Did You Just Say?

My husband's nickname for me is Dr. Dolittle. I guess it's not a shock to anyone that knows me since I've been told that I have a way with animals ever since I was very young. Maybe that's true, although I don't know what it is about me that animals like. Maybe I smell like liver treats.

I don't think I'm any different than most people who like animals. Most cats and dogs hang out with me when we visit friends. I just think it's because I'd rather pet them than play with the babies in the room.

But until I got my horse, I didn't understand the importance of having a talent with animals. Large animals are different. They require patience, trust and an understanding that is lifesaving for the person working with the animal, and life changing for the animal itself. Those skills don't just apply to training a horse. Every day farm work like taking care of baby goats, building trust with a milk cow, and even showing the chickens respect as you gather eggs is important in creating harmony on a working farm. I enjoy my days at the farm and to be honest, I love the farm chores more than riding my horse sometimes because of the interaction I have with all the different animals. The owners of the farm actually entrust me with some of their most difficult animals because of the way they react to me. Again, I must smell like apples or something.

So when the opportunity arose for me to take an intuitive animal communication class with a published and proven intuitive animal communicator, I jumped at the chance. Am I sure that I can have an actual conversation with one of my cats? I'm not sure yet. Do I think I can draw on my own energy and intuition and the animal's energy to make a more profound connection? I absolutely do.

I think that some people are more in tune with their own energy source. For those of you who practice yoga or meditate, you may be familiar with the concept of Chakras. I've got a lot to learn about energy sources and releasing energy into the universe. I'm wound pretty tightly these days. So as my classes progress and I learn to become more connected with my own energy and the energy of animals, I will keep my readers updated with my progress. If nothing else, I know I will learn something about myself during this process.

And who knows, maybe one of my girls will tell me I do smell like meat - and I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Roxy's Impression of a Scottish Fold

Roxy did this to herself. I have no idea how and I have no idea how long she was like this. All I know is that she left her ears in this condition for over an hour after I snapped this picture. Maybe one of the cats put her up to it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm All In

I was raised in a family where volunteering was just a part of our daily life.

My mother was not only the Girl Scout Leader for my troop and my sister's troop for 13 years (maybe more than that). Then long after we graduated from high school and went to college, my mom remained very active, managing the largest Girl Scout membership area in Middle Georgia. She organized cool events like Father/Daughter Dances, Mother/Daughter Teas and Cookie Donations for more than 800 people at a time.

My father, even though he was disabled from the time I was three,
was the neighborhood handyman. He fixed washers, dryers, refrigerators, lawn mowers, weed eaters, etc., all for free. Did I mention he also would drive any kid home from any school event, no matter how far out of the way it might have been? And as far as I know, no gas money was ever accepted and I rarely rode in another carpool in exchange. Dad was always the first to raise his hand. He never said no.

My sister and I were both organized (Girl Scouts, 4-H, Beta Club, etc.) and ad hock (neighborhood lawn mowing, cat sitting, animal search and rescue, etc.) volunteers during our formative years. My mother and father set a great example of finding something you know how to do and give it away to others. Well, I wasn't great at mowing yards, but I don't know anyone who complains about a free lawn mowing every now and again, even if it isn't perfect.

Maybe I found myself at this point in my life because I was just volunteered out at a young age? Maybe it was because I had worked for a non-profit as my first job right out of college? Maybe it was because I hadn't found the right cause to spend my time with (there have been several)? Maybe it was because I was just too far away from where all the action took place (a two hour min drive one way doesn't make you feel very connected, even in the technology age)? But, whatever the reason, I wasn't satisfied with my volunteering life. It just wasn't fulfilling in many different ways and I couldn't find a way to make it be what I wanted it to be.

In college I had read a lot about prison rehabilitation programs that involve dogs, mostly seeing eye dogs. I even did a paper for a sociology class on the impact that live-in animals have on inmates. I always wanted to work with one of these programs, but when you live in a rural part of the world, you have to start one, if you want to make it happen. It
seemed like an ideal program, mixing my desire to help people while working with animals. And it just so happens that South Georgia houses 75 percent of the state prisons.

But I did what a lot of people do, I let my thoughts get the best of me and just ignored my goal for a long time. I wrote that sociology paper so long ago that the findings probably no longer apply and my previous grade would suddenly become failing. As time went by I let excuses like, "I'm just one person here in the middle-of-no-where, in the worst economy ever...," get in the way.

But something (to this day I have no idea what it was) made me send an email to
Beverly Sebastian, director of Second Chance at Life Greyhounds, on January 3, 2009. After an hour and a half on the phone with her a few days later, I was hooked. The energy and passion Beverly brings to her cause is contagious and she has seen first hand the impact the rescued greyhounds, who need a second chance, have on people who are looking for a second chance.

So, I made a commitment right then and there. I was all in. How I was going to do this, I didn't know. But then a cool thing happened. Pretty much anyone I told about the effort wanted to jump on board too. So, after we found out for sure that prisons in our state were interested in working with us, a few of us who are committed to this cause for different reasons, resigned from the SEGA Board of Directors and jumped in head first into a Choose Your Own Adventure that hopefully has a successful and rewarding ending.

The result is Second Chance Greyhounds.

We've only been working on this venture for one month today, but as you can see by the progress on the website and branding alone, the passion of our small team of volunteers runs deep. We've accomplished a great deal, but still have miles to go before we sleep. Essential things like filing for 501(c)3 status is underway, which is expensive but necessary. Outfitting the first prison with crates, beds, toys and food is more fun to raise money for because it's tangible. The cost of dog vetting and transportation is expensive for a start up, but hopefully a few contributors will come through with some seed money for us. We've been burning up the phone lines day and night over the last week and I hope that the conversations we've been having turn into dollars soon enough.

So, if you're reading this and you want to help out by throwing a few bills our way (that's what all the cool middle school kids say these days), simply click on the donate button on our website. Any donation, no matter how small will help our cause. Our lawyer hopes to have our not-for-profit, tax deductible
number for us before the end of the year (good vibes for our nice lawyer go here).

If you're in the Atlanta area, check out the calendar on our website. We have a couple of fundraisers scheduled, including a wine tasting and microchipping clinic in March. Can't make it to the ATL? You can always show your support by shopping on our Cafe Press site. Even buying a sticker, note cards, or t-shirt is a great way to support our efforts and promote greyhound rescue at the same time.

If giving money isn't your thing, you can always help us spread the word about our cause by blogging about us, joining our group and cause on Facebook or linking your greyhound site or blog to our site. We're hoping our first class of greyhounds will enter our facility no later than June and there will be plenty of updates between now and then.

My mom is excited about this effort. She's helping me plan a yard sale to raise money locally. In true family fashion, she's organizing all the little ladies in the neighborhood to pile all their donated wares in a corner and schedule a time for me to come over and get them for the big sale. She's even sewing dog scarves and toys for us to sell at various greyhound events we're scheduled to attend.

And while my dad isn't alive to help physically, I know he's here and helping in ways I don't even know of. Maybe he was the one that made me send that email that day. Who knows? But ready or not, I'm jumping in and for the first time in a long time, it feels really good.