I Went to the Chicagoland Pet Expo and Didn’t Take Any Pictures

Which makes me extremely lame.  However, the show has become less interesting to me since:

  1. I am not in the market for a new pet.  For like, the next decade or so.
  2. Many of the groups I enjoyed visiting were not present.

Of the five charity walks Fiona and I did last year, only two groups – Secondhand Snoots and the Puppy Mill Project – were there.  You might recall that I actually met Fiona at the expo last year, with her rescue Fresh Start.  They were not participating, either.  The Refuge was there, along with a few other groups in my Facebook network.

I didn’t stay for the events.  I just made some rounds, entered some fundraising raffles and made my way out.  But just to be posting some pictures:

Fiona, when I met her.  This is the picture I sent to my mother.  After a couple of texts, she told me to come home, get online and apply for her right away.

Meeting Fiona

And Fiona’s Christmas portrait, 2012 – courtesy of Sisterazzi Photography


2012 Year in Review

In the past year, I read lots of books, did lots of volunteering, adopted two pets and joined a  gym.  I also had a really good year at work.  Outside of the office, here is how I want to step it up:


I have passed 60 books two years in a row, so I think I will make that the new benchmark.  60 Book Challenge!  But the real goal is one I discussed with my friend Nyla last night.  My TBR pile is out of control.  I am not going to try to make myself read certain types of books or read only things that I already have.  But I am going to make a concerted effort to buy fewer books.  A serious thing since I still volunteer at a used book store.  But I have made some progress in the last couple of months by recognizing that the popular mysteries are not likely re-reads, so I checked them out from the library.    Also, Christmas netted me an ipad mini and the library app is already more appealing to me that paying $10 from a retailer for a download.


Doing pro bono work through Taproot has been a fabulous experience, but it takes an awful lot of time.  While my employer has been very supportive in allowing me work-time to pursue it, I just don’t think I can fit it in to my schedule.

I continue to volunteer with a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, the parrot rescue, through weekly work onsite (feeding, cleaning, interacting with the birds) as well as maintaining the Facebook page.  I expect to be helping out with the main website next year, also.

I have also picked up responsibility for the Facebook page of my chapter of Project Linus.  The Facebook audience isn’t very big compared to the number of active participants in the chapter, but it is slowly growing and I am working on sharing more stuff from other groups to differentiate a bit from the main website.  Also, I attended most of the Saturday events, most of the Starbucks gatherings and made 91 blankets this year.  I expect to keep it up.

With the library, also, I am maintaining my once a week onsite work.  We have settled into a much more consistent routine in the past year and our sales have improved tremendously in the new building.  Online sales are still troublesome, but I don’t know what the answer is there.  I continue to hope for better communication between volunteers.

Finally, Fiona and I had a great time at the five charity dog walks that we did.  I expect to attend at least as many next year.

Health and Wellness

I joined my local YMCA a couple of months ago and have tried out different classes.  Oh, how awesome it would be if I didn’t have to work during the day.  But I am pursuing yoga and a couple of other things during the week.  The goal, which will start after I return from our annual meeting in Nashville, is to complete the Marython.  It is a 26-week program developed by one of the leaders at Project Linus designed to help people get moving.  Her name is Mary.  A full Marython is 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week for 26 of the 52 weeks in 2013.  I imagine that for 26 weeks out of the year, (particularly with the flexibility of the rules) I can manage that, but because I am lazy about tracking things, I will primarily be counting things I do at the actual gym and will commit to the Half Marython.  Three days a week for at least 26 weeks out of the year.

The Pets

We adopted Sigmund the Grey in February and Fiona the Border Collie in March.   In 100 ways Fiona is a great dog, but her herding instincts are unbelievable and we are not able to have her on the same floor of my house when the birds are out of their cages.  I expect to be contacting the trainer sometime soon.  Also, the tummy troubles continue for both dogs.  On Boxing Day, I took a stool sample to the vet out of sheer frustration and found that Gibbs has parasites again (or still).  So both dogs are on the serious meds (again).  And basically, all of the data I had about different diets we had tried is totally invalid.  I must get this under control because it is making me insane.

That ought to do it.  Happy New Year!

A Refuge Update

There have been two recent cases of animal hoarding in the Chicago area involving birds, and the Refuge has stepped in to help in the case from McHenry County.  An good update can be found on Dr. Sakas’ blog through Niles Animal Hospital.  Some of the birds are still in quarantine, but I met four of them earlier this week.  They are relatively young and except perhaps Rose are not comfortable being handled.  They are unsteady on their feet, because their flight feathers were clipped very early.  However, they will grow steadier as they gain some confidence and the feathers grow back.  Here are some pictures:


This is Mae, a female Eclectus parrot, and her boyfriend Solomon.


This is Gabe, a Congo African Grey parrot.  He already does a lot of climbing around his cage, so I am sure that in time, he will be quite the acrobat.


And this is Rose.  I believe her species is called Rose Breasted Cockatoo.  She is the cheekiest of them all and has warmed up to several volunteers already.

Several smaller birds are still in quarantine, pending test results, but I will be happy to post when I meet them.  If you are interested in adopting from the Refuge, you can find an adoption application at the website.

Day 5

I mentioned that I had five volunteer gigs over five days.  Here is how it went:

Day 1 – The Refuge

I arrived after work for my regular night feeding, cleaning and medicating (if necessary) the resident parrots.  I found that the daily work was already finished, and our directors were introducing a previous adopter to another bird.  It was an African Grey parrot named Sasha.  She is relatively new (it looks like her profile isn’t even on the website yet), but pretty well socialized.  However, she plucks her feathers to the point of mutilation and needs to wear a collar.

It looked like it was going well  The bonus: this is the family that had adopted Vito, brother of my recently addition, Sigmund.  They brought him for a visit.  It is funny with birds coming from the same home – sometimes they sound exactly alike and sometimes they really do their own thing.

After chatting awhile about the birds, I headed home to give some “out time” to my own before heading over to Starbucks.

Day 1 – Project Linus

I was running early, but wasn’t even the first one there.  I brought my current project, some new fleece (to exchange for prepared fleece) and seven completed blankets.  These nights at Starbucks started as a “stitch and bitch” but with the growth of the group, and the fleece exchange, and the tagging and bagging we have made these nights really productive.

I was sitting with Judi, one of the chapter coordinators and the topic was fleece blankets.  She said that about 75% of the blankets donated these days are fleece.  The other 25% are knitted, fully-crocheted or quilted.  “Of course they are,” I said.  “I can complete one crocheted fleece blanket during one average basketball game.”  Then Karen said, “And it takes an entire season to complete a fully crocheted blanket.”  So we determined that we are feeling more accomplished and reaching more children this way.

Note:  I have completed two fleece blankets since Wednesday.

Day 2 – Library

Thursday was my regular night at the Library.  Turns out there was a board meeting that night, so I had several visitors on top of being rather busy with regular patrons.

One lady was looking around for an hour and a half.  Very unusual.  She was in several different aisles and sat down at the back table to peruse them more than once.  When she came to purchase a few, she explained that she had seen one of the 9/11 conspiracy documentaries the week before and it made her crazy.  She was reading everything she could get her hands on to determine the truth for herself, and she seemed incredibly agitated.

I remember seeing a piece where the scientists were saying there is no physical way the towers could have fallen the way they had purely from the planes hitting at those particular times and places.  The suggestion was that the buildings were rigged with some other explosive or accelerant.  I remember thinking that I should read more about it, too.  Then decided that if I did, I would make myself crazy.

I am not proud of this.

Day 3 – Nothing Scheduled

But I started and finished a Project Linus fleece blanket.

Day 4 – Library

We had a meeting of the Used Book Store’s steering committee.  We meet two or three times a year to review numbers, recall incidents and plan for the next few months. Yesterday, we reviewed numbers like: we earned something like $10,000 each year in the old building.  In the new building, with our new room, we earned something like $30,000 in 2011.

Then we started some good debating over use of time and space and resources (financial and volunteer).  I played my “I feel strongly about this” card on getting rid of all the VHS tapes.  They are taking up too much space that we need for actual books.  I think we agreed to pare it way down.

Day 5 – Library

Today I am heading back over to staff the store for the afternoon.  The lady that had been working Sundays is in declining health and wanting to retire, but didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch.  I said that I would take one every once in awhile, as long as it wasn’t football season.  Back in the old building, Sundays were generally quiet and today, I would really like to read!  Our director noted that if every volunteer took one, we would each work one Sunday every year and a half.

Somehow, I doubt that is going to happen.

I have had several discussions recently over the different reasons why people volunteer and what they (hope to) get out of it.  Some actively want to make a difference.  Some have social reasons.  Some are passionate about a particular cause.  Some just want to get out of the house.   The moral of the story is there are opportunities out there for everyone to be involved.  Please go out and find one.

The Great Rescue Debate

Emily Yoffe over at Slate.com posted a piece last week about animal rescue groups.  She told a story that I have heard before.. someone wants to “do the right thing” and adopt from a rescue, but is so turned off by the process that she turns to a breeder.

I have been on both sides of this issue.

Before we found Gibbs, I saw an online profile for a standard poodle.  My family had a standard when I was child and we would love another one.  The profile said that she would be at an adoption fair at a pet store that weekend, so we drove out to meet her.  The volunteers said that she was at a different event that day at a different store.  We went to the other store.  She was not there, either.  We asked how we might meet her.  We were told, rather dismissively, to fill out an application.  We would be contacted if we qualified.

I am good with the application.  You would be hard pressed to find a better pet adoption application than mine and I have a reference list longer than my arm.  I am not good with the attitude or the (probably inadvertent) false advertising.

Wright-Way, the rescue where I found Gibbs, also had an extensive online application.  It was required before I met him, but mostly because he had to be transported from downstate.  They weren’t going to put him through a six or seven hour car drive unless they were pretty sure they had a match.  And you know what?  It had a question that I hadn’t considered before.  They asked how many pets I had and how many are allowed in each household in my town?  I had to look up the rules on Glenview’s website.

Once we were onsite, we were asked to watch a video before we met him.  It had the standard sermons, but also included some thoughts on crate training that I found very useful.  The process made me feel like they were serious without making me feel like a criminal.  I would be happy to adopt from them again.

However.  I am also a rescue volunteer.  We rescue parrots, which are definitely different from dogs and cats, but for what it is worth: I have worked the intake of parrots and I know plenty of horror stories of the “will make you cry” variety.  I will skip them and tell you just one thing: about that “Ellen Degeneres clause”?  The one that says if the adopter must rehome the pet, it must be returned to the rescue?  We have seen animals that we adopted out later posted on Craigslist – for a profit.  Not cool.  Our directors, Rich and Karen Weiner, wrote a complete response to the article that I couldn’t find in Yoffe’s comments – there are tons already – but is posted on Facebook.

Adopting through a rescue is not an instant-gratification purchase.  Please do your homework.  Consider what type of pet will be happy in your home.  Allow some time for the process.   And if the first rescue you contact isn’t working with you (again, this happened to me and my totally impeccable pet adoption credentials), try another one.  Or ask a veterinarian.  Or try an open access shelter.

Thank you for listening.  Now here is a picture of Gibbs:

Goings on at the Refuge

I am taking a short sabbatical from my onsite duties at the parrot rescue, so I figure the least I
can do is let everyone know about some goings-on over there:

First, we were featured in Ana Belaval’s Around Town segment on WGN Morning News. There
were two segments, actually. WGN’s website doesn’t seem to have an Embed button and I am
not savvy enough to figure out how to do it myself, so here are the links:



Also, the Refuge is revamping its website, so if you haven’t visited lately, please visit us at:

Along those same lines, we established an organization page on Facebook a few months back
and expect to be posting there more regularly. I have a button for it on down the right-hand side
of this page, and you can also Like it through this link.

We recently established a Twitter account. We haven’t been posting there regularly, but if that
is your preferred method of communication, here is the link.

Finally, Niles Animal Hospital is holding a Yard Sale in their parking lot on Sunday, September
18 to raise funds for the benefit of the Refuge from 8am to 2pm. Their address is 7278 N.
Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, IL 60714 and there will be plenty of parking available in nearby lots.

And here is a gratuitous pic because they just make blog posts better.  This is Leo:

Several Chicagoland Fundraisers for Pets

This morning, my veterinarian’s office posted on Twitter that they will be co-hosting a Canine Cancer Walk on October 1.  I hope that by then, Gibbs will be well enough trained and socialized to participate.  But that reminded me of several other pet-related fundraising events going on in my area, so this clearly deserves its own post:

Orphans of the Storm is having its 5th Annual Pooch Parade this Saturday, August 20, in Highland Park.  I adopted my Late Great Dog Dallas from Orphans.

Wright-Way Rescue is having  a Harvest for Hounds Run/Walk Fall Festival on October 8 in Niles.  I adopted Gibbs from Wright-Way.

Niles Animal Hospital is having a garage sale in its parking lot for the benefit of a Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, the parrot rescue where I volunteer, on September 18.

If you are in Chicagoland, I hope you can participate.  But if not, all of the charity websites accept donations!