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Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Blog post by Reed Sandridge of Washington, DC

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

According to the American Humane Society’s webpage, 56% of dogs that enter into shelters are killed.  This fact disturbs me so much that I almost didn’t put it in the blog, but I think it’s important that we know the truth.  Fortunately there are organizations out there trying to make sure these dogs get adopted and do not end up like the more than 2 million dogs that are euthanized every year.  One such organization is Lucky Dog Animal Rescue here in Washington, DC.

I pulled together a small team of Year of Giving volunteers and headed over to the PetSmart on Route 50 near Seven Corners on a blistering hot Sunday morning.  Each volunteer was assigned a dog for the afternoon.  “We need somebody strong for the next dog,” the volunteer coordinator yelled out to the small army of volunteers who had assembled under the glaring sun.  Given that most of the volunteers were women, eyes seemed to focus on me and I stepped up to the challenge.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

They gave me two leashes (“You’re going to need them both,” they assured me) and a two-page bio about my dog.  “What kind of dog are they giving me,” I thought as they showed me how to wrap the leashes securely around my hands.  Out comes one of the cutest hounds I’ve ever seen.  Black with white and chestnut spots, Christine is a happy and energetic four-year-old.

Don’t let the big floppy ears fool you though!  She’s strong (hence the double leash!)  She immediately starts pulling me over to a tent where the other dogs are resting out of the sun.  Did I mention it was hot?  Christine and I had to take a couple of laps inside the PetSmart to cool off in the air-conditioning from time to time.

A big-hearted, fun-loving dog, Christine gets lots of attention.  She’s great with kids too.  My friend Jessica stopped by with her three young boys and Christine soaked up the attention.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is an all-volunteer, non-profit animal rescue organization dedicated to saving the lives of homeless animals and educating the community on responsible pet ownership. They do not have their own facility, instead dogs stay with temporary fosters (and occasionally boarding partners) while they wait to be adopted.

Lucky Dog holds weekly adoption events and is always looking for volunteers.  Visit their website to find out more information.

“What amazes me is their resilience,” Executive Director Mirah Horowitz said in a recent interview.  Many of these dogs have been abandoned and neglected, yet Horowitz says that they regain their ability to trust and love again.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

On the Sunday I volunteered about a dozen dogs were adopted.  Since their inception in May of 2009, Horowitz says they have rescued about 2,900 dogs and have found permanent families for about 2,800 of them.  You do the math, that leaves about 100 dogs which is what she says are currently waiting for adoption.  “We’ve got a 100% adoption rate,” she proudly shares.  That’s impressive!

Unfortunately Christine didn’t get adopted.  I checked the website today and she is still waiting for either a foster family or a permanent family.  If you or anyone you know is considering getting a dog, I encourage you to check with local organizations like Lucky Dog.

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Photo: Reed Sandridge

By the way, if you would like to see additional photographs of Christine and many of the other dogs that were at the adoption event, check out my Flickr page.

Catch my weekly blog post on AARP’s blog every Wednesday.  Last week I wrote about giving during desperate times of need.

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-Blog post by Mary J., a Kindness Investor from Houston, TX

As I clicked Jack’s leash to his collar for our walk around the park this morning, I decided to put my card with the $10 in my pocket, anticipating a potential kindness investment.  The weather is cool and sunny this week, so there would likely be a lot of walkers today working on their New Year’s resolutions.

Across the park, I could see a lone basketball player throwing hoops. “There’s someone with a story,” I said to Jack, as we headed over to get it.  Not in my wildest dreams did I expect a teenager who is friendly, caring, deep, a recycler, athletic, technical, methodical, ambitious, an animal lover, quick, honest, dramatic, and wise?  And very, very funny.

I told the young gentleman about Reed’s Year of Giving project and asked if he would like to receive my $10 Kindness Investment.  A huge smile flashed across his face and his eyes went wide. “OF COURSE?  I’d be CRAZY not to accept $10!” He’s friendly.

Then his smile turned to concern. “But you’re not working. Don’t you need it?”  He’s caring.

I explained that part of the idea behind the giving project is to help us realize that no matter how down and out we are, we always have something to give.  “That’s very cool”, he said. “And a good lesson for everyone throughout life.” He’s deep.

Marcos D. is 14 years old, much younger than I thought, so I’m leaving off some information because of his age.  I also asked him to get his parents’ permission for me to post his story on the Year of Giving.  I was delighted when he told me they said yes, as Marcos is a very interesting guy with a great story.

Marcos lives with his mom, step-dad and little sister, and speaks English and Spanish.  He’s in the 8th grade, but was quick to point out the school shirt he was wearing was from last year in the 7th grade.  “It’s still in great condition, so why waste money?  I re-use.” He recycles.

“You know,” he continued, “I’ve been very lucky with money lately.  I found a $100 dollar bill in front of the grocery store before New Year’s.  One thing about me is that I’m not a good saver. I have slippery fingers,” he said, waving his fingers through the air. “If I have it, I gotta spend it.”  He’s a teenager.

Marcos says he’s “somewhat of a mutt” when it comes to hobbies, because he likes outdoor sports, mainly basketball, as well as indoor gaming. “Most people like one or the other, but I like it all.”  He also likes building and dismantling things. He’s athletic, technical and methodical.

When he grows up, he thinks he’d like to go into technology, maybe developing computer games. He’s ambitious. I told him I would put him in touch with my nephew, John, who works for a gaming company in Austin.  “You never know, Marcos.  John may be able to help you figure out where you want to go.”  I promised him I would give him John’s contact info.

Marcos pets Mary's dog Jack.

“Hey, don’t pee on the jacket,” he said to Jack, directing my attention to my dog, who was sniffing around Marcos’ jacket bunched up on the ground. I laughed and called Jack over to sit by us while we talked.  He gave Jack a big, genuine hug.  He told me he’s also a huge dog person and misses his dog, Coco, named by his little sister.  Marcos got a little down when he told me they had to give Coco away, but he knows where she lives and sneaks her treats when he can. “I miss Coco.  She always made me happy with those big, chocolate eyes. I wish we didn’t have to give her away.” He loves animals.

“So, you got a girlfriend, wife, kids?”, I asked to lighten the mood.

“Nope, still a bachelor,” he said, making me laugh.  He’s quick.

I asked what he was going to do with the $10.  He thought for a minute and said he might give it to his mom, who could use if for groceries, then looked down at his hands and said, “But with these spending fingers, it may not make the trip home.”  He’s honest.

A few favorites:

Class:  “I’d have to say reading.  DEFINITELY not math.  I’m NOT a math person.  I’m going bald from all the stress!” he cried as he tugged at a head full of thick, wavy hair. He’s dramatic.

Book: “I like Gender Blender from the library.  A guy and girl switch bodies and they have to figure out everything, like going to the bathroom and stuff.  It’s ridiculously funny.”

Computer Game: “Metroid.  It’s good for the mind, too.  You have to collect data, figure out weak points, and stuff.  Plus it’s fast-paced action.”

And regarding Lend a Hand…. “Any wishes?” I asked.  “Too many to count.  I see trillions of doors in my brain right now,” he told me, “and I don’t know which one to open.”  He’s creative. “Obviously I could use help with math.” He’s wise. “But more than anything, I’d like my own computer to shoot my own video blog.”  He’s a teenager.

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Photo: Melinda T.

A few days ago while speaking with Reed on the phone I was telling him about my dog Max being a Therapy Dog.  Later that day Reed saw a news story about a service dog that helps an autistic child.  The dog was trained through a group called 4 Paws for Ability.  Very ironic because 4 Paws for Ability is located in Xenia, Ohio where I’m currently living.  Reed had no idea of this at the time.

I’ve lived in Xenia for almost a year and a half, drove past  4 Paws for Ability several times but never actually stopped to check it out.  I decided I should head over to 4 Paws for Ability and donate $10 to a volunteer there.  I gave the money to Charlene who in turn donated the money to 4 Paws for Ability.

Connor says hello to Melinda. (Photo: Melinda T.)

Charlene showed me around the facility and introduced me to quite a few dogs.   In total 4 Paws for Ability has 200 dogs but they are not all living at the facility.  Some of the dogs live at a Correctional Facility where the inmates there train the dogs, other dogs are living with foster families.  75% of the dogs at 4 Paws for Ability are rescued from animal shelters, I thought this was just amazing.  After working with the dogs if a dog just doesn’t seem like it will be a good service dog they place the dogs on PetFinder.com.  All dogs placed on Pet Finder have went through extensive obedience training so you get a fully trained dog.

4 Paws for Ability has designed the inside of the facility to resemble a home.  They have an area in the facility which is set up like the living room in your home.  This area has toys, television with video games and a computer.  The area is somewhat barricaded and was designed for children who are getting a service dog to be able to spend a day in a home like setting with just them and the dog as the parents view the interactions from outside the area.

Outside the building is a 2 acre area which is sectioned off into different yard type areas for the dogs to play.  Outside I was greeted by Connor who is currently going through training.  Connor was playing in the area which was made up to look like a typical backyard area with swings and play-sets.  During the warmer months the children can spend time outside interacting with the dog.

4 Paws for Ability play area (photo: Melinda T.)

If it weren’t for participating in the week of giving I may have never walked into 4 Paws for Ability.  Thanks to this opportunity I may have just found an additional opportunity to volunteer.

4Paws for Ability has ongoing needs for donations.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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Day 4 – Mike

Mike with Melinda's dog Max at Lowe's. (photo: Melinda T.)

The Lowe’s in our area allow well-behaved dogs in the store so today I was doing some shopping with my dog Max.  Max was dressed as Santa Claus and enjoyed the extra attention.

He is a therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International and has put in many hours at Summit Academy in Xenia, Ohio.  The students there take turns reading stories to him.

As we walked in the store, Max was greeted by many workers but was also greeted with a hug by a young boy whom attends Summit Academy and has read many stories to Max.  Walking through the store we met a man that worked at Lowe’s named Mike.  He went to Max and was petting him and I decided this is the man my $10 will go to today.

I explained to Mike the project I was working on and he was totally blown away.  I love seeing the reactions of people when I tell them what I’m doing.  Mike gave me the biggest hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, “God will surely bless you.”  Mike wasn’t sure exactly where the money was going to go but spoke about how he buys one lottery ticket each week so he may use the money for that.

Max hard at work at Summit Academy. (photo: Melinda T.)

As I was walking away I heard Mike say to another man in the area, “that was totally unexpected.”  It’s the unexpected reaction of people that makes this so rewarding.

-Melinda T. from Xenia, OH

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On Day 276 I had some company with me as I searched for a recipient.  A news crew from Spain’s television network CUATRO were following me around for a story they were doing on my Year of Giving.  We met at Illy Café and chatted for a short while before heading to a nearby park where I tried to give my $10 to a man sitting in the park.  He refused.

We then started heading north on 21st Street I think.  It had been drizzling all day but the rain started to pick up a little bit and we sought shelter under an awning that extended over the sidewalk for a few minutes.  I then spotted a young guy walking two dogs across the street and I thought I would approach him.

I ran over to Jake with the news crew chasing after me.

Jake was helping his girlfriend out by walking her dogs. They were cute dogs. I remember the dog on the right is named Georgia. (photo: Reed)

Jake is a local to the Greater DC area.  He grew up in Alexandria, VA and graduated from T.C. Williams High School.  Now, 29, Jake is studying psychology at George Washington University.

On this specific day he was taking his girlfriend’s dogs for a walk.  He said that he would probably use the $10 to sponsor a day of dog walking for her some day.  “Her dog walker charges $10 for a walk, so this will help her out for at least one day,” he told me.

Jake is 29 so he is not your traditional undergraduate college student.  I asked what he had chosen to do after graduating high school and his answer surprised me.  “Well, I came to GW and studied for a couple years but then I was drafted by the San Francisco Giants to play baseball in the 2002 draft.”  Wow…I guess I should tell you that I used to dream of playing professional baseball for the New York Mets so I was pretty excited to meet a professional baseball player.  No, I didn’t grow up dreaming about being laid off my job and giving $10 away…that just sort of happened.

Jake making a double play look easy. (photo: Matt Thornton)

He played for nine years in the minor league organization of the Giants.  He spent most that time playing 2nd base and shortstop for their AA and AAA farm teams.  “It was a great experience,” he shared with me.  “You learn a lot.  You are consistently setting a goal to get better, always working to get to where it is you want to go.”  He went on to say that the fact that he was playing for half the year and then off for the other half made it really hard to stay focused on those goals. 

Jake talking to the Spanish news reporter. (photo: Reed)

“People would always tell me that my baseball career was going to help me so much in my professional life after baseball,” Jake said.  “I’m sure it will…using what I learned about setting goals, the drive that I have.”  I have no doubt.  Professional sports are highly competitive and only the best like Jake can survive for extended periods of time.  When I used to hire sales people I loved candidates who were runners or disciplined in some athletic area.  They understand commitment and know that you will have to go through considerable pain sometimes to achieve their goal.  They don’t quit.

I did some searching on Jake and found this interesting clip.  Apparently it is not live footage from a game rather a commercial that was taped for Gatorade.  The announcer lists the Fresno left fielder as Jake and although he didn’t play outfield much, I have a feeling it is him since he played for Fresno.  I tried to confirm this with him but I must have written his email down incorrectly.  If you know Jake, please put me in touch with him.  Anyway, have a look, it’s a cool clip.

By the way, you may remember that I happened to give $10 to another professional baseball player in May, Anthony on Day 158.  It’s either a small world or I got to too many baseball games.

We said goodbye and Jake continued on his way with the dogs. (photo: Reed)

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Barb in front of the laundromat in downtown Mechanicsburg, PA. (photo: Reed)

Day 266 was Labor Day. 

I spent all day here at my dad’s house.  I needed to go out and find someone to give my $10 to and he offered to join me.  We were going to walk down to the downtown area of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, but his knee and back have been bothering him and he was not sure that walking down there would be a good idea.  So we hopped in the car and drove over there and then walked around. 

We parked in front of Dieners, a breakfast institution in this town. We walked east down Main Street, past Jo Jo’s Pizzeria, which incidentally has possibly the world’s best Italian sub, when I spotted a laundromat just past the Gingerbread Man.  There were two women talking and my dad and I decided to walk up a little further to see who we find.  We past the main square where Main and Market Streets come together and walked another block past Myer’s funeral home, where my mother’s funeral was held, until we arrived at Eckels Drug Store (trivia: this is where a scene from Girl Interrupted was filmed.)

Dad and I headed back toward the laundromat to give the $10 to someone there.  When we got there Barb was coming out with her dog Diva.

Barb's pooch (photo: Reed)

Barb was born in Harrisburg and then moved to Shiremanstown before moving to Mechanicsburg some 45 years ago where she graduated from Mechanicsburg High School.  She has three children and two step-children, 15 grandkids and one great-grandson who will be two soon.  We spent a lot of time talking about her kids.  In fact, she had just returned earlier that day from visiting her son down in Bel Air, Maryland.

She couldn’t decide what she was going to do with the ten dollars, but she did give me her address so I can follow up with her later and see what she decides on.  When I told her that I find one person every day and I chose her for this day she said, “Wow…that is really great.  It is really nice of you that you do this – not too many people would do it.”

“I love people,” the 62-year-old told me.  She lit a cigarette, exhaled and went on, “I don’t have a lot of money to do things for others, but I am always volunteering my services.”  She told me about a friend of hers who was going through a difficult time.  Her friend, who is battling cancer, has a son in prison out near Pittsburgh who got extremely ill and is now in a coma.  “I do what I can for her, sometimes just making some phone calls to let others know how she is doing.” 

Barb didn't make it to Jo Jo's before they closed because she took time to talk to me. (photo: Reed)

Main Street was quite dark now and I checked my watch.  It was 9pm.  She was going to try to get some food at Jo Jo’s so we walked toward the restaurant that is housed in an old fire station.  Unfortunately by the time we got there they had just locked the door.  “I guess I will head up toward the Chinese place,” Barb said.  I felt bad, had I not stopped to talk with her she would have made it in time to get her dinner at Jo Jo’s.  Well, at least she had a few extra dollars for her dinner.

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Day 252 – Heather M.

My mother and brother playing with my Uncle Jack's dog Spike in 1973. (photo courtesy of Ryan Sandridge)

Americans love dogs.  The Humane Society reports that there are more than 77 million dogs in the United States.  From other sources I found that this is more than twice the number of the second largest dog populated country, Brazil.  

I grew up around dogs.  We had a little mutt named 99 until I was about seven or eight.  My grandmother on my dad’s side was a Collie breeder and my mom’s sister Sue was an Akita breeder.  I even picked out a dog from the Humane Society when I was about nine.  I named him Paws.

Heather with Petunia and Bear Bear (photo: Reed)

Anyway, dogs have made their way into my blog on numerous occasions.  I quickly counted more than 25 posts involving man’s best friend.  Although I couldn’t find a figure for how many dogs we have in DC, I did read that the Humane Society reports that four out of every ten homes have at least one dog.  Today’s recipient has two dogs who you will meet.

I found Heather walking Petunia and Bear Bear along the park at 23rd and P Streets.  Petunia is a rather fierce looking dog that appears to have some pit bull in her.  Don’t let this little three and a half year old fool you though, she couldn’t hurt a fly.  “She just wants attention,” Heather tells me as Petunia licks me to death.  Bear Bear is quite large and I know that I have seen this dog in the neighborhood before.  It’s the kind of dog you don’t forget easily.  Now three, Heather has had Bear Bear since he was five months old. 

Heather poses with Bear Bear (left) and Petunia (right) (photo: Reed)

“They are both rescues,” Heather told me as she explains how she found Petunia wandering around in Charlotte, NC.  She rescued Bear Bear from a home where he was being neglected.  “I got the owner’s permission.” 

These two dogs are lucky that they have found a loving home.  According to the ASPCA, five out of ten dogs in shelters are destroyed simply because there is no one to adopt them.

The $10 I gave her will be donated to the Humane Society of Charlotte.  

Petunia is really affectionate despite her looks (photo: Reed)

Originally from Ohio, Heather recently moved to the DC area from Charlotte.  She is married and in addition to these two loveable guys, is the proud mother of two cats as well.  She teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) and is working on her doctoral thesis focusing on international policy and development in the Middle East.  “I just got back from a trip to Syria where I was doing some research.”

We were distracted from our conversation several times as Petunia insisted on being the center of attention.  Heather is using a plastic bag full of water that she drops on the ground to get Petunia’s attention when she gets excited.  While I think that Petunia needs some additional training on this, it seemed to be helping.  

I gave both dogs a little pat and headed home.

Note: If you would like to rescue a pet, visit your local Humane Society.
DC Humane Society
Washington Animal Rescue League

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