Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Survivor

Tonight, a cancer survivor and single-mother of 2 daughters, will put a bowl in her microwave to warm water to give her 8-month-old granddaughter a bath.  The Topeka mother hasn’t had the best of luck but because she is blessed to be able to wake up each day and be cancer-free, she carries on about her day filled with anticipation and excitement.  Just one year ago, Linda didn’t know if she would be alive today.  Despite all of the things that would get the typical person “down”, Linda carries on with her head held high and with a smile on her face.

In March of 2011, Linda was met with the fact that her 16-year-old daughter was pregnant.  Sadly, she didn’t have much time to process the news because in April of that very same year, she found herself in the emergency room and in receipt of devastating news.  An ache in her side was determined to be caused by a large mass on her right ovary.  After numerous doctors visits, she finally ended up at KU Cancer Center.  By June, Linda had her first surgery.

Because of the very aggressive form of Ovarian cancer she had, Linda had to go through 8-hour long chemotherapy treatments, 5 days a week.  By October of last year, Linda had her last surgery and was told that she was “cancer free”.  To hear those words, well, I just can’t imagine what that would feel like.  I sit here with my pretty comfortable life and I try to put myself in that situation and I just can’t.  I could never dream of fighting cancer and frankly, I doubt I could.

By January of 2012, Linda was released to return to work on a “part-time” basis.  She went back to “full-time” this February.  Things have been pretty rough because while chemo saved her life, it also caused havoc on her body.  Over the past few months Linda has missed work quite a bit due to residual effects of her chemo.  Unfortunately, Linda has no sick or vacation time remaining because she used it all up during her bout with cancer.  Any missed time she has results in a loss of wages and income.  Being that she’s a single mom and is raising daughters that are 12 and 17, a grandchild and a rescued dog (hence the fact that I am writing this story), you can imagine that any loss of income is detrimental to her ability to provide a good life for herself and her family.

Vinny says “Help my mom. She saved me and now I want to save her!”

So, why the story, Darath?  Well, why not?  Earlier this year, Linda’s gas was turned off because she couldn’t afford the bill.  The utility company had been working with her as much as they could over the course of time that she had no income but eventually, resources ran out and her promises became broken.  Kansas Gas Service is owed $410 before they will re-connect Linda’s service.  Linda has never complained about this and the information was only made known when she asked for help for her rescued pup who showed some behavioral issues.  Yes, this woman who is completely down on her luck did not dump her dog, drop it at the shelter or find some reason to dispose of it.  Instead, she asked for help in getting training for the pup so she could keep it.  He’s a member of her family, after all.  She is completely ready and willing to take on her responsibility as a pet owner.  Hallelujah!!

My goal is to use the ChipIn we have created and to raise the $410 to have her gas turned back on.  I will make sure the money is paid directly to Kansas Gas Service so she will receive absolutely no cash.  Of course, donations over and above that will not be turned away.  If you would like to donate gift cards or other goods/services, please comment on this post or email me at darathrene@gmail.com and I will get in touch with you and provide an address for anything you would like to send to Linda or her family.

If you’d like to donate to help Linda and her family, please visit http://familyonfeet.chipin.com/help-a-family-get-back-on-their-feet.  For more information, please contact me directly via email at darathrene@gmail.com.

I must reiterate the fact that Linda has not asked for anything besides help with her pooch.  A close friend of mine and I would like to do this as a reminder to Linda that she is loved, appreciated and that she is not fighting this alone.

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Chumley’s Story

June 7th is a pretty important day for me because it’s the day that I gave birth to my little animal rescue copycat, my middle son, Paris.  To think that day would mean more to me than just the significance of it being Paris’s birthday is just plain odd.  It’s funny how fate intervenes and weaves its way into the tangled web of our lives.  June 7 was the beginning of a miracle.  This is the story of Chumley.

Introducing… Chumley!!

While I sat working away at my desk and celebrating the day of one special little boy, 25 minutes away from me, a short and stocky little bulldog lie against a fence along the Kansas Turnpike.  The dog was found as a roadside maintenance worker was mowing.  Bonner Springs Animal Control was called and they went out to pick him up.  Immediately, they noticed that the dog was limping and appeared to have “road rash”, likely from a fall out of a vehicle on to the pavement.  How he got there was a mystery.  Was he thrown from a car?  Did he fall out of a car?  What happened?

The sweet fella sat at Bonner Animal Control patiently waiting for something to happen and he didn’t quite understand why he was there.  Each night, he would lay in his cage wondering why he wasn’t curled up in a nice, warm bed and why he was utterly alone.  The days passed slowly and time was running out but the dog never gave up hope and he never lost his smile.

Fast forward to June 12th, when I received an email from a fellow rescue volunteer who happens to be one of my personal heroes.  Since I was on “hiatus” from rescue for awhile and was attempting to take a much needed “breather”, I was selecting emails and deleting them without opening.  The world of rescue has been too much for me to bare lately and my life has become a mess since I’ve remained solely focused on dogs and “kill lists”.  The important things in life started passing me by and I had to take a minute to clear my mind.  Before I deleted that email, something told me to open it, so I did.  Immediately, I was compelled to help and I was in 100%.  The email talked of a dog that was at a local shelter and it was microchipped but all of the information was outdated.  If the owners weren’t found and claimed the dog by the next day, he would be put to sleep.  My friend was asking me for help in locating the owner before time was out.  I set aside everything I had going on and I started to search.  I had a name, address and 2 disconnected phone numbers, all from Mississippi.

I investigate people for a living, so things like this come fairly easy to me.  I spent much of the morning/afternoon searching and eventually, I found a phone number for someone with a matching name located in a nearby city.  After all of the numbers and dead ends, I finally found something!!  When I got the voicemail it said “Hey, it’s Ricky” which confirmed that I had the right person (or at least I thought so).  I began calling the number, over and over again, sometimes only waiting 15 minutes before trying again.  I left message after message.  While I was waiting for a call back, I searched Facebook and found them on there, too.  Sadly, it didn’t appear that the owners had used it in quite some time, so I sent messages on Facebook to them and their children and a few friends.  Yes, I probably went too far but how could I not!

Later that day, I finally received a call back from Ricky.  When I said, “Do you know a dog named Chumley and is he lost?” the man replied, “This is a really cruel joke”.  I tried to make him understand that it wasn’t a joke and I explained that a dog with a microchip was located in Bonner Springs, Kansas and that I believe it was their dog.  Ricky told me there was no way it was his dad’s dog because he went missing in February from Colorado.  I asked for him to describe the dog and everything except for the collar matched.  Astonished, the man explained Chumley’s story and how he was a dog adopted from a shelter in Mississippi by his parents and how they had relocated from Mississippi to Colorado.  Many phone calls later, we had reached Ricky’s dad and arrangements were made to get Chumley sprung from the shelter while he waited for his ride home.  Chumley was transferred to Bonner Animal Rescue who then transferred him to Midwest Animal ResQ who would hold him until we could secure transport back to Colorado.

On June 13th, the day Chumley could have been euthanized, he was picked up by my friend Kris and he was driven from Bonner Springs to my family’s diesel shop in North Kansas City.  I arrived there just in time to meet Chumley for the very first time.  The moment my eyes saw that little English Bulldog, I fell in love.  Chumley had the biggest smile on his face and he radiated love and joy and it was impossible to not be excited and happy in his presence.  Chums spent the next few hours running the shop right alongside a 215 pound English Mastiff and an over-sized Pug.  He loved all of the extra attention he got from all of the workers and my family but I think they loved it even more than him.  He stole everyone’s hearts and offers to drive him straight to Colorado appeared from everywhere.

Chums, the shop dog!

When I got off from work that day, I headed back down to the shop to pick up Chumley and then him and I were off for our interview with Fox 4 news.  You can read all about that nonsense on one of my previous blog posts.  If you haven’t read it, I know it will make your day.  Anyway, after the interview we headed to Lake Lotawana and Midwest Animal ResQ, which is run by my pal Erin Morse.  Erin had agreed to foster Chums while we waited for transport to Colorado.

Lovin’ Midwest Animal ResQ and new friends!

On Wednesday, June 20th, more exciting things happened for Chumley.  We were reunited bright and early that morning in anticipation of what I hoped would be Chumley’s best day ever.  Chum’s foster mom delivered him to Grandview, Missouri’s “Winding River Pet Village” where the days events included a nice LONG car ride back to Colorado for the little guy.  It was great to see his wagging tail and happy smile.  Still, after all of the change, you wouldn’t know it.  Chumley was still the beaming boy he was before.  We spent our last 30 minutes together, waiting for PetEx Rescue N Transport to get everything coordinated for him to head out of Kansas City and back home.  I knew this short reunion would be so very hard but also one of my most rewarding things in rescue.  Anxiously, I counted down the seconds until he was loaded up.  I took every opportunity I could to snap pictures of Chums and I, Chums and the kids and just him.

Chums & My Brats

Chums loving on Paris

When the time came, I leaned down with a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat and I gently took his face in my hands and gave him a kiss and told him that I loved him.  I pointed to the SUV and the kennel in the back and said, “Come on Chums, get in.”.  He looked up at me and then over to the SUV and jumped in and right into his cage, without hesitation.  I reached in and took his face in my hands again, still whispering undying love to the beautiful boy.  After slipping off his lead and closing the door, I could feel the waterworks about to begin BIG time.  I stood there at the back of the SUV, watching that little English Bulldog and the tears began to fall.  Somewhere, I heard someone say, “Can we shut the door now?” and I realized that I was just standing there, right in the way.  I nodded my head and stepped back as they closed the door.  I did the best I could to hide the tears as they slid silently down my cheeks and past the protection that was my sunglasses.  The bitter taste entered my mouth and I started to gasp, with sobs beginning to wrack my body.  I lowered my head and began to walk away, my 2 boys at my side, consoling me.

All his bags are packed…. he’s ready to go

I did my best to make it through the rest of the day but wondering what was happening really was getting to me.  I wondered if his journey was safe, if he had made it home and if his owner’s showed up to greet C.A.R.E. transport when they arrived.  So many questions…

The following day, I got all of my answers.  At 6:30 pm, the previous day, Chumley was reunited with a tearful family who missed him.  All I had of the reunion was photos that the Huffington Post had taken when he arrived.  I held myself together until I saw the one photo that made my heart soar, a photo of Chumley’s dad kneeled down, with Chumley in between his legs.  Chumley’s head was turned up and he was planting a big wet kiss on his dad’s chin.  Immediately, I broke down all over again.

When you think that you can’t make an impact and you question what you’re supposed to do in life, it’s nice when you get those reminders of your purpose.  Tonight a family that was broken is now back together.  A little Bulldog will sit on his owner’s lap and fall asleep, filled with love and excitement for the next day.  I know in my heart that this special dog that brought people together will be even more cherished by his family now.

I still cry when I think of them together and I am so honored to have played a small part in his reunion.  This story is in honor of Chumley and his dad, Rick.  It’s also dedicated to all of the people who helped make this all possible.

This blog post contains “active” links to key members in Chumley’s story.  Follow the links and take a peek at the great people and organizations involved in Chumley’s story.  Donations to any of the organizations are not only encouraged but also greatly needed so we can continue to make these stories possible.

Please microchip your pets and make sure the information is always current.  Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar with identification and licenses.  On the ID, provide your pet’s name on the front and on the back, your address, 2 phone numbers and an email address.  You can get a tag made with all of this information at PetSmart for about $8.

Chumley and I say “So Long”

The Aftermath of Success

It’s been almost 2 days since Chumley (his story will be coming soon, check back later for it) made it back home to Colorado and now I sit here wondering, “Now what?”.  I know he’s gone and he’s back with his family but I guess I am not ready for his story to be over.  I’ve caught myself numerous times, just as I am about to post another Chumley status on Facebook or make some reference to how awesome his story is.  Yes, I know, it’s over.  The world has moved on and I should, too.  I wish I could but I guess that I am just “stuck”.

Chumley’s story was extra special for me for a number of reasons.  The main reason is that he happened upon me while I was “off guard” and contemplating my place in rescue at all.  It was an accident, right?  That whole, “right place-right time” thing?  Or was it?  If you believe in what so many do, they claim we are all here for a reason.  During the course of my 33 (I think) years of life, I’ve come up with a billion reasons why I am here and a zillion thoughts of what my real purpose is.  So, are we not here for one singular purpose?  I’m thinking we aren’t.  Our sole purpose in life is to make as much of an impact as possible.  So really, it’s one thing with a whole waterfall of work.

After Chums left for home and I got the word that he was safe, I knew it was time to move on to another needy case but I still seem to be in neutral, going nowhere.  Do I reverse back to the chaotic life of rescue?  Do I shift down in to park and get moving on to something else?  Or, do I just sit here stalling on the brake hoping that my foot gets tired enough that it slips off and I am moved by some other force?  If I’m not holding myself back, where exactly will I go?  I think I already know the answer.  I’m that car stuck in a hole while you wait at the longest traffic light ever.  You sit there holding on to the brake and eventually, you get tired.  The car seems to be stopped so you ease off the brake to see if you can just sit there without doing anything.  You slowly ease your foot off the petal and then BANG!! you roll backwards into the car behind you.

Rescue is a gigantic pain in the ass.  Think of the worst hemorrhoids ever.  Half of your intestines are hanging out and try as you may, you can’t really get them back in.  It hurts, it burns and you can’t stop thinking about it.  Every once in a while you catch some relief but most of the time, it’s always right there waiting to catch you off guard.  By stepping back for a while, I am sitting on that cushy donut-butt-pillow-thingy and it’s honestly not giving me much relief.  The need to “fix” things is still there.  The intensity is still there, although muffled at the moment.  The urge to return things to normal hasn’t went away.

The one thing I do know?  As long as there are animals in need, they will scream to me.  I will try to block my ears and try to protect myself from the screams of anguish and despair but I know I will still hear them.  It’s not going to go away.  As long as there are animal abusers, neglectful owners, and irresponsible people, I will always be needed and I will always hear the screams for help.  What to do now…

Get off the butt-pillow, yank my foot from the brake and slide that bitch into reverse.  I’ve got shit to do.  As long as society is irresponsible, I’ll live my life in reverse.  One step forward, two steps back.  One life saved, 2 more lost.

Dare’s Tips on Having a Great News Interview

Yesterday, I was suckered in to a news interview on one of the dogs I helped rescue.  While everyone seems to think I LOVE being the center of attention, I really don’t.  Well, unless you’re my significant other, my child or my best friend.  Wait, or my dog.  Okay, screw it.  The point is, I don’t do so well with public speaking.  I have terrible anxiety and in the past when confronted with public speaking, I passed out or vomited.  Publicly.  My best incident was during a school program when I was singing Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time”.  I managed to pass out just as I sang the lyric “I rise and fall.”   One minute you see me and the next, I had fallen off of the top riser and disappeared.  And some say I lack talent.  Obviously, not when it comes to making a complete fool of myself.

Anyway, recently I was part of a great story about a pet being reunited with his owner, half the world away, four months after he went missing.  Awesome, inspiring and beautiful.  Yeah, so you would think that the interview to share his story should rival it.  Well, not so much.  Especially not when I have to be involved.  So, technically, I was the one to get the interest in the story in the first place BUT it was a great story that needed to be shared!  Just not by me.  From the moment I specifically was asked to do the interview, I got nervous, sweaty and TOTALLY freaked out.  I may have actually shit my pants had I not been so uptight everywhere.  Of course, as most of you know, I went through with the interview, for the greater good.  I learned a WHOLE lot about television, interviews and myself in general.  I’ve decided to share my list of things so if you are ever in my position, you will be a HUGE success.

  • When initially contacted by a news reporter, be sure to try to speak as clearly and as educatedly (a Darath made up word) as possible.  Generally, reporters prefer to speak to the “village idiot” so odds are if you are smart, you should be safe and they won’t want to talk to you.  Do NOT handle the call with bumbling phrases such as “I, uh, can’t, uh, really interview so well.” or “Are you positive that I have to do this?  Can’t you just talk to the dog?”.  Those are obviously code in reporter-talk for “I would love to do an interview with you.”
  • After the initial contact with a reporter, be sure to call your friends and try to pawn the chore off on them.  So what if they aren’t relevant to the story!  You do NOT want to do an interview.  If you love yourself, don’t put yourself through the misery.  If your friends suck or are reasonable people, they will laugh at you and tell you “Oh, it’s fine.  You will do great!”.  Those statements will teach you that #1- your friends suck and #2- you need to find less reasonable friends.
  • When realizing you are “stuck” with doing said interview, do NOT panic.  Screaming in your office, throwing up in your trash can, stooling uncontrollably and crying hysterically will not help you now.  You are screwed.
  • When calling back the news reporter, make sure that you know what you are saying.  If you are going through with the hour-long misery-fest that will be edited down to 15 seconds, you should take the lead and control the situation.  Be firm with your request of the place to be interviewed.  Had I thought this through completely, I would have asked to be interviewed in front of Bazooka’s (for all you KC people, it’s a nasty, nasty strip club…but classy.  Classy with LOTS of assy) or at the very least, standing in front of a meth house in Independence (shout out to the meth capital of the world to all you representin’).  You want your interview to be remembered for more than just your retardedness.  People are more likely to forget about you if they see horrid things in the background.
  • When scheduling your interview, make sure to leave yourself enough time to “freshen up”.  Had I planned accordingly, I would have put on a shirt with sleeves, found some damn lip gloss, changed my underwear and blotted my shiny forehead.  I also could have hit the gym for a few months, possibly years.
  • When thinking of your interview, don’t think about the extra 10 pounds the camera adds.  You really weigh that much, fatass.  Instead, think of the cupcakes, candy bars and the Venti whatever from Starbucks that you had earlier.
  • When you arrive for your interview, make sure you immediately move away from your vehicle, especially if it’s filthy and covered in dirt and bird-doo.  Extra-especially if it’s covered in a giant “flock of seagulls that ate mulberry’s” sort of doo.  If you don’t get away from your car they will have you leaning up against it showing your best 70’s “I drive a Trans Am and rock a mullet” sort of way.
  • If you have a dog with you, try to ensure no embarrassing moments on camera by filling the dog full of Pepto.  Having a dog with the Hershey squirts at an interview is a really embarrassing thing.  Dodging piles of slippery dog-deuce while trying to walk back and forth for the camera 151 times is quite difficult.  Wear sensible shoes.  Goloshes would probably work best here.
  • While being taped, try not to bounce your eyes back and forth from the camera to the reporter.  This is frowned upon.  Also, try to refrain from looking directly at the camera, waving and saying “Hi, Mom!”.  This too, is frowned upon.
  • After your interview is over, make sure and take a long bath with a giant bottle of alcohol.  While you could bathe and drink the booze, some would prefer to just smash themselves over the head with the bottle and pray for death.  If you thought the interview was bad, just wait till you see yourself on TV.
  • While preparing to watch your interview, pop a Xanax (if prescribed) and anxiously pace.  At the first “teaser” of your story before the commercial break, be sure to run through the house in your robe screaming, “Holy shit, holy shit, that was my hand!”   Begin to pace, occasionally opening your robe and exposing your nakedness.  You will need ventilation.  You will surely have worked up a sweat and be in desperate need of another bath.
  • When you see your interview come on, try to look away from the tv.  You will be transfixed and in complete disgust.  If you are lucky, you won’t have a giant booger stuck in your nose (which you missed seeing before your interview but did catch as you drove AWAY).
  • Get ready for your phone to ring non-stop.  Don’t answer it.
  • When the interview is over, stand up, run through the house screaming “Holy shit, holy shit, that was me.  I was on TV.”  Promptly stop, look confused, drop your robe on the floor and walk out of the room.

These are my steps to a successful interview.  If you have one, good luck!!

Good-bye Rescue, Hello Rescue?

On Friday of last week, I made the decision to step back from rescue for a while.  I was completely drained and the emotionality (yup, I just made that word up) of rescue was really taking a physical toll on my health and my relationships with others.  You know that saying about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes?  Well, my shoes are like 36 inch stilettos.  Wanna try one on?  As I am sitting here and writing this, thoughts come to mind of the real superstars of animal rescue and I think I’m being a gigantic weepy lady part.  I mean, there are amazing angels out there who do WAY more than me.  How in the hell do they do it?  How can they manage the almost hourly phone calls and emails asking for help?  How can they be the “one stop dumping spot” for every friend, neighbor or brother’s-uncle’s-cousin?  The only answers I can come up with are Xanax, heavy drinking and sheer craziness.  Yes, these bitches be crazy.

For 4 days I did absolutely nothing on rescue.  To avoid the temptation, I removed notifications for all of the Facebook groups I am a member of or administer, I blocked the feeds of my friends who post nothing but depressing shelter factoids and photos (which normally is all I do on Facebook) and eventually, I stopped even going on Facebook at all.  After having Facebook for all of these years for the original purpose of contacting my friends, it had become a networking tool that I relied heavily on to save lives.  And sadly, that was all it had become.  So, away with Facebook… for 4 days.  My email accounts met the same fate and if I saw anything that looked like it was from someone in rescue, I deleted it without opening it.  I had to completely distance myself.  That is, until today.

This morning as I was emptying my emails, I came across one from someone who I really look up to and admire.  This girl is one B.A.M.F.  (sound it out, you’ll figure it out)  When I picture my heroes, she is floating around in my brain and at the top of the list.  She works tirelessly day in and day out to help place pets in homes.  Hell, I don’t even know if the simple word “hero” is even deserving of her likeness.  As I moved my mouse over towards the “delete” button of Yahoo mail, I paused for one split second and then before I knew what I was doing, I instead chose to read the message.  That one second hesitation changed everything.

The email was asking me for help in locating an owner.  This wasn’t just any lost dog, this dog was scheduled to be put to sleep because his hold time was up and he had no one who had offered to help by adopting or fostering him.  Thankfully, 2 relentless rescue volunteers stepped up.  They reached out to me because the micro-chip in the dog (aka “Chumley”) was showing an owner but all of the contact information was a dead-end.  They knew that I loved to investigate and search for answers so at that moment, I began the search.  Yes, I was supposed to be taking a break but typical of me, I was working through it anyway.

After what feels like forever but was only probably an hour, I had traced down the son of Chumley’s owner.  I left messages on his phone and Facebook and I just kept calling, over and over.  I guess eventually he got the point and he called me back.  What I heard on the other line was astonishing.

Chumley was rescued from a shelter in Mississippi by a family that now lives in Colorado.  In February of this year, Chumley disappeared from his backyard in Colorado.  After searching and checking everywhere, he was nowhere to be found and the family had given up and resigned themselves to the fact that Chumley may have been stolen and they would never see him again.  I couldn’t believe that this dog picked up off of the Kansas Turnpike near Kansas City was the same dog who should be in Colorado.  I asked for a description of the missing dog and what I heard had me staring at the photo from animal control and shaking my head.  All but the description of Chumley’s collar matched.  After 4 months, Chumley was found half the U.S. away.  While I was in disbelief, the family was flabbergasted.  Finally, the only response he could muster is “I guess Chumley really liked the Wizard of Oz.”  Immediately, the family expressed the need to have him back home with them and so my rescue friends and I set out on the path to make that possible.

While Chumley’s story is still in the works (and don’t worry, I will share it soon), I really begin to question how I could walk away from something so gratifying in my life.  If we all have some “purpose” to our lives, surely mine is to save animals.  I’d like to think that responding to that email and seeing something like this happen will restore my strength and faith in myself.  It only takes one second to change the path of something.  Just one second.  While it may just be a “blip” on the radar, I’d like to think that my “blip” is pretty damn special.

To all of you rescues and volunteers out there, “thank you”.  What you do never goes un-noticed.  While often it doesn’t seem to be appreciated or acknowledged by anyone, know that somewhere out there, a heart still beats because of you.