… on a new job with an old man

When a rHoyal visits on the fly

just ponderin'

blazetherapy The Good Works of Royals

Over the weekend, Grampa had a particularly tough morning. His sleeping has been all turned around for quite some time, and he had been up most of the night again. I visited until about noon, and left to head home, promising that I’d be back.

When I was signing out, at the nurses’ station, I remembered that I’d seen a dog in the hall when we first brought Grampa to his room. I asked the nurse on duty if therapy dogs  came often, thinking we might like a visit. And then I remembered why I love smaller hospitals (this one is very small).

“Oh, no,” he said, “We actually allow dogs to come onto the ward.” Then he added, “We love dogs!”

No way.

I went home, and got a few things done.

And then I asked Blaze a question I’d never asked her royal dog-li-ness before.

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Sunday’s at the Rescue: The Hometown Pack

So fellow travelers, time to pay a visit to the rescue.

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I am often asked why the dog rescue where I volunteer brings dogs in on transport when “so many local dogs” need homes. It took a few years for Helping Hounds to establish strong, working relationships with local shelters and other rescues.  The rescue community can at times become polarized. It takes unique leadership to create a functional network; tentative outreach is easily fractured by misunderstanding. Like any young organization, a new rescue will stumble if it tries to run before learning to walk. HHDR had it’s share of setbacks in the early years. The turning point came a little over two years ago, when new leadership and an experienced director took full charge of operations. Once they established functional systems for intake, health care, adoption applications and basic training needs for both volunteers and dogs the staff knew they had the foundation to create a stable outreach program. When space was available they began to regularly take in dogs from local shelters willing to network with them.

HHDR placed over 1,200 dogs into new homes in 2014, an impressive number for a small, independent, donation driven, volunteer fueled rescue. While a growing number of local dogs are in that number, transport dogs make up the majority of adoptions.  Every dog pulled from high kill shelters and transported to our area saves two lives.  The dogs brought to HHDR immediately make room for other dogs in a shelter somewhere else.

Dogs selected for transport are breeds in high demand ie: small to medium size dogs or popular breeds of larger dogs like labs and retrievers.  Those are the types of dogs first chosen to be adopted out of local shelters.  HHDR rarely transports in adult “bully breed” dogs, since they know there are plenty they can bring in from local shelters.

When the network pulls together, which I am proud to say happens with increasing frequency, it makes an impact. Listen to this statement from Helping Hounds Director Kathy Gilmour:

“We know the hard work being done by those on the front lines of animal rescue and they have our respect and support. We know the heartbreak of saving a life from abuse and neglect, taking a dog off the streets and saving him from starvation and the risks of injury or death only to have to hold them and tell them you are sorry your best wasn’t good enough, no one came for you but we need the kennel for the next one we just saved.

Our partnerships offer an alternative. Transferring them leaves that empty kennel standing ready and we could not be more proud to work side by side with our partners and take just a little bit of the burden off their shoulders and bring a little bit of hope to those who can’t find their way out of the system fast enough.”

It accompanies this post on HHDR’s Facebook page:

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These are the faces of the latest local intakes from the hometown network connection.  Nine local dogs who came to HHDR  from the facility which takes dogs brought in by city dog control.  Eight of them clearly appear to be what are known as “bully” breeds and regardless of whether they are in fact “pit bull” mixes ( “Pit bull” is not an actual breed, it is a term which refers to several terrier breeds including American, Staffordshire and Bull Terriers) the misconceptions about their breeds will weigh against them in the adoption market.

 “Oh we’re not picky about the kind of dog as long as its not a pit bull,” is one of the most common things potential adopters will say to staff and volunteers. I am tempted to tell them about the many “pitties” we have in our family, but I have learned my words are unlikely to breech their mindset. People can meet the sweetest dog, gentle with their children, playful with other dogs and still ask repeatedly if the staff is “sure this dog is not a pit mix.”  Folks, when it comes to rescue dogs, there is nothing “sure” about breed, no matter what appearances indicate.  You want certainty please find yourselves a reputable breeder.  What we do know for sure is the dogs we have on hand are going to make wonderful companions and deserve to be loved as they are.

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Andre, a local sweetheart, who has already found a great new home.

The average time for most dogs as an HHDR resident is less than two weeks.  Notice I said most.  Certain dogs will take longer to find their new families. This is because the staff works on a “best match”  rather than “first pick” model.  Young puppies will not be adopted out to a home where no one is home all day long,  large high energy dogs or nervous small dogs will not go to homes with small children. The staff is particularly careful when adopting out special needs dogs like April pictured in the top right corner of the poster above.

April was found with a collar so deeply embedded it had to be surgically removed. Although the wound around her neck has healed, she can never wear a collar of any kind again.  I’ve had the pleasure of walking April in her jazzy red harness.  She’s a happy, playful girl; you’d never know she was so severely mistreated.

Pearl, the beautiful blue-grey girl in the middle on the left was found living outside, with an untreated eye condition and a misshapen leg which had clearly been broken and left to heal on its own. She has also obviously been very heavily bred. Pearl is not as outgoing as April, but she has responded well to the tender care and kindness of staff and volunteers. While still cautious, she gratefully accepts gentle attention. I sat in her pen the other night as she quietly licked a little peanut butter off my fingers.  Slowly, I moved my other hand to gently rub her head and back.  Eventually she leaned into me, sighing as she let her head rest on my leg. Moments like that are worth ten times the hours I give as a volunteer.

April and Pearl are lucky dogs who have been given a chance at a new life; most city shelters euthanize dogs found in such poor condition, regardless of their temperament.  Those facilities simply do not have access to the resources needed to save those lives.  The transport dogs are lucky too as most of them make it onto the truck just days before their time was up.  Helping Hounds is proud to be a way home for every one of them and I am blessed to have the chance to be a friend along the way.

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Local girl Sweet Pearl meeting a new transport friend. Update Sunday May 3rd  Pearl has found herself a big loving family who promise she will be cherished for the rest of her days.

Walk softly on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note:  Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home.

Love Lights the Way

So fellow travelers, dramatic images on the drive home from last weekend’s road trip stirred up many emotions about this stage of Life’s journey for my college-bound daughter and me.  This poem flowed from a heart renewed by friendship’s quiet affirmation of Greater Love which enfolds us all.

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The road becomes a silver ribbon

a glimmering thread

winding a path

through valleys cast into deep shadows

by a retreating Sun

Your hands remain steady on the wheel

in the same gentle way

you held your children’s hands

Certain the Love which guides you

while sometimes dim

will continue to Light the Way

and bring you safely Home.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

On teaching to what is not tested.

So fellow travelers, I’ve written before about the turbulence in education created by current trends which focus on “high stakes” testing. It’s a misguided push by politicians and private companies which basically results in a “teaching to the test” mode of education.  This is particularly true in areas where test results are being directly linked to state funding of school aid and staff performance.  In fifteen years of working as a special education assistant in our local school district I have seen a lot of educational trends come and go.  I have never seen anything so destructive to the educational process; its most damaging impact, in my opinion,  is the way this type of testing shatters kids’ confidence in their ability to learn.  Morale these days is at an all time low, yet educators are a resilient bunch, riding waves of change as they quietly continue doing what they do best: teaching our kids. Every now and then, I catch glimmers of hope.

  Take today when the students at C.W. Baker High School were greeted by this colorful display.

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Here’s a closeup of what’s printed on the star balloon at the top of the arch.

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We are celebrating a magnificent achievement!

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At the beginning of the year, the Key Club announced an ambitious project with the Make A Wish program. (If you’re not familiar with the organization, google them; they do really good stuff.)  The students wanted to raise enough funds to fully fund one local child’s wish.  This meant raising $9,500 before spring break and after break our administrator announced that goal had been reached. From “Buy a Star” to zumba classes the students created a six month series of diverse events giving everyone an opportunity to support the project.   Today blue popsicles will be handed out to every student during lunch.  Balloons appeared by the project board in the main hallway.

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So now a  nine year old girl with cystic fibrous goes on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas because students at our high school decided making a difference mattered.

I’m not sure how the New York Board of Education plans to measure this achievement on any of their tests.  Frankly measuring the accomplishment is no where near as important as knowing the experience of achieving this goal will remain with the students long after any testable knowledge has faded from their memory.

Walk softly on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Running at The Ledge: A theory of life and commitment

Honest, authentic writing about what it means for one brave couple to be married.

The Trailhead

A pair of willets, an ordinarily solitary bird. A pair of willets, an ordinarily solitary bird.

Every time I’ve started to write about my upcoming marriage, I’ve stalled out. I have come to recognize that as an indication that I’m having authenticity problems. Those are probably the biggest stumbling blocks in my work. Writing has made me understand that it’s almost reflexive for me to adopt a mask of half-truths. One of the gifts of it is that it catches me every time.

In this case, I was trying to fit Trav’s and my relationship into the language of others, when in fact it has a verse all its own.

I’m very interested in the words and phrases that others use in relation to their happy partnerships. So often I hear words like safe, secure, trusting, in-sync. I hear about a common pattern, in which two partners meet, share a period of blissful, glassy-eyed serenity, and then later must confront…

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The White Knight of Spring

So fellow travelers,  this morning I found this beautiful single bloom in the middle of our lawn, yards away from the rest of it’s companions,  I suspect a random planting courtesy of  one of our resident chipmunks or voles. As I lay on my front lawn working to get this shot these words wove themselves into a Haiku….

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White Knight standing tall

lone Spring warrior message

Bloom where you’re planted

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may Adventure find you ready.

… on raising grampa

In a world of fractured families it is a gift to find authentic stories of real love and true life…..

just ponderin'

Dinner with Grampa back in the day First Dinner

That’s First Dinner, with Mac, Sam, and Grampa circa 1998.

For a long time, we couldn’t figure out why Mac and Sam never really ate their dinner.

Then we found out about First Dinner.

At 5:00, Mac and Sam would walk over to the apartment.

Shockingly this was just as Granny and Grampa were sitting down to… yep… dinner.

And, so they would hang out and eat dinner and chat, and then come back to our part of the house.

Just in time for… dinner.

I still smile at the idea of First and Second Dinner, and I hope they do too (and will, forever).

The picture above reminds me of how incredibly grateful I am that my kids grew up in a house where three generations lived and grew together.

I’ve gotten the raised eyebrows from countless numbers of folks,  and experienced that deep down feeling…

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Creek Walk: a different perspective

So fellow travelers, we continue on the path in search of the eagles at Onondaga Lake.

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The habitat along the Inner Harbor walking trail is still recovering from the harsh winter we have just bid goodbye.  Even the grass along the waters edge is mainly brown.  Everywhere there is evidence of the toll winter has taken.

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There is also evidence of human impact

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I was told local youth make a game of tossing rocks at the beautiful lamps which line the walkway. They cost hundreds to replace. It’s disheartening at times to find this kind of thoughtless destruction, yet my perspective on things like this has changed under the influence of creative inspiration. I gaze on the broken glass and, while I morn it’s destruction, I also notice the remarkable feeling of balance it’s precarious alignment creates.

A few yards further along the path I come across another hallmark of youth; I take images like this as signs of hope

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Foolish? Maybe, but at least the message fits the Inner Harbor intentions and soon after I was greeted by a friendly shaggy dog who seemed perfectly content to walk the path with his human regardless of the trash and broken lamps.

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To reach the trees where the eagles roost I had to pass under the road which goes to a sprawling mall at the foot of Onondaga Lake.  I often wonder how many of the hundreds of visitors who frequent the mall would trade an hour of shopping in American Eagle for an hour with the real eagles.  As I approached the passage, pondering this thought,  the graceful curve of the bridge and the colorful boating lights caught my eye.

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I’ve driven across that bridge countless times and never knew the lights were there. It made me smile because I know every time I  drive across it from now on I will remember how nicely decorated it is.  The discovery was almost enough to make up for this

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Yes, there it is a tree quite empty of eagles.  Oh well, maybe they went shopping at the mall.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creek Walk : eagle eyes

So fellow travelers, we were just about to set forth on one of my local walking trails.

Early April is one of the best times for birding in Central New York.  There is a steady increase in the numbers and varieties of birds  with the advantage of more open vistas, since the trees have not yet “leafed in” . The shot in my previous post of the singing finch would be partially, if not mostly, obscured by leaves if taken in a few more weeks.

I am far from an expert, but a decade of regular outings has given me enough experience to be fairly confident in identifying several dozen species by either sight or sound. Still, the absence of so many birds through the long winter months tests the memory;  “Is that a yellow throated, yellow winged, yellow rump or plain ol yellow warbler calling?” So this is the time of year when the CD in the car stereo is likely to be one from my set of Peterson’s Eastern Bird Songs.  Excellent review material in preparation for the annual 24 hour birding marathon our local Audubon chapter holds in May.

Being able to see the birds one hears, or thinks they hear, is a tremendous advantage.  So when I heard a goldfinch calling as I walked towards the path, I was happy to capture this shot.

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I was not as lucky with the bluebird who darted over the path or the chipping sparrow who zipped across the field as I approached. But their movement drew my eye towards this shot

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and then I heard a “crawnk, crawnk” and the sound of splashing, so I scooted towards the water to find…..

cormorants!

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Taking off

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and landing

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Mind you this is within walking distance from a huge mall, in a area once surrounded by factories and warehouses.

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As I headed towards the trees where the eagles have been seen  I wondered if the many citizens who pass along the trail realize what a gem it truly is and  more imeediately, whether anyone would be “home” at the roost?

To be continued

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

 

 

 

 

Creek Walk : the true first day of Spring

So fellow travelers, spring weather finally put in a full court appearance today. It figures, since it’s our last day of spring break. Oh well, I know better than to take good weather days for granted so I threw on some hiking shoes, grabbed my camera and headed out.

When I go birding I never really know what to expect. Sure, there are sightings I hope to catch but no one birds for long before encountering the Second Noble Truth of Buddhism : “desire is the root of all suffering.”  During our annual birdathon one can go for hours without seeing some of the more common birds.  I remember one year our team did not spot a pigeon until close to 4pm.  We thought we had gone mad.  We eventually found a half dozen of the buggers lined up along a rooftop ridge.  One begins to suspect a kind of winged conspiracy like the year we never spotted a single hummingbird only to find several hovering around our feeder the following morning.  Seriously?

Today, I headed back to a spot I have been meaning to check on since I grabbed this shot from a distance on my way out of town.

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Yes, an eagle perched in trees just inside the city limits of Syracuse New York.  Go Orange!

A few years ago, several eagles decided to winter over at the south end of Onondaga Lake. There is a sewage treatment plant where Onondaga Creek comes into the lake and the warm outflow keeps that end of the lake ice free. It creates enough open water for the eagles to hunt successfully for fish. Even through the brutal cold and frigid temperatures of this past winter,  when Erie and Ontario saw record ice cover ( as did all the Great Lakes ) the south end of Onondaga has a good sized area of open water.  Half a dozen eagles took up residence there this winter providing quite a display for the steady stream of local birders.

The day I grabbed the distant shots I did not have time to find the walking trail which follows the creek and runs right underneath the eagles’ roost.  It is part of a relatively new section of walking trail which is part of a long term project to connect existing trails into a continuous lake loop. Delilah and I often walk the trails at the northern end of the lake and I’ve accessorized a few of my poems with shots taken there. Today’s objective was to locate the parking area at the Inner Harbor where fellow birders indicated the trail towards the eagle trees could be accessed.

Success…

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the tell tale “sail”  which covers the stage used for concerts and, as a bonus, a welcome serenade from a little house finch who let me get just close enough to snap a quick shot.

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With the finch’s song to put “spring” in my step I walked towards the trail and hopefully more birdacious encounters.

To be continued……

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.