Giving Tuesday

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Today is a new holiday, Giving Tuesday.  It is a day set aside to encourage us to reflect on our fortunate circumstances and give to those who could use a hand.   I hope you will all consider giving something to a cause you support in this season.   Having worked for a nonprofit for nearly 7 years, serving on nonprofit and foundation boards I think I have some insight that may be helpful if you are unsure about your giving.

Give locally.   When you give locally more of your money is likely to stay on the ground locally.   I love to read and having been an at-risk elementary school mentor I know that many children struggle with reading.   I believe in this cause and there are many great national organizations that have a mission regarding children and reading.  Locally my community’s after-school programs include a reading program at the library.  With ever shrinking budgets, a gift the library will help support that program.   If I gave on a national level, it may only come back if some organization  is lucky enough to get a grant from that program.   Make it easy and find the local equivalent of the national charity calling at you and give there.

Consider setting up monthly giving.   People tend to be generous during the holidays and then forget a charity the rest of the year. Lots of charities have a monthly giving option on their website where they will debit your account or credit card monthly.   If they don’t and you do online banking many of the banks allow you to send checks monthly of an amount and date you pick.    Most of us feel a crimp out budget and December is not the flushest month to write a check for $100, however if you do monthly giving of $10 a month, you give $120 a year and likely did not feel an impact on your budget.

Consider the charities that have impacted you and those you love.  I have friends who have taken advantage of low cost/free women’s health care from organizations I had never heard of before.   I have been there when I was a student using similar organizations,  but had been fortunate enough to not had to use them recently.    My friends sharing their story reminded me of how lucky I was there when I needed them.

Consider making a donation in memory of someone.   I have two favorites on this list:

  • Memorial Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling National Cemetery  I come from a long list of people who have served our country since the American Revolution.  Most recently include my brother, my father, my father-in-law and  my grandfather.   Though this group has only been around since 1979, they have provided honor guard burial for those at the Ft. Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota.   They are the only self-supporting organization of its kind.  All volunteer, raising funds to cover the costs uniforms, rifles and transportation.  They have never missed a funeral, an amazing accomplishment in Minnesota winters.  I first knew of them when my father-in-law was buried.   They now hold a place in my heart. I hope you take a moment to check out their site.   Though only one person in my family is buried at Ft. Snelling.    I give to them in hopes that every military person can have that last moment of honor when they are buried. 
  • Animal Shelters are where we got out pets.    RangerSir and I have always had pets.  They have all been shelter pets.    We make an “in honor of” donation each year of those who have gone before us.   If those shelters had not been there holding our cats and dogs for us we would not have made that connection.

In closing we all like to know we are making a difference when giving, so be smart about your giving.

  • A great name does not make a great nonprofit.    Look at their mission.   Look at the programs they provide.   Make sure you agree with it and would like to support their programs.
  • Nonprofit is not all volunteer, nor should it be.   They need to pay for postage, lights and generally someone to be there keeping it all together.   For years the Butte Emergency Food Bank had a retired couple as their executive director and they were able to volunteer, but the organization still had overhead or admin costs.   The building still had taxes and upkeep.   Trucks still broke down and things wore out and need to be replaced.    Look at what they are providing  not just the overhead costs.
  • Do your own research.   Thousands of people repeat urban and online legends, none of it being true.  If you are making a small donation your friend’s referral my be sufficient.   However if you are making a larger donation or doing monthly giving, (large is relative to each of us) do your research.  Visit their website, and check out their 990 (most have it on their website, but there are other places on the web to find them).   The 990 is an IRS required document providing their financial information.    You decide for yourself, but I look at just a few things.  Most importantly what programs did they provide and the cost for those programs.   Then I look at their income.   Depending on how significant the gift, I may look at the volunteer hours and/or salaries.  If you need to know more, call or email them and ask your questions.    I can say what is the right balance for me, but each of us determines what it right to us.

Enjoy the day and remember to share.

 

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Life With a New Dog – Housetraining

This past month has been full of triumphs and amazing awakenings for us  with our new dog, Zip.   He came from a pound after he was turned in when his frail older owner passed away.   We were unsure what we were getting into but once we had decided to take him we knew that this first month would be a learning process for both him and us.  It has been much more time consuming than we had experienced before when we adopted a shelter dog.  Each dog before Zip has had a set of adjustment and learning curves, but Zip’s are for the most part things we have not experienced before.

The best we could tell Zip was a 100% indoor dog before he came to our house. This was a first for us.  He was startled when he walked on grass the first time. He walked funny, because the grass to him felt funny.   Fortunately he quickly learned that he loved the outdoors and would gladly go outside and flop down in the grass.

Zip loves the outdoors and isn't sure how he lived without it in his previous life.

Zip loves the outdoors and isn’t sure how he lived without it in his previous life.

I am going to repeat the observation, Zip was a 100% indoor dog before he came to our house.   We did not have to figure out how to show him where our door to go outside was.    We did not have to figure out the magic word to tell him it was time to take care of business.   All of this was because, it quickly became apparent that he was worse than not house trained, he was indoor trained.   We kept logs of all input and output trying to figure out his schedule so we could beat him to an “accident”.  We used the crate and the umbilical method both which had worked with past dogs who had been house trained but need a brush up when they arrived at their new home.  He had no idea about either method and fought them both.  We would sit outside, tried walks, and even the  in/out only for the toilet method trying to help him get the gist of what we were asking.   No matter what we did, he refused to do anything and then he would immediately perform when we gave up and took him inside.   Each time he would  wag his tail and if he could he was smiling as though he was doing the right thing.   It was almost laughable if it wasn’t so wrong.  Recognizing the problem I first tried the puppy pads thinking if he used those and then I put them outside he would get the idea.   He did not use puppy pads in his past life either.  If he had a choice between doing it inside on the pad or the floor.   The floor always won.    This was how he was trained.

Zip is now well on his way to being trained.  Our combination of scheduling, umbilical and crating had him, not giving up was the key to our success.  His original schedule required hourly stops and nightly runs.   He now can go for longer periods of time including the whole night.  We are trying to figure out how to get him to ask to to out.   When he sits at the top of the stairs and then heads down when everyone is active upstairs it is a sign he his heading for the door.   He will wait a few minutes for you. You need to notice that he has gone to the door, because the clock is ticking.   So far it is working, with no accidents in the past week.   Now we really want him to learn to bark or something so we notice that he needs attention.  Only once have successfully taught a dog to bark on command and then to go outside, so odds are not in our favor, but we know things could be much worse.

Another Life Change

My last day of my summer job we learned we were going to have to put down our dog Harley.   We had adopted him from a rescue shelter as an adult.  We soon figured out he had been abused, but it would be a long time before we heard via the local grapevine how terrible his abuse.  It was reflected in some of his behaviors, that we we could never convince him to let go of.   All this aside he was a great little companion in our family.   I worked from home all but the last three months of his life, so we were constant buddies.   Yet when RangerSir got home each night he followed him around and tried to make up for the time they did not have together while he made money to buy dog food.  Harley was a little Cairn Terrier (think Toto), and his terrier attitude and energy level made him a perfect match for our household.   He was the world’s best hiking partner, tireless but alert.  As a Cairn he should have seen anything that was small and darted as prey, but he was the protector of baby chicks and our adult flock.   Never made sense, but it was a role he took seriously.  He fit into our lifestyle, energy when he needed and quiet when we were.   He was our pet, a member of our family.  He is gone now, but he will always hold a special place in our heart.

One of my favorite pictures of Harley doing what he loved sitting up on a rock looking out on the world.

One of my favorite pictures of Harley doing what he loved sitting up on a rock looking out on the world.

After we put him down we had a hole in our hearts but we were not sure if or when we would want another dog. We started to look at the local shelters and the online shelter pages after about a month.  Sometimes thinking yes it was time and other times thinking not so sure, and if you are not so sure – you really aren’t ready.   It is hard to know if and when you are ready.

We talked about the four dogs we had owned in the 35 years we have been married    We were honest about their quirks, good traits and the bad traits.   Our next dog could take us into our 70’s easily and so as we thought about the things we wanted in our next dog, some things were negotiable and others nonnegotiable. We were getting closer to making a commitment to a pet for their lifetime.

Five weeks later we were fairly certain we had found a match.  We had found this dog from an online shelter notice. We had asked lots of questions and RangerSir and I had discussed his pros and cons. Sunday we drove nearly four hours to a shelter to meet this dog and see if when we met him it was a match.   We are now the owners of another rescue dog.   He is a teenager mixed breed, likely of Cairn origin.

I am sure that we will do some pet posting on the blog as we move along the continuum of learning about this dog and his quirks.   There are sure to be lots of bumps in the highway and some long learning curves for all of us.  In spite of it all pets bring so much to our lives that years from now we will only remember a few of the challenges that come with a new pet, Zip.

Our new teenager, Zip.

Our new teenager, Zip.

Tender Heart

Everyone has things that bring out their tender heart.   For me it is senior animals in shelters.   I wish I could bring them all home.  It breaks my heart to see them there.

I have a dog that was eight and a cat that was ten when they were turned into the shelter.   Their stories are like so many others who should being enjoying their golden years, instead are uprooted from the only home they have known and sent to a shelter environment.   Our dog only spent a few weeks in the shelter, unfortunately our cat spent over half a year before we adopted her.

Senior pets are often slow to be adopted because folks are generally attracted to those young cute kittens and puppies.   Most senior pets have some basic skills and likely a couple bad habits as well.  What is unique about the senior pet is that they are very anxious to please and forever grateful when rescue them.   They will forever be thankful to you for picking them.   This gratitude makes them much easier to train and teach them the rules of your home.

Now that I have more time of my own I find myself stopping at the local shelter volunteering  and spending time with the animals there.  I know I can’t take them home, but I can make their time at the shelter a little less lonely.  Sooner or later a senior lover like me will find them and take them to their forever home.

I just learned that November is adopt a senior pet month….how cool is that.

 

In Spite of It All Life Goes On

This weekend here is suppose to be nasty. You can read between the lines for that to mean rain, snow, wind and temps in the 30’s.   Yesterday I curled up and stayed in all day when Mother Nature dealt me a crummy hand.      Today I when I woke up to snow/rain I  said “UP YOURS” and went on about life.     This morning I did my first 5k of the season.

This one was a special one as it was a charity walk for the local shelter’s animal fund.   Albert’s Angel Fund is a local charity  that helps pay for medical expenses for adoptable animals that the local shelter might not otherwise afford.   I love the idea of the partnership of the shelter and the AAF.    Years ago our rescue dogs, Max and Charlie, used to get pledges and annually complete the Walk for the Animals, a fundraiser for the shelter they came from in Minnesota.   Today’s  walk  was a natural fit for me.

If it had been nice weather there would have been no question about participation, but with the rain/snow mix, the wind and the thermometer screaming 34 degrees I was not sure what the turn out would be like.   Heck I was not even sure if RangerSir would participate or not.  We got ourselves ready and out the door before we could change our minds.  The field was full of hardy souls dressed for spring in Montana, the rest of you may call it winter clothing.   There were folks of all sizes and ages, just the dogs were.   Probably the most interesting dog we saw was a Komondor, which I had never seen in person before.    There were also Corgie, Dachshund. Bloodhounds, Yorkies, a 3-legged Pomeranian, Giant Schnauzer, and any thing else you can imagine in between.  The family who parked next to us captured the essence of the field.   They had a little teeny tiny dog of Chihuahua  origin, a large elderly dog of Golden origin, a very young infant in a stroller, a short small mom, and a very tall dad.  See them unload from their rig  and make their family race ready made me glad I had not been a wienie and stayed home.

We finished our first 5K in 55 minutes.  Love that snow in the background

We finished our first 5K in 55 minutes. Love that snow in the background

Here are a couple more pictures taken during the race.     This was the 5th year for the race.   In the first four years of the race it has raised over $13,000 for Albert’s Angel Fund.   Not sure if the turn out will allow us to stay on target, but every bit helps and the race helps to raise awareness.   It was fun to watch the faces of folks in cars to see a mass dog walk.

Look at the puff winter coat.   The rain/snow made focusing a little difficult.

Look at the puff winter coat.

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We walked in a wide right-of-way.

Now as I sit here blogging at home four hours later we are getting the snow that they predicted and yes they might be right it could accumulate an inch before it is done.   Sure am glad the walk is over, but glad I was part of it.

Looking off our deck to our shed and chicken coop.   The snow is coming down.

Looking off our deck to our shed and chicken coop. The snow is coming down.

 

Keep It Close to Home

Recently a friend wrote about charitable giving .   It is something that thousands of us do each day, all the while hoping that our gift makes the kind of difference we hope for.   There are so many places to give how do we pick?

Working for a nonprofit I could rattle on about things to look for and how to pick your charity.   I will save that for another day and another writing.    Instead I suggest that you think about the charities that have touched you, your family,  friends and co-workers.   It won’t take long and you will soon have a long list that has made a difference for you.   When you have your list, always look at the lowest local level to give.   Odds are the local chapter was the one that made a difference to those you know.    Here are some of my favorite charities and why.

Beaverhead County Search and Rescue   They were there the night I suffered from hypothermia.   Volunteers took time off of their regular day jobs and came out and brought me back out to civilization after a night out in the winter elements.    We make a donation to them each February as a reminder of how many folks give of themselves but we never know about them until we need them.  There is likely a volunteer group in your area who is unsung and needs your financial help.

Heart of the Valley Shelter   We give in June when shelters always seem to be exploding at the seams with puppies and kittens.   We always give to the last shelter we adopted a pet from.  It means we have given to different shelters over the years.     Local shelters are on the ground and their funds are desperately needed.   When you adopt now days your pet has already been treated for health and spay or neutered.    Giving to a local shelter can make a difference in local pet overpopulation.

Local Food Bank  I know people who are living on the food edge.   My local county statistics report that nearly a quarter of the children are food insecure, aka hungry, locally.   The food you give to a national organization may never get close to your community.    I sign up for monthly giving equally the cost of two coffee drinks.   I don’t miss it and I am sure that they can do more with the cash than I could have ever done with it.   Hunger is a hidden problem, you don’t know what is friends cupboards at home.

Southwest Montana Mammography Program  This is a new one for me. I had always given to various breast cancer causes, but never felt very connected.   I felt compelled as a woman that every October I should write a check to some pink ribbon charity.   This year I had a friend who had a breast biopsy, who was under-insured.  When she got the bill this charity she was flabbergasted at the expense, and questioned the costs and how she would pay this.    This charity stepped up and took care of her bill, and encouraged her to get the second suggested biopsy.   Susan Koman has given grants to the local charity in the past.    Now I will be giving in the future, this charity is quietly make a difference to women in my community.  I never thought about local women who were skipping mammograms because of expenses.   I am sure there are thousands of them.

Memorial Rifle Squad at Fort Snelling National Cemetery  This was a local volunteer group who for the last 34 years has provided veterans with a military honors ceremonial burial with a  rile shots, flag folding and taps.    They have done this free of charge, never missing a funeral no matter the weather.   We first knew of it why my father-in-law was buried.   Coming from a military family we know how important this is to military families.   Now with more vets than ever this organization can use help to cover all the expenses they incur.

Local Library With the changing world it seems like your local library may be a dinosaur.   Libraries now days are more than just books.   The provide computers for use to people who have none, books both with pages and electronic for your e-reader, hot spots for free internet access and classes.    Today people have to apply for jobs online and without the library they are left out.   Kids who have not computer at home depend on it for school work, applying to college and getting ready to be productive adults.  They host free tax seminars, book clubs and so much more.   Libraries provide so much to our communities.

Local Hospice Hospice has been there for our family in our hometowns as our parents entered their last days.    They were there providing us with support  we did not know we needed.    We have since moved away, and now give to the local hospice who has been there for our friends and someday may be there for us as well.

I hope that this list has made you think about how you can make a difference with your giving.   I really think that giving at the local level can make a bigger difference because more of your dollar ends up making a difference.   Odds are your gift will probably impact a someone you know.

Adult Cat finds a New Home

2013-07-13-Lily-editThere is something about adult animals that go to a shelter that break my heart.    I know sometimes it is as the result of unforeseen and unmanageable circumstances and when those are the reasons it  pulls at my heart strings.  One of the  hardest reasons for a pet surrender is when a person dies or goes in to a long-term-care facility and their life’s companion can’t find a home short of the shelter.   Any cat who is ten or older and suddenly find themselves at a shelter, my mind wonders what they must think happened.   I read those stories and know that I could become one of those crazy pet owners who has too many animals.   I allow myself one cat and one dog.   That’s my limit based on time we give our pets and the economics of being a responsible pet owner.

We once again found ourselves catless and I wasn’t sure when we would add a cat back into our home.   You never are sure when the time will be right let go of your sadness and move on.   Then if you are like me and are drawn to the older cats, there are so many of them. How to know which one is yours based on that picture online and a visit at the cat room at the shelter?   Your tender heart grows sadder with each story.   Yet, you know that there is only one cat you can change the life of, which one is it?

I found what I thought was supposed to be our  cat last week.  She was nearly 11 years old, and had been turned in because they had a new baby and the husband did not want her around the baby.  She had been at the shelter since March.   I called the shelter and it turns out someone had already put in a potential adoption for her.   I knew destiny had found her a home and she wasn’t mine, even though I was sure she should be.    This week she was still there and when I check it turned out the first person did not pan out.    My gut was telling me go meet this cat.   So we headed off to the city to the shelter for a meet and greet. We came home with a new cat.

The transition period is going well.   We are still waiting for her to tell us what her name is suppose to be.   She has a safe space where the dog is not allowed.   She has wandered out of her space  and explored her surroundings last evening after our dog, Harley, headed to his crate for the night.   But it is going to take a little while for her to find her footing.   She lost the only home she knew, spent four months in the limbo of a shelter, and now moved into a house.   She has no idea what that means, but we have time and patience while she finds her footing in her forever home.