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Confessions of an imperfect dog mom…”lean on me”.

Last Friday night our sweet Sam suddenly lost the use of his back legs.  He crossed over on Saturday morning.  We don’t know exactly how old he was…probably at least 14.  At his age and given his health history…we don’t feel surprised that his time came…but we are taken back at how bad we hurt.  Returning home to a house without Sam simply…sucks.  He was always waiting at the door for us…up on this back legs…smiling.  Home will never be the same.

Our three gorgeous boys are re-united…their ashes sit together on the mantle.

Sam’s ashes were ready first thing Monday morning…Bret left work as soon as we got the call and hurried to bring Sam home.  We sat in a bit of stupor as we looked at his ashes and then solemnly went on with our day.  Keeping busy is the best we can do for now.

I have sent a small amount of his ashes off to be made in to a necklace.  We will bury some of his ashes with Luna and Kringles and the rest will sit on the mantle between Hercules & Sparky ‘s ashes…our 3 boys are back together again…bittersweet.

It would have been really nice to “check out” from life this week…but I don’t have the luxury of taking time out for a quick “melt down”…I have two business to run and I have 7 other dogs to take care of.  It is times like these when I am especially grateful for all of our sweet pets…they not only keep me busy but also make it so I can continue to smile in the day.   Life with them, in fact, demands a lot of smiling. Still the pets are integral to each step of my daily routine and each step reminds me of Sam…Bret and I have both broke in to tears a few times a day all week.  Nothing is right without Sam.

My friend Jan came over Monday with a card and a gift…this lovely canvas of two dogs called “LEAN ON ME”.   I brought it in the house, sat down and looked at it… in the white stripes is some light writing…it is some of the lines from the song “Lean on Me”…like “I’ll help you carry on”…all I could do was weep…how completely we “lean on them”…at least how completely “I lean on them”…especially Sam.   Caring for all of our pets is a full time job.  I am wrapped up in cooking for them, exercising them, vet visits, playtime, baths, nail trims…picking up the poo and vacuuming up all the hair.  I lose track in all these moments of busyness at how richly they feed my soul. Especially Sam.  Sam was easy and always a pleasure.  In fact, he is probably the easiest dog Bret and I have had.  He was agreeable, goofy, and incredibly well mannered.  He was also trustworthy and constant…his presence was very big in this house…because we could all count on him.  I now know how much I leaned on him…because I feel it in his loss.  I wonder if he knew how important he was to all of us?

Today I did several hours of yard work. Normally, Sam would be at my side while I worked outside…supervising…it was his favorite thing.  In the past, if I left him in the house he would bark…a low, steady bark that would not stop until I came and got him.  I heard him barking today…but I could not call him out to be at my side.  He is not the first dog I have heard barking for me after they have passed.  I am coming to believe it is some sort of a spiritual goodbye ritual.

There really aren’t accurate words for what I feel when I lose a dog…our language is so limiting…the best I can come with is that each one leaves a new hole in my heart…it can’t be filled by another dog…it doesn’t work that way…the hole will remain there until I see them again.  Over time it gets less painful…but it never heals.

The worst thing about fresh grief is that it reopens the old holes…each loss brings back a bit of the sting of previous losses.  I think we are grieving the loss of Luna and Kringles all over again.  But it also reminds me how richly blessed my life has been by so many of God’s sweet creatures.  Grief can only exist where true love once dwelled.   There has been so much love in our home.

Bret and I realized the night after Sam died that our entire marriage is framed by dogs…we wouldn’t be the same people, as individuals or as a married couple, without the dogs.  When we first married a friend told us that our marriage will “rub the rough edges off of us”…and it sure has…but our life with dogs has polished those rough edges…it makes life bright and shiny.

We are simple people…every penny we have literally “goes to the dogs”…we will leave no legacy…no one will remember Bret or Nancy.   We are not “religious” people but we are guided by the simple spiritual principles of figures like St. Francis and the Quakers…particularly in regards to stewardship of all creatures/creation.  One of our favorite quotes is this; “I expect to pass through the world but once.  Any good therefore that I can do, or any act of kindness I can show to any creature, let me do it now.  Let me not defer it, for I shall not pass this way again.” (Stephen Grellet). Caring for the sweet animals is our way of expressing how much we love God’s good creation and the sisterhood/brotherhood we feel with the animals.

Very often I have to remind myself that “my pets” are “not mine”.  Death is the ultimate reminder that I am just a temporary steward.   Death makes the concept/notion of “ownership” of a pet  a fallacy.  Besides, referring to them as “property” seems entirely inappropriate in the context of the true nature of the relationships we have with them.  If we learn to see them differently…as part of a divine creation…as eternal…well I think the world could be a significantly better place.

This morning I ran in to my friend Jan who gave us the “Lean on Me” canvas at the grocery store.  She asked me what day Sam died.  I said Saturday.  She told me that it was Saturday that she bought this canvas when out shopping for a prom dress for her daughter.  She knew she had no place for it in her house but for some reason she knew she had to get this piece.   The next day she saw my post about Sam. I am grateful for such a profound friend.

As I write this tonite, Millie is sound asleep in a small bed on my desk…she is snoring…like really loud.  I love the sound of her snoring.  It brings me comfort.  Tomorrow I get to wake up and have another busy dog filled day…I will be exhausted by the time I sit down at the end of it but my soul will be fed.  For now we will rest in our grief for Sam…rest in the mystery of life and of death… and be grateful that we live such a blessed life.

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of an imperfect dog mom…anything to make them comfortable.

Vibration Therapy for Pets…our experience as pet parents.

theraplate, stem cell therapy, the rescue mama, nancy halverson, senior dog care,
Sam on his Theraplate

I have written about our Sam in the past, particularly the success we have had treating him with stem cell therapy.  Bret and I know very little about the first 4+ years of Sam’s life…in fact all we know is that he clearly didn’t have enough to eat and for some reason the majority of his joints are badly deformed (perhaps Rickets when he was a puppy but who knows for sure).  He has been ours for over 10 years now and he is a wonderful companion.

20150129_220321
Sam and Luna snuggled on the Theraplate

Sam’s arthritis has been an issue since we adopted him.   Three years ago we thought we were at the end…he could no longer walk more than a few steps.  Stem Cell Therapy changed that and gave Sam renewed legs.  In the last year he has started to slow down again.  We heard about vibration therapy for arthritis and decided to give it try.   Vibration therapy is just what it sounds like…sitting still on a metal plate that vibrates.

We tried it the first time at our veterinarians office and Sam instantly laid down and fell asleep on the plate (so did Luna).  I did some reading on this form of therapy and ordered our own Theraplate.    I am not an expert on canine physiology so I won’t attempt to explain the science of how vibration therapy works.  I can only tell you what we have experienced and direct you to the research on the Theraplate website.

Sam was the reason we purchased the Theraplate…when Luna was alive she was on it every day as well.  After the first few sessions on the plate…Sam started going to the plate on his own…he would lie down and bark for me to come turn the plate on for him.  Certainly…vibration therapy is not a cure for a dog in Sam’s condition…but clearly it has provided comfort for Sam’s terrible arthritis.  When I tell him…”time for therapy”…he gets up and trots over to his plate.   After Luna passed away I started curling up on the Theraplate with Sam…it has become our time together to relax. Sam loves to be brushed and get belly rubs while he does therapy…these are moments I will cherish forever.

poodle_sm
The model we purchased…2 feet x 3 feet

I have bulging discs in my neck…for years they have been a nagging source of discomfort.  So I thought…why not try…its helping Sam.  I started on the Theraplate at least once a day.  It has provided significant relief from chronic neck pain for me.  It also afforded me the ability to start running again last fall.  As soon as I finish a run I lay down on it for 10-15 minutes…the therapy helps keep the aching of my old lady hips and knees at bay.

gorgeous-sam1We also put Snoopy on the Theraplate while he was recovering from his amputation.  Snoopy would doze off and relax almost immediately…not bad for a rambunctious puppy.

We purchased our Theraplate directly from the company.  It was just under $2,000 with shipping and arrived within a week of ordering.  There are other versions of the Theraplate on the market. My parents ordered a small device from Walmart.com and I know Nordic Trac makes a version too.  We are pleased with the investment we made in ours…I will always have at least a few older dogs in my home…it will never be unused.

All of our pets like the Theraplate (even the cats).  With the exception of Sam…who immediately got on the plate on his own with no concern…I introduce my pets to it by laying them on my belly while I am laying on the Theraplate.  I move them directly on to the plate after a few sessions and only for a short time until they are acclimated.

Vibration therapy started its popularity in the equine industry…to help horses heal faster from injuries.   It quickly spread to small animal therapy and also for humans.   Vibration therapy has many claims; increasing bone density, soothing pain, reducing inflammation, improving balance and more.  For us…(us being me and the dogs) it has provided significant relief from pain and has been well worth the investment.

If you would like to read more about our experience with stem cell therapy…follow this link:  Sam’s Stem Cell Therapy.

I am a full time rescue mom and artist.  My art helps support my family of pets and allows me to do something more for other animals still waiting for their forever homes.  I sell my art and cards at my ETSY shop.

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

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“The Rescuer”

“The Rescuer” wrote an article about my husband and me.  Its written by a rescue here in Central Kentucky called Paws 4 the Cause.  They are a humble group who fights really hard on the front lines of Kentucky’s rural communities that are very poor and have little to no resources for helping animals.  I am very flattered to have been highlighted by them.

I pasted the article below.  You can sign up for the “The Rescuer” at their Paws 4 the Cause website.

A Lifetime of Love

Nancy Halverson and her husband, Bret have a household filled with love. In 2000 they adopted their very first rescue, a lab mix named Sparky. The Halversons wanted a companion for the dog they had already purchased and made the life-changing decision to adopt.

Before finding his furever home, Sparky had been adopted out numerous times and brought back to the shelter for his unruly behavior. Deemed unadoptable, he was scheduled to be euthanized. Lucky for him, in came Nancy. Through love and patience Sparky went from an uncountable, destructive animal to a loyal loving companion to Nancy for 15 years.

Since adopting Sparky, the Halversons have continued to provide a loving home for animals deemed undesirable. Whether from a physical disability, or behavioral problems, the Halversons have found a place in their heart and their home—which they call “Misfit Manor”–for many animals.

Over the years they have fostered 9 dogs and cats, and adopted many more. Currently 8 dogs reside at Misfit Manor permanently. Snoopy, the newest resident recently had one of his legs amputated due to abuse he suffered before being rescued by the Halversons. He has been doing quite well in his recovery, and is sure to lead a full and happy life on three legs. Nancy says, “We tend to gravitate towards dogs that will have a harder time getting adopted. We don’t see age or handicap as a barrier to a full life. We don’t feel sorry for them. Rather, we fall in love with them (usually instantly). It’s just who we are.”

Behavioral problems are a big reason many pets get deemed unadoptable. Many people do not want to dedicate the work and time that goes in to rehabilitating these animals. The Halversons don’t shy away from such challenges. Lacey was a small dog with a big attitude. “We have three dogs currently in our home that came here with significant behavior issues; one was surrendered for chronically biting her people. The day I met her (she’s a little thing) she did a 3 foot vertical leap and bit my nose (hard). I seriously lost count of how many times she bit me the first few months she lived with us. But she was out of options so we adopted her.
Besides the work that goes into owning a special needs pet, there is another reason people tend to avoid them. Loss. When you first get a puppy, loosing them someday is usually the furthest thing from your mind. However, dealing with loss is often a consideration when adopting a senior pet. Most of us can be a little selfish, thinking of the heartache we will have to face and will avoid it. Not the Halversons. For them, it’s all about the dogs. They make sure all of their animals have a full and happy life—for however long that may be. By taking it day by day, they don’t take one minute for granted. Even still, it is never easy to loose a pet.
“Our goal as pet parents is to give each one of them the fullest life possible and that may not be traditional with their health challenges, but we make it work.
I’m that “crazy lady” that shows up at the park with a stroller full of senior/handicap dogs.”

-Nancy Halverson

Recently Nancy lost her beloved Luna, a chihuahua mix she carried everywhere with her. Luna had a very hard life before finding her way to Nancy for her final eighteen months. Not only had her age caught up with her, but her little body was broken from years of abuse. Despite all of the set-backs, Nancy gave Luna the best months of her life. For those of us that had the pleasure of meeting Luna, she no doubt made a lasting impression on your heart—and especially Nancy’s.
“But to be honest….physical difficulties in dogs are really not an issue for us or for the dogs.  Dogs cope with aging and disability quite gracefully.  People may perceive them as having challenges but these dogs make fabulous pets.  I wish more people could see this.”
-Nancy Halverson
The eventual loss of a pet is unfortunately something that all pet owners will have to face someday. Everyone deals with grief in their own way. For Nancy, she takes refuge in art. She creates hand-made pet condolence cards, and other pet-themed cards encouraging adoption. I think we can all learn a lot from the Halversons. They do not let heartache stop them. In fact, in only seems to make their hearts even bigger. Rescuing and rehabilitating dogs with a death-sentence is extremely rewarding for people like the Halversons. They get the satisfaction of saving lives and these lucky animals get a lifetime of love.
Click on  the above photos to see Nancy’s Etsy page.
Click the link below to go to Nancy’s website.
The Rescue Mama
O.F.C. Raffle
In case you haven’t heard, we are having a raffle for an ultra-rare bottle of bourbon–one of only 100 ever made. This bottle of 1980 O.F.C. donated by Buffalo Trace is estimated to be valued at $10,000!
We still have a few raffle tickets available for this ultra-rare bottle of bourbon. Don’t miss out!

We will be co-hosting an event with Willie’s Locally Known on February 22nd. This will be your last chance to buy a ticket before we announce the lucky winner that night!

Winner will be announced March 1st, 2017.
Buy Your Raffle Tickets Here
Canines of the Month
These two were captured living on their own out in the wilderness right
before Winter set in. Butch (the big one) is the younger protector and
Sundance (the little one) is a natural cuddle bug. They have looked out
for each other for a long time, and suspect they are related somehow.
Butch is larger and playful, the easier of the two and a typical Jack
Russell in many ways, without all the yappiness. Sundance will require
time, but with a little nurturing will become a forever bed bug. Once he
bonds, it’s forever. He just needs to feel safe first.
Dog Adoption Form
Willie’s Locally Known to Host O.F.C. Event

If you haven’t had the chance to check out Lexington’s newest hot spot for food, drinks, and live music, here’s your chance! Willie’s Locally Known has partnered with P4tC to host a special event–and the only event where you’ll be able to buy your O.F.C. raffle tickets. Wednesday, February 22nd from 5-9pm Willie’s will be offering a special course-menu deal and bourbon-based mixed drink created by their expert staff especially for P4tC! A portion of these specials will be directly donated to our organization. The Cerny Brothers will be playing great tunes too! Come enjoy incredible food, drinks, and live music. We’ll also be set up with our P4tC merchandise, and of course be selling O.F.C. raffle tickets and announcing the big winner that night!

Interested in volunteering at this event? Contact us!

Felines of the Month
This is a brother and sister team that need a home–together. They are in foster care right now.
The foster says they love each other so much that she can’t bear the idea of them going to separate homes. Both are litter trained and very well-behaved, despite being rambunctious 5-month-olds.
They have been fully vetted and spayed/neutered.

These two need to go to home together, as they are sure to be playmates for life!

Cat Adoption Form
Fight the Winter Blues & Help Save Lives!
Schedule a Pet-A-Pet Fundraiser
Sign up for our Volunteer Contact List
Foster
Donate
Supplies Needed Click Links Below:

Paper Towels (Bounty, Select-a-size)

Towels

Dog Food Bowls (Stainless Steel)

Steel Water Pails

Cat Food (Corn Free)

Dog Food (Corn Free)

Leashes

Collars

Crates

“Adopt Me” Collars

“Adopt Me” Vest

Have your group or business sponsor a kennel!
These types of kennels are essential to running our rescue, but the price tag is a little hefty for an individual to bear. Group fundraisers can be great team-builders, and the results benefit a great cause! Organize your group or business to do a fundraiser of your design. Be creative and have fun! For every $600 your group donates, we will purchase one of these heavy-duty kennels and name it after your business or group.
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Confessions of an imperfect dog mom…Snoopy’s big day!

sweetboyThe first day I picked up Snoopy from our local Humane Society, despite his broken leg, he seemed a typical rambunctious and happy puppy….until I loaded him in my car.  He began to howl (like really loud), squirm and was clearly very agitated.  If he wasn’t harnessed in a car seat it would have been chaos.  He calmed back down when we got out of the car.  I ended up taking him to the vet within a few hours as it was pretty clear he was having pain issues.   When we got back in the car…it was the same howling and anxiety all over again…which then recurred every time we got in the car throughout his several week ordeal (broken leg that was eventually amputated).  It was clear that he was associating riding in the car with bad things…who could blame him with all he has been through in his short little life.   Years ago I adopted a two year lab (Sparky) who had extreme anxiety in the car…it made life a lot more complicated and it took years to work him through the anxiety.  No chance I was going to let this happen with Snoopy.20170127_112701

So this week we started working on changing his car ride association…I wanted to make a  car ride mean something good for him.   We spent a few days just walking out to the car a few times per day and I gave him bits of ham treats when we got to the car and said “car ride” (we never got in the car).    Then we graduated to actually getting in the car, with ham treats and “car ride” but getting out immediately.   Then we graduated to taking really short car rides, with ham treats and “car ride” being repeated the whole time.

Sitting politely at Lowe's waiting to greet ladies!
Sitting politely at Lowe’s waiting to greet ladies!

Today…I took Snoopy out on his first big errand run…we left the ham behind.   He was a different dog in the car.  He sat quietly in his car seat…no howling…no squirming.  He did great sitting politely and greeting new people at Lowe’s…he went to the skin clinic and charmed pretty ladies and he went out for his first puppuccino.   I couldn’t be more proud of him.

No such thing as too much cream!
No such thing as too much cream!

It has been a really long time since I have had a puppy in the house.  I know how crucial their first few months are in terms of proper socialization and Snoopy’s most impressionable months were spent getting his leg horribly broken, dying under anesthesia once (waking up blind for awhile) and finally having to heal from a successful amputation of the leg.  He has some social “catch up” to do but he is doing great.

I am always amazed at how trusting dogs who have been through hell are.   Snoopy has every reason to be cautious of people but Snoopy gives everyone the benefit of the doubt (unless they are pushing a shopping cart…need to work on that).   His wagging tail and charming personality are like a balm in a harsh world.  The world needs more Snoopy.

Rescue On!

Nancy

If you are looking for pet rescue themed artwork or handmade pet sympathy cards please check out my ETSY shop!

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The truth about Marge…the “paradox of rescue”.

leftbehindFacebook, every once in awhile, pops up “memory pictures and posts”.  I have mixed emotions about this feature because sometimes it brings back a memory I don’t want to revisit.  Recently, Facebook delivered pictures of a fox hound we fostered last year, named Marge.

Marge followed me home last December when I was walking Buster.  She was young, very skinny, flea bitten and had a few puncture wounds in her back end…but was otherwise healthy and an absolutely delightful creature.  She was absurdly obedient and enthusiastic to please her humans.  She played beautifully with other dogs.  My husband and I thought for sure that Marge must just be “lost” from her family.  Someone had to be missing her because she was such a wonderful dog.  We tried everything we could think of to find her family.  Our local Humane Society took her on TV to make an appeal to find her family.  I did Internet searches on her microchip data and literally called every possible person listed in the entire country with that name. marge-poster  I posted her on every possible rescue and shelter site within a several hundred miles.  I paid for a pet “amber alert”. maddiemarge We held out for quite a while.  But it was crickets.  No one was looking for sweet Marge.  We loved having her with us for Christmas.  Eventually, after zero contact from her family, our local Humane Society put her up for adoption.  She was adopted quickly by a lovely couple.  We said that terribly sad “foster dog goodbye” but knew Marge was headed for a great life.  Both Bret and I moped around the house for days after she left.  Maddie and Buster missed her a lot.  Her new dad called us daily for a while with reports on how Marge was adjusting.  They clearly loved her and had compassion for how hard it is to say goodbye to a foster.  Good people.

Fast forward 6 months.  I was out walking my dogs and a neighbor approached me.  He told me how happy he was to see that I had taken in that “poor fox hound” last winter.  I exclaimed…”you knew that dog…where did she come from?”.  Well, as it turns out Marge had only lived a few blocks from me, with a family.  Her family moved away and left Marge behind in the yard.  The neighbor said she hung around the house for a long time…waiting for them to come home.  They never came home.  Eventually she started running the hood looking for food.  Thank God she found us.  I was flooded with anger and sadness at this news.  How could anyone abandon this sweet dog? Who would leave her to fend on her own?  I hate people!feeling-safe

20140918_190455And thus, the “paradox of rescue”.  I exist on the periphery of rescue.  I adopt only rescues, foster and volunteer where I can.  I use my art to raise money.  But I do not work deep in the trenches of rescue like many of my friends do.  But I see more than enough to make me angry…a lot…it is steadily costing me my faith in humanity.   Neglect and cruelty are rampant where I live…I realize these problems are  every where…but here in Kentucky there are no laws to protect animals…no deterrents…and there is certainly no justice for animals.

Yet, there is no “rescue” at all if you don’t put faith in humanity to re-home the very same dogs who have been neglected, abandoned and abused by humanity.  It really is a horrible paradox.  I have met people who initially appeared to be kind and just…good potential pet parents…who later turned and dumped their adopted dog in a kill shelter.  I have met many others who are wonderful pet parents. It is an odd paradox to be engulfed in an economy where the work makes you hateful and suspicious of most people but also requires that you trust some of them.

I have no answers…no wisdom other than this;  rescue doesn’t work without people.  No matter how hard you try to vet potential adopters there will always be lemons/scumbags and there will never be enough good adopters.   The scumbag puppy millers and backyard breeders will keep making money off the genitals of the innocent and perpetuate the flood of homeless animals. The reality is five innocent animals die per minute in our shelters…every stinking day.  But without people we will never make things better.   The animals are 100% at our mercy.mommarge

Of one thing I am certain…kindness to animals should be easy…but I have to wonder…why is it so elusive?  Animals are without guile, greed  or malice.  It is frightening that we are incapable of doing right by them.  The mass killing that goes on in our shelters is a human created problem.  We could fix it.  But we don’t.  It is such a small percentage of the population that works tirelessly to make a difference for animals.   Laws that protect the innocent and punish the evil doers should be easy…but they are insufficient…where I live….the laws just don’t exist.  What does this say about our society…a society who claims it is just and evolved?   Justice, fairness, compassion…kindness…these are not abstracts…they are intuitively obvious and clear…but yet elusive when it comes to animal care.

Most people in rescue are over-worked and usually emotionally exhausted….it is grueling and heart breaking work.   Becoming suspicious of people is an inevitable symptom.  Most have developed an edge; I sure have.   I don’t keep my mouth shut when someone tells me about their “accidental litter”…or about the “designer dog” (expensive mutt) they plan to pay a fortune for.  I tell them the truth.  Five innocent animals die per minute in our shelters every stinking day and these type of actions are the reasons why.  You are either part of the solution or part of the problem…we all bear responsibility to make a difference.   Maybe with some people it will at least make them think about better options…most probably just think I’m a crazy fanatic.  I can live with the label of fanatic…I don’t do anything with half of my heart, have long passed the age where I care what others think of me…and answer only to my conscience.

bretmargeThere is no grey area…too many animals suffer in this country at the hands of humans.  Only humans can fix it.  The moral of the Marge story is this, and it didn’t hit me until I finished this post, Marge completely understood the “paradox of rescue”…in fact…most animals do.   She had every reason to hate people…to resent the creepy bastards who left her behind in a yard to starve…yet she chose (or you could argue she was created) to put her faith in people.   Maybe the only solution to the “paradox of rescue” is to think more like the dogs.

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

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Crafts for Pet Lovers

Pet themed coasters…a quick and simple to make gift idea.

MAIN6My husband and I recently finished up decorating some new vacation rental properties…one of which is a pet friendly unit.  I needed some coasters for the unit…when I attempted to shop for them I was surprised at what stores charge for coasters  these days…so I made some of my own.  After a little research on materials they were super easy and fast to make.

Your Supply list: Travetine tiles (Home Depot), Grout Sealer, Archival stamp pad, stamps, felt or cork backing

The best tiles for coasters are travertine…porous tiles.  Stamping on non-porous/glazed tiles is not going to work.  The only place I could find the TILEStravertine tiles (at a reasonable price) was Home Depot.  I purchased two different styles of these Premiere Decor tiles…both worked fine.   Be careful when you buy them…inspect the package as best you can to make sure none of the tiles are cracked, chipped or broken.    Your results will be best if you rinse the tiles well before you use them (let them dry over night).

STAMPSI used a variety of stamps I had in the house to decorate the tiles.  You will need to use an archival stamping ink.  I use the Ranger Archival Ink pads for most projects.  You can get these pads at Michaels or Hobby Lobby…they are usually about $12.00 and they last a really long time.    After you stamp your design on your coasters let the ink dry (I would let it set for at least a few hours).

I looked up all sorts of methods for waterproofing coasters before I did this project.  I saw ideas to use everything from Mod Podge to boat sealer.  I don’t know about boat sealer…didn’t try it.  But I am not a fan of using Mod Podge SEALERon coasters because it does not interact well with water.  I wanted a waterproof coaster…not smudged by or stained by a sweating glass.  Since my husband and I just finished remodeling several bathrooms we had a bottle of grout sealer on hand.  I gave it a try and it turned out to be a great solution for waterproofing these coasters.  I set my stamped (dry) coasters in a box..took them outside (grout sealer smells) and sprayed them (soaked them actually) with the grout sealer.  I let them dry and repeated the spray two more times.  The end result was washable, non-smudging coasters.

The last step was to back the coasters so they wouldn’t scratch my tables.  I used a metal die for my Big Shot to cut my backings…but you could easily just cut squares by hand.  I glued my backing (I used cork that I picked up at Michaels) with Beacon’s glue.  Beacons is my “go to”
20141015_22302920141015_222006glue for projects that need a really heavy duty glue.  Beacon’s has a wicked odor…so open a window and don’t get it on your fingers.   Once Beacons glue is completely dry the odor is gone.  I set my coasters upside down and let the glue dry overnight.

coastersI also tried this project with coasters that I hand painted with acrylic paint.  The grout sealer worked well to waterproof the hand painted coasters.

Have fun!

20160312_161502 (1)
Our sweet Luna!

Things here at Misfit Manor have been insanely busy…our vacation rentals have been busy and the dogs keep me endlessly (but joyously) occupied.   We are all happy to see spring…it is so lovely here in Kentucky.

If you love all things pet and pet rescue please follow my blog and/or my Facebook Page.  I also have a Pinterest Page full of great resources for pet lovers.  If you are looking for pet rescue art, pet sympathy items or pet adoption cards please check out The Rescue Mama ETSY shop!  Also, check out some of my other free pet craft tutorials on my website.

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

 

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Pet Rescue Art: Life as a Chihuahua Mama…

Life with Chihuahuas takes over my art…

chihuahua art, chihuahua rescue, chihuahua painting
Capturing the Chihuahua personality

When my husband and I moved to Kentucky we signed up to foster dogs with several local rescue groups…we have fostered 9 dogs in about a years time.  Throughout the year several Chihuahua’s came to our home…all of whom were precious and two of whom we adopted.  Neither of us had previous experience with Chihuahuas…now both my husband and I are enamored with this breed.

The girls we adopted, Lucy and Luna, were shelter mates.  We know nothing about their lives prior to landing in a Kentucky shelter.  Luna is very old…she has some fairly serious health issues but is still sprite and we couldn’t love her more.  Despite her physical challenges Luna still boss

Chihuahua art, Chihuahua rescue, The Rescue Mama, Nancy Halverson
Chihuahua Mamas are the best!

es all the other dogs around.  Lucy is very young, she stole my husbands heart and somehow manages to be both the sassiest dog we have ever met yet also the sweetest.

Shortly after we adopted Lucy and Luna I started doing some reading on the breed…it was then I realized how at risk the Chihuahua breed is in shelters.  I was aware that they are at high risk in places like California but I had no idea they have the second highest kill rate in shelters nationally, behind only pit bulls…heart breaking and senseless.   I had a lot of time this fall to do some sketching while I was dabbling in the world of doing art shows…Luna came with me to most of my shows.  My Chihuahua girls dominated my sketches…I finally turned two of the sketches in to paintings and I am looking forward to finishing more them.  I am having a lot of fun turning the combination of sassy and sweetness of the Chihuahua personality into paintings.

Both of these originals will hang at the Central Kentucky Veterinary Center in Georgetown, KY until they sell.  I will have prints and cards available by the middle of next week.

Rescue On!

Nancy

If you are crazy about all things pet and pet rescue follow my Facebook Page and Pinterest Page.  If you need pet rescue art or pet sympathy cards check out my ETSY shop.

 

 

 

 

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Confessions of an imperfect dog mom: the essence of “dogness”

This photo was taken the 2nd time I did a training session with Buster. I did all the work for those first few sessions...I worked to earn his trust.
This photo was taken the 2nd time I did a training session with Buster. I did all the work for those first few sessions…I worked to earn his trust.

A few days ago I was out walking with Turnip…I had a very sweet “ah ha” moment when I realized that Turnip was walking like a normal dog and has been for a long time…I think I have taken his progress for granted…relaxed…tail up…sniffing…no fear.  He has changed so much, albeit gradually, that when I paused to think about it…the change in him….seems like magic…it makes me smile.   It got me thinking about how much both Buster and Turnip have changed since we met them last year.

Bret and I have always had a soft heart for the creatures that have some challenges…maybe we can both relate.   Turnip was challenged by pretty much everything…door ways…stairs…men…blowing leaves…noises…when I started walking him I had to lure him with ham while he slithered on his belly a bit further down the driveway each day.   We used to have leave the room to get him to go in and out the door for potty breaks.   There was a time when he would not let anyone but me near him…now he will take food from the hands of strangers and a select few can pet him.

Pet Rescue Photo Art

Buster loves the girls...and they love him.
Buster loves the girls…and they love him.

Buster was a different type of special…he was bred to work…to guard…he just needed to find his rhythm (and some boundaries) for a successful family life.  He found them.   But in hindsight he has changed dramatically…Buster lived at a kennel when I first started working with him..I was uncomfortable letting him near my own dogs.  Now he is a ladies man…all of our fosters fall in love with him and any human that visits is his new best friend.  Don’t get me wrong…Buster is not a dog to trifle with…but he figured out where he fits here and he does everything with enthusiasm.

Watching Buster and Turnip change has been rewarding…Bret and I are deeply invested in both of them…we work hard with our dogs that need extra help…these two have taken an extraordinary amount of our time.  Our investment in them seems so much larger since we took in the girls this year (Lucy, Luna & Maddie).  The girls are so laid back and well adjusted…they were an immediate and effortless fit here.  The contrast between the boys and the girls made me think more about investing time in relationships general…do I afford people the same “space and grace” that I am more than happy to give the dogs?   Do any of us?  Do I work as hard at relationships with difficult humans as I did with Buster and Turnip?  I had a wicked determination with Buster…giving up was not an option.  What if I had that same determination with people?

Best Day Ever...the day we adopted Turnip.
Best Day Ever…the day we adopted Turnip.
Buster has such a big personality...
Buster has such a big personality…

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile…my conclusion is that I need to re-frame how I choose to interact with humans.  If I could get away with it I would interact with people very little…its not that I don’t “like” people…I’m just an introvert…I prefer to be a lone…I have fun when I am alone…if I don’t get enough time alone than I am not myself.  If I have been around a lot of people for an extended amount of time (even though I enjoy it) I will be exhausted.   I am comfortable with being an introvert and I make sure to protect the boundaries I need to stay spiritually and emotionally healthy.  But its possible I have been using my introversion as an excuse to not extend more grace to people in general.  I think about the most basic things I afforded to Buster and Turnip while they figured things out…it was space (to figure things out at their own pace) and grace (remaining consistently caring no matter what kind of shenanigans were going on).  I suppose those are the same two things most would say they would afford their children.  But do we afford them to adults?  Buster and Turnip had tremendous baggage…they were not young puppies to shape and socialize…they were emotionally banged up…as most adult humans are…as I am.  If you looked at either of these dogs on the outside…they looked like handsome, healthy adult dogs…not so on the inside….as is the case with most adults…myself included.   What would happen if I worked harder at seeing Buster and Turnip in everyone?

FB_IMG_1450344878989There is a dog person saying, you’ve heard it….”the more people I get to know the more I like dogs”…its kind of a funny saying…and often it can be true.  But it also flies in the face of the essence of “dogness”…the very glory of a dog is its unconditional love and tolerance for humans.  If there is no human for them to love…than there is no “dogness”.  The intrinsic nature of a dog is rooted in its relationship to us.  We rob dogs of their wonder if we don’t afford humans the same space, grace and effort that the dog’s give us.  Perhaps the main reason dogs are here for us to reflect them…to reflect their “dogness” in to our own relationships…I want more “dogness” in my own essence…

Rescue On!

Nancy

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Confessions of an imperfect dog mom…

Living in the land of dichotomies…my weapons of war…

lucy quoteI think I need to make an early new years resolution…to blog more regularly.  I blog for two reasons…I want to share my passion for animals and my own need to clear my head…they are intimately connected I think.

Technology is a funny thing.  There is a fine line, I believe, between staying “connected enough” with the world to be useful to the world and becoming “compassion fatigued” as a result of being “too connected”.  I have had several days…a week really…where I have had to “unplug”.  The steady barrage of horror stories, the unceasing amount of animals surrendered to kill shelters in Kentucky…the complete lack of will by the “elected class” to protect animals…it never stops.  It is easy to fall prey to the lie that it is hopeless and just shut down emotionally.

Kentucky is a strange place…it is a place of dichotomies.  A place where on the one hand…their is tremendous passion for animals…the celebration of the horse in Kentucky borders on a form of worship.  But on the other hand neglect, abuse and flat out ignorance brings on the suffering of a truly staggering number of animals.   On the one hand the rescue groups here are all overwhelmed and running on shoe string budgets…competing with each other for the small amount of donations available from a populace with one of the lowest wage rates in the country.  But on the other hand the horse auctions just took place in Lexington where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by a handful of people hoping to buy that next superstar race horse.   The inequity of it all is quite mind numbing.   But it has been this way forever…indeed a strange place and the dichotomies don’t just apply to the way animals are treated.

On so many very serious levels Kentucky is so terribly behind the rest of the country; health, education and wages are ranked at the bottom in the country.   Maybe it takes an outsider to see how grossly some of these things stand out…at least to see how Kentucky fares relative to other parts of the country.   Perhaps this is the closest I have ever lived to some of these issues and the contrast bothers me.  The contrast of extreme wealth (horse barns nicer than most homes) juxtaposed with extreme poverty (others live in campers…not trailers…but campers).

downloadI walk all over this town with my dogs everyday…I see beauty and pride in the community all over the place…there is also a lot of poverty, blight and hopelessness.  The signs of how so many lives are being short changed by a poor education system and the impact of addiction are everywhere.  So often, I miss Apple Valley…my whistle clean, prosperous and homogenous home town.  But now it almost feels that it wasn’t real…reality is here…and I am meant to see it, live it…be it.   I can’t say we fully understand why yet but Bret and I both know that we were right where we are supposed to be.  This town, this house and at this time…is where we are meant to be.

So much contrast…gross dichotomy all around me…and it bothers me…so much it makes my bones feel cold.   There is darkness and hopelessness like I have never seen before…sometimes its downright scary…a form of spiritual poverty I have never felt before.

At the same time…there is a spirit force in some of the local Kentuckians that is remarkable.  It’s a fighting spirit…its a never give up spirit.   I didn’t know until I toured the Kentucky armory recently that Kentucky has sent more men to fight in every single war (relative to its population) than every other state in our country…every single one.   Many people have a  fierce self-understanding of who they are as Kentuckians.  Whether you agree with them or not they know what they stand for and I respect that.  There is also an earthiness about the people here…something I have really come to love and hope to write more about some time.

veteran+funeralThere is an unsung compassion here too.  Not too long ago there was a funeral director who went public with a body he had been given custody of.  A man, a vet…who had no family, no friends…not a single contact…died in a nursing home, alone, with never a visitor.  The funeral director asked for people who might consider coming to his funeral…hundreds..seriously hundred of people… showed up for his funeral.  Despite the warts…there is something powerfully good here too…often it feels like I have a naked view of spiritual warfare…something that was more deeply shadowed in Minnesota.

These days; I am a “girly, girl” as my husband says…I cry a lot these days…I cry when I see something sad, something happy, something compassionate…I just cry a lot…my husband thinks its cute…but I know its how I fully experience what is going on around me…really feel things deep down in my bones…the way we were made to feel things…if that makes sense.  For most of my life…I did not cry…I had a very narrow range of emotions…I did not feel.

A few weeks ago…I had a conversation with a local friend who works in throes of pet rescue…he was at a point of disgust…that giving up point where anger and frustration can over take the desire to keep trying…at least for a while.  I told him…”I know that spot…I know it well.  But I also know that the only way out of that hole is to fight…and for me that means fighting with the only weapons God gave me…forgiveness, compassion and the will to do good.”   I subsequently spent a week re-trenching from the same feelings of despair.

nickelThen I got a call about a dog named Nickel.  He needed a ride out of a kill shelter to safe place.  Off I went…Nickel paid his fare in kisses and snuggles.  My soul was fed for a week.  I needed Nickel to remind me of my own words.

When all else fails…and darkness seems brighter than the light…grab your weapons and look for your Nickel.

If you are a lover of all things pet and pet rescue consider following my blog or my Facebook Page.  I also have a Pinterest Page full of resources for pet parents.  And of course if you are in need of any pet sympathy cards or pet rescue art check out my Rescue Mama Shop.

Rescue on!

Nancy

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Winners of the Buster breed contest!

Buster is a Yellow Mountain Cur!

butser wonderfulI had a good time having this contest and I hope all who made guesses had fun too!  Bret picked the winning names from the correct guesses out of hat for me (I know…not very scientific but I am just a rescue mom).

The winners are:

First Prize: ($25 Electronic Gift Card to my ETSY shop):  Elizabeth Waterbury

Second Prize: (Cat Rescue Art Print): Gail Clement

Third Prize:  (3 pack of Pet Sympathy Cards):  Crista Becker

Our favorite breed is, and always will be, “rescued”.  But Buster was a bit of puzzle from a behavior stand point and learning about his breed has been really helpful.  He has been, by far, the most challenging dog I have worked with.  Once I learned about his breed I gained a much greater appreciation for his personality and made changes to how I work with him…and frankly grew to admire his personality rather than feel the need to re-shape it.

Make no bones about it…a Mountain Cur is not a good choice for a family dog…nor is a suburban environment a good choice for this breed.  This breed needs an avid hunter with a lot of property for this dog to roam.  We have figured out how to make it work…let Buster be who he is meant to be and teach him alternate behaviors to reign in some of his exuberance.  I LOVE working with Buster.   Once we figured out what breed Buster was we could see much of his behavior for what it was…characteristic of his breed…not problematic…perception can be everything.   I started networking with other folks like me who unknowingly ended up with a Mountain Cur and had made the commitment to make a successful life for them.    I have learned a lot.

A Mountain Cur is a dog with a novel history…this region probably would not have been settled with out these dogs.  They are nothing to be trifled with and are bred to work and protect.  They are wicked smart and athletic.  They are also fiercely loyal and incredibly affectionate.  We are honored to have Buster as part of our family.

Thanks for participating in our contest!

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

 

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Confessions of an imperfect dog mom: Luna

For the love of Luna!

adopted lunaSeveral weeks ago I got a call from the local humane society that there were two female Chihuahuas at the shelter that needed a foster home.  Bret and I had recently fostered two other Chihuahuas and had a great time with both of them (both found new homes quite quickly).  When I arrived at the shelter to get them…the shelter was full…loud and chaotic…stressed out dogs barking.  The shelter staff took me to a kennel at the very end…it looked empty.  She lifted the large dog bed up and there I saw the two little girls huddled together; shaking and hiding under the bed.  She moved fast and put them in a carrier.  I left fast. I hate being in the shelter.  I had barely gotten a look at either dog.

When I arrived at home with the dogs Bret met me in the yard and we opened the carrier and let them out.  The younger dog came out first; timid but she looked like a young and healthy dog.  Then Luna came out.  She had a really bad limp, a permanently crumpled up ear, a hunched back, a few really rotten and smelly teeth and a clearly broken tail.  We were INSTANTLY in love with her.

We kept the normal routine of fostering for a few weeks…figuring we had to at least give a fair shake to her chance at adoption.  But we quickly failed miserably…we made Luna ours forever.luna pjs

Pet Rescue Photo Art

We know nothing of Luna’s history nor why she ended up at the shelter.  She has an agreeable personality as long as there is not a lot of commotion around her and she is perfectly potty trained.  I suspect someone loved her a lot and somewhere along the way something tragic happened to cause her injuries…but who knows.

Luna
Luna

We took her for a wellness check right after we adopted her. The vet believes she is around 12 years old…he confirmed all the old injuries we suspected and pulled out her last little snaggle tooth. (She is totally toothless now).   Luna is deaf and has cataracts dimming her vision.  She has an amazing attitude.

I am of the belief that each dog has come in to our lives exactly when they are supposed to.  I don’t pretend to know why some steal our hearts and others don’t…but Luna was love at first sight.  Despite her obvious physical issues…Luna has great enthusiasm.  She is curious, adventurous (to a fault), always up for a car ride…and wants to hang out with me wherever I am.  She is also accepting…of the other animals, of bed time in her crate and of living with joy despite her obvious challenges.  We love her spirit…her excitement.  When we arrive home after being gone for even a short while Luna comes to life…jumping up and down, squealing and rolling on her back with her legs in the air.  All dogs get excited…but when they show joy in the face of the physical challenges that Luna has…with such enthusiasm…it melts our hearts.luna shuffle

partycar1Luna can walk around fine on her own but she has a pretty bad limp and clearly has pain in her right leg (a broken leg that did not heal properly).  I added her to my routine of wagon riding with Kringles at the park.  The two are great wagon mates…they truly seem to enjoy each other’s mellow company.  Luna barks at all the big dogs walking by…so funny.  Luna stands in the front of the wagon the whole walk….wind blowing in her hair…the chance for her to cruise around and sight see without having to use her own broken body to get around…it is really something to see.  The daily wagon rides with her and Kringles are always the highlight of my day.wagon riding

I no longer feel the need to justify why I feel the way I do about certain things…I used to…but maybe I am finally old enough to trust my instincts.  For some odd reason…when I met Luna I was able to feel Sparky again.  I love all my dogs…but caring for Sparky as he aged was such an honor…I loved every minute of it…it was the only time that I felt I was giving back anywhere near the love he had given me.   Luna brings back that sense of satisfaction and purpose…and I love it.  I hope we have Luna with us for many years…but I am also realistic about how long her life with us will be.  For now…what a joy to have the honor of being part of her life.

together foreverWe also adopted her shelter mate…Lucy…while they weren’t bonded to a point that they couldn’t be adopted separately…as you can see in this picture…we did not want to break them apart.  I don’t know if they are related…perhaps Luna is Lucy’s mother.  Lucy is less than 2 years old.   I will write about Lucy soon…she is wild and a complete delight!  She is Bret’s dog…through and through.

Life at Misfit Manor has been busy…our first vacation rental property is doing well…Bret can work from home now and on Friday we are closing on three more rental units….very exciting (and scarey).  In the meantime…we continue our daily routine in our little slice of heaven that we call Misfit Manor…just a bunch of connected souls on the great and messy journey we call life.

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

 

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The Buster Contest…what breed of dog am I?

What kind of dog is Buster?

breed of dog

Just to be clear…our favorite breed of dog is “rescued”.  We took Buster in to our home because he had some…let’s call them “quirks” that needed to be worked out.  We fell in love with him quirks and all.   Buster is a super handsome boy…from day one people were asking us what kind of dog he was…not just because he is handsome but because (when he wants them to be) his manners can be stunning.  But Bret and I would shrug and say we rescued him and have no clue what kind of dog he is.  By total chance Bret stumbled on to the property of someone (Eastern Kentucky) who had a whole yard full of Busters…I mean identical…identical down to one very specific characteristic.  Turns out this person was a breeder of this certain type of dog…we showed him our Buster and told him what Buster’s personality was like…it appears we had a match.  Everything about Buster now makes a lot more sense!  We then did a DNA test on Buster to follow up.

So I thought why not have some fun with this and run a contest to let people guess at Buster’s breed?  I am even going to give out prizes!!!  The prizes are pictured below.  There are several more pictures of Buster pictured below.  I will be giving out hints on my Facebook Page each week.

Contest Rules:

You can enter as many (different) guesses as you want.  The contest will run for four weeks.  All of the correct guesses will be collected and the three winners will be chosen at random from the correct guesses.  I will contact all the winners via email and ship them their prizes.  I will announce the results on my Facebook Page as well.

The three prizes are: a $25.oo electronic gift card to my shop, an 8×10 cat rescue print and a 3 pack of my handmade pet sympathy cards.

gift card3packofcards

Cat Rescue Art
Cat Rescue Art Print (8×10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are a lover of all things pet and pet rescue please follow my blog.  I blog weekly about life and art with a house full of rescued pets.  I also have a Facebook Page where I post several times a week.  And I have a Pinterest Page where I have boards on every topic you could think of for pets.  If you are looking for a pet rescue art or pet sympathy cards please check out The Rescue Mama ETSY shop!

Here are some more pictures of Buster!

unnamed (7) unnamed (6) snow boy post buster in studio buster homeless

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Welcome to Misfit Manor!

We have officially named our home in Kentucky!

misfitmanorOur home in Kentucky is the first home that Bret and I chose and purchased together.  It is the first place that is truly “ours”.  We decided last summer that we wanted to give it a fitting name but wanted to ponder it for awhile.  This summer we officially decided on “Misfit Manor”.  Our home in Georgetown has a bit of history…well, its old, so I guess it has to have some history. We found a book that had some stories on our home.  It has been a home to a town doctor, it was a boarding house (believe it or not our home had 13 bathrooms in it at one point…crazy)…its been a home to some lovely families…and well to some total weirdos too (wait… maybe we are the weirdos).  But no matter its history…and even with its crooked doors and sagging floors…it is our little slice of heaven and now it has a name.  I made this wreath for our back door while Granny Sandy was here.  I still need to add the cats to theMom and Dad taking a break and going to the Styx concernt - they rocked it!

wreath.  We are going to make a small plaque for our front door too.

So why such a campy name as Misfit Manor?  Well, frankly…we are a couple of misfits.  Bret and I are (finally) fairly self-aware individuals…purified by dances with dangerous “isms” at different points in

Lacey Mae loves this wild hair look!
Lacey Mae loves this wild hair look!

our lives…but grateful for how our lives have been shaped by the mistakes and rough journeys of the past.  Little about either of our adult lives has been “traditional”.  But hindsight can be a funny thing…Bret and I both agree that now that we know where our bumpy paths have landed us (together with our creatures)…that we would go back and walk the same rocky path a thousand times over to get here again.

We are also a home filled with off beat creatures (besides Bret and I)…a once chronic biter (our Lacey), a hyperactive and reactive little freight train (our Buster), an afraid of his own shadow JRT (Turnip) and a feral caLucy, Luna and Kringlest (Zilla)…and several more quirky creatures.   You would think it would be chaos…but what makes it special is that when all of us misfits get together…somehow it all works.   I believe its grace.  Bret and I…and the animals…are more whole together than we are when we are separate. I know that I am only fully me when I am with all of them.  I wish this sort of peace and “foundness” for everyone…

Kringles the pirate
Kringles the pirate

butser wonderfulHave you ever taken a boring, even downright ugly painting or photo and changed it out with a beautiful frame and suddenly that same item will seem so much different…its the same but you see it completely new… it is now more than it first was?  Somewhere along the journey I came to terms with this simple truth; that often the biggest change we need to make isn’t ourselves nor is there fault in something or someone else that pushes us out of our comfort zone…but instead the problem is how we frame ourselves and each other in our thoughts…framed properly someone odd or ordinary, or even difficult… suddenly becomes quite beautiful.  For some reason I have a knack for all things misfit…I rescue misfit pieces of china at flea markets and set a summer table that turns out lovely…I love rescuing misfit furniture…Cottage Paint works wonders…we even bought a misfit house…and we have a bunch of misfit animals…”misfit” seems to be where I fit…I see them with sparkle not dim.  Thoughtfully re-framed each misfit is something beautiful…its not about change…if that makes sense.

Luna
Luna

This week Bret and I picked up a couple of new foster dogs…one of them…we named her Luna…has seen better days.  This dog is so pathetic looking that Bret and I instantly fell in love with her.  Whatever happened to her…we assume she was either hit by a car or attacked by a larger animal…her deformed little body to us is just a little bundle of courage and joy.  I am sure Luna will find a permanent family…she is a heart breaker…but if she doesn’t she will always fit in here.

I am most comfortable…in our realm of the misfits.   Others may see us as quirky or weird…that is ok…each of us needs to be our kind of wonderful…and here at Misfit Manor everyone has the chance to be something beautiful…

If you love all things pet and pet rescue please follow my blog…I blog weekly about pet parenting, pet resources, pet rescue, pet crafts…I also have a The Rescue Mama Facebook Page and The Rescue Mama Pinterest Page where I post daily.  My Pinterest Page has boards for every pet topic you can think of!  If you are looking for a pet sympathy card or pet rescue artwork please visit my Rescue Mama ETSY Shop.

Rescue On!

Nancy

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Pet Sympathy: What do we say (or not say) when someone loses a pet?

Pet Sympathy, Pet Grief, Loss of Dog

Solidarity in grief…how to be a voice of compassion for someone who has lost their pet.

Pet sympathy is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I adopt senior and handicap dogs; so life in my home is fragile and loss is unfortunately something I have a lot of experience with.  When someone we love faces the death of a beloved pet we want to say and do helpful things for them.  For those of us who are pet lovers there is a unique solidarity in the grief of a lost pet.  But not everyone is a pet lover and that can make relating to someone grieving a lost pet more difficult.   Over the years I have learned one golden principle before opening my mouth to offer someone else comfort…and that is to always “error on the side of grace“.    Following this principle has served me well.  First though, let’s take a step back and consider a few things that can help us be a source of compassion when someone we love is in mourning.

Grace is patience and understanding of grief

Grief is complex.  It is a spectrum of deep and varying emotions.   I will never forget the depth of the emotion I felt when I lost my first dog.  It was the first time in my life that emotional pain literally equated to physical pain.  My grief was also very complex. I bounced from anger to sadness to extreme guilt; over and over.  I questioned my judgment and felt I failed my dog.

Whether someone has lost their pet quietly in its sleep to old age, in a tragic accident or chose to humanely euthanize a sick pet; the parent is going to experience a range of emotions and all need grace in friendship.  We can’t assume we know exactly what someone is feeling when they are grieving.  Thankfully, you don’t have to understand someone’s pain to “sit with them” in it.  We can be present for them no matter what they are feeling.   It is helpful to keep this universal truth about grief in mind; we don’t get over grief.  Rather, we learn to live with grief.  Learning to live with grief takes varying amounts of time for different people.  Grief is also rarely isolated to one loss.  When someone is grieving the loss of their pet it may open them back up to past losses they have experienced in their life and therefore intensify their grief.

Daily routine transforms into a reminder of our grief

Routine complicates grief.  Our pets are creatures of habit.  They love and live for their routines and their routines becomes our routines  We have silly and joyful rituals with our pets…around feeding, treats and tricks, bedtime, etc.  When our pet dies the disrupted routines and rituals transform in to a series of daily painful reminders of the emptiness we feel.  When my rottweiler Hercules died I cried twice a day; everyday; for months when I fed the other dogs their breakfast and dinner.  Hercules was such a huge presence at meal time that when he was gone this once joyful task became a sad one.  It takes a long time to establish new routines and rituals.

Grace does not judge grief

Ok, I will say it plainly as I can.  This is the time to KEEP OUR OPINIONS TO OURSELVES!  NOTHING about losing a pet is cut and dry.  When someone is grieving it is NOT the time to share your opinion on whether a pet should die naturally or be euthanized;  nor our opinions on what could have been done medically differently or how an accident could have been prevented or whether a pet should be cremated or buried.  Button up!  Trust me on this one.  If we value friendship and desire to be a person of compassion; judgment should be spared.

Jasmine change the world

Compassion and judging someone’s actual grief process are also incompatible.  Grief is a unique journey for each person in both its intensity and duration.  Everyone deserves the space to grieve in their own way.  Some people grieve immediately and very openly.  Some people grieve privately and at times long after a loss has occurred.   I made the mistake of sharing my own grief with someone I thought I could lean on.  Instead of solidarity or compassion I was shamed and diminished for grieving the loss of a “damn dog”; once by a so-called “pastor” and once by a family member.  That experience permanently changed those relationships.  It is NOT childish or silly to grieve a pet.  Rather, it is a mature reflection of love.   It is typical for our relationships with our pets to be more affirming to our lives than our relationships with most people.  Further, when someone is grieving a pet they are on the right side of history.  The bond between people and animals dates back to ancient times.  Countless pre-historic grave sites have been found with people and their dogs buried together.

Grace doesn’t start theological arguments

As a seminary graduate I have a lot of thoughts on theology, religion, philosophy, etc.  I try to live by a rule that I don’t offer those thoughts unless I am specifically asked about them.  As I have grown older I have

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Memorializing our pets

become much more comfortable with mystery and tension. By mystery tension I mean acceptance that there are things I will never understand and that is ok.   I have also never met a winner of a theological “argument” because Truth is a journey. Truth is not something we hit each other over the head with.  When someone is experiencing a great loss; an important part of a normal healing process and their own spiritual journey is to explore and/or reaffirm their own convictions about life after death.  Many years ago the same person who shamed me for mourning my dog also chastised me with the “I suppose you think the damn thing is in heaven now too” line…seriously! The comment literally sucked the air out of my lungs. I couldn’t respond. I just walked away feeling emotionally mugged.  Frankly, at that time I had not come to any conclusions about what I believed happened to pets after death as it was the first time I was faced with processing the death of a pet.  But I will always recall that moment as one of the cruelest interactions I have had with another person.  Perhaps it was the best lesson I ever learned in the importance of extending grace when interacting with someone who is grieving.  Trust me on this one its a really bad idea to give someone your theological treatise on pets and death. Extend them the grace and the space to work that out themselves.   Today, I have very strong convictions on life after death for all creatures…but that was my own journey to take.

Avoid campy euphemisms.

Sometimes they slip out; but if we can it is a good idea to avoid campy euphemisms like; “at least they are not in pain anymore” or “he is better off now”.  Seriously, these are not helpful statements when you really think it through.  No one in mourning is satisfied with the implication that their loved one is better off dead.   Perhaps it might be a factual statement but it does not bring comfort to the bereaved and therefore is not helpful.    I shouldn’t have to say it but I will; “it’s just a dog/cat” or “you can always get another dog/cat” are ridiculously bad things to say.

Pet sympathy is active; it is normal for us to want to “speak” and “help” and “do” when someone is hurting and that is a beautiful thing.  So to keep awkward statement from slipping out I try to stick with “you questions”.  When I have the urge to say something I try;  “what can I do for you?”, “how can I help you through this?”, “how can I make this better for you?”.

It also is a good idea to avoid unsolicited advice like’ “why don’t you get a puppy to make you feel better”.  Again, well intended but not helpful.  Some people will get another pet within days of losing a pet…others will never get another pet ever. Give them the space to work it out on their own.  If they ask for help getting another pet than by all means trot them down to the local shelter!

So what should we actually say and do?

Pet Sympathy, Pet bereavement, grief

Pet sympathy; here is my unsolicited advice for standing in solidarity with someone who is grieving their pet.

  • Say nothing.  Just listen.  Silence is its own ministry. Often our quiet presence is the best form of solidarity we can offer.  For someone in mourning; expressing their range of emotions out loud can be very therapeutic.  Being a quiet and patient listener is a great gift.  Thank them for trusting you with their feelings and reaffirm your solidarity with them.
  • Be honest.  If you are not a pet lover or have not yet experienced the loss of a pet BE HONEST about not understanding their grief.  You don’t have to understand someone’s pain to stand in solidarity with it.  Express how much you care about them and your desire to be someone for them to lean on.
  • Ask them how you can be useful.  You can’t know how to help someone unless you give them a chance to tell you.  Grief is a really strange journey and you might be surprised at what someone will find helpful.  
  • Don’t pretend it didn’t happen.  Don’t avoid their discussions about their pet.  Share your favorite story about their pet; using their pets specific name out loud.
  • Make a condolence gesture. Send a sympathy card (a real one…not an ecard…hand write your message); I still have all the pet sympathy cards anyone has sent me.  They mean a lot to me.  Get the bereaved a picture frame or scrap-book. My favorite pet memorial gift is a wind chime.  I have wind chimes in my yard for all of my pets who have crossed over.  Other great ideas are yard stone markers; St. Francis statues; make a donation in their pet’s name.  
  • Check on the bereaved often…remember; grief is journey that lasts the rest of our lives…the most difficult part of that journey can go on for weeks, months, maybe longer.  Check on them and ask them specifics on how they are doing and what you can do to be there for them.

Pet sympathy conclusion

Misfit Manor, Nancy Halverson

We all struggle with seeing someone we love in pain so I hope this post is helpful.  I enjoy hearing from other pet parents with their ideas and experiences of grief and healing.  You can contact me by commenting on this post or by email at therescuemama@gmail.com.

If you are struggling with the guilt that often comes associated with the loss of a pet I encourage you to read the post I wrote on euthanasia and guilt.  Working through my own guilt after the loss of my first dog was a long and painful journey for me.  Part of the healing process was finding solidarity with other pet parents who experienced the same feelings of guilt.  Follow this link: Euthanasia and Guilt.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article.  I am an artist and full time dog mom.  If you would like to read more about my story check out my About Page

If you are a lover of “all things pet” please consider following my blog.  I blog weekly on a variety of topics related to pet parenting, pet rescue and expressing my life through art.  I also have an online store where I sell my Art and Pawty Supplies

You can follow us on Instagram and follow our Misfit Manor Pinterest Page  which is full of dog and cat loving content.!

On the journey,

Nancy & The Misfits

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Father’s Day: reflection on marriage and our “fur family”

Our life as a fur family:

doo rags and leashes 010Every Father’s Day I write a blog post about my husband.  He’s the Daddy in our household…and we love celebrating him.  Bret and I are not an ordinary family.  We wanted to be one of those ordinary families but life just didn’t turn out that way for us.  What did “turn out” for us was a steady stream of homeless animals showing up at our door.  Our life with animals works for us and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe it takes time for each of us to realize and come to terms with what we were made for…and I believe we were all made for something special….some special journey.  Bret and I were made for our life with animals.  We are not fully ourselves without them.

Whenever I go to pick out a Father’s Day card for my husband…I get a little emotional.  I am no dummy. I am perfectly aware that most men would never tolerate 20140918_184244neither the volume of animals I have brought home…nor the degree of the challenges I have brought home.  I am very well aware of how extraordinarily patient and compassionate my husband is.

When Bret and I first got married I brought home a feral cat..today we call him Catzilla.  When this cat first moved in to our home none of us could get anywhere near Zilla…we had to drug this cat to get him to our vet.  To keep our other animals safe we kept Catzilla in a separate room in our house…but not just any room…a bedroom that we made in to an “extreme cattery” for Zilla…it was so darn cool.  Not only did Bret not scoff at the money we spent to build Zilla a cattery but he doubled down by making time to work with Zilla and win his trust (which anyone with feral cats knows this is a long-term commitment).  Today Zilla lives in the house roaming happily with all of us.

Shortly after Zilla moved in I brought home our Lhasa..Lacey Mae.  A few days after she moved in with us she tore up the side of Bret’s face…badly…not just bite wounds but enough damage to give him a black eye.  He forgave her instantly, dug his heels in and remained committed to her.  He saw her potential and today she is the love of our lives…and she is definitely daddy’s girl.

Some time after Lacey moved in with us my Rottweiler, Hercules, was diagnosed with cancer…it was a long and difficult ordeal which included a leg amputation.  Since Hercules could no longer go on walks with the rest of the pack and I was not strong enough to carry Hercules, Bret took over giving him some special time each day.  Bret would carry him to the car…drive him to the park…carry him to a grassy area and they would hang out and wrestle around…they would people watch…then the pair would go to Dairy Queen and split a cheeseburger.  Every single day they did this…until Hercules died.  Hercules wasn’t even Bret’s dog…he was mine before we married.  In fact, Bret had to work very hard to get Hercules to like him.  When we were first married Hercules wouldn’t even let Bret get in bed at night.  Hercules would give in eventually, of course, but Bret got very little space in the bed.  Bret loved him in a way no other person could.10888801_10153955031657588_2874979303585295362_n

20141225_140832It goes on…Kringles came when we already had four dogs…Kringles had no where to go and was in very poor health.  Bret was happy to have him and Kringles took to him right away.  Turnip…wanted nothing to do bret and busterwith Bret for so long when he first moved in…Bret won him over anyway.  Buster…was like having a freight train move in the house…Bret loved Buster instantly.

I am no fool.  I know what I have in Bret and I am grateful for him everyday.  When Bret and I first met…I was finishing up a master’s degree at a Baptist seminary and Bret was an enthusiastic seeker at an Evangelical church.  Two years after we were married…we were confirmed into and remarried in the Catholic church…an odd journey, I know, but a well thought out one.  One of the many things that called us to the Catholic church was the Catholic understanding of the sacraments….the concept of marriage as a sacrament was very meaningful to us.  Today we understand marriage as a sacrament more fully than ever…marriage has rubbed the “spiritual” edges off of both of us.  Our life together has changed us and our time together is by far the most “grace-filled” time of our life.  I believe that together we see more clearly…if that makes sense.  And together we walk a path…albeit a non-traditional one…towards our Maker.  We are blessed and grateful for each day with each other and our pets.

While my Bret isn’t the traditional version of a dad…in this household he means the world to a whole pack of very special creatures.  Happy Father’s Day Bret!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dog dads and Rescue On!

Nancy

 

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Pet Rescue: The power of one…the impact of our choices…

The power of our choices and the lives of animals…

choicesI start out each morning with a cup of coffee and the Wall Street Journal…no wait…back up…after I have pottied, fed and hugged each of my pets…I start my day with coffee and the Wall Street Journal.  One particular article in this week’s journal made my jaw drop… Walmart is beginning to pressure its meat and egg suppliers to reduce their use of anti-biotics and offer more humane conditions for livestock.  All I could think of was…”holy shit…our choices really can matter”.  Let’s be brutally honest…what moves a corporate behemoth like Walmart to make a change like this is consumer demand…demand for humane and healthy products.  Our choices as individuals drive important change.  I am not naive…change takes time… and Walmart’s new guidelines aren’t mandatory…but it sure will make cruelty free suppliers more competitively advantaged and sets a much better trajectory for animals than we were on.  Sometimes…a new law or regulation won’t cut it…people living lives of compassion in this case made a change…our choices are so much more powerful than any law.  Kindness to animals brings out the best in all of us!

This is nothing to scoff at.  Walmart is the largest retailer….at $288 Billion in sales last year…they call the shots for meat and egg suppliers.  Nearly 50% of Walmart sales are savegroceries…like Walmart or not…we need them to move the needle towards humane treatment of our food supply.  Case in point…the article cited that “overall egg sales are flat, but sales of more expensive eggs that tout “cage free” or similar attributes are booming.”  How awesome is that? Bret and I won’t buy anything but cage free eggs…I thought this was a small and insignificant choice (well not so insignificant to the grocery bill).  But clearly the collective choices of consumers to purchase a humane product does matter.

When we lived in Minnesota we would take a lot of motorcycle rides in the country…passing many chicken, turkey and pork farms…the sight of some of these farms made us sick…especially the turkey farms…animals packed in so tight they couldn’t move…and the noise they made…it was like cries of terror.  We vowed to start buying free range and grass fed or just go without.   I am pleasantly surprised to see meaningful choices really can make such a difference…If you are one of the folks who made the cruelty free choice…God Bless You…it made a difference…if you aren’t there yet…won’t you think about it?
wtfSo this brings me the fate of companion animals…why can’t our choices make it better for them?  We are an abundant nation who loves animals…caring for and spoiling our animals has become a $60 Billion dollar industry.  Yet millions of homeless animals die in shelters each year…5 per minute!  What does it take for our choices to increase the demand for rescue animals so high that it pushes the shelters nearly out of business?  It shouldn’t be complicated…almost 3 million cats and dogs die in shelters every year…yet 17 million families get a new pet each year…this should be an easy problem to solve…but it lingers…and each year more suffer and die.

What do we have to do to make clearing out the shelter the fashionable thing to do?  How do we create a “Rescue-ista culture?”  Why do we have a hush, hush culture about how many animals die in the shelter…why is their so much resistance to change…to asking the community to be involved in solving the problem.  In most cases…I don’t believe people know that shelters, on average, are killing 50% of the animals…in some areas of the county…that number is significantly worse.  I don’t have the answers…its a heartfelt question.

Do you talk to everyone you can about rescue?  I do…especially anyone considering adding a pet.  I am not a self-righteous rag about it…I just make a heartfelt plea to encourage people to choose rescue…I give the staggering facts…how many die each minute…shelters are full of pure bred dogs…they are full of puppies…you can find any type of dog you want through rescue and no…a shelter pet is not damaged goods!

I don’t know what the specific magic beans are to save more lives…but I know what the over-arching theme is…a community that cares…that cares how the animals are treated.  How the animals fare in our communities is one (of many) benchmarks by which we can measure the spiritual health of our communities.  I wonder how we make rescue fashionable?  If things as ridiculous as mullets and bell bottoms can be fashionable than why isn’t pet rescue?  I wonder how we make pet rescue part of our spiritual journey?  I don’t have the answers…but I am sure looking for them.

If you are in to all things pet rescue…like pet art…like to spoil your pets…well by all means…follow our blog (we post 1-2 X’s per week) or our Facebook Page!

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

 

 

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Pet Rescue: Warning…Dogs can die in hot cars!

Warning:  Dogs can die in hot cars!  There is something we can do about it.

dogsincarsGiven I have five dogs…I do a lot of walking.  My dogs and I walk through our adorable little town (Georgetown, KY) every day…sometimes twice a day.  Summer has barely had its start here and already we are seeing dogs left in hot cars…NOT OK.  In fact it really pisses me off!  I can’t walk by a dog in a hot car.  While I am not the type to go directly to smashing out a car window…I would if I had to.  I am the one though who doesn’t hesitate to call the the police…and no cracking the window an inch is not good enough…I will still call the police and let them smash the window!

Two weeks ago we (well me…my dogs just witnessed) had a verbal altercation with an older couple who stopped me to ask what the parking time limit was in our town…because they were going to go have lunch and leave their dog in the car.  I couldn’t believe they were looking me straight in the face with that idiotic statement.  I suggested to them the names of several ALDF-dogs-in-hot-cars-flyerrestaurants in town that had patio seating that welcomed dogs.  They weren’t interested.  I dug in my heels and told them if they leave the dog in the car I am calling the police.  (It was an 80 degree day).  They called me a dirty name and told me to mind my own business…I didn’t mind my own business and stood my ground until they drove away.  It blew me away that an elderly couple could be so boorish and irresponsible.

That same day I was browsing my Facebook feed and saw this poster from the Animal Legal Defense Fund…with a statement encouraging people to download the sign and hang it. I thought…we need these signs in downtown Georgetown…then I thought…well…perhaps I am supposed to be the one to go hang them.  So I did.use this one

I downloaded their art file…sent it to the local print shop for printing…and Lacey Mae and I hit the road.  We started going door to door to the business of Georgetown asking them to hang this sign in their shop window.  We have gone to over 20 business so far…all but one was more than happy to hang the sign.  When we ran out of our first 20 signs the local print shop made a whole bag of them for us for free!  We will be back out next week and will keep going until we get as many businesses as we can to hang our sign.  It is already abundantly clear on our Main Street (given all the obvious signs in business windows) that we are a town that is not ok with knuckleheads leaving a dog in a hot car.  Hopefully it will both make careless people think twice before trapping their dog in a car oven and also encourage citizens to speak out and call the police if necessary for a trapped dog.

There is a saying that goes something like this…whenever we say “someone should do something about that”…that someone might be ourselves.   Lacey and I had a lot of fun going door to door in town…she behaved like an angel in every business we went to (she didn’t pee on a single carpet!!!!).  We met a lot of great folks…and found out that they all want to see dogs safe…and when asked…they are willing to help out.

I have been taking pictures of every shop that hangs our sign and posting them on our Facebook Page.  If you want to do something like this in your town the copy for this poster is available for download at this link on the Animal Legal Defense Fund website.  It was a lot easier than I thought to approach business owners with my sign…in fact the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Rescue On!

Nancy

 

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Pet Rescue Art: Rescuing and breathing…

Pet Rescue Art:  If I am breathing I will be rescuing.

close upI just recently finished this little diddy…I decided a long time ago that since we all exit this life the same way eventually (empty handed and six feet under) that rather than accumulate “things or experiences” that I wanted to be completely used up when I die…I choose to use up whatever energy and resources I have being involved with pet rescue…whether its using my art, caring for my own house full of rescues, training rescue dogs or fostering homeless dogs…it is truly the highest privilege in life to find the vocation God destined me for…I live a blessed life.

This painting is an acrylic on canvas…11×14…glossy archival finish.  This and many other of my paintings are available at my ETSY shop.  I donate a portion of all of my sales to pet rescue groups.

If you are in to all things pet and pet rescue don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest!

Rescue On!

Nancy