As I sit here looking out the window at the wood duck taking her early morning dip in the pond, the finches grabbing their breakfast from the bird feeder and singing their cheery songs, the antics of the chipmunks and squirrels, all the while the pups snuggled on their blankets taking a snooze I realize what a wonderfully rich life I have.
I start reflecting on the choices I’ve made in my life. When I was 15 years old I worked at a little café named the Jolly Boy. The owner was my mentor and he taught me so much during the time I worked for him. He always talked about when he retired him and his wife were going to buy a motor home and travel all over the United States. Just months after he retired his wife had a stroke and they never got to follow his dream of seeing the country. That always stuck with me. I just couldn’t imagine waiting my entire life to do what I really wanted to do and then not being able to do it.
I decided that making a huge amount of money was not going to be my motivation in life. Don’t get me wrong, I have always been a hard worker. I believe that you do the absolute best job that you can to earn a living, pay your bills, and feed your family. But spending time with my children and family, traveling, and enjoying life were always my priority and I did just that. Throughout my life my family went camping, went on vacations, and had many, many family gatherings as we still do.
Ten years ago my children were raised and gone from home. I had a wonderful job but felt that time was ticking away and I needed more time to do the things I enjoyed doing. So I quit my job, rented out my house and went to Alaska and started my new life of travel and adventure. I met new friends and had great adventures while I worked there.
After working in Alaska for several seasons my path eventually led me to pet sitting. This was the perfect fit for me. I absolutely love animals and I get to spend every day loving and caring for them while having the freedom to travel when I want to.
I also figured out how to travel inexpensively. This meant traveling all over Alaska sleeping in a VW van, spending New Year’s Eve in Times Square while staying in a hostel in Harlem, backpacking throughout Panama and Mexico, taking a three-month road trip around the entire United States and parts of Canada in my little 8-year-old Toyota Corolla as well as many, many other trips I have taken on a shoestring throughout the years. Here are some of the many places I’ve visited over the years.
Just recently I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a year taking care of my two youngest grandsons. Being a part of their lives in such an intimate way was such a gift and since I don’t live as a traditional Grandma does, I was able to form a bond with them that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I will cherish that time with them for the rest of my life.
I have now returned to pet sitting. I am so blessed that I get to stay in so many different locations like the home where I’m staying right now, meeting wonderful people who have become an extension of my family and caring for all the different dogs and cats that I have fallen head over heels in love with. Here are just a few that I get to spend my time with.
And I look forward to where the next 10 years are going to take me.
So as I look out at the pond again and down at the sweet sleeping pups I think about how I, someone who in this society is considered poor, am the richest person in the world!
Purdue center developing dog care standards
The Department of Agriculture is supporting an effort to create dog care standards that could eventually lead to development of a privately operated dog breeder accreditation program.
Animal advocates think such a program could help reduce animal suffering.
The Purdue University Center for Animal Welfare Science is developing and testing uniform care standards for dog breeding and raising over the next two years. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is supporting the effort, and the agency earlier this year included creation of a private accreditor program for professional dog breeders among its goals for the next five years.
Candace C. Croney, PhD, director of the center and an associate professor of comparative pathobiology and animal science, said the center intends to create and test a set of voluntary standards applicable at any scale of dog breeding as well as useful in creating a dog breeder accreditation or certification program. Whether the dogs are raised for sale as pets or for research, compliance with the standards would meet the dogs’ needs for socialization, enrichment, and comfort and include well-being assessment.
“We want to be a little bit careful that we don’t rush to release standards that haven’t been properly vetted and tested,” she said. “But we do realize that there’s an industry that’s waiting for this information, hungry for this information, so we’re really trying to be aggressive about our timeline.”
The work includes studying aspects of welfare where scientific literature is lacking, she said.
In an August 2014 announcement about the project, Dr. Croney said variation among state-based care standards and a lack of studies on some factors affecting welfare had raised questions.
“The public is becoming increasingly concerned that existing state laws, typically written as minimum standards, do not fully address important elements of dog care and well-being, such as health, genetics, reproductive soundness, and behavioral wellness,” she said.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, Pet Food Institute, and World Pet Association are funding the project.
Participation would be a voluntary activity beyond federal government requirements that affect thousands of dog breeders inspected and licensed by the USDA.
In addition to the goal of supporting creation of a dog breeder accreditation program, APHIS included in the same five-year plan a goal to partner with accredited professional or industry organizations such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to reduce the frequency of inspections at facilities that have implemented animal care and welfare programs.
Welfare advocates see potential
Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of the American Humane Association, thinks the standards being created at Purdue could help improve the lives of animals and help eliminate the “demonstrable” cruelty in some dog breeding businesses. She thinks buyers and sellers of dogs alike could embrace the program.
“It’s very important for all of us who celebrate the power of the bonds with animals in our lives to make sure that we are able to have healthy animals brought into our homes,” she said. “And so, I think this program will go a long way to ending the abuse and the poor welfare practices we have seen in puppy mill types of facilities.”
Dr. Ganzert said the AHA, through one of the association’s chief veterinary officers, has provided information for use by the center in creating the dog care standards.
Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, chair of the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee and vice president of animal welfare at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, said an accreditation program is needed, and she applauds the effort. She said she has seen wide variability in animal care in industries that breed dogs and cats.
Dr. Michael J. Blackwell, senior director of veterinary policy for the Humane Society of the United States, said the project could provide better oversight of the dog breeding industry, which he said has an unfortunate number of puppy mills with questionable-to-poor care standards.
“Given that we do still see quite a few puppy mills across the country, it is clear that there needs to be more attention given to ways of providing oversight, and an accreditation process would certainly be one way to do that,” he said.
Dr. Smith-Blackmore hopes the program will be an all-or-nothing form of accreditation rather than a tiered form, which she thinks can unintentionally give legitimacy to operations providing substandard care. She expressed hope that the standards would cover transportation, often a source of horrid conditions for dogs traveling long distances to multiple stops as well as measures to ensure that dogs at accredited facilities are bred to have good health and provided with an acceptable quality of life.
She also hopes any certification or accreditation would require continuous verification of compliance. She noted that webcam feeds seem to remind poultry industry workers that someone could be watching to see whether they treat animals with respect, and she said webcams could provide similar benefits for dog breeding operations.
Customers could influence participation
The AHA Humane Heartland program now certifies humane care is given to more than 1 billion animals on 10,000 farms, numbers reached in response to retail customer demands for improvements, Dr. Ganzert said. She expects the same pressure would apply to dog sales, and retailers would have a vested interest in supporting transparent standards based in science and evidence.
“It’s in the retailer’s best interest to provide for an opportunity for pets to enter our lives in a healthy way,” she said.
Dr. Blackwell said it’s likely retailers would pressure breeders to participate in such a program, a result he hopes will come to pass.
“I think the public’s interests will probably drive that support for working only with accredited breeders,” he said.
Dr. Croney said the center had yet to decide who would perform audits or certification under a national program using the standards, but they would be outside Purdue University.
She has been surprised by dog breeders’ positive reception of the project.
“Every single breeder that we have talked to, that we’ve consulted with, has actually given us good feedback that strengthens the standards,” she said.
Dr. Croney also hopes an accreditation or certification program would help participating breeders distinguish themselves from others and reassure those buying dogs that the participants planned and documented their efforts to provide the best possible quality of life for their dogs.
Dr. Ganzert said humans have a social contract with domesticated animals, whether they are raised for agriculture or as pets.
“As we evolve, as we learn and know more, we have to do right by what we know, and that means we’d better provide for better humane treatment of animals in all environments,” Dr. Ganzert said.
As Karen and I left our good friend Taty in Orlando, we headed towards the Gulf to Crystal River. The first thing we did when we arrived was to drive to Fort Island Gulf Beach, a beautiful little beach with white powdery sand and a boardwalk to a fishing pier.
One of the things on my bucket list was to swim with manatees in Crystal River. In the winter, this area has the world’s largest collection of manatees in their natural environment. The manatees keep warm by staying in and near freshwater springs, which remain a constant 72 degrees year-around. The spring areas help them survive the difficult winter months and give them a place to rest and recover from the cold. Crystal River is one of the very few places that one can still passively swim with these large, docile animals, and I was so excited to finally get my chance to do so.
We chose to take our tour with American Pro Diving Center because of its excellent reviews and we were not disappointed. We had been hearing reports the last couple of weeks that the manatees had left the river because the weather had warmed up so much. Our guide Glen warned us that there were fewer manatees in the river but he would do his best to find us one. He took us into Kings Bay where for the first 1/2 hour we didn’t see any manatees, but lots of kayakers and birds.
Then Karen spotted one! We were thrilled. Glen got into the water and told us to gently enter the water and take turns coming close to the animal.
A baby manatee came right up to Glen and rolled over to have his belly rubbed. Then the mother came up, and then another and another. We ended up getting to see two groups of manatees! Even Glen was amazed at how many we saw. I am SO blessed and so happy to finally get to be up close and personal with these wonderful animals that Christopher Columbus as well as other voyagers called mermaids!
We left Crystal River absolutely elated about our experience with the manatees and drove back to Zephyrhills where Karen lives!
It just so happened that yet another couple of friends that I had met while working in Alaska were staying in Zephyrhills. We had such a fun time catching up with them on what they had been doing since we had seen them last.
They invited us to line dance with them. OMG what fun! I’m totally hooked :-)!
The next day we invited Paul and Shirley to a very eclectic little café to have an early supper and listen to music. Barb’s Café normally closes at 1pm. but on Fridays they open back up from 3:30 to 6:30pm for supper and music. No alcohol is served. Only regular and diet coke, sweet and unsweetened tea. And here is the menu we got, handwritten on a small piece of paper.
Now this was nothing like the meals we had enjoyed at the Grand Floridian or French Café in Orlando, but it was just as much fun! I mean, talk about a good, home town experience! I was advised by the waitress NOT to have the fish, but I’m told that the liver and onions were excellent!
Now let me tell you, Karen and her friends know how to have a good time. Besides line dancing, drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s day, bicycling around the park, doing water aerobics, and much more, the clubhouse had a luau one night that we all got dressed up for. What an entertaining night! The dinner was delicious, the music was great, and we danced like no one was watching.
One thing I really wanted to see while in Florida was an alligator. Now I saw alligators at the Gaylord Palms Resort where we stayed in Orlando and at Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, but I really, really wanted to see an alligator in the wild. So on my last day in Zephyrhills, Karen said “let’s go find an alligator!”
I couldn’t have been more thrilled! Another perfect ending to an absolutely perfect trip!
Today I headed out, along with my friends Karen and Taty, two ladies I met while working in Alaska, to Animal Kingdom to have more fun and adventures.
First thing on the agenda was the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Now normally I am not a fan of animals kept in captivity. But after reading how much Disney does for the welfare of wildlife I felt much better about having a look at these animals. Since 1995, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) has contributed more than $27 million dollars to support conservation programs in 114 countries.
So off we went in our jeep through the 110 acre wildlife reserve through open plains, shady forest landscapes and rocky wetlands. We saw giraffes, elephants, hippos, rhinos, ostriches, and of course alligators.
Around every turn throughout the park there are entertainers including the African drummers that I loved the most!
We also went to a few shows including Finding Nemo, an interesting musical version of the film. People carried around huge puppets of the characters and with the added special affects you almost felt like you were under the sea.
Another good show was the Flights of Wonder. I was so impressed at the education that was taught during the show and message that “The future of the earth is in our hands. Be inspired to do your part today!”
But my very favorite show, and the highlight of the day, was the Lion King. What an absolutely awesome production! No one should miss this show. From babies to grandparents, it will be a highlight of your day, I guarantee it! I was so moved.
Then on to some rides. I normally don’t go on fast, roller coaster type rides but I know that Karen LOVES these kind of rides so I decided to take a leap of faith (that I wouldn’t die of a heart attack) and go on a ride with her. All I can say is, I did it! I did it!!! And I lived to see another day :-)!
Then we headed to the Kali River Rapids ride to get in our raft and head down the river.
I’m not sure which one of us got the wettest, but when we got off the raft we were all drenched and laughing. Time to go home!
The next day we pulled ourselves out of bed and got ready for another full day. We started out at a lovely little French Café that Taty goes to frequently and had a wonderful breakfast of crepes and croissants. Then off to Epcot!
I loved all the topiaries throughout the park.
We went to the Coral Reefs to see all the fish and marine life. We went on the Spaceship Earth ride that took us on a ride through the history of communication. Pretty interesting and well done! After getting our fill of rides, off we went to a trip around the world at the World Showcase Lagoon.
All around the World Showcase Lagoon we walked through several countries. In France we watched the Impressions de France film on a huge screen. We listened to an outdoor concert in America. We walked through the streets of Morocco.
In Italy we watched street performers and had pizza and sangrias.
Before we knew it, it was getting dark and time for the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show.
All I can say is WOW! What a beautiful and moving display!
And the perfect way to end the day and our time with Taty.
And now it’s time to say good-bye… Good-bye Disney World! Good-bye Taty! You helped make all my dreams come true.
In 2006 I decided to change my life. I quit my job, rented my house out and traveled to Alaska to work for Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge for the summer. I have not for one minute regretted that decision. I have enjoyed each and every new experience I have had since that time nine years ago and continue to travel and experience new and fun things.
I’ve also met so many people, some of which have become good friends who, although I don’t have the opportunity to see very often, have lasted the test of time. One of those friends I met in Alaska is Karen who, after living in several states around the country, has settled in Zephyrhills, Florida along with her husband Jon.
I recently flew to Florida to visit Karen and do a little traveling and have some fun in the beautiful sunny March weather. First on the agenda was to drive to Orlando to meet up with Taty, another lady who we met in Alaska and now works at Disneys Grand Floridian Resort. Taty met us at the hotel and treated us to a wonderful breakfast, tour of the hotel, and hours of catching up.
After taking a ride on the monorail catching glimpses of the parks and stopping off to check out the Polynesian Resort, we headed to Downtown Disney to see the sights and pick up some souvenirs.
After a full day of seeing as much as we could cram into one day, three tired and happy gals took the boat back to the parking lot and headed to our hotel, the absolutely magnificent Gaylord Palms Resort.
The Gaylord Palms Resort is like a world all it’s own. The lush, tropical atrium recreate three Florida environments. We walked along the wooden walkways over misty bogs through the Everglades section with the moss hanging from the trees, thick vegetation, streams and waterfalls, alligators (that you can watch being fed twice a week), and a wooden shack restaurant.
The Key West section has shops that resemble the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the island. There are also several species of fish in the streams and ponds that are fed several times a week.
The St. Augustine atrium features a small-scale replica of Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest fort in North America. Designers studied the ruins of the original, built by Spain in 1672 in what is now St. Augustine, to emulate its mysterious, romantic aura. The fort displays treasures from the Spanish ship Atocha, discovered by Mel Fisher after a 16-year search. It includes a Wedding Gazebo, Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth, and several restaurants and bars.
Outside there are two pools. The family water park with a multi-level tree house playground and a huge screen that shows movies each evening called the ‘dive-in’, and the beautiful, quiet adult pool with private cabanas and two hot tubs. The list goes on and on. You could spend a ton of time here and never get bored.
Next we head to Animal Kingdom and Epcot.
New Yorkers have a dog-eat-dog reputation, but a few Good Samaritans recently showed that their hearts aren’t as cold as the weather.
Tina Imlet and several other Manhattanites saved a stray dog from the freezing temperatures of Highbridge Park in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood.
“He knows me. When ever he sees me coming into the park he wags his tail. He barks. We howl,” Imlet said in an interview with Fox 5 News.
But she and others, who named the canine Charlie, started to wonder how the feral shepherd mix was holding up as temperatures in New York continued to drop.
“Those who know him love him deeply, we are devoted to saving his life. He once had a family to roam Highbridge Park with, but they were all trapped years ago. Charlie was always too smart to fall for our human tricks,” Denise Lauffer wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help care for Charlie.
“A lot of people were going out, like 10, 11, 12, 1 o’clock in the morning. There was a whole series of people going to visit him, just to make sure, to see. And everybody was like, ‘Have you seen him? Has anybody seen him?’” Imlet told the news station.
On Feb. 15, Good Samaritans managed to get Charlie into a van to take him to the borough’s BluePearl veterinary center.
The animal hospital has a team of veterinarians dedicated to taking care of him around the clock. He was malnourished, dehydrated, and unable to walk when he first arrived at the hospital.
Imlet decided to adopt Charlie so he would not be stuck outside in the cold again. Late Thursday night, she brought him back to her home.
Cassandra Williams, a veterinary neurologist at BluePearl, told NBC New York that they tested his blood for infectious diseases and were awaiting the results of a spinal tap.
“He no longer has his pack, he’s a slow old man now, and was not going to make it in this extreme cold,” Lauffer wrote. “He is a handsome mutt that was never dangerous. This stoic old boy needs some help with vet bills.”
Lauffer started the GoFundMe page to raise money to cover the veterinarian costs to get Charlie back on his feet. As of midday Friday, the Highbridge Charlie GoFundMe page had raised more than $10,000 for the pooch.
By Michael Walsh February 20, 2015 11:41 AM Yahoo News
I couldn’t end my posts about our wonderful Caribbean cruise to the Panama Canal without mentioning that during the middle of one night while we were sleeping, our ship rescued a 90 foot craft that was sinking along with its 8 man crew!
By the time our ships officers heard the distress call from the Excalibur, it had already lost power and was sinking. A crew member was desperately calling on a hand held radio. The ship was pitch black and was not visible in the dark of night. They were out of flares and running out of time.
Below is the article written about the rescue on the HAL website.
HAL’s Zuiderdam Rescue Crew of Sinking Boat
Submitted by: HAB Editorial Team
On a recent cruise, the Zuiderdam was called upon to assist a vessel in need of assistance.
At 2:10 a.m. Jan. 3, 2015, while en route to Oranjestad, Aruba, Zuiderdam answered a distress call from the Bahamian inter-island vessel Excalibur that was sinking with eight crewmembers onboard. Zuiderdam was approximately 15 miles away and the closest ship in the area.
“Congratulations to the officers and crew onboard Zuiderdam for their quick response that saved the lives of eight people,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line. “We are proud to be able to come to the rescue when called upon, and it’s even more gratifying when everything goes as smoothly as this operation did.”
Zuiderdam altered course and was able to successfully execute a nighttime rescue of all eight crewmembers at 3:01 a.m. The ship brought them onboard and provided food and accommodations. The rescued crewmembers debarked in Aruba Jan. 5.
I’ve been on many cruises, but never one that actually saved lives! Just one additional event that made this trip awesome!