Tag Archives: rescue

  • Still Saying Goodbye

    Written by Jenny Pavlovic

    We lost our beloved dog Bandit to multiple myeloma in March. I had a beautiful pendant made with some of his ashes inside, and I wear it on a chain around my neck, or on a bracelet. I mentioned before that I had a hard time deciding where to release Bandit's ashes, so I’ve been releasing smidgens of them in many of the places we had good times together. I had released some of his ashes up on our hill where we walk and play every day, and earlier in July I released some under the orange 'Moose that Wouldn't Move' (http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?p=2778) and in my parents' yard in Wisconsin where we used to play ball when we visited.

    One Saturday morning in July I took some ashes along on errands. I released some at the Washington County Fairgrounds where Bandit and I spent many hours doing tracking training. Last summer Bandit and I often went there on Saturday mornings while Chase was resting at home (in Cay's company) from a week of radiation therapy. I'm very grateful that Bandit and I had this time alone together, even while Chase required special care for his cancer treatments. As I released Bandit's ashes there, a red-tailed hawk circled and called out. When I looked up I saw a rainbow sun dog, a colorful ring around the sun. I thought about the time Bandit and I had spent there together, not just tracking, but sitting on the tailgate under a large tree waiting for the tracks to age, enjoying the morning. And I realized that I still have many tears left, some that I let go of that morning.

    It's funny how life often turns out differently than you plan and expect. I thought all that time Bandit and I spent tracking would lead us to tracking and versatility titles, but really that time together was the gift in itself. The dedication and determination to spend that time together, driven by goals that we ran out of time to complete, gave us the gift of that time. The real purpose of it all was a surprise because I never thought I’d lose Bandit so soon. I’m left with these memories of precious time alone with Bandit, time we might not have had if I’d only been able to focus on taking care of Chase.

    Later that Saturday morning in July, Chase and Cay and I went for a walk by the St. Croix River in our home town of Afton, Minnesota. I released more of Bandit’s ashes to the wind in this one more place where Bandit and I had shared good times. We had taken one of our last walks away from home there, when the river was iced over, long after Bandit had revealed that he could no longer track.

    Then on the way home Chase and Cay and I stopped at Afton State Park in the St. Croix River Valley, up on the hill behind our house, where Bandit and I did much of our tracking training. There I released more ashes to the wind. While I was turning the truck around to head home, a spotted fawn cantered out from behind a tree. I was emotionally drained and hungry and wanted to go home, but I paused to watch and enjoy the moment. The fawn's twin leapt out from behind the other side of the tree. They cavorted together for a moment right in front of the truck, then galloped off into the woods. What an amazing gift, something I might have missed before.

    Bandit never fit into a box any better than I do. He led me to all of these places, taught me so many things on our remarkable journey together. Yes, I feel very sad missing Bandit. But I also feel thankful for the time we had together, because I know the deep well of sadness is directly related to how remarkable our bond and our love for each other were.

    On a Sunday in July, we visited Bandit's mama Sparkee at his birthplace near Lake City, Minnesota. Bandit's formal name was 'Hillhaven Bolt out of the Blue', and Sparkee is the blue! Spark, still beautiful at age 15, has lost much of the function in her back end and may not be with us much longer. I gave her my love and thanked her for giving us such a special boy. I scattered some of Bandit's ashes in a wildflower prairie on this farm where he was born, while Chase and Cay enjoyed running in the field.

    How do I even know all the ways Bandit changed my life? How do I let go of a dog who so profoundly taught me things I needed to know? One thing I hope I never forget is that we only have this present moment and we'd best enjoy it. Yes, the lawn mower won't start, the light switch isn't working right, and things seem to go wrong all of the time. But we can still play ball and enjoy this beautiful day and not wait for everything to be perfect in order to be happy. Things are seldom going to be perfect, but if we enjoy this present moment, they might just feel perfect right now. Bandit would whack me on the leg with the rubber chicken, or poke me with the jolly ball, to remind me of this. He was always much wiser than I.

    While in hindsight Bandit showed signs of being ill as early as February or March of 2013, his tests came back normal and he held it together until September. Sometimes I wonder how he ran tracks at all last summer, and I hope I didn't work him too hard. I don't think it's a coincidence that he didn’t quit tracking until the September morning after Chase successfully completed his daily radiation therapy treatments. I think that Bandit held it together until he knew that Chase would survive colon cancer. Bandit knew that I couldn’t bear to lose both of them at the same time. He was that wise and intrepid, and I'm sure he took care of us in many ways that I'm not even aware of.

    I'm still saying goodbye, while yet noticing the many ways Bandit stays with us as we make our way without his physical presence. I haven't been able to track with the other dogs yet this year, even though I know they would enjoy it and benefit from it. Visiting the fields to release Bandit's ashes is a step toward being able to function that way again. Maybe now I can think of it as going to the tracking fields to visit him and create new memories with Chase and Cay. We'll see, as somehow we carry on.

    The garden I built in Bandit’s memory is growing and blooming like crazy, a reminder that life goes on. Somehow we do too.

    At the end of June a friend emailed me about a senior red Australian Cattle Dog in jeopardy in Illinois. An unclaimed stray, he was running out of time and urgently needed rescue. Oh, what a tug at my heartstrings. This old guy, called ‘Pops’, reminded me so much of Bandit. His spirit seemed to bust right out of the photo. He was described as being very friendly. He gets along with other dogs and sounds like a very sweet old guy.

    The folks at Homeward Bound Waggin’, Inc. in Quincy, Illinois (http://www.homewardboundwaggin.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/HomewardBoundWagginInc) were looking out for Pops and could pull him, get vet care, and transport him to Minnesota. I checked around for a rescue group to take him in. The Top Dog Foundation in Minnesota (http://www.topdogfoundation.org/), known to be a friend to older dogs, agreed to take him into one of their foster homes.

    Once Pops arrived in Minnesota, he was found to have a broken or dislocated jaw. On July 23rd, he had surgery to repair his jaw and remove three painful teeth. Pops is reportedly doing well. You can follow his progress on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TopDogFDN. If you’re interested in meeting and possibly adopting Pops, please contact the Top Dog Foundation. If you would like to donate toward his veterinary care, please go to http://www.razoo.com/story/Help-Pops-The-Cattle-Dog. Homeward Bound Waggin’ would appreciate your support too. If not for them, Pops probably wouldn’t still be here! Thank you!

  • Reading Books, Touching Hearts

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Last month I wrote about Godwinks, and I’ve written about my dog Chase many times. You may have read the story of how Chase and I came together in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. The short version is that I met Sarah while caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We stayed in contact after we returned home to Virginia and Minnesota. God winked one day when “Fred” caught my eye as I viewed Sarah’s rescue website, www.lostfantasystables.com. Despite his unhappy expression, the little guy was cute. He had the sable coloring and white ruff of a collie, with red and white speckles on his chest and legs. I felt an immediate connection.

    Sarah rescued “Fred” from a man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. Fred had a strong herding instinct and was probably just trying to keep the place organized. But the man, in a rage, stuffed him into a tiny chicken crate and threatened to shoot him. When Sarah intervened and saved the terrified little guy, she held him on her lap for a long time before he stopped shaking. He knew the fate he had just escaped.

    Seeing that Fred was described as a “red heeler mix” and wanting to support Sarah’s rescue efforts in an impoverished area of rural Virginia, I followed up. My Australian Cattle Dog Bandit, who had recently lost his best dog pal and playmate, needed a new friend. Sarah and I determined that Chase would likely be a good fit for my family. With much planning and the help of many volunteers who transported him, Fred made the long journey from Virginia to Minnesota over Memorial weekend in 2006. He enjoyed the adventure and his series of chauffeurs commented on what a handsome and loving dog he was. He arrived with a beautiful greeting card chronicling his journey and wishing him a happy new life, signed by Sarah and everyone who had met him along the way.

    I called him Fred for a while. I could say fun things like, “It’s time for bed Fred!” But eventually he became “Chase”, claiming the name. After living with and observing him for a while, I decided that he’s most likely a Smooth Coated Collie - Australian Cattle Dog mix. He is long in body with the thick undercoat, narrow ears and muzzle, and beautiful coloring of a smooth coated collie. He has a collie’s shrieky bark and likes to patrol perimeters like a collie. But he is stockier and lower to the ground like a cattle dog. He has a dose of cattle dog chutzpah and cattle dog speckles on his legs, belly, and running down his chin like spilled milk.

    Chase settled in pretty well here, becoming fast friends with Bandit. One morning, I was puzzled when Chase wouldn’t go into the garage with me. I later learned that the violent man used to throw him in the garage by himself for hours. Chase apparently didn’t want to go in with me because he thought I was going to leave him there… alone… for hours, the worst kind of punishment for him.

    Bandit and Chase enjoyed playing ball, running in the woods and fields, and bobbing for fallen apples in the kiddie pool. Chase and I went to obedience and agility classes, learned to track together, and enjoyed herding sheep and ducks. No matter what, Chase always gave love.

    Early on, Chase appeared to have some flashbacks to the violence he’d been subjected to before being rescued, but he knows he’s safe now and seems to have fully recovered. By the end of the day, his back is usually sore and stiff, probably from being stuffed into that tiny chicken crate back in Virginia.

    Chase taught me that another man’s trash could be my treasure. He is the sweetest, handsomest, most sensitive dog who used to worry about making a mistake, because he knew that the “mistake” of acting on his herding instinct could have cost him his life. He trusts me now and we have learned to work together to herd sheep and ducks so he can express this wonderful talent without fearing for his life. He taught me that you can start over again and recover from abuse and violence to be who you were meant to be.

    Chase has created some interesting jobs for himself. Herding dogs are especially alert to anything that’s out of order because they’re used to watching over their flock. Chase likes to notify me when anything is different. He lets me know when the garbage truck and snowplow are coming long before I hear them. He lets out a special bark when the feral cat is around. When we go outside, Chase patrols the perimeter as a collie will. He follows his nose, which tells him what other creatures have passed through. He spots birds way up in the sky and has alerted me to a bald eagle soaring high above.

    In spite of his past, Chase is very loving and friendly. He loves to meet people and wants to connect with everyone. If we’re in a room full of people, like at a book signing, he’s bothered if he doesn’t get to greet each person individually. He’d probably make a fantastic greeter at Wal-Mart! After his difficult beginning in life, he may be trying to make up for lost time on the love front.

    Chase intuitively picks up on any unrest among animals or people. He reads people’s moods and seems to know just what they need. At home, he goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on the stool, waiting for a hug. I used to think he did this because he wanted attention. I slowly came to realize that he does this when he senses that I need a hug. He’s thinking about me and is much wiser than most people realize.

    I’ve felt for a long time that part of Chase’s calling in life is to be a therapy dog. Last spring we completed Delta Pet Partners training (Chase: Why Dog is Love, http://www.omegafields.com/blog/chase-why-dog-is-love/). I looked into starting a reading dog program at our local library, which has suffered from budget cuts, but I got sidetracked.

    God winked again when I received an e-mail message from a local librarian who was determined to start a “Dog Gone Reading” program. Now Chase and I volunteer at our small local library for two hours per month. Kids read to Chase, developing their reading abilities in a supportive environment. Chase listens intently while each child reads him a story. He enjoys any story, is great company and isn’t judgmental. While reading out loud to Chase, kids build confidence and gain a friend. Kids who don’t have pets at home get to connect with a dog. Chase, who doesn’t have a kid at home, gets to bond with kids and fulfill his purpose to give love. The kids get to know the local library and all that it offers. Chase and I teach them how to approach a dog, to pet him gently, and to be kind and respectful to animals. Chase is a natural! He knows how important it is to be kind.

    Chase, now about 7 ½ years old, has been waiting for years for me to give him this opportunity to reach his potential. I’m so excited that he’s fulfilling his purpose of sharing love, helping kids develop their reading abilities, and supporting our local library. As an author who loves to read, I don’t want the joy of reading real books to be lost. I want kids to know the pleasure of reading from a printed book held in their hands.


    I’m very grateful to Sarah for saving Chase’s life and for the long journey that brought him home to Minnesota. I’m also grateful to Omega Fields for providing the Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets that boost Chase’s good health and make his coat so soft, shiny and wonderful to snuggle up to.

    Chase already knows the important stuff. He knows how to forgive and how to give love. His heart is wide open; he is an open book.

    Learn more about:

    Delta Pet Partners: http://www.petpartners.org/

    The National Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) Program: http://www.therapyanimals.org/R.E.A.D.html

    R.E.A.D. Dogs Minnesota: http://www.readdogsmn.org/

    The Washington County (Minnesota) Dog Gone Reading Program: http://www.co.washington.mn.us/DocumentCenter/View/2711

  • Meant to Be

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    Lately I’ve been bombarded with stories of dogs in need, dogs who* need to be rescued before they run out of time. Finding safe places for all of them to go can be a challenge. Here’s one story with a happy ending, a story of how a woman and a dog who were meant to be together were united by a series of circumstances. Sometimes these things work out for the best.
    Maximus was tall, dark and handsome — charming with a calm demeanor. But his life hadn’t been easy. He’d had at least three different homes across half of the country and at least two names. He’d roamed the streets and had been picked up. He wasn’t young any more, was settled down, but not quite a senior yet either. He needed a safe place to land, a forever home. He was a gentle spirit, a kind soul, who deserved better than life had offered so far.
    Jeanne was lonely, missing her 100 pound shepherd mix who had died after developing debilitating joint problems. After her husband had passed on a few years ago, the dog had been her true companion. He’d been big, solid, and true, a dog she could lean on and count on.
    Something happened to bring Maximus to Jeanne, and I’m still not quite sure what made the pieces come together. Perhaps divine intervention and a guardian angel were at work.
    Over Memorial weekend, I was in Wisconsin visiting family. My friend Vickie from high school was in town visiting her mom, and they invited me over. I took my dog Chase along. He had recently completed his training to become a Delta Pet Partner, and he loves people. Vickie’s mom Jeanne fell in love with Chase and told me how much she missed her old dog. Chase loved her too and sat by her for much of the evening, enjoying being petted and eying her ready stash of dog treats. Jeanne told me how much she wanted to find another large dog who would be a good companion, but she needed a dog who wasn’t high energy. She used to walk her old dog around the block, take him to the dog park, and hire the neighbor boys to take him for longer walks. In spite of our concern about Jeanne handling a large dog, she was confident that she could still do it. She wanted to keep Chase, but of course, I couldn’t let him go! Instead, I promised to look for a dog for Jeanne.
    Back in Minnesota, a local rescue that I had helped support was closing and they needed to find safe places for the dogs in their care. I had met some of the dogs and had seen others posted on the website. With Jeanne in mind, I looked at the website again, but didn’t find a dog that seemed to be a good match. Most were young, high energy dogs who would need more activity than Jeanne could provide and might just pull her off her feet. I commented to my friends who had volunteered at the rescue and they both said, “What about Maximus, the shepherd mix?” Then I learned his story.
    They told me how big and gentle Maximus is, and how concerned they were that he might not find a good home before the rescue had to close. There didn’t seem to be a single reason why Maximus had not found a good forever home. It always seemed to be a problem with his person not being able to keep him, but nothing that was his fault. Probably being large doesn’t help a dog sometimes.
    I inquired at the rescue, met Maximus, asked a lot of questions, and sent his information and pictures to Jeanne. She was very interested and wanted to know when she could meet him. So in mid-June we arranged to meet halfway, in a small town in west-central Wisconsin, under a statue of an orange moose. A friend who had helped care for Maximus at the rescue volunteered to ride along with me. She wanted to see Max land his new home that day! Max fit in the back seat of my truck, but I didn’t have a crate large enough to hold him. I didn’t know how he would ride in the car, so it was nice to have someone else ride along.
    Max settled in just fine and after driving through western Wisconsin, we arrived under the orange moose. Just after we pulled in, Jeanne drove up in her bright yellow car, like clockwork. We let Maximus take a potty break and stretch his legs. He walked over to Jeanne’s car and hopped right into the back seat like he’d been with Jeanne for his entire life. It was love at first sight for both. Jeanne had decided to adopt Max and was anxious to get going on the road back home, to get him settled into his new life. She had already told the whole neighborhood about Max, and people were awaiting their arrival!
    That morning when I had picked Maximus up from the rescue, I had told him where we were going and what we would be doing that day. I had told him all about Jeanne and how excited she was to meet him. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when he jumped into her car like he’d been doing it for his entire life. He’d apparently understood what I’d told him and was just as excited to get on with the next chapter of their lives as Jeanne was. The rescue had already approved Jeanne to adopt and she had obviously already fallen in love with Max… so off they went!
    Jeanne reported in July that Maximus is now called “Sam”. He didn’t respond to “Maximus”, but responded enthusiastically when she called him “Sam”, so Sam it is! Their veterinarian decided that Sam is part German shepherd and part Great Dane. Now that I think about it, I do see Marmaduke in him! The road for Jeanne and Sam hasn’t been without its bumps. Sam wants to chase bunnies, and there are many wild bunnies in their neighborhood this summer. True to our concerns, Jeanne has fallen a couple of times. But she’s a committed dog mom, and is working to make their life together go smoothly. She consulted with a trainer to learn how to handle Sam better on walks, and hired the neighbor boys to take him for long walks every day. They love him too. Jeanne assured me that Sam has found his forever home. I visited in August to see that they’re doing well together. I wish that a wonderful person like Jeanne would appear for every dog.
    Now Jeanne and Sam seem to belong together, but how did this come to be? I happened to see Jeanne in May when I got together with her daughter. I didn’t find Sam on the rescue website and hadn’t known about him until two different people had both said, “What about Maximus”? Something led me to mention Jeanne to these people, and something led them to mention Sam to me.
    And here’s the rest of the story… When I was in high school, my family moved out to the country. I loved living in the country and being with my animals. But sometimes living far away meant that I missed extracurricular activities at school. My friend Vickie lived close to our high school. She was an only child and her family was very social. They hosted me overnight many times, allowing me to attend high school activities that I would have missed. Her family was much more social and politically active than mine. They had interesting parties, exposing me to new and different people and viewpoints, even introducing me to activists, which I have now also become! They opened up a whole new world for me.
    When I think about that time in my life, I realize now how generous Jeanne was to invite me into their home. As a teenager, I probably took too much for granted. I never really thanked her properly for her generosity and for all the doors she opened for me. I can’t think of a better way to thank her than by bringing Sam into her life. What better gift is there than a noble dog? Although I feel as though Sam was sent, and I was just one of the vehicles that brought him to Jeanne, I like to think that, after all these years, her kindness has been repaid. And we have reconnected, not surprisingly over a dog!
    I sent a pouch of Omega Canine Shine® and some Omega Nuggets™ home with Jeanne and Sam, for good nutrition to help Sam get off to a great start in his new home.
    *Note: I often use “who” when referring to a dog. Although the spell checker doesn’t like this and it may not be grammatically correct, I know that dogs are sentient beings and I do it anyway.

  • Chase: Why Dog is Love

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    In January, Chase and I started taking a therapy dog class. The point of the class is to familiarize the human-dog team with the exercises they need to pass to become a Delta Society® Pet Partners® team. Chase has been waiting for me to get my act together for years. He loves to meet new people, is very sensitive, and seems like a natural. I’ve thought for a long time that he would make a good therapy dog, visiting the elderly, or kids in the hospital, or anyone who would feel better by having a dog’s company for a little while, a dog to cuddle up with, stroke, and talk to. He’s a great snuggler and a great listener. He’s a sensitive guy—his favorite ball is pink!
    Chase has always been tuned in to people’s feelings. He knows when something is different. He intuitively picks up on any unrest among animals or people. He’s the dog who goes into the bathroom and puts his front feet up on the stool, waiting for a hug. I used to think he did it because he wanted attention. I slowly came to realize that he does it when I could really use a hug. He’s thinking about me and is much wiser than most people realize.
    My friend Sarah rescued Chase in a poor area of rural Virginia, from a man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. This young cattle dog-collie mix had a strong herding instinct and, knowing him, was just trying to keep the place organized. But the man, in a rage, stuffed him into a tiny chicken crate and was going to shoot him. When Sarah intervened and saved Chase, she held him on her lap for a long time before he stopped shaking. He knew what was going on.
    You may have read the story of how Chase and I came together (in the book 8 State Hurricane Kate). The short version is that I met Sarah while caring for rescued animals in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. We stayed in contact and I came upon Chase the following spring on Sarah’s rescue website (www.lostfantasystables.com). Seeing that he was a “red heeler mix”, wanting to support Sarah’s rescue efforts, and knowing that my red Australian cattle dog needed a new pal, I followed up. Sarah and I determined that Chase would likely be a good fit with my family. A series of very caring people transported Chase from Virginia to Wisconsin, where I picked him up and brought him home.
    That was in 2006. Chase settled in pretty well here, becoming fast friends with Bandit after a few tussles to settle the pack order. One morning, I was puzzled when Chase wouldn’t go into the garage with me to get bird seed. I later learned that the man used to throw him in the garage by himself for hours. Chase apparently didn’t want to go in the garage with me because he thought I was going to leave him there… alone… for hours.
    Chase also had a few episodes that seemed like traumatic flashbacks. One occurred when we were in an agility class, getting ready to start a course. I hadn’t unhooked the leash yet, but he began to run, thinking he was already loose. I didn’t see him take off in time and he hit the end of the leash very hard. His reaction was so dramatic, especially for such a gentle dog, that we decided he was reliving bad past experiences of being jerked hard or hung on a leash. He was very traumatized.
    In spite of his past, Chase is a very loving and friendly dog. He loves people and wants to connect with everyone. If we’re in a room full of people, like at a book signing, he is bothered if he doesn’t get to greet each person individually. Being locked in the garage all alone must have been a horrible punishment. He’s trying to make up for lost time on the love front.
    Chase has been waiting for years now for me to follow through on his potential. I think he will be a great therapy dog, but I’ve often wondered how I would fit another commitment into our schedule. He has an arthritic back now, probably from being thrown around when he was younger. I’m concerned about someone surprising him with a big hug and hurting him. But a year ago at a book event, I learned about READ Dogs (www.readdogsmn.org) and I think he would be a perfect READ dog. READ dogs sit and listen while a child (or anyone who is learning to read) reads them a story. Dogs are great company and aren’t judgmental. They enjoy any story. A kid builds confidence and gains a friend while reading out loud to a dog. Kids who don’t have pets at home get to make a connection with an animal. A dog like Chase gets to bond with a kid and fulfill his purpose to give love.
    Chase may have trouble passing some of the Delta tests due to his back problems, but we’re going to try anyway. We know that, just as a dog can learn to pass the required tests, kids can learn how to approach a dog kindly and gently. Chase already knows the important stuff. He knows how to forgive and how to give love. His heart is open.
    We’re going to share the “secret” behind Chase’s beautiful, soft coat. Once we let our classmates know about Omega Fields Omega Canine Shine® and Omega Nuggets™, they will all have the key to plush, soft and shiny coats that everyone loves to pet!

  • Pondering Poppies in January

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    June 2, 2006 was my last day with 8 State Hurricane Kate. You may know her story from my first book, 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. It was with great sadness that I spent that last beautiful early summer day with her, a perfect day to sit together on the hill and say our goodbyes. I wanted to remember everything about her, forever.
    A year to the day later, on June 2, 2007, a striking bright orange poppy bloomed in my backyard, near where Kate had rested on that last afternoon. It leapt out of the dark foliage, announcing its presence. The seed was probably planted by a bird, if you know what I mean. But poppies don’t grow here naturally. I had a strong feeling that this beautiful flower was a gift from Kate.
    In 2007, I declared June 2nd “Kindness for Kate Day”. In Kate’s honor, I asked people to perform an act of kindness to make the world a better place… plant a flower, say a prayer, help somebody, give hope to a homeless animal or a homeless person, collect spare change and donate it to an animal rescue group or a food shelf, appreciate someone’s efforts, volunteer, or come up with another idea and share it. I challenged people to do something new that they hadn’t done before. I wanted to make June 2nd an awesome day.
    In the past few years, a poppy has bloomed in my backyard every year around June 2nd. But now that first poppy has multiplied into a beautiful poppy garden that blooms briefly, reminding me of that June 2nd in 2006.
    Why am I talking about June in the middle of winter? Because I’m thinking about planting seeds. I’m thinking about the seeds I planted during the past year, and the seeds that I want to plant this year. Some of our seeds grow and bloom, yet others don’t seem to germinate. Over time, however, some will grow into a beautiful perennial garden that we and others can enjoy.
    That one orange poppy that spread into a beautiful garden was like the network of caring people who came together to help the lost Katrina animals, then returned to their homes all over the country and stayed in contact, forming a powerful network. It was like how telling Kate’s story connected me with so many caring people all over the country, and even the world. It was like how that one single decision to go to Louisiana to help lost animals completely changed my life. I have grown too.
    Sometimes the seeds that we plant and water and nurture don’t grow into the flowers we envisioned. Yet other seeds that we didn’t even know we had sown yield beautiful and amazing gardens. What seeds have you planted in the past year? What seeds do you want to plant next? What small actions can you take every day to make the world a better place?
    I’m reminded of a local story that just concluded with a happy ending. While on a walk with her foster mom, a rescued Sheltie named Lady broke loose and was running free in a St. Paul suburb. Lady was spooked easily and was running scared. People had spotted her, but days went by as the rescue group and local volunteers searched. Winter was coming and the weather was getting colder. Efforts to find and even live-trap Lady were in vain.
    One afternoon, a man driving home from work spotted a dog in an industrial area, miles from where Lady had last been seen. He recognized Lady and drove to the grocery store to find the phone number on a flyer he had seen. He called the number, then drove back to the industrial area and found Lady again. But he couldn’t approach her; she was too scared. He followed instructions given to him on the phone and kept an eye on Lady from a distance while Sheltie rescue called volunteers. The foster mom, Mel, and others arrived and sat in a ring around the empty lot, encircling Lady from a distance. Eventually, Mel entered the circle. Each time Lady tried to find an escape route, the person on that side of the circle stood up to keep her from bolting away. Eventually, with much patience, Mel got close enough for Lady to recognize her. Mel spoke, touched Lady, and both relaxed, relieved. With tears in her eyes, Mel fastened Lady’s harness and carried her safely to the car.
    If the man, Brad, a complete stranger, had not noticed Lady, interrupted his routine and acted right away, Lady might still be running scared. If volunteers had not immediately dropped what they were doing in the middle of a work day and gone to help form the circle… if people had not listened to the instructions to NOT approach Lady… she might still be out there, or might not have survived.
    But that’s not the whole story. Mel realized how much Lady meant to her and decided she didn’t want to be separated again. So now Lady is home with Mel forever. And get this: In an interview on local TV, Mel said that she didn’t even know who had posted that flyer at the grocery store, but she was certainly grateful.
    Who posted the flyer at the grocery store?
    Think about it. One seemingly small action: a person putting up a flyer about a lost dog at a grocery store. One tired man on his way home from work who remembered seeing the flyer at the grocery store and acted immediately. One patient group of people who showed up right away to form a circle around the scared dog. And, of course, the rescue group and foster mom. They all made a difference. But the happy ending started with the person who posted the flyer at the grocery store.
    Think about the seeds you want to sow in 2012, the “flyers” you want to post. If changing the whole world for the better seems like an overwhelming goal, think about the small things that you can do every day to make a difference, about each bright orange poppy you can plant. Think about the seemingly small decisions you make and actions you take each day. By the end of the year, you might just have an amazing poppy garden… or an amazing “puppy” garden.


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