Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pay It Forward

You may have seen the movie, starring Helen Hunt, Haley Joel Osment, and Kevin Spacey, about a little boy who practices (and preaches) the idea of "repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people." 

There is tremendous satisfaction in helping others. I highly recommend that the next time you are feeling blue, go do something nice for someone, human or animal, even if it is someone you don’t know. Then go polish your halo and see how good you feel.

My neighbor and I were chatting the other night about our little street and the people who live here. Most of us are middle to lower income, self-employed or working in hard physical jobs. We have a backhoe operator, a landscaper, a house painter and a concrete contractor. I am self-employed, live alone, and work about four different jobs to make ends meet. I am a pet sitter, artist, writer, and web site designer (both freelance and part time for a company), along with a few other odds and ends that come up occasionally, like working for a private investigator and assisting a photographer friend when she is on a photo shoot.

The current economic problems have hit us all hard. But guess what? We are all in there, helping each other. During the fires last fall, I was in South Dakota visiting my ill father for the last time. My neighbors sprang into action. Julie and Dale loaded up my dogs and cats into their motor home and evacuated them. Rick and Robin hooked up my trailer and were ready to haul out the horses. After the huge windstorm, Alfredo cut up my fallen trees and hauled them away.

The hard times have helped us return to those old-fashioned values that movies from the 1940s glorified. Neighbors help neighbors, and strangers reach out to one another. Midwestern values that I see every time I visit South Dakota. My 86-year-old dad was having problems with his cell phone. His arthritic fingers couldn’t dial, and he would get confused. Jill, at the cell phone store, found a better phone, exchanged it with his for free, and programmed all his speed dial numbers for him. Then she typed up the list in big type, had it laminated, and delivered it to him at the nursing home. Not something you’ll see happen in Los Angeles very often? Think again...

When I was going through my divorce, I lived in an apartment and had nowhere to keep my horse or my dog. My friends Patty and Virginia stepped forward–one took the horse, one took the dog–and cared for them for months at no charge, until I was able to move into a house. They have earned lifetime free pet sitting from me, but in reality, it’s nothing compared to what they did for me when I needed it most.

Remember the emotion as we all pulled together after the terrorist attacks of 9/11? If fires, tornadoes or hurricanes have affected you, maybe you have experienced it; maybe you have hugged strangers, cried in each other’s arms, or even saved each other’s lives. 

You don’t have to wait for a disaster. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay the kindness that has been extended to me. Maybe I can’t. So if the opportunity arises, I’ll have to pay it forward, because my halo could use a little polishing too.  

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Doggie look-alikes

The photo on the left is my Desi, a wirehaired dachshund in need of a haircut. His picture recently appeared on the cover of the DWAA newsletter (Dog Writers Association of America). 

Another DWAA member, Deborah Shildkraut, just emailed me this photo of her dog, Bella, a 16 year old dachshund mix, who looks suspiciously like Desi. TWINS! Deborah volunteers for the Greyhound Adoption Service in Salisbury MA. 

When I adopted Desi, I had never seen a wirehaired cream colored doxie. I guess they are fairly common. When they need a haircut, you can't even tell what breed they are. Millie (at left), often stays with me, and her owners like her longer wiry coat. She is a mini, and is so tiny and cute! And very, VERY opinionated.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

My friend, Betty White

Betty White is a friend to all animals and a great supporter of shelters and animal welfare causes. During my years volunteering and other dog activities, I have met her several times. My Dad, George Johnson, was a big fan of her, so he was VERY impressed! 

She made several appearances at Humane Society and Delta Society fundraisers, and I even met her at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show one year, where she was touring the benching area with David Frei, the Westminster announcer, who also served on our Humane Society's board of directors with me. 

Every time I met Betty, I'd tell Dad, who was living in Yankton, South Dakota (birthplace of Tom Brokaw, he's always quick to inform you). On one of my visits we went to see Dad's lawyer, and as we sat in the lawyer's office, Dad leaned over to her and in a loud whisper, said "Hey, my daughter here is a friend of Betty White." I felt like a 10 year old kid again, and wanted to crawl under the table.

A few months later, I received a note in the mail from Dad. It was one part of an interoffice three-piece carbon memo (long before email days). One copy went to the Doris Day Animal League, and one copy went to me: 
"Dear Doris,
Please accept this check as my order for the book, xxxx, and mail it to my daughter, Terry Albert, who is a nationally recognized artist and friend of Betty White..."
By now you see where this is going. I'm sure "Doris" was suitably impressed. Dad would tell people at the coffee shop, church and the car wash about his daughter who knows a celebrity. The biggest celebrity Yankton ever saw (besides Tom Brokaw) was Lawrence Welk, who used to play the Corn Palace up in Mitchell, SD, with his orchestra before he hit the big time. Dad would tell you that he once retrieved Mr. Welk's broken conductor's baton from the floor of the stage and returned it to him during a performance. "And he said thank you!" Dad would boast. 

By the time of Dad's 84th birthday, he was living in a nursing home, and my brother and I provided most of his contact with the outside world. That year, I wrote a note to the Delta Society (I used to write their Pet Partners Newsletter, so I had a contact there), and asked them to forward it on to Betty White, who served on their Board of Directors. I asked Ms. White if she would send a birthday card to her biggest fan, my Dad. As a thank you I enclosed a package of some of my notecards featuring dog art I had done. I was delighted when I received a wonderful thank you note from her.

On my next visit to South Dakota, I found Dad had received an autographed photo of Betty White (see above) with a personal message to him. We went right out and bought a frame for it, and hung it on the wall so everyone who came to his room could see it, and he could continue to embarrass me with his story. 

I wouldn't claim that I'm a friend of Betty White's, but she certainly was a friend to me. And I'm sure when Tom Brokaw came to visit Yankton, Dad told him all about it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More about exercise

Exercise for dogs seems to be a hot topic these days: this link is an article by pet columnist Steve Dale, who writes: 

"If after 35 years of training dogs Carol Lea Benjamin had to sum it all up, narrowing all of her collective wisdom into one tip, this is it: "Dogs need exercise, outside, every single day, rain or shine. That's actually tip No. 3 in Benjamin's latest book, "See Spot Sit: 101 Illustrated Tips for Training the Dog You Love" (Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY, 2008; $12.95). "It's extremely rare to find a dog having a behavior problem who is getting enough exercise," she notes."

Carol Lea Benjamin was an associate and good friend of Job Michael Evans. It appears dog trainers are returning to our roots, and everything old is new again. Quoting a popular TV show: Not that there's anything wrong with that. 

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A tired dog is a good dog

The title above is a quote from Job Michael Evans, an author and dog trainer for the Monks of New Skete who passed away in the mid 90s. He inspired me to train dogs, and his books certainly taught me a lot of what I know about dog behavior. He came up with training regimes such as "Radical Regimen for Recalcitrant Rovers," and my favorite motto of all: "Train, don't complain." I used to post that one on the wall at my obedience classes. Getting through to the humans is much harder than training the dogs! 

Today's training guru, Cesar Millan of the TV show, Dog Whisperer, preaches some of the same methods. Many dog trainers just hate him, because he does dangerous things on his television show that no owner should EVER try. I agree with that, but I think he does a lot of good too. If you've read his books, he talks quite a bit about how he exercises his dog pack for several hours every day. That is something none of us has time for, but it is a big factor in controlling aggression in the pack. All those pit bulls are too tired to become over-stimulated and start a fight when a new dog comes into the group. Sometimes this isn't obvious on the show. It is portrayed as his "power" over the pack. Don't be fooled. He definitely is a leader and in charge of those dogs, but exercise and training have a lot to do with their behavior. 

Taking that theory down to the pet owner level, if we exercise our dogs several times a day with a game or a walk, their down time will be much calmer and less destructive. We all know what a bored puppy can do with his teeth when you're not watching! 

It's work, yes, and requires effort on the owner's part. But you knew that when you got a dog, right? You committed to caring for this animal, right? Time with us, exercise and training are the promises we make when we add a dog to our homes. It's like having a two year old child for fifteen years. 

But you knew that too... right?

The dog shown above is Sandy, a yellow Lab puppy, five months old, who has been boarding with me. She wore out every dog in the house, then FINALLY fell asleep. She would have been hell on wheels if no other dogs were here to play with. 


Monday, July 7, 2008

Australian Terrier Painting

Check out my latest contribution to the Canine Art Guild blog, Art with a Bark, and read about my painting for the Australian Terrier Club of America National Specialty.  The art shown here is their logo which was made into pins, two versions to feature both colors of Aussies. 

Click the title above to view all of the artwork for the specialty