Sunday, December 24, 2006

Life and Death, Angels’ Wings, and Everything in Between

My Grown Up Christmas List

song performed by Kelly Clarkson


"One man's life touches so many others, when he's not there it leaves an awfully big hole" Clarence the Angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Last night, as I slowly began to settle in for this Christmas Eve night, I was, for the very first time breaking with tradition, a Christmas Eve tradition which I have kept for the past twenty-five years. This year, I made the decision to forego my annual viewing of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the Frank Capra classic, a movie like no other and a movie which I have loved for more than those twenty-five years, each year, more than the last. And so, addiction being addiction, albeit it one to a warm fuzzy ending, after twenty-five years, I couldn’t just quit this habit cold turkey; truth be told, I did have the television on in the next room and my husband grew tired of yelling at me over the audio-only version. How do you completely toss out a time-honored tradition when it is one that just feels so darned good? Well, I couldn’t, and so, as in every year before, my ears were finely tuned to the next line, every line of the movie and I know them so well, but this year, as I said the lines nearly as perfectly as Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed did, the video portion of the evening’s entertainment was not the black and white film starring two Hollywood icons. No, the video portion this year, and it was in high-definition and in living color too, the video portion of It’s a Wonderful Life was the year-long reel-to-reel playing in my head....the movie? It’s a Wonderful Life, of course! It is a wonderful life, only, it’s my wonderful life.

If you have seen this holiday classic once, or if you have watched it over and over and over again like me, then surely you must know why it is so beloved. But, if you haven’t, I will tell you that the movie, at its very core, drives home the message that each one of us matters to the world around us, regardless of whether or not we know it. Because each one of us influences the lives of others, and often in ways that we will never know, our own life’s success, any honorable and “good” man’s life success, is ultimately measured by all the lives we enrich, others’ lives, and not by the dollars which we collect in our bank accounts. Money, it turned out in the movie, really couldn’t bring Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, happiness, nevertheless, it was George’s wealth that did eventually change his perspective...his wealth of friendships. It is after years of living honorably and seemingly getting nowhere, that George finally questions his own existence, a question which many of us have grappled with at some point in our own lives, and only with the assistance of an angel, Clarence, does George come to realize that his really was a wonderful life. In his darkest hour, as he contemplates his life and possible death if he doesn’t screw that up too, he commits one more selfless act when he saves a man from drowning. Little did he know that the man he saved was really Clarence, sent to show George just why it is that his life matters so much. And of course, good triumphs and Clarence is able to earn his wings when George realizes that no matter what the future holds for him, he wants that future, he wants his life, for he has indeed had a wonderful life. If I live to be a hundred, I will always get that feeling in the pit of my stomach, I will always get goose-bumps on my skin, and I will always wipe away more than one tear, when as George’s life crisis is nearing a resolution, his brother Harry offers a toast to, “the richest man in town”.......George may not have amassed a fortune, instead he acquired a lifetime of friends because of how he effected their lives. It’s corny, It’s sappy, and it’s a happy ending; it’s the way life is meant to be and I must have always known that somehow, after all, I have seen the movie a few times. But, it’s this new version, my version of It’s a Wonderful Life that holds my interest this Christmas Eve.....who did I make a difference for this past year? Did I miss the little opportunities that don’t always announce themselves with bells and whistles? Did I fail miserably having made no difference at all, to anyone, this past year? Although it was never my intention to share any of the three following stories that are central to my version, as I keep hitting the rewind button of this past year, these are the three stories, the three people who are the only ones who can tell this version of Life and Death, Angels’ Wings and Everything in Between, because these are the three people that play on the screen of my mind of my wonderful life.

Tony, I like to think, is someone who I made a difference for this past year, albeit a very small difference, a difference nevertheless

It was last spring, nearly eight months into the long-term animal rescue efforts of which I was still taking part in, that I came across a scruffy man and his beagle. He was standing near an intersection, holding a sign, a sign I couldn’t bring myself to read because I was sure of what his message was: this man was homeless and I will not deny that the extra tug at my heart that day came because the homeless man shared his begging space with a small dog, a beagle. I have always believed that any homeless person who is traveling with or caring for an animal, has just got to have the biggest heart if he or she is willing to share such a meager life with another creature. So yes, I will admit that my U-turn that day was guaranteed by the sight of that beagle huddled up against that man. But, what unfolded that day was more than that, for the man I returned to offer money to, and for me as well.

By the time I was able to complete the u-turn and return to the spot in which I had spotted the pair, both the man and his dog were gone. Fortunately, I saw them traveling along the highway and was able to catch up to them both as they turned into a parking lot of a small convenience store and headed toward the back. Tony, as it turned out, is a fifty-four year old Vietnam Veteran who has been homeless for twenty years. The beagle, obviously much younger, was a dog he came across, and rescued, following Katrina. I listened to his story about saving the dog and upon closer examination of the beagle, I was certain that this dog had no prior family and that the very best place for him was in fact with Tony, a man who so clearly loved him. Tony and I talked for some time that afternoon and although he never lifted his head completely enough to look me in the eyes, I think I saw him smile a time or two, and I am positive that I saw tears when I was able to give him the one thing he told me he was saving up his cash to buy: a tent. The bridge under which he and his pup slept at night was a great spot, he told me, but when it rained, the walls did leak and so he was going to buy a tent someday but he could only save a dollar or two at a time. I didn’t need any sign from up above, I didn’t need any bell to go off, I knew in an instant just why it was that I had come across Tony that day, a very unusual day for me because I was driving my husband’s truck instead of my own. So as I walked around the back of the truck and lifted the hatch, I’m not exactly sure what Tony expected when I told him that I had something for him, but I swear he nearly fainted on the spot when I pulled out and handed to him a brand new Coleman tent, my husband’s newest camping gear. After a few moments of wiping his face, he slowly walked over to me and told me that if he wasn’t so filthy, he would shake my hand and give me a proper thank you. It was my turn to fight back the tears and to fight back the enormous lump in my throat when I held out my hand and told him that I would be honored to shake his hand but no thanks were needed for the tent.........Tony took my hand and told me that the proper thanks he needed to give me were not for the tent. Although the tent was the best thing he could have ever imagined being given, he told me that the proper thanks he needed to give, the thanks that he felt a duty to give, were for my conversation, it had been so long since Tony had enjoyed a conversation.


Bryan, I hope and pray, is a young man who will one day, someday, remember me and the time we spent together, but only for a brief second of time it will take for him to make the right call about a stranger he meets, a stranger who is different than he is

It was sometime near the end of summer, maybe around Labor Day, that I became aware of people, real live people, who had moved onto, or back onto S. Miro Street. S. Miro Street, as you may recall, is a street on which I spend much of my time trapping and feeding and trapping some more, but it is a deserted street, a lonely street, near the Charity Hospital off of Tulane Avenue in New Orleans. It had been so many months of time on S. Miro Street and then one day, a family appeared, an older black woman, a young black woman, and two children.
Bryan was only twelve but already as tall as any adult and after noticing that he was the one watching me every evening, with an obvious look of “what the heck is she doing on my street?” I decided to just tell him, tell his mother and aunt and sister, and so I did. I introduced myself, told them what I was doing, why I was doing it and sure enough, it was Bryan who threw out question after question. “What do you do with the cats after you trap them?” “Why can’t you release the babies?” “What if you catch a dog or a racoon?”

And so it went, for nearly six weeks. Bryan would meet me every night it seemed to help lay out traps, to take some packs of wet food on the nights we spotted baby kittens but were not quick enough to catch, to talk about his sixth grade class at Sophie B. Wright, to talk about Katrina and his friends he missed. Bryan and I never once talked about black or white, young or old, rich or poor, we just talked and his mom would wave to me every now and then and then one day they were gone. I pulled up one evening and a man was almost finished loading a U-Haul trailer with items he carried from the house in which I knew Bryan and his family lived. Finally, I got to meet Bryan’s father, a man who drove an 18 wheeler for a living and wasn’t home as much as he would like, but he was moving his family closer to him so that would change. I would miss Bryan but I knew that this was a good thing for him and for his family. I wondered if Bryan would miss his trapping adventures and it wasn’t long before I got my answer.

It was nearly a month after Bryan and his family moved away, a sunny Saturday morning, during a solitary trapping session on S. Miro Street, I got word from Bryan, sort of. I was hunkered down on the side of a vacant glass factory warehouse, waiting silently for that tabby cat to make his appearance right into my trap, when a pickup truck driven by a middle-aged black man pulled up and ruined that trapping session, for the morning anyway. As I got up and walked over, ready to yet again explain who I was, just what I was doing there, and finally offer my rear bumper as all the credentials one would need (my Animal Rescue New Orleans bumper sticker, of course) I was slightly taken aback when this man, a man I had never met before, never seen before, rolled down his window and yelled out that he had something for me. This is going to be good, I thought, or really bad. When it became clear to the man that I intended to walk no further, he stepped out of his truck and completed the distance between us. “Hold out your hand” he commanded and what else could I do? As I held out my hand, determined that it would not shake, he held out his, and in my hand he placed 3 small sealed packets of Meow Mix, wet cat food. I looked at him, half expecting him to say that he saw them fall out of my truck, but instead, he told me that they were from Bryan, and he pointed to the house where Bryan used to live. He told me that Bryan told him to keep an eye out for that “crazy white lady” but then he leaned in toward me and told me that Bryan told him that he had a secret, he said Bryan told him I really wasn’t crazy at all, I was a hero. As I looked down at my hand, through the tears that I didn’t even try to hold back, the man told me that Bryan wanted him to be sure to get these packets to me and that I would know exactly what to do with them. I sure do know what to do with them Bryan, I’m going to save them for the next person who gives me a chance, the next person who doesn’t care that I am different, the next person who, like you did, judges me by my insides instead of the color of my outside. If the day ever comes that Bryan questions his own existence, if his Angel is determined to earn his own wings, he had better allow Bryan to revisit our time together, because Bryan made a difference for me, and I can only hope that ultimately, I made a difference for him.

I am a person, still making every effort to keep this newly found heart open to the world and all, and who it has to offer, but I know that I have made a difference to me, the person I am, different than who I was

The third person of my replayed movie of my mind, is me. And while Tony and Bryan required background information so that you might fully understand why they appear in my version of It’s a Wonderful Life, I will not. You already know me through my writings here and you know to an extent, who I am. But, you never knew who I was, as I didn’t begin sharing my thoughts with the rest of the world until I made that decision last Christmas that my heart was different and different it would stay. So, instead of background information, I will share with you a very brief but oh so significant exchange that recently took place between myself and someone who knows me well, my husband.

On a recent evening, my husband and I were talking about another individual, someone who we both know through one of our employment situations. We were speaking about this individual when my husband suddenly made a comment about this person that caused me to have flashbacks and feelings of deja vu: my husband commented upon this person’s negativity and that he is just a negative person. I immediately lost all train of thought regarding our conversation and instead had all these memories come flooding back....you see, my husband has always told me how negative a person I am, but in that instant, I realized I hadn’t heard him say that recently. So, I stopped him mid sentence and I asked him for the reason....why didn’t he say that anymore to me? I asked him why he stopped telling me that I was one of the most negative people he knew........he laughed before he answered. My husband, my husband of seven years, a person who does know me well, better than most you would think, laughed and then looked at me and said “Because you’re not like that anymore, that’s not who you are anymore.”

So this Christmas Eve, I will not be looking for Clarence to show me just how wonderful life really is, but I suspect he will have every opportunity to earn his wings right here in New Orleans, so many are still hurting so much.... I lost a friend this year who needed Clarence badly. Please God, send an army of Clarences to this city, only not to me. You see God, this year, after nearly forty of them, I no longer question my existence, in fact, it is one of the very few things that I am certain of and although it is difficult to define in concrete terms the answer to that question that many of us eventually face, for me, I do in fact have my answer and no longer question why I am here.

I know why I am here and because of that, I face the world so differently than I did a year ago. Whereas I have always had a strength of my convictions to change the world, what I lacked in the past was the clarity of vision as to why to change that world, and as I have learned this past year, that clarity can only be obtained as part of an on-the-job training. It was my own conscious decision this time last year, when I resolved to open my heart to others, when I traded my tunnel vision for a pair of rose-colored glasses, it was that decision that, although unbeknownst to me at the time, was my fork in the road, and as I look back at the path, I can clearly see that I didn’t change direction, rather, the direction I took changed me. Shakespeare himself decided the world was his oyster, and I have never doubted that the world is in fact, my oyster. However, I also never counted on the strength of the heart being the strength that would dwarf all my convictions: to paraphrase Ghandi, Why change the world when I can be the change in the world? Until I opened my heart, I didn’t understand that the world is not here for me, I am here for the world, and that is the answer which Clarence might have helped me see with my eyes, but this Christmas I feel it with my heart. Why accept the world as my oyster, if instead, I can be its pearl? Clarence, if you are watching, keep going buddy, someone else earned his wings on me, and if you see him, tell him I said Thank You, and oh yes, Merry Christmas.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Magnolia Sammy and other Creatures of My Imagination


Animal Rescue is People Thing

I have often been asked as to why I help animals and each time I am asked this, I am always confused and unsure of not so much what I want to say, but rather, what the person asking the question really wants to hear. I often wonder why any other act of kindness I might direct toward a two legged creature is usually met with thanks, praise or just without question, without a need for a reason. Although I have been unable to figure this out, for the most part, it has never truly bothered me..that is until a recent incident finally forced me to bring this practice of prodding into my psyche, for just the thing that makes me tick, to a resolution, a resolution that I can live with, in fact a resolution that causes me to raise my chin just an inch or two higher, and to that, I am resolved. And so, with my chin up, I share that incident with any other inquiring minds as to what makes me do things I do.

“Magnolia Sammy” is a young and playful orange tabby who is full of energy and who zing-zangs around his outdoor home, one he shares with a few other felines in New Orleans, on a street heavily damaged by Katrina, Magnolia Street. Sammy’s home on Magnolia Street runs right through a neighborhood or New Orleans called “Milan” Milan is, or rather was, a neighborhood of low- to middle-class families, a high majority of who were renters (Claritas estimates 1999, Census 2000). Pre-Katrina, Milan was a predominantly black neighborhood with 73% black population, slightly higher than the 66% black population for the entire parish of Orleans, Louisiana. Additionally, 28.6% of Milan lived below the poverty status as reported in 2000, whereas 27.9% of the entire parish of Orleans was considered to be living below the poverty status during the same time period. If you consider the demographics of the pre-Katrina Milan population, you can easily determine what I know to be true......the Road Home program has not brought these people home.

Magnolia Street is one of my early evening feeding/trapping spots because Milan’s empty, open and ruined buildings that used to be homes, all abut another New Orleans neighborhood, Central City. There is no need for me to fine-detail Central City for you as Time Magazine did a fine job in its June 18, 2006 article, “ The Crime that Stunned New Orleans:
The brutal murder of five youths over the weekend was a grim reminder just how much crime is making a comeback after the post-Katrina lull” It is widely rumored that the “occupation” of New Orleans by the National Guard was a direct result of the quintuple homicide subject of Time’s article. Recently, on October 21, 2006, two New Orleans men, both 18, were fatally shot in Central City....at 3:55 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. For these reasons, I work Magnolia Street and other streets in this section quickly, as quickly as I can. It was one of these early evening trapping sessions on Magnolia Street that I once again received that question, the question, along with a puzzled look and was yet again asked to justify my efforts to help a living creature. Only this question didn’t confuse me, it angered me, and, it saddened me......the person asking the question this time, the preacher of the neighborhood church.

I was in the middle of setting a trap in hopes of catching at least one of those juvenile black cats that keep giving me the slip when from around the corner came two gentlemen and one woman, all carrying pamphlets. They introduced themselves as being members and the preacher of the local church in the neighborhood and told me that they were taking a walking tour of their neighborhood to welcome its parishioners back. Before I could offer any explanation as to why I was crouched down on the ground of one of their “neighbors” yards, rigging a trap as I peeked around the corner and down the alley between the house and the gutted out business next door, I was a little shocked when the preacher asked me if I just started work on my house or if I had been back for awhile. I immediately let him know that this was not my house, nor did I live here before Katrina and his reply was to laughingly acknowledge that it did seem unusual to come across a white woman on this block. He further acknowledged that he was just now getting back into the swing of things and getting to reacquaint himself with his “flock” and as his community’s leader, he felt obliged to ask me just what was I doing that afternoon, on that front yard, and so I told him the story, all three of them.

I first came to Magnolia Street in the ongoing animal rescue efforts in this city around July 15, 2006. I had gotten a request for help from another individual, this person helps in Plaquemines Parish to help the remaining animals, and she had received the initial request for help from Jane Garrison, one of the three founding members of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a non-profit organization which continues to work in devastated areas where animals still remain in need of help. Apparently, the woman who used to reside at this address on Magnolia Street, had evacuated to Texas and could not return yet, but was desperate for someone, anyone to look after her “babies” At the time, I did not spend an inordinate amount of time wondering as to why she couldn’t get back yet, so many are still waiting....waiting on money, waiting on so many things. So over the next few months, I tended to these babies, but in addition to provided food and water for them, I also began to implement a spay/neuter effort in this colony so that no new babies were produced in a neighborhood that was empty and ill equipped to support additional animal life.

As time passed, I would occasionally talk to a person who had moved back to their home around the block or down the street, and because it is such a sporadic progression, it has taken me these past months to put some sort of identity to the woman I have never met, never spoken to, but know her through her babies. From what I have gathered, the woman is an older woman who has had a hard time, which of course is redundant in this instance; in her case, a hard time is indicative of her entire life....she has cared for a son, an adult son, who has Down’s Syndrome.
That was the information that helped put into perspective for me just why this woman has not been able to return yet; it also explains the handicapped parking sign on the telephone pole in front of her house. Much of this information was given to me from a young black man who lives with his mother in the neighborhood and who was the one who confirmed for me in September of this year that they were still waiting on her Road Home paperwork to be completed....it is a long, tedious, painstaking and painful process that those effected the most, the working poor, have had to and continue to go through to just get back home.

After I told the preacher and the two church members what I consider to be a sad story, I told them that I hate that I can’t do more but that these cats, these babies, I must admit, do get extra special attention....I make sure that these particular animals do not wait a day or two, or three, for food refills, because somehow there is a connection and I do not want to let this woman down, it is the least I can do, and unfortunately, the most I can do for her.

And then it came, again, but this time from a preacher’s mouth and that look of disbelief and wonder was on a preacher’s face, as the leader of this re-acquaintance committee was the first to comment upon my story. The preacher without flinching, looked me square in the face and said this: “I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine something, I want you to imagine all the things you could do, all the things you could accomplish, if you cared about people instead of animals”

The silence that followed his question was deafening, in all 30 seconds it lasted because for the first time ever, I had no confusion, no misinterpretation and no wondering about how I should answer; for the first time ever, my response came with an amazing clarity, an amazing sense of sureness to the response, and an amazing sense that I was finally saying just what I needed to say. I looked the preacher square in his face, and also without flinching, told him that there was no need for me to close my eyes and imagine a thing because my eyes were wide open when I received a request for help, from a human, a request that sought to obtain help for yet another human, who had been contacted by yet another human in this equation, the human with the handicapped son, the human with no way home, the human who, even with the loss of her home and her life as she knew it, wanted more than anything to have her animals looked after until she is able to return to this city. I then told him that this is exactly what can be accomplished when you care about people, the people of his congregation, the people who he was re-acquainting himself with that day. And then before I got back to the really important matters to be handled at that house, I told him that since he raised the issue of imagination, I was going to respectfully share with him just what I do imagine, when I close my eyes. What follows is a perfected version of what I told him that day, I will never be able to recapture word for word, but these were the thoughts that came that day, that I expressed to him in some non-verbatim degree of what is now on paper:

• I imagine a day when compassion is inclusive rather than exclusive, when “All God’s Creatures” means all God’s creatures, not just the cuddly ones; just imagine what you could do if you care about All God’s Creatures

• I imagine a day when caring yields to compassion; when thoughts without action are only a dream and it is commonly accepted that good will has no effect without good acts;

• I imagine a day when compassion is no longer unique and is instead commonplace, when the sight of a white woman performing a task in the yard of a black family’s home is not automatic cause for concern to a passerby;

• I imagine a day when compassion is consistent rather than convenient, when serving a meal to a homeless man is no longer an obligatory act of Thanksgiving, and instead each and every day is considered cause for Thanks and reason enough to help those in need, any creature in need, any day of the year, if and when each opportunity to make a difference presents itself. A day when “the right thing to do” and “the right way to be” are obsolete phrases because there is just no other way to do it and just no other way to be

• I imagine a day when compassion is reserved for life rather than inanimate objects of our own lives, when it is collectively extended to the cat which sits on our car hood in the winter, instead of to the car that may be scratched.....cold steel metal, equipped with every top of the line amenity is still, cold steel metal

• I imagine a day when compassion is conscious and without conformity, when a Sunday “peace be with you” handshake is always a welcome, but nevertheless random act of kindness, and is never again, considered a quick fix for our actions or inactions, and never considered a sufficient substitution for daily, and deliberate act of kindness

• I imagine a day when compassion is expressed toward every parishioner of the church, that is God’s church, when an individual from an affluent, predominantly white neighborhood, tends to the pets of black woman, or any other thing that the woman who is miles away from her home feels she needs, and does so in that other predominantly black neighborhood without a second thought; and finally;

• I imagine a day when each “congregation” of every denomination proudly honors their respective churches, preachers, priests or reverends, but never forgets to honor God’s church. God’s church has no stained glass windows, no walls, no alter, no cathedral ceiling, but is beautiful nevertheless. God’s church is every color of the rainbow, and the rainbow as well. God’s church has boundaries without boundaries and include fluffy clouds, shooting stars, the green grass and trees, the bluest oceans, the darkest lakes, the tallest mountains, the deepest valleys, and that church has the largest congregation of any church of any denomination, a congregation which includes without exclusion every creature, All God’s Creatures, that inhabits that church, each and every day

As I waited for the indignation that I was sure I was about to hear, it never came. The preacher looked at me for a split second, smiled what appeared to be a genuine smile and told me that I had given him something to think about. Then he said “God will bless you child” to which I responded “He already has”

Footnote: Please understand this is in no way intended to be disrespectul about religion or any facet thereof, rather, it is more about my ultimate choice to be firm in my reasons for any actions or inactions I take, regardless of who is questioning my motives.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New Orleans has received enough help






When is it time to say when in a "third-world" country?

I attended a feeder/trapper meeting at ARNO last night....the room was filled with positive energy and all of us, all 15 or so, shared ideas, encouraging words and our despair as well. These are the people who survived Katrina and over a year later are working themselves into an early grave.....Why? Because regardless of how many animals any one organization claims it rescued in New Orleans, those of us left behind to figure it out see the real picture everyday......the animals that got out were the lucky ones, but unfortunately, only a percentage of the real, true street animal population in this dead zone that was a city once upon a time.

The pictures that you see are all of ONE, one, 1, street, South Miro Street.
South Miro Street is part of a section called Tulane/Gravier, one of the poorest neighborhoods in this state....before....now, how can it be poor if there is noone there? All the pictures are new except for the one with the building side torn off but I can assure you that is frozen in time...I know because I took 2 baby kittens, about 5 weeks old from the side of the road where they were sitting, a quartet, as if waiting on a bus....those darn kittens

Tonight, I searched for an hour in the rain but the mother cat must have removed the other two...tomorrow is just another day...another day in this wrinkle in time.
Late in the evening I could only hear but not see another batch of kittens, these in Section 8NE...newborns. It killed me to leave from under that house, the same house where I buried a cat who died on S. Miro Street....bury the dead in the dead zone.....but two blocks down, Central City, crime zone. Do you think I could get a junkie, a hooker (very popular on Tulane Avenue now) or a gangster to help me trap?
I don't care what they do in their own time, if they could help me help these animals.

75% is the threshold...if you're not hitting it in spay/neuter, you are failing...there is no A for effort....so yes, we, I am failing every single day here because early this year, it must have been decided that these animals were not rescuable, not worth saving.....I guess nobody let us in on the acceptable losses formula and we may be down, but we are not so far down we don't just brush aside the fact that even if there are acceptable losses in the current population, that only assumes a stagnate one....these animals are having babies every day on these deserted streets...anyone know somebody who has a s/n mobile unit? I think there are some of us about ready to learn s/n surgeries ourselves...but we have no unit, and you don't think ARNO Section 20 has a closeby clinic, do you?

I'm not bitter, just sad, very sad because we were failed, but if we could do this, it wouldn't matter.....it breaks our hearts to be the ones who fail these animals
New Orleans, it used to be a fish bowl.....now, it's an island.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why I Help Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO)



Among so many other reasons, most of them having 4 legs, I want to share just one reason I choose to volunteer my time with ARNO, that rescue organization in New Orleans which seems to draw the most passionate of emotions from so many.....love them or hate them, ARNO is still at it, a year after Katrina and ARNO is far from perfect, but when it comes right down to the core of the matter, ARNO is in fact a HUMANE organization.

Let me introduce you to one of ARNO's recent acquisitions, Wizard. I don't know Wizard's entire biography, I only know that when I was at ARNO on Labor Day, he wasn't there and when I went to ARNO's warehouse the Friday after, he was. I noticed him immediately, how can you not...he is solid white with jagged purple thread stitches running across the space where his left eye used to be, and he was a hisser. I was told that he was trapped inadvertently by the LA/SPCA when they conducted a recent dog-trapping sweep in the Lakeview region of New Orleans....the same Lakeview that is posted on flickr with pictures of roaming animals....many cats and some dog..packs. I learned that Wizard had such a severe eye infection, it had to be removed and shortly after the surgery, Wizard decided to tear out his stitches so the purple set is his second try at healing. Just one more adjustment he has had to make for being in New Orleans.

Everyone who was at ARNO on the day I met Wizard told me that he was feral and to expect him to charge the kennel door and sure enough, as expected he did in fact give me plenty of attitude..that is until I hit the right sound for him....in his case, the motorboat sound that a mother cat makes with her kittens. Well as soon as he heard that, Wizard, still nameless at that point, immediately began meowing to me, stretched, climbed down from the top of his carrier perch and reached out his paw to tentatively touch my finger, just one finger I placed through the kennel bar...and he didn't use his claws, just his toe pad. That was it, the spell was cast and Wizard was aptly named.

Wizard is no loner cat like many feral tomcats truly are.....he watches me give treats to Socks, the tabby who rents out the condo next door and as I watch him, it is clear to me that he is not interested in the treats, he is interested in getting to know his neighbor. He perks right up and tries to talk to Socks, to the point of almost yelling because Socks is of course interested in the treats I have to give.....this week, I will try to get Socks to notice that Wizard would like some feline conversation.

Each one brings his or her own challenge and ultimately a huge reward with it.

So now, until his medical treatment is finished, until he has a handle on his depth perception, until he no longer has the very obvious hair-trigger startle response which he exhibits now at the sound of a distant bark (remember, he was in Lakeview and was probably always looking over his shoulder for those dog packs) and until ARNO finds just the right place for him to call his forever home, I will find a few minutes in my day, each day, or if not, at least every other day, and I will visit him and I will show Wizard that although the rest of his life will in fact be different than what he knew, it is okay, because it will be better.....it will have a full food and water bowl, all the time, not just when a car pulls up in an otherwise silent neighborhood to fill a bowl that emptied days ago; it will have a warm and DRY area that will be his, just his, and he won't have to keep one eye open while he sleeps, which is a good thing since he will need the eye he has left to bring the end of each day to a close, each end of each day for the rest of his life that hopefully will be much like each beginning of the day will start....with love.

I am certain that Wizard will cast his spell on that "forever person" just like he cast it on me, but until he manages to mix up just the right magic into his spell, please consider helping Wizard, or any other equally deserving creature that ARNO refuses to turn its back on, each creature that ARNO refuses to give up on because it costs too much....and donate to ARNO, www.animalrescueneworleans.org, so that this wonderful organization can continue providing that soft spot for these tired creatures to finally land on.

Thank you for your continued support to life in my city,

Lise McComiskey
New Orleans, La

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Thanksgiving

Tonight, on what is the first anniversary of Katrina, the storm that so drastically altered a city, my home, New Orleans, I was just happy to get home. It's 9:50 pm and I haven't eaten yet, I smell like Meow Mix, tuna flavor, and I have a heavily bloodied dishtowel wrapped around my foot......it's been a trying day.

When I began the day, I consciously wondered how I would "mark" the day....would I celebrate the good, would I reflect on the loss, would I attend a service, the second-line Jazz Funeral procession that passed down Poydras Street right in front of my 27th floor office??? Well, unfortunately, because so many were financially effected by Katrina, I spent the day running back and forth from court to court...lawsuits against insurance carriers as today is the deadline. There would be no special and specific commemoration for me, but I noticed just how irritable, how touchy, how moody, how melancholy I was all day long, and I took no joy when a toast was offered at my firm's 4:00 wine and cheese gathering as the toast spoke to new, bigger and better houses. They lost too, and they deserve those houses, but I couldn't think about that today because I have seen things that they haven't seen and I know things they don't know. I left the gathering shortly after that toast and was actually surprised that there were those who noticed and came to check on me and understood; we all knew Katrina differently and we all deal with her, daily, in whichever manner helps get us through the day.

After hours, throwing myself into ALL the known problem locations would keep my focus on the here and now and not allow my mind to dwell on the tragicness of it all.
But, of course, throwing one's self into something usually makes for chance of injuries, for me anyway. Sure enough, while attempting to move a feeding station because of human threats of harm....you would think such loss of life would make for a kinder, gentler population, but some can only focus on their loss, their life.....
was when something sharp and unknown went clear through my shoe and sliced my foot open. Fortunately, as I created a tournequet with a fishy smelling towel, I was able to calculate that if the profuse bleeding continued, I would be able to make it to the EMT station on the corner within 3 minutes...this rescue work really brings out the survivalist in you. Anyway, I did survive and made it home.

Home....I couldn't crawl into the bed without checking the nola forum for some happy thoughts, some good cheer....surely, somebody would be spreading happy thoughts somewhere in the world and that is what I would find and think about last and hopefully dream it to be. It wasn't meant to be, I was going to cry today, it was predetermined and although the funeral procession, the toast, the endless thoughts, the quick slice of my skin and the gushing, really gushing blood couldn't bring me to tears, the words I read tonight as my last thought for the day did.
My heart is in my throat as I type this now because I still find it difficult to believe how many people, real people, not the government, not celebrities, but real working, pay their taxes, with their own set of problems...people, in this particular instance, the people I have come to know and love in Cyberspace, the people who reach out to my city from far and wide, the UK, Ireland and everywhere in between, via their keyboard, and just care. It is a magical and incredible concept to me that so many people the world over, really care about this place, me and others here with me.....it matters not that my government, any government for that matter, has fallen short of any perceived duties, because I feel completely watched over and watched after...by people

Tonight, the words that did me in, were the expressions and outpouring of support from the UK, from Georgia, from New Jersey, from Metairie, Lousiana, from Lafalla...where is Lafalla?...from FEMA trailers and homes....all keeping their porchlights on tonight to remember, honor, mourn, celebrate and just care about those touched by Katrina, and some with no porchlights with lit candles instead....all lit for the entire night.....the Porchlight at the End of the Tunnel, my tunnel, my porchlight and yet so many were touched by it and in return, my life has been touched by so many. Each of you is a beacon, you need no porchlight, no candle to demonstrate that; you each are a brightening force for someone like me who needed good cheer and happy thoughts to get me to sleep.....thank you is inadequate and so instead I share the last thoughts and feelings of my day with those who care so much, those who should never have to experience this magical and incredible journey of a disaster, and I hope that those who should know, do know that I am Thankful for so much and that is so much more than any loss or tragedy that is mine.
Yet again, Katrina has brought the good things to my door and ironically enough, via people, through animal rescue and all it's exhaustion.....I was truly a people person after all and it took a disaster named Katrina to make me understand that.

So tonight, before I check my porchlight one last time, I am in my own heart having a Thanksgiving celebration for everything Katrina gave to me and more importantly, everyone that she brought to my door, in mind, spirit or body....again, Katrina, thank you for a new life, a new perspective on life and a new appreciation for ALL life, animal, human, black, white, poor, rich, intelligent, simple, old, young, male, female and anything that resembles life. And while there truly are so many to thank, there are some that require my specific and direct words of gratitude, for those are the one's who, for whatever reason, knowlingly or not, have effected me profoundly and somehow been part of the entire transformation process that this year has done to me, done for me.....those people must hear it, read it and know that my heart is grateful for who they are and for just being my porchlight this past year of darkness, and so these are my words to give:

Jane, thank you for showing me that mountains are no reason to change the direction of your path

Laura, thank you for showing me that it's not whether you burn a bridge along the way, it's whether you can at some point, stop, change direction and work on building that bridge...together

Anita, thank you for showing me that although there is merit to my opinion that cooler heads often prevail, if you are looking to change the world, you are going to need more than that.....you had better have a fire in your gut, too

Robin and Charlotte, thank you both for showing me that first impressions are false impressions....time is what reveals true nature and ALL OF US, including myself, are a work in progress, a developing story....I am thankful I stayed to read this one

Maria, thank you for showing me that it is my right and my duty to ask those questions out loud....the one's that stick around through the heat, are the one's that will help me reach any goal, even with debate and confrontation along the way.....status quo can never be an element of effective change and never again will I go along to get along, in any arena...thank you

Robin, Hector and Ashley, thank you for writing the happy ending that mattered most to me...my Hope for a good life for Bella. You will never truly know how badly I needed, I absolutely needed a good ending for that beautiful shepherd girl from Lakeview South and it amazes me to this day that it was more than a good ending, it was a fairy tell ending and Bella's "dance at the ball" with her own family, every day for the rest of her life, is without a doubt the spark, the catalyst, the one ingredient that began my journey back from the despair to being whole again, Bella is there and all three of you are there in my heart forever, and that alone is enough....thank you from the top, middle, bottom and sides of my heart and Bella, you go girl!

Marilyn, thank you for showing Robin, Hector and Ashley that you knew just the happy ending for them to read....and to write

ARNO feeders, thank you for your committment to see this through....I know your exhaustion, your frustration, your roller coaster ride as you have spent a year of your life as a watcher, a guardian, a bodyguard, a lookout.....your dedication to the animals you care for on those streets is what strength is......thank you for giving me standards to try to live up to and if they could, you know those little guys on the streets would thank all of you too

Out of town volunteers, there are no words, no true expressions of what I would say if I could......what is in a person that lets them, no makes them, leave their own lives behind, their families, their own problems and go to a corner of the globe that isn't theirs, until they make it theirs to share forever by being the outstretched hand, the life ring thrown to a drowing city?? heart, soul, spirit, all of those and something I can't quite put my finger on, but it is there in each and every one of them because not just anybody could do what they did......could I have? Will I be able to when my tragedy becomes someone else's tragedy, somewhere else??? Honestly, I don't know if that something I can't put my finger on is part of my DNA...I hope I never have to find out. Many thanks to every last and most important one of you, you changed my world, New Orleans, and that, I can tell you, is one heck of an accomplishment for your resume

My cyberspace friends, thank you for showing me that I will never be lonely, never be without friends, and never really have to travel to find them...they are a click away and so FlaPerson, pugma, Jelena, Kristysmom, Oscarmom, lovemypug, nolarescue2, mandibee, Annettedubb, bulldog9, the Stealthers, and so many others, you know who you are...and even you, HappyPower, you showed me what can really happen when people use their powers for good instead of evil....you are the network for good things here, and for me, and know that I will never forget it and never be able to repay it either

Amanda, a little girl across an ocean, thank you for showing me the true spirit of generosity of the heart....if I can feel it a world away, I know that Truffles knew how lucky and special he was....he was loved by you

Gary, thank you for showing me that it is okay to talk to strangers....some of them are people who haven't yet identified his or herself as a friend....thank you

Maya, Bonney, Becky, Diane....thank you all for things you have done here, things you continue to set in motion...your mission is not an easy one and not an easy one for many to understand...at first...but your tenacity and your focus is admirable and I am thankful that you were forces of calm, reason and solutions to a world gone mad this past year

Shannon, thank you for all you gave, which, was too much

Please know that if I left you off this list, it was only because where I used to be an animal person, I now am a people person who happens to care about and work to help animals....and you wouldn't believe how many friends I have! You all are my reason for Thanksgiving and you all are my porchlight...thank you.

In closing, I would like to share my thoughts and feelings which I documented last Christmas, entitled, "Katrina taught me the true meaning of Christmas"......Katrina is still teaching me and so Katrina, again, thank you.


Katrina taught me the true meaning of Christmas

A friend sent me an e-mail today with a posting by a young woman who rescued a kitten lying in the gutter and then she had rescued another. This woman and her family would not normally have done so she said, but after witnessing so many people who had come to her city to rescue, how could she not?

I think that this may be the best Christmas card I ever received and much for the same sentiment expressed by the woman who saved the kitten. You see the "friend" who sent me the e-mail, she lives on another continent and I don't know what she even looks like, but nevertheless, she is my friend. She, like so many others from all over the world, have done so much for me and my family, New Orleans, since August 29, 2005, that I know I will never be able to fully express the way I feel and the gratitude that will stay with me forever.

These past few months that I have spent in the animal rescue world was never a choice for me. Katrina chose my town and my place could be nowhere else but on the streets of that town, helping in anyway that I could, to get one more. With no real expertice, I knew my limitations and so often called upon others, others who could trap, others who could coax, others armed with a keyboard and compassion, others....... Before I knew what was happening, I had new friendships forged with the same vision and like spirits. Having never been willing to accept technology and the capability to track others down wherever they might be, I never owned a cell phone until after Katrina, so, as I walk through the doorway (no longer a door) at the end of another dog biscuit, cat food filled day, and my husband informs me with a sense of disbelief, that I have 25 voice mail messages waiting, I can only smile because yes, they found me.

Katrina has changed so many of us in so many different ways. The young lady who rescued that kitten admitted that she and her family would not have given it a second thought...before the storm; I will admit that although my compassion was spread far and wide before August 29, 2005, it was exclusive compassion, it was empathy in a bubble. Now, as I look back at every thing I have done, every person I have met in some capacity, I can only smile because my heart is not encased in a bubble anymore....my heart, as it turned out, had room for true empathy and sincere compassion, and not just for animals....my heart is big enough for humans as well.

And so, this Christmas, I will not dwell on what I couldn't afford to buy for others, because although Katrina took my job, and took my home, Katrina left something for me in return...a heart that finally, and truly understands the meaning of Christmas and even better, now knows that the "Spirit of Christmas" can be in my heart every day of the year. For that, I will be eternally grateful....thank you, Katrina.

And my New Year's resolution ?? .....my resolution will be to never forget the lessons learned from this experience....my life, as I know it now, will eventually change, but I resolve that my heart will not.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Do you know what it means to celebrate Independence Day instead of the 4th of July?

Taylor Hicks - Do I Make You Proud


Dedicated to Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker,
and every New Orleanean who lost his or her life to Katrina



“To really celebrate Independence Day, Americans must rededicate themselves to the principles of 1776, and particularly to the absolute importance of individual rights – not the pseudo-rights imagined by proponents of the welfare state, but the genuine rights (properly understood) of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must also rededicate ourselves to the Declaration’s standard for the legitimacy of government – a government that is limited to the safeguarding of these rights, not to their destruction – and, with this, an acceptance of the principle that outside this sphere of legitimacy, individuals have the freedom (and the responsibility) of governing themselves. As Thomas Jefferson put it in his 1826 letter, “let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
© David N. Mayer 2005


As I think about my plans for this evening, the Faith Hill-Tim McGraw “Soul2Soul” Katrina Benefit Concert, I find that I have mixed feelings. Mixed feelings over a concert? Mixed feelings because of what it represents to me, as a benefit for my city of New Orleans, graciously given by this duo who have strong ties to the Gulf Coast, and who both have expressed their feelings regarding the governmental response, or lack of it, to Katrina and its endless after-effects. This concert, of which 100% of its’ proceeds will go directly to the people in this region, is an incredible gift and my tickets, well they were a gift as well. In addition to the singers’ desire to give to my city, they insisted that half of the floor tickets be distributed to volunteers who, as they so eloquently stated:
“... have worked tirelessly over the past nine months since Katrina first hit the region on August 29th, 2005.”

So, after ten long months at animal rescue in this city, finally, a perk has come my way.......or so goes the general response from nearly every person who I have excitedly shown my tickets. And therein is what is at the heart of my mixed feelings.......do we, New Orleans, truly deserve this gift, expected to raise over $ 1 million dollars for the devastated region, when we, my lost city, seemingly continues to wait for governmental actions? When did we, my community, decide that a hand-out is favorable over a hand-up? I am not sure when, but many of us did.

After ten long months of working in what will likely be the most important position I will ever hold, that of Volunteer, I am often frustrated, amazed, saddened, and, ashamed that more of my fellow New Orleaneans are not on that “payroll” with me. As an “insider” who experienced the worst disaster this country has ever known, along with its’ endless aftermath, I understand that the citizens of this community have had their lives turned upside down and that each and every day is a challenge which brings new challenges. Because I am an “insider” I feel that I can express my disappointment in many of those citizens’ failure to rise to one challenge in particular: the challenge to find the strength to fix more than their individual homes, settle more than their individual insurance claims, and design more than their individual kitchens.............the challenge to find the strength to play their parts in designing and rebuilding a community, a better community, a stronger community, their community.

While I feel that “government” could have and still can do better, I try not to forget the true role of our government and my true role in a community that, in the end, is one tiny cog in the wheel, otherwise known as the Greatest Country on Earth. Abraham Lincoln’s words, “.....and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth...” leave little room for doubt that the role of citizen of the United States of America is not a birthright, rather, it is privilege.....one with rights, and one with responsibilities. One has only to read the current headlines here in New Orleans to see that collectively and as a community, we are not living up to the responsibilities of citizenship. Following is but one example:

“Police panel, public yet to connect
Citizens don't show up with complaints”
Friday, June 30, 2006
By Michael Perlstein


One of the most significant headlines I have come across:

In New Orleans, Bush Urges Volunteerism
President Tours Recovery Projects on Coast
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 28, 2006

"If you are interested in helping the victims of Katrina, interested in helping them get back on their feet, come on down here," Bush said.


What about allowing, no demanding, that we, play a more active part in that rebuilding? Why is it that nearly all the people in my circle, inner and otherwise, are all busy fighting with insurance carriers, busy working to finish architectural plans, busy at whatever it’s going to take to get that FEMA trailer out of the front yard, but not so busy volunteering, not so busy attending meetings designed for them to really work toward reducing the sky-rocketing crime in this city, not so busy helping their “neighbor” .......not so busy because look at what we have gone through? When will we collectively disavow the label of victim and instead wholly embrace the badge of survivor?

Yes, Katrina took away so much of what we thought we had the right to....garbage removal, schools for our children, jobs, neighbors, the American Dream, and clearly, we all feel that unfair turn of events in one capacity or another. Surely though, she did not also take away our responsibilities as well? Sadly, I realize that for too long, and for too many in my city and I suspect many other cities, “rights” are what we know, what we learn as a child, and unfortunately, what we pass on to the next generation. I wonder, if a disaster the magnitude of Katrina couldn’t remove every level of apathy that lives in New Orleans, what than will it take to do just that?

New Orleans, don’t allow a storm to define who you are if you can instead be defined by your response to that storm. We can either help to rewrite this city’s history, or apathetically allow it to repeat it’s history, it’s our choice, each and every one of us. And because so much is at stake, we need to step out of our own homes and our own lives and fully appreciate that we are each part of a bigger picture, a city that endured nearly complete devastation.........blame Mayor Nagin or Governor Blanco if it makes you feel better, but understand that they are but two people, two sets of ideas, two staffs.....extraordinary disasters demand extraordinary recovery and that means we must each participate at a community level.

Because I know the pain that my fellow New Orleaneans endured, endure, and because my tears were shed for their lost homes, lost jobs, lost lives too, my heart will know joy when those FEMA trailers finally roll out, when their new house is rebuilt and I want more than anything for good things to come their way.....they need good things now so badly. But I want for those who I share this unique connection with to know that while I will smile with glee when you show me your new cabinets, there is something else I want you to show me........I want to see dirt under your nails, I want to see the scrapes and cuts you got while gutting the house of someone you may never meet, or show me the school you are helping to bring back to life......those are the things that will elicit true excitement from me, and if you give it a chance, they may do the same for you.

I love my city and the people who call it home and so as you read this, and if you are on this same journey, I hope that you and I will cross paths one day........maybe at the next benefit concert that comes to town. And you should know one final thing.....my feelings may seem harsh, but they are not directed at any one class, race, socioeconomic, religion or gender....they are directed only to any New Orleanean and EVERY New Orleanean who has not yet found a way to help rebuild the community, my community, our community, in addition to their own lives. And so, to my husband, I love you, but don’t wait up for me tonight.

UPDATE:
As amazed as I am by the need for me to post this update, I apparently do.
This post is not meant to "call out" others who don't participate in
animal rescue, rather, this post is meant to deliver a message to
ohers who choose not to participate in any recovery but their own.
If you believe that there are 225 things on the list that take priority
over animal rescue, I take no issue with that.......I take issue with
any and every New Orleanean who chooses to remain on the sidelines of
that list. If that makes me an opportunist, I welcome the label...you
see Opportunist sees the opportunity....and I find it unfortunate that
others don't see the "opportunity" on that "list" as well.
Please, for the sake of my city, of your city, before you allow my
outlook to invoke anger, read it again and understand that the only
"call out" from me is a call out for help, from every citizen in this city
Surely, there is an opportunity there for you too to help rebuild our home, even if you choose to do it anonymously

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

STILL




As I continue to work on the ground in this city, to do my part to help those eyes that peek out from the long-abandoned wood-pile that was once a house, those eyes that hide behind a gate, a gate frozen in place, a gate frozen in a time when human hands would open the gate and than open a business, I find myself thinking about more than the quantity of lives that remain........hard as I try, I can’t ignore the sad reality that, for those eyes still peeking, food and water may be the only thing I have to offer them today.

I see that the quantity of animals who remain is obviously different than in the early days, but I also see that for the three cats that remain on that deserted street, or for the mother dog and her pup who travel from block to empty block, the quality of life that they experience is its own tragedy. The ones we couldn't get, the ones we continue to work to help, if only in the form of food and water, do they miss the ones that we did get? Their worlds have changed and then changed again, and then, changed again......... so much of what they knew is gone, green grass, full dumpsters, noise. After this long, is what’s gone also forgotten? Or, do even the terrified ones welcome the sound of my wheels, the sound of my voice, the sound of life?

In the early days, the meal was what they waited for, what they killed their own for when the numbers forced them to wait beyond survival. My heart would break when I could see it in their eyes.......I hadn’t worked quickly enough and for that week, they had been hungry. But, as I would fill the bowls to the very top, I would take some comfort knowing that now, their bellies would be filled, if only for a short time. Now, as I work to help the ones that are left, my pace is not life and death frantic.......time and the efforts of many have reduced the numbers that I must continue to help, and while my heart broke in the past when I looked into their eyes, I could look. Now, nearly a year after their unending tragedy began, the easy part for me is filling their bowls........it is often impossible for me to look into their eyes, because now, nearly a year after, it is their hearts that are broken.

Food and water won’t heal their hearts, but unfortunately, for many, it is the one thing we can continue to give to them as we work to find volunteers desperately needed.....needed to still help find their families, needed to still find new families, needed to still find space, needed to still find funding, find sanctuaries, find solutions, find a lost city. Food is the one thing that we can make sure that they don’t have to search for........but we still need your continued support. We still need the rest of the wonderful world that has been their lifeline, our lifeline, to hang in there, to go the distance, so that their unending tragedy still has the once-in-a-lifetime chance to become a journey “home”

PLEASE SUPPORT ANIMAL RESCUE NEW ORLEANS AND THEIR CONTINUED EFFORTS TO SUSTAIN THE LIVES OF THE ONES THAT REMAIN AND STILL WAIT......
Visit the ARNO link to the right and donate today so that Animal Rescue New Orleans can still continue to fill the bowls while they still continue to work to find ways to mend each broken heart, one at a time if that is what this journey is going to take

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Understand Her, and you may no longer rush to Condemn Her




Beauty in things exist in the mind which contemplates them
David Hume

Please visit Alley Cat Allies website at www.alleycat.org
and see how ACA continues to help make New Orleans a better place for cats and the people who love them. Alley Cat Allies is working to help rebuild this city for animals and humans alike so that love them or leave them, we can all "learn" to coexist

Join Alley Cat Allies for its'
Feline Forum 2006 Creating a Bright Future for Feral Cats in Louisiana and Mississippi" June 22, 23 and 24 (see website for detailed schedule)

ERADICATION FAILS, TRAP-NEUTER-RETURN WORKS!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sunday, May 21, 2006

You tried so hard to save your babies, please let me save you



I tried to trap your babies; I should have known that you moved them three days earlier when the men started to work on the building. I looked, I really did, but you were such a good mama, you hid them so well. I would never have found them and I am glad that the man who's shed you moved them too was there today to tell me that he tried to help them but they were stuck in the flower pot you put them in and they just couldn't breathe. He showed me the little area of earth that he was able to find under all the rubble of what used to be his back yard......he buried your kittens there when he couldn't save them and he put the flower pot with some flowers on top. He decided to do this instead of planting flowers, he just does not think they will grow in the ruins of his home.

Mama cat, we are both keeping an eye out for you now.....we are going to get you so that you can find a better place, a place where you will eat every day and a place where you will be safe.



REST IN PEACE, TINY TABBY KITTENS

Sorry Mama, I really tried to save your Kittens



Even though I was too late for your two beautiful kittens, we managed to get you, all 6 pounds of you and you will never have to watch another litter of babies die again. Who would have guessed through all your hisses that you are really such a sweet girl......I hope someone will see past your skeletal body and know that you need love AND nourishment. Now that Animal Rescue New Orleans has you off the street, finally, you can have a meal EVERY day.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Each One, a Unique source of Joy




The smallest feline is a masterpiece. - Leonardo Da Vinci

Monday, May 15, 2006

One day, One kitten, One life at a time


"...Saving just one animal won't change the world
...but, surely, the world will change for that one animal..."

Eight months ago, I would not have believed what the future held for me; but, before I shed tears for what my life has become and what I wish it could be, I think about this little guy and what the future holds for him and his family.......what if I can't get him out before our next hurricane season? My pace has become faster and more frantic because I know that in 3 weeks, another season starts and I am terrified.....terrified that this time around, I will be helping to pull more babies like him from the destruction and I am terrified that babies like this one, and mothers like his on which every rib in her pathetic little body can be counted, I am terrified that they won't have the strength to wait until we can pull them through the destruction they now call home, or worse, that they won't have the strength to survive yet another wave of destruction that, for the rest of my life, will only be one nightmare away.

If you have any time to give, please, please consider volunteering for
Animal Rescue New Orleans, an organization STILL on the ground, STILL dedicated to finding, nourishing, trapping, rehoming the animals that STILL remain in New Orleans.
Please follow the link to the right and visit Animal Rescue New Orleans website to see how you can help.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Remember when those tables and benches used to have lunchtime picnics? Where did our lunch buddies go?






What if those people who worked in that hospital over there never do come back? I sure hope that nice lady has enough food for us AND those hungry birds too!


The two tabby brothers in the first picture used to have lunch every day with a nurse from the hospital you see in the second picture......but first the wind came, then the bad rain, then the water that wouldn't go away, and then that nice nurse doesn't come out of that hospital....nobody does anymore. So now, these brothers keep each other company and wait for somebody to show up this week with food, hopefully enough food this week to help the hungry birds who don't go to picnics anymore either.

Please Help Animal Rescue New Orleans as they continue in the fight to be the link to life for this feline family and other feline, canine and hungry families left on the ground of this shell of a town called New Orleans.

Cats are resilient, they can survive off of garbage...






But, what if the only garbage around is the concrete ruins of a lost city?

Will you help feed the innocent ones who couldn't make it out while they wait for their city to return? Please visit Animal Rescue New Orleans' website at the link to the right, and find out how you can help sustain the solitary survivors that barely exist amongst the ruins that used to contain life.....and garbage.....and a meal.

Should she eat today, or let her babies have a chance?





With your help, Animal Rescue New Orleans can feed this starving mama and her babies

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"KiKi"




?? / ?? / ?? - 05 / 09 / 06

I will miss you dearly and will forever regret that I could not get you back to your family. I hope that if the family who loved you before Katrina ever finds this, I hope they will believe that you were completely loved after Katrina took you away from them and that you had a second family with us.
Rest in Peace, KiKi

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Puppies make you smile....unless, they make you cry


I find it difficult to put words to these pictures, I believe the look in each of these siblings' eyes is by far, the story that must be told.


PLEASE FIND IT IN YOUR HEART TO HELP US CONTINUE TO HELP THE ANIMALS IN NEW ORLEANS
The puppies who are continuing to be born in the midst of much of the devestated, uninhabited areas of the city, must eek out an existence without so much as human's garbage, and many of these innocent creatures must do so in a constant state of suffering because of disease, mange and living in toxic environments.

If you are not here, experiencing the devestation that still surrounds us, please help us to continue to search for and find these guys so that they can have a chance at an existence without suffering. Please visit our website at
www.animalrescueneworleans.com
and find out how you can financially support this ongoing and still much needed effort to help finish what must be done.

If you want to roll up your sleeves and help us on the ground, please visit www.animalrescueneworleans.com to find out how you can give one of your most precious commodoties, your time. Animal Rescue New Orleans, along with several other local organizations such as St. Francis Animal Sanctuary, the Humane Society of Louisiana and the LA/SPCA, are still in this fight together to help the animals who were left behind and we now must help their new and growing families.

We are still in this fight because for some of these animals still on the desolate streets, just being alive means too much suffering and sadness.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Porch Light at the End of the Tunnel



There was a time in my life when a porch light was just a porch light; but now as I, we, approach a milestone, the six month anniversary of when the world changed forever in my city of New Orleans, a porch light has given me a tiny glimpse.....there is and will be an end to that tunnel.

As so many of you already know, I spent many months after Katrina working to retain my sanity by working in the company of so many others in the largest animal rescue effort to ever have taken place. The work was exhausting and too overwhelming to allow me to think of my future, my hopes, my fears....there was always another animal to save. However, that drastically changed for me just a few nights ago as I set out to do what I do nearly every night, feed yet another lonely animal.

The day was already ending with a bang when I was forced to spend an hour stuck in the elevator, somewhere between the 27th Floor and the 1st Floor of my Poydras Street Law Firm building. Although it was nerve wracking, when I finally "escaped" I set out for Lakewood South, that neighborhood I came to know so well through my eight week effort to rescue Hope/Bella, my beloved German Shepherd who is now loved by a wonderful family in Alabama. You might recall that I had become aware of a solitary cat living on the same street as my shepherd, sharing the feeding station, but never showing more than the glow of his or her eyes.
Although my shepherd is safe in a loving home, this cat remains elusive to my trap and subsequently I have no other choice than to lay out one small portion of food, every night.

Because I was so long in the elevator, by the time I drove up to the food "station" it was late and so very, very dark. You see this neighborhood, as it lies right next to one of the 17th Street Canal breaches, remains uninhabited, without electricity, basically without life. I thank God every day for being able to have taken Hope/Bella out of the darkness nearly two months ago and I am determined to do the same for this cat. But it would not be this night....this night, I would have to pull myself out of the "darkness"

As I got out of my vehicle to walk around the other side, I realized that I had locked my keys inside, along with my cell phone. Remember, this was late at night, in the pitch black, without a person to be found, and finally, after nearly six months of doing this, I broke. I broke down not for the fact that my keys were locked inside the vehicle, I broke because this is what life is now, and I could see no end to it. I broke because this used to be a street filled with families, children, dogs, pool parties, barbecues and iced tea. I broke because this used to be a life, and now, I only could only see those, like myself, left behind, with broken lives, traipsing and trudging, every single day and night, through the desolate wastelands of others' broken dreams. They want so badly to be able to return home, and after six months, I broke because I am here, and I know that this is not home and I broke because I was scared that it never will be again.

The details of how I managed to get out of there that night are not really important....after this long at the rescue effort, I feel almost qualified to train cadets at survival maneuvers. The important detail that night, for me, was that I finally, and with an extremely heavy heart, accepted that my world and the world of any other New Orleanean, here or elsewhere, might never again be "normal" I think that this night was truly one of the saddest of my life, and without a doubt, the saddest I have experienced since that fateful day, August 29, 2005.

I have never considered myself a religious person in the past, although,
I often find myself preempting every statement with the phrase, "I have never before....." so, I am not overly shocked at the experience I had two days after my night of sadness, just yesterday evening, nor am I inclined to find any explanation for it......if there is indeed a God, or a "higher power" I knew it last night more than I have ever known it in any church, synagogue, bible class, prayer session or all my years in Catholic schools. What brought me full circle from my overwhelming despair just two nights before? a light, my light at the end of this long, difficult tunnel, and yes, as the title of this blog suggests, it was in fact, a porch light.

Yesterday evening, as I sat down to check my 12,000 e-mails, I realized that I had not fed my solitary feline in Lakewood South; I am ashamed to admit that I actually toyed with the idea of skipping the run altogether.....he/she would certainly survive without one meal. I couldn't do it, and after contemplating for about three minutes, I trudged off to again enter the darkness. This time, I would continue to repeat "keys and phone" to myself during the eight minute drive, almost to the point of singing my own instructions. No way was I going to go through that again!

I drove the route that I could probably drive with my eyes closed....along the Interstate service road that winds from Lakewood North, around the auto graveyard from vehicles abandoned on the Interstate during the storm, to Lakewood South....but this time, something was different. It took me a second, but I finally realized that I could see the road in front of me, and not because of my high beams.....there were scattered street lights shining the way! Was I dreaming this, did I just need to make this trip so more bearable than the last time I entered this neighborhood that I was experiencing street light mirages much like a parched man envisions an oasis in a desert filled with sand? Was I going crazy, finally?

Last night, as I drove into Lakewood South, I broke down in tears, yet again, but these were not the tears of despair I had cried only nights before....these were tears of hope and tears of disbelief and tears of not understanding and tears of realizing that I didn't need any explanation. As the tears ran continously and freely down my face, I could feel every single breath I took, every inhale and every exhale. I never once thought about wiping the tears and so they fell and fell some more and instead I concentrated on the sound of my heartbeat as it beat harder and faster and whooshed through my ears. The tears fell to where they stung my face and I welcomed the burn on my cheeks and the salty taste as they hit my lips......I was, without any effort on my part, taking it all in, every bit of it and welcoming the feeling of that same aloneness I had felt the last time I was there. You see, this time I wasn't alone and this time, I wasn't feeling sorry for my broken life and all those broken dreams scattered throughout Houston, Atlanta, and many more places.....this night, I was overcome with the energy being transmitted, and the energy that I felt in my fingers and toes....the energy of one porch light, shining brighter than any sun I have ever seen, one porch light on the very street where I had spent countless hours during the past six months to help one dog and one cat find a way out of the darkness that came every night.

For the next twenty or so minutes, I just sat and watched that porch light and let me assure you that the picture ranked right up there with all the classics. That light, as I watched it then, and as it is forever ingrained in my mind, is the Pulitzer, the Oscar, the Emmy, Christmas morning and the Lottery, if they were somehow all put into one prize......it was the perverbial "jackpot" for me and I hit it when all my chips were down and when I needed it the most. In my old life, my old world, that porch light was a porch light, but, at that moment, last night, after six months in my new city, Chaos, that light was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. As I watched that porch light, I saw a spectacular sunrise, a romantic sunset, a colorful rainbow, the brightest shooting star, an eclipse to eclipse all others, the Northern Lights, and yes, I think I saw all the planets align, too. Although, I hated to leave so that the cat could eat his dinner, I could because the scene was burned onto my brain.

As I drove the eight minute drive, this time, in twenty minutes so as to relish every stretch of the roadway, I couldn't help thinking about the irony of the two different nights I had in this area, and how both nights had been the cause of so much raw emotion and feelings that were so bottled up in my own head and heart for so long. I am grateful to Entergy more than I can say, for they have worked these past six months to restore electricity throughout the region and I know theirs is a thankless task. But, my awe and amazement and disbelief and so much more will be expressed, alone, in a prayer of thanks, with feelings that are part of my soul, because I know that a much bigger power than Entergy, is what guided me to see, to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I do see that end, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but I see it and if I need to see it again, I know where I can go to find it.....it's only a porch light away.

And, in my heart of hearts, my dream of dreams, my hope of hopes, I know that the ones who are not here, the ones who left broken dreams behind, the same broken dreams that I have climbed on, crawled under, walked through, kicked in, and done so, ALWAYS with a sense of shame for having to invade their dreams in the name of rescue....those dreamholders will someday, soon I hope, get to watch that porch light with me and than they can watch their own. It will again be "home" when all the porch lights can shine, but for now, that one lit porch is enough because it shines so brightly and if I look hard enough, I see the end of that tunnel.... on the other side, is my city, New Orleans, and it's built on a foundation of new dreams.

So, this coming week, between February 28th and March 1st, as oddly and very appropriately enough, there will be no 29th during this, the six month anniversary of Katrina, please say a prayer of thanks and hope, for us all in New Orleans, and in the Gulf Coast, and maybe for that one night, you can leave your porch light on, too.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

He hid......does that mean he doesn't exist anymore?








If you are willing to take into consideration the official positions which have been set forth in New Orleans, regarding the animal rescue efforts, the success achieved, and particularly, the need to feed and that it is no longer necessary, than his fate has been sealed......twice. An "official" search conducted on 9/26/05 found "no cats"

If you think you might be inclined to agree that all the animals have already been saved, can you make the call to Renee L. to tell her it's over?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Do You Know who I am?

Please Help me find my way back home!





I have been hanging out a nice lady's house in Metairie, LA . I have been staying there since the really bad storm made me get lost......a nice lady feeds me and there are a few other lost kitties like me. It's not so bad, but I miss my family.....can you help me find them? I will trade all the kittie treats in the world if I can go home again!

My sex: I don't know and I haven't let the nice lady check on that just yet

My age: I think I am a young cat, maybe between 2 and 6

My color: This is where I fool people....at first, I look like
I am grayish/silver,but if you get real close, you can see I
am more champaigne looking and to make things real interesting,
I have tabby markings on my face, my paws and I have the prettiest
raccoon like tail....it's got rings around it!

My tail: Speaking of my tail, it's really cool....it curls up under me.
The nice lady thought I had a short little tail, but I fooled her!
I think my tail is about the length of all the other kitties
(well,maybe a little bit shorter, but not much) but I keep it curled
at the end so you can't see my raccoon rings, neat, huh!

My eyes: I do have the most beautiful, crystal blue eyes
which make me the prettiest(or handsomest) cat on the block, really!
Sometimes, at night my eyes almost look like they have red pupils
which is kind of weird

I am quiet: I don't talk too much, in fact, I don't think the
nice lady has ever heard me meow, ever!

Food: I eat dry food, but boy, will I come running for canned food!

Quirks: Okay, I'll admit, I do have one strange habit......
I sniff all other cats' rear ends before having supper.....I know,
I'm working on it! I do have one other strange thing, but if you
think you know me, you will have to tell the nice lady what it is;
take a guess!

Collar: I have one, but it is weathered pretty bad, so the
nice lady really does not know what color it used to be,
maybe red/white, I just don'tknow!
I used to be a little thinner, but now since winter is coming
I'm starting to get that thick overcoat
like all kitties outdoors do so it's harder to see my collar...
maybe I'll let the lady take it off soon just to see what it looks like
Today was first time I decided she is okay enough to get some pictures
of me up close!


If you want to help me get back home (please say you will help!)
you can see some other pictures of me as I "strike a pose"........
go to www.kodakgallery.com and sign in under lisejimmy@cox.net
with the password, palomine. There I am, under the 2006 albums....
I have 3 of my very own! Ain't I pretty!

If you talk to my mom and dad and they miss me too,
please call the nice lady at (504) 299-2236 or
e-mail her at lisejimmy@cox.net.
She is really nice to me but she and I have decided that
I really should be back home with my family since I miss them so much!
Oh, and the other kitties in my pictures, they told me to ask for help
for them too! I think the lady is going to take their pictures too
but they don't always pose as good as me!

Bye now!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Endings are just New Beginnings


On Sunday, January 15, 2006, exactly 20 weeks after Katrina turned her life upside down and sent her into exile in a lonely abandoned area of New Orleans, my Christmas miracle breakthrough dog, Hope, the Shepherd/Husky mix, went home with a wonderful family who drove nearly 6 hours from Alabama, just for her!

After all paperwork was in order, I insisted on being the one who would introduce her to them......it was a wonderful fit. My Hope was renamed Bella, which of course means beautiful...and she is; I couldn't believe it when I watched her respond twice when her new Mom called her Bella....possibly her former life name was similar. At any rate, once I was sure that they were sure....they came because of my story about her, but I wanted them to truly want and love the dog, not her story.....once I was sure and they were sure, I kissed the dog who has to Hope no more and without a look back, left her to her new life.

I will be forever grateful to a local hero, Marilyn McGee, an extraordinary animal rescuer who has rescued countless animals in New Orleans, St. Bernard and other areas in and around this city for being the “perfect link” in the chain between Hope’s rescue and Bella’s happy ending.
Marilyn is a dedicated rescuer, but also somewhat of a “dog whisperer”.....she has spent much of her time in working to obtain the trust of emotionally wounded animals and she was just what my Hope needed in order to find the perfect family, and find them she did.

Any concerns, worries, what ifs or doubts I may have had for Bella’s future, completely evaporated on the day I saw her respond to her new mom, her new family and her rightful name. Bella had learned to trust and so now I was the one who would have to make that leap, for her sake. It was the best leap I have ever taken.....Bella’s new mom has been so gracious and I am blessed that she has not only Bella’s happiness at heart, but mine as well. Because she is truly compassionate, she has given me reason to laugh with joy as I read through her updates on Bella. With the exception of a rough patch brought on by thunderstorms, Bella has so easily blended into and with her family, that it is as if she was meant to be there. She even accepts some feline brothers and sisters with no complaints. Bella is truly, truly blessed with a second chance at happiness and she is doubly blessed in that her family loves her enough to make adjustments for her quirky, hurricane-survival behavior....her mom tells me that she hasn’t given up the habit of hiding her food throughout the house, her food because she makes it hers! Although the turkey and cheese sandwiches set briefly on the table ended up in Bella’s tummy, the cream cheese seemed like the sort of thing to hide for later.....in the couch! Bella’s family knows what she managed to survive and are willing to patiently work through her lingering fears. No, I don’t think I could have scripted a better and more complete ending for Bella .

In the end, Bella taught me something that I truly needed to learn......animals are creatures of beauty and we can't possess them, no matter how hard we may try. Bella showed me that you can love without possessing, without control, without your agenda and with another’s heart in mind rather than your own. Bella taught me that there is truly such a thing as an Ending that is Happy.........endings are just new beginnings. For Bella, a new beginning to let life embrace her, through the love of a wonderful family, and, for me, a new beginning, one for me to embrace life and whatever it brings, instead of planning it.

Ciao! Bella, beautiful girl, thank you for making my heart a little more beautiful...