Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Four Star Movement

Masaka, Misu, Muraca and Micco
amidst all their toys!
My tears finally started to slow down yesterday. On Tuesday I could barely open my eyes, then later in the day I got a text from Heidi, " ... today has been rough seeing all their toys out in the yard but no one there to play with them. And I haven't got it in me yet to put away the puppy living quarters downstairs. I never thought I would say I miss the smell of four stinky puppies as I walk downstairs ...". The tears, once again, started to flow. Yesterday morning I woke up more rested after having a good night's sleep. As I took time in the morning as I always do to meditate, reflect and write I realized that transformation HAS to come out of this tragedy. In the midst of incredible pain there was light ... the light of love, kindness and compassion was shining brightly all around the puppies. I believe with all my heart, that they came to us for a reason. I believe they were meant to be the first transport for Jill, Erica and Kristen of Pause for Paws, three amazing women who started a non-profit to help raise money for animal welfare organizations. I believe they were meant to have the best 9 days possible at Heidi's home. I believe they were meant to wiggle into every open crevice and crack of our heart, and to even shred our heart into a million pieces. In our pain, we will see that we are not alone. And in our pain, we will be inspired to act and explore and transform a status quo that is no longer okay. In our pain, we will build an even stronger community and we will open our hearts up even more, not only for these precious animals who bring us together, but for each other.
Muraca (white moon) basking
in the sun

Yesterday afternoon I get a call from Jenny. She tells me to check the Animal Humane Society website. We always go there to check and see if the animals we have brought in from Leech Lake Reservation are up on their website and up for adoption. I'm parked at the post office and with my phone go to the AHS adoptable dog website. I scrolled down and when I get to the letter M, my heart skips a beat. I see a puppy on their website, her name 'Micco' and in parenthesis 'chief'. For a split second I am lost in a different world and thought they came back to life, then I realize, 'no Marilou, you were there with them, holding them, as they crossed over rainbow bridge.' I keep scrolling ... there are 4 other puppies 'Misu (rippling brook)', 'Masaka (strong)', 'Muraca (white moon)', and Memory. Then it hits me: AHS must have named these pups in memory of the ones we lost to parvo. Tears once again start to fall. I call Jenny back and she tells me Lynn called her to let her know that they got a litter of 5 puppies in that were ready to go up to the adoption floor. The Golden Valley AHS site manager Anne Johnson approached Lynn and asked, 'Can we name these pups in honor of the parvo pups?' They have 5 puppies, so they creatively name the fifth pup 'Memory.' Jenny tells me that Lynn called her because she didn't want to call me and make me cry again :) Well Lynn, it didn't work!! The tears started flowing again. I am moved and touched by the gesture of compassion shown by the staff at AHS. What an incredible tribute to the Misu, Masaka, Muraca and Micco. And what a powerful message you have also sent  .... We are not alone. We are in this together. We are so much stronger when we stand together and lean on each other.

So the spirit of Micco, Misa, Masaka and Muraca will live on in the bodies of these 4 pups now up for adoption through AHS, and they even have Memory the fifth pup making sure their memory and spirit lives on!

Heidi shared with me photos. You can visit my flickr site to see what a great 9 days these pups had with Heidi.

Yesterday morning, I posted the following on my facebook wall ... I am looking to create a program, the Four Star Movement, which will bring a community together so that there will come a day when the ending of the story for these beautiful four puppies will be a very different one ... 

Are you a rule breaker and when faced with a challenge or painful situation look to build bridges rather than point fingers or put up walls? Do you think outside the box more than inside the box? Do you believe that anything is possible? Do you believe that there is good at the core of every being? If you answered ‘yes’ to these 4 questions I want to hear from you. I’m looking for volunteers willing to join me in the creation of a program which will fall under Leech Lake Legacy or MnPAW, and will be in memory of Micco, Masaka, Muraca and Misu (The Four Stars)… 4 beautiful pups we lost to parvo on Monday who are bright new stars in the night skies. I have ideas brewing in my head and want to brainstorm and network with others who share my passion and belief. These four stars will continue to live on and their light will shine on brightly. Email me at if you want to join me in the Four Star Movement.

Micco (chief)
" ... Wisdom is often born in the shadows, frequently more visible in the darkness than in the light ... we must move into darker places if we are to find the wisdom we so desperately need. We rarely go there willingly, though every life contains its own cycles of grief and celebration. To meet wisdom in these dark places we must be willing and able to hold all of what life gives us, exclude nothing of ourselves to the world, to tell ourselves the truth. Wisdom will stretch us far beyond where we thought we could or wanted to go. She will show us what we cannot change or control, reveal what is hard to know about ourselves and the world, and tear at the illusions of what we think we know, until we are surrounded by the vastness of the mystery ... And all the while, wisdom asks us to choose life.  She does not want us to just continue, to hang on, to survive. She asks us to experience life actively, fully, every day -- to show up for all of it." ~ Oriah

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Four new bright stars: Micco, Masaka, Muraca, Misu

Micco (Chief)

I took yesterday off from work (my paying job that is) so I could spend the day working on MnPAW (Minnesota Partnership Animal Welfare) work. A gorgeous spring like day in March … this time last year I would never imagined I would be opening my windows to let a breeze come through … no, not here in Minnesota. My day began in its usual way, and up until noon everything seemed to be progressing as planned. Then shortly before noon I got a call from Jenny, “The pups aren’t doing well. Vicki suspects its parvo. Heidi is going to be bringing the pups to the clinic at 1:30.” Vicki is my good friend and a veterinarian who does amazing work for the abandoned, abused and neglected animals here in Minnesota. On March 10th, 4 beautiful pups arrived on transport from Leech Lake Reservation – Micco (‘chief’), Masaka (‘strong’), Muraca (‘white moon’) and Misu (‘rippling brook’).  Through our efforts at Leech Lake Legacy (a collaborative effort to help the animals up at Leech Lake Reservation) we have placed a majority of animals at the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley. They arrived piled on top of each other in a kennel. It was Jill, Erica and Kristen’s (of Pause for Paws) first transport up to Leech Lake Reservation. They stepped up at the last minute to help us bring down to the cities 4 7 week old puppies, a 6 month old pup and 2 adult dogs.  The 4 pups needed to first spend time at my friend Heidi’s home for the remainder of the quarantine period for puppies. Heidi has been a saint for the puppies up at Leech Lake Reservation and taking them into her home for the required days: a 10 day quarantine to ensure they are healthy and don’t have parvo.
Micco and Heidi

So off went Micco, Masaka, Muraca and Misu to Heidi’s home for a week. Heidi was excited to spend the next week with squiggly, squirmy, crying, poopy, peeing, barky, fat-bellied pups who would get into everything. Over the week she kept in touch with us and there were ups and downs through the week. One day we would think they were okay, then the next, they started having the dreaded parvo symptoms. We were hoping and praying it wasn’t parvo; we were hoping worms were causing them to have parvo-like symptoms. We have seen a lot of coccidia up at the Reservation. Dr. Vicki kept in touch with us throughout the week. They were put on a special bland diet and treated for coccidia. That seemed to help so we were all once again hopeful. Then yesterday things took a turn again for the worse .. Micco was not doing well. Her symptoms had gotten worse. When Heidi described the symptoms to Vicki that’s when we were told what we feared the most, it’s most likely parvo.

I met Heidi at Vicki’s clinic at 1:30 pm yesterday. We met Vicki at the back of the clinic. She was wearing yellow scrubs. Parvo is a disease I have come to despise. It is a highly contagious viral disease and because the puppies aren’t vaccinated against it they are the ones who are attacked by this virus. It’s a virus that spreads with a vengeance and won’t go away. It’s a disease that when it strikes the most innocent and helpless it rips your heart right out. It’s a disease that yes, some puppies can be treated and survive it, and 2 pups from Leech Lake Reservation last year were two of the lucky ones taken in by Act V Rescue and the rescue incurred a $6,000 bill. So here we were on a Monday afternoon with four puppies showing varying levels of parvo symptoms. We/Leech Lake Legacy have a couple hundred dollars in our emergency medical fund. We can’t afford to treat 4 puppies for parvo.
Micco at  Vicki's clinic

Vicki checks Micco out. She has a fever. She doesn’t look good. All her symptoms point to parvo. She gives her fluids. I look at Micco and I pray for guidance. What do we do? I look at Heidi … her eyes are red, she’s holding tears back and my heart just breaks. She shares with us how she tried to the take the 4 pups out for a walk over the weekend. It was a gorgeous weekend. She had spent a lot of time out in her backyard with the pups and decided, let’s try to go for a walk. “I got 10 feet and turned around. They were playing with each other, and the leash was getting all tangled up.” She smiles as she remembers that moment.

We call Jenny outside the clinic as we try to figure out what we are going to do. We all know that we can’t treat these puppies. We don’t have $2500 to spend on each puppy. For 4 puppies that would be $10,000. We don’t have a place for them to go. Rescues and shelters won’t take parvo puppies. They can’t risk exposing other dogs to parvo.
Misu ('rippling brook')

Jenny asks both Heidi and me, “what do you think we should do?” We all know we need to let them go. And we all agree that as painful as it is, we have no other alternative. I’m not going to ask Vicki to euthanize the puppies. I tell Heidi I’m going to call AHS and see if they can help us out. We both get in our cars and start driving to AHS in Golden Valley. I call Lynn (AHS’ vet tech supervisor). I met Lynn 10 months ago when our efforts to help the animals up at Leech Lake Reservation began and our partnership with AHS was evolving.  Over the 10 months we have gone through so much … laughed and cried. We have celebrated the joys of placing so many of these beautiful animals into loving homes; we have cried when we lost some to parvo.

I call Lynn on my way to AHS. As Lynn picks up her cell phone I look in my rear view mirror and see Heidi following me. My heart is breaking, for the pups, but as much for Heidi. I’m crying on the phone with Lynn as I tell her what’s going and that the puppies have parvo and will she euthanize them for us. I can feel the warmth and compassion flooding through the phone line. “I am so sorry.  I am so sorry. Just come here and we will do our best to make what is so difficult a little less painful.” It’s as if I feel Lynn’s arms around me, around Heidi, around the pups. I can’t stop myself from crying as I’m driving on highway 100 heading to AHS. Looking back I realize I was not alone through this painful process. Vicki and Lynn wrapped their arms around us and without saying these words, had shown through their actions, ‘we are here for you.’
Masaka ('strong')

Heidi and I pull up to the intake area of AHS. We leave the pups in their kennel in her car. As I walk into the intake area there are 4 AHS staff waiting for us. It’s clear Lynn has told them to expect us. Compassion and understanding fill the room. Moments later, Lynn walks through her door. I’m doing my best to hold it together, to not break down, to not cry. Lynn doesn’t say a word, she comes up to me, arms outstretched and she hugs me tightly. The tears start falling uncontrollably. She holds onto me and squeezes me. The pain in my heart for Heidi, for the puppies comes pouring out. She continues to hold me tightly and I feel her taking some of the pain in my heart. I am angry at the injustice of all of this. I feel helpless and alone and as Lynn holds me tightly, I realize I am not alone. There’s an entire village of support for the work we are doing to help the animals up at Leech Lake Reservation.

Heidi and I are with Micco, Masaka, Muraca and Misu as they cross over the rainbow bridge. As Lynn is holding them, Melissa (the vet tech at AHS) gently inserts the needle into their tiny vein.  Heidi and I stroke each puppy as they gently fall asleep. In one of the most painful, difficult moments there is love in that room. Heidi shares memories and stories, “Misu is the sassy one. She was sassy with her siblings.” As we hold Micco, Masaka and Muraca we tell them when they are up in heaven it will be their turn to sass Misu. The pups went quietly and very peacefully.
Muraca ('white moon')

I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking of Heidi, of the puppies, of Vicki, of Lynn, of the staff at AHS who showed so much love and compassion. I woke up this morning and I started crying again. I have come to truly hate the disease of parvo. This morning I needed to give myself time to grieve, to cry and to  also celebrate the incredible bonding and relationships that have formed over the past year as so many people have come together in our shared  vision to help as many animals. We celebrate the successes and happy endings, but we also share the pain of the losses.

Heidi sent me a text last night ‘ … my heart breaks a little every time an ending like this comes to be a part of the story of any of our beloved animals. Those little girls are in my heart, and hey they had a good last week.” And she ended with a reminder to me that we have so many more animals to help and that they need us to be there for them. We, along with many others, are heading up to Leech Lake Reservation later this week for the first collaborative spay/neuter clinic up at the Reservation.

Thank you Heidi for opening up your heart and your home to Micco, Masaka, Muraca and Misu. You gave them the best week of their lives. And thank you Vicki for always being there for us and the animals of Leech Lake Reservation. And Lynn, when my heart was breaking, thank you for being there and holding my heart together and picking up the pieces and making what was a very difficult decision, a little less painful, by reminding us … we are all in this together, and by working together we can not only help so many more animals but we will be there with love and compassion for each other as well.

Tonight when you look up in the stars, you will see four bright stars in the night skies … yes, they will be Micco (chief), Masaka (strong), Muraca (white moon) and Misu (rippling brook).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

6 nights/7 days on the beach in December!

About 8 years ago while vacationing in Hawaii, I got 'talked into' attending a meeting where ... "Come listen to a 45 minute presentation and you earn 20,000 Hilton Honor points. No obligations." I said to myself, I can do that ... I'll just listen and I won't be persuaded to buy anything!! Hmmm ... I learned otherwise :) Three hours later I had signed up to buy into the Hilton Grand Resorts Vacation, and every year since then have had the opportunity to take incredible vacations, with many of them being at Marco Island in Florida.

This year, I've decided to do something different. Yes, I'll be taking a vacation of my own in September, but I thought to myself, why not give someone else the opportunity to enjoy time at Marco Island, and come up with a way to raise money for the homeless, abandoned, abused animals of Leech Lake Reservation (to learn more about our efforts to help the animals at Leech Lake check out the Leech Lake Legacy blog). So this year, I am donating a large chunk of my Hilton Grand Resort Vacation points to a cause near and dear to my heart: the animals of Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. I just booked a 2 BR villa at Eagle's Nest Resort on Marco Island (it's right on the ocean) for December 8 - December 14, 2012.

I debated on going down the raffle ticket route and working with a non-profit to get the raffle going as a fundraiser. The reality is I need to try to raise money quickly. At the end of March, we had our first collaborative spay/neuter clinic up at Leech Lake Reservation. In two days we:

- Spay/Neutered 91 dogs/cats (vaccinations, microchip and pet ID are also given for the 91)
- Provided vaccinations only to 75
- Took in 49 surrenders at the clinic
- Performed one eye enucleation

The need is HUGE up at Leech Lake Reservation and if at all possible I would love to raise enough money so we can send Kindest Cut spay/neuter mobile unit back up to Leech Lake Reservation in June or July.

The value of the December vacation is over $1,600. I am asking $1,500 and ask that you make the check out to Leech Lake Legacy. Not only will you be getting an incredible vacation, at a beach front property in December, but you will know that you will be helping the animals of Leech Lake Reservation.

So ... if you, or someone you know, has been thinking about planning a vacation for the end of the year, consider a week at Marco Island, right ON the beach ... imagine going for long walks along the beach and waving to the dolphins who are often seen swimming and playing along the shoreline.

I am essentially selling my 6 night/7 day vacation at a beachfront property (yes, a 2 BR villa) in Marco Island for slightly less than the value ... so not only are you getting a deal but you have my word that the entire amount will go to help fund a spay/neuter clinic up at Leech Lake Reservation.

And here are just a few photos taken at Marco Island from one of my visits there :)