Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The AARF Dream Team

Many of you who read this post may have never met me personally. And you may have not yet met any of the AARF program team. I want you to know how hard they work and how much I appreciate them.

Most animal welfare organizations that run as many programs as AARF does have a paid staff of at least 5-10 people, often more. Do you know how many paid employees AARF has - none! The folks who run our programs are all volunteers, although much of what we do could count as a full-time second job. Our folks donate so much of their time, energy and their own money to make our programs so successful, and I am grateful every day for the amazing team of folks we have.

Many of you also know that a few years ago, we started planning to have our own facility and to be able to finally pay our program directors. As this economy has put many of your own plans on hold, it has had the same effect on AARF, and we have had to delay our push to open our own place. But, we have continued to expand our programs, especially our education and spay/neuter programs. Because of financial constraints, we had to freeze our adoption program for 3 months, but that is also now back up and running strong. And all of our work has continued to be done by our very dedicated unpaid staff, fosters and volunteers.

I hope that anyone reading this will take a moment to send a card or email of appreciation to one of our AARF folks. They do what they do because of love and commitment to animals, but a little pat on the back always helps!

And --- if you want to get involved, we are always looking for more great people to join us!

Contact information:

India Powell - VP of Communications (
Carrieann Banacki-Gillert - Director of Humane Education (
Erica Cottrill - Director of Marking and Client Services (
Renee Malinowski - VP of Animal Services (
Stephanie Manley - Director of Foster Services (
Carroll Ball - Coordinator of the Silver Paws Program (
Brooke Martin - VP of Operations (
Julie Lewis - VP of Policies and Procedures (
Gayle Schlueter - Grants Coodinator (
Melanie Wiggins - VP of Volunteer Services and Director of Casper's Fund (

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Unconditional Love and Acceptance

We have much to learn from our animal friends....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Picture of Love and Acceptance

I often wonder if we have to learn compassion, or if we are born with it. When I look to examples from our living friends, I think I have come to believe that we are all born with an innate capacity for compassion, acceptance, and unconditional love. Yet, by a very early age, most of us are conditioned to ignore and suppress these admirable traits. We learn that those that are not like us are not as important. And we definitely learn that our non-human relatives are "just animals" - disposable, unfeeling, unaware beings.

We at AARF receive approximately 100 emails and phone calls a week from people wanting to give up their pets (some even want to "donate" them to us). They all have reasons that they think are logical, but most are based on the premise that animals have no consciousness or experience no feelings of loss, connection or grief. For most people, their pets are disposable. For example, we recently received this email:

"I have a newborn baby and have to find a new home for my indoor dogs. ASAP before my wife takes them to the pound where they will probably be put to sleep."

What better way to teach your new child compassion than to teach him to love, care for and respect other living creatures? What exactly will children be taught when the responsibility of caring for a pet becomes too much trouble? The lessons that I think most children will learn are 1) animals are disposable, 2) animals have no feelings that we need to consider, 3) taking responsibility for other living creatures is optional. These are the lessons that teach children to "unlearn" the inherent compassion that we are all born with.

We often consider ourselves as humans as the most evolved species on the planet. Yet no other animal kills other animals for convenience or expediency. No other species exploits hundreds of other species for their own benefit, with often little regard for providing a mutual benefit. And no other species teaches its young that other living things are disposable.

The picture above is of a chimp named Anjana who lives at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species in South Carolina. Anjana has helped to raise several orphaned lion and tiger cubs, including currently caring for two white tiger cubs rejected by their mother. This picture, more than any I have seen in a long time, exemplifies the unconditional compassion that I think we are all born with, that we all still possess. This picture touches me in a primitive way, in that part of me that knows we are all connected. And in a way that reminds me that as the most destructive and exploitative species on the planet, we have caused so much pain and suffering to our cohabitants, if only through our non-action.

What I wish for everyone that reads this blog entry is that you feel a pang of compassion reminiscent of a child's, before the unlearning process began. And that you feel a tug of responsibility that comes only from knowing that you have no other choice but to act. We need all of you. They need us.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October is Adopt A Dog Month

October is national "Adopt A Dog Month." Why do we need a special adoption month for dogs (and for cats, in June)? Why do we, as a society, ever designate special months or days? I think simply it because we tend to forget or ignore those groups/people/pets on the rest of the days and months. So, we set aside a special time to highlight and remember, in hopes that we won't forget. "Adopt A Dog Month" is not just about adopting a dog in October, but about remembering adoption for the other 11 months of the year. It gives those of us as an animal welfare community a chance to collectively promote adoption together for a solid month, in hopes that the message will sink in, ESPECIALLY as we get close to the holidays. We all know the mythology of the puppy or kitten in the basket under the tree (which is bad for a lot of reasons - click here to find out why). But I hope that in some way, a month of focusing on adoption will mean that fewer of those living presents will be bought from back yard breeders and puppy mills.

We at AARF are celebrating "Adopt A Dog Month" by giving away a weekend stay at a Savannah B&B. We want people do adopt for the love of the dog. But if the chance at a weekend getaway encourages more people to at least consider the idea of adopting rather than buying, then it becomes effective marketing. The breeders and pet shops market, why shouldn't we? We need to be creative about how we make people aware of the wonderful possibilities of rescuing, fostering and adopting.

So, if you are thinking about adopting, now is the time. You might even win a chance to get away for the weekend. If AARF doesn't have the dog you are looking for, don't stop looking. On any given day, there are AT LEAST 2000 dogs in the metro Atlanta area looking for a home.

Visit the AARF site first. Then, visit the Not One More site. Then the Atlanta Pets site (run by Lifeline Animal Project). Then Petfinder. Your new dog is out there, waiting for you. Let's make October 2008 the best "Adopt A Dog Month" that the homeless dogs of Atlanta have ever seen.

If you do adopt, send me an update. On November 1, I'll list every single adoption that you send me, and we'll see what a difference we can make together.