A Week in the Life: Sunday Gratitude

This week took me back down to Howey-in-the-Hills and the Mission Inn for the Council for Athletic Affairs meeting. This group is composed of the athletic directors from all the state colleges, and let me tell ya, they are a hoot. Great bunch of people, and I know I'll enjoy working with them. They get a lot of work done in a two day meeting, but they definitely don't take themselves too seriously!

What I was most grateful for this week was the opportunity to hang out with the people in these pictures. Lisa, one of my fellow shelter volunteers, hosted a Memorial Day Weekend mixer for shelter volunteers at her house. We had a great time with lots of food and drink, and even managed to make quite a few dog beds for the shelter dogs in the process. Thanks to Lisa for hosting us, and thanks to Kristen for suggesting it, and thanks to all these folks for enriching my life! There were others there that I didn't get chance to snap!  I have been truly blessed by my involvement with Animal Care and Protective Services
Vicki, Ron, Mike, Kathy and Ashley
Building Dog Beds

Nik, Jamie and Cathie

Angie, Mary Ellen and me

Deb and Lisa, our host

The kids got in on the action too!

And speaking of action!

Lynn, Manda Jo, Kristen and Hank

Mike "The Dogfather" and me

The dog beds we made

A little note on the dog bed we made

Best Shot Monday: Meet Marie!

Meet Marie! I photographed her at the shelter this morning during playgroup, and she demanded a feature. :-) Normally I don't try to photograph a dog during playgroup because it's really difficult to photograph just one dog in there, much less keep the attention of one dog. I was trying to photograph a couple other dogs this morning, and Marie demanded center spotlight every time. I have about 30 shots of Marie and, oh, just one or two of the dogs I actually went in there to photograph. She seemed to be saying, "I'm here! I'm here! You can take my picture! Here, take it again! And again! Here, try this side! I think it's my best side!" What a sweet love bug of a girl. Loves people, loves other dogs.

Marie is available for adoption at Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services, 2020 Forest Street in Jacksonville's Riverside area.  Her ID number is A924276. She is listed as a seven-month old Labrador Retriever mix, and today she is in one of the featured pet rooms.  She's been at the shelter since April 22.  The shelter is open Tuesday-Sunday this week, 10am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday, and Noon-4pm Sunday. Because we are at capacity, adoptions are free this week!  Just pay the cost of the $20 city license fee (and even some of those are sponsored)!  

A Week in the Life: Sunday Gratitude

Sarah and Pete 
Time for a little Sunday Gratitude. This week brought a little less travel, thankfully nothing more than my regular trip to Tallahassee. On these weeks, I work from home in Jacksonville on Monday and Friday, and then head to Tallahassee after I get the girls on the bus Tuesday morning. I try to get back home by 7:30pm or 8pm Thursday evening. Even though these weeks aren't as hectic, they are a bit lonely when I'm in our Tallahassee house by myself.

Monday I had hoped to get into the shelter, but the man upstairs had other plans. The girls' bus was very late, so late that we finally gave up and I drove them to school. Then when I tried to zip through McDonald's for my morning sweet tea fix (half cut, extra ice), the visit was far from zippy as things were backed up in the kitchen. By the time I got through there and stopped to get gas, I realized it was going to be after 10am by the time I got to the shelter, with playgroup in full swing. I love playgroup, but it's hard to get the dogs to focus on me for their glamour shot when they'd much rather be playing with their pals! I ended up spending a couple hours with Benny working on things for his dad's house renovation before getting back to the emails awaiting me for work.

An average day in Tallahassee Tuesday ended with a very sweet call from my Sarah, shown here with my handsome Spartacus Pete. Sarah called to tell me about the anti-bullying project she and her friend Debi are starting. They have a friend who is being bullied and decided it was time to do something about it. Some of the flyers they've created say "Don't just stand there! Help out and stop bullying!," "Life is made of choices. Bullying isn't one of them," and "Love others, try harder in school. Don't be a bully; it will come back to you!"

Wednesday night was just as sweet when Olivia called me to ask for help with an essay she was writing. When I asked her what the topic was, she said she was writing about her hero. And her hero was me. :-) I am so blessed by these sweet girls of mine. I had a ton of work to finish up Thursday before I could head home so it was a late night before I finally got home.

Friday Benny hit the road to pick up some furniture for our Tallahassee house, so the girls and I had the weekend to ourselves.  I had a major report to write, so I tried the "Maybe if I'm doing 'homework,' the girls will be more interested in doing their homework," method, and it worked! We took breaks here and there to play and run errands, but it was a very productive weekend hanging out with my girls.  And I finished my report!  That's gratitude!  How about you? What has you feeling grateful this week?

A Week in the Life: Sunday Gratitude

With all the traveling I've been doing lately, life's been crazy, but I thought trying to do a Sunday wrap up post, including my gratitude for the week, might be a way to record and reflect on the craziness! So here is my first "A Week in Life: Sunday Gratitude" post. This past week included a wrap up of the State Softball Tournament, the start of the State Baseball Tournament and Mother's Day. I grew up playing softball, so I really enjoyed our tournament, held at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach. I most enjoyed seeing the camaradarie of the girls. The photo above is our team from Indian River State College enjoying a group game of hackysack between games.

From softball, I headed home for a couple days before I had to head back over the Tallahassee to process some softball payments and then hit the road again to the baseball tournament. As luck would have it, I broke down on the way to Tallahassee Wednesday, thankfully as I was pulling into a rest stop so at least I wasn't stuck on the side of the road. Definitely a little bit of gratitude for that! Luckily the tow truck didn't take too long, and I was only about 30 miles outside of Tallahassee when I broke down. The tow truck took me to a very honest mechanic, my assistant picked me up there and took me to get a rental, and then I was back in business.

Thursday took me down to Lakeland and Tiger Town for the baseball tournament.  Thursday night's banquet was interesting.  I believe this was the first time I've ever been quite so outnumbered.  Other that the two ladies helping serve the buffet, I was the only woman in a group of about 300 players and coaches.  We had a beautiful start to the tournament on Friday and then I headed home for the Mother's Day weekend.

When you travel for work as much as I do, a Saturday at home doing nothing but laundry actually feels like a luxury!  Today brought a blissful Mother's Day. We started the day bright and early at the beach and then were home by 1pm to spend the rest of the day cuddling on the couch watching movies.    That's what I was most grateful for this week: the perfect quiet Mother's Day spent with my family.  How about you?  What have you been most grateful for lately?

Hitting Home: A Thank You to ACPS

A couple weeks ago, our shelter manager created this awesome video during National Volunteer Week to highlight our shelter volunteers. You'll see my goofy face in there a few times. The first time I watched it, I just smiled all the way through, seeing such awesome examples of my fellow volunteers with our great animals at the shelter. Then I watched it again, and I'll come clean here, I completely broke down crying, sobbing by the end of it. I wasn't sure why it affected me so deeply that way at first, but then it hit me like a pile of rocks: the crystal clear revelation that what I was truly going to miss the most when we move to Tallahassee this summer is this shelter.

I've been volunteering at Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services for more than three years now.  In that span, I've photographed more than 1,000 animals for them. (You can see them in this Flickr set.)  I've fallen in love with so many, from dogs I've photographed to kittens we've fostered. And this experience has changed my life profoundly.  It's hard to explain really.  I go in and photograph the dogs (and occasionally the cats), and I come home exhausted and stinky, covered in dog hair and dog slobber, and, yes, probably little bits of dog poop.  Because you can't just stand back and take a photo, at least I can't anyway. I have to get down on the ground and love on those babies first. Their stories often break my heart, but when they are adopted into the right family, I can celebrate their new lives with their new families. And I know that my photos are a help in that process. I guess that's part of it.

So many people have misconceptions about animal shelters, maybe thinking of "the pound."  There are also the misconceptions of the bully breeds, that these shelters are full of nothing but Pit mixes and that they are such horrible dogs.  I guess it's my hope that my photos and my stories about those very dogs are helping to break those misconceptions.  Pits aren't horrible dogs, unless you don't like being licked to death.  They can be such lovers.  And our shelter is awesome.  Sure it can be loud, but it's bright and cheery, not a dungeon.  The animals are very well cared for by both staff and volunteers who dedicate their lives to them.  I think for our staff it's often a thankless job; I'm guessing shelter work probably doesn't pay much monetarily, but from what I've seen from our amazing staff, the "pay" they receive from helping save all these lives far more than makes up for the wages. As for us volunteers, no, we don't get paid any money.  But we are there, day after day and week after week, loving on those animals, walking them, stuffing kongs, doing laundry, and yes, taking pictures, among a myriad of other volunteer opportunities.  Because, really, we do get paid, handsomely.  We get paid in slobbery kisses and gentle purrs, hugs from big goofy dogs and biscuits from quiet little cats.  And the best payment is when we see an animal walk out that front door, tail wagging, a big happy smile looking up at his or her new family.

So yes, I cried when I watched this video. Big sloppy, red-faced tears. It reminded me how much I've gained from being there and how much this shelter has become a part of me, not how much the shelter has gained from my service. Does that make sense?  That's what the right volunteer opportunity can do for you.  By helping them, you help yourself. I know I will get involved with a shelter in Tallahassee, and I'm certain there will be great people and great animals there, too.  But I think this shelter has become like my first love.  You never forget your first love, do you?  Well, I'm babbling by this point, and if I keep going much further, the tears will just start coming again. So, in all, thank you, Animal Care and Protective Services.  You have enriched my life immeasurably, and I am forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to become a part of such an amazing team.   

Best Shot Tuesday: Meet Boris!

So, I've given in to the hands of fate and decided to do "Best Shot ...." on whatever day I get to it! So, please meet Boris! I photographed him Monday morning while showing the ropes to a new photographer who I think is going to do some great work for us. Boris is a big ball of furry wonderfulness! I'll let him speak for himself...

"Hi, I'm Boris! I'm a neutered male Chow Chow Mix. The shelter staff think I'm about six years old. As you can see I'm pretty darn handsome, but I could really use a forever family that will help me take care of my good looks.  I had a family once but they weren't able to take care of me and it was hard for me to figure out why. The people at the shelter have been really patient with me, and I've shown them how AWESOME I am in return.  I need to be the only dog in your life, but I promise I'm enough! I love to go on walks and spend time sleeping in comfy dog beds. I know sit, down and shake and I bet you could teach me more!!"

Boris and many other wonderful dogs and cats are available for adoption at Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services, 2020 Forest Street in Riverside. Boris's ID number is A822663, and he's been at the shelter since February 5, 2015.  He's waiting for you today!