Puppy mills aren't something most people like to think about. But Jana Kohl thinks about them every day. And she's trying to put an end to them once and for all. Thanks to Baby, and the mission she inspired.
Baby is a sweet dog. You'd think that after a lifetime in a puppy mill, being repeatedly bred and having each litter of puppies taken away from her much too soon, having her vocal chords cut with scissors (and no anesthesia), and never getting to run and play in the grass, much less even feel it under her paws, or losing a leg due to osteoporosis caused by malnutrition, Baby would be aggressive, or at the very least, extremely submissive and fearful. It's just not the case. Here are a couple of photos I took at Rainy Day Books last week, when Jana and Baby were in town promoting their new book.
Baby and Jana are almost literally joined at the hip. Jana held her for most of the discussion, and when her arm got tired and she put Baby back in her very swank stroller (hey, she deserves it!), Baby perched on the railing, watching Jana's every move. It's easy to see that Baby is grateful for her second chance.
The discussion covered many topics, from puppy mills to breeders to factory farming to the myth of the AKC and just how we view and treat animals in general. (Needless to say, there were quite a few vegetarian/vegans in the audience, myself included.) There were some light moments, too, like when Jana explained why she decided to include a photo of Lindsay Lohan holding Baby in her book. Yes, Lindsay has been seen wearing fur, and has friends with "purebred purse dogs" who most likely came from puppy mills--but isn't it a good thing to educate people? When the photo of Lindsay was taken, Jana told her about the abuses Baby faced at the puppy mill, and the actress was visibly shaken.
The main problem with puppy mills (and cat mills, as well) is that the demand is still there from the public for purebreds sold at pet stores and by questionable breeders. Before meeting Baby, Jana herself was looking for a dog online, and came across a slick web site, featuring photos of puppies running through green fields--you know the kind of site. It looked very peaceful and perfect. But instead of "ordering" her dog from this breeder, Jana decided to check the place out herself. What she found there was horrific. She commented that it was a place as close to hell as she could imagine. Dogs stacked in cages. Dogs who would never see sunlight. Dogs who would never be shown any kindness or love. And chances are, if you got your dog from a pet store (excluding places like Petsmart and Petco that invite shelters to come in with their dogs for adoption days) it most likely came from a puppy mill. Even the super ritzy pet shops like the one featured in this expose video.
Not all breeders are puppy mills, of course. Some have the very best of intentions. But the flip side of buying from any breeder is that it means one less home for a shelter dog. There are thousands of deserving, wonderful (and purebred) dogs and cats in shelters that are euthanized every day because no one came for them. And when you "order" or buy a designer dog--dogs that are basically mass produced for public consumption, it's only perpetuating the problem.
Jana is hoping to create enough outrage among people like you and me, that we will contact our state representatives and demand that these puppy mills be shut down. The AWA (Animal Welfare Act) needs to be enforced.
So what can you do? CALL your state representative. You can find their contact information here.
Jana has been in the offices of several state reps and says that their assistants answer all phone calls, and then relay the "topics of the day" back to the senator when he or she walks through during the day. So it does reach your rep when you call. And calling is by far the most effective way to communicate with them. (Don't be shy! They really do like hearing from their constituents.)
If you need a script, here's a suggestion, taken from the Humane Society's web site:
Contact your federal and state legislators and let them know that you’re concerned about the inhumane treatment of dogs in puppy mills and want the puppy mill issue to be a priority for congress. Ask them to expand the reach of the Animal Welfare Act to include kennels that sell large numbers of puppies directly to the public and to ban the imports of puppies for resale.
• Tell people about this. It's amazing how many people are in the dark about where their dogs and cats come from.
• Donate to the HSUS puppy mill education fund. It's only by shutting down demand that this will stop.
• Buy Jana's book.100% of the profits are going to the Humane Society of the United States to help stop puppy mills.
• Write about this on your own blog. Spread the word.
• Vow to adopt pets from shelters only. Give those underdogs and cats a second chance at a happy life. You'll be rewarded with unconditional love for life.
I'll leave you with this video of Baby I took at the book store. I'm not one of the "oohers" or "aaahers"--I love that Baby has a fighting spirit and is so darn adorable after all she's been through, but knowing why and how she lost her leg just makes me angry.
Original Sock Dogs were featured in today's Kansas City Star! The funny thing is, I had no idea until someone contacted me, requesting a sock dog "like the one in today's paper." (Of course, I immediately ran out and picked one up.)
Here's a photo of the blurb. To read it more easily, just click on the image and it will enlarge. It's in the FYI/Weekend section, which is great, since people usually keep it around for a few days.
I have no idea how this happened, though I'm very happy it did! No one at the shelter submitted it, so I'm thinking some very wonderful editor at the paper pulled out the article and sock dog photo they ran about me two years ago and added the update. Woohoo!
By the way, last night I met Baby and Jana Kohl! KC was a stop on their national book tour, promoting A Rare Breed of Love. I'll post about it tomorrow, with some tips on easy things you (yes, you!) can do to help put an end to puppy mills.
Here are some photos from Saturday--just a few of the thousands of deserving dogs across the country who need a good home.
Here's Brandi, a very loveable girl who's way too big to be a lap dog, but considers herself one anyway.
Brandi was found tied to the dumpster at the shelter one morning--someone had dumped her there. She tested positive for heartworm and is now receiving treatment.
Kelsey is a one year old terrier mix. So much character in that sweet face! Kelsey was brought in to the shelter because her person was seriously ill and couldn't take care of her anymore.
Can you believe this mugshot? What a cutie. Barley is a one year old spaniel mix who was at an animal control facility--he had hip problems, so the shelter took him in and used money from the Gabriel Fund for his surgery. He's doing great now, and was running around the yard with no trouble.
This is Rosie, who was dumped in a park just up the street from the shelter. (She's not up on the HSGKC's Petfinder list yet, but will be soon.) The entire time I had her out in the yard, she just looked through the fence and whined--was she waiting for her person to come back and get her?
Is anyone else reading The Creative Family? What a great book--not overwhelming, and written in a way that makes me feel like I'm chatting with a good girl friend. It's full of ideas to inspire your own creativity, and celebrate the creativity of your children. It's really amazing how much we can learn from our kids just by watching them play...they have such natural curiousity and such a unique way of looking at their world. This book has been a great reminder of that. (Thanks, Beth!)
So here's where my creative energy took me over the weekend: Coming to the shop tomorrow...Hilde is a gardener and is so proud of her flowers!
I used the same Schulte mohair for her that I used for Inga. I love how crazy wavy/curly it is--it gives her so much personality. I decided to weight her with BBs, like other bear makers use. It was fun to see the wide-eyed look on the WalMart employee's face when I asked him where the steel shot was. Probably not too many other moms with one-year-olds in tow asking for that product. (At least, I hope not!) So needless to say, Hilde is not for kids, but is an adult collectible. Also, squirrels and birds will probably be nervous around her.
We took some time last week to visit my grandma in Ohio. She is amazing. At 91 years old, she lives on her own in the same house my mom grew up in, drives herself around town to appointments and lunch dates, is sharp as a tack and has a wicked sense of humor to match.
Our daughter is the apple of her eye, and she told me on a couple of occasions that "I might love her more than my own." (Of course, she didn't want me sharing this with my mom or my aunt.)
Going to Gram's house has always been one of my very favorite things to do. When I was a kid, it always seemed like there were endless hours of fun just waiting to be had--chasing lightning bugs at night, riding around with Grandpa on the lawnmower, making thumbprint cookies, exploring the attic with all of its hidden doorways and long forgotten toys, books and photographs. Now when I visit, time flies by so quickly, and I never seem to have enough moments with Gram. But it's still pretty magical.
On this visit, I did manage to find a few minutes (after everyone was asleep) to get up to the attic and check out the old sewing machine I've seen up there. I finally figured out how to open it and see the actual machine. From the looks of the plaque, it's a Wheeler & Wilson and was made around 1892.
I also finally remembered to take some photos of the cabinet doors in the garage, where my grandfather diligently recorded the apple and pear tree "crops" each year. (They only had one of each tree in their suburban backyard.)
My Gramps, who passed away in 1986, was a very meticulous guy, in just about every way. I remember he always had the cleanest fingernails and smelled like aftershave. Strangely enough, he was also a big goofball and would send my brother and me letters with photos of Miss Piggy and Kermit--but instead of their heads, he'd cut out photos of him and Gram and superimpose them. He also pulled the butts off fireflies and wore them like a ring. (I do not advocate this cruelty to bugs in any sense, but as a kid, I thought it was very cool.)
Out in the garage, I came across a basket full of my Gram's clothespins...these will come in handy for Beth's Kokeshi gallery show!
Wonder what Gramps was saving these for...
Back up in the attic, here's one of those little doors in the wall I love so much. Through this door, I discovered so many neat things as a kid. Baby dolls and a cradle (the cradle's still there--I checked), Christmas decorations, a mini-pinball machine, old fancy clothes, even a pair of my mom's rollerskates and her golf trophies!
This time, I found this:
Of course, no visit to Grandma's would be complete without a trip to see the "Steelworker":
During this visit, my Gram told me how her father (who she loved dearly) was one of the strikers during the "Little Steel Strike" protesting Republic Steel in 1937. He and his fellow strikers spent a month inside the building, and food was dropped from planes overhead. (Apparently there was one striker--she remembered his name, but I can't recall right now--who snuck out at night and came back in the wee hours of the morning, by way of the sewer. She said he would have been shot if the others had found out.) At the end of it all, her father was paid for every single hour of the strike...and the money he received was spent on a brand new car. (The only new car they ever had!) She's full of stories like this one, and remembers just about every family member going back three generations. (Meanwhile, I can't even remember my own parents' anniversary.) I've jotted a lot of these things down so I can pass them along some day. I'm just so lucky to have such a terrific grandma--and I'm so glad she's getting to know my child now (and vice versa). What a lady.
It's a good thing I love making these mohair bears, because they are a P.A.I.N. Literally. My wrists hurt. My head hurts. And I'm sure I inhaled enough mohair particles to grow a goat in my left lung.
She's not done yet...I still need to make her some clothes. I am gaining an entirely new respect for artists who make these kinds of bears, and for the prices they charge. It's taken me THREE days to do this, and she's only 4.5" tall! Can you imagine how long it would take to make one of these?
By the way, have any of you seen Art: 21? I'm watching season one right now and it's fascinating! It's a great way to find out more about contemporary artists and get inside their heads and their work. I recommend it for anyone involved or interested in the arts. It's available on Netflix, so add it to your queue!
I also just finished reading this, on a friend's recommendation. Yes, it's technically a young adult novel, but who cares? If you want some quick and hard-to-put-down summer reading, to be followed by a blockbuster in December, go get a copy.
With so much going on lately, I'm finding it difficult to organize a coherent post for this blog. So here are some little bits of life at the moment.
My table at the trunk show:
You can see more pix of the show and the other artists' work here.
We had more storms roll through last night, and unfortunately, it damaged the sweet little tree in our backyard. I spent part of the morning in my PJs sawing off the broken branches, and hoping no one could see me. Here's a photo of the ominous clouds approaching:
If you are curious about Kokeshi dolls and/or would like to make one for an online gallery show, head over to the Red Yarn blog!
My second little mohair bear is finished. I keep looking at her, and can't believe that she actually turned out exactly as I intended. The little dress she's wearing is the first piece of clothing I've attempted to make for a plush. It took three tries, but I finally figured it out. The dress pattern was adapted from Jenn Docherty's awesome book, Sweet Needle Felts.
Hopefully, my sister isn't reading this, because Flora is a gift for her. My little sis is having her first baby (it's a girl!) in September. I thought Flora might look cute in the nursery.
In other news...the KC Etsy Trunk Show is tomorrow! So today, the kiddo and I will be scavenging for tabletop displays and other stuff to help decorate my booth. The sock dogs and other plush have been completed and tagged, and are patiently waiting in their airtight container. (I feel strangely compelled to poke some holes in it for them. Poor plushies.)