Arya of House Potcake

One thing I’ve learned about going on vacation, is that I don’t like to relax.

How can I, when there’s so much to do and so little time! I want to see ALL THE THINGS!


And most of the time I vacation with my husband he responds with a blank stare and a “why would you want to do all of that?” So this time around we went to Turks and Caicos, a small island chain in the Bahamas whose island upon which we landed is only 38 square miles, so I think he assumed he would have me boxed in by water and I’d have no choice but to chill out.

He was wrong, of course. Shortly after arriving, I spotted the telltale signs of what I knew to be an island without an animal control program: stray dogs darting across the street, hiding from the midday heat and humidity in whatever shade they could find. In the Bahamas, these distinctive stray dogs are called potcakes, after the congealed rice and pea mixture scraped up from the bottom of the pot that was traditionally fed to the dogs. Scrappers from the start, these sturdy little guys.

With no official animal control and a population subject to the elements, starvation, parvo, and heartworm, one of the ways to deal with them was through poisoning (a very common and unfortunate way to cope when there is no program in place to help the animals.) Potcake Place is a rescue located on the island, 100% volunteer run and donation based, that exists to help bridge that gap and give these dogs a chance. Visitors are welcome to come in and meet the pups, so of course within 24 hours I mapped the place out and planned a trip.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, but I sure wasn’t expecting this:


What they have managed to make out of so little is truly heroic. Enjoy the pictures of these healthy little pups. I guarantee you, before these rescue volunteers took them in they were not this happy and healthy.





The facility is cheery, tidy, and full of happy. It makes people WANT to go in, as evidenced by the steady flow of tourists into the building to play, learn, and offer to courier the dogs back to the States. As the bulletin board shows, they’ve been successful in that as well.

K32C1349 (1)

(aside- one in Hawaii?? That’s hardcore.)

Best souvenir ever, right? These people all seem to think so.


Knowing this was ABSOLUTELY NO NO NO out of the question that we would be able to take a dog home, I settled for the next best thing: Potcake Place allows you to be a ‘foster for a day’, taking a dog out and about to give them socialization, exercise, and an opportunity to show off for more tourists on the street.

Who’s available? I asked.

They said, Bran, Rickon, and Arya. Was this meant to be or what? So we borrowed, of course, Arya.


Come on. This is totally relaxing.

So anyway, we spirited Arya back to our little stretch of beach and told her all about the world. How people are pretty cool, if you trust them. How she should enjoy this water while she could because rumor had it she was on her way to Boston on Saturday. She took it all in stride.


Did I mention Arya is extremely photogenic? I hope she goes to someone with a blog. Almost as much as I hope she goes to a Game of Thrones fan.


And she’s great with kids. Seriously, she was awesome.


So awesome, in fact, that when I saw her in the airport departure lounge on her way to a no kill shelter in Boston I seriously considered changing her out with my neck pillow- they’d never know until it was too late. Cooler heads prevailed, of course, and I decided I would instead focus my efforts on trying to convince them to put in an application for a World Vets team to come and help with a large scale spay/neuter effort.

I know just the right vet to help out.



To learn more about Potcake Place, visit their website or Facebook page. They adopt to people all over the United States, even those who have never been to the island; you put in an application, and once you are approved you wait until someone from your area goes there on vacation and volunteers to courier the pup back to you. Isn’t that a great system?

Filed: Be The Change, Blog, Daily Life, Happy Tails, On Safari, Photography Tagged: , , ,

Flashback Friday: Depressed Puppy

So I was looking through old Brody photos for a Flashback Friday and found this one:



Which was awesome all by itself, and then I realized he was the perfect candidate for some captions. So I turned him into a Depressed Puppy Meme.





Hope you have a better long weekend than this guy! ;) (If I recall the true sadness was not being allowed to chase my mom’s hellkitty around)

Feel free to make your own caption, they always entertain me. :D

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Features, Goofball Antics, Photography Tagged: , ,

Apollo Chaplin Wishes you a Happy Hairball Awareness Day

If there’s one thing that’s harder to get a good picture of than a black dog, it’s a black cat. At least Kekoa was easily bribed. Apollo- well, let’s just say this was an all-hands on deck sort of mission.

For National Hairball Awareness Day- which is today, by the by- we were invited by Furminator to participate in their Cats with Moustaches Campaign. The concept was simple: Furminate your cat (cakewalk), glue the hair onto a cardboard moustache (Messy, but elementary), then get a photograph of said cat posing just right with the moustache in front of their face (Level 23 Difficulty), and oh yes the cat and the moustache are monochromatic and the lighting in the house is bad (Pick up the ring, go into Mordor).

This is why we wound up with this picture:


Because without Photoshop, this wasn’t going to happen.

Apollo’s opinion of the matter was somewhere along the lines of, “You will pay for this.” Those of you who follow me on Facebook saw my frantic post about the best pet urine removers this week? I’m convinced that’s payback. And this, my friends, is why he’s so rarely on the blog. He’s antisocial.

Brody, on the other hand, noticed a camera and treats and happily posed free of charge for 15 shots with Apollo’s fur huffed to his face. He liked it.

To see what the other 11 brave cat writers came up with for this campaign, check them out on People Pets. In return for these photos, Furminator generously donated 25 Furminator tools to a shelter of our choice for each participant, so it was worth every second. :)


Filed: Be The Change, Blog, Photography Tagged: , ,

I want to go where they went

I do not profess to know what happens to us after we die. Even those who have strong faith in what will happen to us after we go are sometimes unsure of what happens to our beloved pets. And to them, I quote the great Will Rogers: “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

When someone close to me passes on, be it person or pet, I have a dream about them a week or so later. I don’t know why, if it is a quirk of my subconscious or an actual visit or who the heck knows; the theologians can debate it all they want, but these particular dreams always stick with me long after I wake and give me a good deal of comfort. And yes, I had a dream about Kekoa a week or so ago, right before the funeral service in our backyard arranged by our daughter and very kindly attended by all four grandparents.

But last night I had a different dream, and regardless of what it means it really struck me because it’s the only time I’ve had one like it. Those of you who have been around for a while may remember me speaking about my grandmother Mary, who passed away several years ago and is the person, I believe, who most set me on the path I am on today as a veterinarian. You may also recall my grandfather John, who passed away just under a year ago. It was from him, I later learned, that I got my obsession with adventure and the dream of climbing Mt. Meru, which I accomplished last year.

So in this dream, I am driving around on a grassy hillside and I pull into a driveway, quiet and remote. Another car pulls up, and it’s my grandmother.

“Open the window so I can see your face,” she says. “It’s been so long.”

But I get out instead, and look in her backseat. And there is my dog Mulan, who died of melanoma in 2009, right before I started the blog.

Not Brody! This is Mulan and Emmett, in 2008.

“Is she doing better?” I ask, reaching in as she licks me.

“Of course!” Mary says proudly. “I know how to take care of animals. She is doing very well.”

I peer into the drivers seat. “Is my grandfather up there?”

“Yes,” she laughs. “But he doesn’t want to come out.” Which is typical.

I pat Mulan, and I start to cry.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

“I just lost another dog,” I said. “She had bone cancer.”

My grandmother takes my hand, and says, “I’m sorry.” She kisses me and I wake up with a wet pillow.

You know how some dreams are. Some are bizarre flights of fancy, some dreadful chasms of dark worries come to fruition. And others, in those rare and brief moments, sweep you up in their elusive beauty and show you something that stays with you long after you wake. They feel real. And of all the people for Mulan to find on the other side, my sweet dog who was abandoned by an owner who didn’t feel like treating her flea allergies and wanted me to euthanize her instead, I’m so glad that at least in my mind, she found Mary.

I don’t know what it means, or if it means anything. But I am so glad it was a dream I got to have.

Filed: Blog, Cancer sucks, Daily Life, Musings, Photography Tagged: ,

The 2013 Rose Parade in Pictures

I was so thrilled to be able to see the Rose Parade this year live and in person. The extras, like seeing Jane as Grand Marshal and getting to meet some absolutely incredible members of the military participating in the Canines With Courage float, was just added icing on the cake. My hosts at Natural Balance were incredibly kind, helpful and amazing to all of us who were fortunate enough to enjoy their hospitality. Hope you enjoy some of the great photographs we were able to take while we were there! Happy, happy new year to you all!

Filed: Blog, Photography Tagged: ,

The Best Moment I Never Saw: The Rose Parade moment everyone’s talking about

January 1, 9:15. I’m sitting in the grandstands on Orange Grove Blvd enjoying my first trip to the Rose Parade in Pasadena. Earlier, in the chill dark morning mist, I and a handful of other lucky press saw the Natural Balance Canines With Courage float lined up down the road, and I got to meet the delightful and utterly gracious Dick Van Patten while he warmed up inside a roadside trailer.

When the Canines with Courage float, a full scale replica of the new Military Working Dogs National Monument, passed us in the stands, the crowd around me surged to their feet to cheer on the canine handlers riding and walking alongside the float. More on these amazing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines later. I had met many of them the night before, but a few, such as the soldier perched up front, I had not met. I thought nothing of it at the time.

Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Willingham with Lucca, memorial creator and Army veteran John Burnam, and “mystery soldier.”

We were sitting about 3 blocks ahead of the main media area. About 5 minutes after the float passed, the parade paused and we heard a ruckus. We craned our necks to see what was going on, wondering if something had caught fire or stalled or something. A few minutes later, Twitter blew up.

“WOW Natural Balance brought to tears!” “Most amazing float ever!” “I can’t believe what I just saw” etc.

And we were confused, because while it was indeed a beautiful float, the reaction seemed a tad bit over-stated. Then, of course, we figured it out: the secret a handful of top level military and Natural Balance execs had kept under wraps for seven months.

In the front row, Miriam Pazz and her son Eric were enjoying the show, flown in from Germany as a special guest of the company. As the float went by, she did a double take. “I recognized him immediately,” she said- him being her husband Army Sergeant First Class Eric Pazz, deployed to Afghanistan the past seven months. It was the best kept secret of the day, a joint effort of the military and Natural Balance to bring a holiday surprise to a well deserving family.

Pazz, nominated for the honor by his fellow soldiers, was selected based on factors such as his distinguished service and his number of deployments. He never imagined actually being chosen. For the past month, he’s kept it a secret from his wife and son, who thought they were going on vacation- without Dad. As the float pulled in front of the stands with cameras from around the world trained on them, well, you know the rest of the story.

I got to meet Eric and Miriam after the parade, when they graciously postponed a private family reunion to talk to press and well-wishers in the post parade area. As with all military members I’ve had the pleasure to meet, they were humble, so generous with their time with the curious public, and so complimentary to everyone they have met along the way. The Pazz family is a credit to the US military- and I’m so honored to have a chance to meet them and witness such an exceptional moment.

Grace Under Pressure: From a quiet early morning on a parade route to the national spotlight, the Pazz family handled the attention with grace and charm

Filed: Blog, Photography, Picks of the Litter Tagged: , , , ,

Wordless Wednesday: Pooped

One week in Orlando.

Flew home to child with, I just learned today, strep throat.

And we move on Friday.

This is how I am feeling right now:

And that includes all the hair and assorted detritus scattered about.

Filed: Blog, Photography Tagged: , ,

Instant Stress Relief: Awesome Penguin is Awesome

I don’t do stress very well. I get antsy. I eat too many cookies. I spend a lot of time staring vacantly into space listening to my heartbeat drum in my ears as I resist, with variable success, the urge to overreact to every little thing. You’d think I would be better at dealing with this sort of thing by now, but of all the curveballs I’ve weathered in life, this particular move has really unsettled me in a way that makes me entirely sympathetic to those who are simply steering clear of me until everything is in the clear. It’s what I would do in your shoes.

The urge to run is strong. If only I could escape somewhere far, far away, I would feel a lot better. In the absence of an actual physical egress, perhaps a pictorial one will do. (This must be why I’ve always obsessed over National Geographic.) One can’t get much further away than Antarctica. Join me, if you would, for just a moment, to the happy land of Antarctic Emperor penguins, where no one has to argue about closing costs, fish are abundant, and if you want to shove the guy next to you into the drink you can totally make it look like an accident.

The following is an excerpt from the November edition of National Geographic magazine. For the full piece online, please click here. Enjoy!

When an emperor penguin swims through the water, it is slowed by the friction between its body and the water, keeping its maximum speed somewhere between four and nine feet a second. But in short bursts the penguin can double or even triple its speed by releasing air from its feathers in the form of tiny bubbles. These reduce the density and viscosity of the water around the penguin’s body, cutting drag and enabling the bird to reach speeds that would otherwise be impossible. (As an added benefit, the extra speed helps the penguins avoid predators such as leopard seals.)

Preparing to launch from the sea to the sea ice, an emperor penguin reaches maximum speed. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic


An airborne penguin shows why it has a need for speed: To get out of the water, it may have to clear several feet of ice. A fast exit also helps it elude leopard seals, which often lurk at the ice edge. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

Life is safer at the colony, where predators are few and company is close. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

I can go ahead and add this to the list of things I want to see before I die. Add to the list of things I do not need to see ever again: Buyer Disclosure Lists, escrow closing documents, packing boxes.


My life has been greatly enriched by having an ipad subscription to Nat Geo. It’s saved me from having to read 2010 issues of Life and Style at the doctor’s office more times than I can count.

Thanks to National Geographic for permission to use these fantastic images from Paul Nicklen and the November issue of National Geographic magazine. For more images and interactive video of the penguin zooming out of the water, you can go here. Happy Monday!



Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Photography Tagged: ,

Wordless Wednesday: Bonding

Can’t complain about living in San Diego. :)

Surf's up- photo by Michael Schrager

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Photo of the Week, Photography Tagged: , ,

Get your puppy and kitten fix here. One day only.

Every little kid who wants to be a vet someday says it’s because they love puppies and kittens and think we get to play with them all day. And then we smile, trying not to look too discouraging, as we encourage their dream while thinking of all the cancer euthanasias, anal sac abscesses, and “it-just-started-yesterday-I-swear” 10 centimeter pedunculated, bloody masses.

Some people thrive on all that stuff. Me, I never got beyond the 10 year old version of being a vet. I like preventive care. I like seeing and maintaining health more than I do fixing it once it’s broken. That is boring to some, but it’s what I enjoy. And when I was in Granada with World Vets, my favorite afternoons were the ones we spent doing impromptu street clinics for the outlying neighborhoods, because guess what we got to see?

Healthy pets. Puppies and kittens galore. And we got to do treatments to keep them healthy, and this made me very happy. Preventive care and humane education are crucial to this type of program’s success, and they give us an excellent excuse to go and interact with gaggles of fluffy awesomeness.



Teensy, tiny tongues slay me.


Yeah man, it’s cool, just getting a rabies vaccine. It’s all good.


Why yes, I did know rabies was a zoonotic disease. This is good to know.


All right, who ate frijoles for breakfast?


Lion King auditions are next week, ok, Simba? Simmer down.


Thanks, Dr. Lester.


Let me reward you for your service by being exceptionally adorable.

Yes, I agree, it’s weird that we haven’t seen any- hey, what’s in the bag?


Kittens, that’s what.


No one can resist a kitten. This is why they rule the universe.

Stare deep into my eyes….yes, you’re getting sleepy….yes, you reach for that can of tuna….

I’ll be just as cute in the States as I am here. Thank for adopting me.


Now excuse me while I go take a nap in your pocket.

Filed: Be The Change, Photo of the Week, Photography Tagged: , , , , ,

Love Match

I can see a thousand things, and I can go a thousand places,

but not a thing brings so much joy as doggie kisses on happy faces.

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Photo of the Week, Photography Tagged: , , ,

Angry Cat Retrieval Service Free with Vaccine

This is one of my favorite people I met in Granada (there were a lot of them.)

Her name is Maria Elena Solorzano, and she, as well as her sister, are veterinarians in Granada. I suppose a person who owns a clinic in a town could see something like the World Vets Training Center pop up, and say, wow that stinks, and this is going to compete with my work, and this is terrible.

Or you could say, let me help you, because I care about the animals in my town and I want them to have access to more than I am capable of offering by myself. This is Dr. Mari Elena.

She was instrumental in helping the World Vets team access carriage horses and equine farms in the area so each group of students had a full amount of time to get hands-on horse experience. As a resident, she had access and knowledge the team did not to help get the word out about the services World Vets wanted to offer. In addition, when caseload was slow at Casa Lupita in town, she organized dog and cat street clinics on the outskirts of the city.

She was to me, the embodiment of the spirit of people of Nicaragua: caring, hardworking, and determined to do right by those she came by.

Including the multiple pit bulls she has adopted over the years. She told me with no small amount of sadness that dog fighting has become a new popular trend in town, and she has scooped up sweet dogs who weren’t performing up to par and were in danger of being put to death. Yes, even here, this happens.

On our last sunny afternoon in Granada, Dr. Mari Elena joined the team at one such street clinic. It was puppy and kitten day, apparently. Piles of puppies, chubby, well fed, there for preventive care.

And cats like you’ve never seen- mellow cats, hanging stoically from children’s arms as they awaited their fate, looking languidly at their surroundings.

Deworming is never a popular thing.

This cat tolerated everything quite lackadaisically, though I kept my eye on him waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, there were a whole lot of dogs there too. Every cat has his limit.

And there we have it! The cat makes a break for it in a moment of complacence.

The cat runs across the street and wedges himself under a shed. Dr. Sarah and Dr. Mari Elena are dispatched to assess the situation.

“Please help!” the boy cries. “The dog is going to eat him! PLEASE!” he pleads, as the dog, awakened by the ruckus, raises his head and shrugs.


The cat, saved from the clutches of the geriatric shepherd mix, is safely returned to the boy, thanks to the skills of Dr. Mari Elena.

Though his cat handling skills, I think, could use a little more refining.

It is so lovely to see someone for whom interacting with the community is as natural as breathing. You’d be surprised at how rare it has become. Dr. King and I visited her clinic later that day; for all the work she does and all the people who rely on her, she has all the skills she has learned, but no textbooks. Not a one. I would like to figure out a way to get my books to her, especially the large animal ones, the ones sitting in my garage being of no use to me. She has assured me she could use them.

Filed: Adventures, Be The Change, Blog, Photography Tagged: , , ,
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