ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

I Stand With Maya — and With the Family Seeking Justice for Her

Maya, a tiny slip of a dog, and a family who loves her may just be the ones finally able to shed light into the darkness of PETA. Just over a year ago Maya was stolen off her porch and killed. Not by dog fighters or a person who enjoys harming animals, or any other of the usual suspects, but by the largest animal rights group in the world — PETA. And now Maya’s family is suing PETA, and the two women who stole and killed Maya, for upwards of $9.7 million dollars.

Even as much as I know about Maya and what happened to her I learned new things from reading the suit, which you can read here.

  • On the same day PETA stole and killed Maya, who belonged to the Zarate family, they also appear to have stolen and killed a dog who belonged to Mr. Zarate’s niece.
  • While I suspected the women who stole and killed Maya were the same women who had been working to gain the trust of the Zarate family and others at the trailer park where they lived the lawsuit confirms it: “Carey and Wood came to the Park and began to ingratiate themselves with the residents in order to build trust with the residents.” PETA has claimed that Maya’s theft and death were the result of mistaken identity, that the women thought she was a different dog. These women who spent time gaining the trust of the Zarate family, who spent time with Maya, didn’t realize that the dog they first tried to lure off the Zarate porch and then snatched off the porch, was Maya? It’s utterly ridiculous and now we know that these these women knew Maya, they knew the Zarate family, I assume they knew Cynthia, the little girl who adored Maya. And after grooming this family in order to gain their trust, much the way human predators groom their prey, they stole and killed their dog.
  • Carey and Wood “told residents that they would be trying to find good homes for the dogs they captured.” Which is exactly what PETA says in order to gain custody of the animals they then kill. They don’t say this because they honestly are going to attempt to re-home animals, they say this because they know nobody will hand over animals if they know the animals will be immediately killed. That’s the pattern of behavior. It’s what I was told to do when I worked for PETA, it’s what PETA employees are still doing. By any means necessary.
  • Mr. Zarate, who had installed a security camera on his porch that ended up capturing Maya’s theft, believes that when PETA representatives came to his house to apologize for killing his dog they had ulterior motives. “During the visit, the PETA representatives asked about the video and were visually searching for the camera. It was apparent to Wilber that the real purpose of the visit was for PETA to ascertain the location of the security camera and to learn the extent to which PETA’s illegal actions had been captured on video.” This makes perfect sense — they weren’t actually sorry for stealing and killing Maya, they were assessing how much damage control would be required.
  • “PETA believed that given the socio-economic status of the residents, PETA could take the pets and kill them without any repercusssion to PETA.” Absolutely. There is a reason they target people who don’t have a lot of resources — because those are the people less able to fight back.

As a mother this is the part of the lawsuit that pulled at me: “Cynthia experienced extensive and severe emotional distress. Among other things, she cried for weeks, became lethargic, lost sleep, refrained from eating and lost weight.” I have watched my children grieve for both animals and humans, I have watched one of my children experience the trauma of being badly bullied, I have watched my children as they say goodbye to people they know they will likely never see again. All of this hurts, all of it makes me want to wrap my children in my arms and shield them from any further pain and suffering. After reading Cynthia’s reaction to Maya being stolen and killed I felt myself relating to Mr. Zarate on a different level — not just as someone who knows he’s speaking the truth but as a parent who has watched her children suffer. And my heart just hurts for him, and for Cynthia.

This family who PETA thought would never be able to fight them is doing what few people have the courage to do — they are standing up to a Goliath of an organization that is known to sink to the lowest depths in order to stop anyone who dares to speak the truth about them, they are standing up for a beloved family member, they are standing up for the pain a child has had inflicted upon her. I hope that this lawsuit will finally convince other past employees to come forward to add their voices to the truth the Zarate family is speaking. I know there must be former employees who are also parents — think of what it would mean to you if someone hurt your child as badly as Cynthia has been hurt. Wouldn’t you do absolutely everything you could in order to fight for your child? Wouldn’t you hope others who could help in that fight would stand by you? They are battling a powerful opponent who has deep pockets and wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone who knows the truth about PETA spoke out in support of this family? I, for one, will continue to do that. I will continue to stand for Maya, for Cynthia, for a father who has had to watch his child grieve a terrible betrayal and loss, and for Black Boy. You have my full support and admiration, Mr. Zarate, and you are an example to my children of what it means to do the right thing even when it’s the difficult thing. Thank you.


The Thread That Binds for PETA: Death

PETA is still in very hot water over its support of Breed Specific Legislation and is trying mightily to spin the truth. But the truth is the truth, we must keep our focus on it. And this is the truth — when you dig deep into the way their actions impact companion animals you can see that they have one common thread — animals end up dead.

Let’s just get some facts out there.

First Fact: During the months of July, August, and September, PETA took in 630 animals and 490 of those animals were killed. You can find a statement by Virginia Senator Bill Stanley about those numbers here. Sadly, these are typical numbers for PETA. In 2014 they took in 2,631 animals and killed 2,324. You can find more information about their shockingly high kill rate here.

Second Fact: PETA kills adoptable animals without ever trying to rehome them. I know this from my firsthand experience as a PETA field worker. We know this because of Maya, the dog they killed shortly after stealing her from her home. We know this because of the animals in North Carolina who were killed in a PETA van and whose bodies were dumped like trash. Patrick Proctor, a veterinarian who asked PETA to find homes for a mother cat and her kittens, stated of their deaths

This is ethical? I don’t think so.

PETA states that its kill rate is so high because they provide a free humane euthanasia service for people whose animals are suffering. Was Maya suffering? Were the mother and babies suffering? Were all the animals found in the dumpster suffering? Are people still naive enough to believe that?

Third Fact: PETA advocated for all dogs seized from Michael Vick to be killed, stating that saving them was not “a good use of money” or time. Now, I may be missing something but last time I checked the purpose of animal rescue was to rescue animals, not to write them off as a waste.

Fourth fact: PETA supports Breed Specific Legislation, they have for years. Since recently partnering with some vehemently anti-pit bull groups — and Daxter’s Friends to name two — PETA has been getting hammered on social media sites. Their feeds on Facebook and Twitter are full of people who are rightly outraged that an “animal rights group” has decided to align itself with organizations who have as their main objective the annihilation of any dog with a certain appearance. Let’s get this straight, you cannot call yourself an animal rights group and work with people who refer to dead pit bulls as “pit bull dog meat” or who write diatribes about the different ways to kill pit bull type dogs. And you cannot call yourself ethical when you partner with people who assert that folks who have pit bulls only do so for the purposes of fighting and bestiality. You can see examples of those statements here. These are some real winners PETA has chosen as friends.

Fifth Fact: BSL is BSL no matter how you spin it. In what I can only assume is an attempt at damage control, PETA has decided to stop using the term “Breed Specific Legislation” and start using the term “Breed Specific Protection.” But we’re just going to keep calling what they’re endorsing what it actually is — Breed Specific Legislation. In order to defend their support of BSL PETA has stated that their actual objective is to promote the spaying and neutering of pit bulls. The problem is that BSL and the promotion of spaying and neutering aren’t the same thing — they may overlap in that spaying and neutering can be a tiny part of BSL but BSL is so much bigger. Spaying and neutering saves lives, BSL results in death — just look to Colorado as an example of this. PETA asserts they support BSL because it is in the best interest of dogs. If that were true why are they the only major animal welfare/rights organization supporting it? The National Canine Research Council has an extensive list of groups who oppose BSL, as well as research that proves it is not effective in reducing dog bites.

What is the common thread that binds all of these facts? Killing. It sounds harsh, especially when we’re talking about a group that is considered to be one of the staunchest defenders of the lives of animals. But ultimately, when all those facts are boiled down to their bare bones, the common thread is killing. Dogs who were tortured and forced to fight are called a waste of resources. Maya, a healthy and loved chihuahua, was stolen and killed. Thousands upon thousands of animals have died at the hands of PETA employees. And we’re to believe that they were all too ill or old or aggressive to save? Seriously? Does any of that reflect an organization that values life? No — it reflects an organization who believes animals are better off dead than living with humans and that is a supremely twisted philosophy.

The Twisted Logic of “1984”


Another awesome blog piece from Ray’s mom about the dangers of, and fallacies surrounding, Breed Specific Legislation. And why PETA’s “logic” about supporting BSL is so wrong.

Originally posted on Ray the Vicktory Dog:


I think what I find most disturbing about PeTA’s pit bull stance is they shroud the truth in a wrapping of twisted logic.  To an animal lover who is not up on what’s going on in the real world, their policy seems loving and humane.  To those of us who have seen the group in action, and have actually worked our way through the misdirection, the ugly truth is evident.

The most insidious problem with PeTA’s position, is that it pits (pun intended) animal advocates against each other.  In the past week I have found myself arguing vehemently with people I know love and care about animals.  I was forced to argue against mandatory spay/neuter.  I had to address fallacies surrounding “No-Kill” communities.

As an aside…the reason I do NOT support mandatory spay/neuter is two-fold.  One, I always believe that a carrot is more effective than a stick, which means that free/reduced…

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PETA: An Anti-Pit Bull “Animal Rights” Organization

You would think an organization that constantly shouts about being the world’s leading animal rights group — the collective voice of the voiceless — would rise to defend dogs who are misunderstood, abused, tortured, and fought. Dogs about whom myths run rampant. Dogs who desperately need people to have access to correct information and humane education because their lives, literally, depend on it. You would think all of this but you would be very wrong.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has partnered with various other groups to create “National Pit Bull Victim Awareness Day,”  a day to “raise awareness of the social and financial costs of pit bull attacks.” Pit bull attacks, or, more accurately, attacks by dogs people think or assume to be pit bulls, or, more accurately, dog attacks. Can you spot the one dog who is a pit bull in that graphic? Yea, neither can I. So many myths, so much misinformation. It’s important to educate ourselves about pit bulls, to focus on facts and not sensational headlines. PETA finds facts pesky though.

I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise, PETA also fiercely advocated for all of Michael Vick’s dogs to be killed, stating that saving them wasn’t a good use of time or money. Let’s try to wrap our heads around that. PETA, which is supposed to be a champion for abused animals, said it was a waste of resources to save dogs who had lived lives full of torture and death. Aren’t those exactly the animals they should be saving? Best Friends Animal Society fought PETA in court, and they won. Michael Mountain, the founder of Best Friends, stated

It’s really difficult as an animal-rights, animal-protection, animal whatever-you-want-to-call-it organization to explain away the fact that pretty much all the animals you rescue, you kill. It doesn’t make logical sense; it doesn’t make emotional sense.

It doesn’t. Thankfully many people believed that the Vick dogs, that pit bull type dogs, were worth fighting for and those dogs went on to be ambassadors for a misunderstood breed, to be service dogs, to touch and change lives. You can learn about a few of them here.

One of the most passionate and thoughtful advocates for pit bull type dogs is the mom of Ray the Vicktory dog. She just wrote a blog piece about PETA’s most recent betrayal of pit bull type dogs — Why PETA? Why?

Killing a dog because of how he looks is not ethical. Judging a dog by appearance not behavior is not animal welfare. And depriving an animal of a loving home is certainly not Animal Rights.

In my mind that is what is most disturbing and sinister about PETA’s support of the misinformation surrounding pit bull type dogs. People look to PETA to be a beacon for animal rights, to be trailblazers. Instead, when it comes to pit bulls, they are dragging along an outdated, false, belief system that pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous. Why? To what aim? They claim to approach this from the point of view that pit bulls are at an increased risk for abuse, and that’s why they should be euthanized. But they are propping up lies by partnering with groups who state pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous.

Here’s my opinion — I believe the folks at PETA know the “pit bulls are inherently dangerous” line is an ancient lie. I believe they know pit bull type dogs, even those who have been forced to fight, can be saved and can go on to be loving, devoted companions. That’s what makes this sinister — they know, but they continue to spread the lies and add their “credibility” as The World’s Leading Animal Rights Organization, to people who would celebrate if pit bull type dogs were extinct. And I believe they do it because it is one step closer to their end game, which is to kill. Killing animals should be counter-intuitive for an animal right’s organization, for PETA it is SOP. It is SOP for them to betray the animals they are supposed to be fighting for. This is just one more battle in their ongoing war, and that battle is easily won if people continue to believe the myths and lies about pit bull type dogs. So educate yourselves and those around you, don’t believe the hype, and fight back against groups who continue to allow these dogs to suffer because of their willful ignorance or ulterior motives.

When Local Media Presents Tales as Facts it Becomes That Much Easier for PETA to Continue Its Killing

Anyone who pays attention to media in Hampton Roads sees clearly that the Virginia Pilot is unabashedly pro-PETA, making it difficult to trust their coverage of the organization.  On Tuesday the published an article that, on the surface, was about the implementation of SB1381. SB1381 is a bill that recently passed in Virginia, what it does is clarify that the “purpose of an animal shelter is to find permanent and adoptive homes for animals.” This is a pretty common sense definition of an animal shelter but the reason it had to be legally solidified is because PETA’s “animal shelter” kills at unprecedented rates, and many in Virginia saw that something had to be done in order to tame their numbers. The Pilot article was framed as being about the implementation of the new law but it read a lot like a fluff piece for PETA.

First, the article asserts that SB1381 was “controversial” — in actuality it passed the Virginia Senate 38/1, the House 95/2, and had overwhelming support from animal advocates in Virginia. It is only controversial because PETA and their defenders want to frame it that way. Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations, asserts that “no other state has a cap or quota regarding euthanasia.” That may be true but no other state has PETA killing thousands of animals within its borders every year.  In 2014, PETA received 2,631 animals and killed 2,324 of those animals. They rehomed 39. Let those numbers sink in. 2,324 animals dead at the hands of PETA employees. 2,324.

PETA would like people to believe that its numbers are so high because it is the only shelter who will accept aggressive, terminal, or suffering animals free of charge but that is simply not true. In the article, in order to support this lie, Ms. Nachminovitch told the story of a woman who had come to them with two aggressive dogs. Nachminovitch claimed the woman had first called the Virginia Beach Animal Care and Control shelter and “was told that they could not accept the dogs to euthanize them.” Which seems rather suspicious — would Virginia Beach AC really turn away aggressive dogs? The reason it seems suspicious is because it only tells a fraction of what likely happened. This is what is stated on their website in regards to surrendering animals for the purposes of euthanasia:

The Animal Care and Adoption Center is an open-admission shelter meaning we will never turn your animal away. You may surrender your animal to us.

If you choose to surrender your animal, the decision to euthanize, adopt, or transfer that animal to another organization rests with our professional staff.

If we determine that euthanasia is the appropriate decision for the animal, certified and trained staff will humanely perform the procedure with the utmost care.

Also noted on their website, there is no charge for surrendering an animal to their shelter. When someone brings an animal to a shelter for the purposes of euthanasia it is imperative that the shelter have its own professional process to determine the health, behavior, and potential adoptability of that animal — to do otherwise is not ethical and could potentially result in the deaths of healthy, adoptable animals. Are there situations where euthanasia is needed? Absolutely. But a shelter must verify that they are doing the right thing for the animal, that is where their responsibility sits — they euthanize because it is warranted, not because an owner says it should be done. If policy was followed, what likely happened is the woman contacted the Virginia Beach AC shelter, was told she could sign ownership of the dogs over to them and they would make their own independent determinations about what should happen to the dogs and, for whatever reason, she chose not to do that. For the record, I did contact Virginia Beach Animal Control for clarification but I have not heard back from them, if I do I will update this blog.

The second claim that was made by Nachminovitch, according to the article, is that the women then contacted a veterinarian and was told the cost for euthanasia for two dogs was estimated at $1,000, which is a mind blowing amount. What the article did not state when it was originally published is that this was the cost for in-home euthanasia and cremation services. This clarification was only made in the article after a few residents of Hampton Roads questioned the reporter about the incident. In fact, the reporter hadn’t even verified Nachminovitch’s story with the owner of the dogs until after being pushed to do so, after the story was published. He took Nachminovitch at her word and relayed a story that was full of half truths and holes. Maybe Nachminovitch only knew that much of the story, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine is that the reporter did not bother to get the entire truth and the version of events that was published was very clearly sympathetic to PETA’s narrative. How is “journalism” like that supposed to be taken seriously? And how are we, the public, supposed to rely on the integrity of news organizations who publish articles with so little regard for fact checking and truth? The reporter should have verified what he had been told — before publishing the story and not after. And a copy editor should have caught that the verification had not been done. It’s a slippery slope to present someone else’s statements as fact, it can also inform the quality of the source if something they say can be easily proven/disproven — as outlined by Reuters here.

In the battle to save animals who are vulnerable to PETA’s kill first policy we are up against not only an immoral behemoth with deep pockets but a very clearly complicit “news” organization that seems to have no problem presenting half truths as fact. It is the responsibility of each of us to ensure we are getting the entire picture, and that we have all the facts, not just snipets presented to us by PETA and those who support them — we owe that to the animals.



Running With Spirit

I run for a lot of reasons — I run for relief from stress, I run to feel powerful, I run when I’m angry, I run because it brings me joy, I run to feel free, I run to push myself beyond my limits physically and mentally, I run because I love my tribe of runners, and I love running with Eric and our kids. For me all the other benefits of running, weight maintenance and health maintenance, are wonderful but secondary. I would run even if those benefits didn’t exist. Running is a mind, body, and spirit activity for me and I am grateful for it every day.

As I mentioned in my last blog entry, at the beginning of the year Eric and I joined a challenge called Run the Edge, the challenge is to run 2,015 miles in 2015. We’re doing this as a team and the name of our team is We Run 4 Paula. We decided early on to dedicate our running miles to one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paula, who was battling breast cancer. Early Tuesday morning Paula passed away. I have been riding the roller coaster of grief. I’ve learned from past losses that you really just have to hang on and let it take you where it is going to take you, you only have so much control over your emotions and the only thing you can control is your reaction to them and what you do with them.

I had a six mile run scheduled for Tuesday, I didn’t do it. Instead, I wrote about Paula. I couldn’t run yesterday, I just didn’t have it in me. But today I knew I had to. I was hesitant, a bit unsure, feeling like I didn’t know what my body was going to do with the fact that I was running in Paula’s memory instead of running to send her strength and endurance. Of course, the other thing about running for Paula was that her courage and joy were amazing, and her spirit was indomitable, and she inspired me to be strong. That hasn’t changed, that’s still reality.

I went into our garage where we have our treadmill, where we do most of our running because of the security situation in Tegus. Next to the treadmill is a wall where I’ve put up inspirational sayings I can look to when I need a push, I looked at them before I got on the mill and saw the “Team We Run 4 Paula” sign. I got tears in my eyes, I took a deep breath, and I got on the mill.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a particularly religious person, I’m on the fence about God. I’m kind of with Frank Lloyd Wright: “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” I guess I’d call myself a spiritual person because I believe there is something much bigger than me at play but as to who or what he/she/they/it are I haven’t a clue. I believe in some of the philosophies of some religions and disagree with others but the existence of God, or heaven, or an afterlife? Insert shrug here. So, that’s my starting point.

I began to run, I felt good, better than I had expected to feel. I was enjoying my run, maintaining my intervals of running and walking, which I need to do because my calf injury from May is still healing. Not quite two miles into my run I felt what I can only describe as a powerful surge of energy, and I began to feel stronger. Then I felt this incredible joy and freedom and tears were streaming down my face but they weren’t sad tears, they were profoundly happy tears, and I began to run faster. Now, this is where it gets into “eh, okaaaay” territory but I felt Paula. And not just felt her as in, felt her memory or my gratitude for her friendship, or inspiration from her strength, I actually felt her there, running with me. I felt sheer exhilaration, a desire to run harder, go faster, because it was just so fun! I felt how she’d been weighed down so long by cancer, unable to feel the freedom of movement without pain, and now she wasn’t, now she was running and free — and laughing! I felt that way, I felt Paula, for about two miles. Then I felt like it was just me again, though she was still there, and I ran the last mile even harder for her.

I know it may sound nuts. I know it could just have been a runner’s high, or wishful thinking, or my grief. But I believe she was with me, I believe it. And I believe she loved the way the freedom of the run felt. I believe, after decades of knowing what her joy feels like, I felt her joy and her spirit. Regardless, though, of whether it was my imagination or reality what it taught me is that Eric and I not running in Paula’s memory, we are running with her. She’s in a different form but she’s still with us, she’s with everyone who loves her. She is watching over her beautiful daughters and her partner and she is with us. I believe this.


“Do Me a Favor. Tell Other People My Story.”

This morning I learned of the passing of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paula Beck. Paula and I have been friends for 31 years, for most of our lives. I am in shock. I am at a loss as to how to absorb this reality. I thought I’d be better prepared for this, I am woefully unprepared for this.

Paula was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was working on her social work degree, her first day of chemo was the day of her graduation ceremony. I saw her when I went home last summer. By that time she’d had a double mastectomy and many rounds of chemo but she was cancer free. We sat in the backyard and talked with my bonus mom about  what she wanted to do next. She was still tired, and recovering, but she was excited about the possibility of finding a job, doing something she was passionate about, helping people. Then the heartbreaking news came that her cancer had spread. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail because her story is not mine to tell — that story belongs to her beautiful daughters and her partner of many years.

But I do want to pass something on, because Paula felt that her story was bigger than her, that people could learn from her battle with cancer. In January, Paula and I discussed her having a celebration of life. She told me she hated the idea of a traditional funeral — a sad event she would not be there for, to see everyone she loved. Rather, she wanted a happy day that was true to who she was, a joyful event. It turned into even more than that. It was a fundraiser for her family, an awareness raiser about breast cancer, and so many people attended, donated, came from all over to celebrate Paula. The mantra of the day was “Why? Because we love you, Paula!” When Paula got up to speak she was so her — smiling, laughing, showing profound gratitude for the love that surrounded her. But she also took the opportunity to pass on a bigger message and I want to pass her message on now

One more thing that I want to say that’s very important. I was diagnosed with this, and I maybe didn’t do my breast self-test enough. I was in my early forties, I thought I was too young, I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. And it did. And I wasn’t detected on a mammogram. I had a six centimeter tumor in my right breast. And I want you all to know, you’re your own best advocate. There’s no shame in feeling your own body and knowing your body. It could save your life, I could be in a different predicament than I am if I had not thought that it wouldn’t happen to me, I was so young, ya know, if I would have caught it sooner. But I have a very aggressive cancer … and the tumor was very large. And, now, this is where I’m at. But it’s not too late, there’s a whole bunch of people out here, and you have to know your body … Do me a favor. Tell other people my story. And tell them to do their own breast self-awareness checks and know their body. Because I don’t want this to go on and hurt other people the way it has hurt me and my family. So please do me that favor and share it with others and make sure you are all doing this to stop cancer, or at least minimize the impact and effect it has on other people. So, I love you all and thank you. I’m getting off this damn microphone now.

Because that was Paula. Even exhausted, even in pain, even going through something so difficult, she thought of other people, and how she could help them. Paula gave so many gifts to this world — her two beautiful daughters, her kindness, her empathy, her laughter, her smile, her example of profound courage in the face of something so painful, her reverence for nature, her absolute sincerity in how she interacted with everyone around her. She was one of the most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege to know and love.

This was a quote that Paula chose to go on a portrait our incredibly talented friend, Tina, drew of Paula:

Paula's quote

I wish I could credit this artist because it’s a beautiful piece but the artist is listed as “unknown.”

It was just so Paula to choose that quote, to think of the importance of how we treat others first and foremost.

This is a copy of the portrait, the original was sold in the silent auction at Paula’s celebration of life:


A copy of Tina Bevan’s portrait of Paula, the original has the quote written on it.

That’s Paula — always smiling, always beautiful, always lighting up a room and impacting everyone she ever met. I have so many amazing memories of Paula, most of them are just the everyday things that make up a childhood — giggling, passing notes in class, hanging out, doing things we shouldn’t have done, having A LOT of fun together. One summer Paula joined my family, of which she was a cherished member by this time, on an extended trip to Mexico. She’d never been out of the country and she was beyond excited. A lot happened that summer — we spent hours on the beach together, we hung out with friends I’d made the year before who also became her friends, she got stung by bullet ants, she fell in love. While we spent most of that trip just outside the tiny town of Chelem we also went to Chichen Itza. I remember climbing El Castillo with Paula. Going up was fine but she refused to come down because, once you get up there, the height of the great pyramid is overwhelming. She sat on the top and wouldn’t budge, she told me I’d have to bring in a helicopter because that was the only way she’d get back to the ground. The smile that was usually a permanent fixture on her face had transformed into a stubborn scowl. But we coaxed her down, bit by bit, and laughed once we were on terra firma again. So many memories.


I’m in shock, vacillating wildly between being numb and sobbing. When I found out last night that Paula’s cancer had spread to her brain I told Eric that I thought I’d been prepared, as much as humanly possible, to have to say goodbye. But I realized that I wasn’t. And the reality of saying goodbye was very different from the hypothetical of saying goodbye. And when I found out this morning that she had passed I began to shake and cry, completely caught off guard. Woefully unprepared. I am running the gamut of emotions, but I’m only feeling a tiny portion of each, I guess shock is a gift in that way. I’m grateful Paula is no longer in pain. I’m incredibly angry that she had to fight the battle she fought, and that she was taken far too soon. I feel blessed for having had her in my life. My heart hurts for her family. And I know that this is only the beginning, because grief is a process and you never get over it, you just make room for it in your life.

At the beginning of the year Eric and I signed up for a running challenge, to run 2,015 miles in 2015 as a team. After discussing it we decided we wanted to dedicate our miles to Paula. Which might sound trivial to some but, to us, running is sacred. And Paula got that. When I told her what we wanted to do she was so touched, because she knows what running means to us. She knows the strength we garner from it, the dedication we put into it, the love we have for it. Every time we’ve run we have focused on sending Paula strength and endurance. In turn, we’ve been inspired by her great courage, her joy, her love. There have been many runs where thinking of Paula kept me moving forward, and many runs where I felt her with me, cheering me on, because that’s what she did. Always. And I’m having a hard time thinking about transitioning from running for Paula to running in memory of Paula. I’m reminding myself that she’ll still be there, cheering me on, just in a different form. But it’s hard, it’s just really hard.

This is what I’m asking anyone who is reading to do — remember Paula’s message to be your own best advocate, to know your body. She wanted to spare others her experience, help her do that, help her memory live on that way. And be kind to each other. With each act of kindness, both big and small, Paula will be with us. And I’m going to remember this, embrace it, live it. Each time I react with judgement or with disdain I will try to remember Paula’s message to be kind. Live gently. Love with grace. Always.

Why I Can’t Quite Bring Myself to Visit My Favorite Village

We have lived in Honduras for a little over one year now and we have visited some truly gorgeous places. Honduras, as I’ve written before, gets a bit of a bad rap, but it’s a country I’ve come to love. To me Honduras doesn’t represent violence and poverty. It represents natural beauty, warm people, fascinating history, and friendship — here are a few places we’ve been that I will always associate with those things.

Lago Yojoa, which we visited for the first time this past January, is a place we immediately fell in love with.

Lake Yojoa Jan 2015

Lago Yajoa is stunning and one of the things we love about it is that there are Lenca ruins, and a eco-park with beautiful hiking, right next to it. The only thing wrong with the first trip we took there was that it was very rainy every day of our visit, except for the day we left (of course).

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So we decided we needed to go back and see the lake when it wasn’t fogged in.

Lake Yajoa, Part 2

What a difference the sun makes!

My dad and our youngest walking through the eco-park

My dad and our youngest walking through the eco-park

We discovered there are more Lenca ruins at a Finca near the lodge where we stayed

This is an old Lenca ball court. Archaeologists believe, because the Lenca pre-date the Maya, that the Lenca actually invented the infamous ball games the Maya played.

This is an old Lenca ball court. Archaeologists believe, because the Lenca pre-date the Maya, that the Lenca actually invented the infamous ball games the Maya played.

We climbed a nearby mountain called Las Nalgas or, The Buttcheeks. It’s self-explanatory

Las Nalgas

Las Nalgas

Lake Yajoa, Part 2

Climbing up the mountain

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The view from the top

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Our youngest walking back to our lodge with our fantastic guide

There was much silliness from the kids

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“When I say ‘no, you can’t take my picture’ I mean ‘no, you can’t take my picture.'”

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Even at 14 he still wants to be an explorer

Lake Yajoa, Part 2

“I know you said it was too cold to go swimming, mom, but I did it and I’M FREEZING!”

And, there was beer. Because the lodge where we stayed is also a Brewery

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The other place we really enjoyed was Tela, on Honduras’ Caribbean coast.

A good time was had by all, though Firu made it quite clear that he had no intention of entering the water.

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Tela March 2015


Racing on the beach

Racing on the beach

A face that just screams WHEEEEEE!

A face that just screams WHEEEEEE!

She makes a floaty out of her rash guard.

She makes a floaty out of her rash guard. Every. Time.

Chasing the man selling coconuts

Chasing the man selling coconuts

Sunset on Tela

Sunset on Tela

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There’s one more place very close to home that I’ve come to love, a small Colonial village called Valle de Angeles, about a half hour drive from our home. Valle has two things — the village and the entrance to a lush national park where there is fantastic hiking. This is a place I can’t wait to get back to.

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Valle de Angeles

My kids are goofballs

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Seriously, goofballs

Then there is the town of Valle de Angeles, or Valley of the Angels.

Valle de Angeles

Valle de Angeles

Where you can buy fresh papusas — a little slice of heaven.

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Have coffee in this very cool coffe house, Cafe Las Estancia.

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Have lunch at Las Abuelas restaurant

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Or just wander through the lovely central square.

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Valle de Angeles represents friendship to me. And I can’t bring myself to go there right now. Because everything about it hurts a little — the cool coffee house, Las Abuelas restaurant, the central square, even the damn papusas. And please don’t mention iron because I’ll probably burst into tears. Trust me on this. It all stings because it was the place that was “the place” my closest friend here and I would go. We’d frequently message each other “Valle this week?” and the other would always respond with an enthusiastic “YES!” Always through messaging because she knows I hate to talk on the phone and she respects my quirks. She gets my quirks. It’s one of the reasons she’s an amazing friend. And everything there, everything, reminds me of her. There is so much to love about being a nomad — but saying goodbye to friends blows. It’s the friendships that are, all at once, beautiful and painful. I am an introvert, a shy introvert, a shy introvert who isn’t crazy about being around people I don’t know. But from the very first moment I met my friend I knew I’d met someone I would adore. The second time we met up I knew I’d found a soulmate. In part because she told me the story about how she’d used a wildly raunchy Spanish word, thinking it meant something else, for about her first year in Honduras. And the fact that she could say that word to me, in English, without even breaking a blush told me, “yep, this woman is part of my tribe.” She became, over the course of a year, a soul sister.

She and her family moved, on to their next post, while we were home in the U.S this summer. As much as I was looking forward to coming home to Honduras I was dreading them not being here. Her oldest and our youngest were inseparable, and I knew the loss, when he saw that his friend really was gone, was going to hit him hard. And it has.

And me? Most of the time I’m okay — though yesterday I had a million things I wanted to tell her and had to stop myself from messaging her every five minutes. But sometimes, I’m not okay. Sometimes I think of her and burst into tears. And I know, for now, I’m not quite ready to walk the cobblestone streets of Valle without her.

People Euthanising Thousands of Animals (PETA)


This is exactly what we need — people willing to stand up and say “No. I will NOT support an organization who has twisted rescue work into the work of killing. And I will NOT stop fighting for the truth.” Bravo for a brave blog!

Originally posted on In my own little world:

This is a massively ranty post about the hideous organisation PETA and the lies that they feed to the public.

It took me a long time to realise just how bad PETA are. Just how many lies they tell. Just how many animals they murder every single year. Just how many underhand and bullying tactics they use to try and silence the voices of those who criticise them. Well guess what PETA? I don’t give a fuck. You will never shut me up.

I have always been an animal rights activist and up until a while ago, was a PETA supporter. When I first began to hear certain things that were telling me that something was not quite right, I refused to listen to them. “Surely not” I said to myself. Ingrid Newkirk set up an organisation to protect animals and to campaign against abuse and killing. PETA was not…

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Questions About Its Shelter that PETA Can’t Seem to Answer

It always seems the more I think about PETA the more questions surface. The other day I had an exchange on Twitter with Mary Tully, who claims not to work for PETA, just to know a lot about them. She even has a website dedicated to them, with a special category for those who are telling the truth about their killing practices. I’ve linked to it once in the past but I’m not going to do that again because I don’t want to give her any more air and energy than is absolutely necessary. The only reason I’m writing about her now is because I asked her a number of questions during our Twitter exchange — despite claiming to have done an enormous amount of research on PETA, despite being someone PETA consistently refers people to when they have questions about their shelter, she was unable to adequately answer any of them. So I figured I’d write them and others down here, and just keep asking them.

In 2014 PETA received 2,631 animals and killed 2,324. They found homes for 39. PETA claims its kill numbers are so high because its shelter is one of “last resort,” taking in only sick, elderly, suffering animals, and that animals who don’t fit into those categories are usually transferred to other shelters. There are a lot of problems and questions with that assertion, and that leads to my first batch of questions —

  • What is the process by which animals are evaluated? Any good shelter will have a very detailed and thorough evaluation process, one that is used for every animal admitted to the shelter. Ms. Tully told me each animal was evaluated as an individual so decisions are made on a case by case basis. Great, as it should be. Also, not what I asked. Here is an example of a behavioral evaluation form a shelter might use for dogs, here’s one for cats. Here’s a medical assessment form. The website where I found the forms is from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, it states

Behavioral evaluations involve obtaining as much information as possible about the animal entering your shelter, including his/her behavior prior to relinquishment and his/her behavior while in your facility. The more information you gather about an animal’s behavior, the more able you will be to make sound decisions about its disposition.

Precisely. Because the more we know about an animal the better we can determine what steps will be taken with the animal. One of the claims PETA makes about Maya, the chihuahua who was stolen from her porch by PETA employees and promptly killed, was that she was mistaken for another dog who had been surrendered to them. There are so many things wrong with this statement, and so many questions surrounding it, some of which I addressed in this blog, but for today’s purposes let’s just ask some specific ones.

  • Even if Maya was mistaken for another dog, is it PETA policy to not verify with the person surrendering an animal that the right animal has been taken into PETA custody? I’ve been told that the woman who surrendered the dog for which they say Maya was mistaken wasn’t home at the time and that’s why they couldn’t verify her identity. Which leads to another question …
  • Is it PETA policy to kill an animal without first verifying his/her identity? You’d think, when something like the life of an animal is on the line, PETA would want to be 100% positive that they have the correct animal before killing him/her. Which leads to another question …
  • Does PETA take an owner at their word that an animal is sick/aggressive/suffering, etc? Or does it do its own evaluation of the condition of the animal? When surrendering animals people make up all sorts of stories — the dog is aggressive, the cat won’t stop peeing out of the box, the dog belongs to my neighbor and he doesn’t want it, you get the idea — in order to make themselves look better, or feel better, or to rid the neighborhood of a dog who won’t stop barking, and many other countless justifications. Which is part of the reason shelters have their own, independent processes in order to verify or prove false the information. What are PETA’s?
  • How is it determined that an animal is too ill to save? Because there are a lot of shelters and rescues with a lot fewer resources who save very sick animals. Patrick the pitbull is a very good example of this. Patrick was thrown down a garbage chute, he was starving and close to death. Here’s what he looked like shortly after his rescue

Here’s what he looks like now that he’s been nurtured back to health

I’ll give you another example, our dog, Firu. Firu was a Costa Rican street dog, he was hit by a car who slammed into him so hard that his femur was snapped in half and his hip was dislocated, he was left to die alone by the side of the road. A woman I think of as one of his guardian angels picked him up and brought him to a shelter. I’ve spoken extensively about FIru to his other guardian angel –the woman who runs the shelter. Her first thought wasn’t “let’s put this dog out of his misery,” it was “let’s save this dog.” In addition to being broken physically he was malnourished and weak, they weren’t sure he could be saved but they began to try — through love and medical care they succeeded. This is a shelter that sees the most ill, most emotionally and physically broken, animals you can imagine. And they save them. And they do it with a lot fewer resources than PETA has. Here’s our Firu today


I understand that there are circumstances under which an animal really cannot be saved — they truly are gravely ill, or there truly are not the resources to nurture them back to health. I don’t think those cases would add up to 2,324 dead animals in one year by one organization.

Which leads to another question

  • What is PETA’s euthanasia policy? When I asked for PETA’s euthanasia policy Ms. Tully provided me with this:

Which, of course, isn’t a euthanasia policy, it’s a FB comment. HUGE difference. Here’s an example of a stated euthanasia policy from the Baltimore Humane Society.

Here are some other questions I asked that I still don’t have answers for:

  • What kind of documentation is offered about the condition of animals PETA receives? You would think, especially since PETA is under such close scrutiny for its “shelter” practices, it would carefully document through things like medical examinations, photographs, and forms the conditions of animals. Quite some time ago Ms. Tully, through a comment on my blog, told me this

Any member of the public can walk into any Virginia public or private animal shelter and request to see any animal custody records that was generated in the previous five years.

One would assume documentation of the condition of the animal would be included in those custody records. More questions:

  • What are PETA’s adoption standards and requirements?
  • What kind of adoption counseling is provided to those adopting?
  • What kind of adoption contract is used?
  • What are PETA’s shelter hours? Where are those hours posted? Ms. Tully told me they were posted at PETA but I’ve been told otherwise by residents of Hampton Roads, I’d like proof that there are indeed hours posted specifically for the” shelter” at PETA.
  • Is the “shelter” easily accessible to the public? Again, I have been told that, in order to visit the shelter, one must go to the receptionist and then wait for a specific person to come get you and bring you into the four or five holding rooms they have. Seems a pretty complicated, and non-transparent, process for a shelter. Most shelters are easily accessible because they want people to visit them and to visit the animals they have available for adoption. This seems not to be the case with PETA. Why?

So, those are the questions I’m asking for now, I’d encourage others to ask them as well. Especially if you are still supporting PETA, still giving money to them. Questions are not an indictment in and of themselves, they’re just questions. And these are questions that should be easily answered — which is why it’s troubling that PETA, and a woman to whose website they consistently refer people for answers about their “shelter,” can’t seem to adequately do that.

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