Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Searching for Forever Homes

Catherine Powers. Photo by Donna Hailson.
In Episode 16 of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY, we visit with Catherine Powers, Animal Control Officer for Curry County on the southern coast of Oregon. From a heart filled with passion and compassion, Catherine shares how she was drawn into this work. As she offers a rundown of the responsibilities she shoulders, it quickly becomes clear that the job calls for a special breed of caregiver. Any given day will find Catherine responding to emergency calls; rescuing the endangered; attending to dog licensing; providing health-building food, clean shelter and loving care for abandoned animals; seeking safe and permanent homes for the same; overseeing volunteers and much more.

Photo by Donna Hailson.
There's no "typical day" as each hour is filled with a new challenge. Deep heartbreak and great joy come with the territory. On a recent visit, I was met by a charming and smart-as-a-whip young dog that was yielded by a serviceman as he was preparing to deploy. Close by were a half-dozen puppies (a Rottweiler/Labrador Retriever mix) also waiting for adoption. Playful Pit Bull Terrier Gunner danced a game of tug of war with Catherine and a timid Shepherd mix, named Irie, that had come in to the shelter with injuries, warily inched her way toward me.

In this episode, Catherine shares her vision for the ideal animal shelter and details a clever way she has found to help fund her animal rescue efforts: providing daycare and overnight boarding for dogs who already have pet parents.
Photo by Donna Hailson.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jerry's Jets on the Rugged Rogue River

One of Jerry's Jets speeding down the Rogue River.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
Jerry’s Rogue Jets, now Oregon’s only mail boat outfit, has come a long way since the days of pike poles and sails. The Gold Beach-based company still delivers the mail up stream on the Rogue River but now, carried even more often on the shallow-draft vessels, are vacationers seeking adventure. The fully-loaded 32- to 42-foot boats can carry 38 to 65 passengers and are able to navigate in depths of as little as eight inches of water.

The company dates one part of its history back to three brothers: one who had an ability to entertain, one who was a boat designer and one who was a boat pilot. Working off of a jet propulsion system originated in 1954 by Sir William Hamilton in New Zealand and the Berkeley Pump Company in California, Alden Boice created a performance hull capable of handling the rocky shallows of the Rogue. His brother Jerry launched a company -- Jerry’s Rogue Jet Boats – in 1958 and their brother Court served as their first pilot. A year ago in March, Jerry's purchased its one competitor, the Rogue River Mail Boat Company that had been in existence since 1895.

Coming into the rapids. Photo by Gene Hailson.
Now, with a combined fleet of 15 vessels, Jerry’s nature-based jet boat trips on Oregon’s “Wild & Scenic” Rogue River are a must do for 800 or more passengers per day in high season and more than 30,000 coastal travelers each year. On offer on the river is a blend of interpretive narration, meal stops at riverside lodges, rugged scenery, abundant wildlife, Pacific coastal estuary, and adventurous whitewater jet boating.

In Episode 15 of On the Road with Mac and Molly, I speak with Nic McNair who owns the company along with his brother Scott, mother Cherie, and father Bill (the only original interest holder still attached to Jerry’s). From Nic, we learn how jet boats operate over the recreational, scenic and wilderness sections of the Rogue. We hear about some of the boatmen who have grown up alongside these waters and we marvel at the wildlife that can be seen along the banks and in the river.

Black Bear on the banks of the Rogue.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
In our time together, I also share from my own and Gene’s experience of the 104-mile round trip “Wilderness Whitewater Adventure” that takes folks up to Blossom Bar Rapid, which is as far as is navigable by jet boat. The journey takes in all that is found in Jerry’s shorter trips: the 64-mile “Historic Mail Route,” that meanders along the Pacific Coastal Estuary, with its magnificent snowy egrets, black bears and bald eagles, playful otters and black-tailed deer, and the 80-mile “Whitewater Excursion,” where guests race over 2-Mile Rapid, Shasta Coasta Rapid, Wildcat Rapid, Old Diggins Riffle, Fosters Rapid and Watson Creek Rapid. We end with a note about Cherie’s border collie Rogue who has maneuvered herself into position as Jerry’s mascot, keeping guests entertained while they’re waiting to board the jet boats.

For more on our life as Rubber Hobos, traveling about the country in a rubber-tired vehicle, visit  http://www.rubberhobos.com.
Photo by Donna Hailson.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Gray Wolves of Wolf Hollow

Z Soffron with one of the wolves of Wolf Hollow
The North American Gray Wolf has been protected by the Endangered Species Act since shortly after the law was passed in 1973. But now, in an unprecedented move, Congress has delisted the Gray Wolf in Idaho, Montana and parts of three other states. The congressional rider, introduced last April as part of a budget bill, is now being challenged in a Missoula, Montana courtroom. Several environmental groups (The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians) have banded together to fight the delisting, claiming that Congress violated the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers doctrine when it ordered the wolf delisted and blocked future court review of that decision. Wolf hunting seasons have been authorized for this fall and the plan, at this moment, according to a televised news report here in Idaho last night, is to reduce the population -- currently estimated at 1,700 -- to 150.

In Episode 14 of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY, I speak with Joni Soffron. In 1988, Joni and her husband Paul founded the Ipswich, Massachusetts-based North American Wolf Foundation and Wolf Hollow with the mission of preserving the wolf in the wild through education and exposure. Paul died a few years ago but Joni and son Z have continued this work. 

We’ll hear from Joni about life at Wolf Hollow where, on this multi-acre site abutting marshland, visitors can meet the resident wolves – at close hand -- and observe how a wolf pack functions. Wolves are extraordinarily social creatures and, as we’ll learn in this program, their pack dynamics are fascinating. In many ways, wolf pack organization parallels that of a human family. Wolves are devoted to their young and five new puppies (three males and two females) have recently been added to the Wolf Hollow mix. We’ll hear how the pups are settling in, how wolves are faring in the wild, and how we can help support these magnificent creatures.

Photos provided by Wolf Hollow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Perfectly Goode: Full-time RVer and Artist Debbie Goode

Debbie Goode with Cosmo and Belle.
Photo provided by Debbie Goode.
On a recent visit to Colorado Springs, Colorado, Gene, Mac, Molly and I had the pleasure of staying at the Mountaindale Cabins and RV Resort. This 45-acre property is situated in the beautiful Pikes Peak region and we heartily recommend it for its beautifully maintained grounds, level campsites, helpful staff and nicely-sized dog play yard.

Almost immediately upon our arrival at Mountaindale, we had the additional pleasure of meeting our next door neighbors, Debbie and Bill Goode, of Lafayette, Indiana. These full-time RVers share quarters with two wire-haired fox terriers, Cosmo and Belle.  Debbie took note of our Mac and Molly and asked if she might photograph them. 

Photo provided by Debbie Goode.
I came to discover, through the chats that followed, that Debbie is a pet and wildlife artist – a marvelous one at that – and she deemed Mac and Molly good subjects for an artistic rendering.

In Episode 13, Debbie discusses her life as an artist and as a full-time RVer. What inspires her? What makes a good subject? As an artist, how does she see and how does she carry what she sees to her canvases? What is her process and why does she focus on pets and wildlife? All that and more in this episode of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY.

Photo provided by Debbie Goode.

You can follow Debbie's process and see more of her work at 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Threats to Pets in the American Southwest

Photo by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In Episode 12 of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY, I visit with San Antonio, Texas veterinarian Rae Dishinger, of the Alamo Dog and Cat Hospital, who introduces us to some of the “Threats to Pets” specific to the American Southwest.

As Gene and I have been moving about the country with Mac and Molly, we have had to be on guard against potential perils all along the way. Here, in the West, we’ve been on the look out for rattlers and copperheads, coyotes and bobcats, feral hogs and even birds of prey. 

On occasion, we’ve been too late to keep Mac from rolling in burro poop and to keep Molly from eating cow pies. We’ve had to have both of the dogs treated for kennel cough even though they’d been vaccinated against this respiratory illness in the east. We discovered that, just as there are numerous variants of human flu, there are many strains of kennel cough and you can’t vaccinate against them all.

Rae tells us what wild animals and toxic plants may be encountered in the Southwest and offers advice on dealing with climatic changes (particularly the intense heat and humidity in this part of the world). She also shares the story of how her own beloved dog succumbed to the bite of a rattler. One other surprising note: Lyme Disease, which is of such concern in the East, has now reared its ugly head in some parts of the Southwest.

In future episodes of this multi-part “Threats to Pets” series, which will be interspersed through shows on unrelated topics, I’ll be speaking with veterinarians in other regions of the country who will discuss ways to protect our pets from threats specific to each of those regions. As noted in the launch of the series, we’ll learn from these folks about external and internal parasites; infectious diseases; insects, wild animals; plants; toxins and poisons found in and around our homes and in various places we may visit while traveling on the road.

For more on our adventures as "Rubber Hobos," visit http://www.rubberhobos.com.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Threats to Pets

Western Diamondback Snake. Photo by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In Episode 11, we launch into a multi-part series entitled, “Threats to Pets.” As my husband Gene and I have been traveling about the country with our two Old English Sheepdogs – Mac and Molly – we have encountered potential perils all along the way. Speaking just of wildlife: in Louisiana, we were warned to take care walking near a lake because the denizens therein – the alligators – had developed a special appreciation for “dog.” In Colorado, the concerns were over bears and mountain lions. In South Dakota: prairie dogs carrying the bubonic plague. In Texas: rattlesnakes.

It was in San Antonio, Texas that veterinarian Rae Dishinger suggested that Mac and Molly receive rattlesnake vaccine. In the event of a bite, she said, the vaccine would slow the spread of the venom giving us additional time to get our loved one to a veterinarian. Rattlers are of special concern to Rae as her own dog died as the result of a snake bite. Rae also treated Mac and Molly when they contracted kennel cough. Our veterinarian in Pennsylvania and we had been careful to have the dogs vaccinated against this respiratory illness before we hit the road but, we learned, just as there are many different strains of human flu, there are many strains of kennel cough, and you can’t vaccinate against them all.

Getting us started with this series will be veterinary toxicology consultant Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, former Vice President of the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center. In this first episode in the series, she’ll identify for us some of the common toxins and poisons found in and around our homes and on the road – on roadsides and at rest areas, campgrounds and dog parks --wherever we may be in the country. She’ll offer suggestions on what to pack for our pets when we take them on the road and she’ll share the story of how her own border terrier had to be treated for intoxication after eating something he found on the ground at a rest stop.

In future episodes, we’ll hear from veterinarians in several regions of the country who will instruct us in ways to protect our pets from threats specific to each of those regions. From these folks, we’ll learn about parasites (external and internal); infectious diseases; insects, wild animals; plants; and toxins and poisons found in and around our homes and in various places we may visit while on the road.

For more on our adventures as Rubber Hobos, visit http://www.rubberhobos.com. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hank the Cowdog

In Episode 10, our guest is John Erickson, author of the Hank the Cowdog series of humorous mystery books for children. More than 7.5 million copies of Erickson’s books have been sold since 1983. His 57th volume – The Disappearance of Drover -- was just released as was the audio version of the book.

John writes the Hank books from the point of view of a dog, a dog who can’t quite understand why he’s so misunderstood. The volumes are filled with humor, western parlance, and details that could only be provided by one who lives the life of a small-town rancher.

Titles include The Case of the Incredible Priceless Corncob; The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse; The Case of the Dinosaur Birds; and The Case of the Car-Barkaholic Dog. Along for the ride with the bumbling Hank in these stories are the hilariously-written cowboy Slim; ranch owners Sally May and High Loper; Hank’s buddy, the loyal, yet timid, mutt Drover; and sworn enemies like Hank’s chief competitor for table scraps, Pete the Barncat.
John Erickson with his horse Nocona.
Photo provided by John Erickson.
John speaks to us from his home in Perryton, Texas. At the time of the interview, a group of homeschooled junior high and high school students (who'd been raised on Hank the Cowdog stories) were with him learning about the process of writing.

John Erickson with a group of homeschooled students.
Photo provided by John Erickson.

Also on the show are Phil and Amy Kruse, owners of the Circle View Ranch in Interior, South Dakota, who share how they were inspired by John’s books to name their own border collie and "head of ranch security," Hank the Cowdog.
Hank the Cowdog of Circle
View Ranch. Photo provided
by Phil and Amy Kruse.
Amy and Phil Kruse
with Lace, Phil's horse.
Photo provided by
Phil and Amy Kruse.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Doggy Suites and Kitty Condos: Pet Vacations in Orlando

Photo provided by Best Friends Pet Care.
Photo provided by Best Friends Pet Care.
In Episode 9 of On the Road with Mac and Molly we visit Orlando, Florida where we search out some of what's on offer for pet accommodations. With the exception of service dogs, pets are not permitted in the city's theme parks so, if you're planning to bring your dog, cat, or pocket pet on vacation with you, they'll need a place to romp and revel while you're doing the same at one of the playgrounds for humans. Best Friends Pet Care opened a facility recently at Walt Disney World and the center's managers Jennifer Kratzer and Amanda Burris will tell us about the accommodations, amenities, and activities available at this Disney-themed pet palace. In this episode, I'll also fill you in on some of what's on offer for pets at SeaWorld and Universal Studios. And I'll tell what hotel has a VIP (Very Important Pets) program of pampering that includes toys and treats and special room service selections.

Mac and Molly
draw a crowd wherever they
go and such was the case at
Lake Eola. Photo by
Donna Hailson.

The Walt Disney Amphitheater
at Lake Eola Park.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
On the days when you're just hanging about, you might wish to take your furry friend(s) to an off-leash or on-leash park. Two of our favorites of the former type are Meadow Woods, at 1751 Rhode Island Woods Circle, and Barber Park, at 3701 Gatlin Road. For natural beauty and sheer in-the-middle-of-the-city serenity, you can't beat Lake Eola Park at 195 N. Rosalind Avenue. You'll need to keep your dog on a leash here but you'll have a mile-long walk beside the water and, along the path, you'll find a pet-friendly restaurant and pet-friendly folks.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Florida EcoSafaris

Photo by Donna Hailson.
In Episode 8, we visit St. Cloud’s 4,700-acre eco-ranch and wildlife conservation area Forever Florida, home of Florida EcoSafaris, where – in two and half hours and via seven ziplines and nine towers -- folks soar through the treetops and sky-bridge over Pine Flatwoods and forested wetlands. This site boasts nine distinct Florida eco-systems and is home to alligators, black bears, nearly two hundred species of birds and the endangered Florida panther.

Photo by Donna Hailson.
Joining us in this episode is Florida EcoSafari’s Matt Duda, whose background in marketing, tourism, ecotourism, and conservation makes him just the right person to introduce us to the history of the property, the flora and fauna one finds here and the adventures (along with ziplining, coach safaris, horseback safaris and rawhide round-ups) in which one can engage here. From him, we learn about the efforts being made to preserve the natural beauty and natural ecological balance at Forever Florida. The property is located at 4755 N. Kenansville Road, which is about an hour southeast of Orlando. Reservations are required. Phone 407.957.9794. extension 1, or 1.866.85.4EVER. extension 1. Or check them out online at www.FloridaEcoSafaris.com.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sparky the Fire Dog’s 60th Birthday and the Fire Museum of Texas, Home of the World’s Largest Working Fire Hydrant

Sparky the Fire Dog Today

This year marks the 60th birthday of Sparky the Fire Dog, the cartoon Dalmatian mascot of the National Fire Protection Association. Celebrations have been and will be held this year not only in the United States but also in at least one location on the other side of the world.

Sparky in the 1950s
In the first half of Episode 7, we’ll hear about some of these events and we’ll learn more about Sparky. Like many of the advertising icons that were introduced in the 1950s (from Tony the Tiger to Speedy Alka Seltzer) Sparky’s looks have changed considerably over the years. In recent days, he’s bulked up a bit and he’s become much more colorful. 

Today, he hosts his own website, has a Facebook page, and makes personal appearances. His likeness is seen in Sparky costumes, Sparky Valentines Day cards, Sparky birthday kits and Sparky robots. Sparky is also finding himself the recipient of some pretty remarkable honors. One great example: a few months back -- on Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan -- Sparky was named a non-commissioned officer, a staff sergeant. This recognition was given to celebrate Sparky’s 23 years of service to the air base.

Filling us in on Sparky’s life and the work of the organization he represents will be Massachusetts-based Lorraine Carli, Vice President of Communications for the NFPA. 
The Fire Museum of Texas in Beaumont.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
The world's largest working
fire hydrant. Photo by
Donna Hailson.
In the second half of the program, we’ll visit the city of Beaumont, site of the Fire Museum of Texas. In the plaza, adjacent to the museum, sits the world’s largest working fire hydrant. From Carol Gary, the museum’s Executive Director, we’ll hear how that multi-story fire hydrant came to sit where it does. A hint: Disney, Dalmatians and Cruella de Vil had something to do with it.

From Carol we’ll also hear about what’s on offer especially for children at the museum and we’ll learn how dogs have worked side by side with firefighters pretty much since fire companies were formed.

Sparky images provided by the National Fire Protection Association. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Our Digs

Thought it might be time to post some pics of the not-attached-to-the-land home we are now calling home: it's a 37-foot 2011 Carriage Cameo. The dogs and we dig our new digs. (All photos by Donna Hailson.)

Kitschy Kissimmee

The four of us took a tour of kitschy Kissimmee this week. We just drove along looking for the cheesiest and campiest and, when it appeared, I leapt out and captured it. All of these photos, save for the one of the dogs, were taken along Route 192. Our vehicle is a 2011 Dodge Ram 3500 with dual rear wheels and a mega cab. With the rear seats completely folded down and a blanket in place, both dogs easily have enough room in their section of the cab -- about 24 square feet -- to stretch out to their hearts' content. They can also stand comfortably back there as they have about three feet from the platform to the ceiling. That does nothing, of course, to discourage them from taking over the front of the cab as well. Incidentally, we didn't pose Mac and Molly; every time we get out of the truck, Mac moves into the driver's seat. (All photos by Donna Hailson.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dog Mountain

The Dog Chapel. Photo by
Donna Hailson.
In Episode 6 of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY, we visit Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

On this site, artist and author Stephen Huneck built his Dog Chapel, styled in the manner of a 19th century village church. In the book, The Dog Chapel, Stephen noted that he intended the building and the property on which it sits, to be a place for the celebration of the "spiritual bond" folks have with their dogs. His vision was to create "a place that would be open to all dogs and to people of any faith or belief system."
At the entrance to Dog Mountain.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
Though I'm not in agreement with all that was his theology, I resonate with Stephen's desire to honor the human-pet bond and I appreciate his whimsical renderings of life with canine friends.

I'm sad to note that Stephen, despairing over the downturn in the economy and fearing the impact it might have on Dog Mountain, took his own life about a year ago. The entrance to the chapel is now a hall of remembrance for him. The walls of the inner chapel are covered with appreciations of and memorials to human-pet relationships.

Stephen's artwork is everywhere in the chapel: in the stained glass windows, in the hooked rugs and in the pews, the ends of which boast delightful carvings of dogs. Dogs and their humans are invited to enjoy the space and can then run free on the surrounding trails or in the dog ponds or on the agility course.

On the day of our visit, at least a dozen dogs (including our own Mac and Molly) romped - with what looked like something exceeding joy - as the snow was lightly falling on the already snow-covered, very steep incline. It was a bit of tough going for bipeds but the quadrupeds managed it all with ease.

A gallery, featuring Stephen's books, woodcut prints, sculptures, furniture and other Huneck-designed items (from dog neckerchiefs to bowls, notecards, mugs and rugs) sits a few yards from the chapel.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Tails and Dog-E-Harmony

“SeaWorld’s Happy Tails” is a new animal adoption program that will provide pet lovers two free single-day admissions to SeaWorld when they adopt a dog or cat from a participating animal shelter. Tickets are valid for a single-day admission to the park any time within one year of purchase. Tickets will be printed onsite at participating shelters. Details, including participating shelters, can be found on www.seaworldcares.com.

The program launched Feb. 10 at the SPCA of Central Florida shelters in Orlando and Sanford, and the Orange County Animal Services shelter also in Orlando.

“We are pleased to partner with SeaWorld Orlando to show our gratitude for families who adopt from our shelters,” stated Barbara Wetzler, President of the SPCA of Central Florida. “We promote life-long companionships for our pets and this program demonstrates our appreciation for the families that open their lives for these homeless pets.”

And just in time for Valentines’ Day, there was a Dog-E-Harmony event last night at a wine shop here in Orlando. The invitation read: “Come meet Orlando’s most eligible canine bachelors and bachelorettes as they put their best paw forward in the hopes of finding love.” Hosted by A New Beginning, a “no - kill” rescue, Dog-E-Harmony was organized to give prospective dog parents the chance to meet some available pooches in a fun and festive atmosphere.

Modeled after speed-dating events, participants spent a few minutes getting to know each dog over some complimentary wine, appetizers and entertainment. Then it was time to decide if the match was right.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Living Nomadically with Canine Companions

Episode 5 of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY focuses on the initial challenges faced by those who decide to take their dogs with them when they move from living in an attached-to-the-land home to living nomadically, in a not-attached-to-the-land home.

In this episode, we consider why folks may pay far more for their pet's grooming than they do for their own haircuts. Here are some of those reasons:
#10. Your hairdresser doesn’t wash and clean your rear end.
#9. You don’t go for four weeks or longer without washing or brushing your hair.
#8. Your hairdresser doesn’t give you a sanitary trim.
#7. Your hairdresser doesn’t clean your ears.
#6. Your hairdresser doesn’t clean boogies from your eyes.
#5. You sit still for your hairdresser.
#4. Your haircut doesn’t include a pedicure.
#3. Your hairdresser only washes and cuts the hair on your head.
#2. You don’t bite or scratch your hairdresser.
And the #1 reason your dog’s grooming costs more than your haircut? The likelihood of you pooping or peeing while having your haircut is extremely slim!
I address the challenge of finding wide open spaces where big galumphing canines can run at full tilt off leash and offer suggestions on staving off dog motion sickness. I’ll tell you what you need from your veterinarian before you hit the road, what should be included in a dog first aid kit, what you’ll need at border crossings between the United States and Canada and what resources online and in print are especially helpful in locating dog parks and dog-friendly campgrounds.

More than 30 million families take their dogs camping each year — and that’s a lot of canines out there in RVs and in the campgrounds mingling with humans, other dogs, strange plants and even creatures of the wild and unfriendly kind. My goal in this episode is to help you plan for the unplanned as you head out On the Road!