Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NKLA: No-Kill Los Angeles

"Dog Wild" Posting. Photo provided
by the Best Friends Animal Society.
Of the 56,000 animals that entered city shelters in Los Angeles last year, 17,000 were euthanized. A newly-formed coalition, led by the Best Friends Animal Society wants to reduce the number killed – within the next five years - to zero.
Francis Battista (r) with L.A. City
Councilman Tony Cardenas (l)
on Opening Day of the Mission Hills
facility. Photo provided by the Best
Friends Animal Society.

In Episode 21 of ON THE ROAD WITH MAC AND MOLLY, I chat with Francis Battista, one of the founders of the Best Friends Animal Society.This highly regarded animal welfare organization is known around the world for its no-kill programs and partnerships that all work toward the day when there will be “No More Homeless Pets”®. Best Friends was launched in the early 1980s with a sanctuary at Angel Canyon in Kanab, Utah. Today, that sanctuary encompasses 33,000 acres and, on any given day, some 1,700 companion animals call the place home. The great majority of these will eventually be placed in “forever homes.”
Actress Hilary Swank was among those
on hand to celebrate the launch of
No-Kill Los Angeles. Photo provided
by the Best Friends Animal Society.
In this episode, Francis recounts how Best Friends developed from scratch into a 300,000-member organization. He then offers details on his work in Los Angeles in advising, creating and launching animal welfare initiatives. The newest of these is NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles). This project, entered into by a coalition of animal welfare organizations, city shelters and individuals, has the goal of ending the killing of all healthy and treatable pets in all of L.A.’s shelters.

The plan is straightforward: provide spay/neuter services where they are needed the most so fewer animals go into shelters and increase adoptions through the efforts of the NKLA coalition members so more animals come out of the shelters and go into new homes. As part of these efforts, Best Friends has taken over the operation of what was formerly known as the Northeast Valley Shelter in Mission Hills. The new facility is called Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Services.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Adventures and Misadventures On the Road

Gene, Mac and Molly at Pistol River in Gold Beach,
Oregon. Photo by Donna Hailson.
For nearly two years, my husband Gene and I have been on the road with our two Old English Sheepdogs, Mac and Molly. 

On April 9, we left Gold Beach, Oregon and traveled 6,242 miles over 29 days to reach the southern coast of North Carolina. We're spending the summer here at a campground where Gene is serving as “Camp Host” while I focus on my writing and radio projects. We chose this place for a “workamping” assignment because it sits on property that includes a vineyard and bed and breakfast.

When we entered into this nomadic lifestyle as "Rubber Hobos"*, it was with the intention of seeking out experiences that were outside of our experience. In "workamping," you labor for a contracted number of hours each week over a specified period of months at a private or public park or other facility in exchange for your campsite and hook ups to water, sewer and electrical power (though some parks may charge for the last).

The Badlands, South Dakota.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
Whether stationary for a time or peripatetically wayfaring, we’ve had quite the series of adventures and misadventures over these many months. I’ll be sharing the details and lessons learned in a forthcoming book. Among the most notable out-of-experience experience for Massachusetts-born and bred Gene was his time herding 250 head of cattle over eight miles of the South Dakota Badlands. My own favorite out-of-experience experience came for me when I starred as a murderer in a community theatre's staged production of the 1940s-era Inner Sanctum radio show, "The Voice on the Wire."

RV fire on the Redwood
Highway. Photo by
Donna Hailson.
On the most recent leg of our journey, we saw the first of a set of adventures and misadventures when we were just two hours out of Gold Beach. As we were traveling south on the Redwood Highway in Klamath, California, we came upon a “Class C” RV fully engulfed in flames (a “Class C” is a self-contained motorhome with an over-cab bed). The occupants of the camper escaped to safety but the blaze was underway a good twenty minutes before the fire crew arrived. As we waited – with dozens of others from vehicles backed up in both directions on the two-lane road – we watched as each tire exploded and as the vehicle’s propane tank went up as well. The seriousness of the situation was particularly impressed upon me as I noticed flames begin to snake up the hillside - in streams of red and gold – heading for the dense stand of Redwoods. The firefighters arrived in time to contain the blaze and we continued on our way.

In the days ahead, there would be more misadventures. We’d be prevented from entering Yosemite because of heavy snow. We’d dent our fifth-wheel trailer and truck in a too-tight turn. I would be diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy after over-stressing my body with too much sun and wind while hiking and dry camping in Death Valley. Our brake lines would be severed while going over a bump in that national park and our water pump, a fuse and two batteries would also fail us in the same place. With no power, we’d be unable to raise the leveling feet on our trailer. Gene would make short work of splicing the trailer wires back together but the latter problems would have us traveling miles and miles in search of a replacement fuse and replacement battery. We’d finally locate what was needed but the “new” battery was dead on arrival and had to be charged along with our old battery (which necessitated another 70 mile round-trip). There was great jubilation when all power was restored and we were able to raise the levelers and get back on the road!

POP, POP! Photo by Donna Hailson.

The ensuing days were filled with excitement and joy as we visited friends in southern California and marveled at the glories of the national parks – Zion, Bryce, and Grand Canyon – and as we savored the pleasures offered by various cities along the way. Ah, but then, as we were zooming along through New Mexico just past Albuquerque, we heard a “pop, pop” that signaled a double tire blow out on the right side of the trailer. The trailer could have rolled over but – thank God – we were able to maneuver safely to the side of the road. A New Mexico policewoman was with us immediately. I called our insurance company and requested roadside assistance. Two tire repairmen were on the scene within an hour. They discovered that we had wrecked one tire rim and suffered some minor damage to the undercarriage of the RV but, within minutes of our rescuers’ arrival, we were back on the road again. We made our way through several more states without incident (save for my having left a set of keys in a gas station rest room in Tennessee) and finally pulled in – early evening – to our campsite in North Carolina. The next day, we drove two hours north where we were reunited with dearly-loved family members. For weeks and weeks, I've been battling the side effects of the Prednisone that was prescribed to counter the Bell’s Palsy. And, just two days ago, the top of a tree fell on the roof of our RV – more misadventures! BUT…through it all, we’ve remained safe, smiling and sailing forward! Nothing has happened that we haven’t been able to handle!

Zabriskie Point at Death Valley National Park.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
AND now we carry with us memories of Napa and Sonoma counties, Bodega Bay, Point Reyes with its lighthouse, the Marin Valley Cheese Trail, “SoCal,” the Sierra Nevadas, Death Valley (and its Zabriskie Point, Scotty’s Castle, Artist’s Palette, Mesquite Dunes, Dante’s View, Badwater…), the Dumont Dunes, Las Vegas, Zion, Bryce, the Painted Desert, Kanab, Sedona, Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, Memphis, Nashville, the Appalachians, the Great Smokeys…
Bryce Canyon Amphitheater from Inspiration Point.
Photo by Donna Hailson.
I have learned so much over these days of wayfaring but will offer just a brief taste of a summary here: it definitely takes a sense of humor, a reliable vehicle, a well-stocked tool box, the ability to use those tools, an excellent insurance company, and confidence in a loving God to manage life on the road!

For more on our adventures as Rubber Hobos, visit and our newly-launched Facebook page: