IN ISSUE #9
|People 4animals||Animals 4people||Eye 4wildlife|
|Molly Mednikow is an American change agent for Amazon animals in need. Learn about the stark contrast between her American and Peruvian life as she dedicates her life to saving lives.||Leaf, an abandoned cocker spaniel adopted by Allen Anderson and his wife Linda, had been deprived of much joy in his earlier life. Even still, he had so much to give a young, sorrowful boy.||In honor of February’s National Wild Bird Feeding Month, we’ve picked out some interesting birds you won’t see at your feeder, including the penguin, plover, buzzard and harrier.|
Explore and indulge in the majesty of the animal kingdom before another month of animal advocacy begins… Enjoy!
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Molly Mednikow – American Change Agent for Amazon Animals
by Kim Clune
An American Waking
Some mornings, Molly Mednikow wakes in America wrapped in fresh linens, greeting the day from her big and comfortable bed. She then heads for a steaming hot shower, lingering under the massage of the high pressure stream while entertaining the idea of cereal, donut, or maybe nothing.
At work, the keys of a fast computer connect Molly to the world through high speed internet. All the while, her mind’s eye looks to the Peruvian Amazon. Peru is where Molly’s non-profit, Amazon CARES, lives and breathes.
Amazon CARES – named for Community Animal Rescue, Education, and Safety – protects countless stray and wild animals that roam Peru’s streets and villages.
A Peruvian Awakening
Molly founded her organization after a philanthropic trip during which she delivered school supplies to remote jungle villages. While there, the mistreatment of domestic animals was unavoidable. “One could not walk three feet without stepping over a severely ill dog, lacking hope or opportunity in this environment,” she says.
Selling her jewelry store back to the family business, Molly committed her life to Amazon animals by founding Amazon CARES in 2004. In addition to opening the most modern Veterinary clinic in Iquitos, CARES purchased 2 acres of property on the Rio Itaya where they operate a no-kill animal shelter. Molly says, “We have fought hard in Peru to create a culture of adoption.”
Additionally, CARES offers animal health programs, humane education, assisted animal therapy, and volunteer driven travel to areas with no access to veterinary care. CARES is the only charity in the Peruvian Amazon region dedicated to protecting domestic and wild animals.
Transportation Worth the Transformation
Why go this distance, both literally and figuratively? Molly explains, “We have taken in dogs that almost any other shelter, even “no-kill” shelters, would euthanize. Within weeks or months this dog is transformed and healthy and beautiful. To see a dog on the street with no hope left in his eyes, and to see the same dog later becoming a family pet…there is nothing like that feeling.”
Left: A dog named Clotilde before life at Amazon CARES. Right: The same dog, Clotilde, after.
Mechanism for Machinations
How does Molly make this happen? From the US, she works on fundraising, marketing, and volunteer recruitment. “If I am in Peru,” she says, “I may be bottle feeding abandoned puppies, fixing a computer, cleaning out kennels, or debating the pros and cons of changing what we feed our shelter dogs due to budgetary concerns.” Her most important tasks are veterinary and shelter staffing as well as maintenance. Regardless of where she is, Molly educates people everywhere about the role of animals in global health.
Of course, Molly doesn’t do these things alone. She says, “Bruno, the Peruvian Director, and I discuss budget and long range plans, and all of the red tape involved in getting anything completed. In more recent years I have had an assistant to assist in social media and accounting. We have some great volunteers that write and translate blogs and write Thank You notes to donors.”
Right: Assistant Manuela Rodrigues & Director Molly Mednikow with Peru rescue dog Marilyn. Left: Amazon CARES Peru Director Bruno Antoine with Forest.
Other volunteers, like Justin Martin, travel to Peru to care for and socialize the dogs. Justin says, “It’s easy to become cynical and say that the street dog problem is one that can never be solved. But it’s inspiring to see an organization that is working tirelessly to make Iquitos a cleaner, healthier and safer city for the dogs and humans who live here. Between the veterinary clinic in the city center and the refuge in the jungle outside of town, a humane and educational way has been found to both care for the street dogs who are here now and help control their population in the future.”
A Day in the Life in the Amazon
In stark contrast with her American morning, Molly wakes in the towering forest to the early rooster’s crow at daybreak, and the occasional creepy crawler. Sometimes she hears the daily news blaring at 6 am by loudspeaker in a distant neighboring town. “Progress is coming to Cabo Lopez and we should have electricity by April. I know this is important for the community but also fear it will mean a less peaceful night´s sleep,” she says. “For now, music only invades the jungle on weekends.”
Molly makes her way to a small stall and removes the toilet paper to keep it dry. The stall’s shower is frigid and sometimes short of enough water for hair washing. “This is the worst part of living in the jungle for me…I´ve never gotten used to the cold showers,” she says. These things she accepts as a fair trade-off for the jungle’s rustic charm and beauty.
A delicious breakfast awaits. While volunteers eat omelets, pancakes and more prepared by the cook, Molly enjoys fresh fruit juice, freshly cut mango, a poached egg over a piece of toast, and sometimes a slice of cheese. “Oddly, I drink hot tea in the jungle. It is a habit I picked up from so many British volunteers over the years.”
When it’s time for work, Molly rides in a motorboat or a motorized, 3-wheel rickshaw. The journey is 30 minutes either way. “There was a time when travel by boat was the only option, but progress is coming to my jungle neighborhood, and the roads are being gradually improved.” Progress or not, Molly says, “Every day is a battle between the bumpy dirt roads and my Power Bra!”
Saddened by street dogs rummaging through the trash for food along the way, Molly takes mental notes so she can try to rescue these dogs the following day. She also gets to see, up close, how Peruvians live – while they see her too. “As the only North American living in this area, I constantly smile and wave to people that I pass. It may seem silly. I sometimes feel like a pageant winner as I drive through hoards of people. At the same time I feel I must represent! The funny thing is, no matter how I feel when I wake up, I always arrive at the office feeling great. All that smiling and waving has an effect!”
At work, an old computer with little memory chugs laboriously through daily tasks. Embrace Pet Insurance is donating two new computers soon and Molly can’t wait. With growing access to electricity and improved roads and sidewalks, “Nothing can be done about the slow Internet,” she says. “It makes no sense to complain about it, because it just won’t change.”
What Molly can control is educating people about animal welfare. If, on her way to work, she sees a young child throwing a rock at a stray dog or kicking it, “I will tell the driver to stop,” she says. “I ask if the child is abused. I quiz about his/her parents. I ask why the dog harmed deserved abuse, and I warn about the dangers of dog bites. … Incidentally, Amazon CARES does more action than my attempts at vigilante justice. Amazon CARES has a very strong Humane Education component, and we present talks to schoolchildren 8 times per week.”
At the day’s end, Molly stares up at the sky. “The South American constellations of stars, including the Southern Cross, are like diamonds in my eyes.” She then falls asleep to the gentle noises of animals foraging for fruit in the trees, and assorted insects and their mating calls. “I especially love the sound of the various frogs, and I give them all my individual non-scientfic names, based on how they sound. I have identified the Vomiting Frog, the Barry White Frog and, of course, the Horny Toad.”
Molly also carries the thoughts of so many special animals into her dreams. One in particular is Calipso. Molly says, “She was so shaggy and always covered in mud that people thought she was male and called her by a masculine name. We took her in when she turned up pregnant.” To learn what made this little dog’s life so special, read In Memory of Calipso, a Dog that Learned to Trust at Amazon CARES blog. There you’ll also learn about many more dogs, volunteers, veterinarians and staff.
Is Peru for You?
If you like what you’ve read, you’re welcome to join Molly for some feel-good Amazon rescue, special eco-tourism opportunities, swank jungle accommodations and rustic digs.
Amazon CARES “high end” volunteer trip of the year runs April 14-29, 2012. This trip is in conjunction with the Worldwide Veterinary Service. You must be a member and sign up through their website. Learn more about additional trips in June, August and October, too. Visit the Amazon CARES website. The video below is just a taste of what you’ll experience…
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Leaf, a Rescued Cocker Spaniel, Helps Heal a Boy’s Grief
By Peggy Frezon
Allen Anderson of Minneapolis, Minnesota knows that his black cocker spaniel Leaf is a sensitive and empathetic dog, but this point was really brought home one day when he took Leaf to the local pet store.
Allen and his wife Linda adopted Leaf from an animal shelter. The dog had been abandoned and, when they brought Leaf into their home, they soon realized that his earlier life had been deprived. He had clearly never been inside a house before. He looked at the rubber ball as if it were an alien object. He’d never even had his own toy before! So, when Allen brought Leaf to the pet store, he led him over to the toy section and let him nose through the bin and select his very first, very own plaything.
Now, every time they visit the pet store, no matter the mission, Leaf bounds to the toy section and paws through the bin with joyful enthusiasm.
One Saturday morning Leaf was inspecting the toys as Allen spoke to a ten-year-old boy. The boy approached to pat Leaf, but ended up confiding that his dog had died of cancer the day before. Allen describes what happened next:
Leaf stopped poking his nose at the squeaky toys. Nothing distracts this dog from a good toy hunt, but now he seemed to be listening as the grieving child spoke about his dog. The animal had been his companion, his buddy. They went together everywhere. The dog slept in his bed at night. Nothing was or ever would be the same without him.
Abandoning his earnest search for a perfect squeaky toy, Leaf looked thoughtful. Then without any prompting from me, he walked back to the boy. Leaf normally does not like to be near little children, because they are unpredictable with their actions and movements, and he craves predictability. Children might want to squeeze him too hard or tug at his floppy ears.
I remained quiet while Leaf sat still in front of the boy. He seemed to sense that he could comfort the grieving child by letting him pat him on the head. This time, he stayed longer, focusing his dark brown eyes on the child’s face as the boy petted him and scratched behind Leaf’s ears. After a few moments, Leaf moved away but did not rush back to the toys. Instead, he matched the child’s somber mood by making his gait slower as if he were mirroring the boy’s emotions.
The boy looked up at me. The sparkle in his eyes revealed that the empathic presence of our healing little cocker spaniel had silently lifted the burden of loss from his heart. He said thank you and went back to his parents.
I looked at Leaf who had returned to his toy search with more focus and not quite as much gusto. I resolved to buy the toy of his choice for my little guy with the big heart. He had forgiven our species and learned to love and trust the humans in his new home. Having known sorrow, Leaf, with his act of kindness, made me think that he understood the little boy’s loneliness and had tried to alleviate it in a way that only a cute little cocker spaniel could.*
I like how Allen recognized that special quality in his dog, and gently allowed him to share his gift. What about you—have you ever known a pet who connected with people in some special way? Has your own pet demonstrated the ability to empathize with others?
*Excerpted from the book, Animals and the Kids Who Love Them. Copyright © 2011 by Allen and Linda Anderson. Reprinted with permission. www.NewWorldLibrary.com
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by Kim Clune
In honor of February’s National Wild Bird Feeding Month, we’ve picked out some interesting birds you won’t see at your feeder. Click each photo to learn interesting facts about these species, watch videos of them in motion, determine why they’re threatened, and how you can help them at ARKive.org.