4animals: Stories to Inspire – Issue 5
IN ISSUE #5
|People 4animals||Animals 4people||Eye 4wildlife|
|Stephanie Feldstein has always loved two things, writing and animals. Now she combines both to advocate for animal issues and people at Change.org, a site that has the tools to help you do the same.||Puppy mill dogs Romeo and Maizy have not only thrived with their new families, but they have extended a paw toward helping others, too.||This week, we offer inspiration for unseasonable weather. Meet the Snow Goose, Snow Leopard, Snow Petrel and Arctic Fox! Thanks to Arkive.org for sharing these beautiful beings.|
Explore and indulge in the majesty of the animal kingdom before another month of animal advocacy begins… Enjoy!
Stephanie Makes Change at Change.org
By Kim Clune
I dragged an old typewriter up from the basement (we had a computer, but the typewriter seemed so much more writerly to me back then) and started imagining myself as a writer.
Even then, my stories were animal-inspired, although I’ve moved from dinosaurs and cats on spaceships to more contemporary topics these days.
Creative writing quickly turned to advocacy, even in her early years, thanks to a fascination with Koko the gorilla. Stephanie says she was too young to “consider the finer points of whether the life [Koko] had been given was right or wrong, but she really blurred the lines between human and animal intelligence and emotion for me.” And from the time Stephanie figured out where the fur in fur coats came from, she says, “People couldn’t wear fur around me without getting a pint-sized lecture.”
Most people expected Stephanie to become a veterinarian when she grew up because it was, as she explains, “the default career for someone who loved animals as much as I did.” But a series of events led her down a different path.
In high school, Stephanie was taught about the agriculture industry, became a vegetarian and joined several advocacy groups. She went on to study creative writing in college and discovered that she could merge her love for animals with advocacy. During that time, she also worked for the local humane society, which expanded her awareness about animal suffering. She says, “I’ve always been an animal lover, but like a lot of people, my advocacy has grown with my consciousness.”
Stephanie is now the Senior Organizer for Animals Causes at Change.org, a petition site offering people-powered campaigns for social change.
I love getting to work with people around the world who are fighting for animals — some are seasoned activists and some have just come across that first situation that has them so upset they just can’t sit back any longer. It’s incredible to watch people as they get empowered to speak up about an issue, and then help them win their campaigns to create real change for animals.
To that end, Stephanie spends her day familiarizing herself with issues resonating within the animal community, from companion animal abuse, industrialized cruelty of factory farms, and threatened wildlife to the exploitation of captive dolphins or chimpanzees. She works to help activists and advocacy groups make their petitions and campaigns as effective as possible, and she develops press and social media strategies in support. She says, “It’s amazing and inspiring that so many people are trying to make the world a better place for animals.”
These tasks come after caring for her own animals, of course, which Stephanie calls “very effective self-advocates.” Thanks to them, certain issues live close to Stephanie’s heart. Her first adoptee was a shepherd mix named Juno. Stephanie says, “Socializing and training her taught me everything I know about second chances and the bond between people and dogs.” And when the threat of breed specific legislation entered her area, Stephanie joined the pit bull rescue community thanks to Turtle, her first pit bull. “Since I have pit bulls, fighting breed prejudice is very important to me on a personal level.”
Stephanie has enormous compassion for others’ issues too, as in the case of Bridgett Wright. The man who stalked Bridgett and brutally killed two of her cats was being released from prison on early parole. Instead of living in fear, Bridgett started a campaign on Change.org to keep him behind bars. Expecting a thousand signatures in support, Bridgett presented nearly 16,000 a month later at her victim’s hearing before the Kentucky Parole Board. The parole board denied her abuser’s parole with the maximum deferment.
Getting to know Bridgett and helping share her story was powerful — not only was her abuser the first person prosecuted under “Romeo’s Law,” which made animal torture a felony offense, but it helped highlight the often-ignored link between animal abuse and domestic violence. And Bridgett didn’t retreat into the shadows after her personal victory. She became a vocal advocate on both animal abuse and domestic violence issues, earning the Amy Jones Advocacy Award last month.
Change.org is the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change. Anybody, anywhere can use the Change.org platform to start a petition on issues that matter to them. Stephanie says, “We’ve created the best advocacy tools in the world, and they’re available to anyone to use for free.”
Stephanie’s only wish would be to offer more one-on-one attention to all campaigns at Change.org. Fortunately, the team has been been developing tools to help people take each campaign to the next level.
It starts with our easy-to-use petition tool, and we’re expanding our tools for even more online and offline campaigning. Our team of organizers provide training, advice and strategic support on campaigns. We make it easy to connect with people who support your cause to help you win.
For the complete toolbox, visit Change.org.
Puppy Mill Dogs Paw it Forward
By Peggy Frezon
Puppy mills house dogs in substandard, often horrendous conditions with inadequate care, nutrition and socialization. When individuals or organizations rescue dogs from these places, lives are changed. Meet two puppy mill dogs who have not only thrived with their new families, but have extended a paw toward helping others, too.
A Big Therapy Dog With a Big Heart
The frightened Newfoundland dog sat in a tiny pen, cramped among other large breeds, no room to even turn around. His coat was dull and coarse, and his skin sunburned. He looked down at his food and water bowls. They were empty. Again.
When Julie Miller adopted 1-1/2 year old Romeo, she knew he’d been living out his life in puppy mill, in a crowded outdoor cage, unable to romp and play like a puppy should. She couldn’t wait to get him home and show him the love he deserved.
Afraid of the Stairs
At first, Romeo didn’t know how to take his new home. He was uncomfortable around people, and looked to other dogs for courage and comfort. He struggled to walk down the three small steps to the back yard. He probably had never faced stairs before. Julie started taking Romeo into pet shops to help socialize him. When a man approached, Romeo would cower behind her and often display submissive urination. In time, because of Julie’s care and understanding, and through multiple training classes, Romeo began to see that not everyone is bad.
Now, Romeo is 7 years old. His coat is glossy and beautiful. Best of all, he lives a wonderful life. He is now a registered Pet Partners Team and volunteers at a local library twice a month as part of the R.E.A.D. program, helping youngsters build skills by reading to him. He also visits with residents of a retirement community once a month. At 91 lbs, small for an adult Newfie, he is large enough to inspire awe, but compact enough to be accessible.
But that’s not all. Romeo now is a member of the Indiana K-9 Assisted Crisis Response Team. Romeo is qualified to work as a comfort dog, to help primarily First Responders to allow them to take some quiet time with the dogs to release stress after what are typically long and grueling shifts. He will also work with survivors of a disaster to provide comfort, distraction and love.
Julie is amazed at Romeo’s capacity to love, after he was treated so poorly for the first year and a half of his life. Romeo is certainly pawing it forward!
A Nurturer without Fail
As Sheila Clark glanced through Petfinder.com, she saw this little red dachshund. She was sitting up with her paws in a “praying position.” Sheila immediately fell in love! She showed Maizy’s picture to her husband, and they agreed they wanted to adopt her.
Maizy hadn’t had a good life. She had spent nearly three years in a puppy mill where she was used for breeding. Her jaw had been broken, and her tail was broken due to the heinous act of being tied up and force-bred. Luckily, the puppy mill was closed down and the dogs sent to safe rescues.
Shaking all Over
When Sheila met Maizy in person, the dog was so tiny and fearful that her whole body shook. Sheila held little Maizy tightly in my arms to reassure her that this would never happen again. After only a matter of days, Maizy followed her everywhere. The little dog experienced walking on grass, learning to drink from a bowl rather than a water bottle, and sleeping on a soft bed instead of a small wire cage for the first time.
Loving Instincts in Hard Times
Maizy now is a happy, healthy dog. She skims through her own personal mini agility course. She also displays a sharp intelligence by learning numerous tricks such as crawl, roll over, high 5, and “praying paws.” And when Sheila went through a difficult time in her life, Maizy never left her side. She lay next to her on the bed with her head on the pillow. About every hour or so, she would nudge her with her nose & lick her face until she opened her eyes. Maizy is a life-saver for Sheila Clark.
by Kim Clune
As the season turned to winter so quickly for many on the East Coast, we’ll look to animals that thrive in winter-like conditions for inspiration. 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.