Making an Impact – Part 2: Use Your Passions to Influence Positive Change

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

I am a writer and a speaker. Through these endeavors, I can make an impact. But, I also make an impact by my deeds.

My passion is pets, and I help various rescue groups. One way I assist is by transporting adoptable animals for different organizations. The middle of October I drove a Great Dane to Sheridan, about 160 miles north of Casper (where I live), and met the couple who was adopting him. I helped make that adoption happen for Big Dogs Huge Paws in conjunction with other transporters who brought the dog out of his foster home in Colorado. While in Sheridan, I met up with a woman who was transporting and transferring a Newfoundland from a shelter in Montana to Big Ceclia transport_Big Dogs Huge PawsDogs Huge Paws for foster care and eventual adoption. Went north with one dog, returned south with another. I transport for various rescue groups when they have need for someone in central Wyoming and I’m available. I’ve helped English Springer Spaniel Rescue, Big Dogs Huge Paws, Boston Terrier Rescue, and others. I find great joy in knowing a dog’s life was saved through rescue and adoption and that I can have a part in that wonderful work.

I also support such organizations by donating a percentage of my book sales to them. Because pet rescue and adoption are my passions, and because I write inspirational dog stories for children and adults, I named my business, Waggin’ Tales. I therefore associate rescue endeavors with my writing and speaking business, so it’s only logical to “tithe” part of my earnings back to groups who do such great work – saving and helping companion animals.

Best Friends SignMy husband and I recently spent time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, located in southwestern Utah. The organization began more than 30 years ago with a few couples who shared a common vision: ending the killing of healthy dogs and cats by saving lives through medical treatment and procedures and through adoption. To say these people had purpose, passion, and perseverance is an understatement! Now, more than 30 years later, they are growing, with offices and adoption centers in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and soon New York City. Best Friends impacts and empowers a movement. Through their endeavors and services, individuals and organizations can take part in conferences and educational workshops to grow or begin their own pet rescue groups, rippling the effect and mantra of “No More Homeless Pets” and “No Kill.” While at the site last weekend, I volunteered at Cat World – I spent time playing with and loving on several cats in need of new homes, and even walked a cat on a leash on the sanctuary grounds and took two others on strolls through the woods in baby/cat buggies! The day was filled with sunshine, blue sky, and twittering birds, appealing to both me and the cats! I definitely plan to return and volunteer again one day – and for a longer stretch than I was able to do last weekend!

Chet Cat in Buggy_smallerAs writers, we are able to make an impact, and coupled with our words, our actions and our deeds can influence positive change. Just as the founders of Best Friends, and the countless others who are involved in pet rescue have helped reduce the killing/euthanasia of healthy animals from 17 million during the 1970s to about 5 million today, we can all work together for the good of humanity and all of creation. Yet, as with that 5 million number, we can still do much better – and together, bonded by a common cause, purpose and passion, we will. But, to make that happen we need to inspire others: not yell, name-call, spit, and hate, but bind together in unity, as people who share a planet with each other and with animals.

Today I’m speaking with two groups of students at a private school. I’ll be talking about how humans interact with the environment and how we share things in common with nature and pets (the needs for food, water, and shelter, for example). I’m looking forward to hopefully positively influencing these kids because they are the tomorrow’s decision-makers … as well as influencers upon their peers and their families right now. I want these kids to know and appreciate the beauty of nature, the intelligence and sweet companionship of pets, and to appreciate both. I hope I can make that impact upon them… and on others in the future.

That impact can be upon strangers, our families, friends, even our pets. Our dog Cody became very ill the day prior to our scheduled leaving SW Utah. We rushed home (as rushing as one can do on a 13-hour drive) and got him into our vet the next morning. We’ve since learned CoCody at Best Friends_smallerdy has a mass on his spleen — not operable at age 17 1/2, so it’s just a matter of time. Cody has been our dog for nearly eight years, and though somewhat plagued with health issues, especially after about age 14, I believe Greg and I have made a positive impact on his life, especially to have lived this long — mCody_Porchany dogs don’t make it to 17+. We will continue to cherish and spoil him for as long as he is with us. Perhaps taking him to Best Friends and having this one last big adventure, will provide that big doggie smile til the very end.

How do you stir up and use your passions to influence positive change in your community, your state, your region, this country and/or around the world? Writers give voice through words on a page and from chapters in their own lives – add the written word to actions and you, too, can instigate a major movement for the common good!

Gayle and Chet Cat_Buggy_Best FriendsGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, and for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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What’s Next?

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

The blue-gray and black Great Dane stretched his large head and giant body from the back seat of my car, as he looked through the rear window of my Subaru Outback. I had just driven away from the home he’d known for the past week, being fostered for an Denver-based organization called Big Dogs Huge Paws. “Blue,” as he was called, was headed for a new home in Montana and I was his ride from a Denver suburb to Casper, where he stayed a few days while awaiting transport to Billings, Montana. Helping dogs go into rescue or go to their new homes is something I thoroughly enjoy, and since I like to travel, transporting dogs for rescue groups fits me to a tee. Yet, like Blue the Great Dane, most rescue animals are nervous about what is happening to them; I am sure they wonder, “What’s happening? What’s next?”

What took me to Denver to begin with earlier this month is also a “what’s next?” story. A dear friend, someone I’ve known more than 30 years, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just before Thanksgiving. His surgery took place in a Denver hospital the end of December, and he and his wife were staying at an Aurora hotel after he was released from the hospital following a second surgery. I spent time with them during a weekend in mid-January, learning more about the disease and various scenarios of prognosis. My friends planned to stay at the hotel for a few weeks, meeting with the surgeon and other doctors to learn “what’s next?” It’s a scary, uncertain time for them, and it’s been a scary, uncertain time for Blue … and other rescue dogs I’ve known.

baseball_pitcherLife throws curve balls. Whether at an animal that’s lost it’s home for some reason; a bad health report like my friend; a dip in finances due to lack of work as my husband and I experienced last spring; or some other experience we go through – these curve balls trip one off balance, much as a pitcher tries to do to a batter in baseball. We can’t always control what happens to us in life, and when those curve balls are hurled at us, we wonder “what’s next?”

As writers we often come to a point where we don’t know what’s going to happen next to our characters. We can take scenarios from life and throw those at the characters, being the “pitcher” in the story we’re creating. In the pet rescue children’s story I’ve been working on for the past few years (shelved due to the “curve balls” of other writing endeavors such as the magazine article wave that hit me in 2014) Jasmine, my primary dog character, doesn’t know “what’s next” when the owner she’s known for years abandons her; when she is taken into rescue; when she is transported from place to place on her way to her new forever home – just as many of the rescue animals I work with don’t know “what’s next?” As I’ve written the children’s story, at times I wasn’t sure where the story/the character was going next, even though the story is based on a true rescue account. I didn’t know exactly what happened to the real Jasmine after she was abandoned and before she went into rescue, so I created scenes which would be as near to fact as possible (such as after her puppies are born, she has to protect them from predatory coyotes). For characters in our stories, when we as authors are “stuck,” we can draft out potential scenarios, “what ifs,” and see how those possible pathways might play out for our characters, an “if this then that” plot outline.

Jazmine Transport

Doing a “character study” is also valuable. Asking questions of your character(s) helps you get to know them. Here’s a link to a Writer’s Digest article about questions to ask of your characters: http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/novel-writing-10-questions-you-need-to-ask-your-characters. Delving more deeply into our character(s) can help sort out the question “What’s next?” for them and for the entire story.

Although we dream and plan for the future in real life, we really don’t know what tomorrow holds. However, as writers we can plot out the tomorrows for our story and its characters, sometimes with a few curve balls thrown in for good measure (just as happens in real life) to generate a page-turning story. So, what are your hopes for “what’s next” in your writing life? In your current story in progress? May the curve balls that come your way help you to hit a home run, in real life and in your stories!

baseball_batter

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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To the Rescue! Part 1

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

 

On Sunday I helped rescue: I transported a dog for English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America (Rocky Mountain chapter – there are chapters across the country) to his new, although temporary home. I have served as a transporter for various dog rescue organizations for nearly six years, primarily helping Springer Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws (based in Colorado), but I have also transported for Black Dog Animal Rescue (based in Cheyenne, Wyo.) and I’m on the contact list for at least two other groups. I find great satisfaction in helping dogs go from neglect or other difficult situations into new homes, whether those are caring foster homes (temporary) or their loving, permanent homes.

I transported Pepsi, a springer/beagle mix, on Sunday; he had lived with the same family for more than seven years but was kept outside most of his life and the people spent very little time with him; he’s now in foster care with a friend of mine here in Casper. Last year I transported Boone, a senior beagle who found his forever home in Yellowstone Park with an middle-aged couple. And, more than four years ago, I helped Jazmine, a Great Pyrenees mix, get to her new home with a family in Calgary, Canada. Each dog has a story, and I am now a chapter in their life stories – that makes me very happy!

Jasmine2

Pepsi_Car

 

 

 

Jazmine

Pepsi

This month is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, celebrated and recognized around the country by animal shelter and rescue groups. Many such organizations reduce their adoption fees or at least take the opportunity to bring greater awareness to the plight of animals in need of loving homes. While touring Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary last month, I learned the startling statistic of how many animals die in kill shelters throughout this country. Even though I was aware of the annual statistic (3-4 million), the tour guide bravely broke it down to how many every day: 9,000. NINE THOUSAND dogs, cats, and other creatures (bunnies, guinea pigs, birds) DIE EVERY DAY in kill shelters. Yet, Americans shell out billions of dollars every year – in fact, more than $55 billion! – for their pets: food, vet bills, treats, toys, beds, clothing… Americans who love their pets REALLY LOVE their pets to spend billions of dollars every year on them. That’s so cool! Yet, we let 9,000 die every day in kill shelters. That’s very sad and to me, intolerable. It’s estimated that only 35% of pets in shelters are adopted – why do we think an animal is LESS THAN because it’s in rescue or a shelter? The fact is the #1 reason why animals are at those places is because of their human, not because of the animal; the #1 reason people give for giving up their pet is “I’m moving.” Yet, they move with their child, their car, their furniture … and leave their pet behind.

Best Friends has two significant campaigns: No Kill and No More Homeless Pets. Since October is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, I think it’s a good time to get on the #NoMoreHomelessPets/#NoKill bandwagon and encourage dog adoption. So, I’m taking the stage with this post and asking my friends to join in. Tweet, Facebook, and tout however you can: #NoKill! #NoMoreHomelessPets! #AdoptaDog! #AdoptDon’tShop!

Boone_YellowstoneBoone singing in Yellowstone!

 

Even if you can’t adopt a dog, cat, rabbit, or other homeless pet, there are many things a person can do to help. Like me, you can transport, or you can donate supplies or volunteer. More about such ways in my next post.

I’ve volunteered and I’ve worked for animal shelters off and on for more than 20 years. Pets are my passion, and I do whatever I can to help. I’m fortunate – I’m a writer, so I can weave my passion into my writing. Whenever I have a book event, I always donate a percentage of sale proceeds to a local or regional animal welfare organization, and I will continue to do so. I’ve participated in animal events as a vendor, selling books and donating back to the group, and I will continue to do that as well.

The dogs’ stories of which I’ve played a part are playing a part in my current writings. I am working on two books that involve dog rescue: an educational/awareness book about dog rescue for children and families – that book idea sprouted from my encounter with Jazmine – and a romance story involving dog rescue (I imagine the hero of my story will rescue the heroine, or vice-verse!). Again, I’m weaving my writing with my passion for pets, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these stories come together. Also, I’ve written articles for our local paper on the various animal welfare groups and I hope to do more such stories in the future. I also write a pet column for different publications and I’ve written for online blogs, including my own pet blog. To me, pet rescue and adoption are vital, for communities, for the animals, and for people, and I’m happy to share my knowledge and passion with others.

How about you? Do you have some type of “rescue” as part of your stories? Or do animals play a role in your books?

Next time, Part 2: Things we can all do to help the animal groups in our area, even if we can’t adopt one.

Learn more companion animal statistics at this website: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics.

 

Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines and for the Casper Journal newspaper. She pens a pet column for the Douglas Budget and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She volunteers with several pet rescue and animal welfare organizations, and a percentage of proceeds from her book sales are donated to these groups. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

 

 

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