Saturday, September 8, 2018

To Save a Dog

One of the most heart breaking topics to explore, whether in magazines, newspapers, or on the web, for me has to be anything involving mistreatment of animals, especially dogs. Many of these articles deal with puppy mills and dog auctions, and more often than not, they are not easy reads.  Something compels me to read on, though., despite the heartbreaking words accompanied by horrifying pictures (I skip over them—just can’t look at those images.) Of course, it’s the dog lover in me who sticks with the article, on an endless quest to do anything in my power to stop animal abuse.  If you’re like me, you will, too.  But how can we be sure that what we do is really helping and not making the situation worse?  


Dog auctions have been going on for quite some time. Commercial dog breeders, sometimes referred to as puppy mills, bring hundreds of dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages to established auctions. Business is conducted just like at any other type of auction—the product, in this case, dogs, is brought to a table, and participants place bids until the highest bid is reached. Initially, most of the patrons bidding on dogs were breeders looking to add to their business. Rescue groups were rarely seen at auctions, and those who did attend were there to buy the dogs that breeders didn’t want. These were the dogs that had some sort of “imperfection” ranging from an overbite or irregular markings to health issues such as poor eyesight or heart murmurs, or just the fact that they were too old for further breeding. Often, these dogs were given to rescue groups who then got them needed medical care and found them homes. In other cases, rescuers were able to purchase these unmarketable dogs for a few dollars and take them to safe shelters where they were loved and nurtured and finally adopted. 

The landscape of dog auctions changed about ten years ago when more and more rescuers began showing up with a ton of cash and the intention of procuring as many dogs as possible. They raised the cash through donations from members of their rescue group and from online fundraising sites. Instead of just being able to buy the handful of dogs leftover after the auction, these cash-laden rescuers bid on hundreds of dogs, including puppies, pregnant females, and breeder-coveted dogs. They had the funds to successfully outbid breeders and oftentimes even other rescuers. Instead of paying a few dollars for a dog, they spent hundreds, and often even thousands, for a single dog with the stated intention of keeping it from a pet shop or disreputable breeder.


What began as a desire to truly rescue dogs from puppy mills and even euthanasia has turned into bidding wars at dog auctions. For many of us, just the thought of one single dog being unwanted, mistreated, or lonely tugs at our heartstrings, and most of us will do anything we can to prevent that. We open our hearts and our wallets if asked. Because of this, some rescue groups can raise the money they need to outbid almost every other bidder at dog auctions. Their own websites and social media outlets make it possible for them to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars and purchase multitudes of dogs. But what it has also done is provide a new and extremely lucrative way for puppy mills and auction houses to turn a profit. The money generated at one single auction, where hundreds of dogs are sold, has grown into six figures with a recent event in Missouri topping over half a million dollars. All of that money, minus the auctioneer’s fees, goes to these sellers—the commercial breeders—the puppy mills—the exact people we want shut down. Instead of making it hard for them, they are driven even more by the lure of mega bucks from a new source, rescue groups.


Those rescuers who raise the big money think they are. When confronted with the sad reality that for every one dog they save, hundreds more will suffer, they still believe they are slowing down commercial breeding.

Others, including many rescue groups, think not. The state of Missouri is home to the two largest dog auctions in the country, and the number of dogs sold and the amount of cash generated at each sale has skyrocketed. Commercial breeders have stepped up their operations in order to meet this new demand. Indeed, the participation of rescuers at dog auctions has created a new money source for commercial breeders and sometimes even a new supply chain for puppy buyers.


Many of us just can’t sit back and allow animals to endure the horrific environments of puppy mills. We can’t get the images of abused and oftentimes sick dogs out of our minds. Those eyes. Those faces. They haunt us long after we’ve closed the magazine or shut the computer down. We want to do the right thing, not contribute to the problem, but we’re just not sure what that is. We must act, but knowing where to start is the hard part.  The best thing we can do is to be as informed as possible.  Readall we can—read about the offenders, read about the controversies, read about legislation. This topic is very much in the news right now, and there are hundreds of articles with useful information, from all sides. Search the web, visit a public library, go to a shelter, but by all means, read. Be prepared to have your heart broken, though. This won’t be pleasure reading. Talkto others—talk with rescue groups and listen to what their stance is. Talk with reputable breeders and learn about their process for vetting potential purchasers.  Talk with friends who love dogs with all their hearts, and let them hear your own thoughts.  Decide—make an informed decision and do what we know in our own hearts is the best possible way to protect dogs and help get them into safe, loving homes.


Christensen, Meghan.  “Dogs for Sale:  The Business of Dog Auctions.”  
Forbes.  24 April 2017.

Kavin, Kim.  “Dog Fight.”  The Washington Post.  18 April 2018.

Kretzer, Michelle.  “Scam Alert:  Some ‘Rescue’ Groups Are Buying Dogs from
            Auctions.”  Peta.  16 April 2018.

“Rescuers at Dog Auctions.” Paw or Change.  15 November 2016.

Solotaroff, Paul.  “The Dog Factory:  Inside the Sickening World of Puppy
            Mills.”  Rolling Stone.  3 January 2017.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

90 And Fabulous

My mom turns 90 years old this month.  NINETY.  I remember so vividly when my Grandpa Ivan, her dad, turned 90.  At the time I couldn't imagine my parents at that age.  As it turned out, my dad never reached that milestone, but Mom--reach it she has, and with such vitality and presence.  We've been celebrating all month long because turning 90 is a big deal. The party began with a big family weekend at Christmas Lake with all 35 loving family members present.  We've had small brunches and lunches and suppers, and we'll have another big celebration  at our traditional spot, Elway's, this weekend.  I wanted to step back from all the fanfare for a bit, though, and just focus on the amazing life my mom, Leola Mae Thompson, has led.

There are so many things I love about Mom, one of them being her artistic talent as a quilter.  Every one of us has at least one of her gorgeous creations, and in each block, each stitch, we feel her love caressing us.  I think the best way to really understand her life is to look at it like one of her quilts, block by amazing block.  

Block One--Daughter, Sister

Mom's quilt design began to form when she was born the first child of Ivan and Emily Jambor.  Indeed, Grandma Emily was a quilter, sewing together scraps of colorful fabric for her little family.    Mom and her little brother Larry grew up wrapped in the warmth of loving parents who valued hard work and education.  Mom excelled in school and graduated as valedictorian of her class of 1944.

Block Two--Working Girl

The backing for Mom's quilt can be found in her solid upbringing.  It influenced her greatly as she left home and began her college and working career.  Grandma Emily was a teacher her entire working years, so it was natural that Mom followed her footsteps.  She also worked in a downtown Lincoln office and loved the life of a single girl in a big city.  

Block Three--Bride and Young Wife
The design of a quilt is a personal choice, and Mom chose love and family over career.  She met my dad on a blind date and the quilt began to take shape.  They married on July 26, 1951, and together they built a life together, block after block.

Bock Four--Young Mother

With strong, even stitches, Mom and Dad brought six children into the world.  They moved from Lincoln to Alliance, and it was there that they made their home.  Mom chose staying home and being with her kids over a career, and we all loved knowing she was always there waiting for us, whether coming home from school or practice or a game or even a date or movie.  

Block Five--Growing Family

Sometimes more fabric is needed as the blocks begin to take shape.  Mom and dad found their home beginning to empty out as kids graduated and went to college, yet the family grew as marriages brought new family members and love.

Block Six--Sorrow

Sometimes a quilt block doesn't quite fit in with the original plan, and adjustments have to be made in order to continue.  Mom didn't plan her block of sorrow, but way too early in her life she became a widow.  My dad's sudden and unexpected death in 1982 devastated all of us and shattered our lives.  Mom tightened up her stitches and became the force that kept us together.  The grieving process is long and hard and heart wrenching, and often the threads of her quilt frayed around this block, but she always put so much effort in fixing this part of her life.

Block Seven--Grandmother
"We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body."  Emerson

Dad took a big part of Mom's heart with him to Heaven. It was important for her to try and regain some of the joy that was missing.  Enter the grandkids--all nine of them!  Mom loves being a grandma and a great grandma, and these beautiful faces are the blocks that add the most color to her quilt.  She has always been there to make yummy treats or babysit for days at a time while busy moms and dads worked or to teach the fine points of crafting and sewing.  Almost all of the grandkids owe their love of coffee to her.  And every one of them has been comforted immensely in the loving lap of Grams.

Block Eight--Great Grandmother

Nine and soon to be ten angelic faces surround this quilt of love.  Grams has held each one in her loving arms.  They are the lucky ones--to have the opportunity to learn from and be loved by their great grandmother.

Block Nine--90 Fabulous Years!

Imagination, vision, hard work, patience, confidence, and love are all essential components of every quilt.  For 90 years, my mom has lived her life with these qualities front and center.  They have seen her through the Great Depression years that eventually resulted in her parents losing their farm.  They were with her when she began her life with my dad during the Fifties--a time of change with televisions and hula hoops and Elvis! The Sixties brought her color TVs and mini skirts and The Beatles.  She watched the Seventies roll in computers and microwave ovens and The Brady Bunch.  Then the Eighties ushered in VCRs and CDs and Cabbage Patch dolls.  Cell phones and the internet debuted in the Nineties.  What a joy and honor it was to ring in a new century with my mom as we counted down the seconds on 12.31.1999 and toasted with champagne at 12 a.m. on 1.1.2000.  Witnessing all this change only adds to the strength and beauty of this life.

On this eve of your 90th birthday, Mom, I want you to know how grateful I am that you're my mother.  The design of your life quilt is reflected so much in my own, from your love of books and newspapers and travel (but not your coffee obsessionšŸ˜„ ) to your nurturing love for your children and grandchildren, my favorite passions emerged--teaching English and being an aunt.  I can't imagine life without you as my mother and friend.  

Happy, happy 90th birthday, Mom--I love you so much!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  For your love, for your devotion, and for your life quilt that keeps us all warm and safe and forever loved.

with empty blocks just waiting for your next adventure!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Goodnight, Sweet Juliet

Almost a week has gone by since I had to say goodbye to my Sweet Juliet, and I'm still an emotional wreck.  She was twelve and nearing the upper end of the average lifespan for her breed, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  We knew that our time with her would come to an end eventually, but no matter how prepared I thought I was for that moment, it still hit like a ton of bricks.  I haven't felt such intense sorrow since my dad died in 1982.  Those who aren't dog lovers wonder what the fuss is.  It's just a dog, they say.  To that I say you couldn't be more wrong.  Jewel was so much more than "just a dog."  First and foremost,

Jewel was
A member of our family.  From the moment we brought her home, she belonged.  She loved our home and the homes of our families in Colorado, Nebraska, and Minnesota.  She loved when family came for visits, and she loved to visit them.  Jewel was there for every holiday, for celebrations, for get togethers, for evenings on the patio and snuggling in by the fire.  She unconditionally loved every member of the family--we were her whole world.

Jewel loved her Grandma so much.
Jewel and Grams

And her aunts
Jewel and her aunts

And uncles
Jewel with the guys

And cousins
Cousin love

And the Royal Babies
JuJu and The Royals

And Jess
JuJu and Jess--forever friends

And Jewel loved me
Jewel and me

Jewel was
A protector and comforter.  She watched over Grams and me at all times.  She walked by my side, never getting ahead of me--if she found herself a few steps in front, she stopped to wait for me.  She had a major fit whenever someone helped me up the stairs, so worried that I might get hurt.  She was a comforting presence to Mom and me--her spirit filled every room of our house.  She had her favorite spots to nap, and they all included a view of us.  The couch, the rug by the patio, the window seat, the rug in my room, and the hallway were her top choices, and it was always comforting to glance up and see her and hear her softly snoring (my favorite!)

Jewel was
A showstopper.  No matter where we took her, people would have to stop to pet her.  She loved it!  She loved everybody, whether it was her babysitter Leyna or the grocery carryout guy or the Sonic carhop or the customers at Pet Smart.
That face
Jewel was
A nature lover.  She loved to sit in the yard or on the patio and just watch nature unfold.  She gazed at the sky and the trees and the flowers.  And above all, she loved our walks around the neighborhood where she sniffed and rolled in the grass and owned the sidewalk.  We met so many people and dogs on our walks, and everyone came to know and love Jewel.
JuJu loving the world
Jewel was
a traveling girl, following her wanderlust.  Whether to Nebraska or a Colorado trip or a ride across town to Andy's in Wheat Ridge or a simple Sonic or car wash run, Jewel loved the car.  If we were in town, she rode on the console by my side or lay on her mat on the back seat for a snooze.  For out of town trips, in the kennel she went with no fuss whatsoever.  She even got to be in First Class on a trip to Minnesota!
packed up and ready to go
Jewel was
a prima donna.  She really was a girly girl--she loved to go to "the beauty shop" and all the groomers adored her.  She galloped  down my hallway, and when she was a puppy, she would stop every few feet and pirouette like a member of the Nutcracker.  She loved watching the Westminster Dog Show, cheering on her favorite each year.
Jewel the movie star

So you see, Jewel was never just a dog.  She was just . . .

my girl.
Julie girl

On February 2, Jewel began to decline in health.  On that day, she wasn't able to stand up for part of the day, and her breathing was off.  She came out of it that evening, and we hoped that it was an isolated episode.  That was not in her stars, however, and she steadily went downhill despite my many Hail Marys and fervent prayers for her to snap out of it.  It was clear by the following Friday that she would not, and we were going to need to make a deciison--her breathing was labored, she hadn't barked for a few days, she wasn't eating, and she had a few more instances of not being able to stand.  My prayers changed that night.  Dear God, I prayed.  If it's Jewel's time, please let her go naturally, or if that isn't your plan, please let me know when to let go.

As it was, He answered both prayers.

Saturday morning Jewel was worse.  She couldn't stand, and now she wasn't drinking.  She was on the couch but wanted to be on the rug by the patio door (she somehow actually jumped off the couch and walked there.)  I sat with her in the kitchen and just watched her.  Her breathing was so labored, and a river of tears streamed down my cheeks.  I knew then that it was time.  Something wouldn't let me leave her, though.  I needed to go get dressed and call the vet, but I couldn't take my eyes off her long enough to do either.

At some point, her breathing got extremely fast, and I sensed that something changed.  And then

She looked into my eyes with so much love. 
She reached her paw toward me. 
She closed her eyes and then opened them half way.  
She closed her eyes again and took her last breath.

The moment was so peaceful, so loving, so bittersweet, and so very Jewel.

Lady Juliet Capulet Montague Thompson
February 20, 2006 - February 10, 2018
Forever Juliet

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ready to Remember the Song Birds in 2018

Each new year is a surprise to us.  We find that we had virtually forgotten the note of each bird, and when we hear it again, it is remembered like a dream . . .  Thoreau

There were so many times during 2017 that I really did forget the note of each bird.  All too often the resonance of the beauty of this world was muffled by National tragedies, instability in our government, scandals, sexual assault coming from those in positions of trust, and the loss of so much talent (again), especially one of my favorites, Gregg Allman. But it only took gentle reminders of all the goodness in this life to bring back the music.

I realized that when I sat down to write my Christmas letter.  I always try to highlight my year with words and phrases in the shape of a Christmas tree.  This year's looked like this--

The contents of this little tree drowned the cacophony coming from the outside world, starting with


Getting to see all eight of these pumpkins made my heart sing throughout 2017.  Ethan, Drake, Max, Madi, Lucy, Quinn, Archer, and Russell all have that Thompson blood running through them yet are unique and amazing in their own way.  They are the song birds of our family.

great nieces and nephews


Getting to see all nine of my nieces and nephews and their honeys brought more music to 2017.  Amy, Andy, Jill, Kyle, Micki, Adam, Jake, Nathan, and Gabe all have grown into beautiful and compassionate adults, and this aunt couldn't be prouder.

nieces and nephews


My brothers and sisters and their sweeties are the best siblings/friends a girl could have.  Seeing their gorgeous faces often during 2017 brought melodious harmony to my world,  always when I needed it most.

Brothers and sisters


We are so grateful to have our mom with us.  She brings strength and love to all of us, and constantly reminds us that in the midst of confusion, there is always a melody.  We can't wait to celebrate her 90 years of life in 2018.


Yes. it truly was!  For many reasons, like--

My niece Amy moved back to Colorado after living in San Francisco for the past twenty years, and having her and her sweet family just around the corner gives us all a sense of peace and harmony.  Welcome home, Ames!
Amy's home :)
And, my nephew Nathan and his bride celebrated their marriage with a weekend full of family, music, lots of dancing, and so much love!!
Christmas Lake Love
Lake time before the reception
We danced.  And danced.  And danced!
You can read more about the weekend here.


Crickets chirping at noon, darkness when it should be light, Venus bright and visible in the middle of the day, solar flares and coronas--all these things and more as I witnessed my first total solar eclipse.  Nothing else mattered that day.  Absolutely nothing.  You can read about this magical experience here.


With the support of my family, I made the decision to retire after 32 years as an English teacher.  Although the decision itself was easy, telling my students and colleagues was tough.  I waited until March to do it, and my announcement was met with gasps, questions, tears (tons from me!), memories, and finally hugs and good wishes.  I will write about all that in 2018, but for now, even though I miss teaching and all those incredible students, my dreamers,  I don't regret my decision one bit.  The time was right.  At times, I still feel like I am on an extended summer break and that I'll have to go back on a Monday morning, but the reality is that I don't!  I love Sunday nights without lesson planning and the dread of Monday mornings.  I love leisurely drinking my tea in the morning and reading the paper or emails before getting dressed for the day.  I love being available to go to dance recitals and school programs in the middle of the work week.  I love having much less stress in my life.  Yes, I love being retired!!
Announcements and parties

and more parties

There really was so much to be grateful for this year, and now I'm getting ready to bid adieu to 2017 and am eagerly looking forward to remembering, like a dream, the note of each bird in 2018.

Happy New Year, everyone!

and with my newly acquired low-stress status, my biggest decision to make as the clock approaches midnight is

Which book should I read next???

Perfect Christmas gifts