Tuesday, December 18, 2012


I haven't been blogging a lot.  I have been overwhelmed with getting the holiday organized and packing up to go to Perth for Christmas.  It has been 8 years since I have had Christmas in Australia and all of my siblings, their children and my parents are here with me.  The weather is divine and we are all thrilled to have the next three weeks together.

I am now on the other side of the world but my heart is still breaking for Sandy Hook.  It is not something you can leave behind. Everyone here is very sad for those affected by the grave atrocity. I wake up and still am in denial that this happened.  I just can't comprehend the horror of it. The devastating heartbreak is just too much.

Now I am trying to concentrate on being in the moment.  I don't want to move on. And I want to truly appreciate every moment I am here.

This is my beautiful niece Cezanne who is 3 years old and our little joy.  She is extremely loving and her older cousins adore her.

We woke up early this morning (4:30am) and went to the beach.

Claire had been craving sausages and toast from this breakfast place on the beach...so we went.

It is extremely relaxing here.  Claire has spent time explaining to her aunty how to use Instagram.

Tristan has been playing  Minecraft with his cousin, Hugo. ( I know...surprise, surprise)

Mostly we have been sitting about enjoying each others company.

We did run out to visit the Little Hug Workshop to get some card making supplies and reconnect with long time family friends.  Jan suggested I try a game with the children she used to play with her students as an art teacher.  I will write a blog about it as soon as I trial it as it is an art game that     reminds me of instant challenges in Destination Imagination.  We bought some beautiful cards and had a delicious lunch before coming home to friends. 

....and found (by the way) the largest paperback I have ever seen.

Each day goes so fast in Australia.  I can't appreciate the seconds enough.  I am cherishing this time....and did I mention that I saw dolphins in the Swan river out of the window as I was having my morning coffee?  Yes I did....

Friday, December 7, 2012


About a month ago, driving home from a piano lesson, Claire's phone rang.  I was listening in and she was going on and on about how she had fallen in love with the (terribly sad) story of this dog that was slated for euthanasia the next day and how she would love to rescue her.  I thought we were done for the year, having reached her goal of rescuing 10 dogs.

This poor dog, a Pitbull has scars on her face and neck, missing and broken teeth, was heart worm positive and emaciated.  She had been overbred and was perhaps even pregnant.  Everything in my body was screaming "no!", but I was hearing my girl gush with excitement and compassion for this poor dog and I held my tongue.  I had 10 solid reasons not to rescue this dog.   My husband had another 10.  He was very concerned about having a bait (?) dog in the house and exposing her to other children.

We had some intense discussions at home.  Claire was sure she could find a home for her and that we could rehabilitate her.  She would raise money to cover the vetting and she could learn about bait dogs and Molly could be an ambassador for educating people about dog fighting.  Claire wants people to know how wonderful most PItbulls are.

Molly arrived late Sunday night in the rain.  We bathed her and settled her into her crate.  She was very happy to be out of the truck and tired after her recent spay and heart worm treatment.  We just let her rest.  The next day she was off to the vet for a physical.  She had a lump looked at on her leg (hopefully a cyst or lipoma, not cancer) and 5 of her teeth need to be pulled.  It seems she may have spent her life in a crate as a breeder.  She may have been a bait dog however she only has scars on her face and neck not her whole body, so maybe she was just in a fight. She also has nerve damage to one eye which makes her tear as both eyes don't blink at the same time.  Quite a history!

But most of those issues will be resolved in a month or two and she will be ready to go to a family (or stay with us).  George adores her.  She is a very quiet dog.  I have never heard her bark and she loves making her crate cozy and surrounding herself with stuffed animals, and sleeping on them.  She is gentle and cuddly inside and outside she comes alive.  She loves the smells and newness of being outside. She wants to smell, mark and explore nonstop.  It is like a whole new world to her.

We have a family very interested in meeting her.  And we are determined to find her a loving home.  She has such unconditional love and is always cheerful despite what she has been through. and despite my initial misgivings, I think she will make a wonderful family dog.

Molly sees a trainer

You might know that Claire is an avid fan of Dogtown, a TV show about how an animal sanctuary in Utah rehabilitates their dogs and finds them forever homes.  One of the dog trainers on the show is Pat Whitacre who works at Pets Alive, an animal sanctuary in Middletown, New York.   Claire  had emailed him a few weeks back and set up a meeting so she could learn how to assess dog behavior (from the best!) and have Molly (her recent Pitbull rescue) tested to make sure she was safe to put with a foster family with children.

Claire was buzzing with excitement on the way there as she often dreams of visiting animal sanctuaries and she was excited to get ideas for her own project.

Pat explained in detail his philosophy about assessing dogs.   For our purposes he was testing to see how Molly would likely react to strangers doing typical human activities around her. He wanted to find out if Molly was food aggressive or could handle her mouth being opened, hugged or put in a crate. Reactions generally range from wanting the trainer to repeat the action to being submissive or growling to an attack.  Molly showed no aggression whatsoever with her responses ranging from friendly to a little shy.  Pat thought she was a very sweet dog that showed no signs of being a danger to a family with children.  It was a great learning experience.  I filmed a little and Pat told us some wonderful stories.

This sanctuary has up to 200 cats at a time!  They live in a house with has furniture, carpeted rests and pillow beds everywhere.  The cats looked so peaceful and happy.  I have never seen so many cats in one spot.  It was extraordinary.  I am used to seeing cats in metal cages in animal control facilities but this place seemed like cat paradise.  Almost like a retirement home for cats.  It didn't smell and it was quiet and calm.  We took Molly in there to see how she would react to cats.

Pets Alive has a different set up for their dog runs than Dogtown.  Claire could have spent hours there.  She already has a pretty fixed idea of the facility she eventually wants to set up but it was wonderful to see how it was done here.

And I couldn't resist taking a picture of the bus!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


We have been waiting for months for Claire's Wicked concert in New Canaan.  She has been practicing the songs non stop over the last few weeks and awaited this evening with trepidation.  It is nerve wrecking singing in front of an audience.  She had to wear black and braid her hair.  She sang What is this Feeling? and part of some of the other tunes.  It was lovely to see her pushing herself out of her comfort zone.  I sat with her adoring grandparents and family and we went out for gelato and a special celebratory dinner afterwards.  She was beaming.

Tomorrow she is going into the city to see Wicked on Broadway with her grandparents.  It couldn't get much better than that!  

Tristan had fun too.  He loved her concert and managed to convince his dad to buy him two gelatos.  He even managed (not surprisingly) to find a screen!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Today a segment came out on Hooplaha about Claire and her animal rescue.

I am happy that she will have a record of all she has accomplished. She is at the beginning of her journey with Lucky Tails and I am excited to keep posting about her progress. So far she has found forever homes for 6 dogs, she has found 9 families to foster for her and has 4 (soon to be 5) dogs awaiting adoption.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Adoption event

Today Claire held her third adoption event at Choice Pet Supply in Danbury.  She took Danni and Boo (the puppy).  Both of these dogs are wonderful adoption candidates.  A few families were interested in the dogs and Claire found a new foster family.  Claire was particularly happy with the result as she now has 8 families who will foster for her.  Finding foster families is key to expanding the business as the more fosters you have the more dogs you can save.  Two new dogs Joseph and Brownie (Boo's female sibling) are arriving tomorrow from Georgia.   Once we get them off the truck, Claire will wash them and do some behavior testing on them.  She wants to know as much about them as possible before they go to their foster families later in the day.

Benji Boo 

Danni is my favorite dog.  I want to adopt her although I might have to battle to get her as her foster Mom loves her so much she doesn't want her to go to anymore adoption events and she is also planning to take her on vacation with them in December!

Dance and Kempo

Right now Tristan is preparing for his first dance battle.  He has a training schedule and 7 routines he has to prepare.  The routines are extremely physical and require strength and coordination.  He is trying his hardest.

Right now he is putting together his third round.  Battles are little tournaments.  Eight children between 7-10 will be selected to battle (out of all the children who register). Tristan is hoping he will be chosen to compete.  To be chosen children have to put together a showcase of moves.   If competing there will be three rounds where 2 routines are performed back to back.  They are knock out battles and there is strategy involved.

I will know more after I watch it.  Tristan is nervous. He looks up to his role model, Luis who is very serious about his dancing.  He is learning discipline and determination as the moves he is putting together are challenging and take a while to master. With only 13 days to go, we are counting down.

In other news, Tristan tested for his green stripe belt in Kempo today.  It was an exhausting test but he was determined to prove that he could do it.  He has been working hard with this new teacher and today I saw it paying off.

Grandparents, aunts and cousins were all there to cheer him on!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Camping at Two Coyotes

Last night I had the pleasure of accompanying my son on his overnight camping trip at Woodcock nature center.  He had been hiking all day and I arrived in the afternoon with the tent.  A quick hike into the woods to the camp site and 20 minutes later I was sitting in my tent wishing I had brought my lap top.  It was dark by 4:30 and pitch black by 5pm.  Temperatures dropped quickly to below freezing.  I decided in a sleeping bag was the best place to be.  I was allowed to come as the token female chaperone on the trip.  I listened to the children playing games, cooking around the campfire and the telling of Native American stories.

The children were in bed early. I wish I could say I got a good night sleep but I spent most of the night dreaming about my own bed at home and wishing I was in it.  I am a softie after all, but it was a nice memory.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Minecraft Project

Tristan has been working on his project for Huckleberry Hill.  He loves playing Minecraft,  a computer game where you can place blocks to create anything you can imagine.  For those of you who haven't come across it yet here is a little explanatory video.

You generate seeds (like little countries) which are covered in resources.  You build shelters, mine, plant crops, build houses or anything you like.  Tristan likes to explore the internet finding interesting islands that have been designed by other users.  He likes to download "mods" to change what things look like and what he can do.

Working with Minecraft gave Tristan an idea for a project.  He has been thinking about starting a computer club at our local library.  He wants to meet other kids to play games with, especially Minecraft.  In multiplayer mode many people can play in the same world.  He thought that he could meet other kids at the computer club and then play with them in the virtual world when they are not together.  He could also share ideas for building, servers and mods (and so on) and get ideas for other games.

To get started we used a mind mapping app called Simplemindsfree. It is an easy to use tool to organize thoughts and keep a record of your ideas.

Next we had a meeting with the children's librarian at the Wilton library and explained what Minecraft is.  Tristan thinks he can design a seed for the library.  On the seed he could "build" a virtual library (and the buildings in the vicinity of the library).  The librarian was enthusiastic about the idea.

To do this he needs to learn about servers.  The information he needs is available on Youtube! Yay for Youtube!   We watched these together and set up a server in our house. In our research we discovered that a library in a neighboring town has its own Minecraft server already.  We contacted that library and now have an expert to help us.

Designing a seed is a fun, creative process.  The first thing Tristan did was to take photos of the library from all angles.

The second thing was to use Google Earth to get a map of our town center to design the layout.

Next Tristan is going to use Google Sketchpad to try and create the library (the post office and Village Market ) in 3D.

This is a great project for Tristan as it has him out in the community creating something very meaningful for him.  I am happy that he will meet other children that share his interest and that he will know who he is playing with.

Tristan has a new blog called Ready Set Click also where he is documenting his progress.  He is 9 and active.  Progress is slow but as we continually come back to the project every week I am confident that he will get his little program off the ground.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Huge day for Lucky Tails

About a month ago I posted that Claire and her friend Marlin had decided at our weekly project based session to organize to bring dogs about to be euthanized in the South up to Connecticut.  This idea came about because it is hard to find a variety of breeds in the kill shelters in our area which are mainly filled with Pitbulls.  Many extremely adoptable dogs are euthanized on a daily basis in the South and these are dogs Claire feels confident she can find homes for.  She has also found that many of the dogs she has rescued in Bridgeport have health issues which are expensive to treat.  In order to cover expenses she needs to get donations and/or rescue some dogs from the South.  Any profit she can make from bringing dogs up can enable her to rescue more local dogs.

Claire has been researching kill shelters across the country.  She found an animal control agency in Georgia with a large selection of dogs and a very high kill rate.  This shelter also has an all volunteer rescue organization affiliated with it that Claire developed a relationship with.  Claire looks at the list of dogs that are about to be euthanized and asks for them to be pulled and vetted on her behalf.  They are put in foster homes in Georgia while they are in quarantine, recovering from surgery and awaiting transport. The dogs are then sent to Lucky Tails on a transport.

For her first transport she organized to have 6 dogs brought up.  Four of them arrived today, two are delayed with one recovering from heart worm treatment and the other from pneumonia.

Claire has done a great job building her foster network over the past few weeks.  She now has 8 families willing to foster dogs for Lucky Tails.  She is also becoming very adept in marketing, actively posting descriptions, pictures and videos of the dogs in the Lucky Tails network.  Even before the dogs arrived today, some families had already filled out and signed adoption agreements after pictures and descriptions were posted on PetFinder, Adopt-a-pet and Paws.   References had been checked and Claire saw pictures of the areas the dogs will be living in.  Some of the families came to the transport to pick their adopted puppies home. 

It was all so exciting.  Claire had been coordinating with the shelter, the transport company, the foster and the adoptive families for the pst few days.  She and Marlin spent last night organizing the paperwork, the crates, collars, tags etc... that would go with each dog.  They were prepared, knowledgeable and all their preparations paid off.  It all went very smoothly.  

 Excited adopting families and foster families!

This dog was in need of fattening up! We were a little worried about Danni.  She is a large dog but obviously very thin.  Addie (our vet) checked her when we got home. We took a stool sample to check again for parasites.  She looks healthy and once she was cleaned up we got to know her a little better.  She has obviously come from a good home.  She is calm with beautiful manners, house trained and can do a slew of tricks. She has a very gentle demeanor and would let us take bones out of her mouth.  She enjoyed playing with toys and fetch.  She also got along beautifully with the other dogs.  Tuggles was sad to see her leave with her foster family.  She is a great family dog.

The puppies were all especially cute, loving and sweet.  I haven't held a small puppy for a very long time.  Of course being babies they are going to be very high maintenance.  Most of puppies already have adoptions pending or serious interest.  Claire has been on the phone non-stop organizing all the details. All of the dogs that came today are with fosters.  Star, our cute black and white mini Pitbull mix, is going to her adoptive family tomorrow in New York.  It is going to be quiet here.

"I'll write to you!"

The day could not have gone better.