A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pizza Girls!

On June 16 some boys in a rough part of West Oakland were spotted throwing rocks at two little homeless kittens.
Fortunately, the person who spotted them - and saved the kittens - was Ronald Spann, a volunteer with Island Cat Resources and Adoption, which rescues homeless felines in Alameda and Oakland.
If the cats are too old to change their ways, they are vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and returned to their colonies, where they live out their lives under the eyes of ICRA volunteers.
But most homeless kittens, like these two, make great pets, so they are placed in new homes after being socialized first.
ICRA doesn't have a shelter, which is its greatest asset. It means every kitten is placed in a foster home, where it's loved and snuggled until it learns to trust people and become the happy, playful kitty it was always meant to be.
Some ICRA foster families have kids, so kittens fostered with them do well when placed in homes with children.
Others have adult cats, so kitties fostered there do great in homes that already have resident felines.
Still other homes have dogs, so kittens fostered there tend to be dog-friendly.
That's what happened to these two kittens. After being rescued by Spann, they were fostered by Jody McKevitt of Alameda and her Rottweiler, Keeper.
It's impossible to overstate Keeper's devotion to her little girls. Every night she'd insist on sleeping underneath their kitty condo, and every day she's play with them and keep a constant vigil to make sure they didn't wander off.
Under her guidance, the kittens blossomed into mischievous little love bugs.
Unfortunately, Keeper was dying of cancer. As she got weaker and weaker, she slowly lost interest in her favorite pastimes, such as going for walks or even eating. But whenever she heard the kittens crying her head would perk up, and she'd do her best to comfort them.
Keeper died on July 17. She was humanely euthanized near her beloved kittens.
After her death they went to the home of another ICRA foster mom, Gail Churchill, where her Golden Retriever, Rosie, took up where Keeper left off.
When she was in a calm mood she let them climb all over her and play with her feet. When she was feeling playful, she'd gently roll them across the floor with her nose. If they started nipping at her paws, she'll glance up at Churchill with a look that said, "Mommy, help!" But she still let them do it.
Finally, last weekend the kittens were ready to be adopted.
And the person who adopted them was me.
Because they were born around the time I was attending my college reunion in New Haven, I decided to name them Pepe and Sally, after the two iconic pizza parlors in downtown New Haven, Pepe's and Sally's, where I misspent so many of my college days.
As I write this, the pizza girls are happily chasing each other around the bedroom. They are incredibly cute and incredibly sweet, and I owe it all to Spann, McKevitt, Churchill, Rosie and, of course, Keeper.
If you'd like to adopt an ICRA cat, or if you'd like to volunteer or donate to their lifesaving work, visit www.icraeastbay.org.
Tell 'em Keeper sent you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

You Go, Girls!

Well, the Olympics are over, and the big winner is. . . Betty Friedan!
Never before have so many American stars been women, from Kerri Walsh and Misty May to the U.S soccer team to the Fabulous Five. What we're witnessing is the full fruition of Title IX, forty years later.
And we're a better country for it. Instead of utilizing only half our population, now we can draw on the whole talent pool. And athletics are just the tip of the iceberg.
So who was the biggest male star? With respect to Michael Phelps, it's Usain Bolt's world, and the rest of us are just living in it.
I don't mean to denigrate what Phelps accomplished, but his medal count tells only part of the story. Unlike Phelps, Bolt could compete in only three races. But in a sport where the finishers are usually separated by fractions of an inch, he crossed the finish line yards ahead of his challengers.
So who were the biggest losers? It's a tie between NBC and the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC loses for refusing a moment of silence in memory of the Israeli athletes who were murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
At a meeting with the athletes' families, IOC Chairman Jacques Rogge lamely explained, "There are now more than 40 Arab delegations…my hands are tied" - to which one of the widows replied, "Your hands were tied? No. My husband's and his teammates' hands were tied. Also their feet. To the furniture. Then they came home in coffins."
As for NBC, how come it took them eight hours to bring us images 3,000 miles from London when NASA was able to deliver images 250 million miles from Mars in less than twice the time?
NBC was following a model invented in the 1960s, which assumed people are too busy at work to watch events live during the daytime, so give them a package of reruns disguised as live coverage during prime time.
That might have worked back then, but not in this age of the Internet.
I also hated the exclusive concentration on American athletes. One of the chief pleasures of the Olympics is identifying with people all over the world. (Remember how we all fell in love with Olga Korbut in 1972?)
So why did NBC broadcast only the American medal ceremonies? Mo (short for Mohammed) Farah, running for Britain, won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. He's become a national hero, which is causing a real cultural change: Brits aren’t used to rooting for people named Mohammed.
So I would have loved to see how the crowd reacted when they played "God Save The Queen" at the medal ceremony. But we never got a chance.
Finally, don't believe all the Olympic hype. For instance, which ancient Greek came up with the torch relay and the Olympic flame? Pericles? Socrates? Alcibiades?
Answer: None of the above. It was Joseph Goebbels, who invented it for the 1936 Nazi Olympics.
And the Marathon: 26 miles, 385 yards. That's the distance from Marathon to Athens, right?
Wrong. It's the distance from Windsor Castle to Wembley Stadium in London. For the 1908 Olympics, King Edward VII wanted his grandchildren to be able to watch the start of the race from their nursery.