University of Florida Shelter Medicine Program

During the pandemic, I realized my heart was still very much in the animal welfare world and wanted to return to work in the field. I had already started the Library and Information Sciences masters program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison the semester before, but by fall of 2020 I knew I wanted to figure out a way to combine what I was learning at the iSchool with helping animals and get back into the animal welfare world.

So I did some internet searching and found the online masters certificate program at the University of Florida. What an awesome program! I started in spring 2021, taking one class each semester along with the one class I was taking in the iSchool program. The certificate program is five classes, and covers so much on progressive shelter management, from behavior to medical to One Health programming. It was 100% worth my time and was an invaluable education that I am now using as a board member and volunteer for Animal Friends Alliance, and with my work at Faunalytics as well.

I graduated this past semester from the program (Go Gators!). What an amazing experience! I encourage any folks out there who work or volunteer with a companion animal shelter or rescue to look into it. There is also a full masters program if you want to do a full dive into things. A great feature to note: they include the syllabus for each class publicly on their website, so if you cannot afford taking the classes you can at least see the books they recommend and check those out.

Not many good things came out of the pandemic, but I am so glad it helped me get back to where my true passion lies: helping the critters!

Miss Moneypenny

Beautiful, sweet Miss Penny. Penny passed away today, with my Mom and Dad by her side.

While I worked at the Wisconsin Humane Society, a puppy mill in Wisconsin was closing its doors and the shelter was able to take over and rescue all the dogs there. Penny was one of the over 1000 dogs who were being kept at this mill. At only about a year old, she had already had a litter, had ear and eye infections, and needed surgery on her knees to correct a deformity. Penny needed a safe place to be while going through surgery recovery, so I brought her home to my parent’s house for her to recoup. Miss Penny never went back!

Penny was such an odd dog – she didn’t understand a lot of the things that one would think is inherent for pups. She would sniff the end of a vacuum cleaner, preferred to pee on concrete over grass, laying in direct sunlight and overheating herself (with shade available… she just never moved into the shade…), and her favorite toys usually were just pieces of plastic (like bottle caps). Her favorite toy, though, was her “mouse” toy (actually a cat toy…), which is literally just a piece of fabric tied to a play fishing pole. She loved to chase and catch the “mouse” – and once she caught it, you could actually lift her up off the ground her hold was so strong. She caught a few real mice in her day, too… most likely her most favorite moments.

Penny was such an easy going pup who loved people, and was always so happy. I affectionately called her our ditzy cheerleader since she was always happy, but didn’t appear to be the smartest of dogs. When she was super excited, she had her own dance where she would rock side to side, jumping from one front foot to the other. But Penny was not much of a barker – things had to be REALLY exciting to get her to let out a single bark! My Dad loved trying to get her riled up enough for a bark, and I don’t think I ever heard her bark more than a handful of times. My favorite nickname for her is Princess Penny. It suited her well.

My Montague loved Miss Penny, and they were good buddies. When we first brought Penny home, Monty jumped the pet gate to give her one of his favorite toys. Penny and Gizmo of course were also best buds their entire lives. They went on so many fun adventures in the car with my parents, most recently getting to kayak at the local lakes. Ice cream cones had to be shared, but Penny made the most of it with BIG licks (okay, they were chomps!). Such good buddies, Gizmo even saved Penny from a coyote a few years ago. They were the best of friends. Part of me thinks Penny missed Gizmo and wanted to be with him again. I’d like to think they are together again, going on walk adventures, laying in the sun, eating ice cream, and snuggling up together.

I last saw Penny in Chicago when Mom and Dad drove down to see my rehearsal for Geek Bowl. Gizmo and Penny hung out in the car, but we did get to walk around a little bit at Navy Pier. I can’t believe I won’t get to pet her super soft fur on her floppy ears, or sit with her on the couch to just hang out again.

Give Monty, Loki, and Gizmo my love, Miss Moneypenny. I love you so much and know you will be forever missed ❤


Oh, little man. Gizmo passed away this morning with his sister, Penny, and Mom and Dad by his side. When we came back from Mexico for Lucas and Petra’s wedding, I went to work at the Wisconsin Humane Society and found this adorable terrier/chihuahua mix on the adoption floor. I called Dad and he came in to meet the little man – when Dad sat down on the floor, Gizmo crawled into his lap and settled in. He had found his person.

We did an out and about and he never went back.

The beginning wasn’t easy! Earning the nickname El Diablo, Gizmo was known for running away from the house every chance he got, and biting everyone (except for Mom!). He even bit Loki, his favorite cat friend, for sniffing at his food. But a few months of love and letting his neuter surgery do it’s work, and Gizmo became the happy, loving Schmo we all know and love.

Gizmo turned out to love cats, Loki especially, and babies. We also learned he knew some Spanish and must have lived in a Spanish speaking household before he was found as a street dog. He had street smarts (unlike his sister, Penny) and would be found under cars or in the shade when hanging out outside.

He was the protector of the home – sounding the alarm at ANY noise, especially when Dad was away and Mom needed protecting. ANY. Noise. Even ones that we couldn’t hear. He also loved to snuggle, and would tell you when it was bed time.

Gizmo was the best little buddy. My heart is breaking that I won’t get to snuggle up with him again. I last saw him in Chicago when Mom and Dad drove down to see my rehearsal for Geek Bowl. Gizmo and Penny hung out in the car, but we did get to walk around a little bit at Navy Pier.

The greatest Chihuahua I have ever known. I love you and will miss you so dearly, Gizmo. Say hi to Loki and Monty for me. ❤

Stop Releasing Balloons

Balloons do not go to heaven. They land in the ocean and choke sea turtles, and the ribbons entangle birds.  Many times, they end up on a beach as litter.  Even the “biodegradable” kind can hurt animals before they have a chance to disappear.  Animals far from the ocean, such as horses, have been hurt and killed by balloons (they eat them when they land in their hay or they get spooked and bolt).
Some balloons have started fires when they got entangled in power lines.  Balloons blow.  Don’t let them go!  Please share.  Also, remember sky lanterns also are horrible for the environment.  They have set homes, power lines, trees, and buildings on fire.  Sky lanterns can also entangle an animal even if it is marketed as “biodegradable.” There are many safe alternatives to releasing litter into the air, such as planting a tree for your loved one and watching it bloom, or blowing bubbles into the air.
Thanks for looking into alternatives to releasing balloons and sky lanterns into the air.  The animals and environment thank you!  🙂


This was sitting in my drafts!  What a tragedy I never published it, so here we are. 🙂  I bought a house almost four years ago now – and I love it!015309644_640x480Yep, I bought a house.  It honestly feels rather strange to finally be able to say that.  This has been a dream of mine for years, and something I have worked towards most of my adult life.  The process to buy a house has take me a lot longer than I thought it could ever take.  But, here I am.  A Homeowner!

The process was definitely not for the faint of heart.  Here is just a snapshot of what it took to get here:

  • Start Date:  met with my Realtor February 19.  End Date:  closed August 24.
  • I put in 15 offers before I was accepted.  15.  That fifteen contracts signed, fifteen bank pre-approval letters I needed to hunt down, and fifteen cover letters I had to write, pouring my heart out for houses I fell in love with.
  • Of those fifteen, four of those houses I truly loved.  So, that’s three complete heartbreaks of thinking I found “the one” and learning the sellers didn’t agree.



2016-08-24 13.37.26-1

But now I have my own home!  It is something I am so proud of, especially since I did it as a single woman.  Girl Power!  I love my home, and can’t wait to make it my own.

The Teacup Pig Scam

Teacup pigs, also known as miniature pigs, have been all the rage for the last decade or so.  But… The problem is, there is no such thing as a teacup or miniature pig.  The closest a healthy potbelly pig can get to “miniature” size are Vietnamese potbelly pigs, and they typically weigh 100-200 pounds.  Not so teacup, right?

Breeders are taking these poor potbelly pigs, underfeed them so they don’t grow to their natural full size, and make sure the mom pig is not fully grown when they breed her.  This way, underfed, not fully grown pigs look a lot smaller.  But it is, of course, very cruel.  It also decreases these poor pig’s life expectancy.  And a lot of folks who are tricked into getting these pigs usually are upset when their new pet gets a lot bigger than planned so they give them up to shelters.

So now shelters are overrun with potbelly pigs who have been mistreated, malnourished, and looking for a loving home.  But, shockingly, there are not as many people looking to have a pig that weighs more than them.  If you are thinking of getting a new pet, though, please consider these wonderful pigs!

Pigs are super fun, friendly, and SMART!  I had the honor of working with the pigs at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and those guys were picking up on the clicker training faster than any dogs I have worked with.  I can’t wait to get a pair of pigs myself!

To learn more about “teacup” pigs, and their plight, please visit Best Friends’ website here.

Thanks and Oink!

Help The Animals During the Pandemic

It is a crazy time, and I hope everyone is checking in with their friends and family so we can all feel connected during this isolating time.  A lot of people and businesses are going to suffer due to this pandemic, especially nonprofits, and especially animal welfare organizations.  While an outbreak of a new disease is occurring, people are panicking and leaving their animals at shelters… and the number of adoptions is going down (or is down to zero because the shelters are having to close).  This equals shelters being overrun with homeless animals.

There are several ways you can help, though!  Reach out to your local animal shelter and see how you can help them.  Want a quarantine friend for life?  Adopt!  Looking for a short term quarantine friend?  Foster!  Love animals, but can’t take one in right now?  Donate!  Animal shelters all over the world are hurting right now, and that means animals are going to be hurting, too.  Please, adopt, foster, donate… help however you can!

And do know, there is no proof that animals can transmit the virus to humans.  You can keep your pets and everyone will be safe.  And you can bring in new pets… you will all still be safe!  More information about that here from the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine.

Please help if you can.  And be safe – stay away from large groups, don’t go out if you really don’t have to.  And do check in on your friends and family, and those around you who may be at a greater risk.  We all need to step up and help each other to make sure the best outcome happens.

Go get a foster to snuggle with during all this, and cheers, friends.

Turning Off Your Car At Train Stops

Last night as I was driving home from choir practice, the not so very rare sound of a train approaching blared.  Fort Collins seems to have a well-earned reputation of trains coming through town and stopping traffic in its tracks.  Growing up in the countryside of Wisconsin, I am no stranger to long, slow trains.  And thanks to that I am no stranger to the concept of turning the car off when stuck at a train.  However, I have noticed that those around town here in Fort Collins don’t seem to know to do this.

So!  If you find yourself stuck at a train, please turn your engine off!  It’s better for the environment, better for those around you, and better for your car.

Volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society

For almost 10 years, it has been a dream of mine to visit and volunteer at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah.  They are a revolutionary animal sanctuary that has changed animal welfare in this country, and are the driving force to the entire country being no kill.

When work was taking me to Las Vegas last winter, the opportunity presented itself for my mom to join me a few days earlier to finally visit and volunteer at Best Friends.

We volunteered with the pigs at Marshall’s Piggy Paradise for our morning shift.  We helped prepare their morning meals, and then headed out to distribute their food.  Getting to meet all those fun characters was a blast!  Then, Mom and I were honored and lucky enough to be asked to do clicker training with two lovely, under-socialized piggies, Chester and Smokey.  Chester was much more brave, but both had great progress and really will do anything for an almond!

The afternoon shift was with the dogs in “The Garden” of Dogtown.  We took two dogs out at a time, walking Bolt, Smokey, Dorothy, and Cisco.  The walking path is really nice and has spots to stop and snuggle with your walking buddy if they want.  Most of the pups we walked were more about sniffing than cuddling, although Bolt did sneak in a few kisses.

Our first day of volunteer shifts proved to be muddy, a little chilly, and incredibly fun.

Best Friends lets volunteers do sleepovers with approved dogs and cats, so we selected a pup who hadn’t been on a sleepover in a few weeks to join us for the evening, Chinook.  A big, loving goofy guy!

We visited Angels Rest with our new best friend and walked the beautiful and peaceful grounds.  Dinner was carry out back to the hotel so we could enjoy it with our lovely companion for the evening.  Chinook was a really lover boy and slept on the bed the entire night.  He was also potty trained and was a true delight to have overnight!

The next morning, we dropped off the handsome Chinook and then headed to our final volunteer shift with the kitties in Cat World.  Of course, we chose to go to “Casa de Calmar” which is where the FeLV positive cats live.  Having recently lost my sweet Calliope who had FeLV it was the only place I could go.

These cats have massive indoor/outdoor enclosures and get to enjoy all kinds of hiding spots, toys, climbing options, and beds.  They definitely are lucky kitties!

Best Friends proved to be everything I had hoped it would.  It has been over a decade in the making wanting to come experience this place, and it was so very worth it.  The animals are treated extremely well, the staff are amazing and kind, and the location is just phenomenal.

Visiting and volunteering truly was a dream come true.  I can’t wait to go back!

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Help Australia

Australia is burning, and we all need to help.  If everyone gives what they can spare, we can make a big difference and help this horrible catastrophe.  Please give what you can, and let’s all do a rain dance for Australia as well. Love to Oz.

How to Donate to Firefighters

  • The NSW Rural Fire Service lets you donate to specific brigades here.
  •  Donate to the Country Fire Service in South Australia to help volunteer firefighters here.
  • The Queensland Fire and Rescue  accepts donations here.
  • Donations to the Country Fire Association support firefighters in Victoria and affected communities here.

How to Donate to Relief Organizations

  • Donate to the Red Cross to help thousands of people in evacuation centers and recovery hubs here.
  • The Salvation Army accepts donations to help local communities here.
  • Donations to the St Vincent Society help feed affected families and buy them essentials here.

How to Donate to Wildlife Organizations

  • Donate to WIRES to help with wildlife rescue here.
  • Donate to the World Wildlife Fund Australia to help with koala conservation here.
  • Donate to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital to help provide water for wildlife and to support a Koala breeding program here.
  • Donate to the RSPCA New South Wales to help with efforts to evacuate and rescue pets here.

I pulled this list from a news article on KTLA  (full story linked here).  I did add the WIRES myself to the list, as I have heard a lot of good things about that organization and know they could use our help, too.