Kitties, like people, are thankful for each other

To mark the holiday when we give thanks for all of our good fortune Dawn, Neil, Susie and I are sharing those things for which we are thankful. Our styles differ, but our sentiments are universal; we suspect you will share many of the same .

To get the gratitude party started I am thankful for our readers. Whether this is the first time you are reading our blog or you’ve read every one or you’re a person with a busy life who’s read a few, we’re grateful for your participation and appreciation of our endeavor. In January of this year, as we continued sheltering in place and our volunteer opportunities were few, Dawn Kovell, Director of Behavior and Training, asked me if I’d like to work on a B&T blog with her.

Ever wary of embarking on a new project lest it become a black hole for time (my favorite Post-It note shows a woman of presumed 1950s origins calmly requesting, “Stop me before I volunteer again.”) I cautiously proceeded to engage with this idea. Eleven months and three-dozen-and-change blogs later I feel rich in words and community connection. Dawn is a witty and insightful writer whose contributions to this blog have both amused and informed. For twenty-plus years Dawn has been my supervisor as I’ve volunteered in training, behavior consults, behavior evaluations, Pet Partnership work and many more activities. Now, it seems, I am hers. She skillfully handed me the reins to this project and unlike many homework assignments we get in life, I’ve enjoyed every second of it.

Dawn, thankful for her wonderful neighbors, wrote a haiku to express her gratitude. Ever the high achiever, Dawn’s haiku rhymes.

Betsy and Bill; Best. Neighbors. Ever.


Kind spirits next door

Give comfort, warmth and succor

With wishes for more


Neil getting to know a couple of Cane Corsos

Neil Lurssen is a volunteer I’ve known through the Dog Pet Pal program and from his wonderful plugs for adoption dogs on FaceBook. Neil takes the real life experience of walking dogs, along with information from other Pet Pals and the profile information already available and makes the most of social media by promoting these lovely dogs, cats and occasional smaller companions to a wide audience. He also provides the gift of his camera, a picture being worth 1,000 words. A retired professional journalist (the only pro writer among us), Neil is a joy to know and a fabulous collaborator. I’m grateful Neil said yes to the blog and happy that it has given us both the opportunity of knowing one another better.

Here is what Neil offers by way of his gratitude:

As an immigrant who is now an American citizen, I am grateful for many things about this country.  I think about it every single day – not only at Thanksgiving.  Near the top of my thank-you list are animal rescue shelters and especially Marin Humane.   The four dogs my wife and I adopted in America have all been rescues from shelters.  They have enriched our lives.

Jean, Chloe and Neil keeping up with current events

I am grateful to Marin Humane not only for providing our pair of newest pets but also for welcoming me into the community of selfless people who care for the shelter animals in our different ways.  For nearly 15 years now, I have been what we call a Dog Pet Pal – walking dogs for exercise and the comfort of personal contact and also helping with therapy protocols and procedures drawn up for each animal by the shelter’s professionals.

Sally feels certain that Neil’s alarm is not set correctly

My pocket calculator tells me that in this time I have walked, played with, thrown tennis balls for, got soaked in the rain with, cuddled, laughed at, once or twice tripped over, and been kissed by well over 11,000 dogs.  They ranged from Great Danes to tiny Chihuahuas, from Newfoundlands swallowed up in massive amounts of fur to Mexican Xolo hairless dogs who felt like wriggly beach balls when you picked them up.  I remember all of them – not all their names but certainly their personalities.

I learned to love breeds I had not known before – like endearing Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Terriers.  Two of the sweetest dogs I have ever encountered were a pair of Cane Corsos.  They looked like those savage Dogs of War released by Roman legions against the Gauls and Celts.  The two Canes at our shelter wanted to kill us with kisses.    

Neil with a Pit Bull buddy

I have never been bitten or even felt threatened by a single one of the dogs – maybe because the shelter taught all volunteers how to handle animals the right way.  I was, however, hissed at by an irate black swan who was having a bad day and probably blamed me.  And an annoyed donkey once fastened its jaw to my elbow but did let go eventually.

But Marin Humane is on my thank-you list for more than the animals.  The shelter has brought together some of the finest people it has been my privilege and pleasure to know.  The staff and volunteers are dedicated and tireless in their determination to help the animals in need.   They are always there, always reliable.  Some come in early before work, others after a day in the office.  Some are retired, some at the start of their careers.  Extreme heat? No problem.  Driving rain?  Who cares.  Arctic cold?  Grab a coffee later.   

As I mentioned, I have been welcomed into this A-list group of people and they have become my friends.  That is something to be grateful for.


Kim and Susie in Kigali, Rwanda

I started volunteering at MH in the early 1990s when Susie Harper was an Animal Care Technician. From the first I recognized Susie as a fellow softie for other species of almost any kind and a woman of great depth and humor. I’ve driven hours with Susie to rescue dogs and cats, climbed a mountain with her to spend an hour with gorillas and marveled with her at the true awesomeness (in the very real sense of that word) of the East African wildlife population.

Amboseli National Park

Susie claims to not have much to say, but her life experience and endearing stories contribute a great deal to our modest endeavor. I am thankful for Susie every day.

Making sure Susie has company one cat and dog at a tlme



Here is what Susie had to say about gratitude:

I am thankful for my own pets, and my foster pets.  I have never been lonely, even though I am the only human living in my house. The animals keep me good company. I get a lot of laughs, plenty of cuddles and love, and someone to talk to. Seriously.

Best BFF ever








There is NOTHING this crew won’t do for a c-o-o-k-i-e. Sooo grateful.

Like all of you, I am thankful for my family, both two and four legged. Special thanks to Dawn Kovell for asking me to play in this sandbox, to Neil Lurssen and Susie Harper for saying yes, to our many guest contributors who have provided us with useful information and heartwarming stories and to Carina DeVera for her patience and kindness helping me learn WordPress. At my age I’m grateful to learn new things!

Happy Thanksgiving!