Pet Prose: Alley

Author photo.



“Redemption began, as it so often does, with my unfortunate and unjust incarceration.”


The first sentence of Alley’s memoir Actually, Calico is the New Black.


I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Best Friends

Our driver’s funeral service was today. Afterward, I spent time away from everything RPM because sometimes I need to breathe and focus on a bigger picture.

But I can never really escape the dogs. Debby and I went to one of my favorite shops, Body Mind and Soul, where I found bracelets made by Chavez for Charity. The two bracelets I picked out benefited Best Friends Animal Society. It seemed a nice way to honor Charles Roberts’s commitment to the rescue of animals.

Pet Prose: Rosa

Author photo.

“He lunged at her, fangs exposed, and found himself sprawled on the pavement twenty feet away.

He heard his friends laughing from the balcony. His gaze went from them to the corner, but she’d vanished.

‘That wasn’t human. What was that?’

‘I believe that’s what humans call an angel,’ Randolph drawled.”

An excerpt from Rosa’s first vampire novella.

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Photo Friday, No. 532

Current Photo Friday theme: Silence

This one is a hard one, and though it’s dated February 13, I’m writing it after more than a week of silence.

In the early morning hours of Friday, January 13, on a desolate stretch of Colorado highway, one of RPM’s vans was involved in an accident. This particular van had a father and son driving team. The driver, Charles, lost his life. His son Jared survived the crash with injuries, but those will heal with time. Miraculously, no dogs lost their lives, and only four ran from the scene of the accident. Over the ensuing week, thanks to a groundswell of Colorado volunteers involving some of our rescue partners, a nearby shelter, and dog behaviorists, three of those dogs were recovered and are now safe and sound in homes. We’re sure with a little time, we’ll get our fourth girl safely back, as well. (ETA: The fourth dog was also recovered and is safe and sound.)

I say it all the time–we love our drivers. It’s a terrible loss to our RPM family and to Charles’s family. The only comfort I can find is that Charles loved what he was doing. He was a helper. He was a good man. He was a hero in Houston’s rescue community. We will miss him.

I created this little shrine of many little dog totems that have come to me over the years to honor him and all the dogs he safely transported to their new homes each week. If there is a Rainbow Bridge–and I believe there is, or something like it–then Charles was greeted with love by all the animals who recognized him as a new friend.

There can be a lot of pain in rescue. Most of our dogs and cats come to us from the streets, many are ill, some are fragile, and whenever we lose one, I make a final note on that dog or cat’s record to “run free.” Now I will imagine every sweet animal running, strong and healthy again, into Charles’s arms, and he will help them across the Rainbow Bridge with the same compassion and care with which he loaded so many onto his van.

Run free, sweet Charles.

Pet Prose: Mariann

Author photo.

“Sherry fell in love with the right man too young and let him slip away, but she never looked back.

She always made enough money to go where she wanted on her own terms. She’d partied with rock stars. A celebrated novelist had written a roman à clef about her. Once an ill-advised choice left her married to a surgeon, but she never spoke of those days. She’d certainly been to paradise and had even been to ME, if by ME one meant Kennebunkport, Maine.

Now she was a little weary of her life. Sometimes all she really wanted was to meet a weathered Texas man with white hair that curled a little over his collar. She wasn’t looking for a rancher or an oilman, just a gentleman to accompany her into her twilight years.”

An excerpt from Mariann’s first romance novel.

I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.

Strike a Pose

Some of you may know that my first role as a volunteer for Rescued Pets Movement was going to their transports and taking photos of the animals who were going to travel. What began as my desire to document something that I believed had the potential to be a great thing for Houston’s homeless pet population turned into a labor of love for the volunteers and fosters who helped get these dogs and cats on the road to new beginnings. I saw the tears of goodbye, the gentleness in the hands of a foster parent who handed a dog to a driver, the quick, emotional exits after a cat carrier was loaded, and I thought, If I can put photos on RPM’s website of all the pets who leave, then everyone who helped them can always look back and see them on the day they took that leap of faith toward their new lives…

I never dreamed in those first months that 30 to 40 animals a transport would sometimes exceed 200, but there are more than 37,000 photos in RPM’s Flickr account now–that’s a lot of camera time, and post-processing time, and I’m still committed to thanking the helpers in this way after more than 17,000 dogs and cats (and two pigs) have been transported to their new homes.

What isn’t captured in those photo collages is the chaos of the photo table. I’m shooting very fast, and it’s only because the photos are so small in the collages that you can rarely see how blurred and bad they sometimes are. Cats are taken to the vans in carriers and very few of them make it easy for me to photograph them through their wire doors. But those carriers aren’t opened until they’re inside the vans with all the van doors closed so they can be transferred to their more comfortable travel crates without risk of their making a run for it. If given the opportunity to dash, there’s little chance anyone can catch a cat.

We have had dogs slip their collars or out of the arms of the people carrying them. Some amiably trot right over to whoever looks the friendliest, and others try to exit stage left, but with calm team work, they are gently ushered back to where they should be and securely placed on the vans. Then some of us, and by that, I mean me, have a mini meltdown and need to compose myself, but I try not to let it show. Seeing any dog anywhere unleashed amps up my anxiety level unless there’s an eleven-foot gated and locked fence around everything.

Only a few dogs and cats have boarded the vans unphotographed over these three-plus years. Even then, sometimes I realize it’s happened while the drivers are still on the road and they’ll email me photos of the dogs when they’re taken out for their walks. Each week I’m surprised again by the amazing animals who pass before my lens and that there are people in this city who won’t give them homes, won’t spay and neuter to prevent more unwanted pets, or who surrender them to kill shelters because they are in some way an inconvenience. (Though trust me, not everyone who surrenders a dog or cat does it for selfish reasons–quite the opposite!) I’m grateful for everyone on the ground in Houston who wants to make this a better city for homeless pets, and for the rescues and shelters in other states who welcome our dogs and cats with love and care and find them homes where they will be cherished for the rest of their lives.

And every week, as frustrating as my amateur photography efforts can be, I have to laugh at the dogs and cats who turn their heads away, who are far more interested in the other animals and other people and vans than they are in my camera and me. They walk out of my shots, turn their butts to me, stick out their tongues, jump around like crazy things, stop to relieve themselves, do the upward gazing dog routine so I can only get their chins, or retreat to the backs of their carriers from The Evil Force With Exploding Light. I often use the squeaker from a toy when I’m trying to get them to look toward the camera. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.

A couple of weeks ago when I was taking a group shot of our staff and volunteers at the end of a transport, I asked them to please, when I squeaked at them, do what most dogs do in that situation.

I love RPM Nation so, so much.

Strut Your Mutt!

Rescued Pets Movement is proud to be part of Best Friends’ annual Strut Your Mutt fundraising event. We’re hoping to stay in first place with our fundraising campaign, and we know we’ll have a lot of fun at the October 15 Strut Your Mutt day in Houston. Come out and join us!

If you can’t join us, you can still donate. This year, I didn’t form my own team. Instead, I donated to Timothy J. Lambert’s team. He would LOVE for you to help him reach his fundraising goal. You can go to his team page and read why this matters to him and even donate by clicking here: Houston: Timothy Lambert.

Thank you for helping us take Houston’s dogs and cats (and so far, two PIGS!) from death row to loving homes. We will always work to save them all!

Button Sunday

Last year when Rescued Pets Movement participated in Best Friends Animal Society’s Strut Your Mutt fundraiser, RPM raised $108,000, the most money ever raised by a single group in a strut event since its inception. This year RPM’s goal is to raise $125,000. Every cent of the money that Team RPM raises during this competition will be used to save dogs and cats who are unwanted in Houston and to transport them to forever homes in areas of the country who want to adopt them.

RPM consumes my time and my passion, and I’m so proud to be affiliated with the group. Some of you wanted me to let you know when we had another fundraiser so you could donate, and this is one of my favorites of the year. I love Best Friends Animal Society (I first became familiar with them because of the Vicktory Dogs). Strut Your Mutt is an event that engages animal rescue groups all over the country to help save the animals in their own communities. I’ve decided instead of doing my own fundraising page, I’d like to give my support to RPM co-founder and board member Timothy J. Lambert (I’ll provide the link to donate at the end of this post).

Some of my friends and family have already pledged to donate if I’ll fulfill certain bizarre requests of theirs. This will be torment for me (that’s what friends are for, right?), but I’ll do what I can for Houston’s dogs and cats. Maybe you have a request of your own that I can indulge–within reason. My willingness to humiliate myself has limits!

You’ll be seeing more about the campaign on my blog through October. And as promised, here’s the link for you to donate to Tim’s fundraising page:

Timothy J. Lambert’s Strut Your Mutt Fundraising Page

Recently our friend and TJB writing partner Jim was in town and helped RPM on transport day. Here he is with Ashley, RPM Foster Coordinator Extraordinaire, Timothy, and sweet beautiful Farah, whose picture I just saw with her new forever mom!