Monday, May 25, 2009

Peppermint and Starlett in The Ebony and Ginger Project

I want to solely promote Peppermint and Starlett here, since both are amazing dogs and just having continued difficulty getting adopted.

Peppermint is my absolute favorite dog currently at the shelter; she is an AWESOME dog but she is having a particularly hard time being adopted at the Austin Humane Society. While I thought she had been adopted, she had not. She was having trouble in the kennel, and so the AHS temporarily took her off the adoption website, and took her out of the kennel. She was doing better so they have put her back into the kennel area and back on the website.

If you go visit Peppermint, you can understand the stress that the kennel environment can cause a dog like her. She is obviously a very sensitive dog, VERY sweet (and the staff at the AHS apparently are all in love with her), but the loud environment in the kennel seems really to effect her. When the AHS first opened yesterday (Sunday) for visitors, there were only a few visitors and I could tell Peppermint was pretty happy and centered. By the time we left when it had gotten so loud, I could see her anxiety increase in her eyes. Even in the 20 minutes that we were there, the environment got EXTREMELY loud, with tons of dogs barking as a lot of people came in, with the normally loud sound resinating off the concrete and steel. As I looked around at all the dogs, saying hello to the "friends" that I am tracking, many of the dogs that were more sensitive were just as unnerved by the racket as Peppermint. Those dogs have to live there all the time; some can deal with it better than others. However, for those sensitive souls that ultimately do find a quiet home, they can do well ... in another environment.

I don't think Peppermint shows well in the kennel environment, and the staffer we talked with really confirmed my sense of Peppermint - that she is a sweet, affectionate and a really neat dog. I think she is also extremely cute, and for her age, 14, she is VERY healthy and active.

For whom would Peppermint be great? - a family with children who might be a little afraid of dogs (since she is so gentle); a couple or single person who want a good companion dog; or particularly a retired person or couple who want a companion ... and maybe a dog to help them get out and walk regularly and who would be a watch dog for them; or ... anyone else who would want an AWESOME dog.

AHS has a listing that Peppermint should not be included with cats or dogs. If the prospective adopting parents had other dogs, they might want to check with AHS for any particular facts regarding other dogs. It might be that Peppermint could still be adopted by other dog owners, but she probably would want to be carefully integrated. Ginger likely might have been listed as no other dogs, but my parents have VERY effectively integrated her in with their other two dogs, who are both submissive enough and large enough, that they do well with Ginger now.

I hope you will continue to spread the word about Peppermint. While she may have 2-4 years left in her life - maybe more if provided a healthy environment, I really hope she finds a home that can make sure those years are full of love.

For Starlett, she is only 2 years and 3 months, and I think is a more hardy dog, since she is part pit bull. However, when I saw Starlett a month ago, she seemed much happier. Yesterday she seemed ... well depressed. Starlett has been in the shelter since Halloween 2008, and she is the longest resident dog at the shelter. While also being a great dog, I think the issue may be that Starlett is not a "tough" looking pit bull mix, so the people who favor the breed pick other pit bulls over her. For people who have a concern or bias against the breed, she is overlooked by them. As I have written before, pit bulls that have a more even disposition breed mixed with them can be quite different that pit bulls are often stereotyped as being. While you can't be sure, I think Starlett probably has Labrador in her since she is larger and has longer legs than most true pit bull terriers. The AHS staff are all very positive about Starlett and have done a out of outreach for her. Starlett definitely would do best with confident dog owners, or ones willing to take go to training with her (so they care comfortable handling her). I hope you will continue to try to spread the word about her, too.

Whatever you can do to help mention both these dogs to people, I would very much be appreciative.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recognizing Youthlaunch Service Scholarship Recipient, No. 2

Tyler Folse, Houston
2009 YouthLaunch Service
Scholarship Recipient

Tyler Folse began high school as an introverted young man who was grieving the death of his father just a few years before. When he got involved with service, he was searching for a way to honor his father’s legacy and make a difference in the world. He began with a small but inspired idea: a garage sale that would raise money for the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

More than two million people have been displaced from their homes and over 400,000 killed in Darfur. Tyler shared information about the crisis with his community, and in his first garage sale he raised $1900 for rescue and relief in Darfur. He donated the money to the International Relief Committee, which works to deliver medical care, safe drinking water, and comfort to families fleeing violence in Sudan.

Over the next two years, Tyler’s garage sale event grew from a modest sale of things found around Tyler’s own home to a large-scale affair. Tyler took charge of marketing, soliciting item donations, handling eBay sales, and managing 17 volunteers, as well as coordinating the 3-day event. By the time he executed his third garage sale, he’d raised over $18,000 to benefit refugees in Darfur.

Tyler says, “I am most proud of the fact that through my garage sale efforts, I created an opportunity for people in Houston to help. I have found that sometimes people really do want to help others, but find it overwhelming to know where to begin. Because their lives are busy, it is easy to continually put off thinking about it. Through my garage sale, I made it easy for people to help.”

The garage sale project is just one example of Tyler’s creative service. While volunteering for a non-profit fair trade organization, he noticed the large amount of cardboard, paper, and plastic thrown away each week—so he created and implemented a new recycling system that dramatically reduced the waste the organization had been generating. “All I had to do was generate a good idea, make it easy for people to follow the plan, and we were able to unite a large group of volunteers around [it],” he says.

Tyler will enter college in the fall, majoring in nuclear engineering. He aspires to create inexpensive, renewable, environmentally-friendly energy to continue to fuel human progress. And he says service has opened his eyes to new possibilities: “By starting on a small scale, and then expanding as my skills and confidence grew, I learned that each and every one of us has the ability to make a difference in the world.”

Tyler was selected from more than 100 applicants state-wide for this recognition.

The Luncheon recognizing Tyler and the other two recipients is June 11, 2009 at 11:30-1:00pm at the Hyatt Regency of Austin. The Luncheon will also recognize Youthlaunch's own youth participants in its programs for service excellence. For more information about the event, go to:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Recognizing Youthlaunch Service Scholarship Recipient, No. 1

Ethan Garza, Sinton
2009 YouthLaunch Service Scholarship Recipient

Ethan Garza has had a big impact on his small hometown of Sinton, Texas. As a member of the Future Problem Solving Program, Ethan was encouraged to identify a challenge in his community and create a solution to address it—so he single-handedly started a project to rejuvenate the elderly community in Sinton.

In his junior year, Ethan became an advocate for what he calls “the most dignified group of people I have ever encountered: the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #8625 and its Ladies’ Auxiliary.” Noticing a decline in the organization as its members aged, he decided to revitalize his local VFW post.

Ethan independently planned and carried out a membership drive for the VFW, cleaned up its dilapidated building, and helped members place flags at cemeteries on national holidays. He also interviewed veterans and wrote newspaper articles highlighting a different VFW member each week.

In an effort to increase community support for the VFW, Ethan took his project to the city council, Rotary Club, School Board, and even State Representative Juan Garcia. And he didn’t let setbacks deter him. He says, “I had to realize that no community service project or activity has instant results.” When he initially encountered some negative responses to his planned project, he was discouraged—but instead of giving up, he contacted the editor of the local newspaper and wrote an article about his experience that garnered community support.

As a result of Ethan’s efforts, Sinton’s VFW membership has increased by 10% and its members have been inspired to re-engage with their community. This year, the VFW entered a float in the annual Christmas parade, something they hadn’t done in years.

Ethan’s connection to the elderly and dedication to improving their lives has taken many forms, from dressing up as Santa Claus at the local nursing home to drawing attention to the need for a Veteran’s Administration Hospital in the Coastal Bend. For his dedication to the elderly community in Sinton, Ethan received the “Beyonder Award” at the Texas Future Problem Solving State Bowl.

Ethan plans to study biology and eventually become a doctor. After he’s completed his schooling he plans to return to Sinton because, he says, “people in this part of Texas are in desperate need of doctors who want to practice in rural areas. I won’t forget where my roots are, and I’ll come back to help the community that provided me with a great education.”

Ethan was selected from more than 100 applicants state-wide for this recognition.


The Luncheon recognizing Ethan and the other two recipients is June 11, 2009 at 11:30-1:00pm at the Hyatt Regency of Austin. The Luncheon will also recognize Youthlaunch's own youth participants in its programs for service excellence. For more information about the event, go to:

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Ebony and Ginger Project, No. 2

This last weekend, I went to the Austin Humane Society (AHS) to photograph dogs. While I did my "no rain" dance so I would be able to photograph them outside, I didn't do the "no humidity" dance. They, at least, got to go in after 10 minutes or so - while I was outside for 2 hours straight. However, I think I got some good shots and good stories. For all the dogs available for adoption, see For further discussion of what The Ebony and Ginger Project is about, see my prior posts.

The first dog I actually want to highlight is also the AHS Featured Dog, "Petey." Of the dogs currently up for adoption, I think he is definitely a really good one to consider, and my assessment is based upon my personal interaction with him. Petey is a fit dog, seems like he has a confident and good disposition, attentive to the people around him, and not overly distracted by everything else. Pretty laid back dog.

However, for someone who is comfortable with a medium-sized dog, I think he would be a good option. He has a little pit bull in him, but that part of him does not seem to dominate his personality. I have known some great dogs with pit bull in them, and Petey seems like the more even-tempered ones ... all were great dogs. However, I sense that Petey would be "defensive" when he needed to be. It should be noted that Petey has heartworms, and would need to be treated in a new home, but you might ask about that - if that is a concern.

Probably one of the other really good dogs there is a pit bull mix named "Starlett" and she seems to have similar personality as Petey. She is a dog who has also been there the longest, since October 2008. While mixes are hard to tell for sure, I would bet she has something like a labrador retriever mix in her. One of the pit bull mixes I knew well looked VERY much like Starlett, and he likely had a mix of labrador (because of the larger size and longer legs). With my friend's dog, Indy, the temperament was largely more playful and friendly, out of his labrador side, except when he had to become the alpha in a situation. Indy had great judgment about the appropriate use of his command.

Starlett strikes me as she might be similar, so you might consider meeting her. If you want to see a neat video of her, there is one online with her description at the AHS website linked above.

As for the next dog, "Moose," he strikes me as having pit bull and possibly Akita, or even chow chow (given the black on his tongue). He is 3 1/2 years old and 65 lbs. While he definitely is an alpha male, for people who are comfortable with larger dogs and a stronger breed, he apparently has a great disposition and the Humane Society staff are vary positive about him. Again, while pit bulls are not for weak owners, Indy and other pit bulls mixes I have know were great dogs, and were great defensive dogs for a household. If you might have an interest in knowing more about him, definitely consider visiting with Moose. He strikes me almost as "Daddy" is on the Dog Whisperer.

One of the other pit bulls I photographed is "Olive," who just got surrendered and is not yet up for adoption, but likely will be soon. "Olive" is apparently dog aggressive, and would likely require an experienced dog owner, but she is apparently very sweet and loving to her people.

There are a number of all black dogs, likely all with some border collie and possibly labrador in them, or possibly shepherd.

The first of these, "Pumpkin" is a sweetie pie, very submissive and likely a dog that would be content to be with her owner, without too many distractions. She has the most striking eyes - very soulful.

"Ember" definitely has the personality of a border collie, and very active even at 10 years old. Ember was constantly assessing her environment and alerting to anyone in the area. For someone who wants a dog that will be protective and watchful, Ember is a good prospect - and likely very sweet to her owners, but protective as well.

The third one was "Hope," whose temperament is somewhere between Ember and Pumpkin, but was pretty observant of her surroundings. Hope is the youngest of the 3, since she is 3 years old.

Probably my favorite dog I saw actually is not yet up for adoption, but I happened to photograph her outside when she was getting walked. She was recently surrendered by her owner ... and is an absolute SWEETIE PIE. Her name is "Peppermint" and she is also in the photo at the top. Definitely be watching for Peppermint, on the adoption picture comes up, or call down to the Humane Society about this wonderful dog. Very sweet, even disposition for someone who wants a companion. While I don't think she would be aggressive at all, she probably would be a snuggler and I think would try to do everything she could to please her owner.

Another dog with an interesting story is also not currently up for adoption, but I hope that over time she might be. Her name is "Mopsy," and she is so scared of being surrendered that she barely eats or responses. The Humane Society is working with her, to see if they can help her become sufficiently outgoing to be put up for adoption. I didn't get her whole story, but I felt sorry for the little sweetie, and wanted to include her story and photo.

The last dog I would definitely highlight is "Princess." Princess ... is a chow mix puppy, and because chows are typically thought in negative light, I wanted to include her. Female chows, particularly mixes, are much less aggressive than full-blooded chow males. Since she is a puppy, she might be easier to integrate with other dogs now who will also be of equal size - 60 lbs or so. She probably should not be put into situations where there would be any small dogs or cats. However, chows can be VERY loving to their owners, and female chow mixes can be great dogs around people generally. Princess is so cute.

Definitely considering checking out these or other dogs in your local shelters.