Compassion doesn’t have a short leash

13 10 2009

Over the weekend, Kathy and I attended an event called: Bow- Wows & Meows. Held at William S. Hart park in Santa Clarita, California, it was a conflux of entertainment for people and their beloved pets with the more urgent and serious matter of adopting shelter and rescue dogs also brought to the fore by the presence of dogs in cages awaiting an opportunity for a new life. Dogs that had been taught to “dance” with their human counterparts were given a large ring-like area to perform, and a contest was held to celebrate the dog with the longest tail, the smallest dog, and other categories that provided the onlookers some appreciative smiles. By day’s end, 165 animals were adopted, so for many reasons, not the least of which was an enjoyable day for families to share with their animals, and a wonderful opportunity for vendors like Much More Than Me to share our message and t-shirts, the day was certainly deemed a success.

As people walked the grounds of the park, stopping at vendor’s booths where they had the chance to buy pet-related products, receive free bandanas for their dog, get samples of the newest holistic dog food, or where they could snack on Kettle Korn, tacos, burgers and the like, I realized I had never seen so many dogs in strollers, “Snugglies” (the soft back- pack type device worn on the front of a person who wants to carry a small animal close to the chest,) or animals adorned in costumes or “clothes.” These were doted-on dogs to be sure, but I could just hear Cesar Milan saying: “dogs are not human beings,” reminding those of us who forget that sometimes that it’s okay to love our animals with full hearts, but not to forget or respect that they belong to another species first. Most of the animals who were receiving such pampered attention from their owners were certainly not complaining- in fact most looked content and accustomed to their way of life, but only yards away were hundreds of dogs left with so little; many that had ended up homeless because of a sorry choice a human being had made on their behalf. It was not unlike a microcosm of our society where some enjoy a wealth of comfort, even excess, juxtaposed to those who want for the simplest things.

Dedicated rescue organizations and shelters work tirelessly amidst emotionally draining circumstances to see that dogs and cats find homes where they are understood and embraced for who they are and not what someone forces them or expects them to be. They bring dogs to events and mobile adoptions with the renewed wish each time that it will be the day that Lauren, Jake, Bandit or some other pup will find a long-term home where they too are beloved and will be cared for all the days of their life. Compassion doesn’t have a short leash- we can still coddle our own pets with abandon while advocating for those so unfairly left with no voice. Some of the patrons who bought our t-shirts were eager to educate others about how dogs end up in rescues; they changed into their new shirts right after buying them.

So, even though it was a little uncomfortable at times to see dogs dressed up and fussed over standing just steps away from dogs that had been literally kicked to the curb, neglected, abused or who were casually left behind by their owners when life called in another direction, hope was alive and well. Many of those same dogs we saw wearing Halloween costumes at the festival, or those strolling along amidst blankets on that cold October day were once alone in a shelter waiting for their luck to turn. They are examples that out of disregard and unfairness may come devotion and rebirth.


24 09 2009

I wanted to share a story I wrote about a model for two of our current shirts. She is one of countless rescue dogs that have found a little piece of heaven on earth.

It is no minor miracle that Bernese Mountain dog, Kuai, did not end up a statistic. She was born with water on the brain, and was prone to seizures when she was a puppy. In the worst case scenario, this condition can be fatal in some dogs, and many people would not have even given her the chance to survive or patiently offered her a quality of life. While her former owner, who lived in an apartment and could no longer give this sixty pound special needs dog a home, it was this decision that not only brought Kuai to the roomy, safe and encouraging atmosphere at PCDR, it opened the door for this happy girl’s destiny to unfold.

Cherie and Sal Massaro are no strangers to Bernese Mountain dogs, having loved and cared for three of them in the past, two with unique needs. One adult “Berner” they adopted had a biting history the couple was willing to take on and work with, and the other had hip dysplasia. Sadly, all three dogs passed away within a couple years of one another, the most recent in 2008, leaving not only grief in its wake, but a question as to whether or not the Massaro’s would consider adopting more Bernese Mountain dogs. Finding Kuai via the internet, that gorgeous face you can’t help but get lost in, was all they needed to finalize their shared desire to bring another Berner home with them.

Kuai had not experienced a single seizure during her time at PCDR. Though she played energetically on the Blue Dog Ranch yard, with her somewhat uneven, trademark gate, Kuai, soon to be renamed Kailei, could only have wished for the life journey she was about to embark on.

For as truly captivating as Kailei’s beauty is, colors melding all around her bright and curious round eyes, her sweetness rivals it on any given day. This quality was not lost on Cherie and Sal when they met her. They knew she would mesh well with their other trio of animals, Nic a Rottweiler, Kody an Australian Shepherd, Kari a rescued Scottish Fold cat, and a canary to complete the gang. With full knowledge of how Kailei’s leg would sometimes drag or slip when her rambunctious self would bound around and come to a full stop, and her propensity to maybe not be the most graceful girl in a room full of furniture, the Massaro’s have included Kailei into their lives and onto their ten acre fenced home environment in the country with open arms and hearts. Cherie and Sal paid great attention to creating a safe setting for Kailei that included putting down area rugs to impede potential slipping on their hardwood floors, and thought to place soft edging on furniture that had sharp corners to protect Kailei from injury. They even kept the very interested 120 pound Nic away from the new Berner in the fold long enough to make a smooth transition for all.

Cooler California mornings offer a great opportunity for Kailei to get some outdoor exercise with her canine mates and human counterparts. The intense heat of late has called for more time inside during the day with the benefits of air conditioning, toys to chew on and the other dogs to hang out with. Sometimes she alternates between gnawing on a toy and playfully wrapping her mouth around Kody’s head, but the two are bonded in an extraordinary way that has no doubt added to the richness of Kailei’s new life. Perks like a memory foam dog bed, and treats of chicken and cheese are other reasons Kailei is fortunate to have found the Masaro’s, who are committed to her comfort, safety and enduring joy.

Having special needs dogs myself, I understand when Cherie and Sal say that sharing their lives with a dog challenged in distinctive ways only intensifies the reciprocal love and inspires them to want more for her every day. Kailei’s love binds the family together, and reminds them what magnificent teachers dogs really are.

Caryn’s stories featured on

26 08 2009

Currently, and during the past couple of weeks I have had the privilege of being featured among other authors on My contributions have been primarily stories I have written about rescued dogs that have impacted their adopters in immeasurable, life-altering ways. The bond brought forth in these stories is cause for great celebration; out of the darkest of days and when hope was lost, dogs were rescued by people who saw potential in them that has paid great dividends. I am grateful to Helen Storey for allowing me the opportunity to share some of the many stories I have been fortunate to write about dogs and families that have lived within me long after the final word was written.

Impossible to fathom

21 08 2009

Recently, Much More Than Me participated among other vendors at a pet adoption festival put on by the North Central shelter in Los Angeles. The North Central building location, one among four large cornerstone Los Angeles shelters, is a stand out among peer facilities. It is a well laid out, clean environment that houses more animals than one dare to think about, but with the offering of misters to keep the animals cool during sweltering temperatures, and the many “get acquainted” areas set up to encourage adoptions, it is clear that while the shelter is overpopulated, it is doing a lot to address the unacceptable number of pets surrendered and stray animals found roaming the streets. My gratitude to the people who devote their daily lives to the care of these animals grew exponentially that day.

While we were there to sell t-shirts, and raise awareness about our company, we had the chance to talk to other vendors. I was made aware of the daunting escalation in the homeless animal issue facing our nation, and most certainly the city of Los Angeles. I was told that approximately 1000 animals per day are euthanized- a number too vast to comprehend. To be honest, my brain pretty much shuts off when I have to think in that direction. The flagging economy has no doubt adversely impacted the plight of animals made homeless, and has pressed shelters and rescues often beyond capacity; funds and budgets tighter than ever. But, as we try to point out with our t-shirts, with great frequency animals end up surrendered or end up in rescue scenarios because of countless reasons that are not steeped in the economy or the inability to care of an animal due to poor financial cirucmstances. I would ask people to understand that the initial match made between animal and family, the lifestyle in place that will support a long term adoption, and the level of commitment to a pet during the ebb and flow of life will go a long way toward chipping away the out-of-control issue of surrendered and unwanted animals. Spaying and neutering animals is more accessible than ever with mobile units and clinics reducing the cost, and taking this action would also help considerably in curbing the stray population in Los Angeles and across the country. Indiscriminate breeding has no place in our society.

I have had the privilege to write many stories about the immeasurable bond between rescued dogs and the people who brought them into their lives. It is ironic that it is the adopter who says: “the dog really saved me,” or “my dog changed my life.” As I walked by rows of dogs on my way to the restroom at North Central, each sweet dog face vying for attention as many others strolled past them, I realized that the problem of cats, dogs, rabbits and reptiles ending up at city run shelters or private rescue organizations was more devastating than I ever knew; was impossible to turn away from. None of those beings are mere statistics; their hearts beat with the anticipation of a better life.

Michael Jackson walked the walk

8 07 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009
By Caryn Casey

The sore throat that flirted with me last night before I went to bed, harassed me into wakefulness around 1 a.m. I decided to put the television on. Having missed watching the Michael Jackson memorial service televised during the day, I welcomed the coverage I was not at all surprised to find even in the wee hours of the morning. I had heard it was done with class, reverence and dignity; arrays of emotions threaded throughout the entire service. Watching his daughter, Paris, declare her love for Michael as a father, the direct beneficiary of his humanity and love, I no doubt cried along with millions of others. I was continuously touched by the authenticity of not only the program, but of the man being honored.

I have heard the phrase: “Michael Jackson contributed to the sound track of our lives.” He did so in mine. I recall exercising religiously to the Thriller soundtrack before going to work as a young teacher at the time, and then subsequently playing “We are the World,” routinely in my classroom as I tried to enforce the importance of connection and giving back to others to my students. Michael Jackson songs get stuck in your head, and because so often the lyrics were laced with compassion, giving, love and commitment his messages permeated our subconscious. The expanse of his healing impact may never be accurately measured.

Kathy and I continue on our path to grow our company, Much More Than Me. Our current t-shirts, and those in the pipeline, are intended to reinforce many of the same concepts Michael Jackson practiced in his life as a legendary humanitarian, not only through his monetary contributions, but his actions; his visits to those less fortunate, and the voice he brought to Congress or others who could positively impact change around the world. T-shirts are not song lyrics but they help all of us to identify with what we feel is important in our lives, and give us a chance to share messages we want to see conveyed in everyday life. “I’ll Be There,” an early Jackson hit was brilliant in its simplicity; “Man in the Mirror” was a little more complex but the words speak volumes: I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”

Much More Than Me…. Wear the Change. Live the Love.

29 05 2009

  Over the past year or so it has been impossible to find someone who hasn’t been impacted by the economic downturn. For those studying Economics in school, it has been  akin to  having a front row seat to the Super bowl of the tried and true principles in action, but for most of us, it has been more personal. It has been a reminder of what matters most in our lives; an opportunity to reflect on our priorities. In some cases this has meant less emphasis on the collection of things and focus on the self, and more gratitude for what we already have, coupled with a renewed awareness of the needs of others.  The willingness to talk about finances and tough times is evident around water coolers, in coffee shops and while waiting in line at the grocery store. It has brought with it an unexpected intimacy; perhaps a sliver of light during a dark time.

      For as challenging as this crisis has been, and for some the ramifications have certainly been devastating, perhaps the examples of people rallying for others shows evidence of a new mind set taking hold. I recently read about the intimate town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where doctors and nurses join other volunteers in offering free medical care and hot meals at designated times during the month. They seem inspired only by a shared desire to help their neighbors cope during challenging times. Shelters and animal rescue facilities are taking on dogs and cats despite crowded conditions to allow a safe option of hope for those who feel they must part with a furry family member in the wake of losing their home.  Our President spoke of change to a nation who was more than ready to hear his words and follow the tone he would set for us all.

 Technology is a wondrous gateway to information and offers a level of communication one might never dared to have imagined even ten years ago, but it can be debated that some of us, myself included, long for a time when our children could know a pace in life that required patience, of a time when calling a friend to offer congratulations on an achievement rather than sending a text was the norm, and when eventual gossip at school was whispered in the school cafeteria rather than perpetuated on the internet via damaging photos, insidious innuendos and hurtful intentions that don’t have the benefit of being taken back. The internet in all of its glory has perpetuated an era of “me.” The lines of social networking are routinely crossed as confusion over what is meaningful communication bleeds over into shameless self-promotion. Those with personal web sites who might have one day carried a photo of their family in their wallet now often display ten on their “page.” More than once my father has offered these wise words of advice: Life is about balance. We may have lost our way as a society, but it seems a wake-up call has been experienced and a kinship refueled.

Much More Than Me is one way we would like to give back to people and animals.  We welcome all to Wear the Change and Live the Love.

– Caryn Casey

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13 05 2009

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