Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why I Foster Greyhounds

Today's post is the first in a random (no-schedule) series "Why I ___." The first-edition feature?
Why I foster greyhounds.
Yep. Usually you hear about foster kids- children without a legal guardian who have to move between families and homes while looking for adoptive parents. It's the same basic concept with the dogs- racing retirees in need of a forever home. My family's job is to help train these racers to be home-friendly pets when they've never even been inside a house before.

So why do I do it? Here are two good reasons:
Meet Boo (left) and Brody (right), my two current retired greyhounds. Brody is about 7 y/o and Boo is about 4 y/o. Both dogs raced, but neither was very good and both retired early without being bred.

"Fly Bye Brody" was my family's second foster dog, arriving while I was in 6th grade. He fit in with the female grey we had at the time and was such a goofball we couldn't bear to let him leave. Boo was one of our first fosters after my 8th grade year- two of our dogs had passed away that spring. "Sweet Crunch" was her racing name (how do you shorten that?) and had the adorable habit of perking up her ears like the little girl in Disney-Pixar's Monsters Inc.

The dogs that come through our home naturally a bit confused- not only are they in an actual house, but they've been transported from the Florida kennels to stay with complete strangers. One foster was terrified of hardwood floors and hopped from the carpeted floors to the rugs. We've had others that were terrified of the cats, the stairs, or both. Each dog is different, but every single one just wants to make people happy.

The dogs on the track are fed the worst sort of meat on an irregular basis. The beef that's deemed unsuitable for humans and that isn't even used in commercial dog food. Most of them have bald spots on the backs of their hips from the kennels and others have scars from scrapes and fights with other dogs.

And yet, the greyhounds still enjoy life and human attention. They still run in circles- often leaving tracks in their owner's backyards. They beg for attention, treats, and a good scratch. These dogs have a resiliency that few humans possess. While the laws in Florida are changing so that the dogs don't have such a long career, they still need people who (with great patience) can teach them how to live off the track. And if I can help place these dogs in a loving, permanent home, then that's something I want to be doing.

I work with the Greyhound Pets of America Charleston chapter. For information on greyhounds and racing stats, go to Greyhound-Data.

Look and see some cool pics/stats/pedigrees of greyhounds I have owned/do own: Faithful Message (Faith), Levi Rider (Levi), Fly Bye Brody (Brody), and Sweet Crunch (Boo) are a few.

Did you know that while they are called greyhounds, breeders and trainers believe grey, or blue, colored greyhounds are unlucky?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Of Mice and Men

Book Summary: This novella takes place in California during the Great Depression and focuses on two migrant workers with a dream for a better life- tending their own plot of land, complete with a rabbit farm. George Milton guides his mentally-disabled friend, Lennie, through life; Even when Lennie causes problems, George refuses to abandon him. When the pair find work at a ranch, their dream seems closer than ever, until the ranch-owner's daughter-in-law begins to cause trouble.

Review: This book addresses several controversial topics due to the time period and the type of men depicted in the story. It is an excellent book, but it is extremely sad. It's pretty hard to make someone cry in DisneyWorld, but I was tearing up at several points in the book. Still, an excellent book, but heartwrenching. So grab the tissue box and start reading!

What to Look For/Impress Your Teacher: Look at the description of the dream itself. What's unrealistic about it? Answer: Rainbow rabbits. In literature, if something sounds unrealistic, that generally means it can't happen. Also, the dogs involved in the story are key to Lennie's journey/fate. (The author points the fact that Lennie doesn't have much thinking capacity past that of a young child and often is more George's pet than peer.) Also, look up Robert Burn's poem To A Mouse. Steinbeck took his title from these lines in the second-to-last stanza: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley." In english, that's "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Go oft awry."

Author Facts: Steinbeck isn't a source of juicy gossip like Ernest Hemingway was, but here are some relevant facts. During World War II, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. He even went on some commando missions! He also won the Pulitzer prize for his novel, The Grapes of Wrath. In 1962, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. For more info on John Steinbeck and his other works, go to Wikipedia.

Next week, meet The Great Gatsby. And while you're waiting, don't forget to read my short story, Just One of the Guys, available now!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Old Man and The Sea

Okay, this was actually meant to be a Monday post. But we had some weather and traffic issues down here, so I was kept pretty busy yesterday.

Some techincal info/disclaimers:

Please understand that for the sake of this blog, some information is revealed that depicts the plot of the book under discussion. However, it is nothing like actually reading the book itself and is not enough to pass a test or write an essay! Also, throughout this series, there will be religious and sometimes sexual themes discussed. Everything will be PG unless specifically stated at the beginning of a post. Now, without further ado, The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway!

Book Summary:
The book takes place in a small Cuban fishing village. The main character, Santiago is an impoverished old man believed to be cursed with bad luck because he has not caught a fish in 84 days. A village boy, Manolin, is forbidden from helping Santiago in his old age due to this unluckiness. So on the 85th day, Santiago sails out to try and catch a fish. A prime marlin catches his eye, and Santiago sets out to catch him. It takes 3 days for him to finally catch the marlin, and he suffers greatly for his prize. Thus, he sets sail home, only to be beset by sharks that rip his prize to pieces.

Review: This recieves 4 out of 5 stars from me. I loved this book for its simple, yet tasteful writing as well as its thorough detail. Hemingway describes his characters and his setting so well that you can taste the salt of the ocean and feel the coastal breeze. The story is a true man vs. nature plot and it truly shows that man must survive against all odds, or he is not a man. (This was Hemingway's thinking, represented by Hemingway's Code Hero.)

What to Look for:
This novella is a perfect example of Hemingway's typical writing. He uses very simple words, yet they fit the meaning and point perfectly. Also, the plot is practically a direct parallel to Jesus' journey as depicted in the Christian bible.

Impress Your Teacher: The novella sets Santiago up as Jesus, with Manolin as his disciple. (Santi means "saint" in Spanish) Also notice the eighty-___ days he went without catching a fish. These can be matched with Jesus's time in the desert where he went without food or water. While he was battling the marlin, the injuries Santiago suffered are stigmata (representations of Christ's injuries). He also spent 3 days fighting the Marlin (Jesus rose 3 days after his death). Other details can also be compared- pay attention to the end, when Santiago reaches his port. Hey, you didn't think I'd tell you everything did ya?

Cool Author Stuff: Hemingway was a very neat, and very crazy guy. He basically lived the life of his heroes. (See link above) He was a veteran of WWI, serving in the American Red Cross Ambulance Corps as a driver because his vision wasn't good enough to be a soldier. He loved to hunt, and traveled the world to do so. Hemingway collected six- and seven-toed cats. His Key West house is still used as a shelter for his own pets' descendants! Also, he was a very depressed man. Suicide ran in his family, and he eventually killed himself as well. That's all the really weird stuff. For more, see Wikipedia.
Oh, and Spain hated him! When he wrote The Sun Also Rises he romanticized the bullfighting festival in Pompolona (that race you always hear about). After his book was published, the festival became flooded with drunk young men and other tourists eager to try their luck. Needless to say, the deathtoll rose significantly and the "not-so-smart" non-Spainish people at the festival irritate the Spaniards of Pompolona no end. Hmm.

This concludes this entry in the summer series. Come back next Monday- yes, I mean Monday this time- to learn about Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Latest Updates- Emphasis on Late!

First of all, I'm not trying to ignore all of you guys who read my blog! Secondly, the end of the school year has been pretty crazy!

Update on my last post: When I got there for orientation, all of my name tags, folders, and other paraphernalia read "female." Phew! Disaster avoided.

Anyways, I've just been busy with physical therapy (going great, by the way) and the end of school. I've been studying for finals (got a 100 on my science end-of-course exam) and cleaning out my locker in varying stages. Who knew the smallest possible band locker could hide so much junk?

Great news! I'm starting work on the sequel to Just One of the Guys today! So if you're behind the times, better catch up quick, because who knows what kind of hot water Sam will land in next?

Also, I'm pleased to announce a new Monday feature focusing on required reading. Don't groan yet- in addition to a brief summary of a commonly required book, there will be tips on how to impress your teacher, what it's really talking about, and other cool facts about the book and the author! So come back on Monday for a view of The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

See ya later!
Iris and Sam

P.S. Visit Teen-Seen and find out where I like to spend my summers!