Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Volunteers wanted to help unchain dogs

10/24/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser


Chained dogs are a really big pet peeve of mine. Driving by these helpless animals, I feel guilty that they must alternately endure Oregon’s relentless rain, the blazing heat of summer and winter’s freezing nights. They’re pack animals.  I can only image their emotional isolation as the rest of the pack gathers in a cozy house while they are left alone outside to suffer. I want to rescue them

For years, one of my neighbors chained their Boxer outside to a shed while a smaller dog was brought into the house. I used to snarl and gnash my teeth as I drove by and pondered what to do. Ultimately, the dog died and but during its lifetime, no one (myself included) approached the owner about the cruel situation.

Shame on me! But unfortunately, I think that my reaction to this situation is pretty common. I saw a need but rationalized that the dog had shelter in the shed. I didn’t want to start a fight with anyone. I just wanted to help. But where does one person begin? I was a coward.

Well, let me tell you about a Portland volunteer organization that rescues many dogs from a lifetime of being continuously chained, tethered and isolated. It’s called “Fences For Fido.” And its mission is to create safer and improved conditions for chained dogs. A couple of years ago I read about FFF in an edition of Spot magazine.

On the front page a large Rottweiler-type dog was attached to a huge chain. The article was titled “Un-Chained. One Dog at a time.” The mission: to get as many dogs off chains as possible by building fences, providing shelter, veterinary care and educating families how to care for their pet. 

The inspiration for Fences For Fido began after a radio interview aired with a North Carolina dog lover, Amanda Arrington. She and her friends started “The Coalition to Un-chain Dogs.” The group’s focus was simple—to get as many dogs off chains as possible by building fences. At that time, the coalition’s volunteers had built fences for nearly 300 dogs—free of charge.

Kelly Peterson of the Humane Society of the United States and her friends in Portland, inspired by the Coalition interview said, “We can do this!”  They contacted Arrington and four core members of the Coalition to Unchain Dogs responded with help. They flew to Oregon, shared their concepts and taught the new group how to build a sturdy fence for about $500.

Polite consideration for pet owner and dog are at the core of the service. Volunteers set aside all of their negative assumptions about the owners of chained dogs when they visit a family. They simply knock on the door where a chained dog lives and offer to build a fence, spay and neuter (if needed) and provide a doghouse—free of charge. As it turns out, most owners are happy to get their dogs off a chain and gratefully accept the help.

Twice a year, the volunteers also visit the dogs and two-legged family members to be sure that they remain unchained, safe and healthy. Through these contacts friendships are made and education is dispensed on how to care for the four-legged family members in different situations and weather.

FFF’s first fence build was for Chopper, described as a sweet, kind-hearted Golden Lab mix. He had been chained to a tree for six years while living across the street from a park. Once Chopper was set free in his own yard, Peterson said, “It was a moment I will never forget” as he raced around, smelling and marking his own territory.”

Chopper’s story and the efforts of a few women to save him from a lifetime of imprisonment, touched my heart. I looked around for similar programs in our area and couldn’t find any. At my age, the last thing that I wanted was another project but I wanted to know more about Fences For Fido.

So I contacted Peterson and one miserable, rainy day in March, my husband and I attended a bone chilling, wet and muddy, fence build in Albany. A beautiful Malamute dog was chained on a large corner unfenced lot. The owners were setting up a barbecue lunch for the volunteers. The excitement was palpable. Freedom was in the air!

About 20 eager volunteers showed up with tools and donated fencing material. They worked like a well-oiled machine. The area was sited under a large tree and measured approximately 30-ft by 60-ft. The project took about two hours from start to finish.

Finally, the volunteers gathered in a circle and the owners released their chained dog. At first, he stood there quietly, as if still shackled. Suddenly it dawned on him that he was free and he began a zigzag dance of happiness that brought tears to my eyes. He was free to run around, roll in the grass, look at the neighbors and yet was sheltered from harm.

Today, the FFF mission remains the same. Thanks to generous donors and volunteers they have unchained more than 235 dogs since 2009. You can read about their work and see all of the heartwarming photos at

I first presented this idea to readers of my Critter Chatter column in the Humane Society of Cottage Grove “News!” But the HSCG plates are full. Only three people expressed interest in the project.

So what do you think? Is there a need for this kind of program in Cottage Grove and Creswell? Do you know of a chained dog that needs emancipating? One that will spend the winter in the cold without shelter from the wind and rain or a dry place to stand...

 Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about going to the dogs—with a dog house and a fence. It will take a village of skills from fund raising to outreach to construction. Will you help?

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Readers email handy hints and silly jokes

10/10/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

I have this unscientific theory that you can tell a lot about an individual’s personality from the types of emails that they keep. My personality is obviously eclectic. My email inbox overflows with a wide variety of subjects. So last week I sat down to re-read, sort, decide what is important to keep and delete the rest.

It was easier than I thought. My messy inbox consists mostly of stuff that I might use someday or I don’t know what to do with: Daily Deals from Groupon; Just for U ads from Safeway; ticket deals from the Hult Center; negative political commentaries; dozens of YouTube sites that I must visit; and requests that need a response right now!

My one saving grace is the preference setting that automatically sends unwanted mail directly to “Junk” and is emptied every night. It’s kind of scary to think that there are Robots (and humans) who have nothing better to do than continually scan the Internet looking for my email address to send me some sort of scam (aka spam).

I also discourage spam in these ways: I seldom post on public forums or websites. I avoid questionable sites and all chat rooms. And I immediately report all spam to Otherwise I would be drowning in requests for money or equally suspicious offers to earn $7,000 a month working from home.

Now, since we’re talking about computer correspondence, here’s an FYI for you: the United States is no longer the leader in Internet Spam. That position belongs to India closely followed by Russia, Vietnam, So. Korea and Indonesia. The US is only responsible for about 3.2 percent of the electronic junk mail that we receive.

Like all columnists I have a folder of “column ideas.” Readers and friends send me interesting tidbits that I find hard to part with. They’re my security blanket. I find myself hanging onto touching stories, silly jokes, recipes and a variety of unusual household hints. I mean, who doesn’t want to know a safe, easy way to remove ticks?
My husband is in charge of tick removal. He uses the tried and true method where you strike a match, shake out the flame and put the warm match head near the tick’s burrowed end. The tick backs out, is squished and disposed of. It works like a charm but according to this email there’s a better and safer way. (The supposed source is an anonymous school nurse who uses it on students.)

So try this: “Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and swab it for a few seconds (15-20); the tick will come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you lift it away. This technique has worked every time I’ve used it and it’s much less traumatic for the patient and easier for me…”

One of the strangest hints I’ve received is how to take an elevator non-stop from one floor to another. Now I’m too chicken to try this but here’s the suggestion: “Hold the ‘close door button’ until the doors close. Keep holding it. Select the floor you want and do not let go of that number and close door button until the elevator moves. This will allow you to go straight to that floor without stops.” It concludes by saying that “This works on every elevator.” (But is it legal?)

Now since I’m on a roll with hints here’s a good one for labeling all those cords lurking under your computer: Use the plastic clips that come on bread loaves to label the cords: Keyboard, Doc, Mouse, Power, etc. Use a permanent black marker and words can be easily read on the flat surface and take up very little space.

Other favorites were to use a hand can opener to safely open the tough plastic on packages; use regular kitchen rags to “Swiffer” your floors; and use a comb to hold the nail when hanging pictures and you’ll have no more smashed fingers. Also, to prevent water from over-boiling on the stove when cooking pasta (or whatever) balance a wooden spoon across the top of the pot.

And maybe you’ve heard this one but I hadn’t. If you drop something small (like a pill or an earring) and it rolls under a chair or counter and you can’t reach it: place a sock over the end of a vacuum tube with a rubber band to secure it. Then, when the vacuum sucks the piece up it will remain secure on the outside of the sock. Brilliant!

And finally, buried at the bottom of the emails I found this list of groaners that still made me laugh. Enjoy!

When chemists die, they barium.

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
I know a guy who is addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.
How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.
This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
We're going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there's no pop quiz.
Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?
Broken pencils are pointless.
I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.
A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.
Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!
My sincere thanks to all who contributed to this column—I think!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Barn down!

9/26/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser 

Photo courtesy Cathy Bellavita
Good-bye, Dr. Pierce

I’ve written so many stories about our town’s beloved Dr. Pierce barn, that I scarcely know how to begin this one. Its demise was expected and heralded in news stories with headlines like “Looming barn demolition…” Last year the Historical Society ended their efforts to purchase the barn. Citizens rallied but a “Save the Barn” campaign never garnered enough support to save it.

Still, it was a shock when I drove by as the owner was standing on the sagging barn’s rafters and taking down the hand-lettered boards. Cottage Grove’s 100 year old, iconic barn siding advertising “Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets” is now in storage waiting for a buyer.

Most people buy old barns to preserve them. They have history on their minds and in their hearts. Beginning in 2008, our barn was purchased and soon held hostage by a new owner. He said it was a hazard and a tax liability. He wanted it gone so he could subdivide the property—a whopping 1.3-acre lot.

As I’ve said before, saving the barn is all about the money! So if you have an extra $25,000 burning a hole in your pocket you may buy it.

The old Dr. Pierce Barn has long been the heart of town. It was more than a tourist attraction. It was an intangible part of us—a source of pride. A landmark that just made you feel good to know it was there. It gave our town a unique personality. It evoked memories of an era that had come and gone. It touched my soul and it will be missed!

Some might ask, What’s so attractive about an old barn? This Dr. Pierce guy and his son were quacks. But in an era of primitive medicine they sold HOPE to men and women for about 90 years. Their blood purifier was the equivalent of 19th century snake oil—but its many claims of success were painted on barns, hawked by salesman all over the country and purchased by those were ill.

In an agrarian society barns were good advertising. And evidently a barn sign painter could make a good living. Harley Warrick (the last of the Mail Pouch barn painters) is a good example. Mail Pouch painters were painting his dad’s barn when he came home from the army in 1947. He decided painting would be a better life than milking 27 Jersey cows twice a day. Warrick became a legend. He painted and touched up barns until his death in 2000.

Long before Warrick started painting, others were painting Dr. Pierce’s message. Many of them still stand in other states. They are located and maintained on private property thanks to owners and communities who appreciate things of the past.

In Sonoma County, Calif., a property owner has maintained one of Dr. Pierce’s barns (and paid the taxes) for years. It is located on US 101 in Asti and a familiar landmark to those who travel the 101 corridor. Its sign is common among the barns. It reads: “For your blood: Dr. Pierce’s Medical Discovery.”

There’s another fabulous old Dr. Pierce barn in Toledo, Wash., One side of the barn says, “Makes Red Blood. Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery.” Another side is really not politically correct but it touts, “For Weak Women. Dr. Pierce’s Favorite Prescription.” A few hundred miles away, there’s a similar barn.

Another great barn sits in Cache Valley, Utah, north of Salt Lake City. There, the doctor’s sign reads: “The woman’s Tonic: Dr. Pierce’s favorite prescription.” Last year, an article about the barn was published in the Standard-Examiner in Ogden. Writer Becky Cairns traveled to College Ward to check out the old barn and interview Evan Stevenson, the owner’s father and volunteer caretaker.

The barn was built by Swiss farmers and estimated to be 107 years old. It may have been painted in the Great Depression when the farmers would have received a $25 initial payment and then $10 a year afterward for the use of their barn as a billboard.
Gary Stevenson purchased the 15-acre property in 1997. The barn was in such poor condition that “A good, stiff breeze would take it down,” his dad said. In fact, the structure was 3-1/2 feet out of plumb.

Fortunately, he, his son and the community didn’t whine about liability or who was responsible for this piece of history. No, they and the residents of College Ward volunteered to help straighten and stabilize the structure. Now it’s good to stand another 100 years.

So why is this family and community taking care of this old barn? “Well,” Stevenson says, “I don’t believe in being hung.” People are pretty attached to this piece of barn art. Not only that, I love it,” Then he adds. “I think it’s great."

Of course, it’s always something. Now the paint is peeling. Stevenson can pull the flaking paint right off the letters plastered on the side of the weathered 100-year old barn. But not to worry! He says he’s looking for the right person to do that job.

 “We have to get somebody who knows how to paint it old,” he says,  "because you don’t paint an old barn new, you paint an old barn old.”

The extended Stevenson family and Cache Valley community are keepers of the flame of history for esoteric reasons—not for money. A different situation than we have here in Cottage Grove.

Our Cottage Grove sign reads: “For your liver: Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets.” Perhaps one day, through someone’s generosity, it too will live again and put a smile on faces who like to remember the past—even if he was a snake oil salesman!

If you are interested in reading more about the Dr. Pierce Barn and the demolition process check out this website:

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Denial is deadly!

9/12/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

My husband is the picture of health. He doesn’t look his age (70+), works like a man half his age, doesn’t smoke or drink, has ramrod straight posture, loves life and has weighed the same for the last 30 years. He’s got to be healthy—right? Wrong.

Chuck has a family gene pool that is riddled with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. All of the males on his mother’s side of the family died young of one of these conditions.

He is the oldest of three sons with nearly textbook perfect, active life styles to ward off any health problems. Then, his youngest brother, at the age of 50, was found dead while out for a bike ride. His middle brother had a heart attack and open-heart surgery at 53 years old and just recently had another major heart attack.

With a family history like this, aging is a ticking time bomb. Disaster is to be expected and averted if at all possible. In 2003, during an angiogram, Chuck was rushed into surgery for an emergency 5-way by-pass. Then came a diagnosis for CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and another for diabetes. Every challenge was met and ‘controlled.’ Except for high blood pressure. And last month it reared its ugly head with dreadful consequences.

We were packing for a long awaited trip to the Yukon. We had been to Alaska a couple of times in the 1980s and cruised the famous Inland Passage; run the scenic Mendenhall Glacier River; seen the totem poles and wildlife. This time we were going to take a short cruise from Vancouver to Fairbanks and then head out on a guided inland tour to places like Whitehorse, Tok and Denali.

We stopped packing our suitcases for a lunch break when Chuck quietly said, “I think I’m having a TIA attack.” He sat down. I ran quickly and gave him two aspirin and we headed for Cottage Grove Emergency Hospital. On the way to the ER he began having a series of strokes that briefly affected his speech and left leg. Come and go.

Here, I must stop and give a shout-out to the ER staff. There were angels in the ER that day. We have been there many times but never have I seen more caring, compassionate and competent nurses and doctors. Everyone from admitting to x-ray was wonderful. Not only were they efficient at their tasks but also at communicating details of each treatment phase. Thank you!

The episodes continued while tests were being done and a neurologist was consulted via technology in Eugene. After a CT scan, he advised a bolus of an anti-clot drug. The dosage was carefully calculated and administered. Then Chuck was flown by helicopter to Sacred Heart’s Riverbend Hospital in Springfield. Helicopter? Yep. A nurse had to be on board to continue administering the clot dissolving medication.

He was immediately rushed to ICU where he stayed under the care of more amazing neurologists and wonderful nurses. It took 10 days longer than the predicted 24-48 hours for the episodes to subside. CT scans and MRIs became the order of the day. The stroke was identified as “Stuttering Lacuna.” A clot located in a small artery (that covers a large portion of real estate) was the culprit. Sometimes it resolves with no problem and sometimes it has permanent deficit.

With Chuck’s history, everyone immediately looked to the heart or diabetes to be the cause. Nope. Both were under control. The problem was high blood pressure. It was totally out of control. And it immediately became clear that (for a multitude of reasons) lowering it was not going to be immediate or easy. It would take time.

The scans showed that before the current episodes, my husband had suffered dozens of silent strokes. Too many to count. The effects of silent strokes are sneaky. They accumulate-causing fatigue, short-term memory and balance problems. Then suddenly, they strike.

This was not a silent TIA and his doctor did not like that term. She said they don’t leave a path like a stroke. Also, people do not take them seriously. They think, “Phew, I dodged that bullet,” she said, and continue to ignore the symptoms that can turn deadly.

Chuck is home now, recuperating slowly and his war against high blood pressure is well under way. This time there will be no half-hearted efforts. A near catastrophe brought a heightened awareness that high blood pressure is more than a condition. It is a daily life and death battle that must be fought to win.

We learned a lot during his time in the hospital. But one of the most important things we learned was simply this: Taking medication does not mean you are a failure—and inevitably, you will need to add more over time. Strokes are devastating. They rob you of who you are. The drugs prevent this. Controlling blood pressure is good and necessary.

So this column is for all of us who ignore life threatening health issues. Maybe you are one. Maybe you’re still smoking after your doctor has warned you that hacking cough could become lung cancer. Maybe your family has a history of breast cancer but you don’t get regular mammograms. Or maybe your medication has too many side effects and you just don’t want to try another one.

Do it anyway! Denial is deadly. I’m telling you bluntly to stop making excuses and decide to live. Wishful thinking isn’t going to make your problem go away. Or, as one doctor told us, “Medication’s side effects are a small price to pay for gaining (quality of) life.”

Every doctor that walked into the hospital room said, “You are a lucky man. This could have been much worse. Consider this a warning. Find a medicine you can tolerate and live.” He is taking that advice.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.