Giving Back (9/21/05)

Dear Zelda

I couldn't watch the news when they showed the animals that had been left behind in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The animals were scared, stressed, hungry and in need of help. I'd like to do something, but want to make sure my contributions go to the animals in need and not in someone's pocket. Can you suggest some reputable organizations where I can be of help?

Humane Helper

Humane Helper,

I had to change the channels myself. Unfortunately, the poor people that stayed behind trying to weather the storm were not fully prepared for the violent and unpredictable ferocity of Mother Nature and her destructive force. When you are holding on for your own life, it leaves you only seconds to make very tough decisions on how to help your beloved pet. Throughout Louisiana, across the country, and around the world, hearts were breaking.

There is a small saving grace, and it is this: we are animals, and our instinct for survival can be just as strong as the very winds that fueled the hurricane. And there are wonderful people working day and night to save those of us that have been stranded by this tragedy. Right now thousands of pets are in the process of being rescued and placed in temporary shelters.  

Currently in Gonzales, Louisiana, there are close to 1200 misplaced animals being sheltered, fed, and cared for, and hundreds more are moving in daily. With the help of one of the nation’s largest and most reputable organizations, The Humane Society, other shelters in outlying areas are willing to take in the misplaced animals with the hope that they will soon be reunited with their lost families. Careful steps are being taken to make sure that the animals can be easily identified by inserting microchips under the skin and taking photos of each and every animal for placement on different affiliated websites. For the animals that are still running scared and can’t be caught, feeding stations with water are being set up around the affected areas to help them remain happy and healthy long enough for rescue efforts to resume, and for them to be reunited with their loving, and probably very worried, families.

It’s an enormous undertaking and it’s only just begun.

Of course, all of this takes many, many, man-hours, thousands of volunteers, in-kind donations, and the immensely important monetary support from generous and willing individuals like yourself. All of us at Zelda Wisdom have a soft spot for anyone who is willing to contribute in anyway to the welfare of animals, and for that we say... “Thank You.”

To find out how you can make a difference in the relief efforts for animals affected by Hurricane Katrina, either by volunteering or by making a donation, please contact:

The Humane Society of the United States


Dear Zelda,

How can I deal with my guilt? Ever since the aftermath of Katrina my mother-in-law has been on my case about donating money to the hurricane relief fund. I have 3 young children under 5 and my husband's job has us barely getting by. I feel bad, but know how tight our budget is. What do you think I should do? I mean I want to help but how?

In A Pinch

Dear In A Pinch-

Mother-in-law guilt is a time-honored tradition from generations gone
by, and with all the TV and radio coverage of the recent hurricane's
destruction, it's probably compounded tenfold in her eyes. But don't
despair, you CAN help without going broke in the process. The last thing we need is for you to donate yourself into debt, and in return…needing a donation yourself!

Although financial contributions can help to rebuild the devastation left behind by a natural disaster, there is another way that you and your family can help that would only stretch your pocket book the cost of some ink, paper, and a few stamps. With all the press circulating around Hurricane Katrina, I've recently come across an article about how a classroom in Maryland was so touched by the plight of the Gulf Coast residents that they decided to write letters of support and caring, and mailed them off to the American Red Cross to distribute to the victims. The emotional scars left by this catastrophic event can take years to mend, but receiving a personal note with thoughtful words and prayers lets people know that they are not alone, and that there are so many of us out here that really do care. We all know what it feels like to receive an unexpected letter of well-wishing support, especially when times are tough.

You might even take the lead and try to pass along the idea to your children's circle of playmates and their mothers. If time permits, you could even take it one step further and reach out to local schools to propose a day where students submit their letters and drawings of hope and comfort to the victims of this disaster. Now tell me, what mother-in-law wouldn't be proud of a daughter-in-law who generously took the time to propose, prepare, and execute such an ideal campaign with so little financial means...yet such enormous returns?

Don't underestimate the power of the pen.

Besides, if even that doesn't float her could always give her a card (hand-made from your recycled grocery sacks) for holidays and birthdays that simply states...we've made a donation to the American Red Cross in your name.

Good Luck!


Dear Zelda,

My dog, Gracie, is the sweetest thing you can imagine. I read in Ladies' Home Journal that you work with children who have learning disabilities. Can you tell me what you do and how you got started? I'd love to share my Gracie with children and maybe we could help them learn to read too.

Well Read

Dear Well Read-

Gracie certainly may be sweet, but girl you don’t sound like any sugar substitute yourself. Very sweet of you (and Gracie) to want to help those children who may need it. Who doesn’t love a cuddly, slobber-kissin’, lov-a-bull dog? (I know I do!)

You are correct, I do work with children through a wonderful organization called the Delta Society. It’s an international organization dedicated to promoting the power of animals to alleviate human suffering. They were kind enough to take this old dog and train and certify me as an official “Delta Society therapy dog,” and it’s one of my proudest achievements.

Sharing your Gracie is a very kind gesture, and I’m sure you’ll find it incredibly rewarding for yourself and for those you help. My suggestion to you would be to start off with baby steps, and look at programs close to your area. Dog therapy groups are popping up all over the country. Children love being able to read and interact with us furry friends because we don’t judge or laugh when mistakes are made, or when words aren’t pronounced quite right, or even if takes a while to finish a sentence. (We can be very patient.) Our attention and affection comes unconditionally, and expects nothing in return but the occasional pat on the head or scratch on the belly (a personal favorite… especially as mine is getting bigger!). Giving a child the opportunity to read without all the judgments or expectations that human beings tend to bring with them can help to break down walls, and allow the child to actually pay attention and LEARN. What a concept... a child learning!

If you feel strongly about this and want to learn more, here is some contact information that can lead you down the road to finding out what can be done in your area:

Intermountain Therapy Animals or 801-272-3439

Check out the R.E.A.D. program, whose mission it is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered Pet Partner® therapy teams as literacy mentors.

Today’s baby steps in education are tomorrow’s giant leaps for our children!