Volunteer Journal #91 – No Kill Los Angeles (NKLA.org)

The new NKLA shelter I have seen it!  I have seen the future of animal rescue organizations. [pause] I had to see it early on a Saturday  morning...

But it was worth it!!!!

NKLA.org or the No Kill Los Angeles pet adoption center, built to resemble to house you've always wanted but could never afford, is snuggled near UCLA on Los Angeles'  west side.

The center is so clean you can think about eating one of the donuts they bring to Saturday morning volunteers off the floor.

*Best Friends Animal Society joined forces with a coalition of 68 different animal welfare groups to found the brand spankin' new center.  It's purpose - to stop the killing of healthy and treatable pets in LA city shelters.

Kitten Welcoming Committee

I was a bit grumpy when I walked in the shelter (insomnia), but was immediately welcomed by a chorus of meowing kitten in a display areas.  After that you can't be tired.

Tamara, the knowledgable and infintely patient volunteer coordinator, did a short educational session for 20+ new volunteers. We were then given the option to work with the animals or come back to complete their 5 hours a month at a later time.

I wanted to stay, so first I played with the welcoming committee. Which was awesome...

Me and the Foz!

Then I got to walk dogs like Fozzy who is classified as a black paw because he is smallish, not that strong, and extremely polite.  If you want to walk big dogs, dogs classified as a silver paw, you have to go through a bit of extra training.

I understood the concept of dog classifications the hard way when I took out a large pit mix named Jackie, though a black paw and perfectly sweet, she gave me quite a workout as she and I are in the same weight class.

Before leaving that Saturday I went back and played with the cats as they needed extra love.  You are allowed to volunteer with whatever animal you are most comfortable with at the shelter as long as you follow some basic safety protocol.

Playing in the Cat Room

NKLA is honestly the cleanest, nicest, most high tech shelters I've been in - with one of the friendliest staffs.

They've been open a little over 30 days.  In the first 30 their goal was to adopt out 50 animals. They had close to 80 adoptions.

*Best Friends was on my 100 wish list because I worked with them during a Puppy Mill Protest in 2009 and they were insanely professional.  I want to visit and volunteer their shelter in Kanab, Utah.

Proud to be Cruelty Free

Cruelty FreeI would venture a guess that the majority of human beings want to use cruelty free cosmetic/beauty products. I don’t think people walk around saying, “I would like my perfume to be worn by a rat first please.” Or “I’m a smart sentient being who would never shove lipstick into my eye, but if you could please put lipstick into a monkey’s eye to be double sure it’s safe, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.” So why does animal testing on beauty products exist?

Animal testing on cosmetics began when the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 in response to manufacturers selling unsafe... Read Full Article on Celsias

TheGoodMuses Explains: What I’m Thankful For

I’m thankful for about a billion things when I wake up in one piece in the morning.  Here are just a few things I am happy about this Thanksgiving:

I’m thankful that I can read.

I’m thankful for used bookstores, thrift stores, and free museums.

I’m thankful for dogs, and cats - and that I get to be around them.

I’m thankful for organizations like this, and this, and this and a thousand more.

I’m thankful for teachers, firemen, police, and soldiers.

I’m thankful we’re moving towards equality.

I’m thankful I found out I could write and went for it.

I’m thankful things have been hard enough to reveal what the good stuff really is...

I’m thankful for SNOWBOARDING!!!!!!

I’m thankful for blissful nights when I can fall asleep easily and stay asleep.

I’m thankful I can post whatever I want on this blog and no one can stop me, or jail me.

I’m thankful that learned new things this year, lived in another country, traveled a lot, and met new people.

I’m thankful I have a job.

I’m thankful for songs like this, and this, and especially this.

I’m thankful I have food in my fridge and a somewhat warm place to sleep.

I’m thankful that when my place gets drafty I can take a warm bath.

I’m thankful that I have friends that feel comfortable enough to tell me when I’m wrong.

And as always, I’m thankful to be healthy.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!

TGM Explains: Why You Must Polygraph 2 Adopt a Pet?

You do not have to submit to a polygraph to adopt a pet.

Clearly, I have not been doing a good job as thegoodmuse.

My only job is to offer a first person account of volunteering or all thing non-profit so you, my adoring public, might know what to expect when doing goodness.  But I haven’t been covering all bases.  Case in point…

Lucky, the cat from Volunteer Episode 69, was almost adopted after my post about him was published. However, I neglected to discuss what would be required during the adoption process by the rescue organization and the potential adopter was scared off.

So let me clarify the adoption process…

When adopting a pet you will not be asked to run a 40 yard dash. Your vertical will not be measured.  Your DNA will not be tested.  They shouldn’t ask to microchip you. They will not ask where you like to go on first dates. If they do, you should leave.

A responsible animal rescue group will ask you to fill out an application.

This is what a standard application looks like:


They will ask you questions about your accommodations because they need to make sure that you are allowed to have an animal.  Unfortunately, there are irresponsible people in this world who decide to adopt pets while living in a dorm room, a lean-to, a hotel, or apartment with no pet policy. If the pet is discovered the person is usually forced to give them up.  And there are worse stories... Stories about kids who adopted animals while in college dorms.  Deciding to leave the animal in the dorm when they graduate. Then, the housekeepers show up, sometimes weeks later, to clean the dorm and find the animal expired.

Hate to be dark, but I'm trying to explain why you might have to answer a few personal questions. Honestly, if you want to adopt an animal, suck it up and answer the questions.  They're worth it.

Volunteer Journal #69 – Lucky

It took a long time to write this one, as I’m still a little sad about it:

I was driving across country over the holidays and had the… distinct pleasure… of stopping in Hooks, Arkansas.  The town is made up of a few trailers and two gas stations - one station apparently only takes gold bullion.  I stopped at the other station.

As I walked inside to pay I saw a friendly black cat approach a woman and meow.  The woman kicked the cat.  I literally saw red and ran into the station, "Someone’s black cat just got kicked in the parking lot!" I gritted my teeth knowing what I was going to hear. It's a good thing I'm fluent in southern hick (being one myself) because the answer came back so thick a foreigner would have been baffled.  I'll translate to save time,

"Oh lady.  Someone pulled up to the station two days ago and threw that cat out of the car window. It's been begging ever since. I like cats, use to work at the shelter here, but that one's not even smart enough to wander onto the freeway and get hit.  It won't leave. We've been calling it Obama."

What the f&$%!!!!  Oh My God.

"The cat's coming with me," I blurted out. Then I internally slapped my face. I was driving to California, a three-day road trip, with no cat supplies. Oh well.

The station worker helped me collect the cat in minutes and handed me some old hotdogs for him. Great. Thanks.

Upon being placed in the car, the cat I called "Lucky," licked my hand and calmly stepped into the back seat. He curled up, and went to sleep.  He slept all the way to Dallas where I acquired a litter box, food and a carrier.

On the two consecutive 14-hour days of driving that followed Lucky would sleep calmly in his carrier and chow down during our regular food stops.  He gained two pounds in days.  He was silent, only meowing when he had to use the litter box. I would pull over, and put the box outside the car. Lucky would calmly step out of his carrier; use the box and then hop back in his carrier.  I've rescued dozens of cats.  I've never seen anything like it.

Sometimes we talked.  I asked him about his broken ribs and the bite out of his ear.  He said he didn’t want to talk about it. Cool.

Lucky got strong on the road trip, but upon returning to CA I had to leave town again. I found a foster and told them he seemed to like indoors and outdoors, but because he wasn't fixed yet keep an eye on him outside.  I kept calling to check on him.  He seemed to be doing great.  But on my return to LA I found that Lucky, left outside to his own devices, had been taken to a shelter by a well-meaning neighbor. AAAAaaahhhhh! After a few panicked hours on the phone I located him at the West LA Animal Shelter.

Back in town I raced into the shelter and as soon as I walked into the room with a dozen or more cages I was greeted by Lucky. He stood up in his cage, meowed, and reached through the bars. The volunteer in the room was awe struck.  He remembered me.  I was so relieved I started to cry.  Now, I had to get him out.

It is not easy to negotiate with a city employee. Lucky would be on mandatory hold for a few days, then have basic medical work done, the only way I could bust him out was by adopting.

I would have to adopt him and then re-donate him to Heaven on Earth who had agreed to keep him in their no kill facility. Because they are saints and I love them. The shelter refused to tell me medical schedules or euthanasia schedules - and the yelp reviews of the shelter were awful as far as last minute euthanasia decisions. I was forced to stalk them for days.  My dumb mistake had gotten him in the clink. I was busting him out.

Finally, on the exact date, at the exact hour he could be adopted I ran in and adopted him.  He had lost all his weight again and contracted a serious sinus infection, but he was in one piece.  I nursed him a few days.  He slept on the end of my bed and greeted me when I came home.  He needed a bath but seemed too weak to have one in my care.

A few days later I had to drop Lucky off at Heaven on Earth Sanctuary with a donation for his continued up-keep and his blanket.

He was the best cat and even though we had such a short time together I miss him.  I hope someone finds my calm, smart lap cat - he's the best.  To that person I want to say – please take care of my traveling companion.

I’m waiting for updates.  I’ll post them when I have them.

Update 3/16/12:

I just received the following email from Heaven on Earth -

Hi Raagan –


No, Lucky hasn’t been adopted. He is a really great guy, but 7-year-old black cats aren’t in great demand, unfortunately. He’s on our website, which uploads to other adoption sites, and I’ve taken him to adoption events quite a few times where he gets a lot of attention but still no takers. As you probably know, black cats are in shelters in disproportionate amounts.



Volunteer Journal: #68 – Heaven on Earth

Don’t volunteer with cats if you’re allergic.

I repeat, differently: If you are allergic to cats do not volunteer with them.

En espanol: No voluntario con los gatos si usted alergico a ellos.

Obvious?  You’d think so, but I had occasion to test this.  Here’s what happened…

I set up a volunteer activity with one of the most helpful* volunteer groups of all time - Heaven on Earth Animal Sanctuary.  They have a small house in Van Nuys, which they've turned into a cat sanctuary. No, they're not hoarding. Yes, they have about a hundred cats. Sure, it's a little cramped in such a small house. But they keep it clean. As possible. Okay look - SOMEONE BUILD THEM A NEW HOUSE PLEASE!!!

Anywho – So I’m suppose to be a volunteering muse of sorts and introduce people to the joys of volunteering.  My friend Mercedes aka super hot Venezuelan/American Actress/Model asked me if she could tag along on an adventure. I’m like, "Hell yeah! Can I take pictures?"

I call Heaven on Earth and arrange a day to come out and help them. On said day Mercedes and I show up dressed to work, step into the house, and her sinuses explode. Everywhere. Within minutes. The first major symptom was her gorgeous bikini calendar eyes get watery.  Now the house is fragrant but still. Minutes later she’s sniffing.  By the time we get to the orientation, which only lasts 5 minutes, she sounds like she has the flu. Finally, while getting the brief tour of all the rooms I turn to her,

“’Cedes are you having an allergic reaction to the cats?”

“I guess so! I didn’t think I was allergic! I’ve been around cats before.”

Holy Hell! We have 3 more hours in a 100 cat 2 bedroom. WTF. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Mercedes fault, but at this point I’m screwed. Unlike other times I volunteer I actually gave them a heads up that I was coming and asked if I could film.  How am I suppose to film when my super hot Venezuelan model eye candy is about to combust?

Luckily, Mercedes is a good sport and more tenacious than she appears.  Some quick maneuvering and she and I were cleaning cat cages outside.  Not as bad as it sounds. We just didn’t get to play with the cats... AND I didn't get Mercedes being supermodel like pics. Will have to deal with Mercedes looking ridiculously good in glasses and sweats. (Hate her. Secretly. So jealous.)

Afterwards I treated Mercedes to a half gallon of gelato from Pazzo and watched her perk right up.

The morals of this story 1) check allergies and even just comfort level of volunteers before you plunge them into a house full of cats... or anything... I mean even tree planting... people can be afraid of trees. 2) Heaven on Earth rocks because they are a no kill shelter that houses older cats. 3) Always be prepared to bribe with ungodly amounts of gelato.

Also I did film a bit.  Will work on posting that.

*By helpful I mean they have bailed my butt out of cat jail more than a few times now. They have never said, "No we can't help you."  No other shelter can say that.  None. I don't think they know how to say no.  Thank God.

Volunteer Journal #67 –Take a Shower with PETA

Ladies and Gentleman, the following is an account of my weirdest volunteer activity as TheGoodMuse- yet.

I had never volunteered with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), but then I got this email, which said something like...

Come take a shower in the middle of the LA Convention Center to promote water conservation by eating less meat.

Sold. You had me at public nudity.

In all seriousness, I’m a vegetarian. I have been since I was a teen.  It's one of the best decisions I ever made for my health.  I also think it's important for everyone to eat less meat (or no meat/fish) for the environment's sake. Meat production pollutes more than all the vehicles on the road combined and our lust for fish is stripping the ocean bare. To say the least - I was game to support this cause.

And... the PETA shower campaign is mad genius.  People taking a shower in public wrapped in a curtain printed with the factoid: 1 lb. of meat = 6 months of showers. It stops traffic - it literally has stopped traffic on Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles. As soon as I climbed into the shower, in a little white bikini that no one could see, foot traffic in front of the PETA booth stopped and the other volunteers were able to distribute info.  It was a riot, and I would do this activity again but...

That being said lets break down the problems.

I was on a raised platform and the bar to the top of the shower was about five and a half feet off the ground.  I was told you couldn't see over it.

You couldn't see over it unless you were a male who was... oh... let's say... about six feet tall, slightly perverted, not at all slick, shameless, and you stepped right up to the shower to ask me (with a head tilt and eyes down) why I had become a vegetarian. Lots of men meet all of these requirements.

Sir, I know what your doing. Not cool.

Also not appreciated… The guys who held their cameras aloft, arm fully extended up, to get the full shot.

I'm in a bikini you desperate, sad...

I would have preferred to do this volunteer activity with a male friend in the shower as well.  They could have acted as a bull sh*& shield.  Someone who could give creepy men scary looks.  I tried, but I've been told my "I will kick your ass" look is easily misinterpreted and not at all scary.

PETA should also make sure that there is a volunteer on hand big enough, and forceful enough, to bounce perverts.  I can't believe this is needed, but I felt it was.

Now lets talk temp. The first 30 minutes I was fine, I knew the water was cold but it was like being a little kid at the ocean - too much fun to care about hypothermia. After 30 minutes - goose bumps. By the end of the hour I’m pretty sure the US Geological Survey was registering my body tremors. Oh it was sooooo cold. Ohhhh! I had to take a 45 minute hot shower at home to even begin to thaw. Maybe I get cold too easy.  I know volunteers have done this campaign in the snow. But I feel that both a volunteer's health and safety should be the first priority of any organization.  They are volunteers. They are not being compensated in any other way besides happy feelings. Protect happy feelings.

All that being said I would recommend this volunteer experience to anyone of like mind.  It's one of those once in a lifetime deals you definitely want to tell your grandkids about. You will walk away with killer stories. And I also highly recommend becoming a vegetarian. If not for the environment, or the animals, then do it for your health.

UPDATE! Volunteer Journal #64 – Saving Kitten

Back in April, I had a dirty, starving kitten in a Frito Lays box shoved into my arms.  I didn’t really have a clue how I was going to find it a home. I didn’t have the time or resources. I just knew kitten rehab was required.

As usual the person who dropped the baby off assured me they would find it a home. Then they changed their cell number, hair color, and moved out of state.

Now I love cats. I love all animals, but I am at cat mass capacity - as I do not live on a farm. Yet.

So, I was stuck with rehabbed kitten, and my adult cats were getting tired of baby-sitting.  I feared one day I would walk into the apartment to see Frito kitten strung upside town over a tiny bonfire while my big cats roasted marshmallows over the embers of a newly delivered eviction notice.

To top off the tail - casting was about to start on my plays, and I was, in every way, about to become an absentee human. I had no time to raise a baby.

Thank God for Heaven On Earth Society for Animals.  My name and story was passed from animal loving friend to acquaintance until I was finally put in touch with Eri Kriteman, Heaven Founder, and Pamela Geisel, Sanctuary Manager.  I have, honestly, rarely or ever come in contact with such accommodating and kind animal non-profit workers. They jumped into action setting up an appointment with their vet for Frito kitten and then partnering with Much Love Animal Rescue to set up her eventual adoption.

If you’re in Southern California and want to volunteer with animals I HIGHLY RECOMMEND working with Heaven on Earth, and Much Love (or one of my all time favorites – The Lange Foundation).

Heaven keeps 70-80 cats at any given time at their no-kill shelter.  Most are special needs cats (older, physically challenged, etc.) The cats are fed, given quality medical care, and constantly loved on. Much Love works with younger animals prime for adoption – and thus Frito kitty would be adopted through them.

The long and short of the situation is I now cannot wait to visit the shelter and volunteer with the cats.  These groups jumped in to help me in the middle of kitten season (for the record, my old friends, the Lange Foundation also responded with an offer to help Heaven just got to me first). Their resources were stretched to the limit, but they took in kitten now dubbed “Chrissy” (happy picture attached) so that she could go to adoption events and find a home.

No doubt Chrissy found a great home.  I’ve never seen a kitten so young learn to beg by rubbing against legs.  She’s a swell kiss a*!.  My cats taught her well.

Volunteer Journal #64 – Kitten Rehab

There are advantages and disadvantages to being thegoodmuse.

Advantage – people come and ask you to help them like you are a superhero.

Disadvantage – people come and ask you to help them like you are a superhero.

Couple thegoodmuse reputation with the fact that I’ve gained a certain notoriety, in my circle of friends, for fixing minor animal maladies and the result is when an animal in distress is found within a 10 mile radius I get the call.

Often, I think I should just open my own zoo.

I got one of those infamous distress calls a week ago. My friend’s high school class had just rescued a scraggly kitten who was being messed* with by some evil students (totally seeing red).

Could I make the kitten better while a student or two checks with their parents to see if they can keep him? Oh well. Let’s try.

Kitten was handed to me in a Frito Lays box. She was shaking, covered in dirt, gunk oozed from one eye, and she clearly had never had a decent meal. Ewww gunk.

Anyway… four washes, bottle-feeding, and a few days of cuddling and the Kitten is as good as new. Better than new actually, she’s a master of manipulation – rubbing against legs, purring, and giving kisses (at 5 weeks - impressive).

However, as with most of these cases, the people that said they might want her in her state of absolute desperation have faded away.

So if anyone needs a bouncy kitten write me at raegan@thegoodmuse.com. No doubt she’ll find a good home so I’m not stressing my “superhero” self.

*I’m not going to describe what was being done to the little one but some people should be hung by their toes, etc. etc. etc…