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

Horses to be Slaughtered in the US for Meat

Lorie's HorsesThe U.S.D.A. (United States Department of Agriculture) is moving toward approving a horsemeat slaughterhouse in New Mexico within the next two months. This will be the first time equine meat slaughtered in the US will be offered for human consumption since 2007. Horses can be consumed in the US, but not slaughtered here so they have been shipped to Canada and Mexico. If you’re like me you might be shocked, and appalled that people could eat horsemeat in the US. And then, like me, maybe you’re also harkening back to those elementary school years (before I gladly became a vegetarian) thinking, “What was in those school hamburgers?!...Read Full Article on Celsias

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.



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…

Volunteer Journal #57 – Star Eco Station

On the phone Tuesday night: “I got to go to bed.  I’m cleaning snake cages early tomorrow morning.”


“Because they sh*! in them Mom.”

“This is another one of those volunteer things isn’t it?”

“No, this is for fun.”



“Okay.  Just be careful.  Don’t get bitten.”

“I’ll try.”

8:30 am Wednesday. Being a sloppy reptiles interior designer = the punishment you have to endure when you’re sarcastic with your mother. When all is said and done though, I will talk about my morning with Star Eco Station forever…

Star Eco Station in Culver City, CA exists because people try to smuggle exotic animals into the US (via LAX) because they’re desperate for money (the people not the animals) or out of their freaking minds. If the animals survive the journey - stuffed into cardboard tubes, taped against sweaty humans, crammed into suitcases, or mislabeled in an innocuous looking Fed Ex box - they can look forward to being skinned for accessories, fought for money, kept in some moron’s trophy room, or paraded down a red carpet on Paris Hilton’s arm.

Customs or other very shocked airport employees find the lucky ones. Often the animal is so traumatized and injured officials have no choice but to put the animal down.  Star Eco Station is a haven of last resort for some of these tortured animals. Currently, Star Eco Station houses over 200 kidnapped animals from around the world.

I attended a very brief volunteer orientation Saturday morning so I could come back on Wednesday and do whatever menial task the Star Eco Station staff may ask for. All with the understanding that I will probably never get to touch an animal for my safety and theirs.  I’m introduced to Devon, animal husbandry expert (Look it up teenagers it’s not what it sounds like), and he puts me to work chopping old fruits and vegetables donated by Trader Joes for the herbivores.

Devon and I talked about the animals while we chopped. He tells me about the parrots which outlived a succession of masters (parrots aren’t good pets they can live over 100 years!), the alligators found in a Fed Ex box, the mockingbirds found in a tube. We talk about how volunteers and employees of Star Eco Station go on to work at zoos and animal sanctuaries.  Then he’s asked by an anxious employee to step out of the room.  He leaves for a few minutes and when he walks back in he shouts over his shoulder, “Could someone clean up the blood? Thanks.”

“What blood?” I ask before I can stop myself.

“Do you really want to know?”

“No, but now that you’ve said that I kinda have to know.”

“We breed our own rats.”

“You can stop there.”

I get the picture.  There are carnivores here: alligators, caimans, bobcats, lynx, - they have to be fed too. Well that and as Devon explains they just had an angry snake on their hands.

We divide the food (chopped zucchini, sugar snap peas, apples, bananas, etc.) into bowls for the birds and Devon asks me to go ahead into the parrot room and open the automatic skylights.

Standing in the humid room, among bird smell, aiming a remote control at the ceiling I hear a slimy, “Hey Baby.”

“Okay, who said that? Not cool.” I turn around.  No one.

“Hey Baby.”

Oh good. I’m just getting cat called by a bird.  What a relief. “Hey yourself.  Which one of you said that?”

“Hey Baby.”

“Oh it’s you. Oh my God.” I say to a beautiful white parrot.

“Oh my God!” Shouts someone and I spin.

“Oh my God, which one of you said that?”

“Oh my God!” says a mischievous green parrot.

“There you are. Hahahahahaha.”

“Hahahahahaha.” – An exact replica of my laugh.

“Okay stop laughing that’s creepy.”

“Oh my God!”

“You can say that again.”

Devon comes in and suggests that there is nothing else I can do in the birdcages.  I beg to differ I’m of a simple mind and can keep this game up forever. He points me to the reptile room where I am put to work by Manny redecorating some gecko cages with fake shrubbery. He then asks me the thing I’ve been dreading all morning “Can you clean that reptile cage?”

“Sure.” I say through my teeth.  I arrange my supplies for cleaning, open the cage, and then shut the door lightning fast. “Ummm Manny… There is still a creature in this cage.”

“Oh yeah! Sorry about that.” He removes said creature and I get back to work.

Because I’m press…kinda, and was very sweet and worked without complaint I got to hold one lizard which no beginner volunteer is ever allowed to do.  I held Crayola the chameleon [pictured above].  Crayola, like women from New Mexico, likes the color turquoise.  Crayola has amazing feet that wrapped around my fingers so that if my hand had turned over he would not have moved.  I wanted to keep him, and the geckos, and the angelfish, and one of the black mockingbird and... this is the problem.  No one should have these animals.  They’re wild and like most wild animals make lousy pets because they are a pain in the ass to take care of – trust me. But they are pretty to look at so if you want to interact with them just come volunteer at or visit Star Eco Station.

Star Eco Station rehabilitate’s animals, but their central mission is prevention through education.  If they can teach children not to treat animals like possessions and to respect wild animals in their habitats then the cycle of animal cruelty will end.

Anyone can volunteer at Star Eco Station.  You simply need to attend a volunteer orientation, and then you’re free to come in, and help prep the animals food, clean cages, walk the tortoises, and various other chores that the staff needs.

Star Eco Station is fun, educational, and honestly an adventure.  I guarantee one visit will give you stories to tell for the next month - at least.