Animal Lover’s Rant~Why “Re-homing Fees” are Bullshit

I am a die-hard animal lover, long-time vegetarian (for that very reason), and the grieving caregiver to a dog that I raised from a puppy and held in my arms as she was put to sleep recently at twelve years of age. I’m not ashamed to admit that I associate with the “crazy” PETA people, and support the work they do. Mired in grief, I have been combing through a lot of pet sites in an attempt to figure out a way to fill the void left by my missing canine companion, and I have been growing increasingly cynical about humanity and the way most people treat animals.

I have seen ads for people trying to “re-home” senior pets because they don’t have time for them anymore, or they are having a baby, moving, etc., you name it…it’s complete an utter bullshit any way they spin it. People value dogs for their loyalty, and yet don’t seem able to learn any lessons from their dog pertaining to the value of loyalty.

I have seen even more ads for people trying to find new homes for young dogs anywhere from a few months to a few years old because they don’t have time for the animal and feel it is unfair to the dog, or they got the dog and suddenly discovered that their landlord won’t allow it, etc., etc., but it’s really obvious that the “new puppy” cuteness has worn off, or they failed to properly train and/or socialize the dog, so they want to unload a “problem child” on someone else.

I have seen countless ads for litters of puppies, more often than not some type of pit bull mix. I have looked through pictures of adoptable dogs at local shelters and determined that within the next few decades, all dogs (with the exception of pure bred dogs offered by reputable breeders) will have some pit bull in their genes. No other “trend” of dog breed has taken off to such a degree, and these days it’s hard to find an adoptable mutt that I care to own at a shelter because I don’t particularly care for pit bulls or any mixture created by irresponsible pet owners that fail to spay or neuter their pit bull dogs. Before I get blasted by the over-zealous proponents of the pit bull, I’d like to re-emphasize that I am an animal lover who loves all dogs, but just like anyone else, I have my favorites. I love big, fluffy dogs, preferably with pointy ears (think wolf-like features)…the canine soul-mate that I recently lost was a German Shepherd, and that is my breed of choice. I have met wonderful dogs of every breed throughout my life, but I know what qualities I look for in my own companion animals, and I’ve simply noticed that pit bulls are flooding the shelters like mad these days. People really need to stop breeding these dogs because obviously the supply is outweighing the demand.

Another point of contention relating to “unplanned” litters: don’t charge people more for a female puppy than you charge for a male puppy. What is that all about? You’re doing that because someone arbitrarily decided at some point in the past that females have the potential to generate a profit for the new owner when they have been irresponsibly bred and given birth to their own unwanted litter of puppies. The surgery for spaying a female dog is considerably more expensive than the neutering surgery for a male dog, and by charging more for the female puppies in your dog’s unplanned litter, you are perpetuating the cycle of irresponsible pet ownership. The people who just paid you $75 (or whatever amount you deemed was reasonably profitable for the “pimping out” of your canine companion) are going to think twice about going to the further expense of having that puppy spayed. IF and only if you are going to use the revenue from the puppies you’re selling to pay for your own dog’s surgery (to prevent further litters) can the selling of puppies possibly be justified. The best solution for all of the dogs involved is to take the puppies to the shelter so that good homes can be found for them. However, if you want to rectify your past mistakes, price the puppies accordingly. Charge the same rate for females and males. Ask that the new owner(s) sign a simple spay/neuter contract with regard to the puppy they’re adopting, and at least you’ve done your due diligence to prevent another accident, and thereby learned from your mistake.

One common feature of 99% of these re-homing ads posted by “pet owners” is the seemingly obligatory “re-homing fee”. I’ve seen Facebook groups dedicated to pets that actually require a re-homing fee of a certain dollar amount in every post or it will be removed by the admins of the page. This is supposedly to ensure that the pet is placed in a loving home, and it is a ridiculous notion. Just because somebody can afford to pay $50 for your unwanted senior dog, problem-child puppy, or the puppies that your unaltered mutt gave birth to, that doesn’t mean they are a good person. Not by a long shot. This re-homing fee phenomenon gives rise to a whole new way to exploit animals. The concern with giving away animals for free seems to be that they will end up as research subjects, bait for dog fighting rings, or some other nefarious purpose. But what the re-homing fee does is suddenly make an animal that is supposed to be a member of your family a valuable item you can sell. The frightening thing is that people just accept the fees as commonplace now.  Oh, that pit bull mix puppy that you paid $50 for 10 months ago isn’t working out, so now he’s worth $100? No, no, and no. Oh, your dog got pregnant because you failed to get her spayed, and now you’re selling her puppies for $50 each, even though you haven’t taken them to a vet? Why? What possibly justifies the fact that you’re making $500 off of your dog’s unfortunate mistake?

I won’t be surprised when people become angry about my observations, but let me put it in perspective for you. In my mind, selling your senior dog is no different from trying to sell your grandmother. I work in a nursing home, so I see how senior members of our human society are treated as cast-offs, and I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that senior dogs aren’t any different. Try for just one moment to imagine how your senior pet is going to feel, however. Selling that pup that you adopted a few months back is no different from trying to sell your toddler child to a perfect stranger, and assuming that the new parents will be great because they were able to pay for him/her. Don’t be surprised when a few months later, you see those people trying to re-home that pup yet again, maybe even at a profit. They will feel fully justified in doing so because they had to pay for the dog’s food and supplies, after all. Emotionally speaking, these dogs are no different from foster children by this time. Emotional wrecks with no sense of stability who, with each subsequent home, are becoming more and more broken. Selling that litter of puppies your dog had is no different from selling your teenaged daughter’s “oops” children. You are profiting from your own irresponsibility as a parent. It’s not your daughter’s fault that she answered nature’s call, and newborn babies are quite valuable.

I do understand that, at times, re-homing pets is a necessary evil. There are circumstances beyond our control that may necessitate finding a new home for your pet. That is why there are animal shelters. Believe it or not, there are non-profit organizations dedicated to the welfare of animals! These groups employ individuals who actually put some honest work into finding a good, appropriate home for unwanted animals. They charge prospective adopters a fee in order to cover the costs associated with the operation of the shelter, including vet care, and they require that the adopters spay or neuter these animals to ensure that the vicious cycle of unwanted litters comes to an end. When you surrender your pet to the care of a shelter, he/she is in good hands. The shelter will likely require you to make a donation (surrender fee) because you are asking them for a favor. The shelter isn’t going to pay you. Therein lies the difference. Responsible pet owners will seek out new pets at animal shelters. If a person who lives in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets tries to adopt from the shelter, they won’t allow it. If you truly care for your animal and want to ensure that it goes to a good home, take it to the shelter. Give them the required donation, because after all, when you brought that animal into your home, you were taking on the financial responsibility for its care, and you should never be able to look at your furry friend during a financial crisis and wonder how much you could sell him/her for.

There will be people who’ll say “I don’t want to take my animal(s) to the shelter because they may end up being euthanized”. This is, sadly, sometimes going to be the case. I’m willing to bet that if your dog could speak, she’d say that she would rather die than be apart from you. That’s the way my dog and I both felt about each other, and ideally that is the way pet caregivers should feel about their animals. Ultimately, my point is this: There are better alternatives than selling your dog to a stranger. There are rescue groups who are willing to list your animal on their site as a courtesy listing, and help you reach the right kind of target audience while you care for your pet at home, and until a potentially responsible adopter can be found. Reach out to friends and family that you know and trust who may be willing to adopt or foster your pet until you are in a better position to resume responsibility for the animal. I just don’t know what goes through peoples’ minds when they post their animals on Craigslist or Facebook and ask for an adoption fee. These are living beings with emotions, not merchandise. Part of me wants to buy up all of these poor, exploited animals, but obviously I can’t. The best thing that I can do is try to make everyone see the detriment here, and inspire others to do whatever they can to change this growing trend.

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Free Educational Technology: Thinkfinity.org

The Verizon foundation sponsors a wonderful website at Thinkfinity.org. For FREE resources in every subject area and grade level that are searchable by those parameters, it would be difficult to come up empty-handed at this site. When I ran a search for interactive activities in Reading/Language Arts for grades 9-12, I ended up with 124 different options. A few at the top of the list included interactives dealing with Venn diagrams for pre-writing, analysis activities based on fine art, an activity dealing with poetry analysis and metaphor, and many more that sounded like they would be both fun and educational. I played with the art analysis tool for a while. It initially takes you to a website to view the paining “Sunday” by Edward Hopper. A box appears beside the paining allowing for note-taking, and once you’ve finished viewing the art and taking notes, you continue on through a series of analytical questions regarding your interpretation of the symbolism present, and your personal emotional reaction to the piece. It is a valuable activity that employs many higher-level thinking skills. There were also lesson plans and many other types of resources available. Obviously having a big corporate sponsor makes for some very worthwhile material.

“Sunday” by Edward Hopper © Nicholas Pioch 2002 under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License.                                                       http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hopper/street/hopper.sunday.jpg

It would be easy to fit the three activities I mentioned above into Bloom’s Taxonomy under Evaluating and Analyzing. It is sometimes difficult to come up with fresh ideas to motivate high school students to think, so this website certainly seems like a winner.

The site can be accessed here: http://www.thinkfinity.org/

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Free Technology for the Classroom: Helium.com

So much new technology has emerged since I’ve had a classroom of my own; I barely know where to begin. The Internet was in its infancy when I taught full-time, and over the past ten years I’ve discovered many little treasures that would have been absolutely inspirational to even my most reluctant student writers.

Creative writing is a passion of mine, and I did have my students create daily journals, but I was always struggling to think of topics that would appeal to everyone. I have contributed to Helium.com several times, but it had never occurred to me that it could be used for an amped-up journaling tool. There are categories upon categories of topics to choose from. There is a Debate section that allows writers to receive votes from the Helium community to see whose argument is the most compelling, which would be perfect for honing those persuasive writing skills. For those students to whom writing has a special appeal, there is even an option to contribute articles for payment, which seems like an appealing springboard to a writing career (also a much more exciting opportunity than the fast food industry). Introducing students to Helium would be beneficial in so many ways, and unlike a student blog, there are a plethora of topics provided for them that can help them get started. Additionally, those students who become recognized within the Helium community of writers by receiving high ratings have something extra to add to their resume or college application. Whether they truly enjoy the activity of writing or not, contributing to Helium will allow the students to find a topic that they are truly passionate about, which for some students is half the battle.

“Wreck This Journal: More Ways” ©Davidd 2009 http://www.flickr.com/photos/puuikibeach/3784412518/

Under Bloom’s taxonomy, writing articles and/or participating in debates would fit perfectly into the Synthesize/Create level. For instance, one of the article contributions I participated in was to discuss “Guilty Pleasures: Fried Dough”. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I contributed an article to a debate about whether “medical advice should trump parental rights”. When left to their own devices, students are likely to limit themselves to topics such as “what I did over the weekend”, so asking them to write about a topic on Helium would provide them with more sophisticated subjects, a broader audience, and a competitive environment in which they will want to stand out. Additionally, students will never again have to waste time staring at a blank page trying to figure out how to write, and I gain extra space in my classroom where stacks of spiral-bound journals used to be.

Visit Helium here: http://www.helium.com/

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Animoto

While I was searching for a way to create a 30-60 second “present yourself” video for my EDFI 560 class, I stumbled across a valuable treasure called Animoto. Not only did this technology help me to create a very impressive video for my assignment, it also inspired me to further investigate its use as a classroom tool. It turns out that the site has a special deal for educators, allowing teachers to register for a free “Plus” account. This is an incredible tool, provided absolutely FREE.

Animoto is easy-to-use online software (no download required) that allows for the creation of professional-quality videos, complete with music, pictures, text, and shorter video clips. The possibilities are endless, but I came up with a few ideas to begin with:

  • Because students have become increasingly visually oriented due to the constant barrage of media they are exposed to, lessons on anything from algebra to sentence structure can be made into an attention-grabbing presentation for the class.
  • Students can be asked to create their own videos for book reports, to enhance oral presentations, or any number of other long-term projects.
  • Students can create a video incorporating music and images and in addition asked to complete a written description explaining why they included the songs and pictures that they chose.
  • Animoto can be used to create stunning videos for graduation ceremonies and other events hosted by the school.

Photo courtesy of upcyclededucation.com

The site has its own image library and music collection, but also allows for the use of music and photo uploads as well. When creating videos, the site allows for direct links to Facebook, Flikr, Photobucket, Picasa, SmugMug, or Instagram accounts, so you can have instant access to any photos or video clips you’ve posted on those sites. When I initially registered for my account, I was compelled to pay for the added features available to Plus Account users, which was offered for a reasonable price; however, I was floored to discover that Animoto offers free access to educators. To register for a free account click here: http://animoto.com/education

Here is a sample video I produced using some images and a song from the Animoto libraries: http://animoto.com/play/egM90DkaYpqsi40COWBHcg

As you can see, with some creativity the possibilities are endless, and you certainly can’t beat the price 😉

 

 

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Educational Podcasts by NCTE

The National Council of Teachers of English has a wonderful website featuring many valuable resources, but my recent discovery of the monthly podcast series “Conversation Currents” is among my favorites. The podcast series is a companion for the Council’s monthly periodical, Language Arts, which can be accessed online as well.

“Conversation Currents” features a recorded discussion between English teachers that is hosted by the editors of the Language Arts publication. The topic I chose to focus on was the March 2012 podcast entitled “Digital Directions in Professional Development” in which educators Elyse Eidman-Aadahl and Cindy O’Donnell-Allen discuss the influence of 21st century literacies and technologies in today’s classrooms.

Elyse Eidman-Aadahl (pictured above) is co-director of the National Writing Project, where she manages national programs as well as several national/international action research projects.
Cindy O’Donnell-Allen (pictured above) is an Associate Professor and Chair of the English Education program at Colorado State University.

This podcast is a discussion about dealing with today’s students, who no longer consider “reading” the act of picking up a book or “writing” an act performed with a pen and paper . Twenty-first century students in the language arts classroom are different from those from a generation ago; however, there are fundamental elements of human beings that don’t change over time.

Even very young children have grown accustomed to instant response, push-button technology. There are concerns about the down-sides of this, but there is potential in using it to expand cognition. Students today are very comfortable with technology from a very early age and are multi-tasking more and more. This is not something kids have to be taught, it has become a part of their lives due to the overwhelming impact of technology. The tools modern students have at their disposal can be utilized to a teacher’s advantage in the classroom. Even though the kids have many “gadgets” that they are more knowledgeable about than many teachers are, teachers still provide the necessary tools for basic communication skills to help students express themselves in the most effective way. In other words, the gadgets have not made the teachers obsolete.

All aspects of writing that have been traditionally taught in the language arts classroom such as audience, tone, voice, etc., transfer directly into the digital world of writing. The traditional tools and the new tools can be easily combined.  Elyse Eidman-Aadahl and Cindy O’Donnell-Allen further discussed the use of digital technology with regard to storytelling by incorporating images with students’ writing in a format that they would really be excited about. Providing students with a wider audience by having them present their work online inspires them to be more diligent about getting everything right. The opportunity for “authentic writing” becomes more concrete to students in the digital age. In the past, students often complained that the writing assignments they were asked to do were not relevant to their lives outside the classroom, but by making use of the new technology available to them, students today can more easily see how the things they’re learning are integral to the ways they communicate in every aspect of their lives.

Twenty-first century teachers need to take as many opportunities as possible to make use of today’s digital media and creatively integrate it into the classroom. Despite the fears teachers might have concerning the influx of digital technology available, we cannot overlook the most exciting part about it: that we get to learn right alongside of our kids.

The NCTE podcasts can be accessed here: http://www.ncte.org/journals/la/podcasts

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RSS Technology in the Classroom

I set up an RSS Reader at Bloglines.com, subscribed to five of my fellow classmates’ blogs (Lauren Faine, Christopher Glick, Chelsea Hempfling, Kathleen Crates, and Travis Wise), and tried to toy with the setup to make it more readable. The site came equipped with a pre-made tab entitled “merchant circle”, which I had no interest in keeping, so I deleted that tab. I created a new tab entitled “WordPress” in order to organize my blog subscriptions.

Will Richardson’s article “RSS: A Quick-Start Guide For Educators” taught me that I can use RSS in the classroom in the following ways:

  • When using blogs with students, I can keep track of their posts in one convenient location, and they can keep track of any assignments I may post in mine
  • Students can use RSS as a research tool when conducting research for an essay
  • I can choose relevant RSS feeds for my students to subscribe to that will help them learn tidbits of info on a daily basis (such as a word of the day)

RSS is not entirely new to me, but I had never really explored its use as a classroom tool. I’m sure that once I become even more familiar with this technology, I will find many more creative uses for it.

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New Technology For The Language Arts Classroom

As much as I hate to admit it, books are becoming obsolete. Not to imply that literature is obsolete, but the format that I fell in love with early in life…hardcover, paperback, physical manifestations of thoughts and ideas bound together on pages…books as we know them are slowly falling by the wayside. Some might say it’s an environmental concern, but I know better. It’s all about convenience.

The new trend is electronic books, available instantly anywhere in the world. You can carry a virtual library with you in a device much smaller and lighter than even the most modest paperback. While I don’t particularly like this idea, and personally I prefer the old school variety, I can see how e-readers like the Kindle would be a valuable tool in the modern classroom. When I was teaching full-time in the late ’90’s and the first part of the new millennium, I struggled with a dismal school budget and often had to purchase a classroom set of books out-of-pocket when I wanted my students to read a novel. If students all had their own Kindle this wouldn’t be a concern. E-readers are capable of much more than providing the text of a literary work as well. Here is a list of some of the key features that make Kindle the English Teacher’s (and English student’s) best friend:

  • They come equipped with a dictionary feature which would help students develop a broader vocabulary without the inconvenience of consulting a separate volume.
  • They allow students to highlight passages without having to carry a writing utensil.
  • There is a note-taking feature that would allow students to transfer their notes directly to a Word document.
  • A text-to-speech feature would allow the students to have the book read aloud to them, an important feature for struggling readers.
  • Students can change the font size and appearance to their own preferences.
  • Teachers can send PDF and Word files to students via e-mail on their Kindles, allowing for paperless assignments and supplemental materials.

With increasing technology budgets and grants being made available to schools, it is not out of the realm of possibility to provide each student with a Kindle for their personal use. Gone are the days when students had to lug ten tons of books around, and/or forget their books in their lockers. The limited space on classroom bookshelves can be liberated, and the lives of valuable trees will be saved.

For more information on the Kindle, click here:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005890G8Y/ref=kindfampage_tab1_touch_shopnow

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Why Educators Blog

English teachers are notoriously prolific writers. It’s what we do. It comes naturally to us, and likely inspired many of us to pursue this career in the hopes of inspiring our students to develop a love of writing. It would be easy to imagine that many of us blog to provide ourselves with a means of creative expression. I have yet to meet an English teacher who doesn’t have “the great American novel” in the works. We like an audience for our creative endeavors, and blogging can provide that. However, I have discovered that there is much more to educator blogs than simply the satisfaction of publication. Many English teachers use blogs as a classroom tool, a showcase for students’ writing samples, or a way of sharing ideas with colleagues. I was able to locate three examples of English/Language Arts teachers whose posts provide answers to the question “Why I Blog” and shared their insights here.

Tom Whitby

Now an Adjunct Professor of Education, Tom Whitby is a veteran teacher of English with 34 years of experience in New York public schools. In his post entitled “To Blog or Not to Blog”, which can be found at this link: http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/to-blog-or-not-to-blog/, he describes his reasons for blogging.

Whitby begins by pointing out that blogging by educators tends to have a negative stigma, due to teachers in the past using blogs inappropriately. He speaks out in favor of blogs as a means of inspiring students to write. Blogs provide an incentive for students because of the opportunity to write for a larger audience, and with the guidance of a teacher, allows them to write “responsibly and intelligently”. Aside from the obvious benefits for students, teachers who blog serve as important role models for their students. Often, students don’t have the opportunity to see their teachers “practice what they preach”. Teacher blogs provide students with an opportunity to see their teacher participating in the very activities he/she asks them to do.

Mr. B-G

“Man lowers his head and lunges into civilization, forgetting the days of his infancy when he sought truth in a snowflake or a stick. Man forgets the wisdom of the child.” – Jack Kerouac

Mr. B-G, a teacher of Journalism and English from Massachusetts, maintains a number of blogs related to his career in education. He also maintains a level of anonymity by choosing not to use his full name or provide a photo of himself. Therefore, in the spirit of the quotation Mr. B-G uses in his “about me” section, I chose to include a photo of Kerouac to depict the mysterious “Mr. B-G”. The particular post I found is a short and sweet description for why this educator blogs, and can be found at this link: http://bgenglish.blogspot.com/2006/12/excited.html

Entitled simply, “The Possibilities”, this brief post dated December 19, 2006 gives the reader a feel for the excitement of an educator who has made a new discovery. Mr. B-G had just launched a blog for the purpose of posting his students’ work for their friends and family to see. He doesn’t need to say: “This is Why I Blog”, the reason shows through his enthusiasm. He utilizes blogging as a way to bridge his classroom activities with the virtual world that every modern student lives in.

Ruth Ayres

Educator Ruth Ayres is pictured above (on the left) with one of her former students, Jami, who published a children’s book. Ayres’s first years as an educator were spent teaching seventh graders language arts. Currently she is a writing coach for Wawasee School District, located in northern Indiana. She co-authored a book, Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice  with the same colleague who shares her blogspot at “Two Writing Teachers”, Stacy Shubitz. The blog post entitled “A Blogging Secret” can be found at this link: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/a-blogging-secret/.

In this post, Ayres reveals her secret (that she doesn’t always feel like blogging), but more importantly, she provides a numbered list of reasons explaining why she blogs anyway, even when she doesn’t feel like it. Aside from concerns about disappointing her readers and her supporters, the one reason Ayres gives that resonated with me the most was reason number five:

“I ask students to write even when they don’t feel like it. I would feel a little bit like a hypocrite if I don’t write just because I don’t want to. How can I nudge students to write when they don’t want to if I don’t do it myself?”.

I believe Ayres is addressing the same idea that Tom Whitby brought up in his blog, that the act of blogging provides students with a positive role model. In other words, if we can’t practice what we preach, then we lose credibility with our students.

My Point of View

After combing through educator blogs, I feel as if I have been introduced to a valuable new tool for the classroom. In my mind, blogs had always seem like a way to write for my own amusement and feel as if I potentially had an audience at the same time. I had never considered the possibility that a blog could be an educational tool for my students. I really like the idea that students can publish their writing online to a broader audience, rather than just writing for me. When students write specifically for a teacher, they tend to sound stuffy and unnatural in an attempt to seem scholarly, and I often struggled to teach them the concept of “voice”. Featuring students’ work in an online forum is just the thing that could help them understand the importance of voice. If students know that they have a broader audience, potentially one including their peers, they are more likely to use an authentic voice in their writing. I think students, who are utterly addicted to social networking, would happily accept the idea of blogging because to them it would feel like second nature. The difference is, they would be accountable for their spelling and grammar, which may help them move away from the awful trend toward abbreviating everything and leaving out all punctuation.

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