Happy New Year

Well, happy New Year to you if you happen to come across this blog. I always enjoy reflecting on how much I have to be thankful for in my life (amazing wife, two great dogs, etc-I could be here all night). I have barely been committing any energy to this blog as of late. I still have been playing with a bigger idea I hope to tackle for a non-profit over the medium to long term-so, if you are reading this, it is probably by accident.

I generally do not believe in doing things unless I can commit to giving my best, and it became clear to me from my efforts in 2012 that I was inefficient at best and could do much better with a better thought through strategy. I continue to read, learn, and collect statistics with the hope of honing my general ideas. I need to spend more time speaking to people more knowledgeable than I am about a lot of the issues/ideas I am bouncing around so that is my resolution for 2014.

I hope you and your family had a great holiday and wishing you the best in 2014.

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Interesting idea about taking pics of terminally ill animals

I saw this article the other day and the pictures at first were near impossible to look at:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2510103/Beautiful-heart-breaking-pictures-terminally-ill-elderly-pets-final-embrace-loving-owners-just-die.html

The article is about a photographer who takes pictures of terminally ill dogs with their owners in happy settings before the animals are euthanized. I think a big misconception with a lot of dog owners is that when it is time for their animals to move on they want it over as fast as possible and don’t want to be in the room when their friend is euthanized-because it is too sad.

I think the reality is that our pets are with us through thick and then and everything is easier for them when we are around. A dog in a cold room alone with a veterinarian being euthanized is not a way to go vs. you being in there to hold the dogs paw and comfort him or her as they move on.

This picture idea is another interesting idea. In the days or weeks before a dog has to be euthanized, I think it is actually a nice idea to celebrate the life you have shared together in your favorite setting. That may mean you take your loved one to the park or McDonald’s to get a hamburger but taking pictures to celebrate the happiness you have shared together and create positive lasting memories seems like a great tribute to your furry friend.

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Houdini finds his own home

I randomly saw this online and thought it was a great story: http://living.msn.com/family-parenting/pets/houdini-the-dog-escapes-shelter-finds-new-family.

I am posting far less these days (almost not at all), but this just put such a smile on my face I wanted to post it:  Houdini was at an animal shelter and decided to take things into his own hands. He snuck out of the shelter to go and find his own human, literally pushing the door handle down and then the door open.

The next day Houdini was brought back to the shelter by a caring family who found him on the side of the road and wanted to adopt him. Houdini now has a new family to call his own. As they say, dogs always find us, we don’t find them ;-)

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I read an article about an awesome new non-profit called Givewell; please check out www.givewell.org. I think they have a fantastic idea that they are working on and have the opportunity to make a huge impact on charitable giving. From what little I know about them as of right now, I would even go beyond this and say they in all likelihood will make a large impact.

GiveWell is a non-profit whose mission is charity research. They have some very strong minds behind it and take their charter very seriously. Fundamentally, they are bringing in depth research in addition to data, analytics and intelligence to the charity review field. This is exciting to say the least and has the chance to disrupt a lot of conventional thinking in charitable giving.

Many people in the world are charitable and there are a huge number of charitable organizations. People are largely well intentioned. That said, charity is tough and there is a great deal of money squandered along the way in the pursuit of accomplishing good. Just like there are some companies that are better than others; there are some charitable organizations that do much more good per dollar of donation that others. The problem is that these organizations can be very difficult to find and evaluate.

Enter GiveWell. Their goal is to look at tons of charities and do in depth research on them, narrowing down the field to the very best. Once they do this, they will publish their results and direct people to give money to those charities. When you pick a small handful of charitable organizations, you can have extremely stringent criteria. Importantly, they seem very self aware and realize this is all a learning process and are refining their model as they go along. We know how hard this is just from our small effort at Mav’s Rescue Friends. We started by trying to figure out how to rate local animal rescues to influence donations to them but realized our small effort was not going to be able to do that effectively so have slowed things down recently to reevaluate. We want to figure out a way to help eradicate animal euthanasia but are constantly refining our thoughts (still not having come up with an idea with which we feel comfortable pushing forward).

Finding a way to analyze charities is a great idea to start, but the idea seems much bigger than that to me. GiveWell has the opportunity to do an incredible amount of good in a variety of different ways.  First of all, they will surely help steer some amount of charitable giving to charitable organizations that will use the funds very well relative to other organizations. Next, over time as they become better known and more influential they will affect the way charities operate so as to focus on maximizing good by creating best practices. Finally, they have and will continue to inspire a great deal more giving as people will feel that their money is going to be put to good use as opposed to being wasted.

I have gone through the site a bit and will update this over time hopefully as I see more on them, but from what I can tell there is a lot of horsepower behind this effort. I enjoy their work, website, and transparency and can only imagine that Givewell will continue to grow, improve, and influence the world of charitable giving. I am looking forward to following how they evolve and the good they are able to do. I think it is just a phenomenal idea and it seems like a capital-light way to inspire a lot of good in the world. I am excited about their potential to say the least.


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Against Malaria

I was recently made aware of a charity called the Against Malaria Foundation that is doing amazing things from what I can tell. Malaria is a huge problem and kills millions of people and this foundation’s mission is to raise money for nets to save lives.

Their website www.againstmalaria.com has a great deal of information and makes donating extremely easy. For a few dollars, you can buy a net that will help save an individual’s life. As I read more, I realized how unaware I was of the huge issue Malaria still is and about how these nets can help save a great deal of lives.

Malaria kills over a million people a year and sleeping under a net that is treated with insecticide is apparently the best way to prevent it. The mosquitos predominantly attack at night so being under the net at night is largely sufficient. The website points out that for every couple of hundred nets purchased a life is saved.

Numerous websites I have come across rate this charity very highly, pointing out what a large percentage of the money donated goes to the nets and how little goes to administrative costs. If you are looking for a charity that is well run and does a great deal of good, I highly recommend you look at this site. You can do a great deal of good with a  little amount of money.

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Ricochet the amazing surf dog

I read an extremely interesting story about an incredible dog named Ricochet very recently: http://www.surfdogricochet.com/.

While all dogs are amazing, this golden retriever has a very unique skill set: she knows how to surf! Not only does she surf, she surfs with special needs humans. She surfs next to them, jumps on their board, etc. Ricochet has been all over the media circuit as both an inspiration and fund raising magnet.

His owner calls her a “surfice dog” (clever we think) and has raised a few hundred thousand dollars. I put her website link above but you can also find him on youtube-she has a video on there that got millions of views!

Ricki is apparently the only surfing dog who surfs with special needs kids worldwide. Her goal is to help people who are disabled, bullied or otherwise in need overcome obstacles and feel great about themselves. Her ambition is to help people be true to themselves. What an amazing dog doing amazing things.

We have been thinking about getting Cosita certified as a therapy dog but we have yet to find any truly amazing talent that she has exhibited. Like father like daughter I suppose :-)


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Federal puppy mill bill coming soon

Saw this article and forgot to post it so am doing so now:  http://blog.aspca.org/content/puppy-mill-bill-cracks-down-online-dog-sales

The puppy protection and safety bill would do something that we have needed as a country for a long time: will require all breeders who sell directly to the public (sight unseen) to be licensed and inspected by the USDA.

This is a big deal and a huge step in the right direction. Currently, when people go online to find a dog they will see tons of pay per click ads and many ultimately will fall in love with a pup they see on the screen and order one. The issue is that many breeders who are willing to sell dogs online without meeting the end owner are not dog lovers and reputable breeders. Imagine you have a dog and that you do not care who you sell the dog to-hard to imagine that you care very much about the dog if you would send them anywhere without spending time getting to know the family.

Many of these dogs are kept in miserable conditions and have tons of genetic problems due to the inbreeding. Well-meaning individuals who order these dogs face health and behavioral problems all the while supporting unscrupulous breeders.

Regulations such as this are clearly a step in the right direction.

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Wonderful video of a rescued dog going from snarling to trusting

I came across this video online and wanted to repost it because most dogs that are found in this state like Janie here do not get a second chance:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2319054/Road-recovery-The-heartwarming-video-puppy-wouldnt-let-near-learning-trust-humans-again.html

The back story is that Janie was hit by a car and broke her back. The Bill foundation paid for Janie’s surgery and naturally she was scared of human beings given how much pain she had been through. If you open the video on this page you will notice her snarling and in a state such that no volunteers could come near her.

When dogs are in shelters in this state, it is usually game over. They are termed vicious, dangerous, or whatever which then ultimately leads to euthanasia. There are so many dogs with no behavior problems euthanized that it is very unlikely that a snapping dog will ever be adopted.

This video of Janie and a volunteer is particularly heartwarming because most dogs can be rehabilitated to a state where they would be great family dog. Dogs are born nice but humans do a lot to them that can create their fear issues and altered temperament. Of course, there are some animals born that are wired in the wrong way but that is an extremely small fraction of a percent of dogs. As we continue to fix the dog/cat shelter/adoption system in this country such that we become a no-kill country I expect that ultimately we will make our way to spending extra time on dogs with fear issues. Many great dogs like Janie are euthanized needlessly so if you see a dog with issues that you are thinking about adopting, get the help of an experienced dog trainer and give her or him a chance.

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I came across an article not too long ago about a woman in South Carolina who lost two Labs and used any means available to find the dogs including searching by helicopter and offering a $1,000 reward:  http://www.examiner.com/article/desperate-dog-owner-searches-for-lost-dogs-with-helicopter-offers-large-reward

The article got me thinking about how often I see rewards for dog returns and about the different sums involved. Sometimes I see sign locally for a $100 or $250 reward and this was probably one of the biggest rewards I have seen. I am sure there are bigger rewards offered all the time which makes sense given dogs are family members, but what I had never really sat down and thought about is whether people actually accept the rewards when returning the dogs and what the optimal reward size is. Is bigger always better?

This is not a moral question meant to judge people that accept the reward offers-I am just curious. Perhaps the answer varies by age group or how much effort/inconvenience was involved en route to the person returning the pet.

I just googled it and saw an interesting post that said not to make your reward too large if you lose your pet because it might lead people to over-value the animal and not want to return him or her thinking they are very valuable. I think this is probably right-the advice said to just state there is a reward without identifying the amount. Still haven’t found any guesses with respect to accepted rewards but I will update this if I do.

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Two year anniversary

Updated thoughts as of April 2013:

I wanted to do an update for the website as we are nearing our two year anniversary. Like most things in my life, when I look back a couple of years I realize how much more I thought I knew two years ago than I actually did. With respect to dog rescue, boy was I naive on the challenges involved and the learning I had ahead of me.

The good news is that I generally move very slowly and like to try things out and test before I formulate ideas. In this case, my goals behind Mav’s Rescue Friends have changed significantly. I originally envisioned creating a foundation based upon helping families who had injured pets and were unable to afford their treatment. I found quickly that I would be unable to do this at scale for a variety of reasons including figuring out which cases to help with and what criteria to use in my evaluation. I could not imagine scaling up over time and having to choose some families and turn others down.

En route to figuring this out, I noticed something I found particularly interesting about dog rescue: the very large number of passionate animal lovers who started small rescues around the country with very limited funding. I have continued to marvel over the past couple of years at how many people are helping save animals. There is more effort and love than there is money in small towns to help animals. I thought it would be great to create a fund of funds so to speak for smaller rescues. In other words, creating an organization that would specialize in fundraising for all the local rescues who are doing the heavy lifting with their time and effort. This would serve to both help local rescues raise funds directly as well as to provide as a verification resource for the way the charities/rescues operate and use funds. That way, over time, people could donate directly to the local rescues on their own as well. I still very much like this idea and hope one day to push forward with it.

The one other idea I have been toying around with is the creation of a large shelter in the outskirts of New York City. I have read a great deal about the techniques different no-kill shelters are using and have some opinions about innovations that are working and I think having a shelter that would serve as a testing ground for animal advocates around the country and their ideas outside of Manhattan would be great exposure for animal rescue as well as perhaps a magnet for donations. There are tons of animal lovers in this area and if there were a large shelter that brought exposure to the animal rescue cause, perhaps it could serve a dual purpose of rescue shelter and fund of funds. I think a shelter that was privately funded, had a store, had great hours and customer service, offered shuttles to Manhattan, used storefronts in the city and suburbs, offered training and other services to help generate revenues, put videos and lots of pics of the pets, had long stories about the pets and their behaviors, and just generally implemented good ideas that rescue groups are trying everywhere it might be able to save a lot of lives and help raise a lot of money from donors.

Companies use flagship stores in Manhattan to attract people so why not the same for a shelter? I can dream. I would love to be in the position some day to do this on my own, but I hope someone does it before I do. This website has been therapeutic for me in that it helps me think and write down ideas, and by making myself post every so often it makes me focus. I am writing a great deal more than I am having a positive impact at this point, but I sincerely hope this will not always be the case.

As always, if you are one of my one or two readers and you have any thoughts or ideas please send them along to me. If anything on this website is helpful to anyone, I will consider this to have been a positive effort. If not, for now it will continue to be a learning process for me. Thanks for reading.


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