Tag Archives: hope

The Doney Clinic: A Free Vet Clinic for Homeless People & Their Pets

homeless street dog

This is Angel. She lives on the streets of Seattle with her dad. When I met Angel, I told her dad he named her perfectly because she was a real sweetheart. He looked at me without a beat and said, “She is my best friend.”

Last Saturday was my first day volunteering with the Doney Clinic, a free vet clinic for homeless and low-income people to bring their pets. Every other Saturday, two dozen volunteers set up mobile veterinary services and a pet supply donation center in the basement of the Union Gospel Mission Men’s Shelter. Angel and her dad were the first pet-parent couple I met. They were near the front of the line that stretched all the way down and around the block. They had been waiting in the cold for six hours so that Angel could get free winter clothes, food, toys, a harness, and a check-up.

Angel was one of a hundred dogs and cats that came through the doors that Saturday. Amidst the chaos, we clipped nails, cleaned ears, drew blood, gave vaccines, and more. I helped a homeless woman bundle her long-haired Dachshund back up in his winter coats. She instructed me that the clothes were put on in a specific order. The pink jacket was the first of the six coats to go on her furry companion. It would drop below freezing that night.

Every single person that came through the clinic was extremely grateful for our services—I mean extremely grateful. But I found myself thanking them for coming in, for being such caring and doting pet parents, and for helping to restore some of my own faith in humanity.

Admittedly, volunteering here for me isn’t a selfless endeavor. I’m trying to fill a void in my heart that’s calling for me to give back more to this wonderful planet and amazing community that has done so much for me. I’m trying to understand the individuals behind the homeless epidemic, trying to find a channel for my compassion that doesn’t compromise my safety.

I will be journaling about my experiences with the Doney Clinic every month in an effort to help the clinic continue its services and to share my own transformative journey looking in the eye  people and animals that too often are passed by.

Under the streets of Pioneer Square in the heart of downtown Seattle in a bustling basement on a cold winter day, I saw hope and a reciprocated love that, between man and his best friend, remains unconditional.


Is This the Apocalypse? Then Here’s a Glimpse of Hope

I am writing to offer some hope. In the immensity of the disasters happening right now–we’ve got wildfires raging out west, hurricanes and flooding around the globe, an earthquake in Mexico–it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that this is–it must be–the apocalypse. It is easy to give in, give up, lose hope.

My heart right now is breaking. I can’t stop pacing my apartment, I can’t focus at work, I can’t sleep through the night. Strangely, the only place I have wanted to be in the past 48 hours is in Long Island, Bahamas with my island family, threading the eye of the hurricane and riding the spherical needle to its next destination, predictably to its mainland fall in my forever home in the Florida Keys. How helpless we are left to feel when we willingly wish ourselves to be in harm’s way for the sake of leaning on each other.

But that is what we must do–support each other. In the imminent devastation that Irma will leave wherever she goes, we must hold onto the silver linings. Sifting through the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin, I choked back vomit and tears more times than I can count. And while, admittedly, even from far away Irma has shaken my subconscious into unwelcome flashbacks of my own experience flirting with the dangers of Mother Nature, that is not what I remember most from my island life.

Landscapes, homes, hearts, and minds are not impermeable to devastation, but they are resilient in the wake of it. Trees regrow; buildings are rebuilt; our spirits heal. When life makes us take a step back, we pick up, we rebuild and somehow, sometime, we get back to normal. We have to, because there is no other option.

I remember vividly the strength of the storm I endured in October 2015, but I reflect fondly on a strength far greater than Joaquin. I am humbled by the community that arose from the rubble like a phoenix from the ashes, the neighbors who opened their doors, the locals who distributed home-cooked meals to the now homeless.

What makes these places paradise more than their beautiful scenery is their beautiful people. It wasn’t the turquoise blue waters that I had a hard time saying goodbye to; it was the friends who became my family that made it so difficult to leave.

So, to all of my beloved friends and strangers who have to endure Irma in one way or another, I offer you this morsel of hope: devastation does not mean destruction. Find hope in knowing that whatever happens, together you can and you will rebuild. We did it with Joaquin and we’ll do it with Irma. You, the community, are what make a place home.

I love you all from the bottom of my heart. #longislandstrong #keysstrong

How to Change the World in 4 Easy Steps

We all want our lives to have meaning. We all want our time on this earth to be significant. We all want to make a difference in the world.

But how, exactly, do we do that?

It’s something I struggled with greatly when I took a break from wildlife conservation to work in a more stable veterinary clinic setting. It’s something that tormented me as I set off to chase my many dreams. Was I being selfish? How was I giving back to the world?

I have since realized four things:

First, every job is giving back in some way. Maybe you’re helping the needy, maybe you’re inspiring others, maybe you’re boosting the economy, maybe you’re putting a smile on someone’s face or simply making their day a little easier.

Second, my career does not define me. My values, beliefs, morals and desires define me.

Third, by focusing on myself, I have been able to gain incredible self-awareness. I know my wants and needs. I know my skills and talents. And I can nurture them and use them to change the world.

Fourth, changing the world does not happen on a monumental scale. Change in the world is the result of chain effects. Little things. Elementary, my dear Watson.

So how do you change the world?

 1. Know yourself

Self awareness goes a long way toward making the world a better place. Take time to actively engage in conversation with yourself, to get to know you. Spend quality alone time with no one other than yourself and learn to enjoy it, to crave it. Slow down. Pray, meditate, journal or find an active means of self reflection to guide you along the path to self discovery.

 2. Love yourself

Appreciating your own self worth is pivotal to anyone’s success and happiness. People who want to change the world want to do so because they love humanity, they love this earth. But we absolutely cannot fully love anything else without wholly embracing who we are as individuals. If love really does make the world go round, then it starts within ourselves.

3. Be yourself

In a world full of so much sham, authenticity is a rare find. Live your life with honesty and integrity. Never try to be anyone but yourself. If we are not truthful to ourselves, then we are not being truthful to the changes we wish to see in the world.

 4. Give of yourself

Pay it forward. The focus on giving back isn’t on being selfless, because learning to love yourself can be an incredibly selfish task, one that requires constant time and sacrifice. Give of yourself by being open and vulnerable to the world so that you can find your role in it.

And that’s it. It really is that simple.

How do you change the world? By turning the focus inward. Look to yourself and there you’ll find the answer.

20 Ways I’ve Smiled & Stayed Sane Since Trump Happened

The week after the election, I cried non-stop. I cried for my gay friends and black friends; I cried for women and children and the poor and handicapped. I cried for the environment. I cried for my Latino friends and Muslim friends. I cried for the man I met from Iraq.

I cried on my walk to work. I cried at work. I cried on my lunch break. At the end of each day, I pounded my fists into my bed out of despair. I had no appetite. When I caught myself in a chair collapsing from exhaustion, I said, “Fuck this.” And then I changed tactics.

I needed to let myself have my feelings, just like everyone else who was processing the results in their own way–many in a similar fashion. And then I needed to get on with my life instead of letting a government I don’t agree with suck me dry of my passion for living.

I began to bring joy and peace back into my life, and this is how I did it:

 1. Girl Power Songs

Including but not limited to: “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson and “This Is My Fight Song” produced by Elizabeth Banks for the Democratic National Convention. These and others were listened to on repeatrepeatrepeat.

 2. Dancing to Said Girl Power Songs

 3. Singing

I looked in the mirror and sang “I Won’t Give Up On Us” by Jason Mraz. I sang it to America and I sang it to the world until I believed it.

 4. Creativity

I poured myself into my artistic talents, writing and acting as much as possible.

 5. Social Media Moratorium

I took a break from social media, because I just couldn’t stand all the fighting.

 6. Conversations with Conservatives

I had verbal discussions, not arguments, with Trump supporters because I needed to understand. I wanted to believe that people I loved who supported a man who was so vehemently hateful were not hateful themselves.

And I do. I really do believe that this world is full of more love than hate, and I am grateful to my conservative friends for showing me that.

 7. Nature

I went into the mountains for a week.

 8. Dogs

I signed on Instagram only to follow funny dog accounts. If you’re in need of suggestions, I am an avid fan of @dogsbeingbasic, @itsdougthepug and @bark. I also hugged every dog that came into the vet clinic. They were living their lives happily despite who was President, and I knew I could, too. Thanks, canines of the world.

 9. SNL

It is 100% biased and has been 100% hilarious.

 10. The Kindness of Strangers

I have been very keyed into my surroundings. When a homeless man helped a blind woman off the bus, I smiled and cried happy tears and it gave me hope.

 11. Change of Residency

I was living in Washington but registered in Florida and didn’t need a new license until 2021. I don’t drive out west. Florida is a swing state for elections. I didn’t have $89 lying around. All very good reasons to not switch my residency over.

But I wanted to be able to say yes to canvassers who ask me if I am registered to vote in Washington, so that I can sign petitions to help the homeless and save the bees. And Washington is finally a place where I feel like I’m meant to be. So I saved up and got a hideous new photo taken for a WA driver’s license and registered to vote in the Evergreen State.

 12. Marches

I joined the Women’s March. I will be marching for Black Lives Matter and Science. I make uplifting signs and I display them in my bedroom window.

 13. Baths

I’ve never taken so many baths. Magnesium flakes are glorious.

 14. I Started Saying “No”

Some people need to vent constantly about the state of the world, but I enter into a downward spiral when I’m surrounded by repeated negativity. So I’ve learned to politely say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about that now.”

 15. Good Things

I remember that there is still so much beauty surrounding us, and I make a point to reflect on it.

 16. Meaningful Relationships

I threw myself into maintaining friendships that mean the most to me.

 17. Health Care

I saved up for insurance and addressed burgeoning health concerns I’d neglected before. I tackled doctor visits at the beginning of the year to protect myself in case my plan was suddenly unavailable to me.

 18. Massage

I treated myself to a massage because dammit, I deserved it.

 19. Delayed Filing Taxes

Normally, I do my taxes in January. But I had a lot to learn about self-employment tax this year. And I needed to focus on myself before I focused on my taxes. So I set a personal record by waiting until mid-March to file.

 20. Goodwill Closet

I bought myself some dresses at Goodwill so that I could feel sexy. Yes, sexy.

The U.S. government’s attack on arts and science and basic human rights has been a personal attack on my careers and my fundamental beliefs. In many ways, Donald Trump has shaken awake the hibernating souls who never knew what they believed in but now are budding activists.

I will not bury my head in the sand, but I will take care of myself. If I forget to look after me, then how can I help the rest of the world? I’ve learned that there is a dotted line between ignorance and knowledge. As an empath, I remain informed, but I don’t have to know everything. And no matter what I do or do not know, I won’t stop standing up for what I believe in.


I Met a Man from Iraq

On the evening of Tuesday, November 7, 2016, I flew from Idaho to Washington. In the airport terminal, I stopped at a burrito bar. It was there that I met a man from Iraq.

I made small talk with the man taking my order. He asked where I was from, where I was heading. Friendly and bright-eyed, he asked who I thought was going to win the election. I was confident a racist, xenophobic misogynist would not be taking the presidential oath in January, so we didn’t talk much more about politics.

I asked him how he liked living in Idaho. He said he hadn’t been here long, but it was suiting him fine.

“Oh, where did you move from?” I asked innocently.

He looked at me and said, “I’m from Iraq.”

A woman in a hijab emerged from the kitchen to begin fixing my burrito.

In that moment, I fumbled for words. I wanted to pour my heart out to them, to offer my sincerest apologies for all the hate–so much hate–being spewed in their direction. I wanted to ask them what it was like to live in Iraq, what it was like to listen to the news in America, what it was like to pass through airport security every day. I wanted to know how they came to run a burrito business and what were their hopes and dreams. I wanted to tell them I was sorry for the state of the world.

I wished to reach over the counter and take that man’s hands in mine and tell him I would fight for him. I wanted to look that woman in the eyes and tell her she was beautiful and so was her hijab.

Instead, hoping my enthusiasm would show I didn’t care where they came from, I uttered, “Oh, wow, that’s cool!”

Then I asked the man, “How did you choose Idaho?”

He shrugged and said, “It’s quiet out here in the middle of nowhere.”

I gave the couple a generous tip.

Early in the morning of November 8, 2016, I cried for the man and woman I met at a burrito bar.

I have wished countless times since then that I could rewind the clock and speak my thoughts aloud. Silence and inactivity are a crutch for the weak, confused and insecure. Fear paralyzes us and accomplishes nothing. Hate begets hate begets hate.

I cannot time travel, but I can work for the future. I will not stop fighting, and America, I hope you won’t either.


The Sparrow’s Prayer, A Poem

Today I walked in the rain,

She said,

As the earth came crumbling down

Then later danced on a

Spider’s web

Balancing high above the ground


A sparrow caught in the

Silky threads

Hollow bones melodious, poised and pure

And to the leaves its feathers

Slowly bled

In cadence foreshadowing

The obscure


She caught a plume as it spiraled

In flight

Dissonance rippling through the air

And in that moment altered

The plight

Giving new rhythm to the

Sparrow’s prayer.