Friday, 21 June 2013

Daniel Island Animal Hospital goes Mobile for Seniors in Need

by Kelly Rae Smith - Lowcountry Dog Magazine - Summer 2013

Coming across people like Daniel Island Animal Hospital’s Dr. Lynne Flood sure is refreshing. During a time when our attention quickly sweeps from one ugly crisis to another, it is nice to see some humanity happening. Even better that it’s so close to home.

Dr. Flood recently began the charitable organization DIAH on Wheels, an initiative to help homebound seniors living in poverty to receive low to no-cost food and medical care for their pets. DIAH has the mobility to do so due to a retired ambulance truck that they have repurposed into a vet clinic on wheels.

The idea was born from a combination of interests. Dr. Flood not only has a passion for animals, but also for the elderly. She recently earned a graduate gerontology certificate and was especially concerned with the social science aspect and the concept of aging in place.

“Aging in place is a term that is used in gerontology circles,” she says, “and it’s just an initiative to help seniors live in their home for as long as possible.  And it’s better for them because they can stay in their home and keep their pets. I want them to keep their pets because I think that’s a huge factor when it comes to their quality of life.”

After some thorough research, she and the DIAH practice manager, Abby Suiter, realized that the real need for assistance of this type is great within Berkeley County, specifically the Cainhoy/Huger area. And now DIAH on Wheels has joined up with Berkeley Seniors, an organization that does what they can to support the physical, emotional, and mental well being of their older residents. Inside 85 to 90 percent of the homes they visit are seniors living below the poverty line. Most of them have pets, and it is a concern that the residents are sharing their meals with the animals that they cannot afford to feed.

DIAH on Wheel’s first mission is to collect enough pet food for Berkeley Seniors to deliver along with their meals for seniors, so even all four-legged residents are properly nourished. Then, they will begin immunizations for these pets for those who can’t get out of the house to get petcare and can’t afford a mobile groomer. All the while, Dr. Flood and volunteers will gradually realize the scope of the need and let their mission evolve from there, eventually taking the truck out to the communities in need to give these animals and their best friends even more attention.

“After the food and immunization processes,” she says, “I want to do some public health stuff. I want to deworm, treat these pets for fleas or intestinal parasites or skin problems, or whatever they have. I think it’ll be fun. It’ll be fun for me to get out there, and it’ll be something that will help my county.”  
Look out for ways to help the initiative by tuning into the DIAH on Wheels Facebook page, where updates will be posted regarding their GoFundMe plans as well as a DIAH loyalty card that will donate a percentage of profits to DIAH on Wheels. Additionally, volunteers are needed to come along and keep the residents company while their pets receive care.

Summer Lovin': The Story of Mukai and Bugsy Siegel, the Danes of Charleston

by Kelly Rae Smith - Lowcountry Dog Magazine - Summer 2013

The Siegel story is beautiful. It’s full of heartbreak and loss, but hearts are also mended and filled, joy is restored, and souls are rescued all around. As we listen to a violin’s song emanate from a neighboring garden party, Karen and I settle ourselves on the back porch of the Siegels’ downtown home to discuss their furry familypast and present, hurts and all.

At the moment, Karen and Bob Siegel are experiencing a conflict of emotions. You see, Lowcountry Dog had originally planned to speak to them about, and personally meet, Mukai—the Siegels’ beloved black and white Great Dane who joined the family three years ago. The magazine auctioned off this cover story at the annual Furball Gala to benefit Pet Helpers. Karen, not only a long-time supporter of Pet Helpers, but also a now 15-year volunteer for the Charleston animal charity, won last November’s auction. She wanted it to promote rescue and to honor her beautiful Mukai, who had rescued her family upon his arrival several years ago. Unfortunately, Mukai passed away in January of this year.

Mukai had been a saving grace to help them recover from the loss of Stella, their Great Dane for 12 years. But Mukai would eventually get prostate cancer and only live to be seven-years young. Although I had the misfortune of never meeting him, I was certainly introduced to Mukai through story. And I did get to meet Bugsy Siegel. He’s their new 65-pound, four-month-old Great Dane puppy, who is turning out to be another savior.

“Mukai taught me a lot of stuff,” Karen says, “But the first thing he taught me was the only way you’re going to heal a broken heart when you lose an animal, is with another animal.”

Speaking about Mukai isn’t easy. There may be a puppy nearby to distract her by playfully eating every flower in the garden, but it’s still so soon. Karen reflects slowly and in pauses as she longs to perfectly recall their time with him from the very beginning. With emotion in her voice, she starts again.
“We actually found Mukai because he was in Lowcountry Dog,” she says, “and that was the month that they ran the Great Dane rescue page. I didn’t even know we had a Great Dane rescue in South Carolina. But I saw Mukai on there, and I thought he was beautiful.

“I watched him on the Pet Helpers website for a year. And then we lost Stella. A week later I saw he was still on the website, and I thought, we’ve got to go meet him. So I did, and I was absolutely terrified of him. He was the biggest Dane I had ever seen. I thought, that is so not my puppy,” she laughs. “But I went to pet him, and I realized he was terrified. He barked and growled because he was petrified of everyone. And it just broke my heart.”

And that is when the mutual rescue began. Although he was lovingly cared for at Pet Helpers, Mukai needed his own home, where he could be better nurtured, and where he could sooner forget his life before the rescue.

Mukai spent the first year of his life tied up and beaten in his backyard, by a “vet tech” no less. He was bumped out of three different homes before Karen found him. Although she wasn’t sure if they were quite ready so soon after losing Stella, she did know this: Mukai couldn’t wait anymore. And he didn’t have to. Their bond had already begun.

“There was something about us,” she recalls. “We just clicked. When we decided to take him, [the Pet Helpers employee] said, ‘I’m so happy. After watching him with you for about 15 minutes, I thought please, God, let this woman want this dog, because this dog really wants that woman.’”

And from that point forward, he became a special fixture in the Siegel house, although those first few hours were slightly shaky.

“It was frightening taking in a 200-pound dog that had a history of abuse and neglect,” she admits. “When they brought him here, he was pacing from the front to the back door. I was kind of scared to get up, but I just looked at him and said, OK, buddy, we have to make this work.”

Her nervousness would soon subside, as did his. And so she remains a champion for rescues, and this is why. It brought them joy to watch this confident, loving, sweet-spirited dog evolve. from that once-timid creature.

“It was like a miracle,” she remembers. “After about six months, he was just a completely different dog. He would drag all his toys out of the foyer, and there would be 15 toys and bones. I think it was because, being a rescue, you don’t have your own. You drop it, somebody’s gonna take it. He was over 200 pounds playing with toys.”

As he healed before their eyes, the Siegels soon realized Mukai was healing them, too.

“He made us remember the Stella that we had for ten years,” she says, “and not the Stella we had for the last year when she was sick and she couldn’t get around. Once he got comfortable, he would start goofing around, and we thought, doesn’t he remind you of Stella? So he brought back the happy memories of Stella. That’s the first thing he taught me.”

Remembering this lesson, she sought out another Dane when Mukai passed earlier this year. Although she wasn’t keen on a puppy, another gut feeling told her she and Bugsy would need each other, too.

They expect Bugsy to grow to Mukai-like proportions, so reminders are sure to stay with them for the duration of Bugsy’s life. And that’s a great thing. So is the garden destruction, the necessary supervision, the constant mischief. They laugh it all off because, after all, what else would you expect of a Great Dane puppy? “There’s puppies,” Karen says, “and then there’s puppies on steroids.”

Today, she gets satisfaction from watching this swiftly growing Bugsy enjoy a puppyhood, the kind that Mukai was denied.

“I think it was the fact that Mukai was a rescue,” she says, “that you could see in his eyes the gratitude, the love, more so I think than any other dog we’ve had. The most rewarding thing was to see this giant dog who just went from a terrified, and terrifying, 200 pounds of dog to romping around like a 20-pound puppy, which is just the most rewarding thing. We gave him a puppyhood, and he brought Stella’s puppyhood back to us. It was a good deal.”

Fancy a mutual rescue yourself? Contact Pet Helpers to see who needs a nurturing home today: Pet Helpers
1447 Folly Road
James Island
(843) 795-1110

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Teacher in the House: A True Tale of Urban Survival @ Theatre 99

Susan Jeremy admits she can't help that most of her work is funny. This remains true of her latest one-woman play, Teacher in the House: A True Tale of Urban Survival, despite its rather gloomy origins. Coming soon to Piccolo Fringe, Jeremy's fifth solo project is her most revealing as it touches on her personal battle with and recovery from breast cancer.
"But how funny can a cancer diagnosis be?" Jeremy asks. "Let's just say I had to find humor in the rigorous treatment and the uncertainty of my future. That is how I survived. So yes, I make cancer amusing in respect to how it affected me. I was bald and looked like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family."
But before Jeremy had to face the drama of her adult life, and even before she was certifiably funny, she was a natural-born artist. With a father who was a lindy hop dancer in the 1940s and a childhood spent imitating her idol Lily Tomlin at relatives' parties, she was destined for a life of performing.
Jeremy began her career as a stand-up comic touring with the likes of Ellen Degeneres and Jim Carrey before deciding to write her own plays. Based in New York City, she's now part of Watson Arts, based out of the world-famous ETC and founded by her writing partner of 15 years, Mary Fulman. The theater company produces plays written for and about women, so Jeremy and her autobiographical tendencies have been a welcome addition.
She wrote the popular P.S. 69, also performed at Piccolo to two sold-out rooms at Theatre 99 in 2007, based on her experiences as a substitute teacher in Brooklyn. Since Jeremy is a physical mimic on stage up there all on her lonesome, she wound up creating and performing a total of 24 characters for P.S. 69.
In Teacher in the House, a story that began as a book in 2010, Jeremy will play 10 different characters at a Manhattan crime scene reminiscent of an episode of Law and Order, a show Jeremy watched "every day while stuck at home doing chemotherapy." The play is based on a woman who is one of several teachers who educate children in their NYC homes, a story that draws inspiration from Jeremy's real-life occupation of teaching children with life-threatening illnesses. But her own sickness was not a story she was necessarily ready to tell for some time.
"I could not write about my cancer experience right away because I was traumatized by it," she says. "So I waited for about two years. I never thought I could relive that time in my life on stage and do it comically. But this is who I am and this is how I survive what life throws me. This new show is truly the most meaningful to me and to those that know me. I am alive and the show is a testament to anyone who has overcome an illness or knows someone living with one."
"I hope audiences will leave smiling," she explains, "and hug whoever is in their life that is affected by an illness. I hope viewers will see the humor it takes to keep spirits up when a situation may look dire, and the absurdity of everyday realities."

Teacher in the House: A True Tale of Urban Survival @ Theatre 99

  • Thu., June 6, 7 p.m., Fri., June 7, 7 p.m. and Sat., June 8, 6 p.m.