Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Frodo Fun Facts

Well, we have had a good response so far from folks and families interested in finding a fabulous new home for Frodo. I've received several emails requesting more detailed info about Frodo's habits, likes/dislikes, and other relevant details. So here I'll post some "stock" responses to some of the most common questions...

RE: physical characteristics, shedding, etc...

Frodo is lab/Australian shepherd mix. He looks sort of border collie-ish, mostly black and white with shorter hair, but not a short as typical lab hair. I got him from a farm in South Carolina when I was in college. He weighs about 50 lbs, and sheds in a periodic fashion as the weather gets warmer. In the winter he develops a downy undercoat that comes off in the late spring and makes a royal mess. A bath once a week or so for 2 – 3 weeks seems to help the process along and minimize the shedding around the house. Sometimes I joke with him that I could save up his hair and “make another Frodo.” My longhaired friend Clint says the same thing about himself to his wife (i.e. if she gets lonely when he’s away she could make another Clint with the hair out of the shower drain).

RE: behavioral concerns, habits, etc...

He is potty trained, and is accustomed to walking on a leash

He comes when I call, but I cannot guarantee he will do this immediately for new owners. If he is very distracted, say by a squirrel running around nearby, voice commands are virtually ignored -- from me or anyone else -- until the stimulus has passed or has secured itself out of his reach.

He likes to ride in the car, especially with his head out the window.

He likes to try to herd the cattle out at Wildcat Canyon park. I think this is the aussie instinct coming out in him. He doesn't really know what he's doing, but it clearly compelled to try to get the cows all in a group and moving in the same direction. The cows typically get annoyed with this and some will try to chase him away, which is really entertaining to watch.

He sleeps on the couch or in the chair, or in my bed, or sometime on his doggie-bed.

He has been neutered, but not micro-chipped.

RE: health history...

He has been a healthy dog except for about four years ago when he developed lupus, an auto-immune disease. He developed a sore on his nose that would not heal, and after two biopsies and hundreds of dollars in vet bills was diagnosed with lupus. Since then, he takes tetracycline and receives an application of a steroid cream on his nose once a day. This has eliminated the bacterial infection that kept the sore from healing, and has stopped the spread of the lupus--it appears to be in check with daily meds. The only evidence is the quarter-sized pink spot on his nose that looks like a birthmark. If he is going to be out in the sun a lot I sometimes put sunscreen on it. Other than that he is a healthy dog.

RE: temperament...

His temperament is extremely friendly around people. As far as he knows, people are on earth to give him attention, play with him, pet him, etc. If you say "walk" he gets very excited and starts turning in circles and squeaking. When guests come over he relishes the attention.

RE: kids...

He has been around small children many times, through he’s never lived with any. He is more-or-less indifferent to kids – i.e. he is not aggressive towards them, nor does he give them an abundance of attention. He seems to be more interested in adults, and tolerates children. I imagine that if he lived with children he would develop more of an affinity—I know he would appreciate their attention and playfulness. I have never worried about him presenting any danger whatsoever to kids.

RE: intelligence...

He is very clever, and has learned how to "act" to get people to give him more attention, take him for walks, etc. He used to guilt my old housemate into taking him for walks 3 - 5 times a day! Whenever Walter would try to leave the house, Frodo would look very pathetic, sick, and lonesome. So Walter would break down and take him out. It got crazy -- like 5 walks a day sometimes. So we had to train Walter how to say "no" to Frodo. Frodo had trained him!

RE: other dogs, and cats...

Frodo has lived around two other dogs -- both situations have worked well. He now shares our common backyard with the neighbor's dog during the days while I am at work. I don't foresee problems with Frodo and other dogs. Some people have written and asked about cats however, which I suspect would be more problematic. I am very allergic to cats so we have never had one, and Frodo tends to want to chase them. So for him to join a home with a cat could be interesting, and possibly a little harrowing at first.

RE: Frodo in the workplace...

I occasionally bring Frodo to work with me though most days he stays at home. He likes coming to work since the people in the office dote over him. I like it b/c it gives me more excuses to get up and out of the office and take a walk.

RE: his most disturbing habit...

Frodo loves to get dirty. And at times this means downright filthy. One of his favorite ways to do this is to roll in cow or horse dung. A few times he's come out completely covered in the stuff, which is disgusting. He loves it though -- he's like "Woohoo, look at me!I smell HORRIBLE! Sweet!" and he grins and grins. I sigh, and shrug my shoulders, and find the nearest clean body of water to dunk him in. Then when we get home he gets a full bath, which he doesn't particularly like.

Apparently this thing with the cow and horse crap is instinctual. He's trying to hide his scent so he can sneak up on stuff. I tell him "NO!" eveytime he wants to roll in filth; but I have not succeeded in training this behavior out of him. New owners ought to be prepared mentally and logistically for him to get really dirty and gross on occasion, and be ready to give him a good long bath. A good way to avoid the issue is to keep him on the leash when going out for hikes. I only let him off the leash when I have admitted to myself that it is 95% likely I will have to give him a bath when we get home.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Frodo's Journeys

I have this big project, and it's kind of a difficult project, so I'm trying to get in touch with pretty much everyone I know to help me out.

My living and work situation is about to become really unstable (which is a good thing) since my National Science Foundation Fellowship will expire soon and I will be out of school and unemployed (read: unattached, free, liberated, etc.).

I have some amazing plans in the works to travel and live/work in India for a while, with the idea of soaking up some Eastern philosophy and studying how people in many Indian communities live long, healthy, happy, fulfilled lives while living very lightly on the Earth and with comparatively little money.

This is meant to be a research trip where I learn by participant-observation and experience, as opposed to the detached, Western, intellectual/academic ivory tower methods that I have used for pretty much my whole life so far. The motivation is that I want to get some knowledge, experiences, tools, and practices to show how people can live lightly on the planet and have fulfilling lives so that I can bring these ideas back to the US to help create an intentional community / ecovillage / living-learning center in the Bay Area.

(Read more about the East Bay Living-Learning Center project HERE.)

You might guess that the US is the most resource-consumptive country on the planet, and not necessarily the happiest, despite what economists tell us about the relationship between material wealth and well-being. My aim is to show people in the US how we can live lightly (read ecologically sustainable) and have a BETTER quality of life than we do currently (not “belt tightening” and “sacrificing” and “austerity”, or living in caves eating bugs, or 20-people-to-a-room or any of that.)

So probably to you this all sounds like great stuff. Well, here’s the hard part:

Because of the instability (economic, logistic, geographical, etc.) that I am about to experience for at least the next 3 - 6 years as I travel in India and elsewhere gaining the skills, knowledge and experience to transform life here in the Bay Area, I will not be able to offer the attention, care, infrastructure, and economic support required to care for my dog Frodo.

My parents and I have talked about this at great length, as we initially thought they would take care of him while I am gone. But my life is evolving, and there is no hard date in the future that I can foresee when I will be stable enough and have the means to offer Frodo proper care. My parents could consider having Frodo live with them if it was for a fixed and relatively short period, say 6 – 12 months. But beyond that they don’t have the means or stability to care for him either, since they are trying to work out about retirement and figure out how to sell their house and move to where they will spend their retired years—in the Carolinas, West Virginia or wherever-- it isn’t clear at this time where that will be. They, regrettably, just can’t take him on long term.

So what this means is that I have to find a great and loving new home for Frodo, so that he can be adopted on a semi-permanent, or more likely permanent, basis.

Why this is hard for me, other than I will have to give up my doggie, which is gut-wrenchingly tragic, is that most everyone I know is like me, i.e. non-wealthy grad student or non-profit worker in the Bay Area (which is heinously expensive), unstable geographically and through time, and not prepared financially or logistically to take care of Frodo long-term.

So I am reaching out to colleagues, friends, family, and everyone I can get a hold of to enlist in a great search to find Frodo the perfect new home. This is where YOU come in.

I am preparing an adoption packet for Frodo (including his medical records, sundry info about his life and needs, and a flyer that can be distributed electronically or printed out [see below], etc.) which I can send you if you are willing to help me in this enormous task of finding Frodo the best possible place to be loved and cared for. He would be great in any home with other dogs, with kids, or with elderly people who need a companion to take walks with and so on. He’s 6 ½ now, so he’s out of the puupy stage but still has the energy of his lab/Australian shepherd lineage, so he would be great with active younger people as well. If you know of an awesome candidate family/household for Frodo please let me know how I can get in contact with them ASAP!

I can’t thank you enough for any help you can offer in finding Frodo a great new home. He is the most amazing dog on the planet, as far as I can tell. Super sweet, super friendly, a terrific and loyal companion. He will bless any home he is received into. I just have to find him a new family and home by this August. Any help you can offer is much appreciated!!!

Please email me or leave comments here with your contact info if you are ready to be enlisted in this BIG project. Not only are you helping the greatest dog in the universe find an awesome new home, you’re helping his future family to connect with him and have an experience they will cherish forever. Not only that, you are helping me to carry on my life’s work and mission to change the world for ecological sustainability and peace.

Please contact me if you want to help! Thank you so much, from me and from Frodo!

Monday, May 08, 2006

“Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-lunatic farmer” in Virginia

I want to meet this guy Joel Salatin--he sounds like my kind of guy. Check out this MoJo article on the sustainable farming practices at his operation in the Shenandoah Valley of VA.

Here's a direct link to Joel's website. And here's a webcast of a talk Joel gave at Berkeley.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Systems thinking, leverage points, and changing the world

My new friend Karl Steyaert turned me on to this piece by Donella Meadows that outlines a systems-thinking hierarchy for identifying critical leverage points that can be used to drive change.

I'm hoping to work with Karl on his project to develop a living-learning center in the East Bay. Check out his site and read the manifesto for the project.