Sunday, September 20, 2009

What does your food bank have to offer besides free food?

     Does your local food bank have a grocery store?  Ours does, it's at the back of the food bank. They call it Value Market.  You don't have to be eligible for food stamps, any program or even be signed up for food boxes.  And the savings are awesome.  Anywhere from 30-70% off regular grocery prices.   They can take the money you spend there and turn $10 into $100 worth of food, or so one of their posters says.  It's a small grocery store, sure, but if you start there before going to your local mega store you can save a lot of money.  Recently, I bought a 10 pound ham (the loaf shape) for just under eight bucks.  I don't like ham, but my hubby does, and I can choke it down at that price.  It's a good quality name brand, and with our food slicer we can make deli style sandwiches, or cube it into casseroles, or just freeze pieces to make holiday roasts from.
     Our food bank doesn't sell donated food, the grocery store is run separately, funded by it's sales.   They buy first run food, a lot is name brand food and sometimes they have food packaged for them.  You never know what they will have at anytime, though, so having a freezer is a plus.  One of the things I keep an eye out for is the little cans of green chiles.  If they are cheap enough, I'll buy a case.  Cheap enough to me is 50% or less than I would pay at the local Fry's.  After you done your shopping, you go past these long tables set up with bags of bread and sometimes flats of fruits or fresh vegetables.  No matter your income, after you buy at the grocery you get a bonus from the table of whatever they are giving out that day.
    I like to get my rich clients to shop there.  I tell them it's good for their wallet, good for the community, and good for their karma.  Besides, I think those with should see how hard those without have to work for what they get, standing in line for hours for a free bag of food.  Okay, I also like to see them completely out of their element.
   Like every other food bank, ours gives out food "boxes", actually large bags of food here, to anyone qualified.  At this food bank, qualified is any resident of Pima county, no proof of need required.  It's pretty obvious, though that the people who are willing to stand in the long line that snakes through the giant room are not well off.  Anyone may be welcome, but you won't find the comfortable there, willing to rub shoulders with the needy, someone might think they can't keep up with the Jones', after all.   Even if they can't.  America does have it's caste system, it's based on how many dollars you have, or at least the illusion of those dollars to the extent you can maintain it.    Don't get me wrong, though.  Tucson can be an incredibly generous town.  If there is a need, such as the food bank running low, the humane society needing pet food, schools needing supplies, even someone needing bone marrow or help paying for a funeral, Tucsonians will cough up that money or donate that item faster than you can spit.  They just have to be reminded of the need.  Even the neediest donate something, somehow. 
     Anyway, if you have a roommate situation, or more than one household under the same roof, you each can get your own.  One bag per month and whatever is being given at the free table.  That bag always has beans, rice, canned soup, fruit (fresh, canned or frozen), cornflakes and peanut butter.  Neither of us are big fans of cornflakes and peanut butter, so it kept piling up.   Then I discovered a recipe for cornflake bars.  Lots of recipes.  Yummy. Now I don't have excess inventory, just excess calories to burn.    The simple version:

Cornflake Bars

1 cup corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
8 cups corn flakes
any desired additives (see below)
Have everything measured and ready before starting.
Heat syrup and sugar together just til sugar melts, stir peanut butter into hot syrup, Stir in cornflakes.
Turn into buttered dish, smooth and let cool.
If desired, when you add the cornflakes, add dried fruits, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips or whatever   catches your fancy, but act quick this sets up in moments.

     Our food bank is a great place to take the kids.  No, really.  If you go the right day, there is a farmer's market in the compact park like area just outside.  There are nice little paths for walking and well shaded benches for sitting, with open areas for the kids to play in.  They have a demonstration garden showing how to grow vegetables and even how to make your vegetable plants attractive enough for landscaping.  People in Tucson don't grow lawns, it just isn't done here.   If you are going to waste your water, don't let the neighbors see it wasted on grass.  But some people also don't like the natural desert planting touted by the expensive landscapers here.  Surely, though, no one can object to beautiful ramadas shaded by grapes, arbors of squash and beans, and sunflower and corn screens to go along with the lemons, oranges and grapefruits.   I must admit, I spend a little more water and grow some desert adapted peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums (but they do also provide cooling shade).  Behind the garden is a chicken coop shaded by a tree.  In our area, raising hens is okay in the city, and the coop the food bank has is a cute little thing.
    Classes, our food bank has them.  The current classes are in gardening.  They will train you, provide starter seed, volunteers to get your garden started.  It's garden time in Tucson.  They've had classes on compost, building a solar oven and water saving.  They also have a youth apprentice program on an organic farm.
     These are just the things I've had dealings with at our food bank.  I know they have other things, and they have connections to other programs.  It is an active, vibrant community organization which offers much more than the average Tucsonian realizes.
     What does your food bank offer?  Have you ever checked?  It might be worth your time to find out, even if you aren't facing difficulties.  If your food bank doesn't offer much, maybe you can help start a garden or a cooking class.  Help your community and find out.  Really help your community and volunteer if you can.  And don't wait until you see on the news that the food bank's warehouse is empty.  Don't wait for the holidays, the need is ongoing.  Donate now.  You'll feel better for it.  Honest.  Besides, it makes a good tax write off if you itemize.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Missy, before and after

 Missy, the way we found her with sunburned hair, mats and bloody paws.

It looks like my sister intends to keep the little Yorkie that wandered up to our house.  She says she is just going to take care of some of the dog's problems first, but she's getting awfully possessive already.  So far Missy has her shots, license, health checkup and has been groomed.  The vet also discovered that she had a luxating  patella (slippy knee joint) and someone had hit or kicked Missy in the mouth, and next week she will be going in to have some loose teeth pulled and to get a close up inspection to see if there is any other damage from the kick.
How do people feel when they kick such a tiny animal?  Powerful?  Oh, yeah, I can whup that five pound dog!  I  rescued a miniature pincher that was underfed, had a choke chain left on her as she grew that had to be cut-off, wasn't spayed, had an unaddressed tumor, heart and lung disease, and oh, yes, was kicked multiple times so that the spines on her vertabrae were broken.  The people we got her from had the gall to insist they loved this dog, but that she was afraid of men..  Hmmm, maybe it was the man who kicked her?  My husband sat on the ground and the dear girl  crawled right into his lap and snugged up to him.  My dear man fell in love instantly, and I didn't tell him the problems I had found just in the first few seconds, until we got almost home with her.  I didn't know about the enlarged heart or the chipped spine until I had the vet look at her (she cried when she saw the x-rays), but I knew something was seriously wrong, and if nothing else, I was going to give that dog a peaceful end..  That dog was trained to be my mom's hearing ear dog, a job she performed admirably until the day my mom died.   She rescued my mom, giving her a measure of independence and security.    Hopefully, Missy will help my sister, who really needs someone now that she is a widow.                                           

 Cute, but what a mess.  You can see the pain in her eyes from the stickers embedded in her feet.



Missy now.  Happy, sassy and oh so darling.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dental Nightmare

Today was a nerve wracking day for me.  I took a cat and a dog into the vet's to have dentals done on them.  Amber, the cat and Joey, the dog are six and five repectively, but both had hard starts to their lives and both have depressed immune systems.  I was mostly afraid Amber would not be accepted for surgery because she has asthma, but when we got there, miraculously she didn't have an attack and her lungs were clear enough.  The vet said we should take this window and jump for it.  With cats with asthma, you may never be able to find a chance you can have their teeth fixed because getting upset, like going to the vet can do, can cause an attack.  Amber's teeth were bad, I've known for a little over a year we needed to get them done, but her health would never allow it.  Today we jumped, and she had all but two of her teeth pulled.  At 6 years of age, her teeth looked so bad that the tech was shocked to find out how young Amber actually is.   The vet understood, writing on her paper in big letters,. BORN FERAL..
Cats that are ferals, or who are born feral often have medical issues that doom them to die young if they are left in the streets.  Amber's mother Bullseye delivered her litter in our garage, but immediately took them across the street to the wrecking yard.  Five weeks later, she showed up at our front door and started yelling.  At least I think she intended it to be a yell, but she, like Amber, had a soft spoken nature and it came out about as loud as a cat sounds when it is upstairs in the bathroom linen closet and you're in the basement doing laundry.  I only heard her because the door was open, and I was walking by the screen when she tried to yell at me through it.  I was puzzled because  one of the marks of a feral is their silence around a person.  It is the first test we use to see if we have trapped a feral or just a neighbor's cat.  Her odd behavior made me go to the door to see what was wrong with her.  She ran a few steps, turned and yelled at me again, so I stepped out.  Again she ran a few steps and yelled.  I had the strong feeling she needed help, so I followed her around the house to the garage.  In the garage was her litter, minus one kitten.  They looked horrible, covered in grease and with grease impacted under their eyelids.  At first they tried to run, but as soon as I scooped them up. they started purring.  I always wondered what their mom had told them, but they were the most cuddly kittens you could ever meet.
It took us two months and the loss of another kitten, but finally most were healthy.  Not Amber, though.  She was the sickest survivor, and she has had problems since.  She had the "dire rear" and throwing up for two years, long after we found out her allergies to chicken, beef, corn and wheat.  Have you ever tried to find cat food without any of those ingredients?  Throw in budget and it gets even harder.  We had to have litter boxes in every room, but even with them, sometimes she just couldn't make it.  You've never lived til you're cuddling a sweet little kitten on your lap and you suddenly see that look just before she starts spewing from both ends right on your new robe.  Finally, though, she could eat, and keep it down most of the time, and she got fat.  Like the vet said, wouldn't you if you starved the first two years of your life?  Of course this is the same vet that when asked why she walks so oddly, said that in his considered opinion, she'd built weird.  Then all of a sudden, about 6 weeks ago, she stopped eating.  I knew it was time to get her teeth done, but with the monsoon, as sparse as it was this year, she still was having minor asthma attacke.  No big ones, but she couldn't have surgery. 
But today, the stars aligned and the airways cleared.  She could have her teeth pulled.  All but two.
Joey I wasn't worried about.  Sure, he had it rough as a puppy.  I'm sorry, you don't have a pup lose 60% of his hair and have skin with black thick places without knowing something was wrong.  I was fostering dogs at the time, but had already let the group know I was too full and couldn't take anyone else in.  That didn't stop them from calling me and telling me to get to the animal control immediately, or "he" will be put to sleep in an hour.  I had to get him, they insisted.  They said to look for a springer spaniel.  When I got to the kennels, I couldn't find a spaniel of any kind, just some big dogs and this 15 pound half hairless mix.  That was "him", Joey.  He had the demon, demodex mange, and he had a life threatening case of it.  The vet the group wanted me to take him to was one I had worked with in the Humane society.  I told the lady exactly what that vet would say.  "Why are they wasting their money on this dog.  They should put him down."  Not believing me, she made the appointment, the vet looked, told me word for word what I said he would, and later called her and told her the same.  When she called me with an appointment at another vet, she couldn't help but laugh, but she also asked if I thought they should take their speutering (spaying/neutering) to another vet.  No way, for surgery he is one of the finest vets I've seen.   Six months of poisonous treatment later, Joey was finally well, and I couldn't part with him after all the work I'd put into him.
Joey's teeth were never good even as a puppy.  They had always been easily chipped and because of his lack of early socialization and the things he endured when sick, it was impossible to brush his teeth properly.  I knew his immune system wasn't up to snuff, if it had been, he's never have had such a bad case of mange, so I knew that we needed to get his teeth cleaned before he ended up with heart problems.  But I didn't think he'd have problems being accepted for surgery, after all, he'd just had a checkup in June.  He almost got bounced from surgery because his protein levels were too high.  We had more tests done, all negative, so the vet went ahead and did the surgery.  When the vet started, it was obvious Joey had far worse problems than either of us had imagined and HE had almost every tooth pulled instead of the two she predicted or the three I expected..
You just never know.   We went in today, fingers crossed Amber could have her teeth pulled, and no problem.  Joey, who was expected to sail right through almost didn't have his dental, and as bad as his teeth turned out to be, that could have ended up fatal.
They're both home now, happy with their pain meds and the first food they've had in 24 hours (a dangerously long time for a cat, by the way).  Amber will probably get fat again, and Joey, well he was still the same smart ass when he came out of the vet's office as when he went in. prancing along, barking at a man across the street and complaining that if he had thumbs he wouldn't have to wait for me to open the door.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I know yesterday was 9/11

I know that yesterday was 9/11, but I really didn't want to think about it.  Even after all this time, it feels too raw when I let my mind go there.  But trying to ignore it did no good, I spent much of the day seeing the images on tv and the net.  Even writing these few lines has tears in my eyes.  What I remember most about that day and the months that followed were the acts of heroism.  The teachers at a daycare herding their charges to safety through choking dust.  The first responders running up the stairs in the second tower, knowing they might, probably, die, because they saw what happened to the first.  The guide dog and his owner helping guide others through the blinding dust and smoke to safety.  The people on a plane who weren't going to sit back and just let the hijackers win.  The people who ran to help others when they could have run to safety.   The K-9 who risked his life to find survivors only to later be shot and killed by other police officers when in the line of duty pursuing a felon. The searchers in the following weeks knowing they couldn't possibly find a survivor, and the joy when they did against all odds. The same searchers when it became obvious just how dangerous and toxic the rubble was, but they kept digging, looking for corpses so families would know.  All the dogs who risked their lives and sanity to find the dead.  Don't think these dogs didn't know what they were being asked to do.  I've trained dogs for this.  They knew, but they went willingly.
It was a bad day, but it was a time that showed what Americans were capable of.  We pulled together.   Stores in the area opened their doors to give away food that would have spoiled anyway.  Crime dropped.  Flags flew.  People were proud to be Americans.  Not the fakey political pride of the later Bush years, but real pride in heroism and generosity.  We cared.  Why we have to have grand tragedies to act well towards our fellow humans, I don't know, but I do know that this is one thing I wish we could have kept out of that horrible time.
The horrors only brushed lightly over us, so far removed here in Tucson.  My husband was in California that day at the airport preparing to fly home.  He had turned in his rental car and was heading for his plane when the terrible news broke and all planes were grounded.  He returned to the rental place where miraculously they still had his car.  The company, Alamo, let him take the car out of the state, return it in Tucson and didn't charge him.  They even gave him a coupon for future use.
Maybe next year I'll do better on 9/11, cry a little less, maybe even forget a little.  I doubt it.  I don't think I'll ever stop feeling this pain when I let my mind go back...I'm not sure I want to.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Quick update:  I talked to their previous family and Gabby is 6 or 7 and Kiki  is just a little younger, though she acts like a kitten.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Skunk for adoption, and Kiki too.

Or IS it a skunk?

 No, it's Gabriella, aka Gabby, aka Skunk.  I know, I know, I should call her Penelope for the cartoon cat with Pepe Le Pew, but you know how nicknames can be, not always flattering. This cat with her unusual markings was left with us when her family lost their home.  She is good with children.  Our 1 year old grandchild lies on her, bites her tail and pulls her fur, but as fast as we rescue her, she comes back for more.  She is fine with other cats, doesn't particularly like our gallumphing big dogs, but the little rescue Yorkie is ignored by her.  She is an opinionated cat, not what you call sweet, but she is loving and likes to share the lounge with you.  She is about 4 years old.  If you are interested in adopting her, please email me at

This is Kiki.  She is a little younger than
Gabby, but comes from the same household.  Now her you can describe as sweet.  You can also call her a wimp.  
For some reason, one of the other cats here, who is always sweet and caring to any cat that comes here, has decided to make her his personal target.  She doesn't stand up to him, unless cornered, then she screams bloody murder for help.  Not exactly a fighter.  She also does well with the grandchild, but she doesn't volunteer to be his plaything like Gabby does.  She would probably do best in a single cat household, but a friendly cat, kitten or dog that would welcome and play gently with her would be just as good for her.  She loves to play and cuddle.  If you are interested in adopting her, please email me at

 These are 2 more of the cats ready for adoption.  In a prior post Ebonetta told you about herself, she is available, and her golden-eyed brother Onyx also is available.   We'll talk about him another day.

Soon, another black cutie will be ready.  His name is Jet and you can see some of his pictures also in an earlier post.                   

 Ebonetta, my Squirrel (above) and Onyx.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Try a little charity tax advice, and Starfish is now StarfishRescue

Don't be confused by the name change.  I just decided that if I ever decide to go for my 501(c)3 status, that the name would be StarfishRescue, so I thought, what the heck, maybe I'd better change the blog name now before it gets as popular as I'd like it to be.  Yes, I know it's slow building right now, I'm trying to get the hang of this computer thingy as well as this bloggy thingy.  Bear with and hopefully I'll get a good blog going.

Speaking of 501(c)3s, did you know that not all charities qualify for this tax status and not all that do are willing to go through the expense and trouble of qualifying?   Or, that they can lose the designation even if they do nothing wrong.  Not having the status doesn't mean they are not legit, as long as they follow local laws, and declare any donations as regular income.  If you donate to an accredited 501(c)3, you can use it as a deduction on your income tax IF you have enough deductions to use the schedule A (or have to because of marital status), IF the deductions are still enough after doing the math, IF the charity is one approved by the IRS, and IF you have a receipt.  How do I know this?  I am a tax preparer for a large chain, and people are always shocked to find out they can't necessarily deduct their donations, and that it isn't dollar for dollar anyway.

Did you know that  you can donate to any charity you like, there is not law against it, but you cannot deduct that donation from your income?  But a lot of the time, your donation to even the biggest charities can not be deducted because you don't met all the IF's.  So if you want to donate to a small group or individual doing charitable work, and it won't affect your taxes anyway, consider it.  BUT, before you do, ask questions.  What is the money used for, what exactly is the aim of the charity, do you feel that you can trust the charity.  Don't be surprised if they don't have a separate bank account for their charity, many are too small and receive little or no donations coming in, except maybe from their mothers, and it has to be included in their income anyway.  If it worries you, though, give goods, such as food, blankets, towels, sheets, the ever needed carriers, and if it is a TNR group, traps and dishes.  Better yet, volunteer some time, or help find homes for the adoptable pets out there.  Adopt if you can.  Adoptions are down across the nation with the current economy, people are afraid of losing their homes, and abandonment is on the rise, the numbers are overwhelming in some communities.  But just think,  if you can find just one home for just one pet out there, you will have made a difference to that one, which is the StarfishRescue philosophy.

Now go out there and hug someone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Joey just had a bad thought

He might get stuck having to live with yet another dog and another cat. Jet the kitten is getting ready to be adopted, soon it will be time to get him neutered. The little Yorkie (we are now calling her Missy) has not found her former home, and my sister is making noises about keeping her. Which means here. Seriously, if you know anyone interested in adopting a small Yorkie who seems to have collapsing trachea and needs some serious hair care, have them take a peek at her picture below. She's a good little girl, good with a 1 year old toddler, myriad cats, several dogs that are much bigger than her, rides well, understands how to hold still for a harness to be put on, walks well on leash, likes to lie by my feet when I'm on the computer, and at Chuck's feet when he is playing video games. She does not seem to have any formal training, doesn't know down, sit, stay, but then it may be a language barrier, we live in an hispanic neighborhood, but I don't speak spanish. She has had some anxiety when left alone, but she seems to be getting over that fairly well. Whoever gets her will probably have to deal with some yelping until she is comfortable that she has not been abandoned yet again.

We need to find her a home, and place several cats also. Their places are sorely needed by other homeless critters. But don't worry, we will keep her here unless another foster can take her. She will never have to face the desert alone again as long as we have a home ourselves.