Monday, August 30, 2010

summer grows shorter


OK, let’s all say it.
How the heck did it get to be the end of August already?
You can hear the chorus of anguished voices of area kids, as they lament the end of their summer vacation.
You can hear the joyful sighs of parents who have run out of things to keep those same kids busy.
And you can hear the cash registers humming away at all those back-to-school shopping sprees.
I, for one, don’t mourn the end of August.
As hot and humid as this summer has been, I simply hope that September cuts us a break and ushers in slightly cooler days.
I do lament not having anyone to take shopping for school supplies, though.
My days of taking a youngster to buy crayons and pencils, choose a few new outfits or pick out a bookbag or Trapper Keeper are long, long gone.
And I have to admit, that was a favorite time of the year for me.
There was something about heading to the store for a new lunchbox, colored pencils and notebook paper that just felt so comforting.
Not to mention the wave of nostalgia that would hit when you breathed in the aromas that those supplies seem to emit.
It took me back to my own childhood somehow, and even though school days weren’t always idyllic, the intervening years dimmed the unpleasant memories and seemed to highlight the happy ones.
Yes, I did love back-to-school shopping.
But no, that’s OK; you don’t have to offer to lend me your children. I have my memories.
As others may, as noted, be bathed in disbelief that August is drawing to a close and the start of school is nigh, I am simply basking in anticipation of autumn.
I can’t wait to pull out some sweaters; put away summery home decor and create a feeling of fall instead; enjoy the turning leaves and, if lucky, breathe in the unbeatable aroma of those same leaves being burned (much more difficult now, with so many regulations).
And of course once fall arrives, Halloween can’t be far behind.
So enjoy these fleeting days of August and the upcoming Labor Day holiday.
I, for one, will be dreaming of autumn.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

too many doomed animals


I hope every person around here who has cats -- or dogs -- that they refuse to spay or neuter reads this Associated Press story. It it a long story and very upsetting. But it must be read.
And it could be anywhere, not just in northwestern Pennsylvania.
To all those who think their pets should "have at least one litter," read this.
To all those who are so sure people will want to adopt puppies and kittens, read this.
We have many wonderful rescue groups in this area that try to save as many animals as possible.
Our SPCA does its part, too.
But here is the grim reality for far too many precious animals.
Read it. Cry. Take action.

Erie Times-News

ERIE — There is reverence in this room.

For the difficult task performed. For each cat or dog, treated with calming compassion until the very end.

The euthanasia room, tucked away inside the Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania, has little in it. The walls are bare and painted light purple. An examination table is placed near the middle.

A staff member, wearing long rubber gloves, removes the animal from one of the clinic's cages and carries it into this room.

Another worker often apologizes to the cat or dog, and then injects it with a dose of sodium pentathol.

The animal is dead within three or four seconds.

But on Thursday at the Humane Society, one animal was followed by another, and another, and another.

Officials said 20 cats were euthanized that day, 15 of which were healthy and at the shelter for less than two weeks.

Euthanasia, predominantly of cats, is soaring at area animal shelters — a crisis, officials say, brought on by a drop in adoptions and a sharp rise in drop-offs of stray and abandoned cats that local clinics are calling an epidemic.

The culprit, shelters believe, is the bad economy matched with the expenses of having a pet, making the sad rise in euthanized animals — many of which are healthy and adoptable — one of the more startling fallouts of the recession.

The Humane Society euthanized 73 percent of its cat intakes between April 2009 and this past July. The clinic projects it will euthanize more than 1,600 cats in 2010, its highest number in at least a decade, said Joe Grisanti, the shelter's executive director.

In 2008, the Millcreek Township agency took in 1,258 cats, adopted out 624, and euthanized 467. In 2009, intakes nearly doubled, to 2,114 cats, while adoptions dropped to 518. The clinic euthanized 1,436 cats.

The Humane Society — which euthanizes for medical reasons, behavioral issues and shelter space, according to its executive director — is on pace in 2010 to see its cat intakes surpass 2009's total.

Grisanti said the shelter, which typically holds about 150 animals, cannot keep up with the pace of strays and abandoned cats being dropped off given the low number of adoptions.

"Everyone thinks this is an adoption agency, but it's a euthanasia agency. And the public doesn't want to know that, and isn't able to digest that," Grisanti said. "People think that this special cat is going to get a wonderful home when dropped off here, but they give little consideration to what will really happen. And that reality is very hard on us because we put to death animals we love, admire and respect every day."

The shelter also has seen more signs of neglect, abuse and significantly diminished health in the drop-offs, leading to a rapid spread of illness throughout the clinic and the harsh consequence of having little chance of being adopted.

Grisanti said he and his staff of about 20 are "frustrated, saddened and angry" at what he calls "an outrageous display of behavior by irresponsible pet owners and the public who contribute to this very serious crisis."

Shelter officials believe there are tens of thousands of stray and abandoned cats roaming the Erie region, overloading animal enforcement officers this year with nearly twice as many cats as officers collected in 2009.

The recession, which began in late 2007, placed a crunch on pet owners' wallets, officials say, and still continues to make them less likely to spay or neuter and more likely to leave their pet outdoors. That habit has spurred a massive spike in mating and led to more unwanted litters.

The poor economy also created a larger number of transients: people faced with new landlords not accepting of pets, and more pet owners with less money eventually giving up on those animals.

"I'm getting bogged down with strays. I've never seen it this bad," said Kris Watkins, manager of the A.N.N.A. Shelter, 1555 E. 10th St., adding that her clinic has seen a 20 percent spike in cat intakes from 2009.

The shelter receives most of its cats and dogs through contracts with several animal enforcement agencies, including the city of Erie, Erie County and Lawrence Park Township.

Watkins said her agency accepts drop-offs from the public by appointment only.

"I have to be selective. I don't have a lot of space," she said. "If we opened our doors and let anyone come in and drop off a cat, the numbers would be astronomical."

The shelter, which opened in 2004, tries to keep its cat population at about 60, said its director, Ruth Thompson Caroll. Last week, A.N.N.A. had 119 cats, and at times this year has taken in three times as many kittens as normal.

Caroll said the shelter euthanized more cats between October and December of 2009 than any three-month period in its history.

"The public needs to be educated on what has become a cat epidemic," she said. "People think they're doing the good-Samaritan thing by feeding and sustaining these stray cats. But they don't spay or neuter, and if the cat doesn't come back, they just do the same thing for the next one to come along."

Shelters take various steps to spare a cat or dog the finality of euthanasia.

Community lost-and-found lists are checked.

Ads are run in newspapers.

Clinic staff scan the animals for microchip implants and any identification that would link a pet to its owner.

Lately, at the Humane Society, those efforts have been futile.

On Thursday, a short-haired black cat was curled up toward the back of a cage inside what the shelter calls its "known-history" room. The 6-year-old, dropped off at the clinic on Aug. 10, had goopy discharge around his watery eyes, and he couldn't stop sneezing.

The room, as big as a walk-in bedroom closet, had 15 cats inside 12 cages, including two litters of kittens on Thursday. Sounds of meowing and an occasional hiss filled the space, which is directly next door to the shelter's "unknown-history room."

In here, there is little hope.

One cat wheezed with respiratory failure. Another cat had physical wounds and open sores.

In a bottom corner cage was a gray 2-pound stray, picked up by Millcreek Township animal enforcement after he was found in the parking lot.

On this day, this will be the last morning 20 of these cats see.

Once euthanized, they are individually wrapped in a plastic bag, stored in a freezer for a day or two, and then taken in 400-pound batches to a crematory inside the building.

Hurricane Katrina, five years later


If you're planning a trip to Washington, D.C., put the Newseum on your "must visit" list.
Starting Friday, the museum that highlights news and First Amendment rights will open a yearlong special exhibit commemorating Hurricane Katrina and what has occurred -- or not occurred -- in the five years that have passed since the devastating storm hit the Gulf Coast.
It focuses specifically on how journalists covered the disaster.
It most definitely is not geared just to journlists, but to every American.

Here is the Associated Press story, written by Brett Zongker, detailing the exhibit:

Jarring headlines from the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina said it all: "Catastrophic," ''Hitting Bottom," ''Help Us, Please."

Five years later, the Newseum on Friday will open a special, one-year exhibit, "Covering Katrina," that explores and explains how journalists reported on the disaster and its aftermath.

The Newseum assembled the accounts and belongings of journalists, newspaper stories and artifacts from the Louisiana State Museum for what curators believe is the first major exhibit on news coverage of Katrina.

About 80 front pages from around the world show how the story unfolded as the storm bore down on Louisiana and Mississippi — and what followed. At the time, newspapers and TV reporters were the only link between the people needing help and the government that could provide it.

"It puts you right there in the middle of the storm," Newseum chief executive Charles Overby said of the exhibit. "As you recall, the government was slow to respond, but the media wasn't."

The museum also produced a film offering reflections from TV journalists as well as two newspapers that shared the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for public service for their Katrina coverage — the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Sun Herald of Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss.

The exhibit includes a Gulf Coast map from the Sun Herald newsroom with pins confirming the dead in Mississippi, an anti-looter sign from a New Orleans shop and a rusty ax used by a journalist to break into a colleague's home to rescue pets.

There's even a kayak deployed by a photographer to navigate flooded New Orleans streets and two bicycles used by reporters to first discover the levees had been breached.

"In that flash of a moment, they both realize that we're doomed," Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss said in the Newseum film. "The water has broken through the flood walls and that the oceans are rushing into this city."

Editor Stan Tiner at the Sun Herald explains on film that Katrina brought an urgent demand for information. He recalled people leaving a water line when the newspaper truck arrived to clamor for a paper.

"One of the most righteous jobs we did was to deliver the paper," Tiner said.

Much of the exhibit focuses on how journalists at the two prize-winning papers overcame enormous challenges and risks to inform the public and hold government accountable.

"Even when their families were in peril and their homes were being destroyed, they continued being journalists," said Susan Bennett, the Newseum's exhibit chief.

The exhibit includes reflections from such familiar journalists as NBC's Brian Williams, Shepard Smith of FOX News and ABC's Robin Roberts, who went searching for her mother and family while reporting from Mississippi's coast.

A longer, 30-minute film will play in the museum's Documentary Theater with sounds from inside the Louisiana Superdome as the storm beat down and later, the crowds chanting, "Help! Help! Help!"

For more, check

Monday, August 23, 2010

remember the thunderbolt?

If you remember Willow Grove Amusement Park, you must remember the Thunderbolt, that great old wooden coaster.
I love those coasters, but have to admit I never rode the Thunderbolt. Why? Our dad deemed it too dangerous. Supposedly, someone had stood up when the ride was flying along, fallen out and died.
True? Who knows...
So even when I was a teen and would go there sans parents, I'd still get that directive: "Don't ride the Thunderbolt."
I never did, figuring that with my luck, I'd fall off, die and then my dad would kill me. Great reasoning, right?
I guess it never hit me that he'd never know if I actually rode the coaster.
Sigh. Now the whole park is gone. But I didn't disobey dad ... at least when it came to the Thunderbolt.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Festival-goers need help??

If you are driving around Upper Salford this weekend, you'll see lots of extra signs that tell you things like:

In case you think Upper Salford residents need all this extra help, take heed: They are posted by the Philadelphia Folksong Society because of this weekend's Philly Folk Fest. Apparently festival-goers need extra help figuring out the already posted road signs.
For future reference: Yes, a lot of our roads are narrow and winding. But they do have lines down the middle and you are warned about curves and such.
Just drive carefully. You'll save the Folksong Society a lot of time putting up all these annoying signs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

going to the philly folk fest?

The Philadelphia Folk Festival kicks off Friday in Upper Salford, and of course The Reporter will be there. We'll be providing all sorts of coverage -- on our Web site at, in print, stories, photos and videos, plus check out the blogspot at
What about you -- are you heading out to the fest? If so, we'd love to have you send in folk festival photos or videos, which will be posted on the blog during the weekend.
Just send you submissions to

Come on, join in the fun and turn this into YOUR blogspot for the Philadelphia Folk Festival!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

equal time for Vermont

I didn't want Vermont to think I forgot about it, after all the gushing over Cape Cod.
So here are some beautiful VT photos, set to the great "Moonlight in Vermont" -- love Willie Nelson's version!

Monday, August 16, 2010

interesting drive home

Don't you wish there were signs -- and lanes -- like this everywhere that would help us out on our commutes?
I thought of this on an interesting drive home last week. First I got behind an older gentleman as I drove out of Lansdale who decided 25 mph was the correct speed for going up Route 63 toward Forty Foot Road. At least he turned right at Forty Foot and I turned left.
Then I got behind a younger man who was very preoccupied with his cell phone. Again, he was creeping along, but also veering over the painted lines at the side of the road and in the middle. I know it's a lot to ask, but couldn't you just hang up and drive? Or pull over?
Finally he also turned off after we got onto Allentown Road.
Then I was behind an older car with Vermont plates. Vermont! As I got closer to the back of the car, I noticed a sign taped to the back window.
My curiosity about what the sign said was cured as we approached a stop light. Basically the message was, "Note: This car sometimes rolls backward. Please allow extra room. Thanks."
Hey, at least a warning was issued. And that was enough for me. I gave that person all the room I could at each light.
Yes, commutes are great.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's not Vermont, but...


You know that phrase, “the best laid plans of mice and men...”?
You know the utter disbelief that can hit when your precise plans fall victim to that phrase?
Then you know how I felt on the afternoon when I was all set to leave for vacation with my daughter.
I had had new tires put on my car the week before; the oil was changed, all vehicle essentials checked. The car was packed and we were about to depart for our first-ever trip to Cape Cod.
And then the driver’s side window decided to emit a horrible noise and shudder slowly down into the door.
Undaunted, I pressed the “up” control and, the first time, it obeyed. Then it descended again. A push by my daughter sent it rising.
And we tentatively eased out the driveway.
I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say we soon were back home again, trying to decide what to do next. My mechanic said it couldn’t be fixed until at least the next day.
Eyeing all that we had jammed into my SUV, my daughter wondered if it would fit into her much smaller car. As notorious overpackers, we had our doubts.
I was beginning to think it might be an omen; after all, we weren’t heading to Vermont, as we so often do. It wasn’t autumn, when we usually travel.
It was summer and we were set to visit Cape Cod, at the behest of my longtime friend; yes, knowing someone since junior high is a long time.
We had been invited many times, but I had never accepted. This year, something changed my mind — and I was really looking forward to the new adventure and seeing my friend after far too many years.
Now this.
Determined, we unpacked my SUV, crammed everything into my daughter’s car and left early the next morning. After what turned out to be a rather long journey, we arrived at my friend’s summer home.
The days that followed were filled with the absolute beauty that is Cape Cod. Gorgeous beaches, friendly people, wonderful food (cooked by our host!) eaten al fresco.
A visit to the Edward Gorey house (look him up!), a trip to Hyannis to see the Boston Pops, watching sunsets at the beach while sipping wine, listening to an outdoor concert while sipping wine (hey, it was vacation!), a trek to Provincetown, taking in a great production of “Rent.”
All of this — and getting to see my friend again. It was a brilliant week.
I’m not sure what I was expecting of Cape Cod; perhaps I was afraid it would be more like the Jersey Shore. But there were no dirty beaches, no tacky boardwalk games or rides. No one hawking “fudgie wudgies” or any beach-goers acting boorish.
Perhaps we were simply extremely fortunate; perhaps this is how it always is up there.
Our weather was perfect; the days were both filled with new adventures and exquisitely peaceful. It even got cool enough in the evening to don our new Cape Cod hoodies.
And that car window? It was no omen, simply some bad luck.
Now I don’t want to say that Cape Cod has taken the place of Vermont in my heart. Let’s just say there’s plenty of room for both of them there.

Friday, August 13, 2010

relax... the weekend's almost here

Sit back, unwind, destress, enjoy.
It's Friday ... a hectic day for most, so take a few moments to just relax.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Head to the 4-H Fair!

As a former 4-H'er and mom of a former 4-H'er, I have to admit that I'm partial to this great program.
And having spent more than my share of time in barns -- both at home and at dairy shows -- I have to admit that I'm partial to the animal projects.
But 4-H has so much to offer to youths, so that you certainly don't have to live on a farm to be a 4-H member.
Today through Saturday, you can see the fruits of area kids' labors with their 4-H projects, take in some entertainment, enjoy great food and just generally have a lot of fun at the Montgomery County 4-H Fair.
It kicks off tonight from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the 4-H Center on Route 113, Skippack.
On Friday it runs from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Highlights include various shows of dairy, poultry and livestock animals, demonstrations of exotic animals and alpacas, children’s crafts, a magic show, music, games, a silent auction and a performance by the Daisy Jug Band.
Plus much, much more, including a pet show open to everyone on Saturday.
Parking is only $5. Call (610) 489-4315 for more information.
Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Take a Cape Cod vacation

If you haven't been able to get away on vacation yet this year, here are a few photos to help you escape.
My daughter has given permission to share these from our recent Cape Cod vacation ...

Monday, August 9, 2010

back from cape cod

Yes, believe it or not, this IS a sunset at Cape Cod. All credit goes to my daughter for this photography.
Just got back from vacation at the Cape, thanks to a wonderful friend who invited us up there for some R&R!
I know I am a big Vermont fan, but I have to admit that Cape Cod is a dream destination as well. And having a week planned out by my friend -- who cooked, drove us around, you name it! -- was wonderful.
Now... back to reality!
But if I close my eyes, I can almost hear the waves...