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PostHeaderIcon 10 Questions

PostHeaderIcon 10 Questions with K9 Heroes Author

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In honor of Veterans Day, we sat down with Nicole Arbelo, a Clayton woman who has written a book called "K9 Heroes." The collection of true stories about courage, duty, love and loss is told by the men and women serving our country with their military working dogs. The book features stories of 30 elite marines and soldiers, with each story describing the experiences the handlers had and how their dogs are fearless, loyal and protective partners during missions and loving companions who relieve stress and boredom when times are slow.  Here is what Arbelo had to say: 

ANNB: When and how did your love of German Shepherd dogs start?
NA: My love for German Shepherds started as a young child. While living with my mom and step-father in Delray Beach, Fl., the family German Shepherd, Princess, literally nudged me out of the way and took the bite from a massive rattle snake, which to this day the biggest one I have ever seen.  From that point on, I had an incredible love and desire to learn all that I could about this breed.
 
ANNB: How long did it take you to write, "K9 Heroes," and who inspired you?
NA: I literally spent seven days a week for a little more than three years working on the book, which I call both my pride and joy and my “baby.” 
  
I was inspired by fallen K9 Marine hero, Sgt. Adam Cann, who was the first K9 handler killed in action since the Vietnam War.  I found Cann’s story on the website AnySoldier.com, and from that point on, I wanted to learn so much more about this extremely brave and heroic man and Marine. Sgt. Cann was killed in action January 5, 2006, by a suicide bomb attack on an Iraqi police recruitment center in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.

ANNB: Tell us how you first learned that people can actually adopt K-9 handlers and their working dogs?

NA: It wasn't very long after the war started that I found organizations such as Soldiers Angels, AnySoldier.com, and the Blue Start Moms.  Right now, I have a  “K9 Heroes” Facebook page with more than 7,000 fans. Because of this, I  connect my Facebook fans with soldiers and Marines and provide them and their military working dogs with care packages. Some of the soldiers and marines are in very remote locations and can't get some of the very basic things that they need.
 
ANNB: What do working dogs mean to the women and men in the military?
NA: Having a military working dog deployed with our men and women provides a better sense of security and helps them to cope with the everyday stress of being deployed, and so far away from their families. Many of the men and women who I interviewed and told me they view their military working dog as their child.  Most handlers explain that the amount of time spent with their partners creates a relationship that simply can't be put into words.   
 
ANNB: German Shepherd dogs often get a reputation as dangerous and aggressive. Tell us a little more about the traits of the breed.
NA: German Shepherds are so incredibly intelligent that they are one of the best breeds to train for searching bombs and IEDS, individual protection, and search and rescue.  It has been said many times in recent articles that there is simply no comparison to having multi-million dollar equipment brought in to search for bombs because a German Shepherd can do this in a fraction of the time for a fraction of the cost. Many handlers are in awe that the only reward that their dog wants is a toy or affection for putting their life on the line.  This is a breed that loves to work hard. 
 
ANNB: You tell the stories of some of the K9 handlers killed in action. This must have been difficult for both the families and yourself.
NA: I feel very blessed and proud to share the stories of our nation’s fallen heroes.  It means the world to me to know that years from now, the stories of our heroes will be forever in the pages of my book.  It was very difficult to interview the families of the fallen. Hearing some very detailed stories, I ended up in tears.  I realized that the surviving families are truly heroes in their own right. Every situation was extremely different. I was very patient. In one situation, I waited a year for an interview because the situation was too difficult for them to discuss. But they knew they wanted their hero's story to be told.  
 
ANNB: You tell the stories of 30 marines and soldiers in your book? How did you find them all?
NA: I spent two months researching different avenues in order to find contacts. I first found Kelly Hooker who was with the Military Working Dog Memorial (I have since taken over the website on Myspace), and she helped put me in contact with all of the families of the fallen K9 handlers. Most of the contacts I found actually were through Facebook and Myspace.  I was very fortunate in the handlers that I choose. What an incredible experience, receiving phone calls from Baghdad, and Italy and other far off places. I still keep in touch with a number of the handlers and the families.  My book has truly changed my life.

ANNB: What did you learn about dogs writing this book?
NA: I learned that the military working dogs are capable of so much more than I ever imagined. These 4-legged heroes would truly lay down their life in an instant for their human companions.  As some very special K9 handlers that I talk to on a regular basis would say, "If you think you know everything there is to know about K9, than it is time to leave."  I'm still in awe to this day of all the commands including the non-verbal commands that our military working dogs learn. I'm so amazed by the amount of time spent training, which continues when the K9 teams are deployed. 
 
ANNB: How are dogs chosen for the military?
NA: Lackland Air Force Base, in Texas is where the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Center has a procurment team of handlers, military and civilian who travel throughout the world, mainly Europe, to procure pups for the program.  They usually purchase the dogs from the same breeders, but they are always looking for the top of the breed, whether it is a Malinios or German Shepard dog. They have tests they run on the 6-month-old pups to check for timid or fearful traits. Another program Lackland does is called the "Puppy Program." There are only a handful of these dogs in the military because mainly the breeders at Lackland breed only the highest breed of the dog.  You can tell a "Puppy program" dog because their names will have two letters starting in their names, such as "FFalcor" or "AArco."
 
ANNB:
Tell us what your next project is, please.
NA: Right now I'm very busy keeping up with my Facebook page and updating daily to give everyone the latest news with Military K9, Police K9, and search and rescue.  I've been sending out a number of books to different charity events, most recently to the, "Canine Companions for Independence."  Right now, I'm gathering all the addresses of our deployed teams, so that I can make sure that they get special packages for Christmas. I can't begin to tell you how often I'm asked, "Are you going to write a second book?"  If I am able to do so financially, I definitely have many more stories to tell. --KB

Last Updated (Tuesday, 13 December 2011 04:27)

 

PostHeaderIcon SonRise Helps Children and Horses

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There are many, many amazing nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area. SonRise is one of them. We learned a little bit about what this organization does and who it helps in a 10 Questions With... interview. If you know of an organization that is worthy of some publicity, let us know with an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Read on....

1. How did SonRise get its start?

SonRise was a vision I was given about 6 years ago. I heard a still small voice speak to me saying: "Go and make a place where hurting, broken children can find healing through the horse."  See, I was one of those hurting broken children who received just that -- horses to help me heal.  By the grace of God and my old horse, I survived a very difficult childhood.  I received a degree in Christian Leadership prior to developing the strategic plan which supports SonRise.  Upon graduation, I stepped out and began to develop SonRise. Very soon, "The Team" emerged -- the SonRise volunteers who give so generously of their hearts and souls. They are amazing, unstoppable. 

2. How many children do you help annually?

We touch the lives of hundreds of children annually. We offer 3 programs at SonRise. In the Saddle is our first program. About 30 to 40 children come out on a regular basis to have personal riding lessons at our Crow Canyon facility. These lessons are tailor-made for each child. 

This program has over 30 children on a waiting list.  It could take up to two years to get those children in the program.  The sad thing is they need us now! Our hope is to increase our fundraising and be able to hire a full-time volunteer coordinator/office manager. This would enable SonRise to train more volunteers and bring many of these children off our waiting list.
 

Our second program is Team Rehab.  This is a working ranch program that teaches children about all aspects of horses and horse care.  About 10 to 15 children come out once a week to our Palomares Canyon facility and care for horses, clean up after horses, jump with miniature horses and ride the big horses. This program is designed for our able-bodied children, as they get a lot of exercise and learn about giving back and not just receiving.  Deep friendships are developed here as children and volunteers work side by side a couple hours a day once a week. 

The third program is Traveling Tails. We bring the miniature horses to visit sick or dying children.  There are so many children out there who are very sick or near the end of life and love horses.  We go to hospice care centers, subacute trauma centers, camps at the Taylor foundation for children with cancer, burn victims, etc..  We may see 100 children a year in this capacity alone.

3. What types of challenges are the children you help facing?

Our SonRise children are faced with social, emotional and physical challenges, including terminal illness.  We serve such a vast range of children.  Some have learning disabilities, others have difficulty making friends so they are lonely and depressed.  Some may be dying of cancer or other critical disease.  Some are completely blind, paralyzed from waist up, autistic, have Asbergers' syndrome.  Some come from backgrounds of abuse, some come from the foster care systems or group homes.   

4. Where do the horses come from?

All of our horses have either been donated to SonRise or have been rescued from abuse, abandonment or neglect.  

5. Why put horses and children together?

Because of social, emotional and physical challenges, the children of SonRise struggle to make everyday connections with others. At the stables, they find a chance to connect with horses, gaining strength, self-confidence and joy to carry back to their daily lives. 

6. How do the children help the horses?

Our horses meet each of our children in very individual, special ways.  Some kids walk away feeling empowered because they managed to maneuver that large animal and get it to do what they ask.  We have one child who is autistic.  This child came to us scared of all animals.  She used very few words.  “No” was her favorite word to use when she got to the ranch.    

The first day she was there she carried on, but was watching the other children love and ride the horses.  Her dad was reading her and thought, yes, she's going to ride.  It came her turn and she quieted down, leaped up on the back of that horse and was mesmerized by the movement.  Her dad, tears in his eyes says -- "This is a miracle."  This little girl is on our waiting list.  She comes out to play days, a program designed for children on the waiting list to have contact with us and she comes sometimes when there is a cancellation. It's been about 6 months that she's been involved with us.  She is using many words now, is riding with amazing skill.  Her fear of animals is gone.

7. What is your annual operating budget and where do you get most of your funds?

Our annual budget is approximately $90,000. Our hope is to increase our fundraising and be able to hire a full-time volunteer coordinator/office manager.  This would enable SonRise to train more volunteers and bring many of these children off our waiting list.

We get about half of our operating budget from one single event.  That is our Wine and Equine, which happened Saturday,  Sept, 18  at the Charles Wilhelm Training Center in Castro Valley. 

8. What are the major benefits to children who come through your program?

Again, because of social, emotional and physical challenges, the children of SonRise struggle to make everyday connections with others. At the stable, they find a chance to connect with horses, gaining strength, self-confidence and joy to carry back in their daily lives.  

We’ve witnessed a girl with autism improve her vocabulary after a session with our horses.  One of the boys in our program had developed nervous ticks in grammar school and because of his embarrassment, his mother hadn’t seen him smile in more than a year.  When he came to SonRise and worked with our horses, she took us aside to tell her how much it meant to see her son smiling again.

9. Is it true you have a horse who is 25? How do the children feel about him/react to him?

Yes, it is true we have a horse who is 25.  His name is old Joe.  He was a rescue horse.  About 3 or 4 years ago, his owners disappeared in a plane crash and he and his horse partner went on for quite some time without proper care.  When we got him he was pushy and angry.  After a short period, he and his partner were fighting over who would get out of the pasture with the kids first.  Joe has been an amazing asset to SonRise.  He is big, athletic, gentle and has quite a presence.  The children love him.... He has become the favorite to many. 

10. Tell us how the miniature horses play into your program.

Miniature horses play a big role in our program.  We presently have six large horses and six miniature horses.  The miniature horses do tricks and jumps with the children, they visit sick or dying children and they help children who are intimidated by the large horses to become confident with the smaller version before moving up.--KB




Last Updated (Tuesday, 22 March 2011 17:20)

 

PostHeaderIcon Group donates 20,000 Pound of Baby Clothes

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Lisa Klein, an Oakland mother of two and the founder and executive director of Loved Twice, will be featured on the Today Show at 9 a.m. today, July 8 for collecting more than 20,000 pounds of baby clothing for mothers in need. She was honored by Major League Baseball earlier this week when she tossed out the first pitch at an Oakland A’s game. She will also be honored by People Magazine and MLB at the 2010 MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim at 8 p.m. on July 13. The game will be live on FOX at 2 p.m. In addition, one of the 30 community leaders honored by MLB, will be featured in the July 19 issue of People, which will be on newsstands next week. Allnewsnoblues.com sat down with Klein to find out how she does this amazing work.

 

ANNB: How did you come up with the idea for Loved Twice?
LK: After receiving more than 5,000 pounds of baby clothes in the first year, I decided to officially turn my clothing drive into a  nonprofit. When I did this I was overwhelmed with the generosity of help that people offered.  People from many backgrounds: web designers, lawyers, drivers, copywriters helped out and a contact at a naming company came up with the name Loved Twice and made sure it was legally available.

ANNB: Explain the process you go through for collecting clothes?
LK: The baby clothing is donated by members of the community, who leave items in Loved Twice collection bins located throughout the Bay Area. Check www.lovedtwice.org for exact locations. Loved Twice collects, sorts, and distributes free baby clothing to underprivileged mothers and their babies. We partner with case managers at local hospitals, shelters, prenatal clinics, safe homes, and other nonprofit organizations serving at-risk, low-income, and underserved mothers. Each mother receives a box with approximately 75 items, including clothing for sizes 0-12 months, coats, blankets, socks, shoes, a book and a small, safe toy. 

ANNB: How many pounds of clothes have you donated and how do you know this number is correct?
LK: Loved Twice has donated  more than 20,000 pounds of baby clothes to newborns in need. We know this is an exact number because we weigh each and every box before it was delivered.

ANNB: Who are the mothers you are serving?
LK: I know that most of the women are uninsured, unemployed, have no father figure involved in the babies lives. Some even go straight from the hospital with their baby to a shelter.

ANNB: How many hours a wee do you put into the nonprofit?
LK: I work between 25 and 40 hours per week, depending on the amount of donations that are collected.

ANNB: How did MLB/People magazine find out about you?
LK: I received a grant from the Oakland A’s earlier this year. Shortly after, they asked if they could they could nominate me for the People All-Stars Among Us award. This was a national voting contest with more than  1.7 million votes among the 30 contestants. I was the winner on behalf of the Oakland A’s. One of the 30 will have a chance to be in People Magazine. My fingers are crossed that this will be me.

ANNB: How did you promote the vote drive?
LK: I took the opportunity to tell everyone I knew about the contest. Friends, neighbors, Loved Twice volunteers, national moms’ groups and pregnancy blogs. Facebook was a wonderful social media tool as friends could share the voting link with others.

ANNB:  How do you feel about winning?
LK: I am on cloud 9. It is such a wonderful opportunity to showcase our nonprofit.

ANNB: What do you think the  future holds for Loved Twice?
LK:  I would like to see Loved Twice getting bigger locally. With funding, we would be able to expand to counties surrounding Oakland. Our website gives step by step instructions how others can start their own clothing drive in their own community. I am eager to see how far our concept can expand nationally.

ANNB: How can people help:
LK:  Visit our website, www.lovedtwice.org to find out where to donate baby clothes. Monatary donations can be made via our secure website or mailed to: Loved Twice, 4123 Broadway, Suite 815 Oakland, CA 94611. Even a $10 donation can help with the smallest of our current needs: packing tape.---KB

 

 

 

Last Updated (Tuesday, 17 April 2012 03:30)

 

PostHeaderIcon Kooky Kitsch and So Much More

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Due to overwhelming demand, allnewsnoblues.com is reposting this story.


Jessica Lindsey is the woman who can help you find that long lost Cabbage Patch Kid you've been searching to buy or that McDonald's shirt to relive your burger-flipping past. Lindsey, of Alameda, runs www.kookykitsch.com. also has space at Park Street Antiques and Collectibles at 1519 Park Street, also on the Island. We asked Lindsey to explain a little about her very unique business. Here is what she had to say.


ANNB: We know you could probably write a book on your business, but briefly, what is Kooky Kitsch all about?

JL: Kookykitsch.com is the source for the offbeat, the obsolete, and the odd. What that means is that I have been scouring garage sales, thrift stores, auction sites, the backs of food packages (for mail-away promotional items) swap meets and friends' cast-offs and closets for more than 25 years. I have amassed a substantial (more than 11,000 items) collection. About eight years ago my husband set up the website for me in hopes that I would clear out some space in the garage and he'd have room for his band to rehearse. Well, it didn't quite work out as he planned. Instead, it motivated me to start looking not only for stuff that I liked, but items I thought others would like, too. So, while he did manage to carve out a small area for band rehearsals in the garage, the attic is now chock full o' kitsch.

ANNB: Whatever happened to your original purchase, "McGruff the Crime Dog"? Does he have a place of honor in your home?

JL: McGruff is still around, somewhere in the house. He's probably staking out crimes to take a bite out of.

ANNB: What is the difference between "collecting" and "hoarding"?

JL: Collecting is what I do. Hoarding is what other people do. In reality, collectors and hoarders often share many of the same traits but, since I like to think that most of what I collect has some value and there's still room in my bed to sleep, it's a matter of opinion. My husband has offered on many occasions, to send me to a spa for the weekend so he can "clean up" the house, but I suspect he's got "clear out" on his mind, so I haven't taken him up on the offer yet.

ANNB: Is there anything that you have been searching for to buy but just can't seem to find?

JL: There's always that elusive item that for me, changes from year to year. Every so often I find out about something that's so bizarre I'd like to have it simply because it's weird or funny. For example, I recently found out about a toy from Spain that's an anatomically correct baby boy with a motorized appendage that pees...on you. Unfortunately, other times, these "wish list" items - like a 70's jukebox, Videosphere space age -looking TV or table-top PONG console - are just too expensive for me .

ANNB: What constitutes Kitsch?

JL: In the strictest sense, kitsch is mass produced "art" with pretensions to high taste. But in a broader sense, you could consider anything retro a bit kitschy.

ANNB: What are couple favorites in your collection?

JL: For oddities sake, a Fleet "Eneman" plush doll (yes a plush enema doll), a "Magic Fingers" vibrating bed massager, and pretty much any Keane picture of a big-eyed girl and a cat.

ANNB: Do you have any idea how much money you have spent buying things over the last 25 years?

I couldn't even begin to guess. Less than I would spend if I'd been a crack addict all these years.

ANNB: What is the hottest collectible item right now?

JL: Everything on my website!

ANNB: Do you see yourself doing this for the long haul?

JL: It's already been a long haul! I imagine I'll keep the website going in some form or another indefinitely. There's just too much to share.

ANNB: Do people think you are Kooky?

JL: They don't think I'm kooky. They know it.  --KB

Last Updated (Monday, 30 August 2010 06:10)

 

PostHeaderIcon 10 Questions with the Easter Bunny

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We caught up with the Easter Bunny preparing for his annual holiday trip. He was gracious enough to take some time away from his busy schedule and consented to this exclusive interview with Allnewnoblues.com:

ANNB: So Mr. Bunny, you’ve been doing this for some time now. What’s the secret to your success?

EB: Well, you know, Steve, we started this out of my parent’s garage quite a few years ago. In the beginning it was just a chocolate egg here and there, maybe some jelly beans for those who bought our "upgraded" package. Even I’m surprised how big and international it went. We just work hard and try to give people what they want.

ANNB: Has the recession affected your business?

EB: Oh sure, of course it has. We’ve had to cut back in many ways. Baskets are smaller now, we put far less plastic grass in them. But, we have an obligation, and our customers are demanding. We’ve also gone organic with our eggs and try to use sustainable chocolate kisses.

ANNB: Can we expect anything new or innovative this season?

EB: I don’t want to give anything away, Steve, but we do have a new feature for 2010. We call it the "Obama Special". It’s a package that gives the middle class the same chocolate benefits as those making over $250,000 a year.

ANNB: You look good these days. How do you manage to keep in shape for this grueling marathon?

EB: We have a very short window to get everything out. My assistants and I plan and work hard to be ready each year. This past winter, I spent a lot of time working with a trainer. I’ve lost 20 pounds and am now the same weight I was in 1977. I also have this great doctor who does these …oh wait…. I’d better not go there. Can you strike that comment?

(In later discussions, EB agreed to allow us to keep this in)

ANNB: If you could do anything else, what would it be?

EB: Are you kidding me? I’d like to be the Tooth Fairy. That guy rakes in the money. It’s a little known fact that he gets a cut of the profits. And he works what, maybe 2-3 hours a night? What a cushy job.

ANNB: I understand that you and Santa Claus are good friends. What can you tell us about him?

EB: Clausy and I are buds, have been for years. He’s a great guy, but he does have a bit of a temper. You don’t want to get on his bad side. I’ve seen him lose it with those elf’s when they get into the liquor cabinet. When we aren’t working, he and I like to play a good game of online poker.

ANNB: I read in Us Magazine that you have quite a home. Did you work with a designer in the construction?

EB: Oh yeah, I have this guy who is amazing. He expanded our hutch and made the opening for the carrot drop more accessible. It’s now big enough for the whole family, we were getting a little crowded.

ANNB:You have a big family?

EB: Well, duh… I AM a rabbit.

ANNB: What can you tell our readers about yourself that they probably don’t know?

EB: I guess people would be surprised to find out that I’m Jewish.

ANNB: We really appreciate that you took the time to talk with us. Any thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

EB: Just this. It wouldn’t hurt you to leave me some milk and cookies like you do for Santa.---SEW

Happy Easter!

Last Updated (Sunday, 04 April 2010 04:46)

 
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