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PostHeaderIcon Around Town

PostHeaderIcon Dusty Paws Saves Four-Legged Friends

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An adorable black basenji dog mix was on the green grass amidst the busy activity at Lake Chabot on a recent Sunday evening. With a broad smile stretching across his face, the eager pooch was jumping up and down to catch everyone’s attention.

Charlie was found near Los Banos in Central California and is just one of the many animals that have been rescued by Dusty Paws, a non-profit organization that rescues cats and dogs and tries to find homes for the furry creatures.

Paulette Murillo, a Dusty Paws’ volunteer, explained how Charlie was found with a broken leg and is now awaiting surgery. However, it’ll be an expensive operation costing several thousand dollars and will require fundraising.

Dusty Paws has never said no to any expenses, whatever the circumstances.

“Dusty Paws was first founded in 2007 in Castro Valley and has saved 400 dogs and cats since,” said Murillo.

An all volunteer effort, Dusty Paws’ mission is to rescue strays and take in animals from often overcrowded shelters.

Six years after the organization was launched, the group has sheltered 70 dogs and eight cats.

The process to find and rescue these animals can vary, but it always involves the dedication of more than 20 volunteers in the organization. Some animals have been rescued from shelters days before they were scheduled to be put to sleep, while others are strays.

Not only do the volunteers actively take care of the animals, but they are also responsible for fundraising and adoption events. Bake sales and dog washes are just two of the ways Dusty Paws raises money for animals like Charlie. Dusty Paws also operates several adoption events a year, where people can come and meet the animals Dusty Paws strives to save.

Charlie was as sweet as affectionate as could be, even with a badly-set leg. He jumped on the table to give kisses, enjoyed romping around as much as possible, and desired a lot of love.

To find event dates or to support Dusty Paws, visit the group’s web site at www.dustypawsrescue.net.--- Lauren Jelks and Grace Moon

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 06 November 2013 02:06)

 

PostHeaderIcon Early Alert Canines: Diabetic's Best Friend

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From its inception in the spring of 2010, innovator and program director, Carol Edwards projected a mission for Early Alert Canines, (EAC)  the Concord based, incorporated non-profit organization, “to improve the health, safety and well-being of insulin-dependent diabetics through partnerships with certified low blood sugar alert dogs”, free of charge!  EAC is one of only a few centers who train dogs for juveniles at least 12 years old and adult diabetics of all ages.

There are serious risks when a normal blood sugar level of a Type I Diabetic takes an unsuspected sudden decline and is not detected and corrected within a brief time.  Because the service dog has been thoroughly trained to react to the diabetic’s shift in blood sugar level in any given situation, even during the hours of sleep in the night, an Early Alert Canine has earned the reputation as a Diabetic’s Best Friend.

The young dogs, ranging in age from 18 to 24 months old, are received through Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence. Several phases of training, over months, begin with presentation of scent samples and teaching the alert technique to the dog.

A phase of 4 to 6 months of transitional training follows, living in home with a diabetic, then returning at night to their volunteer foster home.  Mostly of the labrador and golden retriever breeds, “their life-saving responsibilities will be scent-oriented”, reports staff Registered Nurse, Hilary Freeman.  Their incredible sense of smell and their desire to be people-pleasing in a well behaved manner, afford these intensely trained service dogs the skills to perform a highly specialized function, motivation to initiate the alerting action.  “A diabetic alert dog is trained to recognize the biochemical scent that a diabetic’s body emits as the blood glucose begins to drop”, she adds.

EAC trains full-access service dogs and skilled companion dogs, and while both are “fully trained in medical alerting, companion dogs are not granted the same public access rights as service dogs," according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Skilled companion dogs are available to families of underage (less than 12 years old) children with diabetes, who have not yet reached a level to independently handle a service dog in public venues, and others who require the alert skilled companion dog only within the home setting.

With each placement situation, an intense team training period is initiated by staff from EAC to assist in forming a bond with the partners.  One week is provided for a skilled companion dog, working mainly in the home, and a 2-week period of Team Training takes place for a Full Service canine. Subsequently, periodic post-placement follow up continues, to evaluate and ensure success in the partnership.

Eligibility to receive an Early Alert Canine is based upon a process, which includes an application with a fee of  $100, an interview and a home visit to determine needs of the client, who must be insulin-dependent for a period of at least  one year and compliant in attempting to manage the diabetes. Full-access service dogs are reported to reach near 100 percent accuracy in alerting the diabetic client, after partnership of just a few months.

What type of canine would be suitable as an early alert dog? Some defining terms appear in their description:  career-trained, responsible work ethic, socially adapted, high intelligence, even temperament, life saver and life changer.  Certainly these are a tribute befitting the most loyal and coveted best friend!

Training Supervisor, Maureen Lynch Vashel has an extensive history of caring for and bonding with wagging tails, from a childhood 4-H puppy trainer to a licensed instructor at Guide Dogs for the Blind, to years as a consultant at Diablo Doggies, and on to Early Alert Canines, where she shares her enthusiasm of spreading good will day after day.  Other staff members include a registered nurse and a research assistant in pediatric endocrinology.

As a non-profit organization, funding is generated through grants, donations, fund-raisers and the help of volunteer assistants, who can serve in many positions.  Foster homes are also in need.  For further information, contact:  www.earlyalertcanines.org or call:  925.349.5190.

Karen Balch is a retired registered nurse, freelance writer and avid dog lover. She writes regularly for All News No Blues.

Last Updated (Monday, 14 October 2013 22:04)

 

PostHeaderIcon Meet Your Neighbors: Boost Peace of Mind

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Soon after Shawn Richardson and her husband, Fred, moved into their San Ramon duet in the Twin Creeks area, she thought about organizing a neighborhood get-together at a nearby park.

But it took a crisis to move her to act.

“One day an old gal across the street – she had a bit of dementia – started knocking on people’s doors asking if her granddaughter was there,” Richardson said.

The girl, a frequent visitor to her grandmother’s house, had gone missing. Immediately, a small band of neighbors fanned out to surrounding streets in search of the child. Then, one neighbor had the presence of mind to call the girl’s mother. It turned out she was safe at home with her family.

At that point, Richardson told her block mates: “You know, guys, we really need to get together when it’s not an emergency.”It was the impetus for what has become an annual tradition on the court of 28 duet-style homes, which recently celebrated its 15th annual block party.

“I’ve only missed one of the 15 years,” said Cindy Kavert, who moved to the court with her family in 1991. “I was thinking about it as I got ready to come, thinking of all the people who have come and gone (and) watching all the kids grow up.”

One recent summer afternoon – the party is scheduled for the same Sunday afternoon time slot each year to make it easy to remember – the generations started mingling soon after the 3 p.m. start time.

One dad and son practiced tossing a ball in advance of the egg tossing contest planned later in the day. Nearby a pair of adolescent girls chatted with some younger neighbor boys, while adults ranging in age from their 20s to 90-something snacked on brownies and cheese-stuffed celery as they got acquainted near the picnic tables. Another group gathered around to meet one neighbor’s newly adopted cattle dog-border collie mix and swap dog-training tips.

Rosemary Straub, a relative newcomer to the street, says she looks forward to the picnic, where she’s gotten to know several women who now gather weekly for Sunday night dinners at her place.

“(It’s a time to) be with old friends or meet new ones, and I love to see the kids,” she said, between pouring glasses of homemade lemonade for new arrivals.

At its peak, the potluck barbecue drew about 75 attendees, from young kids to an octogenarian who is the original owner of her home. Members of one family, who moved away years ago, return for the annual gathering.

“That’s a testament to how well received it is,” Richardson said. “I really think it’s helped the whole neighborhood get to know each other.”

And in case someone needs a hand or wants to follow up later on a conversation they had with another resident at the picnic, Richardson distributes a map of the court with each person’s address and the first names of family members.

“If you get into trouble, it’s good to know people,” said resident Pam Ellman, adding that she now knows someone on the court who is a plumber and another who fixes cars. Plus, there’s her husband Marty, who she said “does everything.”

Additional connections and goodwill that have flowed from the annual event also testify to its benefits. The Ellmans, Richardsons and several other neighbors attended Citizens Emergency Response Team, or CERT, training together. Should a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, or other wide scale emergency, like a major chemical spill on the freeway, occur, the group will know what to look for to ensure homes on the street are safe, check in with their neighbors and communicate with professional emergency response personnel, such as the city fire fighters, to learn next steps for the community.

Meeting each other at the annual barbecue also has helped young parents find babysitters, pet owners find dog sitters and led to spin-off holiday gatherings such as a holiday ladies’ brunch. At Halloween, several residents park chairs outside to socialize and pass out homemade cookies to the adults accompanying trick-or-treaters. Twice, residents have held group garage sales.

For those who’d like to start a similar tradition for their own block, Richardson advises: keep it simple.

“Just do it, and don’t worry about making it complicated,” she said.

She prints up a simple announcement on a narrow strip of paper about six weeks before the event, and then sends out a reminder two weeks in advance. Both sets are delivered by a couple of neighborhood boys who slip them into each home’s mailbox.

The first year Richardson put up balloons and asked people to let her know what dishes they planned to bring to share, but over time she found no need to coordinate the numbers of entrees, side dishes and desserts -- it all just worked out.

“It’s BYO everything,” Richardson explains. “I just get the tables, nametags, napkins and paper plates.”

She’s also dispensed with the decorating, but does plan at least one game to promote socializing. For several years, there was a cookie baking contest. For the most recent gathering, she brought handfuls of Mardi Gras-style beads in metallic gold, red, purple, green and blue for an icebreaker activity.

As each guest arrived, Richardson draped a necklace over his or her neck with instructions to avoid using the word no. Using the forbidden word resulted in forfeiture of the necklace. A good-natured exchange of beads – and laughter -- commenced immediately, as one participant after the other slipped in uttering the off-limits word.

For the kids, Richardson organized an egg tossing contest, (pictured right) at the suggestion of 13-year-old Wesley Mariscal, who has attended the block party since he was 10. Today, he’s got braces, glasses and a Spalding basketball under his arm as he surveys pairs of young people practicing lobbing a hard-boiled egg back and forth. Peals of laughter erupt from the kids and adult onlookers as the eggs often miss their mark and bounce on the grass.

Wesley gives the yearly gathering a thumbs up.“It’s a nice thing in the neighborhood,” he said. “Usually there’s a lot of kids here. We go and play in the park and then we go eat.”Turning momentarily philosophical, he acknowledges that getting together once a year pays off for the remaining 364 days on the calendar.“We all go our own different ways,” Wesley said. “Usually people move in and you never meet them. It’s a nice way to say hi.”-MB

Monique Beeler has lived, worked as a communications professional and played soccer in the Tri-Valley area for more than 15 years. More recently, she's become a weekend cyclist and counts riding to the summit of Mount Diablo and Mount Tamalpais among her conquests. As a former daily newspaper reporter, she covered beats from business and lifestyle to education and religion. This is her first piece for All News No Blues.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 11 September 2013 05:25)

 

PostHeaderIcon Village Theatre Celebrates 100th birthday

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Danville’s Village Theatre celebrates its 100th birthday this month and like anything (or anyone) who makes it to a century, it has seen a lot of changes over the years. From its inception as a farmers lodge built in 1873, to a modernized update in 1912 as a grange hall, it has served as a movie theater, a church and is now a performing arts center with a fine arts gallery. A lot more has changed in Danville, as well.

The venue opened as a social and fraternal hall on Nov. 28, 1913 with a gala party that included dancing to the live melodies of the San Francisco orchestra. It was purchased by the Town of Danville in 1987, and has hosted plays, concerts, film festivals, lectures, performances for youth and adults and many special events.

I wasn't around back in 1913, but I have seen the theater and the town change over the last 40-plus years.

We moved to Danville, which  I call “Little Carmel without the ocean,” on Aug. 1, 1970, with my 2-year-old daughter and my late husband when there were just 15,900 people living in the coveted suburban hamlet.  Should I mention that we had just purchased a brand new home of 2000 sq. ft. with triple car garage on 1/3 acre for just under $38,000?

In 1972, our second daughter was born and the kids had plenty of open space to play as we had a spacious walnut orchard with cattle grazing nearly next door. A shallow creek and the fresh fragrance of live oak and wide-open meadows at the foot of Mt. Diablo was our backyard. We spent a lot of time outdoors but went "downtown" too.

The place for lunch was Foster’s Freeze with their original soft serve ice cream cones and grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids. But it didn’t take long to discover another landmark lunch location for outdoor enjoyment--Father Nature’s on Prospect Avenue, originally known as a Goat Shed, famous for selling specialty coffee and tea. It still remains an all-time fave.

Of the many familiar landmarks lending to the attraction of the current city of 42,000 residents, often referred to as “The Heart of the San Ramon Valley," are the historic (but now closed)  Danville Hotel and the popular Elliott’s Bar, both on the town's main drag, and icons since 1858 and 1907 respectively. But even before that, the first post office was established in 1860, serving a population of 20 residents. Incorporated in 1982, curiously, 82 percent of the population growth of Danville occurred after 1970.

Taking advantage of the safe and convenient Iron Horse Trail for a daily walk, biking or skating trek seems so natural.  However, it hasn’t always been a track for leisure use.  Established in 1986, its name reflects the origin of its once known purpose.  The Southern Pacific Railroad operated a transport system from 1891 to 1977, connecting 2 counties and 12 cities along its route from Concord to Pleasanton.

Living just blocks away from the train crossing on Greenbrook Drive, our family became accustomed to a clicking sound seemingly coming from inside our fireplace.  Was it a ghost, we teased.  Not really, but it peaked our interest to investigate and found that it was a signal transmitted along the track forecasting the on-coming train.  As a family, we have made good use of the easy accessibility of the paved path as a biking route for 3 generations, from grandparents to the kiddies with training wheels, family pets leashed alongside.

What remains of the era of the Iron Horse is the original, only remaining depot on the line, sustaining the test of time since 1891.  Now named the Museum of the San Ramon Valley, restored and firmly settled at the junction of Prospect and Railroad Avenue, it houses revolving exhibits reflecting the culture and human experiences of early settlers.

And lets not forget the Tao House. My first excursion to the Tao House was in hopping aboard the shuttle bus with my then 75-year-old mom, for a tour organized by the Danville Senior Sneakers.  The 1½ hour visit high atop Kuss Road, overlooking the valley with spectacular views, was a peek into the past of life, love and literature, Eugene O’Neill style. To mark the 100th anniversary of the theatre, the 14th Annual Eugene O’Neill Festival of historic drama by America’s only Nobel Prize-winning playwright and original resident of  Danville, takes place Sept. 6 -29.  For information, contact www.eugeneoneill.org.

To mark the 100th birthday, there is a  variety of on-going activities planned for the fall, including after-school youth performance workshops, evening live music series and classic movies.  For information regarding tickets,  contact www.villagetheatreshows.com or 925.314-3400.  Parking is free.

The grand engagement festivities are slated for Nov. 16 with a gala event at 5  p.m. followed by the centennial presentation at 7 p.m. at the Village Theatre, 233 Front Street, Danville.  For details, visit www.ci.danville.ca.us/

Interested in submitting a special memory relating to the Danville Village Theatre, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . -KRB

 

Karen Balch is a retired registered nurse, freelance writer and San Ramon resident. She writes regularly for All News No Blues.

 

 

Last Updated (Tuesday, 07 January 2014 22:38)

 

PostHeaderIcon Oakland Zoo: Not Just for Kids

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I've been going to the Oakland Zoo since the early 1970's and I've taken my niece and nephew on trips to see the animals and for special events, such as Zoo Lights in December. Their parents are zoo members. The 7-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy know the lay of the land from the flamingos to the elephants. The Oakland Zoo is, no doubt, a gem for children and families, by day.

But the Zoo is, pardon me, a whole different animal at night.

My sister and I found this out on Saturday night during Walk in the Wild, which brought together nearly 100 vendors from around the Bay Area. Bakeries, breweries, caterers, restaurants, and wineries gathered to support the Oakland Zoo's largest annual fundraiser.

We sampled food from some East Bay favorites: Pican, Italian Colors, Wood Tavern, Scott's Seafood, Ozumo, Triple Rock, Forge Pizza, Nothing Bundt Cakes, World Ground Cafe, Concannon Vineyards, St. George Spirits and plenty more.

We had mini pastrami sandwiches, Aidells sausages with crazy good dipping sauces, bite-sized shrimp covered in more deliciousness, thin sliced pizza, orzo salad, cheese, cheese and more cheese, fresh baked bread, mini tacos, and lots of different juices, brews and vinos to wash down all the good eats.

We ate and drank while strolling around looking at the sun bears, primates, flamingos, giraffes, elephants, camels and birds. We also rode the skyride and got an aerial view of tigers resting, a lion sleep, tule elk roaming and bison doing whatever it is they do.

We listened to some live music while folks tried the specialty cocktails, danced and ate dessert. This event happens once a year in June and tickets go quickly. Make sure you Walk in the Wild next year. But in the meantime, there are plenty of other events for adults (and kids) alike.
Bedtime with the Beasts is a time to get a group together for an overnight at the zoo. Start your evening with a private guided tour of the zoo. Afterwards, enjoy a light snack and participate in a fun hands-on activity. Next, meet one of the education animals up close and then head down to the auditorium and settle in for the night. In the morning, enjoy a tasty continental breakfast, pack up your things, and journey back into the zoo to see the animals as they wake. The event runs from 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next day.

Program Fee: $65 and memberships do not apply toward program fees. 
Parking Fee: $7 for non-members. Free for members.

Pre-Registration is required. All forms and deposit must be received 1 month before the event date. For more information and to register, email, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or call, 510-632-9525 ext. 220.

Groups can be as small as 15 or as large as 100, but you must be at least 6 to participate.

Prefer sleeping in your own bed? Check out a docent-led live animal presentation where you will learn what you can do to help wild animals, while seeing some of the zoo's animals close up. Programs begin at 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and run about 20 minutes. The program is free with zoo admission and presented at the Clorox Wildlife Theater in the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo. Registration is not required. For more information on these and other programs, go to oaklandzoo.org.-- KB

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Last Updated (Thursday, 27 June 2013 21:19)

 
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