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New Year Catch Up

I guess I better write an update with the goings on in the Givens’ household. I am so used to posting on Facebook and Twitter, that I sometimes forget about the blog here. If you aren’t on Facebook or Twitter and are not following us there, you are missing quite a bit. It is 2016, get with the program! I am also assuming that you even care, how narcissistic of me!

Let’s see, where to begin, one of the things I forget to mention in earlier posts was my bout with shingles back in the summer! Wow that was painful and in encompassed the whole right side of my scalp and in the heat of the summer too! It sidelined me for three weeks and I hid in the house from the sun and heat as best I could. My hiatal hernia surgery in 2014 didn’t hurt as bad!!! A miserable ordeal it was, and I still have phantom itching on my scalp at times. I will definitely be getting a shingles shot when my doctor says it is okay!

My Aching Neck!

My Aching Neck!

The rest of the summer saw us taking a few camping trips locally in our trailer so we could scout out real estate and possible retirement locations that we could settle our work weary asses down. This brings up the next item of interest, we have put up our San Juan Island house aka Givens Grove up for sale. We have shifted gears on living there full-time and are going to decide on other places. Getting to and from an island is too much of a headache and the politics there suck! We still have a couple of years before Debbie can retire and as for me at that point, we will have to see where we stand financially! The one decision we have made is to get out of King County and the Seattle area. It has become too crowded and too expensive to enjoy life here in retirement…….period!

In October we went down to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary once again to volunteer with the animals. We fed pigs, groomed horses, and walked dogs. One dog really tugged at my heart and almost brought her home but resisted the temptation, barely! We just aren’t ready for two dogs in the house. Debbie wants another one badly so Cordell can teach it how to behave……ummm…….yeah! It is always such a spiritual reconnection when we visit there!

Joe's New Friend

Joe’s New Friend

Debbie and her Piggy Friends

Debbie and her Piggy Friends

After our stint there, we drove down to the Phoenix area to visit our friends the McEvoy’s who were joined by our other friends the Kelly’s! These are our trailer buddies if you didn’t already know! We visited Superstition Mountain and went over to Tortilla Flats for lunch. Another day we took in the sights of Sedona. Deb loved it there……. a possible retirement spot?!?! I love Arizona too, but don’t want to be in the heat, maybe Flagstaff is more to my liking, we are going back in March to have a look around!

The Six Finger Drunkards

The Six Finger Drunkards

The six of us were then to head to Las Vegas where we had a timeshare booked, but poor Patty Belle was sick which turned out to be pneumonia so it was just us and the Kelly’s. She is fine now! We drove up, stopping by the Hoover Dam to take a walk and have a look and be tourists! The water was very low and if it gets any lower, it won’t be enough to turn the turbines for the electricity Las Vegas needs to stay lit up! We had a great time with Rich and Pam and did lots of walking on the Strip! We saw Cirque du Soleil O and what a show, unbelievable!! We spent Halloween night walking Fremont Street and that was a show in itself……wild!!! It was a great time like always with old friends like these!

Debbie Photobombing!

Debbie Photobombing!

Vegas

Debbie and Pam Hitting The Slots!

Speaking of old friends, in early December, we hooked up with a very old friend of mine I used to work with in my restaurant sales life, Jeff Simon and wife Jamie! We met in Oakland for the Packer/Raider game. Since we were staying in Oakland near the airport and stadium, we took the BART into San Francisco on the Saturday and spent the afternoon walking around, hitting local watering holes and having dinner at John’s Grill. For the most part, Jeff and I spent a lot of time catching up since we hadn’t seen each other in years! Debbie and Jamie also get along just great too! The game was awesome and the Packers got a win and the Raider Fans were pretty cool too! It was a fun trip and look forward to hanging with them again!

Joe And Jeff

Joe and Jeff surrounded by Raider Gear!

Shots

The Boys Doing Shots!

Dinner

Dinner At John’s Grill

And there you have it, a catch up with the Givens’! A new year has begun and new adventures to have and let’s hope that we all stay happy and healthy and have a wonderful 2016!! Let the show begin!!!

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Road Trip 2011

Well it was time for our annual visit to Best Friends Animal Society and this year we decided to try something different and drive down there. After all, we have a great truck, a very nice trailer and plenty of time. Since we planned on taking Cordell, we figured he would be much more comfortable in his little travel bed in the back seat. So we loaded up and headed down the highway for the start of a great trip. We left Patience the cat at home but in good hand of our pet sitter Jenny. Some people ask, why don’t you take the cat with you? Uh yeah, have you ever known a cat that could car travel well? I haven’t seen that many. She is perfectly fine at home, but I am sure she gets a bit lonely since she is a very social little feline. Jenny gives her a lot of attention when she comes for a visit!

Our first stop was Boise, Idaho. We stayed at a the Boise – Meridian KOA. It was ok for just a one night stay. We planned on stopping in Boise so we could visit our niece Jennifer and her fiance Austin. Austin got a great job offer down in Dallas and they would soon be moving, so it was great to get a chance to see them before they left. Talk about good timing! Next we headed down into Utah and the Salt Lake City area. We both have been in Salt Lake before, but never actually looked around much. We stayed in Draper which is south of Salt Lake City so we wouldn’t have to deal with morning rush hour traffic on the day we left. We stayed at the Mountain Shadows RV Resort. A very nice place but very close to the interstate. We drove out to the Great Salt Lake and let Cordell romp around. The thing is huge. You forget that is a lake after looking at it awhile. We also drove to downtown and visited Temple Square, world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Mormons. We learned quite a bit of the history of the Mormons of which I was always very confused about. Now I have a clearer understanding of the religion, if that’s what it is, but don’t plan on converting any time soon.

The next leg of the journey took us to Kanab, home of Best Friends and had our only glitch of the trip. While stopping at a very large Flying J Truck Stop, one of the guys working there passed by and noticed one of our trailer tires looking very worn and unsafe and offered to put the spare on just in case. After talking with the guys in the tire shop, we ended up buying four new tires, much better ones that were on it. I don’t feel we got railroaded into anything because the tires that came on the trailer were just cheap pieces of crap. It was much better to be cautious and get some good rubber for the rest of the road. It was very nice to be back in Kanab again. The place is beautiful and seems to be timeless. It was our first time needing a place to put the trailer and options were limited. Luckily we got a spot at the Hitch N Post and it suited our needs just fine. Back at Best Friends, the return was bittersweet. We first worked with Pigs in Piggy Paradise and just a week before, our best friend there Brandi Bandi passed away. It just wasn’t the same and even the pigs seem to feel the loss. She was a very special person who loved her piggies and gave so much to them. She was taken way too soon and will be missed very much. We also worked in dogs and took Cordell with us to his old run. You can read all about that in the previous post! While we were there we got to go to the September Blessing at Angel’s rest. It was very heart warming and emotional. See video of part of the blessing here!

We then departed on the longest leg of the journey of the trip. We drove 12 hours to South Lake Tahoe. This took us through a big part of Nevada which we had never seen before. We drove on the Extraterrestrial Highway for a long time and no, didn’t see any UFO’s. It is a pretty bleak state until you get in the northern part. It was also quite an event filled leg of the trip, experiencing wind, thunder and lightning, and a fire near the road which luckily we got through. But we made it. By coincidence, a couple that Debbie has known for many years was also on a road trip of their own and met us in Tahoe. They stayed at the same campground we did just a few spots away. They were good people. I also got a chance to see my half brothers and sister which I hadn’t seen in almost twenty years. They brought their wives and kids and we had an impromptu family reunion and had a great visit and rekindled family ties. There was a Oktoberfest celebration that was going on and we checked it out too.

We left after two days there and started on the final leg home which brought us back through Oregon and then into Washington and they grey skies and rain that were mostly absent the whole trip. It was good to be home and in our own bed once again. Cordell was great the whole trip and had a great time himself. He loves to travel and travels very well. Patience was very vocal on our arrival and was obviously glad to see us. I have uploaded photos in our Flikr photo page so go check them out when you get a chance. Now it is time to get back to the reality of life, work, bills,etc! until next time!!

ROAD TRIP STATS
ELEVEN DAYS
SEVEN STATES
2911 MILES

Cordell Returns To Best Friends

We are very proud of our boy! Let’s start out with this, we are in the middle of a road trip and Cordell is with us and we made a stop in Kanab, UT at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. I’ll write on the details of our trip in the next post! Today we took Cordell back to the run where we found him on our last visit back in April 2010 and he stole our hearts. The same caregiver was there and was very generous by letting us bring him and was very happy to see him again! Her dog Ping, was Cordell’s buddy while at Best Friends and was brought in with Cordell, was there and they instantly recognized each other and got very excited. We all went on a walk on the trail that they went down many a time. We could see that Cordell did remember this trail and we got to a point where the trail used to join the road and they blocked it off to continue a different way, Cordell stopped and thought he should go the way the trail used to go. It was amazing! Whoever believes animals have very short memories, need to rethink their attitudes. We put Cordell into one of the side runs while walked other dogs and went to lunch and he was the star of the day as two separate tour groups came through and mentioned how cute he was. One lady even inquired if he was adoptable!!! She was told he was visiting as a graduate of Best Friends!! I am sure he was a bit nervous being back and was wondering if he would be going home again. We learned what a kind little guy he really is when he came out of the run. There is a dog that is unable to walk that lies in the middle of the open area of the run. We were told that all of the dogs there shy away from him because they are scared of the way he tries and scoots around. Cordell went right up to him and gave him a greeting and a lick on his nose!

 

We also learned more of his past history. He came from a hoarding situation owned and run by Kimi Peck, the daughter in law of actor Gregory Peck. She thinks she is running rescue centers for Chihuahuas, but in reality it is nothing but a hoarding situation. She has had many run ins with animal rights groups and the law. You can read about some of what she has been involved with here! We also think we have found a picture of Cordell with her and a bunch of other dogs in an article about her in People Magazine written in March of 2005. Click here and see what you think! He was brought in by a third party in a U-Haul with 39 other animals. Thank goodness it was not in the middle of summer or they all would have perished. After you see the horrific conditions he went through and then the journey he had to take, it is amazing the little guy is still alive. Well we sure are glad he is and we will give him a great life with us. Now, back to vacation!

It Was Bound To Happen

We are back at Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah for our annual volunteer week with the animals. As usual, we are having a wonderful time. It is so wonderful and satisfying working with all these wonderful creatures! It is a lot of hard work, but you know it is much appreciated by staff and the animals themselves! This trip we did things differently. Instead of flying to Las Vegas and driving from there, we flew to Salt Lake City, then to St George where we rented the car and drove. It was much better doing it that way! I must admit, getting on a small propeller plane to go to St George was a little scary and then landing on a freaking plateau in St George wasn’t pleasant either!!! But the short drive to Kanab made up for the harrowing experience! Before we started our stint we had a day to go visit Zion National Monument and took a long hike which was very challenging and somewhat scary at times. It was the Angels Landing hike and took us up on some very high and narrow spots! Debbie did pretty good even though she is scared of heights. We decided that trying to reach Scouts Lookout was too much and continued on the West Rim Trail! It was a beautiful hike and we were both wiped at the end! Now on to the sanctuary!

This was our third trip to the sanctuary and as usual we always work with dogs, cats, pigs, and horses. This time we also worked in the Parrot Garden with all the birds. It was loud as expected, but we learned just how intelligent they are. The average cockatoo has the intelligence of a 3 -4 human child. It is also very sad to see them in cages as that is where they should not be! Please never buy a bird from a pet store because you are just exasperating the problem of bird mills, yes they exist. If you must have a bird as a pet, get them from a rescue and realize they can live for decades!! We also learned that one of my favorite piggies, Raisin, who fell in love with me on the last trip, is getting adopted and will be leaving the sanctuary for her forever home! We are happy for her, but at the same time sad we will not see her when we return. Here is another adoption story, ours. We have always come here with the idea that taking home any animal is not in the cards. A year and a half has past since Simon, our last kitty passed over the Rainbow Bridge and we have been pet less ever since. I kept that idea in mind, yet Debbie fell in love with a little cutey named Cordell. He is a Chihuahua mix and is the sweetest little dog we have ever met! Also, while we were working with cats, a little gray princess named Patience fell in love with me. She more or less decided we were going to give her a home, so did Cordell! So as of today we have adopted both of them and they will be joining us in our home in Snoqualmie. Cordell will be flying home with us Sunday and Patience will fly in later the next week. We will soon be pet parents once again. Oh God what have we done!!! We have one more day of volunteering, then doing the logistics of adoption paperwork and transport details. There are pictures up here of the trip and videos are up at our YouTube Page. In the mean time meet the newest members of our family:

Meet Cordell

Meet Cordell

Meet Patience

Meet Patience

Dogtown – A Best Friends Final Thought

Sitting in front of the TV watching the National Geographic Channel’s Dogtown is enlightening experience in itself. But when you have been there, twice, you view it with a much different perspective. The partnership between National Geographic and Best Friends Animal Society seems to be a good one and it gets Best Friends tons of exposure. It is also neat to run into some of the people you see on Dogtown at the sanctuary. We watched Dr. Mike work on Riley the horse changing and cleaning his prosthetic. We also had Dogtown Manager, Michelle Besmehn join our table for lunch one day. It’s very interesting watching Dogtown and seeing things you recognize and places you have walked by. But also, there’s nothing quite like a visit to Dogtown and the sanctuary itself to really feel the magic that exists there.

We discovered Best Friends during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. During the disaster, we decided that we had to make some sort of monetary donation to help in the disaster relief. We decided to split our donation between the Red Cross and some sort of animal rescue group helping the lost and abandoned animals left behind. Being the natural skeptic that I am, it was difficult to find the right group to donate to. I wanted as much of our donation as possible to go to the animals. One evening while watching some news footage of the carnage, we saw people helping some dogs with Best Friends t-shirts on. They were interviewed and we were impressed with their determination and sympathy for the dogs they were trying to help. I went to work on doing some due diligence and decided they were worthy of our funds. Once our donation was received, we started getting the magazine and newsletters, and the more I read, the more impressed with Best Friends I became. I discovered their massive networking capabilities and then the volunteering opportunities and began telling Debbie that we had to go there and do some volunteering. Back in October we went for our first time and then again just now. Like I said before, the place is magical. The setting is magical, the people are magical, and visiting Angel’s Rest and seeing the hundreds of little graves of those who have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, you can’t help but shed a tear.

I must admit that I am always cynical and cannot always agree with myself that what I see is true. I am always looking for that rip in reality, that black mark on the pure white, that chink in the armor and I have tried to find it here at a place where it is totally run and funded by donations, but I can’t. The people are totally dedicated to the animals in their care. The vision of the founding members is still clear and focused with those who have come in behind them. Most of the caregivers that were there in October are still there now and are even more determined than ever to find every animal a forever home. What is most awe inspiring is that these people will stop at nothing to give these poor little souls the absolute best life they can possibly have for as long as they remain there. They are truly there for the animals and the animals always come first. They were cast offs , abandoned, abused, lost, forgotten, but no longer. They are totally loved maybe for the first time in their lives and you can see the appreciation and thank fullness in their eyes. We are so glad that Best Friends exists for these babies and if you ever get a chance, pay them a visit and see for yourself what goes on in the country’s largest no kill animal sanctuary. Send in a donation and get the magazine and tell a friend. You’ll be amazed and never forget your experience there. By the way, I am in no way involved with Best Friends except as a member and volunteer and am paid not one penny to share my feelings. See ya in southern Utah someday!!! Oh and one more thing….. DO NOT BUY PUPPIES FROM PUPPY MILLS!!!!!!

Many New Pictures Posted

Wedding

Wedding

San Antonio 2009

San Antonio 2009

At Best Friends

At Best Friends

Have a look at our photos from our recent vacation. Click each image to go to the album or just go here for our complete Flickr Photo Page!

The Personality of a Pig

When thinking of animals and those with distinct personalities, we often think of dogs first then maybe cats and horses. If you can go no further than that, then you haven’t met a pot bellied pig. Our time spent with the pigs in Piggy Paradise at Best Friends Animal Society was so much fun and very enjoyable. Deb loves them, and I really grew towards them after an initial hesitation. Most people think of pigs a dirty, stupid, stubborn animals that are only good on a plate! While it is true that if you visit a typical farm and walk by the pigs in their pen, you’d think they were disgusting. All you see is them wallowing in their own excrement and mud. This is not how a pig likes to live, but are forced to due to areas too small for the number of pigs in them. Typical farms have only small pens for their pigs and don’t really give them much of an option of living they way they want to. A pig absolutely hates to eat where they poop and are actually very clean animals. the pigs at Piggy Paradise where spotless and didn’t even have a smell. Their snouts are a little wet and smudgy, but they like to root around with them. During the summer the staff makes them big mud pools where they like to wallow to cool off and keep their skins protected from the hot sun, maybe they get a little dirty then. They are also so fun to work with!

Every time we ran into other volunteers, we mentioned working with the pigs and we got the usual hesitant response until we told them how much fun they are and are so personable. For instance there’s Dagwood. He is an older guy and gets a little grumpy at times, but is really good when walking. There’s Naniue which means “beautiful” in Hawaiian and she is very beautiful. She’s a big girl, but the staff have her on a diet and she has lost 60 pounds since June. She is already getting around much better since we last saw her in October. She still likes to eat and gets a little pushy at feeding time. We loved Cherry, a shy petite cutie. She is very cute and took a liking to Debbie. One of my favorites was Raisin, and she really liked me. She would walk with me with virtually no prodding. You usually have to throw down some popcorn, peanuts, or shredded wheat in front of them to keep them going, but Raisin just walked along with me and would stop whenever I would. When I got her back to her run she just hung around me while I was in there with her. I could have taken this baby home if I had the opportunity. Next up is Babe, he is a pink pig that was left out in the sun by his previous owners and got sunburned so bad that staff thought he might develop skin cancer. He didn’t, luckily, and is doing fine but he has permanent dark markings on his back from the sun damage and he is really sweet.  Now Metro and Penelope, on the other hand, are real ornery! They are real stinkers and like to snip at you if you aren’t careful. Most of the time, volunteers aren’t allowed in their pens, but I had to check their water and I went in with a poop scooper to ward them off in case I needed. They were okay with me the brief time I was in. Another couple of characters were Jeffrey and Hogan who had minds of their owns when walking, and stubborn……..whoa boy were they ever. Sometimes it was a real chore getting them back into their pens after their walks. Jack is a pretty laid back pig who just takes everything that comes in stride. He gets let out of his pen to just cruise around the compound and he just hangs around until it’s time to go in.

I could go on and on as there are some more, but i think you get my drift here. Pigs are cool and each have very distinct personalities and are way more maligned than they should be. If you do plan a trip to volunteer at Best Friends, spend a morning or afternoon at Piggy Paradise. You’ll have a blast and will fall in love with these cute porkers!

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