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Why I do what I do...

 

I was asked this past weekend, "Why do you rescue these dogs -- namely, this breed?"

From that, I go back to 1997, when I found my boy, Spud, at an Upstate NY animal shelter, and how his picture, at right, pierced through me and changed my life.

What I don't often discuss, or think about, is 1996, an extremely difficult year for me and my family, which changed all of our lives.

Last week, I was googling my sister's name, Melinda. I pulled up a now-defunct site, "Your true hero", and read the following, written by one of her past students.


Melinda Ardia

One of the most influential days of my life came when I least expected it. It was a bitterly cold winter day. The stream in back of the school was flooded and frozen. It was nearly impossible to walk on, and the buses were having a hard time driving over it.

I remember in science that day we were making little helicopter people that we would eventually drop off of a ladder to find out which would stay in the air the longest. I made mine with especially large ears, because I found that it would make the helicopter people fly down slower. It was a very laid back class that day, and our teacher, Mrs. Ardia, was talking about how we were her kids right now, but she hoped that sometime soon she would have children of her own. She was very deserving of children. She was a great teacher, a woman who taught children in disadvantaged countries, studied things about the Earth, and would never hurt a fly (she was into animal rights). As I picked up to leave the class, I noticed that the snow was starting to come down harder. I could only think of one thing, maybe we would be able to go home soon.

Throughout the day, the snow got progressively worse. Finally in Health class they made the beloved announcement that we would be dismissed early. We were held where we were for a little while, so that the buses could be sent out. I worked on homework for about a half an hour until the buses were ready to load.

On the way home, my bus slipped and slid all over the road. When I got home, I was ecstatic. I made myself some lunch, sat down on the couch and watched some TV. I was very happy, because it was Friday and there were lots of good cartoons on.

My weekend went great until Sunday. My mom came into my room and asked if Mrs. Ardia was my teacher. I replied, "Yeah. Why?" She showed me the article that was in the paper. The roads that my bus was slipping and sliding around on proved too much for Mrs. Ardia. While going around a corner, she lost control. Her car hit a guard rail and flipped upside down into a stream. Mrs. Ardia died.

I was devastated, as was everyone else in the school. To help us cope with the loss, our English teacher decided to make our seventh grade research paper about what Mrs. Ardia lived for, environmental causes. I did mine on one of Mrs. Ardia's favorite causes, animal rights.

I found out why this cause was so dear to Mrs. Ardia. I was appalled by the way that animals were treated. They would waste away their lives being trapped and crammed into tiny spaces, some never seeing the light of day until they were taken to the slaughterhouse.

After this research paper I decided to follow Mrs. Ardia's influence and become a vegetarian. This amazing woman's life convinced me to save the lives of beautiful creatures. I have remained a vegetarian ever since. She also proved to me the reason that I would like to go into teaching. Teachers do make a difference.


There is not much more that can be said than that beautiful testimony by her student.

At left is a picture I gave to Melinda in 1992, that I took on the median of the New York State Thruway.


And at right, is what I wrote on the back of that picture --

-- words as fresh and alive as I would write them today.


Here is my favorite picture of Melinda and me, from 1993, playing Tetris.

God, I miss her.


So this is why I do what I do -- quite unknowingly, till now.

Last week was my birthday, and yesterday I received this in the mail from the Fayetteville, Arkansas Shelter.

I was beside myself at this -- really. For the Jonesys, the Rossis, the Clems, the Forgotten pups, and the others I have helped this shelter with, they acknowledged me -- and nothing makes me more proud, or more happy.

So Melinda, you are still alive, in the soul of my heart.

Although I am not perfect in my path, I am always improving, and I am ever thankful for the short time you were with me and those you influenced.

You are our true hero.