Archive for July, 2018

Dogs Took Over the Internet. Our Souls Are at Stake.

It used to be that the cat was the big beast online. But lately, dogs are taking over.
In the first episode of the new season of her video series, “Internetting,” Amanda Hess investigates an adorable existential crisis for web culture.

Dogs are order. Cats are chaos. Dogs are loyal and compliant. Cats are … not. Why has the internet suddenly switched its allegiance? Episode 1 of our video series.

This 4 1/2 video from the New York Times is very funny  – and maybe even insightful.Internetting

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Toni ESAMy little Toni is more resilient today – more her old self, handling many different situations with poise. On our first three errands, she just plopped herself down on the floor, patiently waiting for me to complete my business – no restlessness, no hard breathing. But after our third errand, when we got in the car she did start to hyperventilate. And i thought, “When I was planning this outing all of these errands seemed kind of urgent, but you know what? These last three errands could just as well be done another day – or maybe one a day over three days.”

She’s my little canary in the coal mine, letting me know when the situation is moving into a toxic zone – probably for me in addition to her.

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For Buddy

It feels a little creepy, when my current dog is so sick, to post this poem that I wrote five years ago when my Buddy was dying.  But, I think, not really creepy.  It’s just about mortality, about impermanence.  Everything dies.  Everyone we love will eventually go away from us – by their death or ours or something else.  My very wise friend Arayah said after Toni’s heart disease diagnosis, “Toni will be with you exactly as long as she is meant to be with you – not one day more or less.”

When my Buddy was dying, my friend Johanna – a big fan of my poetry, said to me on the phone, “Write Buddy a poem – and read it to him right before you put him down tonight.”  It knew it was the best advice I could have gotten.  That afternoon I carried Buddy out to our back deck for us to sit in the glorious warm late-fall sunshine.  I sat next to him and very easily wrote the poem.  I read out loud to him and I – who had not yet found my way into my tears about his dying – cried like a baby.  It was healing.  I hope it is helpful to you.IMG_0140

For Buddy

Once you were afraid of me – and all men
When I stepped on your paw, you ran away –
You thought I was trying to hurt you
Now I am your safe space
You trust me
You have taught me about trust
You have taught me so many things

You have shown me what it’s like
To come totally awake to the night
To smell, hear, and sense it all
Like there is no tomorrow
Like there is nothing else
Just this night – here, now

You have shown me what it’s like to be content
This moment, this place, this life

You have shown me what it’s like to have no regrets
No second-guessing
Wishing we had done something different

I can’t take away your cancer
I can’t extend your life
I can’t keep you here with me
I can commit to you, before you go
Out of gratitude for all you have given me
Over all these years
That I will redouble my efforts
To sense the night
To be content
To have no regrets
And that sometimes
When I feel the night
Am content or
Have no regrets
I will think of you
And I will smile

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About two hours ago I decided to start sending out my Go Send Me funds request now, even without my Rover.com registration complete.  An hour later I got my first donation!  And from my best man friend in Asheville, Tom Kilby.  I was at Earth Fare – where I still, for another week, am on the payroll and where he works.  He bopped me on the head, as he is prone to do, with a ten dollar bill – a first for that.  He said “Hey, I’m not going to do Pay Pal and I don’t use checks – here, this is for your fund.”  Wow, what a shot in the arm!  I got my first donation even before I sent out the request!  And from this person who is so special to me.  This is really good ju-ju…or luck…or divine blessing. Tom and Amanda

My mind went crazy.  I’ve gotta create a spreadsheet to keep track of the donations.  What was the perk for a $10 donation?  I’ve gotta look that up and send it off to him right away.  Actually, I mostly need to breathe and trust.  Exactly the right amount of money is going to come in at just the right time.  If it’s not enough to pay for my liability insurance, things will work out.  If it’s more, that would be awesome.

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No Rover.com yet

One of the things that has been holding me back from sending out the blog post with my “Go Send Me” funds request is that I wanted to have my Rover.com profile and registration complete – providing all of you and other potential customers a cross-section of my customer comments/testimonials.  But I can’t complete that registration until I have my insurance and bonding in place – and I can’t pay the $360 for the insurance until I get some income from this appeal. It’s the rock and a hard place thing.

This afternoon it got clear to me that the time is right to send out that beautiful letter, without the Rover registration – and hopefully in the short term score the money for the insurance, my top funding priority right now.  You can always go into Rover a few days from now to see my completed profile.  It’s exciting that I am going to let the horse out of the barn – or something like that. Amanda and Katie

In an hour Toni and I go to our vet and two hours after that my dear friend Amanda comes over to picnic in our stunning 13th floor Roof Garden.  She and I have not managed to find a time to talk since before my stroke, much less Toni’s health crises – and I may even get interested in the recent events of her life.  That sounds really, really good actually.

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Toni’s congestive heart failure diagnosis was last Wednesday, just six days ago – not time enough to fully wrap my head around it.  Her big-time breathing crisis (one hour of oxygen, 4 1/2 hours at the emergency animal hospital) was Monday – two weeks ago.  She is not in crisis at this time – and when she gets enough rest she looks almost normal, though she is overall pretty subdued and walks a minimal amount when I take her out.Toni ESA

But she is clearly not well.  All she really wants to do is to sleep/rest on the carpeted floor or on my queen sized bed.  (She sleeps rests in one place for maybe 20 minutes, then moves a few feet away and does it again.)  Today we ran two rfelatively compact little errands: to get an estimate on my car bumper, so I can detail the cost in my pitch letter – which is published in this blog but has not been really promoted yet, and to Earth Fare for a few groceries.  This was clearly too much for her – she looked distressed and her breathing got very fast.

I have been cancelling almost all of my social engagements, including the ones where I was going to take her – maybe especially those.  She doesn’t need the extra stimulation.  What otherwise could be a positive stress – interesting things to do/see/smell – today is all just too much for her.


Is she going to make it?  My intuition is yes, that she will get through this crisis and get better – maybe for a good long time. But I can’t totally control my morbid fears.

Send your prayers.  Picture her well.  Picture her charging full-speed in Montford Park, which she was doing just two weeks ago.  Picture her really happy in the arms of Aunt Diana, her new best friend at Battery Park Apartments – and in the arms of Aunt Sherrie Lynn at Earth Fare,  Picture me handling it all – actually growing more peaceful and content as I actively embrace mortality, Toni’s and mine.  My friend Arayah said, the day after the heart diagnosis, “Toni is going to be with you exactly as long as she is supposed to be with you – not a day less or more.”  I’ve been thinking/saying that a lot – it’s comforting to me.

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When Toni came to me a year and a half ago, she was skin and bones.  She was a famously picky eater and she tipped the scale at 4.7 ounces.  (I know, staggering numbers, right?)  Then six months later, after some successful experimentation with her food, she came up to 5.2 and looked great – that seemed like her fighting weight.  Then the last few months her belly has gotten pretty big and I have been lambasting myself for feeding her wrong, not giving her enough exercise – something.  At her vet visit last week, she had picked up another three ounces – a lot for her – and I felt even more guilty.  “I’m wrecking my dog – I’m making her unhealthy and less attractive.”  Even her sitter teased me for letting her get so big: “You better make sure she doesn’t put on more weight.”Toni.jpg

The vet on Monday squashed all that.  “She doesn’t have any fat on her.  Everywhere I feel she is solid. Her belly is distended. There has to be a cause – maybe it is the prednisone.  But it’s a medical issue, not a feeding issue.”  (What’s causing my distended belly?  If I ate as lean a diet as Toni does, I might not have it.”

Amazing how we can torment ourselves for something out of our control – and how easily that bubble can be burst.

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Everyone wants a piece of my Toni. She is so tiny and so amazingly cute that they want to say hi, want to pet her, want to hold her, want a picture of them with her.  She is so docile that sometimes she has a hard time saying “No”.  (Sometimes she will back clearly away or, if picked up, will get so squirmy that all but the most determined/insensitive person will get the message and put her down or give her to me.)

Sherry Lynn at cash register.jpg

Sometimes it falls to me to take care of her boundaries, to keep her from being overextended or overstimulated.  Yesterday I said to a neighbor who was reaching for her in Diana’s arms, “Let her be – she’s content where she is. She’s overheated.  She’s had a busy afternoon. Let’s not be passing her around.”

Sometimes it’s really more a matter of protecting my boundaries.  Walking downtown (where we live) her cuteness can make it impossible to make any headway. One day I said to a woman, kind of nice but very clear, “No you may  not visit with my dog – I need to be somewhere.”

I do believe that Toni is a sacred trust I have been given and part of my work is to share her.  But I also have to pay attention to her boundaries.  Maybe this will help me to learn these lessons where I myself am concerned.

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The Care Credit Card

The presence of the Care Credit Card on the desk of the Reach Animal Hospital was next to miraculous.  My new neighbor/friend Diana had just been telling me about how great it is, and she on the spot the other day pulled out of her phone the number for the Care Card and – given the heavy vet bills I am facing with Toni – encouraged me to get signed up soon.  Three days later I had still not signed up, but it turned out that nothing was lost by my procrastination.

As I was signing in at the REACH clinic Monday afternoon, a staff person  raved about the company. They do have an interest in getting paid. (“Way better than those two other insurance companies on the counter. Our customers who have used this have found it very helpful.”) She loaned me a tablet computer to go online and sign up while Toni was in the oxygen room, where we couldn’t go. (I tried to sign up from my phone, but hit a stubborn error message.)  If this sounds interesting to you sign up before you get into a situation like that.

“Poor little spud must be terrified going through this stuff without me there!”  Well, if at any point there she was terrified, she don’t show any signs of it when she came out.  She was just interested in exploring the facility.  Medically and physically she is very fragile, but in some ways this dainty little thing has a ferocious spirit.  You won’t keep her down.

I have no credit – not bad credit, just no credit.  I haven’t had a credit card or paid for anything over time for maybe 20 years. The people at the On Track credit counseling agency, who ran my score but didn’t find any, said that no credit is almost as bad as bad credit when you are trying to get a loan, finance a house, etc.  So I was really kind of astonished when, just moments after I pushed the “Submit” button, a message came up saying I had been approved for a $2000 line of credit! Care credit card

I used $400 at the REACH clinic on Monday, I have an appointment with my vet today.(Hopefully Toni will not need more tests – maybe I’ll get out of there under $100!  One can dream.)  The vet on Monday wanted me to see an ophthalmologist – soon – for the scratch on Toni’s cornea.  At their emergency clinic, that appointment was going to cost $120 right out of the chute (“for a specialist”) – before any tests or treatments.  Before this spate of Toni health issues has calmed down I may be up to that $2k limit.

The terms of payment on the card are both very convenient and also very treacherous.  You get six months interest-free, but on the first day after six months you come due for 26% interest going back to day 1. So there’s plenty of incentive to get it paid off. You can also use it for your own medical/dental/vision bills.  Just remember that six months number.

Care Credit Card
“How to earn your $30 statement credit:
1) open a new account
2) use your credit card (you just need the account number they give you when you are approved) to pay for a transaction of $200 or more
3) register at carecredit.com/promotions with promo code VET30
Offer ends 8/31/18.”

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On Monday, five days after Toni’s diagnosis of congestive heart failure, she had a massive breathing crisis that scared the crap out of her and me – and may have been connected with her heart condition, or her collapsing trachea, or something else (the vet speculated maybe kidney problems). After 4 1/2 hours at the emergency animal hospital and many tests, they just had no clear statement about what had caused it.

Toni had had a fine, calm, happy morning. We were driving down the road around 2 p.m., her seeming very content – settled in on her princess pillow on the passenger seat, connected to the seat belt by a little clasp that keeps her from going anywhere or becoming a projectile with a sudden stop.  She’s usually fine with that arrangement – she just settles in and gets comfortable.

Suddenly she got super restless – started thrashing around, then panting really hard.  Then her breathing developed a harsh whistling sound.  She clearly was in very bad shape.  I pulled over and called our animal hospital, Haw Creek Animal Hospital in East Asheville.  Our regular vet, Heather Sinclair – the best, after two dogs in her care I’m devoted to her – was not in the office, so the desk person consulted with the vet on duty.

She came back on the line and gave two reasons for us to go elsewhere: their radiology was down and it sounded to the vet like she needed an oxygen tent – which is only available at the REACH emergency animal hospital, famous for high rates and excellent care.  I immediately turned the car around and went back in that direction.  For the moment I was not concerned about the expense – though there was no way I could pay a big bill today.  I was really scared about her and just wanted her to get good help.

Driving there with her not able to breathe, so soon after the heart diagnosis, I was terrified that I was going to lose her.  I thought “She is not going to come out of this clinic alive.” I fought these thoughts, but they were very strong.

In view of the nature of her crisis, one of the techs took her back to the oxygen room while I was checking in.  Everybody in the office was lovely – efficient, warm, compassionate.  As I was checking in, I saw on the counter a little stack of applications for the Care Credit Card, which my great new friend Diana had just been telling me about.  “It has helped me so much about my vet bills – it’s been a lifesaver.”  More about that card in my next post.

After an hour in the oxygen tent, Toni’s breathing had normalized and they brought her out to be with us while they analyzed her tests.  She seemed amazingly untraumatized and happily roamed up and down the halls of the very big clinic.  I had brought her in without a leash – I wasn’t thinking – but they had a little stash of simple leashes.  I little by little let go of my panic – I was the one who was more traumatized – and came back to myself, even playing and teasing with the staff.

When finally they gave us their last read-out, we didn’t get the lovely, sweet young woman vet who had consulted with us two hours earlier.  They had changed shifts and we got a 35ish man who was a little gruff and not empathetic, but seemed very knowledgeable and efficient.  But he contradicted almost everything the Haw Creek vet had said last Monday (again, not Heather – she was on a much needed vacation):

  1. swollen heart – “Her heart did not look enlarged.”
  2. fluid on the lungs – “Today there is no fluid on her lungs”.
  3. Glaucoma in the right eye – “Our test for the pressure of her eye was negative.  We did find a scratch on the cornea, which needs attention right away.  I’d like you to see our ophthalmologist or some other one as soon as possible

By that point, my friend Laura – my inveterate doctor’s office buddy, who had rushed over to be with us at the beginning of the appointment – had had to leave and, even with writing notes furiously, I missed or didn’t understand some stuff.  My head was swimming.  I bet this last vet, cold fish that he was, did not package the information into reasonable doses for easy consumption.

These health crises really bond us to our little ones – human and animal.  I think that’s part of their life purpose.


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Toni O – or OMG

Toni came to me at age 8 with the name Toni.  The name seemed totally adequate, so I saw no need to change it – even though I knew I could.  It causes some confusion, with some people almost insisting that she is Tony – a little boy dog.  But lately that name Toni has started to seem just a little vanilla for such an amazing little being.Paula

But Toni O is much more interesting and has a wonderful derivation.  So many people – and I mean so many people – greet her for the first time by saying “Oh my goodness”.  She is so tiny (5 lbs.) and so beautiful and sweet and obviously special.  bathed 6-12-17

So her full name is Toni Ohmygoodness” – or Toni O for short.  Most people still just call her Toni, even after being corrected – so that is fine.  I never correct anybody more than once.  But the hip people call her Toni O.

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My doggie, little 5-pound 9 year old female yorkipoo Toni (or Toni O – see this post) is the world’s best dog – or second best, right after yours of course.  Peaceful, sweet, loving, funny – and fragile.  Maybe it comes with the tiny little designer breed.  Boy with dog

She has coughed a lot since I adopted her a year and a half ago.  Her last owner told me that it was just something she does when she is excited.  And sure enough she did it when I came home or when she encountered someone she loves and hasn’t seen for a while.  But she also did it when she had run or first thing every morning.Close-up hoodie

A couple of months ago this coughing got worse and I took her to the vet.  They diagnosed “collapsing trachea”, the coughing representing an attempt to clear the trachea and breathe better.  It does kind of come with the territory with these tiny breeds, but can be dangerous and isn’t something you should not deal with.  The vet prescribed prednisone or prednilisone.  I had qualms about giving her a steroid and at first was not consistent in administering it.  But it got clear that when I waffled in its administration she coughed a lot and when I am consistent with it she doesn’t cough much.  So I bite the bullet and do it.

Last Tuesday she turned up with a swollen left eye – swollen almost shut.  I took her to the vet the next day.  She gave Toni a good examination in addition to checking the eye.  Thank God.  She said, “I hear some crackling in her chest – I’d like to take x-rays, in addition to doing a pressure test on the eye.”goat sniff Toni

When, 30 minutes later, the vet invited us into the back room – equipped for viewing x-rays – she started by saying, “She has glaucoma in that eye – we’re going to prescribe an eye drop.”  But that’s about all the attention she gave to the glaucoma as she moved into the more important findings.

She brought up the x-rays.  “Here’s her heart.  It’s way enlarged – about 30% larger than it’s supposed to be.  All this dark area is fluid on her lungs.  These arteries here are all swollen – they’re working real hard to get the blood through.”

When she paused after these results, I asked,”Is she in danger now?” “Probably not now, because we’re going to get her on some good meds that will help a lot – she should be significantly better in a couple of days. If we hadn’t found it she could have been in immediate danger.”looking out windowThe vet used the diagnosis “heart disease”, but a couple days later a friend said “that’s congestive heart failure” and another friend confirmed that terminology.  I’m going to confirm that with the vet when we see her tomorrow.  Somehow that languaging is more threatening for me to hear.

“What does this mean for her life expectancy?”  “We can’t say.  Some people with heart disease live a long time – some not.”

In telling this story to people, several have said something like, “My dog had heart disease and she lived to be 17.”  I don’t know why 17 is the magic number, but it has seemed to be.  Toni and two goats

Mortality is on my mind.  I had my own health crisis in the last couple of weeks.  Sunday nine days ago I had a mini-stroke.  Without going into a lot of details, it was very terrifying and felt like a little brush with death.  I find myself getting way more comfortable with my own mortality, but so far not as much comfortable with hers.

My friend Arayah wrote me and said, “Toni will be with you just as long as she’s meant to be with you – not one day more or less.”  I don’t totally know why that was so comforting, but it was.

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I dreamed a dream…

I dreamed a dream that all beloved pets would feel safe, loved and attended to when their masters are away – for a week conference in Manhattan or a long day at work in Woodfin.

I dreamed a dream that all masters would feel happy and comfortable that Fido is in good hands while they are gone.business card

I dreamed a dream that I would get to do work for which I am uniquely qualified – the animal care, the exquisite communication with the masters – work that makes my heart sing and for which I get appropriate compensation to acknowledge just how much I bring to the table.

I dreamed a dream that my friends and associates enthusiastically came together to support me in making this work work – whether giving $100 to get a commissioned poem Poet is inor $10 for some photos if that’s what works or, if no money works, to share my appeal on their Facebook page or think about who in their network has deep pockets and a philanthropic orientation or love of animals and might like to get weekly text updates for $150.

I dreamed a dream of my friend Karen whose emotional support animal is a chameleon Karen and Yoda– and how seeing them together reminded me that we all need each other.  We need other species in our lives.  Dogs are a great species and they love people, most of them.  People are great, but if our lives are only about people we are missing big parts of the world.  Read Kinship with All Life about animal/human communication.

I dreamed a dream of all of us together the other day,
late afternoon outside of Earth Fare,
July sun, just hot enough to be summer and not spring –
high summer, just a couple weeks after the Solstice.

dog parrot and child.jpg

Gorgeous amazing very tall 30 year old Tre – a goddess, an Amazon,
we used to be cashiers together,
now she is selling her jewelry outside of Earth Fare
Her adorable tow-headed two year old toddler Lucas
Her amazing 17 year old totally quiet parrot Yoda
My fabulous newly diagnosed heart patient nine year old puppy Toni

dog parrot Tre.jpg
My self, 71 year old guy Majo
Sometime Earth Fare cashier

hat and gloves.jpg
Today just observing all of this
Not wanting to be anyone else
Not wanting to have anyone else
All of us coexisting
All of us making space for each other
All of us letting all the other beings just be

Baba busker

I dreamed that I just let go,
Let life take me where it wants me
I dreamed that all of life conspired to support me
Serving God as I am uniquely meant to
Walking dogs, visiting lonely animals
Your dog will be happy to see me
And you will be happy to know that I am there
That your beloved pet is not alone
That they are in good, competent, compassionate hands

Here I am Lord, is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord, where you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

Sherri Lynn - no rotate

I dreamed a dream of a world that works for everyone
Every species, every being
And I won’t give up on it.
One animal at a time.
Baby steps.

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at the womens march, by Arayah

“For a while I was travelling quite a bit and would rely on Majo to take care of the critters while I was away.    He was prompt and reliable and kept in touch with anything he felt I needed to know about.  I definitely would use him again!”  Susie Davis

I’m reviving my dog walking/pet sitting business and launching a “Go Send Me”appeal to support this launch (yes, “Go Send Me” not “Go Fund Me” – read on).   I tried nine years ago to make a living off of dog walking and pet sitting, but it was the worst part of the economic downturn and people were just not spending money on dog walking or pet sitters. Now I know several people in Asheville who are doing well with it – and they don’t have half the network I do! Here’s the blog I was writing during that period – anybody who loves dogs will love this blog. Read it!

You’re actually reading it right now, but read more!  Read it all!  Follow it – you can sign up by clicking the button in the right column. After eight years this blog really holds up – some of my best writing.  My Buddy’s Blog

Why a Go Send Me Drive?

resist big smile

Let’s say it straight – I’m broke. I left my Earth Fare grocery store cashier job because, between Social Security and my job, I was making too much money to move into the subsidized Section 8 apartment building I have just moved into (Battery Park Apartments in downtown Asheville – it’s wonderful!). Having left my cashiering job a month ago, I then needed to augment my Social Security income and I tried to do it with busking poetry on the street. I crashed and burned. (My poet/performer friend Tebbe says “Busking is not an old man’s game!”) I haven’t given up on it – I’ll still do more of it.  (See that blog: “Write Me a Poem!”.) But when I’m depressed I just don’t get out of bed unless I am required to.  I need a schedule – I need commitments.  I need to have to show up somewhere.  I need a dog to be waiting at the door for me to take her out for a walk.  There are lots of reasons why I think that dog sitting is just the right step for me right now. Read on.

business card

There’s a glitch on this card – or maybe just my computer – which overlaps the front of the card with the tag line from the back side. Gotta get that straightened out before we print.

Why not Go Fund Me?


Go Fund Me exerts a lot of control over the process and takes a cut.  And “Go Send Me” echoes a beautiful, inspiring spiritual song that feels like the anthem of this next stage in my work contribution.

I honestly think this whole letter is really beautiful – great photos, three inspiring songs, a killer original poem at the very end written just for this letter.  But if you don’t have time to read it all right now and want to just give already – or are coming back to the letter looking for the link, here it is:

Contribute to Majo’s Go Send Me appeal

Majo helped me out with my animals–two cats and 5 chickens–while I was on vacation. He was dependable and tidy and all was well when I got home. I feel so good having such a trustworthy person in my home caring for my beloved creatures. (PS: It’s not always easy finding chicken sitters!)  Amanda Graves

 Where’s the money going?



  1. My computer is a tool of the trade.  Part of my writer/pet sitter trademark has been that when people are gone for a week or more (good customers) I provide them with a unique blog about their animal(s) which they can see from the road.  Another element is that I write poems about their pets.  Finally, I do billing and receipts.  My computer is a 12 year old rebuilt PC that sometimes takes 3-5 attempts to get it to boot up.  New Asus PC computer from Christopher Computer, a local shop: $800 and $120 to move my files over – $920.
    (When my dear friend Margaret saw this paragraph a few days ago, she wrote me “I have a used laptop that I think might be just fine for you.  The only thing wrong with it was that it wasn’t a Mac.”  She’s dropped it off at Christopher Computers to see if it might be right for me.  I’ll let you know if a computer still needs to be a line-item here.)
  2. With a portable, I-come-to-you business, my car represents my business. Especially since I will sometimes be transporting clients’ dogs in my car, I can’t afford to have it looking like I don’t take care of it. My car needs some body work (not a lot, but I can’t afford it) to look good.  Front bumper painted – $200, cracked windshield replaced: $256
  3. Auto insurance. $110 x 2 months: $220
  4. Gas to get to pet sitting jobs – $200 a month for two months: $400
  5. I need Vistaprint (inexpensive) marketing materials, all still on file with Vistaprint and ready to print out : adorable full-color business cards, stationery for billing and receipts, car magnets, hats and t-shirts.  Marketing materials: $100
  6. If I want to get serious about pet sitting, I will need (as I got nine years ago) liability insurance and bonding.  $340 per year
  7. Membership in national petsitters organization (Pet Sitters Associates) – required to qualify for above insurance and bonding:  $125
  8. Membership in local professional organization:  $75
  9. Total start-up expenses, needed right now: $2636

I really do believe that before very long at all this business (combined with my Social Security) can pay all my bills and maybe even allow a little discretionary cash.

But until I build my business to the level of paying my living expenses, I need an infusion of cash to get me through the next couple of months. 
– Toni medical bills. 
My doggie, little 5-pound 9 year old female yorkipoo Toni (or Toni O – see this post about her full name) is the world’s best dog – or second best, right after yours of course.  Peaceful, sweet, loving, funny – and fragile.  Maybe it comes with the tiny little designer breed.  I’m gonna go into detail about her medical issues in another post. What it makes sense to say here is that three vet visits (one last Monday for a genuine breathing crisis that required an hour in an oxygen tent) have cost me $1200 – and we’re not out of the woods yet.

Itemizing all this can get me discouraged.  If you can send even $10, seeing that my appeal is being responded to can really lift my spirits.  Or if you “Share” this on Facebook or are keeping your eyes open for deep pocket donors or people with a need for pet sitting, drop me a line and let me know you are doing this – all of this can be deeply encouraging.

(While I was writing this, I left YouTube running and it played this amazing song, also sung by Josh Groban. The video is awesome – it just gave me a good cry.  It’s just what I need to hear right now.  Maybe there are times when it could help you too.)

Why give?


I am meant to do this work. I am magic with dogs. I adore my dog Toni (my last dog -Buddy is above and was the namesake of this blog.) This is the right work for me to to right now.
I’m offering perks:
  • all people who have received this letter have also received a link to this beautiful “My Buddy’s Blog”, which all dog owners owe it to themselves to read
  • You don’t have to give me money! One friend said to me, “Right now, $10 is not in my budget.” I get it – I’m pretty close to that right now myself, that’s why I’m sending out this letter.  But there are other wonderful ways to support me:
    • “Share” this link on your Facebook page – that gets me in front of your 14 Facebook friends (or 1400, but all it takes is one for me to get a donor or a great new client).
    • Send this link to friends who do have more money and might be moved to support a great startup by a guy with a big vision
    • Support the blog – mybuddysblog.com
      • Read it
      • “Follow” it – button in the right column
      • Cheerlead me – tell me when you read something you like
      • When you like a post, “Share” it on your Facebook page
    • Keep an ear to the ground for who might need a dog walker or pet sitter.  Talk me up to them.
      • Give them the link to this blog (my website – all the website I need): mybuddysblog.com
      • Or my phone number (828-582-9822)
      • Or email address (heymajo@gmail.com – catchy and easy to remember)
      • have me send you some business cards – they’re really cute, with the adorable cartoon dog waiting to go out and the business name: “U Wanna Go Out?”
  • All people who give $10 will receive online my “Call Me Majo” story from my gotta-eventually-be-published book Radical Integrity.  It tells the true story of the Majo name – which may be crushing if you are one of the many people to whom I have told one or another bullshit version of the story. (“Yes…Majo…I was born in Hungary…to gypsies…Majo is short for Majerewski…”  Sometimes this is as far as I can go with a straight face.)
  • people who give $25 will receive an email portfolio of photos of my dogs Buddy and now Toni, including the infamous “The 5 pound Toni tries to play with the goat” photo
  • people who give $50 will get their choice of the adorable “U Wanna Go Out” t-shirt or baseball cap
  • people who give $75 will get a t-shirt or cap and the very touching “For My Buddy” poem, written three hours before we put Buddy down – must reading for anybody who has lost a pet
  • people who give $100 will get a customized poem for your dog (or other pet)
    • I will interview you for 30-60 minutes about your dog
    • you will preferably send me a photo of your dog
    • I will write you a poem that will knock your socks off
  • people who give $150 will get weekly text message updates about the progress of my business
  • anybody who gives at any level will get periodic updates about the progress of the business and the funding to date – and a promise that I will never hit you up for money again
  • anybody who gives at any level in any format (Pay Pal, check, cash) by 7/30 (to get me through to my Social Security check on 8/3) will get an audio file of me creating a spontaneous poem about people and dogs. Giving by Pay Pal is secure and a piece of cake – click on a link.  It’s a good modern skill to have.

Thank you, thank you.  Share this blog post on your Facebook page or with your pet-loving friends – maybe especially those with deep pockets and maybe a philanthropic orientation (they like to give to good causes).

“My wife and I have known Majo John Madden for 10 years.  He has done pet sitting for us multiple times for our dogs, Sparky and Gypsy, and our cat Joey.  We were always very happy with his service.  He is a true animal lover and very reliable.   Each time we used him for pet sitting, we returned home with the pets happy and our home as we left it.  I highly recommend him for your pet sitter.” 
Sincerely,  Steve Swearingen

How to give

  • Pay Pal – best.  Click the button below.  Secure and speedy (yes!).
  • send me a check
    • made out to Majo Madden or John Madden – my bank knows both identities
    • send to 1 Battle Square, Apt. 503, Asheville NC 28801
  • or hand me cash at Jubilee or Earth Fare – where the plan is for me to spend a couple mornings a week selling poetry on demand outside, to see my peeps and keep getting my Earth Fare fix (after four years of cashiering, I’m the “mayor of Earth Fare”).

Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Sherri Lynn - no rotate.jpgMy co-worker Sherri Lynn with Toni at the Earth Fare cash register – possibly less speedy, but more charming.


Majo John

Finally, a bonus – totally irrelevant but wonderful.  When I played the Josh Groban “Here Am I” song yesterday, YouTube automatically followed it with the Susan Boyle “Britain’s Got Talent” once-viral video. It’s so beautiful and inspiring, you can’t watch it too many times.  Enjoy.

Oh, watching it again just now, not irrelevant at all!  “I dreamed a dream“!  Isn’t that what it’s all about, for you and for me – dreaming a dream and following it?

P.P.S.  A poem for you!  My friend Maria, reviewing this letter last night, wrote me: “Where’s the poetry?  You’re a poet – give them a poem!”  I loved this idea and penciled in my calendar Saturday afternoon for writing a poem – knowing full-well that this poem would not wait until tomorrow afternoon to be born.  A half-hour after hearing from Maria it came tumbling out (12 midnight-12:30, supposed to be sleep time).  This morning I tweaked it and added some great photos. I will humbly offer that you will be missing something great if you don’t click here now.



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For the three days earlier this week that I was in the hospital with my stroke scare (looks now like a TIA mini-stroke),  my little five-pound yorkipoo baby Toni was with her favorite other human, our digsitter Lori.


When Lori returned her to me at my Battery Park apartments downtown on Tuesday afternoon, she was very happy to see me but maybe even a little suspiciously subdued.

I spent the next couple of hours right where I rendezvoused with Lori and Toni, sitting out in the beautiful summer evening on the front stairs of our apartment building/ historical hotel – visiting with my neighbors in a way that I had not before done in my first three depressed weeks in my new home.  Some of the people already knew I had been in the hospital (juicy gossip travels fast in this senior center) and other neighbors were eager to hear about it – us seniors are all about illness and hospitals.  It was the most I had ever visited with my new neighbors and it felt good.  Toni was being very sweet and well-behaved and is already known and loved in the building.  Lots of my neighbors who may never know my name already know Toni.

My friend Paula Hanke Paulasaw us out there and came by to say hi to me and Toni.  She knows Toni from church and there is a connection between them.  Within a few minutes, she asked “What’s wrong with Toni?”  “What do you mean?”  “Her eye – what’s up with her eye?”  I had not noticed it, but her right eye was badly swollen – almost swollen shut. (What I observed over the next 24 hours was that her eye would swing pretty rapidly from almost swollen shut to mostly open – pretty normal-looking.)

As soon as Toni and I left the sweet group in front of the building, I called the vet.  “Dr. Sinclair is away on vacation and we are pretty backed up.  We have no actual appointments until the weekend, but if you come tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 we can try to work you in” (“try to work you in” means be prepared to sit in the waiting room for a while – maybe a long while.)  Toni had to get seen, so I took the 3:30 time.

I have learned that for doctor appointments, even vet appointments, I like to bring a friend – for moral support, to pass the time in the waiting room and for another set of ears and brain to process the information you get from the doctor.  I called my dear friend Laura, who just had played that role for me a lot at the hospital.  She is medically knowledgeable, smart and analytical, and an assertive good communicator.  And we like each other a lot and enjoy each other’s company.

When we arrived at Heather Sinclair’s Haw Creek Animal Hospital in East Asheville, the waiting room was miraculously empty and they took us right in.  Actually, I had taken a few minutes to pee the dog outside and Laura came out to claim us: “They’re ready for us right now!”

Dr. Klein, a new vet in this practice whom I had never before met, struck me first as kind of nervous and maybe not sure of herself – but proved herself to be astute, thorough, calm and kind with the dog and overall a really great vet.  And she discovered something that was unexpected and very important.  If she had been only focused on the swollen eye and had not performed a thorough exam, she would have missed it.

“There’s a crackling sound when I listen to her chest.  I want to take some x-rays.”  After she took the x-rays and measured the pressure in Toni’s eye, she took us back to show us the x-rays and give us the results.  Toni does have swelling and pressure in her right eye, diagnosed as glaucoma.  I need to do some reading about glaucoma, but it sounds treatable with some eye drops and was immediately overshadowed by the x-rays of Toni’s chest.Boy with dog

“See how swollen Toni’s heart is – it’s about 30% larger than it’s supposed to be.  This dark area all through here is fluid on her lungs.  These arteries are all swollen, working overtime to try to pump her blood.  She has heart disease.”

I expressed my first concern: “Is this life-threatening in the short-term?”  “Probably not, now that we have found it and are going to get her on some good medications.”

Which begged the question, “Is this going to affect her longevity?”  “Probably.  We can’t fully reverse this condition, more just manage it.  Some people with heart disease live a long time, others not so long.  We really just can’t predict.”

When people, so often, ask how old Toni is – partly cuz she kinda looks like a puppy but some people do see the signs of age – I routinely answer “She’s nine, but little breeds like this can live to 18 – so she’s middle aged.”  That little bit of denial is the way I have handled adopting an older dog, at 8 years old.  Well, it’s looking like probably I won’t have another 9 years with her and maybe well less – there’s just no telling.

This sweet little being, who has always struck me and others as fragile along with being adorable, is now presenting as even more fragile – and even more precious than ever.  I want to do everything I can to improve her quality of life – and to share this heart-opening little being with others.


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