Category: News from Ashland Creek Press


Blue Bloods: A guest post by Jean Ryan

By Midge Raymond,

 

Today’s post is courtesy of Survival Skills author Jean Ryan, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!

Blue Bloods

The blood of a horseshoe crab is blue, a translucent baby blue that looks as precious as it is. The blood contains a mechanism, LAL, that detects pathogens and clots around them; pharmaceutical companies use this substance to screen the drugs they sell. LAL is introduced to the drug, and if the clotting action takes place, technicians know the lot is not pure. On the world market, a quart of horseshoe crab blood is worth an estimated $15,000, leading to annual revenues of $50 million. Each year 250,000 crabs are hauled up from the depths, strapped to steel counters, pierced with thick needles and steadily bled.

Incredibly, most survive the ordeal. The LAL industry reports that the mortality rate is 3%, while independent studies reveal higher numbers: 10 to 30%. Technicians first wash the sand and debris from the creatures, then check for injuries or signs of illness. Those that make the cut lose one third of their blood, which takes about an hour. Within three days these crabs are back in the water, released in areas beyond the harvest zones. Their blood volume rebounds in a week, while their blood cell counts take months to recover. Horseshoe crabs are bled repeatedly, though only once a year according to LAL manufacturers. The impact of the procedure on their behavior and breeding cycles is not clear. We can safely assume it does them no good.

Armored against time, horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years and are related not to crabs but to scorpions and spiders. Despite the constant threat of infection by any number of marine-borne fungi, viruses and bacteria, these creatures have survived in great numbers, the LAL in their bodies clearly outstripping the white blood cells we rely on.

Horseshoe crabs have ten walking legs and a total of nine eyes scattered throughout the body, along with several light receptors near the tail. Their bodies are composed of three parts: the head, which includes the brain, mouth, heart and nervous system; the spiny abdomen, which houses the legs and gills; and the sharp but harmless tail. They molt several times, starting out the size of peas and growing up to two feet long—the females are larger than the males. Maximum growth is reached in ten years, with life spans topping out at 20 years. The crabs spend most of their time crawling on the bottom of bays, feeding on worms and mollusks. They swim upside-down.

The mating ritual of the horseshoe crab is another astonishing feature. At high tide in late spring, on the new and full moons, horseshoe crabs travel from deep ocean waters to the beaches they were born on. The male crabs arrive first, and when the females come to shore, the males grasp onto them and together they head to the high tide mark. On the way, the females dig several small nests in the sand and deposit eggs, tens of thousands of them, which the males, dragging behind the females, fertilize. These eggs are a tasty treats for birds, reptiles and fish, and most horseshoe crabs will not even make it to the larval stage before being eaten.

Between habitat loss in coastal Japan and over-harvesting on the Eastern Seaboard, horseshoe crab populations have fallen sharply in recent years. We no longer get insulin from the pancreases of pigs and cattle, and research is underway to create a synthetic version of LAL. With our scientific know-how, our startling medical advances, how far away could we be from a crab-free product? Considering the time and expense involved in harvesting, prepping and bleeding horseshoe crabs, the savings would be tremendous. The benefit to the crabs of course would be incalculable.

Some argue that horseshoe crab bleeding is a sustainable practice and that these creatures have proven themselves hardy. Even if this were the case, and I have my doubts, shouldn’t we want to spare them the trauma?

Along with intellect, humans were given compassion, the capacity for decency. Our brains might solve our problems, but our hearts can save the world.

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Dining well at Veggie Grill

By Midge Raymond,

One of the best things about traveling is trying out new vegan places…or, in this case, returning to an old favorite.

We tend to get the same things every time we visit Veggie Grill, but these dishes are so delicious (and we don’t get there very often), so we had, again, the same wonderful dishes.

The Santa Fe Crispy Chickin‘ with Yukon Gold fries is nothing short of amazing. Veggie Grill’s chickin’ (a wonderful meat-free patty with 31 grams of vegan protein) is crisp and hearty … and it’s served on a wheat bun (you could also choose a wrap or bread-free kale version) with tomato, lettuce, onion, and a scoop of fresh and flavorful guacamole, as well as spicy mayo. (Healthier people might choose the coleslaw or soup as a side, but the Yukon fries are terrific — perfectly crisped and seasoned.)

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Onward to another favorite — I love the “Pick a Pair” option on the menu because I can never decide between Mac-n-Cheese and Savory Kale Caesar salad…so I get both.

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This lovely Caesar has savory dressing and vegan parmesan. In addition to the romaine, it also has marinated kale, bits of tempeh bacon, avocado, cucumber, and croutons. It’s everything you could want in a salad.

But let’s talk about the Mac-n-Cheese.

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This Mac-n-Cheese is one of the biggest treats, as it’s hard to find good vegan versions of this comfort-food dish. This one is rich, creamy, and covered with baked bread crumbs (and it’s made with organic, non-GMO pasta). On the menu, this dish appears in the “Shares & Sides” category, since it comes in a small dish (this is its only problem) — so be sure you don’t miss it.

If you haven’t been to a Veggie Grill, give this plant-based chain a try — and if you don’t yet have one nearby, keep an eye out for locations that may be opening near you.

A Q&A with Dogland author Jacki Skole

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Dogland author Jacki Skole

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

A: I didn’t set out to write a book so much as I set out to discover why the puppy I adopted from a small rescue organization seemed unusually submissive and fearful of men, and why she—a dog from North Carolina—was up for adoption in a New Jersey garden supply store.  At the time I began to dig for answers, I was in the midst of a career crisis: Should I pursue a doctoral degree in education? Could I be content as a stay-at-home mom teaching a few college classes a semester? What was my purpose?

As I uncovered little bits about Galen’s past and learned about the scope of the dog problem in the United States, I realized there was a story that needed telling—not just about all the healthy and adoptable dogs being killed in shelters (that story’s been told), but about what’s being done—and what more can be done—to save lives and stop the killing. I now had my purpose.

I spent about two years reporting and writing the book. My favorite part of this journey has been meeting the amazing people who are in the trenches saving lives, be it through increasing access to spay/neuter surgeries for some of America’s poorest pet owners or finding new ways to promote shelter adoptions. For so many of these people, their work is wholly volunteer, squeezed in around their day jobs but done because of their deep love for dogs and their inability to stand idle while so many suffer.

 

jacki skole

 

Q: Tell us about some of the research you did for Dogland.

A: Some of the toughest reporting I had to do for Dogland was to visit several of the South’s under-funded, under-staffed, decades-old public shelters. I knew that many of the dogs I saw there—beautiful, healthy, vibrant dogs—would be euthanized. But I also had the opportunity to visit shelters where every healthy dog was cared for and socialized until some man or some woman walked through the shelter door, peered into the dog’s kennel, and decided that dog would have a home.

I got a lot of mental whiplash reporting this story because it seemed like for every potential solution to an existing problem, that solution sparked unintended consequences that created more problems—or at least resistance to the solution. For instance, low-cost spay/neuter clinics would seem the perfect solution to increasing spay/neuter surgery rates. But they are often opposed by veterinarians. Sometimes the opposition stems from greed, but sometimes it’s because veterinarians have seen spay/neuter clinics morph into full-service veterinary clinics that can threaten a private vet’s livelihood. As one supporter of low-cost spay/neuter clinics told me, “If our goal is spay/neuter, then every time we are doing something that is not a spay, not a neuter, then we’re not working towards our goal.”

Perhaps what surprised me most, as a person outside the animal welfare world, is how much animosity and infighting exists among the players inside that world—at the expense of the animals. In fact, at an annual conference sponsored by the Best Friends Animal Society, one of the sessions included a discussion on the importance of collaboration. Let go of egos, quit vilifying others, and walk in one another’s shoes was the message delivered to conference goers.

Q: Does the United States really have a “dog problem”?

A: Yes. When more than a million healthy, adoptable dogs are euthanized in animal shelters each year, we have a dog problem. And of course, that doesn’t count all the dogs killed by their owners or who die as strays having been dumped on the sides of roads, in wooded areas, or wherever people choose to rid themselves of unwanted pets.

Q: Isn’t shelter euthanasia on the decrease?

A: It is, and that’s wonderful. But we’ve hit a plateau. Animal welfare groups say about twenty million dogs and cats were euthanized in American shelters in the 1970s. Now, more than four decades later, that number is down to about four million. But that’s an outrageous number, especially when you consider that animal welfare groups say 90 percent of those are healthy and adoptable.

Q: What’s the root of the problem? 

A: The root is that too many pet owners do not spay and neuter their dogs—thus there are too many accidental litters. The solution would seem straightforward: Have more pet owners get their dogs fixed. Unfortunately, issues of accessibility and affordability make that more easily said than done. According to an organization called Spay FIRST!, fewer than ten states can claim to offer pet owners accessible and affordable spay/neuter. The organization defines “access” as having a veterinary clinic, a low-cost spay/neuter facility, or a program that transports dogs to a clinic within fifty miles of a pet owner’s home. It defines “affordability” as keeping the cost less than what a low- or minimum-wage worker makes in a day—in some cases making it free. Then there’s also the issue of education. For many dog owners, especially those who grew up in rural or farming communities, spaying and neutering dogs was something that traditionally just wasn’t done, so it is something that needs to be taught.

Q: Why do we often hear the situation for dogs—in terms of shelter euthanasia—is worse in the South than in any other region of the country?  

A: In part, it’s an issue of numbers—the South has a large population—including a large dog-owning population which itself has historical roots—and a large percentage of Southerners live in poverty. Thus the issues of accessibility and affordability are ever-present. That historical relationship stems from the region’s agrarian history. Dogs were quite useful on the farm—they had a host of jobs, from protecting the homestead to accompanying their owners on hunts. Everyone had them, and no one fixed them. It just wasn’t something that was done—the American Veterinary Medical Association didn’t even establish standards for spay/neuter until 1923. And still, by the 1970s, only 10 percent of pet dogs and 1 percent of pet cats were fixed. Dogs also tended to live outside the house, so if a dog had puppies it’s not like a family went from one dog in the house to nine or ten. They lived outside—they were animals. They were property. They were not pets—certainly not this notion we have today of companion animals.

Q: If more people rescued animals from shelters, rather than bought from breeders or pet stores, could we solve this problem? 

A: No, though it would certainly help. As I heard over and over again, we have to “turn off the spigot.” Stop the procreation. The other thing I heard from shelter workers repeatedly was, “We’re adopting them out one and a time, and they’re making them eight, nine, ten at a time.”

Q: How do we, as a society, make spay/neuter more affordable and accessible?

A: First, bring the price of the surgery down. This can be done with more low-cost clinics that specialize in high-volume spay/neuter surgery. And it can be done by creating state programs, like New Jersey’s Animal Population Control program, that help fund the surgery for low-income pet owners and those who adopt from shelters.

Second, make the surgery more accessible. Mobile units. More low-cost clinics. Have private vets donate space in their clinics one morning a week to low-cost, high-volume surgeries. People can donate to low-cost spay/neuter clinics so the clinics can offer low-income pet owners deeper discounts.

Third, through education. Teach people about the benefits of fixing a dog to the animal’s health and behavior, and the consequences of not fixing a dog to overpopulation.

Q: Many people who rescue dogs probably wish they knew their dog’s history. What made you actually seek it out? 

A: With my first rescue—Gryffin—I always wondered what his life was like before he was found in a box on the side of an Atlanta-area highway. He, too, had some little oddities—he was afraid of garbage bags and he disliked dogs who were boxers. If we were walking down the street or if we were in the dog park, the only breed he would have a negative reaction to was the boxer. But I never did anything—I just wondered.

With Galen, there was something about her submissiveness that was so extreme … and then the timing was right in my life. I was having a mini-mid-career crisis, and reporting this book seemed to be a way for me to move in a direction that had purpose.

Q: You’ve said that Galen could be the poster-puppy for America’s dog problem. What do you mean?

A: Galen was born to a dog who wasn’t spayed because her family couldn’t afford it. The family’s home also didn’t have a fenced-in yard, so when she—her name is Daisy—was outside, she was tied to a tree along the side of the house. Daisy’s owner told me that she didn’t intend to breed Daisy. What happened was that when Daisy was in one of her heat cycles, a neighbor’s dog impregnated her. The result was a seven-pup litter that the family could not afford to care for and that it couldn’t give away. So, the owner and her son dropped the puppies at the shelter when they were six weeks old. But that litter was lucky—they were seen by a rescue organization that pulled them, had them fostered, and had them transported to New Jersey.

 

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Meet the Deodar Cedar: Ashland Tree of the Year 2002

By John Yunker,

In Ashland, you can spend years walking right past a Tree of the Year and not know it.

Like this pair of Deodar Cedars, right smack in the middle of the Haggen grocery parking lot.

Deodar Cedars

Due to their parking-lot location, these two beautiful trees are probably among the most overlooked in Ashland, despite the fact that they provide much needed shade.

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Next time you’re on the boulevard, or at Haggen, be sure to look up … these trees are well worth checking out.

Happy Typewriter Day!

By Midge Raymond,

That’s right — June 23 is World Typewriter Day. And we’re celebrating with a special promotion for our vintage typewriter notecards.

This mixed set of 12 notecards features three each of these antique typewriters: the Remington Rand Portable (circa 1940) and the L.C. Smith & Corona Model 8 (circa 1929), both from our own collection, as well as The Chicago (1899) and the Crandall, New Model (1886), from the spectacular Martin Howard Collection.

This Typewriter Day special saves you 40 percent (or more, depending on how many boxes you order), and shipping is free for all U.S. orders. (If you’re a typewriter aficionado who lives outside the U.S., please contact us!)

Wishing you all a very happy Typewriter Day.