Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Unsung Heroes for Our Times: Animal Advocate Judy Ambrose

Judy Ambrose and her 20-year-old cat, Lily

Many of us have heard a clarion call and we are doing what we can to combat climate change, the use of toxic chemicals, habitat loss, factory farming, pet overpopulation and more. My series on Unsung Heroes for Our Times continues with Judy Ambrose, Executive Director of the Neponset Valley Humane Society in Norwood, Massachusetts. Having witnessed first-hand the needless suffering of cats (including ferals), dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and other companion animals, Judy has made it her life’s mission to serve as an animal advocate, educator and rescuer.

Judy has felt a kinship with animals since she was a little girl and possesses an innate ability to understand their needs. She also has an amazing ability to match pets and prospective adopters. Many marvel at the sense of destiny they feel when Judy makes these introductions. And if animals are sick or in need of special care, Judy never hesitates to do what she can to get them well or make their last days as comfortable and peaceful as possible.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to observe Judy caring for many animals. Her calm energy is soothing and healing. I can never forget her tenderness with rabbits when she served as manager of a shelter that took in many pet rabbits, so often discarded once their owners tire of them. Sadly, pet rabbits are also frequently abandoned in the woods where they have no hope for survival.

I recall a large Chinchilla rabbit named Jack that Judy took under her wing. He had a mellow, sweet temperament and was just a lovely boy in every way. I watched as Judy smoothed out a soft blanket for him to sit on, lay fresh greens down for him to eat and gently caress his cheek. That rabbit felt so safe and secure in her presence. And because he was able to enjoy the safety and peace of a warm, quiet and cage free room, his personality shone through, and he was quickly adopted by a little girl and her family who truly appreciated how special he was.

In today’s society where companion animals are all too easily abandoned or quickly euthanized in overcrowded shelters, Judy Ambrose is a Unsung Hero for Our Times.

More about the Neponset Valley Humane Society and Judy's outstanding efforts there in my next post.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's up to us...

Earth with one “a,” according to Mc­Kibben, no longer exists. We have carbonized it out of existence.

”We’ve built a new Earth. It’s not as nice as the old one; it’s the greatest mistake humans have ever made, one that we will pay for literally forever. We live on a new planet. What happens next is up to us,” says Bill McKibben, writer, activist and environmental hero in his book Eaarth. Read The New York Times review here and then if you haven't read the book, which came out in 2010, read it now.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Unsung Heroes for Our Times: Writer/Activist Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben spoke in Weston, Massachusetts today

Many of us have heard a clarion call and we are doing what we can to combat climate change, the use of toxic chemicals, habitat loss, factory farming, pet overpopulation and more. My series, Unsung Heroes for Our Times, calls attention to those who are actively working to make this planet a better place for all living things. I continue now with Bill McKibben, writer, activist and planet Earth’s BFF. He is also the founder of, an international climate change organization campaigning to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere to a safer 350 parts per million.

Bill is a local ― he grew up in the Massachusetts suburb of Lexington. Today he gave a talk on “Report from the Front Lines of the Climate Fight: A Few Jailhouse Notes on What We Still Can Do.” Several hundred people filled the auditorium at Weston High School and listened with rapt attention as he quietly and powerfully spoke the truth about what is happening to our environment and why.

McKibben began by explaining that part of his job description now is to “serve as professional bummer outer” and while he planned to end his talk in a more hopeful place, first he would have to take us “into the valley.” In a nutshell, since publication of his seminal book on the environment, The End of Nature (1989), we have, through the burning of coal and oil, put much more carbon into the atmosphere faster than we thought. Now we have 40% less ice in the arctic in summer and our ocean chemistry is 30% more acidic as a result of absorbing all of this carbon.

The last two weeks were so warm in New England that residents donned shorts and flip flops; bulbs bloomed and trees blossomed more than three weeks ahead of schedule. While it was a pleasant change from the cold, raw and damp weather we normally experience in March, it was also very troubling to those of us who track climate change, and it did not feel right.

McKibben acknowledged that he enjoyed the warm weather as much as everyone else, "but I knew how unnatural it was." And it wasn't only New England that experienced this disruption in normal climate patterns – 15 states set new records with South Dakota reaching 94 degrees. Calling it more than "a cautionary tale," McKibben went further, "This weather pattern is off the wall that the charts are tacked to.” He cited a recent article by Weather Historian Christopher C. Burt, which begins:

"What is probably the most extraordinary anomalous heat event in U.S. (and portions of Canada) history has finally begun to slacken at the time of this writing (March 23rd). Never before has such an extended period of temperatures so far above normal been recorded." Read the rest here.

Like many writers, McKibben is more inclined to be introspective than out talking to crowds of people and he now spends a great deal of time traveling around the world to build the movement and work toward political change.

“We spent too long a time having our scientists tell political leaders what climate change was and how it was happening. While our scientists were speaking to political leaders in one ear, fossil fuel giants like Exxon were bellowing their message of protecting profits in their other ear, buying political power to delay and block change."

For these reasons and many more you can learn about by visiting, Bill McKibben is an Unsung Hero for Our Times.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dead Coyotes Discovered

Coyote pup

In Massachusetts environmental police and fish and game officials are investigating the illegal and wanton killing of 14 coyotes that were discovered dumped in a lumberyard. The owner of the lumberyard called the discovery "horrifying."

On March 16th I wrote a post about John Maguranis to begin my series on unsung heroes for our times and shine a light on his work to help coyotes and educate the public on how to peacefully coexist with them. When I asked John what he thought about this event, he said it was "tragic and unnecessary." As for his take on why it happened, he didn't want to speculate and is waiting for more information. I will relay that when it becomes available.

In the meantime, read the story here. If any of the 14 coyotes were female, they were likely to be pregnant with pups due in April or May.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Unsung Heroes for Our Times ~ Project Coyote Expert John Maguranis

John Maguranis
Coyote released back into the wild (Photo: Deanna Gualtieri)

This post begins a brief series I wrote about on March 8th to call attention to some unsung heroes. These dedicated individuals are working to make this world a better place for all living beings. I hope they will inspire you to do the same.

John Maguranis is a friend to coyotes, a much maligned and relentlessly persecuted member of the dog family, and that makes him a Unsung Hero for Our Times. As the Massachusetts Representative for Project Coyote, John leads a public information campaign to educate people about why coyotes matter ecologically and why they deserve respect and appreciation.

Last December, while on duty as an Animal Control Officer for the Town of Belmont, Massachusetts, he was able to catch a female coyote that was dying of mange, a serious parasitic infection that opens up painful, weeping sores on the skin and leads to a slow and agonizing death. Thanks to John's efforts, the coyote was saved through a treatment regimen at a specialty wildlife clinic, and three months later she was healthy enough to be released and rejoin her pack. Read the story here.

Maguranis served as a United States Army veterinary technician for more than twenty-years, caring for a wide range of animals from bald eagles to bison. Upon retiring from the army ten years ago and following his love for animals, he became an Animal Control Officer, dedicated to putting his veterinary skills to work for wildlife.

Coyotes may be extremely unpopular with most folks, but they have a right to live out their lives and we need to learn to live with them instead of trying to eliminate them. John is a true expert when it comes to coyotes and speaks regularly to groups to help them learn ways to coexist with them, prevent dangerous encounters with our pets and more. He can be contacted via Project Coyote or at if you would like to book him to speak at your next community event.

John had sighted the female coyote in terrible condition and near death several times last fall, and when asked why he decided to try and trap her to get her treated, he said he simply could not stand by and let her suffer. Thanks to his willingness to get involved this story has a happy ending for both man and coyote. I am honored to begin this series with John Maguranis. He truly is an Unsung Hero for Our Times.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Unsung Heroes for Our Times

IFAW Marnine Mammal Rescue Team members and volunteers with stranded dolphins on Cape Cod
Spring, the season of rebirth, is nearly here. In the Northeast the winter of 2012 was one of the warmest on record and in some areas plants are blooming earlier. While the mild winter has been beneficial in many ways, scientists suspect that the change in normal weather patterns is one factor that has led to an unprecedented number of dolphin strandings along the coast of Cape Cod, and though many were saved, far more were lost. The lack of snow and mild temperatures means that insect populations are set to boom – mosquitoes and ticks among them.

While mainstream news media blithely report what we already know, that climate change is real, (how many extreme weather events must we experience to get it?) they fail to report on ways we can all work together to stop further human-induced climate change.

Still, many of us have heard a clarion call and we are doing what we can to combat climate change, habitat loss, marine pollution, factory farming, pet overpopulation and more. Hence, my brief series beginning this month on Unsung Heroes for Our Times. My aim is to call attention to some courageous individuals working to make this planet a better place for all living beings. One day at a time, these heroes are making a difference and I hope they will inspire you to do the same.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Plants for birds

'Iroquois Beauty' Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

March is here! Now is the time to think about ways to attract and sustain the birds that visit our gardens. For several years I have been planting native shrubs that bear fruit in my wildlife garden. For example, the Red Berried Elderberry is a very important food source for a wide variety of birds, and produces clusters of red fruit that ripen just about the same time that baby birds need them in late June and early July. Other varieties of elderberry ripen in late summer. I grow both to keep food available during nesting season and to help birds during migration.

This year I am planting a chokeberry called 'Iroquis Beauty' that is noteworthy for its compact growth and smaller size, growing only to three-feet tall. The fruit is very attractive to birds throughout the winter and especially in the spring during migration when there is very little else for birds to eat.

Aronia has three-season interest that begins in the spring with loads of white flowers followed by clusters of dark-blue fruit that last all winter. In the fall, the glossy-green foliage turns a wine-red color. This shrub is very adaptable and grows in wet or dry conditions, and in full sun or shade. Another plus is the fact that it's self pollinating.

When you visit your local nursery this spring, ask about native plants for birds and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the nice selection of shrubs you'll find. When you plant these shrubs in your garden you provide places for birds to rest, perch and hide from predators; nest and raise their young; and find shelter from the weather.

Help fight habitat loss and the effects of global warming; create a wildlife haven in your backyard this year!