Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guest Blog: My Life by Jeremy Cimino

Ahhh, my 7th grade year, that was a good time--laughing, joking and just having a good time. I must say the best part of my 7th grade year was finding my best friend.

Around the middle of 7th grade my mom and I decided to volunteer at Dream Catchers Equine Rescue. Dream Catchers is the home of my best friend, Geronimo. I met him the first day of volunteering; he had been starved by his previous owner, without a bit of hay. I give all my thanks to my mom and Julie. If it hadn't been for them my dream wouldn't have come true. Julie is the one who found Geronimo and gave him a second chance at a better life. My mom found their ad in the newspaper and decided to go volunteer. If she didn't do that Geronimo and I wouldn't be one.

So this is where the adventure begins. The first day we connected was a feeling I very rarely feel. I could tell Geronimo needed me and I needed him. We would help each other through thick and thin, for better or for worse. It was meant to be, God brought me here for a reason--to help Geronimo get better and live a happy life. Geronimo is my best friend; he helps me. When we are together the whole world melts away. Everything is gone, it's just me and him together forever as one.

Throughout the days that have gone by we grew closer and closer. Everything got better, and they still are. He was born a stallion--a life of loneliness. He couldn't run or play with the other horses in the field, or be with another horse. But when he arrived he was put next to another stallion, Rae. Now, Rae was my mom's best friend. She loved him with all her heart. Rae became Geronimo's friend too, and they loved each other. Rae had cancer and had to be put down two weeks ago.

Geronimo keeps going strong. I don't think he knows Rae is in a better place now and is happy again. The relationship between Geronimo and me keeps building. Just a few days ago, Geronimo was gelded which means he can run and play in the vast fields that have been awaiting him. So this is where our adventure ends, with the horse that means the world to me and that I'd do anything for. Together now and forever in the future days that await us, with more adventures to come.

Jeremy Cimino

Age 13

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Guest Blog: Shirley McGreal, Director of the International Primate Protection League

When I first started researching Hurt Go Happy, I heard about Shirley McGreal. She's been working to save primates from research facilities, protect them in their natural habitat, and conduct investigations into illegal trafficking in primates. The IPPL is headquartered and operates a sanctuary in Summerville, SC. I asked Shirley to tell us about her first rescue.

9 August 1981

Thirty long years ago. My friend, Kit, and I drove to the Atlanta airport to collect a new friend. We were scared he'd get lost because his move occurred during the turbulent days of the air (traffic) controllers' strike.

Our new friend was one of the first laboratory primates ever to escape a research lab. A California lab had lost its funding to continue its cruel cancer experiments on gibbons. Homes were quickly found for all but one of its gibbons, the fragile underweight little ape known only as HLA-98. The gibbon had been abandoned as a baby and reared with a wire 'surrogate mother.' He faced euthanasia until IPPL stepped in and offered him a home.

We had been told by the lab director that the little gibbon was 'mentally retarded' and 'metabolically abnormal.' Of course we didn't let that stand in our way because we exist to help the most needy primates. We contacted Thai Buddhist monks who gave him the name Arun Rangsi, which means, "The Rising Sun of Dawn."

We were nervous when we reached the Delta cargo shed. Did our gibbon make his flight? We asked the cargo manager to call the pilot, who said there was no gibbon on the plane, but there was a chimpanzee. We waited with bated breath while the 'chimpanzee' was unloaded. What we saw in the crate was a tiny gibbon with huge shining dark eyes. (Picture above. Arun Rangsi in his crate.) We brought him home. The poor little gibbon was neurotic and banged his head so hard it must have hurt. We worked hard to help him overcome his trauma and gradually he became a happy little ape.

9 August 2011

In the 30 intervening years, we found a girl gibbon named Shanti, who became Arun's partner in life. She was also a lab veteran. In contrast to the high-strung Arun, Shanti was very laid-back. They have produced several offspring. Arun Rangsi had not read the psychology textbooks that said an isolated-reared primate could never breed! He has now been vasectormized. (Picture: Arun Rangi now)

It takes very special people to work with veteran research primates and IPPL has been very lucky to have attracted wonderful caregivers for our gibbons, who now number 33.

Please visit the International Primate Protection League website

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Got an itch?

Another picture from Baja. I was in the other panga when I took this picture. I know it looks like the whale has either been hit in the head by the little boat, or is trying to consume it bow first, but she's really just using in for a 'toothpick.' Or her baleen itched.

Gray whales are baleen whales. Orcas, dolphins, and Sperm whales are in the toothed whale family. Baleen functions like a giant sieve. The whale vacuums up microscopic organisms from the sea floor, and pushes the water and sand out through the baleen with its thousand pound tongue. What's left is dinner.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Birthday Boys

I knew Grub, on the left, and Pongo, on the right, nearly twenty years ago when Patti Ragan first started the Center for Great Apes. Grub was a baby, and Pongo was a year old. Look at the old boys now.

Pongo started life as an infant in a roadside tourist attraction and was Patti's first rescue. He is now a beautiful, fully developed male with red hair that is 3 feet long.

Grub, was born in Los Angeles, in an animal trainer's compound. He was pulled from his mother when he was just a few months old and sold to an tourist attraction in Florida. Grub is the alpha male in this group of great apes, and weighs 145 pounds.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Action Readers

I got a Google Alert that Hurt Go Happy was being reviewed on a new blog so, of course, I peeked. The review is very nice and, as always, I'm grateful, but more importantly this site encourages readers to read and take action. I'm rather into that concept myself.

Nag. Nag. Have you called in support of the bill to protect primates in research? H.R. 1512

Here was Laurie's comment following the review:

My Action: I'm going to round up a crew of people to go see the new documentary Project Nim when it hits my town the week of September 8, then double check that I am not personally consuming any goods or services tested on animals. (I'm pretty vigilant about this, but it's easy for a new product to sneak through...)

Another comment the site inspired came from a teacher: "I think my action step will be to grade my students next papers "blind." That is, I'll have them put their Uni ID on them instead of names, because the protagonist in The Way Things Are blatantly favors one of her children. I want to make sure I don't favor any of my 'kids' (or the reverse.)"

The blogsite is Action Readers Read Widely. Act Joyfully. Change the World.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How are my daughters?

We writers create characters who become part of the family, in my case, my daughters. If we are lucky enough to get published, they go off into the world, then, in most cases--disappear. I have some vague notion of how they are doing. I get the ocassional letter home in the form of a royalty check, but I don't really know how they are faring out there in the world with millions of other fictional characters. Are they making the kind of difference I'd hoped they would make?

Then a letter like this comes in . . .

"I recently read your novel, Hurt Go Happy. I read the novel to educate myself about books that were worthy of one of the American Library Association awards.

I felt a kinship with the main character, Joey Willis. Joey is isolated from the rest of the world by her inability to hear. I can hear, but can only communicate with people who can read my lips. Like Joey, I seem to always be on the periphery and your portrayal of her loneliness and apartness was spot-on.

I am a legally blind, ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. I do have the ability to speak out loud, but require someone to monitor my ventilator and adjust my tracheotomy tube. When I choose to speak I must be conscious of triggering the ventilator for every breath, and it's extremely taxing. LIke Joey opts out of hearing with her hearing aids, I opt out of speaking. It seems to be too much trouble.

I wanted to tell you the story touched me. Your writing style thoroughly engaged me and drives me to continue plugging away at writing books for chilren and my inspirational articles and essays for adults. Thank you for writing an entertaining and thought provoking tale."

Jessica Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer & Speaker

Children's Author of Klutzy Kantor, Marta's Gargantuan Wings & Stella the Fire Farting Dragon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Jeremy and Geronimo

This letter is from Jeremy's mom. After reading The Outside of a Horse, she took the time to write, and was kind enough to send me this picture of Jeremy and his friend, Geronimo.

"My son, who is 12, and I have read your book. After he read it, we decided to volunteer at one of the horse rescue facilities near our home. I started riding horses when I was 13 and I owned 2 . . . because when I get a horse, I commit to it fully. Jenny, my quarter horse, was euthanized 3 years ago because her arthritis was so severe. She was 24. Because I really have a hard time saying goodbye, I haven't had any more. Your book made me cry so many times. The grief I felt each time I had to say goodbye to my beloved horses came up several times while reading. Your book inspired us to get involved. I thought I was okay with not having horses in my life but after volunteering, I realized that they are and always will be a huge part of my. Thank you for the beautiful story and for the inspiration." Penny in Colorado

Friday, August 12, 2011

There is a bill in congress, sponsored by
Roscoe Bartlett, (R) Maryland, to stop unnecassary testing on primates. Bartlett, who was the inventor of respiratory devices tested on primates in the early days of the space age, is now against their use for research, especially drug research. The link to the NYTimes article is below.

Project Nim, a new release from Sundance Films, documents the 27 year life of Nim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee who was raised as if human. I based Hurt Go Happy on Lucy Temerlin, another experiment is raising a chimpanzee like a human child, and Nim Chimpsky. Sukari is their fictional counterpart. Here is the chance to end the suffering of the nearly 1300 chimpanzees still in research facilities.

The bill is H.R. 1513. Please support it by contacting your House Representative.

The link for the documentary, Project Nim, is

The link to the NYTimes article about Bartlett's House bill is

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Collision Course?

You'd think anyone in her right mind would be scared to death to see a 45 foot whale headed toward the 16 foot long boat, you're bobbing in. Not in the lagoons for San Ignacio in Baja. I can promise we were all hanging over the side with our hands reaching for him or her, hoping for contact with this amazing (lame word) animal. This one is an adult gray whale. You can tell by the array of barnacles. A gray whale can accumulate up to 400 pounds of barnacles and whale lice while in these warmer waters then, as they migrate north to their summer feeding ground around Alaska, the barnacles and lice fall off, leaving the 'gray' scars that give these whales their name.

You haven't lived until you've kiss a free, wild whale.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This is me touching a baby gray whale. You can tell
it's a baby by the hair folicles--those dents on its head. This was taken two years ago in San Ignacio lagoon, one of the warm water lagoons of Baja where the grays give birth every spring. These birthing lagoons were discovered by whalers in the late 1800s, and hundreds of thousands of gray whales were killed, driving them to the brink of extinction. Now, unbelievably, mother whales seek out this encounter with humans. Once you have touched a whale, you will never be the same.