I wrote my first post about Miss Lillian on March 18, 2011. I asked readers then to “follow Lillian on her journey,” and I promised, “You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll enjoy the trip with this very special lady.”

I hope my 2,400-plus followers have enjoyed her trip so far.

Lillian Mae Kennedy was approximately 5 years old when she came to live with us in March, 2011. She suffered from a high level of heartworm infestation because she was a puppy mill breeder. She was tossed out when she could no longer make money for ruthless humans. She was picked up as a stray and taken to the shelter that, at the time, was active in Pell City. She missed two “e-dates” (that’s shelter speak for the arbitrary day she would be killed) because no one saw her in the cell.

The shelter adoption coordinator realized that Lillian had lots more living to do, so she sent her to a rescue, and I was approved to foster her until she was cured of the deadly worms and spayed. Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous; within two months of the treatment – which can be deadly in itself – Lilly was free of heartworms.

She’s approximately 10 or 11 now, and she’s now facing the hardest time of her life.

Our sweet Lillian has advanced cardiac disease. She has an enlarged heart and fluid around her heart and in her lungs. Late last week, she experienced respiratory distress, and we all – including her veterinarian that she wouldn’t last the day.

But we should have known Lilly would not go gently into that good night. She rallied, and despite her poor prognosis, she’s at home doing what she does best: Reigning over the Kennedy Compound.

We’ll be taking her for a visit to the awesome animal cardiologist Ingrid Straeter-Nolan in Homewood, Ala., for a complete workup, and with Dr. Straeter’s help, we’ll develop a plan to keep Miss Lillian living a great quality of life for as long as possible.

So, now I’m asking my readers to join us on another journey. Sadly, I know where this one will end, but I hope for lots of adventures before that day comes.


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Dozens of roses for one Pearl of a black girl pug

Just about anyone who knows us knows that we are rather fond of pugs. In truth, we’re Crazy Pug People — and we’re just fine with that. 

Pugs are funny, smart, stubborn. Pugs snore. Pugs audibly fart. Pugs inhale their food.

Pugs are amazing Creatures of God who give us so much pleasure and comfort.

We two special needs pugs: Onslow came to us with only one eye; and Veronica Pearl has a degenerative spinal condition that has progessed to the point where she uses a cart whenever we take her out. 

Pearl has an unbreakable spirit. Even when she isn’t in her cart and she walks around the house with what we call her “wonky walk,” she acts as if nothing is wrong with her. 

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An unbelievably happy ending to a sad collection of stories

We have dealt with several unfortunate experiences at the Kennedy Compound since Greta crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Sept. 21, 2014:

  • Sadee Lew, one of our pugs, got out of our backyard fence on Christmas night. We are still searching for her.
  • One of my sisters died — on our 35th wedding anniversary.
  • One of the finest women I have ever known, a woman I “adopted” as my mama, died a couple weeks later.
  • My nephew’s wife died a month after that.
  • Joey was fired from his job after 33-plus years. His dismissal was due, in part, to betrayals by rescue “friends” we have supported in terms of time and money for several years.

The truth is that 2015 started off pretty sucky.

Spring came, and along with it, the typical renewal of Nature. Luckily, it allowed us to enjoy a renewal as well.

Rescue supporters, most of whom we knew mostly as acquaintances, came to our aid in waves so strong that we could have ridden them on a surfboard. They helped us through emotional devastation we had never experienced before — and hope to never experience again.

They rescued us, and like the animals so many of us rescue, we will be eternally grateful. They saved our lives.

And, they inspired us to start our own journalism website — Animal Advocates of Alabama.

So many of our supporters told us our voice for animals still needed to be heard, that we couldn’t just slink away in defeat. That would let the “bad guys” win — and the animals would be the ones to suffer.

But we didn’t know what to do. We didn’t have any money — the company Joey and I gave a combined 60 years of award-winning service to “honored” him with three months of severance. We came dangerously close to losing our home of 16 years, which most likely would have meant losing our pets. Now that would have broken us both.

Angels of mercy — investors who had no ulterior motives other than to keep our voice loud and strong — came to our aid. They helped us set up our website and provided funds to purchase basic materials needed to start a business. They didn’t tell us how to do anything or what to write; they just asked us to keep writing and keep advocating for the animals. (Of course, those “rescue friends” I spoke of earlier don’t believe this, but, quite frankly, I’m gonna pull a Rhett Butler and not give a damn what they say or think.)

So, on May 1, 2015, went live. We are writing — and advocating — for the voiceless among us once again.

And we are ecstatic.

Please visit our website, We’d also be pleased if you’d “Like” our Facebook page, Animal Advocates of Alabama, and “Follow” us on Twitter at @alanimals. And if you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to “Miss Lillian and the Compound” in the space provided on the Home Page of my blog. (It’s free!)

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The queen of the Kennedy Compound pugs comes home to her final resting place

Lillian, Greta and Joey enjoyed some vacation time snuggling

Lillian, Greta and Joey enjoyed some vacation time snuggling

Greta came home today, but I don’t feel any better.

Friends and family have told Joey and me that we would feel better once our beloved pug’s ashes were with us, where they belong. The sealed wooden box containing her ashes, sanded smooth as silk and bearing her name etched on a brass plate, is a work of art.

But the living, breathing, loving Greta was more valuable to us than the Mona Lisa.

I — WE — are heartbroken and devastated over her sudden death Sept. 21. Neither Joey nor I are functioning much above just barely.

Yes, Greta was a dog. So what? She was as important to us as any human child. Don’t even think that we’re silly, shallow people. We both have master’s degrees. Joey won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, and he was among the top three in that category two other times. We both have received numerous journalism writing awards for our efforts. We both teach composition and literature at our local universities.

We have been married 34 years. We are childless by choice. We also are social advocates by choice. In addition to our journalism advocacy, we served several years as Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and/or neglected children. We worked as volunteer literacy tutors. And we have worked with numerous animal rescues.

I tell my readers all of this as evidence that we care about our society. I also tell readers in an effort to help you understand that smart, informed, active people can deeply mourn their pets.

It just so happened that tonight also was the first of a monthly grief support group for pet owners at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. It’s called Dixie’s Group, named after a wonderful man who sought help to ease his pain last year after his beloved Dixie died. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t think it would help. I went for Joey.

I’m glad I did. I’ll probably write more about it in another post. But now, I want to tell you about Wind Valley Kennels’ Gypsy-Bull Gretchen Kennedy — Greta. Her daddy, Chicageau Bull was a champion pug — like his father before him, and his father before him. We joked that Greta had a better pedigree than Joey and I combined; it probably was more truth than joke.

Greta acted like a princess. In fact, we called her Greta I, Queen of Southside. The queen is dead; long live the queen. There will not be a Greta II; it would be impossible to find her.

The title of queen now rests on the capable shoulders of Lillian Mae. Why not? She has a blog named after her. It seems only fitting, especially since she has coveted the title since first coming to live at the Kennedy Compound.

Greta never, ever went farther than the top step on the porch of our 105-year-old home. She didn’t need to, and she knew it. Now, we have a gate keeping the other dogs on the porch. She went on several vacations with us to a beach; she loved running in the white foam.

She loved her food — what pug doesn’t — and she was overly protective of it. We told her many times that it was a good thing she wasn’t in a shelter because she would fail the food aggression test, and that would be the end for her.

Greta loved me. I was the one who bathed her; gave her medicine; and bought her collars, treats, and toys. We snuggled and played. But her Daddy Joey: Oh, my, how she worshiped him. She showered him with sloppy pug kisses, climbing on his chest and holding his head with her front paws so that she could cover every inch of his head and face. After five minutes of nonstop kisses, he would try to distract her. It never worked. Greta kissed him until she was finished, and he finally learned to accept it.

One of Joey’s favorite musical groups is a sister duo called The Nields. One of their songs is “Gotta Get Over Greta.” He liked that name, and that’s how Greta became Greta.

But neither of us will ever get over her.

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These two dogs need our help — and neither live in the Birmingham, Alabama, area

We all like to plead ignorance, especially when it comes to helping people — both adults and children — and animals. In fact, if we’re really honest, it irritates us to scroll our Facebook pages and stop on a photo of an animal in need. We take care of our pets; why can’t other people do the same? We sacrifice for our pets; why don’t others? We never harm an animal? Why do folks think it’s fun to abuse an animal?

I don’t have the answers. My stock reply is this: There’s a special place in Hell for people who abuse the frail elderly, children, and animals.

But, when I see the need, I have to at least share it. There was a time in my life when I had more money than I needed: I had a great job that paid well; I had a decent freelance business; and I was making a nice supplemental income as an adjunct instructor. That changed: I lost my job of 27 years through no fault of my own; I had health issues that resulted in two total knee replacements and disability. I no longer have the option of additional income.

The economic situation at the Kennedy Compound is tight but not disastrous. We have eight dogs, one cat, and two foster puppies. Most of our expendable income is spent on the animals. There isn’t much extra left. I don’t mean to imply that my husband, Joey, and I don’t have a good life. We live in a wonderful house that was built in 1909, and we eat — and drink — quite well. We can entertain a bit, and we can go out a bit. The “big” vacations to Europe and the Caribbean are out, but that’s OK.

I tell you all of this so that you understand that we are not destitute; however, we cannot help every animal in need — financially, that is. I can, through this blog, tell those of you who ARE able to help about animals in need.

Here are two such examples:

a1854d43-156a-4b3b-9110-7bcc33aa96c0_profileSpartan, a homeless dog in rural Oklahoma, was shot in the mouth. Just because.

“Neighbors heard the gunshot and then the wimper,” write the fundraiser organizers. “His jaw is hanging low, we are trying to save him! He is currently being rushed to the local vet but he will not be able to perform emergency surgery. Therefore he will need to be RUSHED to an emergency vet in the bigger town that is over an hour away to save him! Please help us help him.

“We named him Spartan because through all the pain of his shattered hanging he is a sweet sweet boy who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time!”

Spartan had his surgery, and here’s the latest update, posted on July 21: “Spart is doing great!! Even after everything he has been through, he still just wants to crawl in my niece’s lap and snuggle.

“He will have to be fed through the feeding tube in his neck for at least three weeks, and we will go back for a checkup in two weeks … Because his surgery was so much more involved, and  he did have to have ‘plastic surgery’ and extra pins put in, his surgery ended up being $952.50. That’s not counting his special food, which was $50, and all of his chec up costs over the next few months.”

LIC Feral is sponsoring the fundraiser for Spartan. The rescue is seeking $1,500 in donations to defray the costs of caring for this dog. Here’s the link, should you wish to contribute:


60ffcf13-823d-4eb1-b7e9-2a015cd74aba_profileFeather’s N Fur Wildlife Rehab Center, in Twentynine Palms, Calif.,  is seeking donations to provide medical treatment to one of its permanent residents — Max, a German Shepherd/border collie mix.

Max, now 10 years old, was rescued at age  at 6 months. Here’s what Max has to “say” about himself: “I was given the nickname of Maximillion at first, but then I got my name Maximum Security Puppy because I used to get protective when cars pulled up to the house — but then as soon as the people got out of the car, I’d run and hide behind my mom, so she used to say to me, ‘Some Security puppy you are,’ as a joke and it stuck.”

Max has been misdiagnosed by two vets as having terminal cancer. However, a third vet said Max’s issue has to do with an infection of the fascial planes, which is treatable. According to the third vet, Max has a lodged foreign body that is causing him to have two large drainage tracts in his side.

Max has undergone several surgeries, but the last one was to close up the wounds caused by the foreign body. That foreign body is still embedded in, and, according to the vet, it will continue to cause sores until it can be located and removed.

That requires and MRI — and those things are expensive. The vet estimates the cost of the MRI and followup treatment at between $2,500 and $4,000. Max currently is on a strong antibiotic designed to keep infection down, and that costs money, too.

Here’s the link to donate: If you do donate, please annotate that the money is for Max.

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Help Sallie find a home; she has been through too much already

Editor’s Note: I never meant to take a six-month hiatus from this blog, but it has happened. I cannot make up that time, but I can start again now. So I am — starting again. No reasons. No excuses.

I have been working in animal rescue for several years now. I’ve enjoyed many successes and thankfully, only a few disappointments. But in all my years of working to save homeless animals, I think the numbers are increasing. Perhaps it’s because social media is so prevalent, and we get more requests. Honestly, I don’t know the reasons. I just know that the need is ever-present, and that makes me sad.

My husband and I are doing all that we can and probably more than we should. We have eight dogs and one cat of our own. Only one of those dogs — the eldest and the first — came from a breeder, a reputable breeder. Since then, we have learned that until things change, we will always adopt.

Sallie is a German Shepherd in search of a home. Can you help?

Sallie is a German Shepherd in search of a home. Can you help?

We also are fostering two recently weaned puppies. We are genuinely happy to have these furry balls of energy in our home, and we will work with their rescue — the Muscle Breed Alliance — to ensure that their permanent home is filled with love. (I’ll tell you more about Betsey and Franklin in a couple of days.)

Right now, there’s a beautiful German Shepherd named Sallie in the Birmingham area that can’t seem to catch a break through no fault of her own. It’s time for this creature of God to get a real chance at the happiness only a permanent home can afford.

Sallie has been spayed and is up to date on all of her shots. Her current owner loves her, I’m told, but the problem is she thinks Sallie is too large to be in the house with her 2-year-old child. Also, the established dog in the house has not taken to Sallie.

The woman who took Sallie in did so after the golden-colored German Shepherd was dumped in her neighborhood. My Facebook friend, Ann, is a friend and neighbor of Sallie’s current owner. According to Ann, her friend spent about $1,800 to get Sallie vetted and spayed.

Ann said her friend has sought the help of several rescues, but none have responded. I suspect that if she has not had luck with a rescue it is because the rescues are full. Rescues can only take as many animals as their fosters can handle.

Ann asked for my help because she is worried about the dog’s future. She cannot take Sallie because she is dealing with some serious family health issues.

“This will be the dog’s fourth home that we know of, and since she has anxiety issues, she will just keep getting dumped until she dies,” my Facebook friend, Ann, said. “Despite her anxiety, she is a beautiful dog.  She loves to sit with me while I drink coffee and rub her. She closes her eyes like she feels at peace and not scared.

“Pets remember things,” Ann said. “A couple of nights ago, she tried to crawl into my lap like a puppy.”

Ann’s friend owns Sallie. “She has her has spent so much money on the dog and she is good to her, but she’s clueless on finding her a home,” Ann said. “She gave her to a man in Bessemer, and he said she would be inside, but when my friend went to check on her last week, she was tied up in the yard in the hot sun and no water, so she brought her back.

In just a few short months, Sallie first was dumped, then was chained outside. Now, neighbors and friends are trying to find her a permanent home.

In just a few short months, Sallie first was dumped, then was chained outside. Now, neighbors and friends are trying to find her a permanent home.

“Sallie wants love, and I am praying we find her a good home.”

If you can help Sallie, or if you know of a rescue that can help her, please call Ann at 205-555-3902.


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An elegant lady dies, leaving a hole in the heart of her human

Weedapea was the epitome of elegance despite her disabilities. Weighing only seven pounds didn’t stop this blind toy poodle from being the queen of her home realm.

The queen is dead, and her human, Diana, is devastated. So are Diana’s friends, like me, who had come to love this special little girl.

ImageWeedapea died of heart failure on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. She was born on Independence Day, 1999. She joined Diana’s household two years ago after her original owner found Diana and asked the longtime animal lover to help save her dog.

“A woman came up to me in Petco one day a little more than two years ago in tears; she told me God had led her to me because she was moving home to Iran in two days,” Diana said.

The woman said she couldn’t take Weedapea because small dogs were not allowed in her native country.

“She said dogs that weighed less than 30 pounds were illegal (they were considered “too western world”); taking a small dog like Weeda into the country was was punishable by beheading the dog and imprisoning the owner. She asked me to take her toy poodle that she had purchased at six weeks of age, or she would have no choice but to euthanize her at their vet before they left.”

Like most animal lovers, Diana has little patience for humans who abuse and/or neglect animals, but she has a soft spot for special-needs dogs. This Phantom silver toy poodle attached herself to Diana’s hear, and she’ll never, ever let go.

“This regal old lady that’s barely seven pounds runs my household,” Diana said. “Dogs of all sizes, ages, breeds/mixes  and from all backgrounds respect her the minute they meet her.

“She is the queen of this house, and I was lucky to have been where I was that day at Petco. I have been blessed every day since to share my life/home/heart with Weeda.”

Now that Weedapea is gone, Diana is worried about Jenny, a Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix that was Weeda’s best friend. They have slept together almost from the time they both came to live with Diana. Jenny will be 12 in February; Diana adopted her because on New Year’s Day, 2012, a couple who wanted a baby instead of a dog surrendered her to a rescue. She had lost one of her eyes in a dog attack several years earlier; last year, glaucoma took the vision in her remaining eye.

The two had always looked out for one another. Jenny made sure Weedapea didn’t get stepped on accidentally by the gentle giant Petey, a 110-pound German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix that also lives in the house. She would manage to work her way between Weeda and Petey whenever she feared Petey was getting too close.

When Jenny lost her vision, Weeda taught her how to navigate the house.

“They walked shoulder-to-shoulder through the house, up the stairs, and outside to potty until Jenny learned to navigate on her own,” Diana said. “When Weeda was diagnosed with heart failure, Jenny started staying close to her again. They always fell asleep touching each other, even if the only thing that was touching was their back feet.

“Weeda would wash Jenny and Bella’s face (Bella is a tiny, 4-year-old long-haired Chihuahua that also lives with Diana). As Weeda got sicker from the heart failure, the vet put her on Lasix; as a result, fluid would leak from her eyes, and Jenny and Bella would wash it away.

“The three girls stayed upstairs together when they were home alone so Bella could watch them and they could take care of each other without the big dogs stepping on them.”

Diana adopted another special-needs dog recently, a 2-year-old Shih Tzu that is losing her vision. The victim of excessive puppy mill breeding and neglect, Mimi whelped her first litter when she was 6 months old. The hair around her eyes was never trimmed properly, so she has corneal scarring. She also suffers from dry eye that was never treated until she was rescued.

“She has territorial issues and food aggression, but she knew immediately that Jenny and Weeda needed extra care,” Diana said. “From the first night in my house, she slept close to them and guarded them.

“She will never replace my angel, but she protected her for me.”

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