Monday, September 26, 2016

Spot is Ready to Meet His Forever Human!

Spot is ready for his forever home!

You remember Spot?  So many of you chipped in to give him a chance!

Spot is a German Shorthair/Dalmation mix (or some semblance of that...) and is about 3 years old.  He is simply stunning.  He was owner surrender at Caddo Animal Control and was on the euthanasia list a couple of times -- the volunteers there kept buying more time for him, begging for his life.

No rescue could take him because he had no adopter and was heartworm positive.  That's a huge financial commitment for a rescue, so a bunch of people donated money to cover his medical expenses, a foster stepped up to nurture him, and Rockers Rescue stepped up to pull him from the shelter.

Spot was saved!

But now Spot is ready for his forever home. His foster has to give him up by October 21 because she is moving. She never intended to keep him full time; fosters save lives by adopting out and fostering

Spot is on slow kill heartworm treatment and the rescue is committed financially to seeing that through. That would not be your expense as a foster or adopter.

He's up to date on his shots, he is dewormed, and microchipped. He has also been neutered!

His current foster has taught him manners and given him much love and TLC.  He's a very sweet and loving boy.  He likes car rides, hugs, peanut butter, and playing outside.

Spot is ready for a family to adopt him and love him forever.  He wants a yard to play in, a bed to sleep in, someone to pet his silky gray ears, and a family to love.

Spot has been a single dog and it's not clear how he will do with other dogs yet, but that can easily be determined.  If you'd like to Rockers Rescue.
meet Spot or want to consider adopting him, or even fostering him so he doesn't have to go into boarding, please contact

This baby has been through enough transitional situations; he needs a permanent, loving home.  Please share this with anyone you know who would be a fabulous human for Spot.

There is someone out there who is exactly the right match for this sweet boy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nova's Heart: Caring for the Pets of Shreveport's Most Vulnerable

I was at an event last weekend and ran into my friend Loraine who was spending her Saturday under a hot tent at the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival as part of her service with Nova's Heart.  I told her about a man I saw under an overpass near the LSU Med Center with his dog, and I worried about them because I had no dog food with me; I told her how I wished I had a Nova's Heart bucket in my car filled with small, manageable bags of dog food to hand to people in need like this man.

Loraine's face lit up, she smiled, and said, "Oh, that's Frank!  He's one of our clients - he has food, I promise you!  We take care of him ...".  I don't think his name was Frank - I can't remember the name she told me, but the point is, she knew the man, knew the dog, and knew where their normal location is.  The dog is micro-chipped, vaccinated, and on heartworm preventative thanks to Nova's Heart.

I've written about Nova's Heart before; the group is a relatively new 501c3 non-profit organization that was formed about two years ago in Shreveport when some people working in local animal rescue realized there was a need for service for the pets of our city's homeless citizens.  The group started small, working out of The Hub in downtown Shreveport with a handful of volunteers coming together several times a week to distribute food, leashes, and harnesses to the large homeless population downtown who had pets in need.

Loraine and her volunteers scratched together food donations, stored it in bins, bagged it in quart and gallon sized Ziplocs for easy transport, and distributed it themselves. Word spread, more people in
Bags of food ready for distribution to those in need.
need came out of the shadows with the knowledge that finally there was a group who would not look through them as if they were invisible, a group that would treat them like human beings, and a group who cared about their animals.

It's a statistical fact that many people that are homeless refuse to give up their pets and will feed their pets before they feed themselves. Their pets don't judge them and offer unconditional love and support.  Sometimes those pets also offer protection.  Living on the streets disrupts whatever your normal life was and caring for a pet lets them retain some sense of control, routine, and normalcy.  Nova's Heart recognized all of that and stepped up to help.

Nobody else in the area is doing this service for the homeless or those in crisis.

Nobody else in this area is doing what Nova's Heart does.

As more and more of the homeless pet owners heard about the help Nova's Heart offered, it soon became clear that this organization was growing faster than Loraine and her friends realized; they needed a bigger space and they needed some help.  They applied for and received their 501c3 charter in February 2015, about a year and a half ago.  Shortly after their application was approved, Nova's Heart was invited by HOPE Connections to partner with them as HOPE worked with the homeless population to provide a one-stop access point to a variety of services for them.

Now, Nova's Heart has a donated building (a former railroad container converted into a building) that sits right next to HOPE Connections on Levy Street.  This provides a place for food storage, a place for pet owners to bathe their dogs, and to obtain services for their pet while they get services for themselves at HOPE.  There was one lovely Saturday when a group of volunteers came together to paint the building "Nova's Heart Red" and install flooring. With the warm, spring sun blazing down, we turned up the radio and painted our hearts out -- volunteers coming together for good.

Saturday morning outreach
Every Saturday morning Nova's Heart and other local groups meet to provide outreach, food, and services to the homeless population in downtown Shreveport. Nova's volunteers also have an outreach program during the week where they go to various homeless camps and locations where their clients stay to check on the dogs, their owners, and provide what help is needed.

The success stories are many; just look at the Nova's Heart Facebook page to see one story after another. Click on the pictures tab; it's the pictures that get me. Look into the eyes of a dog that some stranger has helped and you see pure love. Look at the good work they are doing.

The love and compassion spread by Loraine, Bo, Carla, and all of the other volunteers is immeasurable. I have seen this with my own eyes.  I have never been downtown with Bo that he did not walk up to some person living on the streets, reach out and shake his hand, and pet the dog. Bo knows them all by name -- they are people; not "homeless" people.  There is no judgment at Nova's.

Nova's Heart is still a new, growing organization with an unfathomable potential to do good. However, there have been growing pains. These are all volunteers -- uncompensated volunteers -- that run this organization and none have had experience running a non-profit before. There is no high-salaried CEO and there are no plush offices. Nobody gets paid one dime for their work.  They don't want to be paid.  But as a new group they are still learning a few things about running such a 501c3.  Mistakes have been made, learned from, and corrected. Nothing egregious, fortunately, which is remarkable for such a new group.

They set up a Board of Directors, established bylaws, and called in an accountant to help oversee
things.  The need for the organization far outpaced the learning curve and Loraine and her group worked hard to get these positions in place to help manage activities and donations.

In the past year, Nova's Heart has arranged and paid for the spay/neuter of over twenty dogs, provided at least thirty rabies vaccinations, and provided food, kennels, leashes, sweaters, harnesses, water bowls, and blankets for over seventy-five dogs; the number of food packages distributed is countless.

Social media can be a strong and positive tool for good and it can also be the devil. It is never the place to air grievances or personal issues, especially when others could be hurt.  The vicious attacks on Nova's Heart this week on Facebook have hurt my heart.  I know Loraine and I know her love for this organization; I know the deeply personal story that caused her to found this group.

Loraine is a quiet, private woman whose only concern is for the animals in need and she works very hard to do the right thing for them. She's learning on the go with this non-profit and when I say "on the go" I mean that literally.  She volunteers almost 40 hours a week.  Her heart is in absolutely the right place. She is the perfect woman to run this non-profit.

I write this post as a plea for a cease fire to the Facebook trash talk. If you haven't heard any of it -- wonderful.  Don't go looking for it; don't sink to that level. I don't want the work that Nova's Heart does to be damaged by disgruntled people with personal vendettas. Put personal drama aside and do good for our community.

The bottom line is this: there is a need for what Nova's Heart does. This city has a huge animal overpopulation problem and a huge homeless population. There is no other group that does what they do and certainly nobody that does it with the love and compassion and untiring devotion that they do and we are beyond lucky that this group exists.

Nova's Heart and its current Board of Directors has my one-hundred percent faith, trust, and devotion.

Disclaimer:  This post is from my own heart and the people at Nova's Heart had absolutely nothing to do with my writing it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Can You Help Clio: Restoration Fundraiser is Now Underway!

Caddo Parish Confederate Monument
In June of this year, Steve and I went to the Caddo Parish courthouse to take care of some business and as we normally do, we stopped to admire the beauty and craftsmanship of the Confederate monument standing on the north side of the building.

But there was something wrong.

Clio's hand was gone.

Clio is the Muse of History who stands at the base of the monument in all of her classical beauty, holding a scroll in her left hand and with her right she is pointing to a memory book for the war dead.

As it turns out, Clio's arm was broken by a trespassing trumpet player who climbed over the decorative fence that encloses the monument. Mr. Trumpet Player then climbed the base of the monument, scaled his way up, grabbing Clio's outstretched arm for support, and sat on a ridge just above her head to play his instrument. He rested his leg on her arm, and the arm shattered.

Clio's damaged hand

Just a few weeks after that, a vandal armed with paint filled water balloons approached the monument in the dark of night and threw the balloons, thus causing thousands of dollars in damage.  The photos below show some of the paint damage but trust me when I tell you it is much worse in person.

Paint damage

The monument was installed by the Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1905 and is the work of Texas sculptor Frank Teich from Llano County.  Mr. Teich has several other monuments in the city, including work at Greenwood Cemetery. It is a 30-foot tall granite and marble centaph depicting not just Clio, the Muse, but also a lone soldier at the top of the column, and four busts of four Confederate generals. While Confederate monuments are present in many towns across the South, ours is unique in its beauty and composition. There is not another one like it.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

The Caddo Parish Confederate Monument 1905

The monument needs our help.

The Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy has obtained two estimates from reputable restoration experts to repair Clio and to remove the paint. It isn't as easy as going to Home Depot, getting chemical, and a water hose. The estimates are both very close and both very expensive.

The UDC is raising money to restore this monument. The estimates are in stages - one is to repair the hand, another for the paint removal and that includes overall cleaning from the pollutants that are eating away at the stone.

We need to raise $6,000.

That's a lot of money and the UDC does not have it.  The UDC is a non-profit, charitable group that gives its money to charities, so writing a $6,000 check is out of the question. Your help is needed.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the repair of the Caddo Parish Confederate Monument. Your support is needed now, more than ever. Your donation can be sent directly to the Shreveport Chapter of the UDC:

United Daughters of the Confederacy
Shreveport Chapter #237
P. O. Box 52083
Shreveport, LA 71135-2083

No amount is too small.  And those end of the year tax deductions are coming up!

Please share this post on Facebook and via email; you never know when some benevolent soul will see it and see a need to help out!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Take a Trip to Tour Oakland Cemetery in Shreveport

Victorian Grave Cover: Oakland Cemetery
Sometimes you have to play tourist in your own city. I've been extremely busy this past year or so with book revisions and teaching school, among other things, and so Steve and I haven't been able to take the usual round of day-trips that we so often do.

This makes Steve bored, and antsy. 

Yesterday, Saturday dawned clear and lovely, low humidity, and the slightest hint of a promise of fall, so we decided to get out of the house. We headed downtown to take a tour of Oakland Cemetery which is something we've been talking about doing for ages but have never accomplished -- until now.

My curiosity about Oakland was piqued when Friday, just by chance, I saw the Shreveport Times article about the McKellar mansion on Oakland Street. 

"That's Mary Belle's house!" and my heart skipped.

Mary Belle McKellar was a journalist and civic worker who wrote articles, often about history, that were published across the United States. I ran across Mary Belle in my research on Cammie Henry because Mary Belle was a friend of Cammie's and spent a great deal of time at Melrose working in one of Cammie's cabins. She lived in her father's home on Oakland Street in Shreveport and from there she wrote long, chatty letters to Cammie in which she updated Mrs. Henry on social events in Shreveport, the activities of common friends, what was growing in her garden, and local politics. Mary Belle was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and it is because of her work that Fort Humbug in Shreveport was designated as a Confederate Memorial Park, or site.

Her father was Reuben McKellar and my favorite story about him can be found in the book Shreveport's Historic Oakland Cemetery: Spirits of Pioneers and Heroes by historians Gary Joiner and Cheryl White.  Reuben McKellar was a former mayor of Shreveport and a judge:

"...he was known to routinely sentence offenders with a fine of $7.50 or 1,000 bricks. McKellar thought the fine of $7.50 sufficient for most misdemeanor offenses, and those offenders unable to pay were sentences to lay one thousand bricks on downtown streets."

Smart man!

Judge McKellar died in 1933 and his daughter Mary Belle died in 1941; both are buried in the family plot in the shadows of their historic home on Oakland Street.

Armed with our restlessness, a new curiosity about the McKellar mansion restoration, and a desire to see Oakland Cemetery again, Steve and I set off to act like tourists in our own city.

Oakland is right across from the truly grand Municipal Auditorium on the west end of downtown. Amazingly, our city leaders wanted to tear this stunning structure down not too many years ago but fortunately, saner heads prevailed and it has undergone a thorough restoration.  

Municipal Auditorium

This building deserves a blog post of its own but for now, suffice to say that it was built in the 1920s, has the most stunning brickwork I've ever seen with nearly every possible brick pattern known to man somewhere in its construction, and has Art Deco elements to die for.

This lamp makes my heart sing:

Art Deco Beauty

Of course everyone knows that the Louisiana Hayride started here and just about everyone you can name has played here from Patsy Cline, Elvis, Jackson Browne, George Carlin, Hank Williams, Johnny's just endless.  Endless.  

Look at this:

and this:

The detail work on this building is just unreal.  And of course there is Elvis...

But, as I said, Municipal deserves its own post some day, so we will move on down the (simulated) trolley tracks to Oakland.

Facing the main entrance to Oakland Cemetery

We paused to admire the Asian Gardens which you can find right behind Municipal Auditorium:

Asian Gardens

It's incredibly peaceful here:

Asian Gardens

But our guide was waiting so we headed to the cemetery.

Oakland Cemetery was founded in 1847 but its oldest monument is 1842; graves were moved from the Fannin Street cemetery to the City Cemetery; the Fannin Street cemetery was then closed.  Years later when the property where the Fannin Street cemetery was graded and leveled for road building, a couple of skeletons were found which had been missed.  

Oakland Cemetery sits on rolling hills between Sprague Street and Milam Street, behind the First United Methodist Church and next to Municipal Auditorium. The last time Steve and I went through there, years ago, it was in terrible disrepair.  Neglect and vandalism had taken its toll.  

That is no longer the case.

We began our tour with Steve Smith of the Oakland Cemetery Preservation Society.  Mr. Smith gives these tours every Saturday at 1:00; just meet him in the parking lot.  But hurry -- he's been doing this for a long time and is scaling back at the end of the year.  

Mr. Smith was leaning against a crumbling wall which was buckling under the pressure drift of soil long retained by walls and wrought iron.

Oakland Cemetery

The tour consisted of a long walk through the cemetery with Mr. Smith pointing out graves and markers about which he would tell a story and make the people resting there live again.

At one time this cemetery was filled with wrought iron and cast iron fencing around various plots; Mr. Smith estimates that only about 30% of that fencing remains. Between the scrap iron efforts during the war and the vandals, not much of it remains. Many of the iron gates have been stolen by people who put them in their gardens. They even resorted to stealing bricks before the Preservation Society was able to slow all this down by its efforts at maintenance, upkeep, and security.  Roads have been paved, gates installed, trees trimmed, brush cut out, and now sprinkler systems are coming in and landscaping.  

Ornate fencing: Oakland cemetery

The markers there are unique but the people buried there are legendary.

Bedstead monument: Oakland Cemetery

We heard about a former slave who, after obtaining her freedom, married and opened a store in downtown Shreveport; she made lots of money but died penniless.

The cemetery has black citizens, white ones, a Hebrew section, city founders and bigwigs, an operator of a bordello, and children of Presidents.  There are about three hundred graves of Civil War soldiers.  

Oh, and I found Mary Belle and her dad:

Mary Belle McKellar: Oakland Cemetery

The stunning monument of beloved Shreveport historian Eric Brock is on the back, west end, which is sobering. Mr. Brock died in 2011 at the young age of 45 and, fittingly and he now rests in Oakland Cemetery.  Brock was instrumental in the effort to preserve this landmark. Look closely at his monument if you go visit: the lace pattern from his wife's wedding dress is worked into the detail of the stone. It's lovely.

The tour ends upon the top of the highest hill in the cemetery, overlooking downtown Shreveport. It is the Yellow Fever mound where nearly 1,000 Shreveport citizens are mass buried in trenches. The 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic decimated Shreveport's population.

We spent about two hours on the tour and I can promise you, if we had started right over, Mr. Smith could have done it all over again and we would not have heard the same stories -- there is so much history there and so many colorful characters.  I came right home and ordered the Joiner and White book so I can learn about some of the other people there.

Even better: Mr. Smith does a History Ghost Walk on Saturday nights at 8:00, starting at the Confederate Monument in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse. He invited us to come along last night, so of course we did.  Another two hours of walking and touring, this time with Mr. Smith in period dress and displaying a iPad with photos of historic Shreveport scenes to augment the tour. I have lived in Shreveport my entire life and learned things from him that I'd never known before.

Did you know Howard Hughes was arrested as a peeping Tom here?  He wasn't the creeper as it turns out, but hey, anything can happen in Shreveport.

Again, if we did the Ghost Walk tour again, I can assure you we would hear completely different stories.  Mr. Smith's vast knowledge of our city is fascinating.

I highly recommend both tours, especially now that fall is in the air, there is no better time!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation