The Metcalfe Genes and Training

For those of you who don’t know, my mother is a super-hero: she is an incredibly good researcher and advocate who can clearly and concisely get her point across on paper and in a meeting. Since I was a child, she has used her gift to right wrongs and keep people (like me) safe from corporate sloppiness, university bureaucracies, and plain old meanies.

I have been her apprentice all these years and – like a good grasshopper – have gone out in search of additional training. There was the summer I worked at McGill in the Donor Research programme, basically receiving training in sniffing out info on alumni. Then there was my work as a facilitator at the Centre for Teaching and Academic Growth at the University of British Columbia that taught me how to move difficult discussions along, listen to people without rolling my eyes, and ask probing questions to get at the root of the matter. (the second skill is probably the most useful one, btw!)

Well, the Metcalfe genes and training kicked into overdrive yesterday! Someone wrote a vicious (and hugely overblown) email about the Rock Springs Humane Society and had been circulating it for over a week before a caring supporter sent it to the director to give her a head’s up. Basically this alarmist email was trying to raise a mob to descend on our board meeting yesterday. We found out about the email the day before and by yesterday morning the director (my good friend) forwarded it to me. It was on.

Within a few minutes, I had compiled a table of all the people who had forwarded and received the email (at least in the ’email tree’ that had ended up with us). You see, the people had not thought to use the useful BCC function on their email accounts, and so all their names were in plain sight. Soon I had added their addresses and phone numbers, some of their ages, and some additional details – like place of work – to my table. It’s amazing what you can find out on the internet if you know where to look…

Then I set about responding to the email piece by piece. It turned into a three-page rebuttal. If all else fails, kill ’em with a logical, reasoned response. It’s a good thing I did, too, since the Rock Springs mayor, Tim Kaumo, had gotten wind of these accusations and came to the meeting yesterday. It was with more than a modicum of satisfaction that I gathered my document up and handed it to him.

I then briefly summarized the contents of my rebuttal to the board members and the dozen or so concerned citizens who had been roused by this email (or who had written it in the first place – that is still unclear!). While they did not show up bearing pitch forks, if we had been blindsided by this whole affair, things could have gotten very ugly.

In the end, though, while there were some heated discussions, I think we managed to squelch what could have been a huge blow-up. I, for one, walked away from the meeting feeling like some valid concerns had been raised, people were willing to be part of the solution (we even had a few people sign up to be volunteers!), and that most people present had conducted themselves in a reasonable manner. In addition, the mayor seems like a very approachable and animal-friendly sort of man, and is willing to work with us in the future for possible funding, etc.

It’s amazing what having a super-hero mom can teach you!

If this writing thing doesn’t work out…

It’s always good to have a back-up plan.

So, if this whole writing thing doesn’t go as well as hoped, then I think I might become a professional baker, gift-maker, and fundraiser!

We just held the Rock Springs Humane Society’s first annual Holiday Market yesterday and though it was a lot of work, it was a blast. There were jazz standards playing (had to introduce these folks to Michael Buble and Diana Krall) and apple-cinnamon candles burning. We had vendors from Silpada, Tupperware, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, and Cookie Lee selling their wares and taking orders (and giving us a percentage of their sales!). And we had a great bake sale for pets and people; donated items (some sent all the way from relatives in Canada); and crafts.

We made a nice chunk of change to help provide the necessities for sheltering animals while we find them homes. We also got people out to the shelter to shop, chat, and hang out. We may have even recruited a few more volunteers that I can put to work at future events!

Oh! And I also did my first adoption – Riker’s little girlfriend, Dixie!

It took a lot of preparation. Over the last week I made:

  • Oatmeal-Raisin, Triple-Chocolate, Gingerbread, and Peanut Butter cookies
  • Vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with home-made icing (and little dog-bone sprinkles!)
  • White chocolate brownies
  • Green, red, and white milk bones
  • Edible bird ornaments: rice cakes and pinecones smothered in peanut butter and rolled in bird seed as well as dried cranberries on floral wire, bent to look like a heart
  • Spiced Mocha Mix gift arrangements
  • Hand-knit scarves

There is already talk of doing an Easter market next spring and a yard sale next summer. Time to start looking for new recipes to try and crafts to make!

Here are a couple of photos of ‘my’ sections: baked goods, crafts, and donated items.

Poor Topaz, a Miniature Pinscher, is subjected to a pink frilly dress after she wouldn’t stop barking for attention. I think this is called aversion therapy 🙂


For the past month I’ve been volunteering at the Rock Springs Humane Society here in Wyoming. I’ve been really enjoying spending time with the animals (and the people) at the Society, but I also love all the behind-the-scenes work I’ve been doing organizing fundraisers and other events.

Yesterday we put on the 3rd annual Dracupaws fundraiser. People bring in their pets (and kids) – mostly in Halloween costumes – for professional photos by a local photographer. It was so much fun! We had little doggie witches, vampires, hotdogs, and even Pippi Longstocking. A few brave souls brought in their cats (one was a cowboy!) and we even had one baby Alligator named Isis!

One lady and her daughter came when we were cleaning up (she’d gotten the times mixed up) and the photographer had already gone home. So, I pulled out my digital camera and took some photos of her SEVEN dogs, including: two Great Danes, a Great Dane mix, a Mexican Hairless (seen above), a King Charles Spaniel, a teeny Pomeranian, and a Pomeranian mix. She and her daughter had apparently spent almost 40 hours on their seven costumes.

Toward the end of the afternoon I called up Doug (who actually had a day off!) and asked him to bring in Riker for a photo. We took one of the loaner costumers – a Dracula cape – and tied it around his growing neck (this is probably the only year where doggie costumes will actually fit him!). We got a family photo done, but it also gave us a chance to introduce him to some other nice dogs. It seems like whenever we take him for a walk (which is about 2-3 times a day) we hear lots of dogs behind fences and inside houses, but never see any out and about with their owners. I may just have to borrow a dog from the Society and take the two out for a romp!

Here we are, the Dracupaws crew (l-r): Judy (board member), me, Kate (director), and Kayla (volunteer).

Wild Wyoming

As I might have mentioned before, Wyoming – compared with most places in the continental U.S. – is quite sparsely populated. There are about 500,000 people spread out over the state, and most of these are clustered in small towns and cities.

This means that there are a lot of wild, wide-open spaces.

Last Wednesday, Doug and I attended a talk at the Sweetwater County Library (our local library in Green River) about the wild spaces of Wyoming. Erik Molvar, director of the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and author of Wild Wyoming, gave an entertaining talk with lots of accompanying photos. Erik good-naturedly bantered with the audience and even seemed to enjoy my cheeky question about ‘wildlife management’ being an oxymoron!

He and Doug really hit it off afterward and got chatting about more ecofriendly ways to extract oil and natural gas from these protected areas. As always, trying to balance economic growth in Wyoming (both mineral and recreational) with the conservation of fragile ecosystems is a tricky business. If we don’t become members of the BCA, we will definitely be signing up for some of the guided hikes they offer to really neat-looking wilderness areas like Adobe Town, which isn’t far from here.

We stayed chatting at the library until closing time and didn’t get home until about 9:30pm or so. We were standing on out front looking up at all the stars when some movement caught my eye across the street.: there was a Mule Deer doe and her fawn walking along. What a magical moment!

I’ve had some more semi-domestic encounters the past week as well. Last Tuesday I started volunteering for the Rock Springs Humane Society. They are chronically understaffed, underfunded, and underexposed (in the PR sense) in the community. I went in expecting to have to fill in an application to be a volunteer and maybe even submit to a criminal background check (like some places I’ve worked/volunteered at in big cities in the past). Nope, none of that. The director, who is two years old than I am, looked at me eagerly and asked when I’d like to start and how often I could come in.

I’ll be spending two days on site a week and volunteering at special events like Dracupaws (Halloween portraits) and Santapaws (Holiday portraits) while I live here. I’m also helping them figure out some new ways to fundraise, do community outreach and I’ll be re-vamping their scrapbook. I discovered that their 35th anniversary is coming up next year, so maybe I’ll write a little ‘history of’ for the organization, too (once the book is done, of course!).

I’m loving both the hands-on and hands-off work so far and I am amazed at how they manage to operate on such a shoe-string budget. Doug and I have already donated a big bag of cat litter, a jumbo pack of paper towels, and I’ve started stockpiling possible sale, raffle, and prize items from garage sales (Doug’s happy for us to help out as long as I don’t bring home 3 dogs and 5 cats!).

The RS Humane Society’s vet bill alone at the moment is $5000 and they operate mainly on donations. If you’re ever in the Rock Springs area or you feel like helping out this no-kill shelter with cash or in-kind donations, they are open 12-6pm, seven days a week. Feel free to email me at if you want to know how you can help.

This is Bear, the most timid Black Lab I have ever encountered! What a sweetheart!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.