About The Foster Zoo

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We have decided to blog our adventures again. So much has changed since we last blogged. Bella and Shiloh both went to their forever homes and they are in wonderful families. June Bug got adopted. We quit fostering dogs after those adoptions because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. We quit doing therapy dog work because Tanker's epilepsy got bad. Tanker passed away June 9th, 2013. We adopted a senior border collie named Shania Tankerbelle in his memory. We still have our two cats, Sweet Pea and Little Bit. Wes has started rescuing pitiful bettas from Wal-Mart and we currently have seven. We have a camper. We camp. We have focused on giving our animals the best lives possible. We are The Foster Zoo Crew and we like to have fun.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Farewell Speech to John

John Franklin Kempster, Jr.
February 19, 1979-December 11, 2008

I never thought I would be getting up and speaking at my brother's funeral.  I know death happens.  I know we will all leave this world at one time or another, but I didn't imagine it would be so soon.  John was too young to die.

A great friend of mine, who recently lost his wife, said at her funeral that he learned one thing in his 29 years of being in the military.  The military taught him that you should never say goodbye to your friends because goodbyes are forever, and you never know when you will meet back up with them again.  At his wife's funeral, he said farewell to her instead of goodbye because he knew he would meet back up again with her someday.  Today, we are not here to say goodbye to John.  We are saying farewell until our souls meet again.

It's funny how the people we love are always right next to us?  Isn't it neat that the ones we are close to are always on our mind?  John was like my soul-mate, in a sibling kind of way.  He held a special place in my heart that no other person could ever fill.  It's why we were so close growing up.  We were the best of friends.  I feel that is why God prepared me so well for John's death.  As close as John and I were, God knew how devestated I would today, so he started preparing me a long time ago.  First, God brought me to Capital Hospice where I learned to accept death.  I had no desire to ever work in hospice.  I was a hardcore EMT who loved every minute of working in the ER and ICU.  I loved being an EMT with Search and Rescue.  Hospice just did not fit into my plan.  I came across the Capital Hospice ad in the Washington Post and applied for it after moving to Maryland.  Of course, I fell in love with the unit the day I went for my interview.  It was something completely different from I had ever known and a type of nursing foreign to me, but I felt drawn to be there.  In September, a crisis care nurse whom I had worked with maybe twice in the HMIC, called me and asked if I would be interested taking care of  a friend of her's who had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She had only known me a short while, but liked how I worked and she felt I would be good for the job.  At the time, I didn't think that homecare would be a good fit for me, but I said yes and I talked with the husband of the patient over the phone about what his needs were.  I felt God had brought that job to me for a reason, even if it were not in my plans.  I started working for the family and fell in love with them.  I learned so much about death and grieving from the kids, the husband, the friends and extended family.  I owe so much to them for me being able to stand up here today.  Little did I know how God was preparing me, one of John's closest friends, for his death.  I made a promise to John just a few weeks ago that I would always take care of him.  Even though business was bad and finances were tight, I would never see him fall.  Just as he had always been there for me through my struggles and triumphs, I would be there for him. John, Wes, and I were always there for each other like that.  We could rely on each other and see each other through.

Our God is an amazing God.  I don't know a better way to say it than that.  He really prepared me for this day.  Not only did he prepare me for it, he continues to let John be by my side.  We have felt him many times.  He continues to inspire me.

As soon as I got the phone call about John's death, my mind started working about how I could honor his life.  We jumped on a plane out of Washington as soon as possible.  As I sat on the plane in the dark, I shed some tears as I began to write the most important speech in my life.  I had no question as to whether or not I could handle giving John's eulogy today.  I questioned more about whether or not I could reflect the honorable life he lived through a simple speech.  Although there is a lot to be said, this is how he spoke to me.

 John, my brother, my hero, my shining star…

Having you for a brother means sharing a unique family history together.  It means remembering all the crazy stuff we did as kids, all the trouble we got each other into, and all the good times we've had over the years.  But most of all, having you for a brother means having a friend who's got my back for life - And I just want to say thanks for always being there. 

John, my brother, my hero, my shining star…

John was an amazing person.  I don't know any other way to describe him other than amazing.  He never seemed to let anyone or anything break his spirit, or his endless love.  For as far back as I can remember John had an overwhelming passion for people and animals.  As a young child, he liked to play man of the house and take care of my mom and I.  My father was his inspiration.  He was such a people pleaser, and lived to make other's smile.  Of course, I am lying if I were to say this is true all the time, as he did use to compare the chocolate chip cookies at Wendy's and always took the bigger one with more chocolate chips or he would always have to have the top bunk bed when we camped out in his room rather than taking turns with the top bunk, but I do have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he DID need the extra calories the bigger cookie provided since he was and older and taller than me, and I do believe him when he told me it was against the law to sleep on a top bunk before the age of 8. Either way, John did let me sleep over every Christmas Eve while we waited for Santa, so regardless of who got the top bunk, John was still an awesome brother for including me in everything.
John and I were best friends growing up. 

I always looked up to him and he always looked out for me.  Although we would never admit it, we had a relationship most siblings would envy.  I can't think of a time in my life where John was not a big part of it.  He used to take me everywhere in his Mustang.  Part of that I'm sure was his desire to show off his car, but he mostly did it because he and I enjoyed being with each other so much.  How many high school guys would let their younger sister follow them around, even on many dates?  Not many I'm sure, but John always included me in all he did.  I remember in middle school when John used to pick me up everyday from school.  I looked forward to seeing John sitting out back in his awesome Mustang waiting for me to get out of school.  I remember John taking me to the REM concert, Brooks and Dunn concert, Black Hawk and David Lee Murphy concerts.  John taught me how to play softball.  The only reason I ever wanted to play softball was because John played baseball, and I always wanted to be just like him.  John would spend endless hours teaching me how to hit a ball at the batting cages.  John always included me.  What a cool brother I had.  There was nothing I did not look up to John for.

John was a sentimental person who loved giving gifts that were meaningful, not just something bought from the store.  Growing up, John used to make things for my mom, dad, and I and always had a special presentation when giving them to us.  His face would light up with the biggest smile. 

When Wes and I moved off to Washington State, I did not take my dog Furby with me because I did not know if I would be able to keep him in military base housing.  John took Furby and told me not to worry, he was taken care of.  John would occasionally record video of Furby and all the cats.  He would make the DVD case into a card and send them to me to watch.  He never wanted me to miss Furb, but rather have lots of memories to watch.  John loved his cat, Bootsie.  Bootsie had to be one of the grouchiest cats I have ever met in my life, and she growled at everyone who petted her, except John.  Bootsie knew that John was someone special.  John had a special bond with all animals.  All of his dogs went everywhere with him.  Customers knew Furby and Bucky as well as they knew John.  Those dogs followed John like his shadow and never had to be put on a leash.  I have always heard that dogs were man's best friend.  Dogs love unconditionally, just like God.  Dog is God spelled backwards and for a reason.  There is no wonder that the dogs were always drawn to John.  John was an angel and the animals could sense that. 

John was a wonderful person.  There was one time in my life that stands above the rest when John was my very best friend.  I was in a car accident when I was 15.  I had to have my head shaved due to the head injury I had.  When I came out of a coma, I felt my head and said, "don't let me be stupid looking."  John would not allow me to feel stupid.  He went home that night and shaved his head.  He came back to the hospital and let me feel his head and showed me that we matched.  While I was recovering, John would continue to shave his head to make it look like mine was growing faster.  John would come to me every week and show me how short his hair still was.  He would say to me, "See Lindsay.  Your hair is growing fast."  He would take me out to dinner, just the two of us, for beating him in our hair growing contest.  John always had ways to show me how special I was to him.

John is now in Heaven taking care of all the animals.  He is there with Grandpa Red, Grandma Johnson, Grandpa George, and Troy.  He is there, reunited with Furby 1, Bootsie 1, Bojy, Scooter, Yeyyo, and the many other critters he tended to here on earth.  If he could speak to us today, I imagine he would say to us:

                                                  Do not weep for me when I am gone
                                                 For I have friends in the great beyond.
                                                    All the little animals I used to feed
                                                  Will come to me in my time of need.
                                                They will purr and bark in great delight,
                                                    And I will hold and hug them tight.
                                                    Oh what a great day that will be
                                                When my furry friends all welcome me.

We never know where life will take us.  All that we do know is that our God is an amazing God whom has a plan far greater than any we could come up with on our own.  It is not our place to question this plan of His, but rather just trust in it.  A friend of mine once told me:

 Don't search for the answers which could not be given to you now because you would not be able to live them.  Live the questions now - perhaps then someday far into the future you will gradually, without even knowing it, live your way into the answer.

I challenge all of you today to not seek out the answers, but rather live out your lives the way John would.  We need to carry out the mission John had here on earth, and that is to love one another and care for one another whole heartedly without judgment.  We need to care for the animals, just as John did.  John was an angel to every animal on this earth.  John did such a good job as an animal angel that God needed him as a full-time angel.

 I started this eulogy with the title of:

John, my brother, my hero, my shining star.

John is much more than that today.  God has given John a job to watch over all of us and to see that his mission is carried out by everybody, so that John's goodness could be shared by everyone.

John is my brother, my hero, my shining star, and now John is my angel.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Prince Charming BOWed Me On My 29th Birthday!

Wes is my Prince Charming.  There is no doubt about that.  He always knows how to wow me, or in this case BOW me!  Birthdays and Anniversaries have always been big in our house.  It is our opportunity to knock each other off our feet.  Since we don't have kids, we've always been able to do that.  One year, Wes surprised my mom and I on my birthday by buying us a full spa day at the Coeur d' Alene resort in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho.  He woke us up early in the morning, presented us with the nicest plush robes and a certificate he had printed himself.  We were pampered all day there, served lunch in a room that overlooked Coeur d' Alene Lake (surrounded by mountains of course), and then had our hair and makeup done just in time for Wes to pick us up and take us to a nice dinner at a seafood restaurant that overlooked the Spokane River.  The next year Wes was deployed, but that didn't stop him from doing it again.  This time he bought us full spa days at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA.  One year, we rented a cabin on the side of Silver Mountain in Kellogg, Idaho, biked the entire mountain, and went to the outdoor Brad Paisley concert on top of the mountain.  The list goes on with the fun things we do for birthdays and anniversaries.  This year was no different.  A friend of mine told me about the Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, Virginia.  Not only is it a beautiful area, the winery is DOG FRIENDLY and it's only a short drive from our house!  Barrel Oak Winery is called BOW for short, and very appropriately so!

As expensive as this beautiful place may sound, it was not.  We got a deal online through Capital Deals for a wine tasting, cheese and crackers for two for only $25.  Since moving to Northern Virginia, we have learned to love wine.  I never drank wine before moving here, but learned to appreciate the taste of it and learned quite a bit about it.  How could we not?  Northern Virginia is like wine country on the East Coast and everybody here is a wine-o!  There are wineries galore here.

As we walked into a nice rustic atmosphere, a pleasant gentleman greeted us, but not before first greeting Topher and Tanker.  These people clearly love dogs!  The atmosphere was clearly created by dog lovers.  People don't go to BOW to drink wine.  They go to BOW because they can bring their dogs with them to drink wine.  Could we have gone to a more perfect place for my birthday?  I think not!

Because it was such a beautiful day, we chose to do our wine tasting at the outdoor bar.  We faced the mountains as the cool breeze tickled our skin.  It was nothing short of perfect.

Topher and Tanker waiting patiently for us to get our seat at the bar and start our wine tasting.

We had dog paw beanie bags to hold our sheets down that told us about the wine we were tasting.

We tasted red wines, white wines, rose wines, an interesting wine that was a combination of red and white, and then we had two amazing dessert wines.  Our package came with a $20 credit towards a bottle of wine.  We couldn't just buy one, so we got four!

We purchased the Peanut's Petit Cuvee 2010, BOWHaus White 2009, The Chocolate Lab, and Late Harvest Vidal Blanc.

The BOWHaus White was my favorite.  It is light, fruity, sunshine in a glass!  A blend of Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier grapes.  Riesling reminiscent and their most popular wine.

The Peanut's Petit Cuvee 2010 is an intriguing blend of red and white grapes.  Spritely and fun, just like its namesake.  Meant to be enjoyed chilled.  The server described this wine as a white wine trying to be red, or a red wine trying to be a white wine.  It was an interesting taste, but delicious indeed!

Peanut's Petit Cuvee 2010 is named after one of the owner's rescue dogs.  The back label tells you about the dog and encourages people to adopt.

One of Wes' favorite, the Late Harvest Vidal Blanc is a dessert wine.  A dessert all by itself!  Their first 100% estate grown wine, LHBC is full of tropical aromas, complemented by a honey sweetness.  Great over peaches and plums, or paired with a smooth panna cotta.

Wes' absolute favorite was The Chocolate Lab.  A beautifully crafted and totally unique dessert wine.  Port style Chambourcin infused with cocoa nibs.

The wine bottles had dog prints on the top with the initials BOW or Barrel Oak Winery.  Woof Woof!!

We got to keep our wine tasting glasses.

It was all wrapped up in paw print tissue paper.

And packed up in a BOW bag!

Do you see why we loved this winery so much!  They love dogs!  And they had great wine!  You can't beat dogs and wine!  After we finished our tasting, we moved onto our cheese platter.

Please give me some cheese.  See the drool?  Just half the plate.  That's all.

You can set it down in the grass right in front of me.

You can't get much more romantic than this!  Dog paws on the wine bottle!  I love it!!!!

 Topher was less than thrilled because I used a Halti Gentle Leader on him knowing that there would be other dogs there and that I would be drinking wine.  He did EXCELLENT with all the other dogs.  Not a peep out of him.  He was not a cattle dog, he was a therapy dog!  I think he enjoyed his outing, despite the gentle leader.

Devising a plan to steal the cheese!

Back inside, the atmosphere was dog friendly as well.  BOW was a green facility and they loved their dogs!  I love this place!

Dog jewelry and gifts!

Dog treats!

Topher and Tanker just rested while we enjoyed ourselves.

What is a wine dog??  Is it like a therapy dog for a wine-o?  In that case, Tanker and Topher are the world's smartest wine dogs.

An Australian Cattle Dog in the Wine Dog book.

Another ACD!

A border collie wine dog!

I bought a couple of these books.  How could I resist?  It benefits animal rescue!

Topher was such a good boy.

As we left, I snapped a few more pictures.

Free fresh herbs!

Oh my, the smell of wine is starting to make me sleepy!

Too many wine smells.  I am passed out!

As you can see, we had a great time celebrating my 29th birthday!  Yes, Wes and I are officially NoVa wine-o's!  We will definitely be going back to Barrel Oak Winery in the future.  Hopefully we'll be taking the puppies next time!  In fact, Wes just found a deal for wine tasting at five wineries for two for only $65!  We also found out that Potomac Point Winery, here by our house, is also pet friendly, but only in the outdoor seating.  I love living in dog friendly Northern Virginia!

Please take me next time.  I want to be a wine dog!

We met a lot of nice people while at the winery.  One lady that we talked to is a Nurse Practitioner at a Cardiology Practice.  She also volunteers at a free clinic for the uninsured.  She was really interested in having therapy dogs come into the free clinic to help people who were distressed.  She loved Tanker and Topher!  That is the population of people we focus on in our therapy dog work (homeless/psychiatric/special needs/and less fortunate), so Wes and I were excited when she asked to exchange numbers.  I am going to call her this week about volunteering in the clinic with the dogs.

In case that wasn't enough for celebrating turning 29, Wes took me on Sunday to get the paw print tattoo I have been wanting.  I have the ladybug tattoo on my right wrist in memory of John, my brother.  The purple dog paw tattoo on my left wrist is to symbolize our efforts in carrying out his mission. 

The purple paw tattoo is on the other arm from my ladybug tattoo in memory of John. The purple paw print is not only the symbol of the Animal Rescue Site, which promotes adoption and animal rescue like John did and we continue to do, but it is also symbolic of our purpose in therapy dog work. Dog is a reflection of God. We love others and appreciate diversity. Dogs love regardless of sex, race, creed, social class, disability, cultural background, sexual orientation, what you've done in the past, who you are, where you live, etc. A dog can look into a person's heart and see the true person, just as God does. That is our purpose in therapy dog work. It is what God showed us through John's life on Earth and through his death. That is what we continue to spread to others through dogs.

Wes and I started seeing ladybugs everywhere after John died, including the day after he passed away and the anniversary of his death. We also saw theme when we were working on his boat, ladybugs in San Francisco in December, at my Grandma's house in MO, on my mom's birthday, in my dreams, etc. I also have had a dream and a sighting from John with him telling me about his walk with God.  The ladybug is a reminder of the things my brother told me.

The coolest part about getting my tattoo done was the guy who did it.  He was very nice.  His was an Air Force brat growing up.  His best friend, who he met in Hawaii, had been murdered last week.  He said he had done a lot of memory tattoos this week and he felt that God had touched his life with each one.  He loved hearing about John's story and how we were using his death in our work with the dogs.  He only charged us half price for my tattoo.  Of course, we couldn't accept that, so we tipped him well.  It's amazing the people you meet when you open your heart up to others.  Coincidence??  I think not!

Wes wants to eventually get a matching paw print tattoo on his right arm, but he wants to include the American Flag with it because that was something special between him and John.  This is Wes' ladybug tattoo that matches mine and that he got with me on the anniversary of John's death.

John showed Ford Mustangs when he was alive.  The first one he showed was a 1986 Mustang that he and my dad rebuilt starting when John was 14.  He then rebuilt an '89 Mustang that he showed.  The Mustang he showed when he passed away was a 1993 Ford Cobra.  Wes loved working with John on his Mustang.  The Mustang emblem is symbolic of John when he was alive, and the ladybug on it is symbolic of John's spirit after death.

My 29th birthday was the best birthday yet...spent with my Prince Charming and my two little Prince Charmings (Topher and Tanker).  It will be better when I can include the two wild women (Bella and Shiloh), but as of now, they are too wild to go to any place with alcohol.  At five months of age, they would do better in a cowboy bar, not in a sophisticated winery.  Joking, of course.  Barrel Oak Winery would be a great place to take the puppies to expose them to sights, sounds, and smells.  I think I have them obedience trained enough to take them there soon.

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