The Purpose of her Existence

Michele & Zeus

Michele Newman has faced death, loss, and immense hardship. What’s kept her here is the fact she knows her life has purpose.

Michele rescues senior dogs. I met her when she rescued a dog name Hooch. He had spent 10 years on a chain. We connected instantly and then she went quiet for a long time. I recently asked her what had happened. This was her response:

“Without the dogs in my life there would be no me. That’s a fact. It is only through all the innocent souls who not only looked forward to me going into the shelter every day but those who needed me to pull them to safety into my rescue group to spend their last days, weeks or months, that gave my life true meaning.

In October 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a lumpectomy. Eighteen months later my husband Bill and I went to a doctor who diagnosed me with infertility. Bill left me on the spot and never talked, touched or looked at me again.

A month later I tested positive for BRCA, a genetic disorder. A year later I had a hysterectomy and just months after that, had a double bilateral mastectomy. An infection ensued and I was rushed into surgery because of a hematoma.

All this time I had no one. But I did have my dogs, all old souls counting on me as much as I needed them. I reached out to a couple of girls at work and without hesitation, they came. One took the keys to my house and promised to take care of the dogs, while the other reminded me that my pups needed me to be strong and focused. Another girl and her boyfriend stayed in the hospital and waited out my surgery. Tina, Laurie, & Rose acted how I only wish all of humanity would act toward one another- with a kind heart and selfless soul.

After the surgery I became deathly ill and was placed under the care of infectious disease doctors who placed a PIC line in me to receive treatments. But one night I couldn’t breathe and dialed 911. An ambulance rushed me to the hospital and I had emergency surgery to find out my gallbladder was gangrene. The surgeon told me it had most likely been dead for seven months. I’d used my life reserve to stay alive.

After that, I had seven surgeries to rid my body of the infection and scar tissue. I had skin graphs and spacers placed to help relieve some pressure from my chest.

While going through all this I lost six of my dogs, Rilee, Mikey D, Brooklyn, Kane, Flower, and Mya. Pushing on without them was near to impossible – and so my fight continued for the others.

I did my grieving in silence. I didn’t want pity and believed if I talked about it, it would take root. So my mission was to cleanse my body of all negativity and to believe that God’s plan was for me to share my story to inspire those around me not to dwell on the sadness. So I grieved my losses with my dogs around me and it was ONLY through them and their unconditional love that I was able to achieve happiness. I owe them my life!”

Photo: Michele with Zeus.

Tattoos: The name of every dog who loved her through her medical journey.

Charity:  Senior Animal Medical Aid Fund:

A Miracle for Thanksgiving

Four years ago this week I adopted this special girl and named her Honey because of her sweet nature. She came to the Dogs’ Refuge Home of WA after being hurt by someone.

The veterinarian said she had suffered blunt force trauma and was permanently blind in one eye. That didn’t bother her. And, well, I loved her immediately.

A year ago Honey lost her hearing and her only working eye began to cloud over, her vision obstructed by a cataract. Her quality of life changed dramatically. She began to bump into things, slept a lot, and lost muscle strength.

My husband and I took her to an eye specialist and were told she could have cataract surgery but there was a risk. Although it was slight, a side effect of cataract surgery is sometimes glaucoma, causing irreversible blindness. So we made a conscious choice to wait until she had nearly lost all sight before the operation.

Two weeks ago my darling 13 year-old was delivered into the arms of a veterinary eye specialist and her cataract was removed. It was touch and go for a week. She got an ulcer and then an eye infection. But today I share with you the moment Honey and I both realized she could see again! Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude for dogs, veterinarians, rescuers and the man who paid the bill!

Archie the Ambassador

Archie the globetrotting ambassador

Archie the globetrotting ambassador

From a rough life with convicted criminals to shedding his light as a globetrotting ambassador! Meet Archie.

I had the privilege of his smile and company while visiting my friend Cynthia recently. Cynthia’s the U.S. Consul General in Perth, Australia. She asked me over to meet Archie and his guardian Marsha Lance who recently moved to Australia to work at the U.S. Consulate.

Archie, the most adorable Pom who definitely resembles Boo, had a rough start in Kentucky. His story is that he kept escaping, running away from his house. But, people with good intentions kept delivering him back. Finally, after his legal “owners” went to prison, he was released and… adopted by Marsha.

Welcome home Archie! It’s good to have your bubbly personality representing the United States in Australia!

Lesson #1: Some dogs run away for a reason.

Lesson #2: Everybody deserves a fresh start, especially Archie!

A Perfect Adoption

Muffin's Mom, Heidi

Fin’s Mom, Heidi

Muffin's Dad, Gary

Fin’s Dad, Gary

Favorite Fin! I keep a collection of photos of my fosters and ‪‎dogs‬ I’ve helped adopt.

These are two of my favorites. “Muffin” arrived at the SPCA of Hancock County in an RV. She was in a small, dirty cage. Her “owners” said she was crying all the time and they didn’t want her anymore as she was “ruining” their vacation.

Our director, Diana de los Santos, took her and watched as they drove away with another little dog in their RV.

Within hours the source of Muffin’s pain was determined; rotten teeth. We paid for the surgery and I became Muffin’s foster Mom. While I pampered her through her recovery, my friend Marion at Acadia Veterinary Hospital kindly posted an adoption plea to her clients. Three families were interested.

During the interview process it was clear to me that these two people were meant to bring her into their home. And they did! This is Heidi Burnham and Gary Rich. They own the Atlantean B&B in Bar Harbor, Maine (a B&B that was actually my first house when my family moved to Maine). As you can see, they like to hike!

This year they donated a portion of their proceeds to the SPCA for saving Muffin, now named Fin. I want to thank them and to also show you what a happy adoption looks like – all smiles.

If you get a chance, you could head to their Facebook page and thank them for adopting Fin and supporting the SPCA.

Here’s the link: Atlantean Cottage B&B

Representing the Voiceless

Representing the Human Society of the United States with Anita Coupe, meeting with Michael Sinacore, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Bruce Poliquin

Representing the Humane Society of the United States with Anita Coupe

At U.S. Capitol

At U.S. Capitol










Yesterday was a pivotal moment in my life. It was the day I took the step from working to save thousands of dogs and other animals each year to fighting for millions.

I am grateful to have been guided by The Humane Society of the United States longtime leader, Anita Coupe.

Together we met with legislative aides in the offices of Senators Collins and King and Representatives Poloquin and Pingree. These are the bills we asked them to co-sponsor and support:

Humane Cosmetics Act (HR2858)

Pets and Women Safety (PAWS) Act (S1559) (HR1258)

Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act (S1121) (HR3268)

Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S1214) (HR1942)

Wildlife Trafficking (S27) (S2494) (HR1945)

Prevent Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act (S1831) (HR2293)

Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S697)

Please help us get these animal and human protection acts passed by writing to your members of Congress and asking them to co-sponsor or support. Every one of these acts would stop HORRIFIC abuses against animals (the kind that haunt you). Let’s get this done together! ‪

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me on Facebook.

Teachers: Please get your students involved in government by looking up these Acts and discussing what they’re about.

Why We Do It

Scout: a happy reminder

Scout: a happy reminder

Finding your people and the ‪‎dog‬ who represents why you do it.

I’m in Washington in my new role as Chair of the The Humane Society of the United States Maine State Council. There are 200 people here with me at a leadership summit.

We’re all learning about the serious issues facing animals in our world and how to create and enact laws for protection.

Last night, as many of my colleagues were watching a film about the illegal dog meat trade in Asia called Eating Happiness, I received a burst of love from Scout.

Scout was destined for a brutal ending in Korea when Humane Society International helped a willing “farmer” shut down his dog meat operations.

Scout made it into the loving arms of a woman named Leslie Barcus.

Last night, he was the smiling, loving, happy reminder of why we do what we do.

Finding the Light



‎Tonight‬: I missed the ‪Pope‬ but found the light.

On my first night in ‪Washington‬ to begin my work with the The Humane Society of the United States, I went to Rosa Mexicano Restaurant for dinner. I was seated near a window and my view was of this man, in a wheelchair, pan-handling.

His name is Andre. As I watched the passersby, I noticed that he was smiling, at everyone. Intrigued by his light, I invited him to have dinner with me. And that’s when he told me his story. He said I could share it with you.

When Andre was 37 years-old, he was working as a security guard. On his way home from work one night he was robbed by six men wearing ski masks. After they robbed him, they shot him six times. He lived but became a paraplegic.

Perhaps the saddest part of the story, he says, is that his best friend, high on drugs, was one of the people who shot him. That person, he said, is now in prison doing 45+ years without parole.

I asked him if he had any advice for people.

He said his advice is for young people. “When your parents and friends tell you to stay away from someone, there’s a reason for it. Stay away from them. Stay away from drugs and people who do drugs.”

Andre told me that he’s not homeless but that he pan-handles to pay his mortgage. And, he needs extra money for pet food. Because, you see, he helps the homeless dogs and cats in his neighborhood. Why doesn’t that surprise me?

Andre. Best dinner date I’ve had in a long time!

Mission Accomplished

Mission accomplished! Two years ago, after witnessing abuse and neglect of monkeys while on vacation on a remote island in Indonesia, I called upon the management of my hotel to create change. As many of you know, I spent my vacation happily releasing nine of the monkeys back into the jungle from which they had been taken. I also worked to build proper enclosures with enrichment for the remaining three monkeys, geese, and a special porcupine.

I’d cut a deal. At the time there was no choice. The hotel would release nine monkeys back into the wild if three stayed. My condition was that the three that stayed must have the chains cut from their necks and they must be free to roam in their enclosure. The hotel agreed and also offered to let the geese out of their concrete enclosure during the day to roam the property and swim in its pond.  Many of the staff were so happy with the changes they greeted me by slapping their heart with their hand while calling me, “monkey lady”.

Six months after these changes, I received an email from the hotel’s manager, Agus Tabah, telling me that the remaining monkeys and geese had been released permanently.

But… I still worried about the porcupine. He was so grateful to me after I brought him a hollow log to live in. We established a friendship during my time there. He was blind from exposure to the harsh sun, confined to a wire mesh cage with only rice to eat and water that dropped into a seashell when it rained. When I greeted him every few hours with fresh fruit, he ran to me and nuzzled my finger. I fell in love with his soul.

The other day I found myself thinking about him and started to cry. I felt like I’d let him down when I left. So I called Agus and asked him about my friend, the porcupine. And that’s when he proudly said, “Jennifer, all of the animals on the property, with the exception of one horse, have new homes. They are all fine.”

Joy! Mission accomplished!

There were many before me who complained of the conditions at the hotel’s makeshift zoo. Because many of you sent emails to the hotel, Mr. Tabah was compelled to follow his own heart and continue the work we started.

Why this update? Because some people don’t think their voice makes a difference. It always does, whether it’s a signature on a petition, an email sent, or a call to your senator/representative/member of parliament. When more than one raises his or her voice against what is wrong, change is created.

I promised the Jayakarta Hotel in Flores, Indonesia that the day they created a kind campus, I would promote them.

As a reward for creating positive change, please consider going over to their page and thanking them with a note that says; “The monkey lady sent me.  Thank you for your kindness to animals.”

Here’s their link: Jayakarta Hotel


My friend, the porcupine

My friend, the porcupine

Transport back to the jungle

Transport back to the jungle

Cutting the chains

Cutting the chains

IMG_0853 2

Moments before leaving for the jungle. Holding up the chains that had been cut from their necks.

Hotel Manager, Agus Tabah. The man who said "yes" to change. At the release site.

Hotel Manager, Agus Tabah. The man who said “yes” to change. At the release site.

Release site

Release site

The geese. Once confined to this enclosure with only rice and sporadic periods of water. Now free.

The geese. Once confined to this enclosure with rice and water given sporadically. Now free.

Release site

Release site

The moment of freedom.

The moment of freedom.

The Wave of Compassion


As I sat on a beach in Victoria, Australia the other day, admiring the dramatic limestone stacks known as the Twelve Apostles, a sense of euphoria washed over me. I was thinking about the notable shift happening in our world. The stacks have been crumbling, succumbing to the strength of the sea. Similarly, the houses in the world built on greed are collapsing against waves of compassion. An army of caring people is building, activating.

As I inhaled the salty air from the Southern Ocean, I thought of just a few of the dramatic changes that have happened so far in 2015:

-Barnum & Bailey Circus has promised to, at long last, retire its elephants.

-The Greyhound racing industry in Australia came to a halt when undercover video exposed leaders illegally baiting dogs with live animals. Sponsors have pulled money, trainers have been banned for life and the entire board of Greyhound Racing Australia NSW was dismissed.

-The city of Madrid, Spain announced that it would no longer euthanize homeless dogs.

-The city of Nashville, Tennessee voted to make it illegal to chain dogs indefinitely.

-In Alabama, a convicted animal abuser received a 99-year jail sentence. Goodbye!

-The city of Palm Beach, Florida banned wild animals for private parties/events.

-Three of the largest food providers; Compass Group, Sodexo, and Aramark announce plans to go cage-free for chickens in the USA.

-Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts announced cage and crate-free policies for hens and sows.

-Shane Rattenbury, a politician, introduced legislation in Australia to ban puppy and kitten farming in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT.) The Domestic Animals (Breeding) Legislation Amendment Bill passed unanimously!

When people gather to do good things, good things happen. Please keep signing petitions, emailing legislators, writing letters to judges, contacting newspaper and television reporters, and supporting charities. Thank you for being part of the wave of compassion.

Photo: Blaine Zuver

Love Has No Boundaries

LOVE is not defined by size or shape.  I love the Divinity of Dogs Facebook page because of its fans. They’re crazy for dogs and are always eager to help make the world a better place for them. But every now and then a nasty comment pops up out of nowhere like a dark cloud. This week someone posted a comment about a photo of my dogs saying: “Pretty little Hand bag Dogs, but just pretty. Not real Dogs, stop this silly fluffy stuff.”

Her unenlightened comment has prompted me to tell you a story.

It’s a special week in my house. It’s the annual week that everyone came home. Honey is on the right and she’s pure sweetness. Honey’s blind in one eye and is deaf. She’s showing early signs of kidney failure. I think she’s about 13 years old. I rescued her three years ago this week from the pound where she was patiently waiting for someone to claim her. But they didn’t. On the left, the guy with the under bite is Sunny. Sunny joined the family two years ago after being dropped off at the Dogs’ Refuge Home.   The person who delivered him, a Nanny, said she’d been told to get rid of him “before the children got home.”  She said he’d lived outside for the first year and a half of his life by himself and had never been allowed inside.  He was matted. He hadn’t been trained or loved. He didn’t know what another dog was and he didn’t trust people. In the middle of this photo is a little dog named Happy. She didn’t look like this when I met her. She looked like one of the worst neglect cases that are now all too commonly seen on Facebook. She was matted, flea-infested, riddled with ear and tooth infections, was loaded with mammary cancer and was suffering from 30 minute-long epileptic seizures. She’d run away from her abusers seven times over a period of eight weeks, each time ending up at the dog pound only to be returned to her house of hell by a well-meaning dogcatcher. But the last time she was taken back, her abusers were asked to pay the pound fees. They refused, throwing this tiny dog into the air and kicking her like a football into the street.

When I walked into the Refuge one Saturday morning to walk dogs, this precious gift looked at me with excitement and screamed telepathically, “It’s you! Finally! Come get me out of here!” I did as I was told and the rest is an even longer story. But you’ve got the picture. Happy joined the family one year ago. She was not expected to live the full year but here she is and she’s going strong.

I choose to rescue dogs and they always bring extraordinary gifts into my world. Honey has injected sweetness into my life. Sunny has been converted into a cuddler, and Happy… Happy is my joy.

Love has no boundaries. Anyone who has known the love of another species knows this truth. –Jennifer Skiff

Sunny, Happy, Honey

Sunny, Happy, Honey