The Cats and Dogs of Summer

Summertime and the living-is easy-so an old song went.  As much as you, your cat or dog may enjoy summer, don’t forget it’s a bit more challenging for them. wpid-20150122_073016.jpgDuring the summer our pets join us as we walk, bike, run, barbecue, go to the beach and have 4th of July parties. With all these joys, however, come some attendant risks: heat exhaustion, sunburn, tick/fleas, roundworms and heartworms, skin and ear infections, and other injuries.  Here’s help to combat some of the most common problems.

Dogs having their sun-day:  Occasionally the sun is not our friend, so to shave or not to shave is the $1M question. Canines also sustain painful burns and potential skin cancer. Our dog’s fur naturally regulates their body’s temperature in the heat of summer.  Therefore, shaving your dog interferes with this system. This is why vets recommend that you leave an inch of fur regardless. Some dogs are more susceptible: white dogs tend to have fair skin underneath all their hair and thus greater sunburn potential.  Pups with naturally thin hair and especially hairless breeds are considered at-risk for sunburn and skin cancer.  All dogs can sunburn on the belly, the nose, and the ears. Sunscreen?  Yes, but there is only one FDA-approved one; Epi-Pet Sun Protector.  A homemade concoction with essential oils and other natural ingredients can help (see the below link, DIYers and check out the list of foods to help sun-proof him ‘from the inside out’):

Provide shade for your dog and allow for plenty of shade breaks.  He’ll instinctively seek it out. Avoid walking him from 1-4:00 pm when the heat is highest.  Remember, if the asphalt is hot enough to burn your feet, it can burn his paw pads!   Apply sunscreen liberally to the sensitive areas and be on the lookout for sunburn signs with your pooch.  His nose ears and tummy will show overexposure first: dry, cracked skin and curling at the edges of his ears, constant scratching in tender places accompanied by a whimper, and pulling away if you try to pet him are signs-even fever from too much sun.  First aid of an oatmeal bath using lukewarm water and rolled oats ground into a powder can soothe the burned skin, or a few drops of neem oil added to his bathwater.   A dog’s signs of heat stress are heavy panting, dry or bright red gums, thick drool, vomiting/diarrhea.  Normal dog temperature is between 100 and 103 degrees.  Over 104 is the danger zone ; 106 or higher-fatal.

Felines in the Sun.  How about shaving our feline friends?  According to Mark J. Stickney, DVM, clinical associate professor and director of general surgery services at Texas A&M University’s veterinary medical teaching hospital, cats have a pretty good built-in bodily temperature regulating system, and truly do not benefit from being shaved.   Kitty is NOT cooler temperature or fashion-wise just because you shave her to look like a lion.
imageIt’s far more important to keep her safe by allowing her to be beautiful just the way she is.  If she will be outside, sunscreen around her eyes, belly and on her nose will also help.


Cats don’t tolerate heat any better than dogs.  They can only get rid of excess heat by panting or sweating through their foot pads.  As their body temperature rises, the cat will suffer heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke.  Serious organ damage or death is the result of persistent high body temperature.  Signs are: restless behavior (trying to find a cool spot); panting, sweaty feet, drooling, or excessive grooming.  Escalation of heat exhaustion brings rapid pulse/breathing: redness of tongue and mouth, vomiting, lethargy, and a stumbling, staggering gait.  If high enough, your cat’s temperature will cause her to collapse and have seizures or slip into a coma.  Temperature >105=vet’s immediate attention.  Certain cat breeds have low heat tolerance, like short-faced (e.g., Persians) or obese cats.   Keep your cat inside on very hot days.

Fleas and ticks are especially bothersome for cats and dogs alike in summer.  Flea collars or good but topical prescription drugs are superior-ensure they have both.  Flea-proof your house if necessary.  Ask your vet about the appropriate products to use for your cat or your dog.  Some prescription products, such as Revolution (selamectin), not only kill adult fleas but can be used to treat ear mites and ticks, and helps to control roundworms and hookworms in cats.

Roundworms and heartworms enter your pet’s system through the pads on his or her feet (or in small animals he/she eats).  Dogs are natural heartworm hosts but cats are not, and once a cat is infected, there is no known cure-prevention is everything.  Foxes and coyotes, wild species which live in proximity to many urban areas, are natural heartworm carriers.  Protect your cat/dog by annual testing and give your pet heartworm preventive medicine 12 months a year.  Many heartworm preventives also control roundworms.  Ask your vet which treatment is appropriate.

Special Concerns:  Cats and dogs should always have cool water on hand and a cool, shady place to unwind.  It’s a sad reminder, but please please please do not EVER leave your dog or your cat in the car.  Take them inside with you or leave them at home in cool safety!  At the BBQ: don’t share these scraps with your dog or cat and avoid using charcoal briquettes, which can cause serious health problems for either from ingestion, and perhaps a case of perionitis.  Finally keep BOTH cats and dogs far away from firecrackers and remember to clean up the trash left behind to prevent accidental ingestion and possible death.

Summer can be challenging for our cats and dogs, but it doesn’t have to.  Be heat, tick/flea and roundworm/heartworm-aware, and Summer 2015 will be one of your best!

FailCon: Atlanta’s chance to learn from entrepreneurs


What if you wanted to start your own business, but wanted to avoid some of the most common pitfalls involved in doing so? You would attend FailCon! May 21st 2015, I was fortunate enough to do just that: hear from experienced entrepeneurs on what works, what doesn’t, and why. Friends of Failure sponsors General Assembly, Swarm Agency, Bartdorf & Bronson, Verse Brand Strategy,
Saunders Law Group, Nyra Group and Eventbrite hosted FailCon Atlanta 2015. FailCon is a refreshing premise: lessons learned + community accountability in sharing them. Amber Saunders, one of FailCon’s co-producers stated that “…we want to change the conversation on failure”.

Ironically, our Failcon began with a power fail at The General Assembly complex on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta, an emerging, beautiful and spacious multi-use business space that will soon boast a plethora of foodie restaurants However, the alert producers and General Assembly building staff quickly moved our gathering to another classroom and all was fine shortly thereafter.

Dana Severson, CEO of Startups Anonymous, and Kathleen Kurell of Fusion Advisors were our morning speakers. Using distinctly different styles, Dana and Kathleen alternatively challenged us, entertained with wit and candor while delivering important lessons and moved us to tears. While Dana gave us 5 rules of success and followed them up with 5 hard truths, Kathleen gave us a highly personal account of how her very different and impressive talents led her to, then away from the corporate world. She shared with us how business ownership “…helps us meet ourselves”.

The first half of the day was capped by a panel discussion on the definition of failure and proactive measures to minimize its fallout and maximize its advantages and an audience Q&A. Our panel was led by Jeffri Epps, Consultant Brand Planner with Latham & Company, and Brownell Landrum of DrawSuccess and Tia Buckham-White of Notre Internationale participated in a lively discussion. Brownell shared insights from one of her three books (“Five Reasons Why Bad Things Happen”) and how a restaurant business which didn’t go exactly as planned lled her to greater accomplishments and how to lead others to success. Tia discussed the essential entrepreneurial element of self-awareness and how her business helps those in leadership positions confront and rectify unealthy emotional patterns and other distractions that are prevent them from achieving success.

Swarm’s CEO Tim Ellis opened the afternoon session and outlined the stages of a business life cycle and the various iterations a new company goes through with them. This set the context for his discussions on his approach of having his team work with the client’s team to deliver an exceptional product.

Tim was followed by Kevin Sandlin, Founder of Atlanta Tech Blogs and General.Assembly Instructor. Kevin’s wryly self-deprecating expose of 7 past ‘start-up fails’ (strange business names, failure to let go of nonworking partnerships and a moving story of a personal failure),  made us laugh (a lot!) but also made us examine our own past personal and business actions simultaneously.

Brian Rudolph, Verizon’s Digital Marketing Leader was our final individual presenter. Because Brian has worked with many of the world’s largest brands (United Airlines, CVS) he has truly witnessed some epic online media fails. Some of the examples he shared will live forever in our collective memories for their bad taste, poor timing, or general cluelessness. His unforgettable anecdotal evidence perfectly illustrated his social media advice such as “right-time” vs. “Real-time” marketing.

Bronwyn Morgan and Bem Joiner from Atlanta’s Center for Civic Innovation led the concluding panel discussion that opened a frank discussion about income inequality in our city and entrepreneurship’s obligation to help alleviate it, and the political and economic realities that hinder progress.  Far from ending the conference on a negative note, this discussion opened up the energy and idea flow necessary to begin some of the really hard work ahead. Our discussion reconfirmed the necessity of individual citizens/business owners of participating as active and helping community members; if we all don’t legislate for change, progess can’t happen.

The Failcon presenters delivered many elements of some common themes: possibility and one’s faithfulness to it, the essential entreprenurial toolkit of passion, drive, self-deprecating humor, emotional and physical stamina, a tight “inner court”, and self knowledge. As I build my own business, I marvel at the toughness of those who have failed and then recovered, for “if you aren’t failing, you’re not succeeding”.   I hope to see this event grow in 2016 to proportionately reflect the large and diverse Atlanta entreprenurial community. If you’re one of them don’t miss the chance!


The Covington Depot 1934

As told to Denise Berry by Sidney L. Berry

Come back with me, to a little town named Covington, Georgia, on the back side of the railroad track that ran (and still runs)through it.  At that time, our family was father Jim, mother Ada, and three children:  Catherine, James and your author Sidney.

Life in Covington and many other locations in America at this time is tough.  There are no regular jobs, only temporary ones: one-of-a-kind, low-paying gigs.  Mother Ada and Dad Jim and constantly striving to make ends meet: meals of biscuits and lard are so common that we are all very surprised when there is anything else.  It is different with the children: they play on their swing made with a rope and an old tire.  One year was different: we all received new toys.  Sid’s was a bright shiny red wagon.  Brother James was more aggressive in play and told Sid, “I’ll make your wagon run faster down this steep hill.”  He did and after he sailed to the bottom of the hill, James crashed and ruined the new toy.

We moved a lot in those days, often when the rent was overdue.  Several different times we all showed up on Grandmother Berry’s or Grandmother Holley’s porch.  I can remember most of them and the experience was primarily pleasant.  We children never could decipher the pain behind the adults’ smiles: only years later did I learn that mother Ada suffered from pellagra.

Somewhere in the midst of the frequent middle-of-the-night packings and refugee escapes, and the treks back to the parental homes, something wonderful happened.  Jim entered a legal contract with the Atlanta bread company’s Colonial Bakery.  The furnished Jim with a new truck and a bread route.  Each morning at 3:00 AM Jim drove to the Covington Depot and loaded up his truck with bread, rolls, cakes and pies.  My father charmed the housewives on his route, in his true element as he hawked the baked goods to all who would listen.  His friends joked “Jim could sell a pair of pants to a corpse”.   Each day his route would cover 100 miles or so and he would deliver his products to a very pleasant and small country store.  My greatest thrill was riding with him to serve his route.  His rapport with owners was excellent and they bought any amount of his products without prior approval.

Not content with being an outstanding salesman, Jim teased his customers.  In one instance he bet a shop owner “I can tell you how many seeds are in this watermelon without cutting it”.  The owner agreed to the bet and Jim proceeded to drop the melon on the ground only to see it burst open.  Everyone laughed.  It was all in good fun, because Jim just wanted to see the smiles on their faces.

For once in her life, mother Ada was having the time of her life.  She loved the old rented house we lived in, with its outdoor porch.  She sang a lot in those days.  Her garden, chickens and ducks provided good nutrition for the family.  She was also our first teacher about Jesus Christ, Bible reading, and the old hymns.  Hearing the words to some of these is still a wonderful memory for me at 88.  All of the family was happy and enjoyed our life in Oxford, Georgia: a small town full of tidy homes, old growth magnolia trees, picket fences and among other things, a Junior College (now known as Emory University).

At this time I had a fun-filled life, including being a radio announcer in a Christmas Play at PalmerStone Grammar School.  I played hookey many days each month because the gorgeous warm days, blue skies and sense of adventure beckoned where the small cloistered schoolrooms did not.  I wanted all of my little friends to come visit me and I would do all sorts of things to impress one of them, including dipping my hair in road tar so that he would laugh.

Our school burned down one day-we never found out how or why.  Emory University allowed us to use their classrooms until the school was rebuilt.  I chuckle today at being a student at Emory at Oxford at 7 years old.  Not every day went well.  Once I could not stand to remain in the classroom, so I sneaked out on all fours and left the room.  A smooth exit, I thought.  When I was sneaked back into the classroom later, a teacher whacked me on the behind.

Unfortunately the time at Oxford which seemed as though it would last forever, was slated to disappear.  The storm clouds of life began to gather.  America was still in the Great Depression and many other countries were unstable and threatened with a bleak future.  My family was told to move to Atlanta because Colonial Bakery’s management decided the outlying areas like Covington were unprofitable.  Dad had a choice to be moved to Atlanta or look for another job.  His answer was simple because no other work was available.  He rented a house on DeKalb Avenue in Atlanta and moved us there, with the exception of Catherine, who chose to live with Grandmother Holley in Alabama.  The rest of us children adjusted well and welcomed the new adventure.

For Ada, our new adventure was a nightmare.  dad’s salary wasn’t enough to pay expenses.  Food was barely adequate.  There was little money for clothes, school and rent.  Mom tried to cope with the deficit by sub-leasing two rooms to a couple.  The couple soon found they were incompatible and were the source of many bad feelings.

Dad also struggled.  He was an excellent salesman in the Colonial Program but wasn’t skilled with paperwork and headquarters discipline.  He was actually learning to write properly as he had not attended school for many years.  When he was provoked he had a horrific temper.  A supervisor confronted him with a deficiency on Friday.  Dad’s temper flared, he cursed the supervisor, and he was fired.  Now it was Christmas Eve, and the family had no money for anything, especially Christmas gifts, and there was very little food in the pantry.  Our family’s morale was very low; we were just plain sad and very frustrated.

The Inman Park Methodist Church was located less than a quarter mile from our house and previously the staff and church members learned about our family’s needs.  They responded to our needs by sending a very large contingent down the street that very evening, singing as they went, carrying Christmas gifts for all, food, and money.  They sang joyfully as they walked.  They even brought us a Christmas tree!  As quickly as it had settled upon us all, the gloom, even if just for a few minutes, lifted from our family’s faces.   My 8-year-old thoughts were: “I like these people.  They are having fun.  They have money.  I want to be one of them.”

This family boost led to Dad’s next job offer with Lee Baking Company in the West End of Atlanta and moving us to yet another rental house on Flora Avenue, Old Fourth Ward.  At this time Sister Catherine was still staying in Alabama, brother James was in his Junior High School year, and so am I.  Sisters Dorothy and Joan are in grammar school, and brothers Jack and John are not yet old enough for school.  Our family numbers seven.  Our humble Flora Avenue home, with its large oak trees and wooded back yard, served our family well for about a year.  A year later we moved across the street to a less expensive rental house.  By now brother James and I are earning spending and clothing money from our weekend jobs at A&P Supermarket in Little Five Points.  Now Sister Catherine has moved in, along with her young son Ronny and Cousin Ruby Cornelius.  Dorothy and Joan have moved on to Junior High School, and Brother Jack and Johnny are now in Grammar School.  As our family moves through its phases, the world is at War with Germany and Japan.

Good News: Antiageist Movement, Real Social Change

Its been a little while since I’ve written something that contains so much good news about real social change-about hope.  I am happy to break that long dry spell today.  I’ve  done a lot of networking in the last few months.   Socializing and connecting is so critical to success whatever stage your career may be at now. Besides you need to just to keep up with the hundreds of opportunities (career, social, philanthropic…)  going on daily in Atlanta!

Recently I went to the  EDGE Connection’s Champion Breakfast at Kennesaw State University and so encouraged by their community outreach and training to lift people out of poverty. Thankfully there is a burgeoning discussion now in the media about the new face of poverty and the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Georgia  has a photography exhibit, Profiles of Poverty.   If you are curious, look up the revealing slideshow by Joeff David/Thomas Wheatley.  The faces of poverty look like mine- yours- your neighbors’.  I am impressed with their multi-faceted approach-teaching us to be entrepreneurs by providing the tools to do so.

I also can’t  encourage unemployed people enough to attend seminars such as Saint Anne’s Church Career Outreach or Roswell United Methodist Church. There are others in the area. Simple acknowledgement of your struggles as a human being and discovering your possibilities is very powerful.

I was also so encouraged to hear of a new radical anti-ageist movement courtesy of Jane Gross’ column:

If we want to change the paradigm of >50=exclusion, this is one of the great ideas to shift the status quo. However we need much more of it-yesterday. I urge you to repost this blog if you want to be this change that our children will thank us for when they too age.

I hope your Friday brings you hope and  possibilities dreams, and the realization that every second is a divine appointment…an opportunity to make something or someone’s life better than it is right now.  Peace and blessings to you all.

Whose story shall I tell?

I know I am here to tell and write stories. I have known this since I was 8 years old and kept a very detailed journal. No one ever really told me what a journal was, but instinctively I knew that I had to record how I felt about things and situations and people.

As I try to perfect my faith walk, I struggle with whose story to tell. The current job and writing market forces one to choose a field. I have never felt more torn. First of all, I am dealing with two aging parents, and there are millions like them and like me who face the same struggles daily. I can’t help but think that if people could only identify with others and access their solutions, that these challenges would not seem insurmountable.

Also, there are millions of veterans in this country, several of whom I know personally. Their stories are our history lessons and our moral.compass. If their lot is ever going to change, we must allow them to expose the reality of their war experience. No one can comprehend their inner dialogue unless they have lived in the reality of war. It is very easy for people to romanticize and glamorize those who participate, because that is the way they deal with the harsh realities. Nothing could be further from the truth. The soldiers I know are uncomfortable with the title “hero”. They carry an enormous burden of guilt, shame, pain and trauma.

Finally and most importantly there is the daily question of growing in one’s faith. I do not state the faith itself as the question, for myself it is a fait accompli. However, everyday I ask myself questions. I ask how shall I follow You, I ask, to whom do You wish me to speak. I ask, what would You have me do? There is also a question of intercessory prayer for others. All of these subjects need to be addressed so that the maximum number of people can benefit from them.

As if this were not all enough, the market is flooded with would-be writers, people who want to tell stories, and even specific groups around the subjects I already mentioned. The obvious answer is to research everyone currently writing on these things and contact them. This is something I will do on a local and national level.

Another dream of mine is to have a consortium of such writers who are a positive writing force for the astounding amount of good that is being done in the world daily. The current news paradigm is, if it bleeds it leads. I want to reverse this paradigm. I know that is something that can never be done in my lifetime, I know all I can do is an attempt, but we must try. Nothing will ever change unless we try.

I am putting some wonderful links below so that you can sample some of the good that is already out there. If this blog has changed one person’s mind, then I have begun to do what I set out to achieve. If you are a writer, journalist, public speaker or any other individual who wishes to join me in this paradigm shift, please comment below.. I am looking forward to hearing from all of you, because I know you are out there. I cannot possibly be the only one voice. Together we will be heard.

Jane Gross,The New York Times

Mark Crumpler, Atlanta, Georgia

Ann Voskamp

Samuel Freedman, The New York Times

The Call

What does it take to be a true friend? How do you know when you have one and how do you know if you are being one?

Today I needed my friend. Sunday-the day of the week on which it is absolutely the hardest to be alone; the day when (during the time before my parents’ health declined) all of my family gathered for dinner at the parental home in Ellijay.  Fast-forward five years of both parents living in a different facility.


It had been three days since I’d last seen them, and all I could think of was what my mother must have been thinking as she lay in bed hour after hour after hour….when the door opened, what was she thinking: “… have they come to change me- is it time for dinner?”   Or: “maybe it’s one of my daughters…”  How did she eat today? Did she use her hands or a spoon? Was she blue, staring out at the pelting rain outside her window, where the cats wandered? Her mother used to call our monsoons “the dismal drearies”.  Her hospice nurse had said two weeks before “She’s trapped in her own body now.  She hasn’t begun the decline yet-but when she does, it’s going to be steep-there’s no need to continue the speech therapy.”

It’s rained here in the South for over a week now.


There was no stopping that train-my thoughts turned to what my Dad was thinking.  Is he wondering why I haven’t called him back about getting his cell phone turned back on? Did he go eat dinner tonight with the guys as usual? I wondered if he was fixing a drink alone, trying to decide whether he would use his oxygen tank or not, and if when he got short of breath, he was wondering if it was going to be his last. Most of all, I knew he was thinking about his upcoming 88th birthday and visiting a Japanese restaurant.   I didn’t make any reservations yet, because I hadn’t had a chance to see him face to face; often several simultaneous details in a telephone conversation confuse him). The clouds hung heavy in the sky like my mood: grave and shifting with every thought. More than anything I wanted to go see Mom and Dad. I knew I couldn’t, I don’t have a car.  The pattern became unbearable…I needed some relief.

I called my friend down on the coastline.  After about a half hour I realized the time was ticking away and I said, “I’m so sorry I’ve done nothing but cry on your shoulder for about an hour.”  There was a sharp intake of breath on the other line, and then I heard, “What!  I can’t believe you even said that!  Did you hear what you just said to me?”  She asked me, “ you even know what a good friend you are? Do you even know how many times I have whined and cried on your shoulder? She said, “you have no idea of what a good friend you are.  Now, go write something light and cheerful about what a friend is, and while you are doing it, remember all of the things you do to be a good friend”.  After we hung up, corpulent robins and a huge orange and black Oriole bounced through the wet grass nearby.  I noticed a sheaf of papery, large bright purple blooms twining themselves around a neighbor’s mailbox as I walked through the neighborhood.  A sharp breeze blew in and temporarily, the clouds passed.  As they flew, the sun blazed out, knifed through my gloom, a glimpse as brief as it was glorious.  My shoulders relaxed…the mood turned, cares temporarily banished.

That’s what a friend is. That’s what a friend does. She understood all of what was said, and more importantly all of what was unsaid.  Listening-encouraging-giving a person themselves back, no asking, no regrets, and always there-whether the call is at 3am or 3pm.


My mind was as cluttered as my current smartphone screen, on which innumerable text messages, e-mail and voicemail notifications clamored for my attention simultaneously.  I thought-“begone”! and with the swipe of my finger-they vanished.  I’d just had my taxes done and breathing in the exhausted relief of one who’d just completed a three hour exam on two hours’ sleep.  Capriciously, the skies shifted from steel grey overcast to shards of brilliant blue, and back again to wispy, foggy white clouds, and the rain moved in and out amidst all of these with ease; first drizzle, then torrential rain.  As unpredictable as the skies were, though, there was an odd calm about them.  I had been praying repeatedly for discernment, for peace, for knowing what the next ten steps would be, or even the first one.  Each time there had been silence and no action…or so I thought.

As I sat outside the park building witnessing the shifting skies, I sensed a real undercurrent of change, of unseen spiritual worlds shifting and roiling, portents to come, and not necessarily ominous. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you..” The words seemed to flow in with the wind: insistent, inexorable.  Changes were being accommodated, preparations and circumstances were being put into place for the next wave of changes.  Some would be good, some not positive, others neutral but still present.  I felt none of it was anything to dread.  As I looked out onto the green expanse of meadow on the horizon, it seemed as if I were walking on it-for miles.  As I walked, the wind swept behind and in front of me, urging me on but supporting my steps at the same time.  I saw myself, walking, hesitantly at first, one step in front of the other, then breaking into a rapid walk-almost run.  Behind me fell an unproductive relationship, the burden of boundaries violated, past unwise decisions, even my parents in their last days.  Even though the landscape in front of me wasn’t discernible, I wasn’t afraid.  I didn’t know what I was facing, and I still don’t.  But I know the way is slowly being cleared-for what is destined to happen next.  Trust Me.  Listen.  Wait.  These words were intuited, unspoken.

I was, despite these messages, unshaken.  As if all of the past concerns had simply vanished like the clutter on the phone screen-as if none of it had ever happened.  Now, I had absolute certainty.  With the air of an expectant child, I was sitting and waiting, whispering into the silence, “I trust you, Jesus”.  Amen.