Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taking Puppy Steps

It feels like ages ago that I agreed to take home two little foster pups that were no bigger than potatoes. The first sleepless nights of 3-hour bottle-feeding shifts and assisted puppy toilet functions thankfully feel eons ago. Now, as I sit with one puppy snuggled in my lap while the other runs through my living room, I am amazed that the three-day-old little rat-like things I brought home have grown into five-week-old dogs; that the inventive homemade milk mixes I made due to a lack of puppy formula in Uganda have not completely failed; that both the puppies and I have survived thus far. There were moments I doubted that any of us would make it.

In the beginning, the puppies were so fragile I was terrified I would break them. I am sure this is a normal new “mother” phenomenon. With every cough, paranoid flashbacks to online articles about puppy pneumonia crossed my mind. I browsed dozens of dog-owner sites and memorized the steps of puppy development. I simulated a mamma dog’s presence with hot water bottles and socks filled with rice that, electricity permitting, were heated in the microwave. I eagerly anticipated the opening of eyes. I stressed at milk consumption fluctuations.

Yet, before long, one puppy voraciously ate her way into the stable category. This tubby puppy quickly gained weight and began tottering around my bathroom floor. As she beefed up, my fears about her fragility subsided and became replaced by concern for the well-being of my shoes (which she manages to find constantly).

The littler one, though, had challenges from the beginning. Early on, she developed skin issues that only subsided with the aid of a vet and some vigorous orange topical medication. Once she passed her skin scare, a persistent eye infection began to plague her. The poor little one’s slow growth and struggles to overcome health issues have been accentuated by the rapid growth of her sister. However, in the last few days, she has finally started to seem more stable. While she still has visible reminders of both health struggles, the little one is starting to wobble her way back onto a more typical developmental track (just a few weeks delayed).

I, too, have had moments where I was unsure if I would survive the experience. After several weeks of sleepless nights, I strongly questioned my decision to foster these puppies. Now, I more often wonder how I will manage to give these little guys up in a few weeks to new homes. I will, don’t worry; four animals in one house is way too much work to maintain full-time. I am going to miss these little peanuts when I give them up, though!

(little one is snuggled in my make-shift puppy sling; tubby one is a ham and likes the camera)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Global Issues Service Summit 2011

Enthusiasm is contagious. Put 200 students and teachers together who are all global-issues advocates, and inspiration is bound to arise. Pool resources and ideas from 18 schools around Africa and watch innovative solutions mold and expand. Build relationships that transcend nations and sustainable partnerships surface; support networks weave themselves into place. Look to students as leaders and they rise to the responsibility.
I just returned from the 2011 African Global Issues Service Summit in Maputo, Mozambique. Along with my colleague, Johnny, I brought 4 students to this international gathering. For four days students swapped stories, ideas, and visions. We watched guest speakers like the former first-lady of Mozambique/South Africa, a 17-year-old who started a plethora of aid groups, the minister of Education in Mozambique. We listened to expert panels on disease within Africa, trafficking, water conservation, education for all, and the digital divide. Groups gathered to seek solutions and build communities. Students participated in a day of service alongside local organizations. Teachers gathered to swap successes and learn from each other’s mistakes. In short—it was a jam-packed week of learning, growing, encouraging, and planning. I came back to Uganda full of ideas and eager to make positive changes in my community.