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  • Starting 2015 at Mount Hood’s Resort at the Mountain

    Date: 2015.01.09 | Category: vegetarian, vegetarian Portland, vegetarian travel | Response: 0

    Mount HoodI’ve always been superstitious about New Year’s Eve. I worry that a stupid start to the new year will lead to a stupid year. So I’m leery of loud and drunken parties full of people I don’t know or care about.

    This year my boyfriend and I decided to take his dog to Mount Hood, where 2015 could start in a snowy, quiet way. I was hoping to find a cabin to stay in, but they all required a two-night minimum and we only had one day off together. Somebody recommended Resort at the Mountain as a place where we could stay a single night and bring a dog. I called and learned that the dog weight cutoff is 50 pounds. Fortunately, Rudy weighs 45.

    The resort features a golf course and spa. It’s pretty large – people typically drive between reception and the steam room, at least when it’s snowing. The rooms where dogs can stay are down the road a half mile or so from reception in a one-story building that looks like an ordinary motel. The rooms share a large, fenced-in backyard for romping dogs. Inside was a nice, standard, comfortable room. This block of dog rooms feels cut off from the rest of the resort because, well, it is. So if you stay here when the temperature is in the 20s, mentally prepare for driving to the pool and other far-flung parts of the resort.

    Resort at the Mountain Mount Hood

    This is part of the resort called The Crofts, otherwise known as the dog rooms

    Resort at the Mountain Mount Hood dog yard

    The fenced-in backyard for dogs

    The pool area was disappointing. The area surrounding the pool was icy. Several of the gates weren’t working, so we shivered in our swimsuits and cover-ups, vainly trying our key cards until we found a gate that opened. We ventured toward the Jacuzzi twice. The first time we were put off by a screaming child, the second by a tub full of yelling young people and clinking bottles.

    Altitude Resort at the Mountain Mount Hood

    Stuffed red pepper from Altitude

    Altitude is the name of the resort’s restaurant. We ordered from the room service menu, which was a good value and featured several vegetarian dishes. The house salad ($9) is immense, full of mixed greens, candied nuts and champagne vinaigrette. You can get a hummus plate ($10), a black bean burger ($11) or a stuffed bell pepper ($15). I got the pepper, which was very good but different than described on the menu. What was advertised as a vegan item full of brown rice, lentils and marinara arrived stuffed with quinoa and covered in cheese. The dog appreciated the cheese, but vegans won’t be thrilled by this dairy surprise. Gluten-free folks can choose between four different entrees.

    Overall, the resort was pleasant and comfortable but, at around $200 for one night, pretty pricey. I was willing to pay that much to start the new year at Mount Hood, but on an ordinary night I couldn’t justify the expense.

    However, the location is great. We were only a mile or two from the Salmon River, which has a very easy, mostly flat trail. We drove up to Timberline Lodge and watched the last sunset of 2014 turn the snowy mountain pink. Trudging through snow, marveling at giant icicles, being with someone I love and watching a very happy dog were all great ways to end one year and start a new one.


    Mount Hood view from Timberline

    Sunset view from Timberline Lodge

    Mount Hood New Year 2015

    Salmon River

  • Best Vegan Baked Goods in Wisconsin: Bloom Bakeshop

    Date: 2014.10.31 | Category: vegetarian, vegetarian travel | Response: 0

    Annemarie Maitri of Bloom in Madison WI

    Annemarie Maitri grew up in a family that loved food. During breakfast, they were already discussing what they’d eat for lunch and dinner. “While growing up, I thought James Beard was a relative because my dad talked about him so much,” Maitri told me as we sat in Bloom Bakeshop, her adorable bakery in Middleton, Wisconsin earlier this month.

    Bloom Bakeshop is a must-visit for vegans with a sweet tooth living in or traveling through the Madison area. The store is painted a cheerful turquoise inside, and decorated with the sort of vintage knickknacks your grandmother might have had around her house, if she had really good taste. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a bakery anywhere with more vegan and gluten-free choices. Plus, the pastries are really, really pretty. And Maitri is totally sweet and charming, with lots of energy and sparkly eyes despite raising three kids and probably getting up before the crack of dawn to run her bakery. I don’t know how she does it!

    Following her Bakery Dream

    Bloom will celebrate its fifth anniversary in February. But Maitri’s route to baking success was not a straight shot. She has a BA in psychology and a masters in nursing home administration – not exactly what you’d expect from the person making your wedding cake. In her previous life, she worked in marketing for the American Cancer Society.

    But always she heard the call of the cupcakes. “I’ve always been obsessed with dessert,” she said. In her family of cooks, “I was the dessert girl.”

    Maitri was especially interested in good quality food that didn’t strain the planet or exploit the people who grew it. “I read every Michael Pollard book,” she said. She knew she wanted to open a sustainable organic bakery. But with three small kids at home, was that possible?

    She found a company called Vocation Vacations – now PivotPlanet –  that helps people test drive their dream jobs. She apprenticed at a bakery in Ohio during the wedding cake season. “I saw everything,” she said. “I saw the real deal of what can happen.”

    Bloom Bakeshop in Madison WIAfterwards, the owners sat her down and said, “We have no doubt you can do this. But you really like your kids.” She realized she didn’t want to work all day every day. So she started out opening on only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 to 7, and slowly grew from there.

    Vegan and Gluten-free

    Maitri isn’t vegan or gluten-free herself, but she loves a baking challenge. And there was definitely a demand. For the sake of efficiency and display space, all her gluten-free pastries are vegan and vice-versa. “My first vegan, gluten-free experiment was a pumpkin cupcake,” she said. “It turned out horrible. But my customers believed in me. I experimented. My customers helped me shape my recipes.”

    In the early days of Bloom, she only offered a few choices every day. Now her staff of five makes 10 different traditional pastries, and 10 vegan and gluten-free, on weekdays. On Saturday, Bloom’s busiest day, customers can choose from 15 different treats. Some of Bloom’s most popular baked goods are raspberry buckles, mint chocolate ganache cupcakes and salted caramel cupcakes.

    The pastries are ever-evolving as Maitri experiments with different ingredients. Right now she likes sorghum flour, coconut flour and chia seeds. “I’m pulling back from xanthan gum [frequently used in gluten-free baking] because it gives some people digestive problems,” she said.

    Weddings have become a big part of Bloom’s business. This year, they baked cakes and pies for 95 weddings. Without a freezer. Everything is done fresh. Sometimes her small staff does five weddings in a single weekend.

    Doing it Her Way

    salted caramel and chocolate mint ganache cupcakes at BloomAs Maitri’s business develops, she stays true to her ideals. Which is not always easy. When she initially opened for only three days a week, reviewers criticized her. She felt hurt, but stuck by her determination to acclimatize her family to the bakery before expanding its hours. “We live in a society where people want things to be open seven days per week,” she said. “But if we want small businesses to live, we have to change our expectations.” So with Bloom, Maitri models taking care of herself, her family and her employees.

    Making everything from scratch, with top quality ingredients, is another of her inconvenient ideals. Bloom makes its own lemon curd, ganache and caramel. In fall, they roast all the pumpkins and sweet potatoes used in the bakery. Maitri carefully sources ingredients. Her locally grown, organic eggs cost $4 per dozen. Her organic butter costs $5 per pound. This results in excellent pastries but low profit margins.

    The response from nearby businesses and their owners has been very satisfying.  “The other restaurant owners are supportive and cooperative rather than competitive,” she said. Fortunately, Madison’s townspeople keep its best eateries afloat.  “There’s a lot of dessert to go around and a lot of mouths to feed.”

  • Reykjavik Hotel Natura: A Natural for Health Nuts

    Date: 2014.10.02 | Category: fitness, vegetarian travel | Response: 0

    Reykjavik Hotel NaturaAt first I was skeptical of the Reykjavik Hotel Natura. During my recent trip to Iceland, I wanted to stay downtown, but wound up booked out in the boonies. However, my six nights there convinced me it was a great hotel for somebody with my interests: fitness, nature, running and vegetarian food. Here are eight attributes of the Natura that won me over.


    Proximity to trails and paths.  Right across the street from the Natura, a hill called Öskjuhlíð rises up. This is Reykjavik’s designated outdoor area, with paved and dirt trails crisscrossing woods planted in the ’50s. Since Iceland has a three-month growing season, the trees aren’t too tall, but there are a lot of them. You can walk, jog or rent a bike from the Natura.


    Reykjavik Hotel Natura yoga roomYoga room. The rooms at the Natura are on the small side, so it can be hard to fit your sun salutations between bed and chair. Not to worry. Downstairs has a spacious yoga room, complete with mats, candles and a switch for multiple lighting options. Lovely wood floor.


    Reykjavik Hotel Natura gymFitness room. Next to the yoga room is a small gym. You’ll find two decent treadmills, jump ropes, a multi-purpose machine for doing about 40 different exercises, dumbbells and barbells. Plus, waterfall photo wallpaper to remind you that you’re in Iceland. I fell in love with the 3 kg weights, a perfect halfway point between the 5 pound and 8 pound dumbbells so prevalent in gyms back home.


    Walk to cemetery and geothermal beach. I skipped the Natura’s pool and hot tub, which would have cost me an extra 12 bucks or so, opting to instead walk to the geothermal beach. This local spot features a lagoon where hot water is added to sea water to make it suitable for swimming. At least for tougher people than me. After a 30-second dip in the heated sea, I retired to the long hot tub instead. Very pleasant local hangout and only costs about $4. Also near the Natura, you can walk through a large cemetery. As a cemetery fan, I enjoyed poking around and noting local tombstone styles. A favorite was little birds perched atop stones gazing down at the names of the deceased.Reykjavik geothermal beach and cemetery SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA




    Reykjavik Hotel Natura breakfast













    Breakfast buffet. I feared I’d starve in Iceland, what with the love of eating sea creatures and sheep. But the Natura had tons of food for me. And they even stock soy milk! What bliss I felt adding it to my coffee, granola and porridge. I was also excited to find Tabasco for the potatoes and vegetarian baked beans. Choose from about 10 kinds of breads and pastries, fresh fruit, a few salad vegetables and, for dairy lovers, lots of yogurt.


    Free bus tickets. You might be a 25-minute walk from town, but the Natura will loan you a bus pass during your stay. The number 19 bus stops right out front.

    Reykjavik Hotel Natura elf stone

    Stylish seating areas. Tired of inhabiting your hotel room? Come downstairs and lounge in the lounge, read in the library, people watch in the lobby. All very Nordic chic.


    Elf rock. Iceland is known for its population of hidden people, elves and trolls. Some people claim they can see them, others lack that gift. Outside the Natura, you can sit on an elf rock – it’s marked with a sign – where supposedly some elves live. Unfortunately, I twice tried to commune with elves there, but seem to lack the gift.


    Moss. Each room at the Natura has a theme. The basic rooms are all modeled on nature. I spent six nights in a moss-themed room, with large photos of mossy rocks on my walls. Sort of looked like my backyard. What could make a Pacific Northwesterner feel more at home than that?Reykjavik Hotel Natura moss room

  • Wings of Aloha Program Involves Tourists in Animal Rescue Efforts

    Date: 2014.08.08 | Category: vegetarian travel | Response: 0

    While at a recent event promoting Maui tourism, I met Candy Aluli, president of Aluli Public Relations. Candy lives in Maui and promotes several hotels and resorts there. The properties looked lovely, but what really interested me was her animal advocacy work.


    Candy told me about the Wings of Aloha program. This is an easy way for tourists to help with the overpopulation problem of stray dogs on Maui. I’d never really thought about it, but Maui is a small island. When dogs and cats keep breeding, where do all those puppies and kittens go?


    Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Aloha Air Cargo and Hawaiian Airlines partner with shelters on the mainland to give excess pets a chance to find a home. If you’re flying from Maui to Portland on Alaska or Hawaiian, you can add one of these strays to your reservation. The great thing about it is it’s an easy, even lazy, way to help.


    Here’s how you do it:

    1. Contact Jamie Fitzpatrick at the Maui Humane Society and give Jamie your name, phone number, email address, flight date and confirmation code. The MHS staff will contact their Portland rescue shelter partners – Pixie Project and Tender Care Animal Rescue across the border in Vancouver, Washington – and see if they can take the pet. If so, MHS contacts your airline and adds the pet to your reservation.
    2. MHS staff and the pet meet you at the airline check-in counter 2 hours before your flight. Staff checks in the pet, who will fly cargo.
    3. When you get to Portland, the rescue partner claims the pet in the baggage area.


    Simple! And you’re a hero.

  • 8 Fun Things to Do in Spokane

    Date: 2014.07.07 | Category: vegetarian, vegetarian travel | Response: 0

    Spokane is only a one-hour plane trip from Portland, or a half-day drive, but has a way different feel. I recently took my second trip there and had a very fun weekend. Here are a few highlights for visiting this 210,000-population Eastern Washington city.


    Visit the Falls                       

    spokane falls (1 of 1)Spokane is known for having the second largest urban waterfall in the U.S. Indeed, Spokane Falls is big and pounding. I forked over $7 to take a skyride over the falls, which was well worth it if you like skyrides. You get an aerial view, and your gondola will stop and hang for a while so you can admire the falls from various angles.




    Take a Bike Ridespokane bike (1 of 1)

    Riding a cruiser bike by the river was a highlight of my Spokane trip. I stayed at Ruby2, a very economical motel that was recently converted from a Howard Johnson. Free bikes for visitors! You can ride all along the river paths and poke around the Gonzaga campus.


    spokane geese 2 (1 of 1)Look for Wildlife

    While biking or walking by the river, you may encounter wildlife, such as these Canada geese and goslings. So fluffy! I also saw a wild-eyed orange cat with a snake hanging out of its mouth. Unfortunately, missed that photographic opportunity.




    Eat at Spokane’s Best Vegan Restaurant spokane boots interior (1 of 1)

    Boots Bakery is number one in Spokane, as far as I’m concerned. Fun, artsy place with excellent food. Enchilada pie! Curried lentils! Owner Alison Collins has been turning out delicious meals for Spokane’s vegans for two years now. And the city loves her for it. I hear there are a few other good places to get a vegan lunch or dinner in Spokane, but I mostly just ate Boots food during my stay.



    spokane lilac parade (1 of 1) spokane lilac parade 2 (1 of 1)See a Parade

    This only works if you plan ahead, or luck out with your timing and stumble onto a parade like I did. And what a parade: the Lilac Parade, biggest of the year. This night parade goes on. And on. And on. After two or three hours, I was paraded out and retired before the end. The Lilac Parade is heavy on military, and every group of veterans got a standing ovation. Also, lots of marching bands and floats.




    spokane carousel (1 of 1)







    Ride the Old Carousel

    While you’re downtown by the river, ride the 1909 carousel. Not only is it pretty and historic, it’s the fastest carousel I’ve ever been on. And even the outside animals go up and down.



    Admire Old Neon

    I looked up an old photographer friend I hadn’t seen for years who lives in Spokane. He took me to the Garland neighborhood at night, where we had fun photographing Spokane’s best old neon signs.

    spokane neon 1 (1 of 1)spokane neon 3 (1 of 1) spokane neon 2 (1 of 1)












    Get in Touch with Your Spiritual Side

    Personally, I visited a lovely cathedral while in Spokane. But tweeting Jesus is an interesting idea.

    spokane jesus tweet (1 of 1)

  • Jumping Higher, Landing Better

    Date: 2014.06.18 | Category: fitness, product reviews | Response: 0



    These Dr. Scholl’s active series insoles are really nifty. The packaging claims to reduce shock by 40 %, helping folks with shin splints, runner’s knee and plantar fasciitis, and to relieve and prevent pain. Fortunately I don’t have those conditions, but I can definitely feel the difference. And while I have no reliable way to measure amount of impact, 40 % sounds reasonable.

    The directions tell you to tear out your insole, then put it on top of the Dr. Scholl’s insole, trace along the toe area of your original insole and trim the excess. Well, I’m not much for reading directions so I didn’t until just now. And I would balk at tearing out the insoles of my favorite Nikes, anyway, to try out an unknown quantity.  Instead, I crammed the Dr. Scholl’s insoles on top. At first my feet felt kind of cramped with the double insole. But running a few miles, a little jumping rope, a Bombay Jam and Zumba class later and the new insoles were thoroughly tamped down. I am enjoying the extra arch support and padding along the soles and have already recommended the insoles to my Bombay Jam classes several times.

    They retail for around $30, but I’ve found them online for closer to $20. The box advises swapping them out every six months. I’ve only used mine for a couple of weeks now so am not yet sure how long they’ll really last.

  • Vegans Can Eat Russian Food, Too: San Diego’s Pomegranate Café

    Date: 2014.05.30 | Category: vegetarian, vegetarian travel | Response: 0

    Pomegranate cafe 1 (1 of 1)I’ll get this out of the way first. Going to the Pomegranate Café can be confusing, because there are two of them not too far apart. But in this case, I’m talking about the Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate on Broadway in Golden Hill.

    This particular cafe offers something most Russian/Georgian eateries don’t: Lots of vegan food. The restaurant opened about a year ago and is run by an American wife/Georgian husband team. Gwen Bruck has long been vegetarian. So she and husband Marko Dhagshivili offer plenty of choices for plant lovers.

    The broth in the vegetarian borscht comes all the way from Israel, Gwen told me. There are at least seven vegan appetizers on the menu, including lobio, a pate of red beans, herbs, walnuts, tomatoes and onions, and pkhali, which is vegetables, herbs, lemon and garlic. I couldn’t figure out what to order, so I got a sampler of various appetizers.

    Pomegranate cafe 3 (1 of 1)


    My friend Kimberly, who lives in the neighborhood, always gets the same thing, a plate called Welcome to the Gulag. But she says it’s always a bit different. Basically it’s cabbage, potatoes and fake meat. Those are her blue fingernails in the photo.

    Pomegranate cafe 2 (1 of 1)


    If you eat dairy products, the ice cream comes highly recommended. This one is coffee with a side of rose jelly. Tastes just like roses.

    pomegranate ice cream (1 of 1)

    People tease me about making strong coffee. But even I had to admit this coffee was really strong. It was practically chewy. In fact, I might have not even finished it.

    Pomegranate cafe 4 (1 of 1)

    This place is really cute, with all sorts of fun touches. The menu is funny – dishes are priced in four sizes: communist, socialist, imperialist and anarchist, this last category meaning the price and amount change daily. Russian posters and instruments hang on the wall. And when it’s time for the bill, it comes inside a communist paperback.

    Pomegranate cafe 5 (1 of 1)

    Pomegranate cafe 6 (1 of 1)

    Pomegranate cafe 7 (1 of 1)

    If you’re a vegetarian or vegan visiting San Diego, don’t miss your chance to try some Russian food.



  • The Vegetarian Who Ate Denver

    Date: 2014.04.28 | Category: fitness, vegetarian, vegetarian travel, yoga | Response: 0

    Denver_11th St Hotel 1 (1 of 1)

    Part of the point of traveling is staying able to adapt to different conditions. Sometimes that means posh hotels and glamorous ecolodges in the jungle. Other times it means standing in the lobby of a sketchy downtown men’s hotel and having the clerk ask, “Will you need a towel?” Well, I’m staying three nights. A towel might come in handy. So I paid my three dollar towel deposit. Alas, I failed to pay my bathmat/washcloth/cup/soap deposit. It’s the rare hotel that doesn’t even give you soap.

    But it’s also a rare hotel that charges you $48 – including tax and wifi – two blocks from the Denver Art Museum, with many wonders of the city a short walk away. And the Eleventh Avenue Hotel & Hostel isn’t really an old man’s hotel. It just kind of looks like one. Or is it? It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed at a place with a big sign over the counter listing the rules, including no alcohol and no visitors in your room.

    You can sleep in a dorm for $21. Or, if you’re uppity like me you can spring for a private room with private bath for $48. Women traveling alone should consider this option.

    Here are the pros of my chosen lodging, besides cost and convenient location:

    Friendly and helpful staff

    Separate hot and cold, just like my old sink!

    • Friendly and helpful staff
    • Fabulous old clawfoot tub
    • Wall-hung sink with separate hot and cold, just like I used to have
    • Hilariously matched carpet and bedspread, both maroon with ornate golden swirls
    • Tons of space for yoga
    • Closet
    • Common room with kitchen and couches down the hall
    • View from my window of colorful neon display at “Wine & Spirits,” the store across the street



    • Aforementioned lack of amenities (I’d at least like soap and a cup. So dirty! So thirsty!)
    • Kind of noisy between busy street and some party going on nearby
    • Flimsy lock (but if you put your chair in front, at least you’ll wake up if somebody tries to get in)
    • Spongy-feeling floor


    Of course saving money on lodging frees up the budget for plenty of vegetarian meals out. I found downtown Denver super easy to navigate from my hotel, both as a pedestrian and a vegetarian.

    City, O City is a vegetarian bar that serves food till past midnight! And it's only two or three blocks from the 11th Avenue Hotel.

    City, O City is a vegetarian bar that serves food till past midnight! And it’s only two or three blocks from the 11th Avenue Hotel.

    Watercourse is owned by the same folks as City, O City but is a bit more upscale. I got the Three Sisters Salad.

    Watercourse is owned by the same folks as City, O City but is a bit more upscale. I got the Three Sisters Salad.

    Sitting at the bar is a good way for a solo traveler to squeeze in on a busy Friday night at Watercourse.

    Sitting at the bar is a good way for a solo traveler to squeeze in on a busy Friday night at Watercourse.

    The fellow next to me was eating this mesquite tofu with sweet potato mash, creamed corn, shitake mushrooms and greens. Note the red drink behind. It's beer made from beets.

    The fellow next to me at Watercourse was eating this mesquite tofu with sweet potato mash, creamed corn, shitake mushrooms and greens. Note the red drink behind. It’s beer made from beets.

    Vietnamese tofu sandwich with jalapenos and sweet and sour dipping sauce from Udi's Cafe. This popular lunch spot has lots of veg and gluten-free items. Udi's, of course, is a famous maker of gluten-free bread.

    Vietnamese tofu sandwich with jalapenos and sweet and sour dipping sauce from Udi’s Cafe. This popular lunch spot has lots of veg and gluten-free items. Udi’s, of course, is a famous maker of gluten-free bread.

    Right off the tourist-packed 16th Street Pedestrian Mall, Little India offers a delicious refuge.

    Right off the tourist-packed 16th Street Pedestrian Mall, Little India offers a delicious refuge.

    I asked for my chana masala spicy, and Little India delivered.

    I asked for my chana masala spicy, and Little India delivered.


    After all that veg food, stop at Denver's massive REI for some outdoor activity gear.

    After all that veg food, stop at Denver’s massive REI for some outdoor activity gear.

    I was surprised to learn that Denver has a beach.

    I was surprised to learn that Denver has a beach.

    You can walk or bike along the Cherry Creek Trail.

    You can walk or bike along the Cherry Creek Trail.



    I wanted to check out Sunday mass at Denver's grand basilica. But I managed to set the alarm wrong.

    I wanted to check out Sunday mass at Denver’s grand basilica. But I managed to set the alarm wrong.


    Luckily, I got to a candlelight vinyasa class at Samadhi Yoga. I love their over-the-top ceiling treatment and giant Buddha head. They have a ton of daily classes.

    Luckily, I got to a candlelight vinyasa class at Samadhi Yoga. I love their over-the-top ceiling treatment and giant Buddha head. They have a ton of daily classes.










  • Compression pants are sort of sexy. And maybe healing

    Date: 2014.04.15 | Category: fitness, product reviews | Response: 0


    I recently got a pair of Saucony AMP PRO2 running pants to try out. These high tech compression pants are made with a fabric called Celliant, which claims to increase oxygen in the body and give you more energy.

    John J. Phillips is the innovator behind the use of Celliant in clothing. Phillips used to own a bedding store, and was intrigued by mattress protectors made from Celliant. He teamed up with a California-based company called Hologenix, whose founder wanted to develop fabric that improved blood circulation using Asian healing techniques. Together, they launched the use of Celliant Energy Textiles. Press materials claim that Celliant is “the first fabric that converts the body’s own energy inwards to heal itself.”

    Whoa. Let me take the pants into my lab and check out these claims.

    Okay, my only lab is the gym and the running track. I have no way to evaluate whether these pants are harnessing my body’s healing energy. But I do like them quite a bit.

    First, they’re silky soft. Second, the compression is light and pleasant. I was worried they’d feel like a girdle, but they’re totally comfortable. Also, they’re flattering. I don’t usually wear such form-fitting pants. But judging from the hooting and whistling of my class when I wore them while demonstrating a butt exercise, they look okay. And if you’re running errands post-gym, you can pull a skirt over them and wear them like tights.

  • Humane Advisor: One Woman’s Fight to Save Strays at Travel Destinations

    Date: 2014.04.08 | Category: vegetarian travel | Response: 0

    Diana Webster is on a mission: She wants the world’s stray animals to be cared for humanely. Of course, this is a huge goal. So she’s focusing on tourist areas and enlisting the help of tourists and travel professionals around the world to find a humane solution to the sad problem. She’s formed an organization called Humane Advisor to consult on stray issues, and is also the driving force behind the growing LinkedIn group Business Professionals for Animal Welfare.

    Diana took some time out of her campaigning efforts to answer my questions about her work.

    Teresa Bergen: Tell me just a little about the dog in Mexico that started it all.

    Diana Webster: In 2006, during a vacation in Cancun, I met a female dog that was very obviously starving to death. She came up to me and nuzzled my hand. I believe she was telling me in her own way, “See how I’m suffering? Please find a way to help me and the millions of other dogs like me!” It was very frustrating being in a foreign country and not knowing how to save her. I still get teary about it. So I got involved with helping strays and telling people like me how to help strays because of her, the little white dog I call Nova.

    Teresa: How did Humane Advisor come about?

    Diana:  I wanted to let tourists know how they can help strays because there was no information available about what to do when I met Nova. I also wanted to tell the stories of people like Ricardo Pimentel of Tierra de Animales sanctuary near Cancun, and Sue Silva of Playa Animal Rescue in Playa del Carmen, who save hundreds and hundreds of animals in the Yucatan every year. Raising awareness and educating people on the challenges and the solutions is crucial for change to happen and that’s what Humane Advisor is all about. And very importantly, I wanted to offer tourist destinations, hotels/resorts, and travel companies some ideas about what they could do to help, too. To that end, I created a Hotel and Resort Guide to Feral and Stray Management that is being referenced by several large tour operators and hotel chains in Europe and that is available for download at Humane

    It’s been an amazing journey from the first few blogs I wrote sharing my personal experience with Nova. I’ve had the honor of interviewing many dedicated animal advocates and business people. My website and blog has received thousands of views from visitors located in nearly 100 countries so it’s clear that there are a lot of people out there who have had experiences like mine with a stray that deeply affected them, not only just at the time of the encounter but also long after they returned home from their vacations. At Humane Advisor, we encourage anyone who has had an encounter to contact us and share their story and also share on social media. Sharing your story could inspire other people to get involved and help.

    Teresa:  How do you find people to connect with and promote your cause of better lives for strays?

    Diana:  I’m currently conducting a campaign to bring data from my 2013 Humane Research Council-funded research report and survey of tourists who encountered stray cats and dogs while vacationing, to the attention of the tourism industry. Travel businesses need to know that their customers care about animals at tourist destinations. Especially because the survey showed that 34% of tourists surveyed were upset by seeing stray cats and dogs while a whopping 41% were less likely to return to tourist destinations with strays, numbers that clearly present what could be a substantial economic impact on tourism. In my campaign, I’m asking travel companies to sign a letter to tourism offices at destinations where strays are common, asking them to partner with local animal welfare groups, and provide resources to fund sterilization campaigns, rescue and rehabilitation, and education programs for strays. Another great solution that tourist destinations could invest in would be cost-effective new technologies like Spay Food™ which is a non surgical sterilization formula being developed by 600 Million Stray Dogs Need You. The campaign asks for help for the strays not only because it is the right thing to do but also because it affects tourism’s bottom line.

    Teresa:  What has been the response to your campaign so far?

    Diana:  Non-U.S. travel companies have been surprisingly more receptive but the initial response from several tour operators in the U.S. is promising and has already led to several exciting new programs. It would be great if a tourism industry leader (or leaders) would step forward to champion this campaign. Someone high profile like Richard Branson or influential like TripAdvisor President Stephen Kaufer could get the attention of the tourism industry to get on board for helping strays. That would be awesome!

    Teresa:  What is your background in the tourism industry?

    Diana:  I worked with a major airline for twenty years where I was in sales and marketing—outside sales to travel agencies and corporations and reservation sales to passengers. Recently, I have done marketing consulting for travel industry vendors, in between going back to school to become an attorney and trying to save all the stray dogs in the world. J

    Teresa:  I’ve noticed an attitude like people in the developing world have bigger problems than worrying about animal suffering. Do you think this attitude is changing?

    Diana:  Definitely. At the spay/neuter clinics in Mexico that I’ve volunteered at, hundreds of local people in some of the poorest neighborhoods, would wait for hours in the hot sun to bring their beloved family pets or the village dog for surgery. I’ve seen pillow cases full of stray kittens that locals gathered up to be sterilized and cardboard boxes full of puppies brought in to be fixed. It’s obvious they want their animals to be cared for along with their families because not only do they love their pets but also because strays present health and safety issues for communities in developing countries. Which is why when I get the question “why don’t you work to help people instead of animals?” my answer is “helping animals helps people.”

    Teresa:  Any big successes you’d like to share?

    Diana:  Yes! Humane Advisor recently began working with tour operator AdventureWomen, to take their groups to visit animal welfare groups at destinations they travel to like Tanzania, Uganda, and Bhutan to raise awareness and encourage support. The program is also now going to be offered to tour operators at many other tourist destinations around the world.

    Teresa:  Anything else you’d like to say about your work?

    Diana:  I’d just like to say that if every tourist that cared about animals told their airline, hotel, tour operator, and favorite travel review sites that tourism needed to step up and support saving animals, it could change the world for strays. The uproar over the Sochi dogs was huge and made a lot of people take notice and take action. Keep the outrage going! There are mass killings of strays like Sochi happening at nearly every major international sporting event and routinely at your favorite tourist destination. Heck, we euthanize millions of healthy stray dogs here in the U.S. every year. Use your buying power and let any business that you patronize know that you will vote with your wallet by buying from companies that are committed to animal welfare and share your commitment with your network of family, friends, and colleagues. Get animal welfare on every business agenda. Start now because one person really can make a difference. Your voice could be the tipping point for saving strays.