Friday, January 29, 2010

WOW! T-Shirts!

On Tuesday, January 26th 2010 Easter Seals Superior California Help To Recovery Program made a trip to A Chance For Bliss in Penryn California. The trip there was fun. Jeremiah and Rik reminisced about having lived in Placer County. Jeremiah even commented that his daughter was born there.

When we got to the sanctuary Al our cashier presented Deanna and Woody a check for one thousand five hundred fifty two dollars and ten cents. This was a record amount that we earned from our Holiday Shoppe.

Later Steven, Jeremiah, Tom, and Rik helped Deanna and Woody to clean feed buckets. It was quite a sight to see; they were in the shower and bathtub washing and drying buckets. Anthony and John cleaned brushes. Marcellos, Susan, Les, and Hector worked in the kitchen.

The highlight of our day was hearing Maxi the dog bark. When she barked she sounded like she was saying merp merp, you see, Merp is the name some of us affectionately call the rehab aide named Prem.

The following day Steven, Marcellos, Anthony, Les, and Hector received shirts from
A Chance For Bliss, all you could hear in the classroom were the choruses of Wow T –Shirts and thank-you.

Remember, take a tip from the dogs do not pre-judge us by our speech impediments judge us by what we say, not how we say it.


Easter Seals Superior California
Help To Recovery Program

Mt. Kilimanjaro - Final Note from Paulie

I'm writing this ten days after reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It has given me a little time to reflect on this incredible experience, as well as to heal my body and mind after the punishing exertion of the climb itself. First and foremost, I wish to give a heartfelt thanks to my loving wife, Vikki, who diligently kept a blog of my progress, even after we lost radio contact just two days out. This meant that Vikki had to do research to determine where I might be in the climb and estimate my progress. It all culminated with a phone call to her from the summit of the mountain letting her know I had succeeded and that I was OK. The truth was, I was far from OK and I still had to descend over 9,000 feet just to get to the lower camp, followed by another 5,000 foot descent the following day. I'm sure she continued to worry and wasn't fully relieved until I called her from my hotel in Arusha telling her that I was safe. She also kept in touch with family and friends the whole time. This is in addition to working full time, commuting 200 miles per day to work and caring for our beloved dogs at home. Just remarkable!

The expedition spanned nearly seven days in the most beautiful works of nature I had ever seen. We travelled through five distinct climate zones, not found anywhere else on Earth. It was a privilege to be there. I was pushed to my limits physically and mentally and then went beyond that which I thought I was capable. There were many times that I truly believed I would not reach the summit. That's when I would have to focus on one step at a time. Breathing became difficult and it was important to climb slowly, but continuously. It is amazing what the human body and spirit can endure when there is a powerful desire to reach a goal. Through perseverance, as well as the tremendous support from my mountain guide, Herment, I was rewarded with the greatest experience a mountain climber can achieve. Standing on the summit of the highest mountain in Africa. It was the greatest adventure of my life, so far.

As tremendous an experience that this was, there were amazing human connections which resulted from our journey. We were made aware of 'A Chance For Bliss Animal Sanctuary' through our friend, Christina, and that is how the climb became a fund raiser and awareness event. We feel blessed to have met Woody and Deanna, owners of the sanctuary and to have seen first hand the loving care that their animal companions receive in the autumn of their lives. Then we were introduced to Lary Bucher and his fifth grade class, the Brainiacs, who created the most beautiful banner which I was fortunate enough to carry with me half way around the world and unfurl at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In addition, on the personal side of things, Vikki and I have made a closer connection to family and friends throughout this whole process which we hope to carry on into the future.

Many thanks to all of you for your support, kind words and especially for letting us be a part of your lives. We are proud to be new friends of 'A Chance for Bliss".

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Paul is Coming Home

I have not spoken to Paul since the evening he called me from the summit…..he did not get back to the hotel until his Tuesday morning, our Monday evening. Hopefully he can call me today. Right now it is 8:30PM his time so I will probably not hear from him until this evening. I tried calling but my call would not go through. He leaves this Wednesday evening (10:30PM) after having a guided tour of the city Arusha. He will be home on Thursday at 1:30PM.

I just want to thank all of you who have supported Paulie and I during his climb. It was wonderful to get so many comments and emails full of love, prayers and support. This is my last blog entry. I am sure Paulie will want to make a final entry to let all of you know how the climb went. Take care.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What is Happening? ~ By Woody and Dee

The BIGGEST thing that has happened is Paul Castello reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro while holding the vision of our little sanctuary in his consciousness. We stand in awe of his fortitude and humanity. Paul and Vikki are bright lights and we are deeply moved by their presence in our lives.

We acknowledge and apologize that we are long overdue getting an update out. There are a myriad of reasons for the delay, but each is simply an excuse. Instead of blaming, we take full responsibility and would ask for your forgiveness while at the same time thanking you for your patience and continued support.

The Primary Financial Goal
In regards to the property status, we did, in fact, meet our goal of raising $65,000 in an effort to save the sanctuary. That sum represents the amount of past-due payments combined with penalties and it has been placed into a separate bank account while we work with the lender to modify and/or re-structure the current loan. All of the required documents were sent to the lender again on 12/30/2009, and yesterday a letter was received acknowledging the fact that the package is complete and is being reviewed, quoting a 30-45 day time line.

In conversations with the lender (HSBC), we have been informed that while the Notice of Default has expired (i.e. 90 days since it was recorded on the property), there has been no sale date established for the possible sale or auction of the property. We assume this to be the case since we have in fact submitted all of the necessary paperwork once more.

Our hope is that they would offer to re-work the loan, reducing the payment such that the monthly obligation becomes more affordable, thus supporting the sanctuary's longevity. The truth of the matter is that we do not know what they may or may not come back with. We have not disclosed to the lender that the sanctuary raised $65,000 because we do not want to give them all that money and have them do nothing, thus putting us back in the very same position. The fact that we have that money simply puts us in a much stronger position to be able to respond and perform to any sort of new loan terms, so we take it a day at a time and pray that they consider the entirety of the circumstance when they review our package and respond with something favorable and workable.

Is the Sanctuary "Safe?"
If they still do not work with us, what would we then do? The first option would be to contact some senior level person at the lender, and make a direct appeal to them (i.e. someone higher up the "chain of command" who has some authority). We would possibly follow that up with some additional publicity as a way of encouraging them to do the right thing, and with the prospect of the lender getting some much needed good press. If that failed, our next option would be to try and sell the property to some known person or entity, and ask that as a condition of the sale they agreed to a long term lease that would allow us to remain. If that, too, failed, the last option we have at this time would be to find another property to lease and thus re-locate the sanctuary. We are also looking at and for other ideas or options to have as many at our disposal as possible.

Obviously, our great desire is to remain at this location, and we want to for many reasons, not the least of which is the community and neighborhood support we have (i.e. use of other land free of charge and the world's best and kindest people living all around us). In addition, the layout of the home, the close proximity of freeway and major living areas, climate, etc... all make this an ideal location to care for animals at the end of their lives.

The Bottom Line
While we reached our primary financial goal, the fact remains that we need to continue to raise much needed funds to support day to day operations. On the one hand we now have the financial ability to house the residents for a substantial period of time, and even though we can't say yet exactly where that will be, it is a huge relief knowing we have the ability. On the other hand it costs more than $4,000 per month just to provide feed and basic care for the sanctuary residents, and therefore we need to shift efforts back to raising money to cover those expenses, as well as enlisting strong and able bodies to assist with the enormous physical workload.

We are taking it a day and moment at a time, focusing on caring for our flock, raising much needed funds to feed and care for each, and slowing down long enough to lavish love and attention on each and everyone of the residents.

Comings and Goings
Given what we do, regardless of money and other silly details that the residents have no care or concern for, real Life moves on and for us, that often means both tearful goodbyes and joyous hellos. Since our last update, we have had four beloved residents pass away; Hanauma, our 31 year old Rocky Mountain Horse, died in the first week of December; Walter, our 17 year old Italian Greyhound passed away two weeks later; Otis, our amazing blind Pug died this past Monday, followed immediately by Sunshine the very next day, Woody's birthday.

Sunshine had been with us four and a half years, Walter two years, Hanauma nine months, and Otis eight months. People often ask how we deal with the volume of loss and the answer is it is very, very hard. In fact, we would say that it is both the hardest thing we do, yet it is the most important thing we do... helping them pass away/transition with grace and dignity knowing they are both loved and adored.

Those goodbyes were sprinkled with hellos. Each passing provides an opening for a new resident, and the requests on behalf of animals in need have increased greatly with the recent media attention. While we can take some, we can't take them all, and saying no is very difficult. This is why our greatest vision is not to only survive, but GROW and EXPAND as it is clear that our work is needed and appreciated. There is a nearby lot for sale, but we'll address that later.

The wonderful beings who have been welcomed into the fold as a result of the aforementioned losses are: Atlas, our very first miniature horse, from Lake County where he was found wandering the roads and highways. He is small in size but HUGE in attitude. Kringle, named so since he was found lost and alone on Christmas, from Wonderdog Rescue in San Francisco in mid December along with his rescue-mate, Izzy. While Kringle is a very senior mixed breed who is simple and easy, Izzy is an 11-month old Boston Terrier ball-of-fire who was born with urinary disorder and without an anus. She is therefore a very active special needs pup who has us thinking of new ways each day to manage her condition, but also realizing daily that she is worth every bit of time and effort as she is nothing short of angelic.

Discharge Management Attempts

If you're so moved, please take a moment to leave a comment here for our dear and wonderful friend, Paul Castello, as he descends from the peak of the tallest point in Africa. His support of the sanctuary leaves us again in awe of the love and loyalty that comes the way of the sanctuary residents.

We are dancing as best we can amidst the rapid changes and flow of Life and promise keep everyone posted as things unfold. We end with one more heartfelt thank you for the continued love and support.

Blessings and love to all...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He Made It!

Paulie just called me! He made it to the top! He sounded wonderful and so overwhelmed by the experience. We only spoke a few minutes and the call was very broken up. I am not even sure what phone he was using as it was a unknown number that came through to my phone.

I am so fortunate to be married to such a wonderful man. I knew he was an adventurer and risk taker, but I never thought I would be so involved. Paulie has done so much and gone through so much in his life, and he is so grateful and thankful for all of it.

He will call me tomorrow when we can talk longer.

Good night!

Day 6 - To the Top of Mt. Kilimanjaro

In less then an hour Paulie should be at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Paulie started hiking at midnight with the most challenging 6 hour section of the entire climb as he headed for Stella Point, which he should have reached around sunrise. Then after a short break he has to continue walking for the next 2 hours in snow, until he reaches Uhuru Peak, also know as the Summit! When British-administered Tanganyika gained its independence in 1961, the peak was named "Uhuru peak", meaning "Freedom peak" in Swahili. ...

It is -7 degrees there right now.

Once Paulie is there he will hold out the banner from Mr. Bucher's 5th grade class, The Braniacs, and hopefully get a few pictures. He will then release Sammie's tail hair in her honor and memory. He will say a prayer to thank God for getting him there safely and then he will head back down. Another 8 hours down! It takes 6 days to get there due to acclimatization and only 8 hours to get back down to Mweka Camp (elevation 10,170')where he will spend the night.

I hope he is able to call me from the top....I will let you know right away.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 5 - Mt Kilimanjaro

It is Sunday morning, 1/17/10, 6:39AM. Today Paulie will climb from Karanga Valley to Barafu Camp (elevation 15,091').

The climb will only take about 3.5 hours and the elevation change is +1,968'. The hike is 2.5 miles to Barafu Camp.

Paulie's route will be through rocky and barren terrain on his way up to Barafu Camp. The camp will be another cold and windy place, but he will only be sleeping there from about 7:00PM to 11:30PM BECAUSE at midnight (Monday AM), Paulie will begin the summit climb!

I have not heard a word or gotten a text from Paulie. I still text him everyday. So far I have sent him 26 texts and 2 voicemail messages. I am hoping he is at least getting my messages.

OMG, the cell phone I use just for Paulie just alerted me to a vm message....Darn, it was just my father-in-law, Jack. He is the only other person calling me on this phone....He is such a sweetheart and calls me everyday but I was hoping it was Paulie. The support Paulie and I are getting from his family is wonderful.

Today I did all the chores that Paulie usually does for me...laundry, grocery shopping, pet feeding, dog walking, house cleaning...and I even make my own coffee. Boy howdy I am spoiled and so very fortunate.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 4 - Mt. Kilimanjaro

It is Saturday, about 10:00AM. This is the "easy" day for Paulie. He is allowed to sleep-in, wake-up at 7:30AM, breakfast at 8:00AM, and off by 9:00AM. Luxury!

Paulie is climbing from Barranco Camp to Karanga Valley. It will take about 3.5 hours. The elevation change is 328', about a 2.5 mile hike to the final elevation for the day. The Great Barranco Wall is 800' high so Paulie will be climbing over the wall and then down into the Karanga Valley, where the elevation is 13,000'.

I have not received a message from Paulie now since Day 2. I am sure he is still climbing. If he was not he would have already called me as they get sick climbers down the mountain right away. They put them in a wheel barrel and push them down the mountain!

I found some pictures online I think you will enjoy of Paulie's climb today. It looks scary. "Pole pole" (slowly, slowly).

The Sanctuary Needs your Help!

Hi Everyone,
If you haven’t had a chance to make a donation, please consider donating. $5 dollars would be a huge help! The sanctuary really needs the help.
Big hugs and thank yous to all of you for supporting Paulie financially (donations), emotionally and/or spiritually!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Day 3 - Mt. Kilimanjaro

It is 7:30AM of day 3 - Today Paulie will climb to Barranco Camp. The elevation is 12,800'. It will take 5 hours to hike, I am not sure how many miles and the elevation change will only be about 328', but Paulie will need time to acclimatize.

The morning climb is steep as you climb to Lava Tower at 4,600 meters at midday before descending again on the scenic route to Barranco Camp. Lava Tower is a great hike between Shira Camp and Barranco Camp. It’s a great way to help acclimate to the altitude - hike high, sleep low - as it’s an extra few thousand feet above Barranco Camp.

I have not received a text from Paulie since yesterday morning. I know he is texting me but they are just not coming through. He told me not to worry if I do not hear from him. I am not, but I do miss hearing from him. I still text him just in case he can get my messages, I even left him a voicemail message. Paulie and I talk everyday at least 5 times while I am at work. He is my best friend. I have never gone a day without hearing from him.

Wow, it is only 9:00PM (PST) and I think I am done for the evening....

Lala salama

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 2 - Mt. Kilimanjaro

Paulie text me 3 times today after he arrived at Machame Camp. He said the climb was very hard but he feels great. "It's incredible"...Marmoto just brought dinner..I have to stop or I'll explode. Lala salama, (Sleep well in Swahili).

It is 7:30AM of day 2 - Today Paulie will climb to Shira Camp. The elevation is 12,300'. It will take 7 hours to hike, about 3.75 miles and the elevation change will be +3,000'. It will be mostly dry. Freeze-thaw conditions (max 37°F on Thu morning, min 28°F on Thu night). Wind will be generally light.

I am so tired since Paulie left. I am not sleeping well, only about 4 hours a night and when you have to get up at 4:30AM that hurts!

Lala salama

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 1 of the Climb - Mt. Kilimanjaro

Paulie started his climb this morning, 1/13/10. Tanzania is 11 hours ahead of us.
I talked to Paulie one more time this evening (PST). He is rested, healthy and ready to get started.

1/12/2010 - "I'm feeling very good right now and I had a very nice breakfast. I've taken a bunch of pictures and a little video. Earlier, I met a couple from San Francisco, (small world) who are going on safari. They approached me because I'm wearing my Whitney t-shirt. The man told me that he proposed to her at the top 2 years ago..."

"I just met a representative from Good Earth ...And get this. I'm the only one on the climb!!! How 'bout them apples. I'm very fine with it!"
It turns out the other two folk's flight was canceled in Germany due to bad weather. Don't worry, Paulie will not climb alone. He will have a guide and 4 porters. Paulie is very spiritual so this may be a wonderful experience as a lone climber. When he makes it to the top, he has the tail hair from our beloved Sammie, who passed away May 18, 2007. He has kept that hair for this mountain climb. He will toss it into the wind in her honor and memory.

Paulie has started at the Machame Gate (5,363')and on this first day, he will climb over 3,937' to Machame Hut (9,300'). He will hike 7.5 hours and travel about 6.21 miles. He will arrive at camp where the elevation is 10,170'.

The weather should be dry. Mild temperatures (max 48°F on Wed morning, min 41°F on Wed night). Wind will be light.

Paulie will text me everyday if he can.

Thank you Ethan, Ella, Mr. Bucher and the Brainiacs, Isa, Christina, Sherri, Beth, Gail, I could go on and on...all of you for your prayers and support.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Paulie has arrived in Tanzania

Paulie arrived safely in Tanzania and is just waking up, Tuesday, (5:30AM EAT). He slept well at the Le Jacaranda Hotel under the protection of a mosquito net and now has the entire day to explore Arusha. This evening he will meet with the guides and the other team members climbing for a briefing. Wednesday morning, about 8:30AM they will head out to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I have been very fortunate so far, Paulie and I have been able to talk or text each other every day. Wednesday that will change. I hope he is able to text me from the mountain.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Almost there - Mt. Kilimanjaro

I just got off the phone with Paulie. It is about 6:00AM in Amsterdam, Monday morning. The flight over was very long and exhausting. Paulie got to the hotel and because the weather was so bad decided not to check out the local museums. He had spaghetti for dinner (his favorite meal) and went to sleep. He is now on his way to Tanzania. He should land at 9:30pm on Monday evening OR around 10:30am (PST) Monday morning our time. It was so good to talk with him. He got a good night sleep and is feeling very good. Boy howdy, do I miss him. He will spend another night getting rest and will start the climb on Wednesday AM, 1/13/10, Tanzania Time.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Flight to Amsterdam

Paulie's flight from SFO to Amsterdam was delayed 1 hour and 45 minutes due to severe weather in Amsterdam. He had to be at the airport 3 hours ahead of time, instead of the usual 2 hours because of the terrorist attempt last week....they finally took off at 4:55PM (PST).

Paulie was a little stressed out the last 24 hours because Murphy's Law was rearing it's ugly head. Lola got sick yesterday and we were at the vet until 7:00PM, when we got home the heater would not work and this am the fluorescent lights went out in the bathroom, all four of them! We have not seen any sun here for over a week so our solar flood lights do not work....all things that my hubby takes care of. I reassured him I could handle it and called him before his flight left to say the heat was back on....I am just beginning to realize all the things he does for me while I am at work. We have never been a part this long before. I miss him already.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Leaving on a jet plane for Mt. Kilimanjaro

Hi All,

Paulie leaves in the morning! Today he spent his time putting all his equipment and supplies into the duffel bag. Boy howdy, there sure is a lot! He is not a camper so he had to go online to find out how to pack his sleeping bag back into its' stuff sack. Yikes!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Less then 2 Days to Go

Hi All, I just want to thank everyone for your support. Paulie has been getting lots of emails and calls wishing him well. The support is very powerful.

A few more excerpts from Paulie's journal:
"I fed the snakes today so Vikki won't have to worry about being attacked while I'm gone. As time draws near, my concern or worry about not being able to summit is increasing. Each day, several times a day, I envision taking those final steps to the top, knowing that it's going to be very, very difficult and challenging. I can think of little else."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

3 Days Until Departure to Africa

Wow, what a beautiful banner! Mr Bucher's 5th grade class at Whitter Ranch Elementary School is supporting A Chance for Bliss and tracking Paulie's climb. The class visited the sanctuary and Woody introduced Mr. Bucher to Paulie.

Dear Mr. Bucher and the Brainiacs, Paulie wanted to let the class know right away that he is truly speechless at their desire to be part of his climb and the beautiful banner they made. With your support and watchful eyes he has the extra boost he needs to make it to the top. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

4 Days until Departure to Africa

Paulie started training in July for the climb. On November 9, 2009, he began keeping a journal (2 months before departure day). Here are a few excerpts from Paulie's journal.

11/09/09 "I leave for Africa in two months from today...It's something I've thought of from time to time as long as I can remember...I wouldn't even be writing this if it wasn't for the incredible support of my wonderful wife and partner Vikki.
I hope she doesn't live to regret it."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Paul Castello Climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Happy New Year Everyone,

First of all I would like to thank all of you who are supporting Paulie on his African adventure. Most importantly by doing so you are helping A Chance for Bliss continue to do the great work they do!

I thought I would start out by telling you a little bit about Paulie (for those of you who do not know him). He is 56 years old, recently retired from Santa Cruz County and loves adventure. We have been together for 24 years, married almost 20. He loves to ride his motorcycle, he ran marathons, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes, and loves to climb mountains.

Paulie climbed Mt Whitney in 2002. It is located in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. Rising 14,497' it has the distinction of being the highest peak in the contiguous United States. On that climb he raised money for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation, ( for Champ Camp which is a week long, residential, summer camp experience for young burn survivors. As a burn survivor himself, raising money for Champ Camp gave Paulie added motivation to reach the summit.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is another opportunity for Paulie to raise awareness for another great cause, A Chance for Bliss.

When we met Deanna, Woody and all of their companions we knew that what they are doing is very important for both animals and people! We have raised 8 dogs and while that has been difficult at times and definitely heart breaking at other times, the joy that Paulie and I have experienced living with and caring for our animal companions has been and is a blessing.

Paulie starts the climb on January 13th. We are hoping that I will be able to receive phone calls and text messages from him as he ascends the mountain.

Each day I will make an entry here to let folks know how he is doing.

I already have butterflies in my stomach as he is leaving in 6 days. He has been training and preparing for the climb since July, 2009. He has also been keeping a journal. I will share some of his thoughts and feelings over the next few days about his training and the making of this trek. Until then take care - Vikki