She created a sanctuary to rescue wayward animals. But that's only part of the story.
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Dignity Health

11 years ago, Alison and Steve Smith decided to open a sanctuary farm for unwanted miniature horses. But it quickly became much more than that.

Two days after opening the Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue in North Dakota, they welcomed Pebbles and Cocoa — their first two horses. Today, they've rescued well over 500 along with many other wayward animals including cats, dogs, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, and pigs that were cast out because of a disability.

Alison with several residents of the Triple H Miniature Horse Rescue. All photos courtesy of Alison Smith.


The Smiths made it their prerogative to save as many as they could — using every minute and dollar they could spare.

"We realized we had to expand our horizons and do more," writes Alison in an email.

For example, they drove 120 miles to rescue G.I. Joe — a small dog who was paralyzed from the waist down, and had to drag the lower half of his body around.

G.I. Joe on the farm with his patriotic wheelchair.

They took in a 10 week old kitten named Mowgli who'd lost his eyes to an infection, as well as a pot-bellied pig named Wanda and a Labrador named Martin, both of whom are also blind.

Mowgli and his dog friend Scarlett.

They also bottle-fed orphaned goats and saved a little poodle named Roy who was left at a mall because of a bad haircut.

Little Miss Chevious, the goat.

Needless to say, they're animal heroes.

Thanks to the Smiths' tireless dedication and love, their disabled animals recuperated and started thriving on the farm. And that's when Alison had an ingenious idea.

Why not bring this loveable squad around to local schools to help teach kids about empathy?

Just like that, the Compassion Crew was born.

The Compassion Crew — able to stop bullying with a single lick!

Alison took the Crew to Highland Acres, a local elementary school. She told the kids that the Crew “all have superpowers and they're called empathy and compassion," and then let them interact with her animals.

The result was nothing short of magical.

By using the animals as representations for people who look different, she was able to help the kids understand why bullying others is wrong.

“If you would not want to hurt this animal, why would you want to hurt a person with the same disability?" says Alison.

Dog members of the Compassion Crew, Scarlett (left) Roy (center), and G.I. Joe (right).

The lesson resonated with the kids so much, they wrote a number of letters to Alison thanking her for bringing her animal superheroes by.

Mowgli, the blind cat member of the Crew, made one of the biggest impressions.

A letter from one of the Highland Acres Elementary School kids.

In fact, Mowgli was actually the inspiration for Alison's dream project for the farm — their cat sanctuary Kitty City.

“We realized there was a big need in our area despite the great rescues that already existed," explains Alison.

So Kitty City acts as a fully-functioning adoption center, but it also provides a forever home for cats that, for whatever reason, can't be placed.

They also make it a priority to step in and take cats off death row at various local kill shelters when they run out of time. And once in the hands of the volunteers at the sanctuary, the cats receive nutritious food, medical care, and, most importantly, love, and attention.

Almost all the cats in Kitty City are adoptable, except, of course, for Mowgli who is a permanent member of the Smith family and the Compassion Crew.

Mowgli with another sanctuary animal friend.

That said, if you're interested in rescuing a blind cat, they have 15 others. Yes, they have some limitations, but they are just as loving and hilarious as any other cat.

While this new rescue endeavor has made it difficult for Alison to bring the Compassion Crew out to schools, it doesn't mean she's stopped.

In fact, she's beginning to offer on-site visits for kid groups like girl scout troops.

She hopes that this way, the Crew can continue to spread their anti-bullying message while she holds down the farm and all its working parts.

Atticus and his goat friend.

They're also always looking for volunteers, so if you happen to be in North Dakota, and want to spend a few hours surrounded by animals, now's your chance.

Or, if you don't live nearby, donations are always appreciated since the Smiths' have more than just a lack of helpers to worry about. They're up against brutally cold winters, which means they have to move their cat brood indoors from October through April. They're working on building out their indoor habitat, but the funds they can allocate are minimal.

All you have to do is look at what the Smiths have done to know they're brimming with empathy. And as long as their endeavors, like the Compassion Crew, prevail, they'll keep showing the next generation why compassion always wins.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

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The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

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The current COVID-19 "strategy" from the White House appears to be to push for theoretical "herd immunity" by letting the virus spread among the young and healthy population while protecting the elderly and immunocompromised until a certain (genuinely unknown) threshold is reached. Despite many infectious disease experts and some of the world's largest medical institutions decrying the idea as "a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence," and "practically impossible and highly unethical," the radiologist Trump added to his pandemic team is trying to convince people it's a grand plan.

Aside from the fact that we don't know enough about the natural immunity of this virus and the fact that "herd immunity" is a term used in vaccine science—not as a strategy of purposefully infecting people in order to get through an infectious disease outbreak —the idea of "infect the young, protect the vulnerable" is simply a unworkable strategy.

Look no further than the outbreak among the college student population in Pullman, Washington to see why.


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