SWEET BELLA – or – WHEN IS MY FAMILY COMING BACK TO GET ME?

A little over a month ago, actually not long after I posted “Putting the Cart Before the Horse”, I had to bring Clancy to the vet for his annual shots.  While we were there the vet tech asked me if Clancy got along with other dogs.  I told her that, like humans, sometimes he liked a particular dog and sometimes he didn’t.  I asked her why she was asking, and she told me the story of Bella.  Bella is a beautiful little dog whose owner brought her in a few days before saying that he “couldn’t” take care of her anymore, that there was something wrong with her feet, and he wanted to have her “put down”.  Basically, “I can’t be bothered taking care of this pet that has been with me and lived in our home for seven years so I would like  you to kill her”.  The vet tried to reason with the person, whom he had only seen once before in the office with Bella.  He told him that the problem with Bella’s feet is most likely allergies and could be cleared up, but the owner insisted on his original plans.  Well, luckily I have a wonderful vet who hasn’t forgotten why he got into this business, and he refused to kill Bella.  He and the tech told this “man” that they would take custody of Bella and find a home for her, the man left, and a few days later Clancy and I were there.

I had actually been considering getting a friend for Clancy.  He loves to play, would do so all day if I was willing, but there is only so much I can do for him.  I was hoping another dog could take up some of the slack for him and possibly teach him to be more sociable.  I had looked at a few other dogs here and there but none really clicked for Clancy.  Then there was the $10k emergency vet bill and getting another dog seemed like an idea I should put to rest.  But, since Bella was at the vet’s office we could introduce Clancy to her and see where it went.  Clancy is pretty quick when he meets another dog; he either likes the other dog right away or starts growling at it almost immediately.  They brought Bella out and Clancy didn’t try to kill her.  Hmm, there might be some potential here!  Myself and one of the other techs took them on a short walk together and neither dog seemed to care that the other was there. Also a good sign.  But still, no dog is itself at the vet’s office, so how could we really tell.  I told them I would have to think about it but would call them back by 5 pm.  Within an hour I was back at the office and, since it was Friday, I told them I would take Bella home for the weekend to see how things went, and then she at least wouldn’t have to stay crated and alone over the weekend. 

Now here we are, five weeks later.  Bella is of course still here and will be here forever.  It took me a while to decide.  I hemmed and hawed, after the weekend told them I would keep her for the rest of the week, then that I wanted to give her some more time to be on meds (along with the foot thing we figured out that she had a yeast infection) so maybe another week.  She and Clancy still weren’t trying to kill each other, although Bella really wasn’t much for playing at this point.  She was however food obsessed and also enjoyed peeing wherever she felt like.  But even if things weren’t perfect, how could I possibly now send this dog back to the vet to wait for someone else to take her home again and make her go through the same stressful process?  Nope, I told them that Bella was here to stay and we would make it work.  

Since then, I can’t help but wondering what Bella must be thinking and feeling, just like all dogs that are abandoned by their owners.  One minute she’s on a fun car ride with her human, and the next thing she knows the human leaves her at the vet’s office, never to be seen again.  The family Bella lived with for seven years, and the only home she’s ever known, is just gone.  She must have waited and waited for them to come back and get her.  Honestly, I’m not sure she isn’t still waiting.  At the vet’s office and in my home now, she always gets excited when you go near the door with her.  We all wondered if she thought that maybe we were finally bringing her back to her family.  Five weeks later I think she’s still confused and probably heartbroken.  A night hasn’t gone by yet where she doesn’t have what sounds like a bad dream, whimpering and yelping in her sleep.  I’ve tried to explain things to her, told her how sorry I am for what happened to her and how some humans are just stupid.  I’ve told her how much I love her, what a good little girl she is, how I don’t understand how anyone could ever leave her behind and that she doesn’t ever have to worry about losing her home ever again, that I will always take care of her.  I know it must sound crazy that I spoke to her that way, but who truly knows what animals understand?  I hoped that on some level, even if it’s just an energy level, what I was saying would get through to a place of understanding for her. I try to reassure her as much as I can.  After all, she really has no idea what’s going on.  She doesn’t know for sure yet whethere she’s in a safe place and if I am someone that can be trusted.  At this point I’m sure she feels like she can’t trust what might happen tomorrow.  She thought everything was o.k. before, in her former family, and look what happened.  I’ve seen the confusion and fear over and over again, in the eyes of just about every rescue dog I’ve ever met.  Everyone is horrified when someone just dumps a child off somewhere.  It’s all over the news, they search for the person responsible, the comment sections of full of hate for the person, society is outraged.  Yet six million people find it acceptable to do this to six million animals every year.  All of these animals have a level of awareness equal to that of a toddler, but somehow it’s considered less horrendous because it’s an animal.  I don’t get it, but ugh, I sound like a broken record.  It’s a recurring theme for me, in case you haven’t noticed.

Bella is safe.  She is here now and she will always have a home with myself and Clancy.  She is coming along.  Her personality is unfolding slowly.  She is trying to play with Clancy but isn’t quite sure how yet.  She has played tug-of-war with him once or twice, but mainly she just gets excited and yaps at him.  Clancy has been wonderful with  her.  He has his “other” issue, but with Bella he has been awesome.  Maybe the two of them understand that they were both in the same boat once before, in danger of being put down, but they got saved.  It still hurts,  but they have a life experience in common.  Bella’s yeast infection has cleared up, and since the first allergy pill she took, she has never chewed on her feet again.  The hair is starting to grow back on her paws and they are no longer red and sore.  All she needed was some simple allergy meds.  She is clean, she is well fed, and she and Clancy have been to numerous parks and on numerous car rides together already.  She has her own little basket in the car, in between myself and Clancy, and she has figured out how to use her tiny little legs to climb up onto the seat and then hop into her basket.  She is happiest when she is in a field of some sort and I unhook her leash and let her run free.  She is a picture then of pure joy!  She and Clancy take turns leading and following. At home in our backyard, as Clancy runs at full speed from one side of the house to the other (a miracle in itself considering how injured he was less than a year ago) to bark at what’s happening on the other side of the fence, Bella now is along side of him, trying to keep up.  Unfortunately, she would like to eat the cats just as much as Clancy would.  I was hoping that would go the other way, but instead now I’ve had to put up an additional fence across the back of the yard, just to give the cats a place where they are safe from the tenacious terrier twins!  Another thing I was hoping would go the other way was Clancy’s sociability at the dog park.  He finds it intimidating and hides behind me when we’re there.  So I brought Bella and him to the dog park one day, thinking Bella would probably love it and that would make Clancy more comfortable with it.  Instead, now BOTH dogs hide behind me!  I’m giving up on the dog park.  Some things just aren’t going to work.  And Bella is learning that her next door neighbor dog is her friend and not a threat to be barked at or kick dirt at (yes, she really does kick dirt at China).  And I am learning how to love two dogs equally, how to not let Clancy feel abandoned or Bella feel left out.  I am trying to figure out how to convey solidarity as a family unit to them, and teach them how to feel friendly towards each other.  It’s not something I’m familiar with .  I didn’t grow up with anything like that, so it’s difficult for me to create that environment.  Poor Clancy isn’t sure what’s going on either.  He had me all to himself for three years and suddenly there is this little interloper that doesn’t seem to be going away.  He is, at times, understandably jealous.  Last Saturday was bath day for them.  When Clancy was getting his bath, Bella barked and carried on the whole time.  I’m not sure what she thought was happening to her friend.  Then, when it was Bella’s turn next, Clancy sat quietly next to the bathtub, watching everything intently.  On the one hand I thought that he wanted to make sure his little friend was o.k.  On the other hand I had to wonder if he wasn’t waiting for the opportunity to drown her!  

It’s a balancing act, and we are all on a very steep learning curve.  It’s mainly up to me.  If I get my energy right, they will follow.  We’ll get there, because that’s what families do, even the furry ones.  We’ll get there because that’s what people who REALLY care about animals do; they make it work and would never consider dumping an animal to make their own life easier.  We don’t just pay lip service.  We don’t just call ourselves “animal lovers” but forsake the responsibility that comes with love.  We don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.  We’ll get there.  We’ll be fine.  Bella is home, and we will all be fine.

Picture of beautiful Clancy, in the background bathed in sunlight, and sweet Bella:

Bella & Clancy copy

PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE and SWIMMING UPSTREAM and ROWING AGAINST THE CURRENT and DIGGING A HOLE IN THE SAND!

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been in and around animal rescue and advocacy for years. Like so many, I’ve been involved with and caring for animals all of my life and the older I become the more aware I’ve become (thankfully). I have this “thing” though, an odd personality trait that has always been with me and has affected just about every area of my life; I’m always (and often unconsciously) waiting for an ending. Anytime I’ve been in a relationship, in the back of my head I’m waiting for it to end. Years ago I tried to play tennis, but if a rally was going on for too long I would actually sabotage the game, just to make it end. I expected any job I was ever in to end. My need for therapy aside, I finally gave in and now I work freelance. Now every job does end, whether I want it to or not. Maybe it’s all because of the way I grew up (things start and end quickly in an alcoholic family), but I find endings somehow comforting. It’s normal to me. So just imagine how uncomfortable it must be for me to be involved in animal rescue! It makes me nuts. IT NEVER ENDS! There’s always an endless supply of animals that need help, always more animals being abandoned, dumped and surrendered. It’s not like we start out with six million animals at the beginning of the year and the numbers go down as the year progresses. It’s that there is a minimum of six million homeless animals (that we know of and that’s a low estimate) EVERY day, of EVERY year.   We start out with six million and at the end of the year there are six million more. Thousands of caring people work hard every day finding homes for all those millions of animals, but at the end of a year the cages are still full, just with different animals. It’s maddening. We talk, we try to educate, we create petitions, we sign other people’s petitions, we blog, we wear t-shirts, we decorate our cars with magnets and bumper stickers, we hold adoption events, we hold fundraisers, we put our homeless animals in some of the most visible places for people to meet them. The information about homeless animals is all over tv, Facebook, Twitter, the internet and in newspapers. Common people know about it, politicians know about it, celebrities know about it but yet, the cages are only empty long enough to be cleaned for the next abandoned animal.

So what gives?   Well, I think I got my first hint of “what gives” just this past July. I have a little dog – my little Clancy. I adore him. Of course Clancy was a rescue, in danger of being put down because he has issues with aggression. They would only adopt him out to someone with no kids and a lot of dog experience. We were meant for each other. Come to find out that Clancy has a “fear aggression”.   He’s basically afraid of everything, but when he feels threatened by a person (which I’m pretty sure is all the time) it comes out in all the wrong ways. Needless to say, Clancy and I have been through a lot. It’s been a long, slow, bonding process with a lot of ups and downs, but each step of the journey brings us closer together. He’s my boy. But one day last July I opened the front door to put out the garbage.   Clancy had been trained to back up and stay when I open a door, to not run out, but I put a little bit too much faith in his training and wasn’t counting on the cat walking in front of the door at that moment. Clancy ran out between my legs after the cat, and I watched in horror as he chased the cat into the street at the same moment a car was moving towards them.   The cat turned just in time but Clancy wasn’t fast enough. I won’t go into the gory details; it was bad but he was alive, but injured beyond and requiring more care than what my Vet could provide at that point. My wonderful neighbors rushed Clancy and I out to the emergency Vet hospital, about 45 minutes away. They saved his life, quite literally. He actually died on the table and they revived him. I am, and will be, forever grateful. He was at the hospital for a week, and now I have a $10,000 bill that I’ll be paying off for years.

Again, I am FOREVER grateful. I would kiss the ground they walk on at that hospital. But $10,000?  That didn’t even include a surgery!  Last week I had to bring one of my cats to the (regular) Vet, because he just wasn’t acting right – $400. He still has to go back for his shots. I don’t even want to think about it. I have 4 cats that all need their shots. There are no group discounts. All of this got me to thinking that it’s a miracle that a lot more people AREN’T abandoning their animals! I mean, how can we ask people to give homes to and care for these beautiful animals when the majority of people are struggling to make ends meet to begin with?!   How can we hope to ever see the day when there is no need for shelters or rescues because no one has to give up their pets? I’m not talking about the people who dump their pets because they are moving and chose a place that doesn’t allow pets (Oh puhleeze, so move somewhere else!), or the pregnant woman who “just won’t have the time” to care for the pet after the baby arrives (Will you get rid of your first child when you have the second one?).   I’m talking about the people who, legitimately, just don’t have the money to pay Vet bills and maybe had no idea that it would cost so much to care for a pet. The people who are in danger of losing their homes because they can’t pay the mortgage, so how in the hell are they supposed to spend a hundred dollars a month on pet food? That are wondering how they are going to afford to buy groceries to feed their kids, so how in the hell can they be expected to pay fifty dollars for a box of flea meds? I know that everyone has to make a living, including and in my opinion especially our Veterinarians. But they got into this business because they cared about animals which means, to me, that they have to see the bigger picture. That if they want animals to be cared for, they have to keep their prices reasonable for the average Joe and Joan who are trying to do the best for their pets. Many Vets (like mine) do try to give discounts to help people out, but then their hands are tied when it comes to things like medications, lab work and flea meds. Omg, will someone please tell me why the price of flea meds is so high? I have to keep four cats and a dog in flea meds for at least six months, and I know a lot of people with even more pets than I and more seasons to cover. What the hell are we all supposed to do? How the hell are we supposed to take care of our pets the way we want to, and the way that is necessary?! Which leads us now to the pharmaceutical companies, and everyone else that is benefiting big-time from the boom in the sale of pet products, which by the way is happening in large part because of the efforts of all the animal rescue people preaching love and empathy for animals! Talk about a Catch-22!  Apparently, the more we “get through” to people about loving animals, the more the pet industry big-wigs take advantage of it, raising and raising their prices and making it more and more difficult for those same people to be caring, responsible pet owners!   So what do you think happens then? People start dumping their pets of course, because they can’t afford to care for them! The day I went to pick Clancy up from the shelter to adopt him, I was heartbroken to see two more people bringing their dogs INTO the shelter because they couldn’t afford them anymore, and that was just in the five minutes I was standing there. That goes on all day, every day. And round, and round, and round we go!

Last but not least, the topic that is often the most infuriating to those of us who have known countless animals needing homes, is the unnecessary BREEDING of even MORE animals and (in my opinion) the ignorance and selfishness of the people who pay for them! My God people! With over six million homeless animals available, why, why, WHY would anyone go and pay a thousand or more dollars for a pet? And the flip side to that is all the breeders who claim to be “animal lovers”. Let’s call it like it is – if you REALLY loved animals, you’d be caring for all the ones who actually need you – the HOMELESS ones, instead of adding even more pets to the already over-populated population and with each new puppy or kitten, taking a home away from an animal that is already in need of one! If you REALLY loved animals, you’d be giving them your money for their care instead of using animals to MAKE money! Then there are some people who are just ignorant (or stupid?). I have neighbors who no longer speak to me because I offered to take their cat to be fixed for them.   Let me say that again; I OFFERED to take THEIR CAT to be fixed! They said I was sticking my nose where it didn’t belong, that it was none of my business. Mind you, I have two large signs on my lawn, one asking people to “Adopt, not shop”, and another showing photos of a number of homeless dogs I have known and asking people not to breed more animals. These signs, as well as my car with the rescue magnets stuck to the back, all face the house of the neighbor I’m talking about here. Let me say at the outset that I really am a “live and let live” kind of person. I truly believe that everyone should be able to do what they want, and live the lives they want, as long as they are not hurting anyone or anything else. When it comes to animals though, all bets are off.   They can’t speak for themselves.   I admit I am a self-appointed judge and jury and will stick my nose in and run my mouth anytime and to anyone I think is doing wrong by an animal. And to me, if you are breeding animals irresponsibly you are hurting a lot of other animals, as well as the people who work so tirelessly to trap and fix feral cats and find homes for them and for so many dogs. So, these particular neighbors have a cat that, at the time of my offer, had had at least 3 litters that we know of. The cat was not fixed but they would let her out into their yard. What did they expect would happen? Anyhow, all of the rest of us neighbors (including the other people across the street who had 9 stray cats that they had fixed and were feeding twice a day, to my six stray cats also fixed and fed twice a day) kept waiting and expecting our neighbor with the unfixed cat to finally do the right thing. We all talked about it but tried to mind our own business for a very long time.   We all bit our tongues and waited for her to do the right thing for a very long time. But when I heard the last time that her cat was pregnant YET AGAIN, I threw caution to the wind and asked her if she was ever going to get her cat fixed. She said she knew that she should, but she “just didn’t have the time”.  O.k., if that’s what you’re going with. That’s when I offered to take the cat for her, which she agreed to at first but then changed her mind. That’s how, a few months later, her daughter threatened to slap the shit out of me for sticking my nose where it didn’t belong. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that their two dogs have been getting out of their yard and into the street at least once a week for years, but they have YET to repair the fence.)

Last week I responded to an ad I saw on Craigslist. This guy wanted to dump his sweet cat because his dog had just had another litter, and his wife wanted to keep one of the puppies. I don’t think I even have to tell you what I said to him; it’s probably self-explanatory at this point. Suffice it to say that he responded by telling me to “Go f— off!”, at which point I told him that I was happy he had at least found 3 words he could spell correctly!

So what do we do with THOSE people, people like this guy and my neighbors? There are so many of them out there. Craigslist, for one, is full of ads from people trying to sell or give away puppies and kittens. What do we do about the people who call themselves “animal lovers”, yet who are too lazy to educate themselves about the reality of what all of our animals are dealing with? The information is everywhere, in every format, so there’s really no excuse for not knowing. It comes down to not WANTING to know, and for me that comes down to not caring!

But again, the bottom line is that animals suffer because of us. They suffer because of the ignorant people who just keep breeding more and more animals; they suffer because of the people who simply MUST have a pedigree dog with papers and so they line the pockets of the breeders, thereby rewarding them for exploiting animals. The American Kennel Club is one of the biggest promoters of dog breeding and so one of the biggest contributors to the over all problem of homeless animals. They try to make it look so glamorous; they stage highly publicized (useless) dog SHOWS, with owners strutting around their many beautifully coiffed and manicured dogs, taking credit for their perfection (as if they personally gave birth to them and the dogs are a product of their own gene pool). But let’s think about how many puppies were born and discarded in the breeder’s quest for the perfect specimen of the breed, repeated over and over again for countless breeds. How many new puppies were born and therefore took homes away from dogs already sitting in cages, waiting for a family? I’ll bet we could never find a statistic on that! Ironically now, the animals suffer because of Vets who’ve forgotten their roots and charge so much that people CAN’T properly care for an animal.   They suffer because of the pharmaceutical companies, and the pet food companies, who are also cashing in on the exploding interest in animals. Again, these companies and Vets have taken advantage of the interest in animals raised by the very people trying so desperately to help animals. It was an unforeseen, unexpected and certainly unwanted by-product of raising awareness and educating the public about the joys and plight of animals. We care about animals more, we are more aware of animals, we are more “animal conscious”, but because of all that ironically, we can afford them less and less and there are more and more born each day. The movement was only supposed to create empathy, but all this new found interest and awareness has unfortunately made animals big business.

And round and round we go.   And the animals are the losers, again.   As the title states, the work of all the animal rescue people is like digging a hole in the sand, swimming upstream and rowing against the current. They never get anywhere. They’ll never achieve “the goal” because there are too many forces working against them. They are putting the cart before the horse because before we can hope for a “no shelters necessary” world, we have to live in a world where everyone can afford to care for a pet and where everyone is smart enough to not breed MORE animals! It depresses me to even write that, because it sounds so impossible. As we see now, for every animal sitting in a shelter, there are MANY humans responsible for it being left there.

But the many dedicated rescue people will keep trying, and fighting, and chipping away at the constantly over-populated world of abandoned animals. As the saying goes, “Saving one animal won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal”.

It’s just not enough.

 

 

JUST KILL IT

I often wonder how, when and why it became so easy for humans to kill things, often automatically and without even a thought.  Is it a primal instinct or is it learned?  Even worse; Is it taught?  And I’m not just talking about killing other humans or animals.  Do you kill bugs?  Do you do it without thinking, like it’s just a normal action?  Do you give a second of thought to the fact that you are snuffing out a tiny, little life?  Everything is relative.  The bug doesn’t know it is small.  In fact, it’s only small in OUR eyes.  Did you ever see the old t.v. show, where a woman is invaded by tiny little spacemen?  They land on her roof in a tiny little space ship and invade her in her home.  She is terrified, and does everything she can to kill them by swatting at them with brooms and such.  It isn’t until the very end (I think the space men were all killed by her) that the camera pans to an area on the tiny space ship which shows its credentials and place of origin, “United States of America”.  You see, one of our space ships visited a planet where the inhabitants were apparently giants (as compared to us).  All along we’re led to believe that this woman is a “normal” sized human being invaded by abnormally tiny creatures, but in reality it was us just living our lives, just like the bugs are doing.  The astronauts sort of got what was coming to them though because, of course, the first thing THEY tried to do when they broke into the “giant’s” house was to try to kill her with their little ray-guns!  Didn’t even think about it.  And while we’re on the topic of epic role-reversals that should make us think, let’s not forget the movie, “Planet of the Apes”.  If you’ve never seen it you should, and if you haven’t seen it in a long time you should watch it again.  It’s possibly more poignant today than when it was made!

Have you ever seen a child intentionally stepping on ants?  Do you encourage or discourage the behavior?  Do you even think about it?

The owner of a place where I work brings his dog in every day.  The dog is a sweet boy but barks fairly often, as some dogs do.  One of the male employees finds this rather intolerable and very sternly reprimands the dog (ironically he sort of barks at the dog).  When this happened the other day, I said to the guy that it must be difficult to have such acute hearing as dogs do, and have to live in such a noisy world, hearing every little sound and not knowing if it is something to be alarmed about.  Then I asked him if he ever thought about the notion that we constantly insist that our pets be quiet and not use their voices, but they have to listen to us yap all day.  Not only do they hear us in person but also through the constant yammering of the tv’s and radios that are going on around them all day.  His response was, “That’s true.  But they’re animals”.  I’m pretty sure he would have said “only” animals if he had thought of it.  So, I guess he was implying that they are undeserving of the same respect we demand for ourselves?  Sadly, an all too typical response from humans.  I had to remind him then that we too are animals!

TV and the internet are full of stories of people who kill nonchalantly.  I’m not talking about your odd “serial killer”; I’m talking about the guy up the street whose idea of fun is going into the woods and killing a deer or a bear; the fisherman whose idea of a good day is sinking a hook into the flesh of a sea creature, the bigger and more majestic the better; and I’m talking about the proliferation of persons on the news who so easily pull a trigger and end someone forever.  Where does it come from, this mindlessness?  How do people become so detached from emotion, empathy and compassion?  Years ago, I was a Driving Instructor.  One day I sat in my car outside a lower income housing development, waiting for my next student to emerge.  Two woman were out front talking to each other, and a (just learning how to walk) toddler was inside a grass covered, fenced area.  The poor little thing fell and started crying pathetically.  Not only did the mother not attempt to comfort the child, she never even acknowledged her!  She just kept talking to her friend like the kid wasn’t even there.  It broke my heart and I remember thinking that this poor little girl didn’t stand a chance in life, that she was already doomed to an emotionally detached future.  Does the ability to kill perhaps start in situations like this one?

Here’s another story from my past that caused me to respect life, no matter what the size:  I guess I was a teenager and stayed up later than everyone one night, just watching t.v.  The only light in the room was from the t.v., and it cast a path across the wood floor.  I suddenly noticed a spider (I don’t know the proper name, but we called them “Daddy Long Legs”) cross the path of light in front of the t.v.  Without even thinking about it, I got up and stepped on the spider, crushing it under my shoe.  I cleaned its remains up off the floor with a tissue, but not perfectly I guess, because a few moments later a second Daddy Long Legs began moving across the same path.  When it reached the spot where the other spider had been crushed, it went absolutely crazy.  It started spinning around and around at top speed, circling the area, then spinning around and around again.  I remember being stunned at its reaction, thinking that I must have killed his mate and he knew it… and he CARED!  He was aware, and seemingly distraught.  I felt horrible about what I had done.  That moment changed me forever.  It was the moment when I understood that all lives are important, that perhaps there is more awareness in each animal than we ever give them credit for, that we have no right to assume we know how, or what, or if they think, that I have no right to take ANY creature’s life, and that a small life is still a life and not small to the creature who is living it.

There are still the times when I have to kill things; I kill mosquitos because they can hurt my pets; I killed ants when they invaded my home in droves.  Thank heaven I don’t have roaches, but if I did, I surely would be killing them.  Sometimes it really does come down to self defense.  But I don’t do it mindlessly.  I actually do agonize over it.  I actually do say a prayer to ask forgiveness.  Maybe you think I’m crazy, but is it really such a bad thing to be a person who agonizes over the death of a living creature?  Isn’t it preferable to being a person who doesn’t even think about it, or thinks about it but doesn’t care?  There are people who actually laugh at the death of a helpless creature and consider it entertainment.  I guess they go through life more easily, but is that who we want to be?

Who are the people that have the capacity to spend their life killing the animals that we then eat for food?  They not only kill them but often abuse them repeatedly.  Who are THOSE people?!  Does it frighten you as much as it does me, that there are people so removed from feeling that they are able to spend day after day killing?  Do you know that in China they REALLY DO EAT DOGS?!  They have entire festivals based on eating dog meat?  That they gather them up and pile them on top of one another, waiting to be killed and eaten?  The dogs know!  We know the dogs know what’s going on!  Can you imagine what they must go through as they await their fate?  Ask anyone who has ever worked in a kill shelter; the dogs know when their time has come, when they are being walked to their death.  They struggle.  They try to get away.  The terror shows in their eyes.  They often must be dragged to their place of death.  So if the Chinese can do that to animals that we know have an emotional life, who’s to say that we are not just ignoring cows, pigs, chickens and other animals in the same way because then it’s easier to justify killing them?

I’ve always believed that one of the most important things to teach children is empathy.  In fact, I think it should be mandatory teaching in every school from the youngest age possible.  The ability to put one’s self in another’s place; to imagine how they would feel if, to imagine what it must look like to that bug when the big shoe is about to come down on it, to feel the fear, to wonder if those left behind might now painfully starve because there will be no one to bring food back to them, to imagine the pain an animal must feel when a metal trap clamps down on its leg or a bullet rips through its flesh, the fear it might feel when it sees the gun pointing at it,  to think about what it means to end another human’s life forever, that they will no longer exist on this planet, to think about what it will do to that person’s family – these are the things our children must be taught.  Sadly though, some of the teachers and parents have to learn it first.

 

 

 

WHY AM I HERE?

As it should be

I’ve been around animals all of my life.  It’s really the only thing I’ve ever felt passionate about.  As I got older I began to get involved in animal rescue and adoption and became more and more aware of the plight of animals in our country, and our world.  Volunteering for a couple of animal rescue shelters, I watched the endless supply of inhabitants. The crates and cages were never empty; if anything, the shelters often had to turn animals away (or euthanize them) because there just wasn’t enough space to hold them all.  My job was to help “socialize” the animals and to give them some individual attention while they were there.  So many of them were so traumatized from the entire experience.  Just imagine being put into your car and just left somewhere without warning, never again to see the family you had come to love and think you were a part of, never again to see the place you had come to think of as your home.  Just an hour before you had felt safe and content, without much of a care in the world; an hour later you are suddenly terrified and confused, surrounded by strangers in a strange place, with strange smells and a lot of noise, nothing at all familiar, and with you are dozens of others who seem to be just as confused and scared.  Where once you had a comfortable bed with a familiar scent, now you are placed into a cage, not knowing what is going to happen next, or if it will hurt.  Where once you could walk about relatively freely, or maybe enjoy the pleasures of a yard of your own, now you were only taken out of the cage a couple of times a day for a few moments just so you can relieve yourself and then be returned, and that’s if you’re lucky.  Some shelters are so overwhelmed that the animals rarely get out of their crates or pens to relieve themselves; they just have to find a spot where they won’t end up stepping in it before someone has the time to clean up the mess.  I’ve read that most dogs have cognitive ability at the level of a two year old child. Imagine if this was all happening to your child, who was still too young to speak, or make sense of things, or ask questions. Imagine if you were suddenly gone from your child’s life, and they were suddenly dumped off with strangers in a strange place.  Wouldn’t that child be terrified?  Well it’s absolutely no different for all of the more than SIX MILLION animals who are sitting in shelters every day!  They are just as terrified.  They are just as confused.  They are just as unable to speak for themselves or understand.  And they often become just as depressed as you, or your child would, in the same situation.  Every day as I tried to give these love-starved dogs (in this case) some time and attention, I just couldn’t understand how any human could abandon their pet like this.  Could they really be so lacking in empathy?  Can people really be so far removed from their own emotions that they don’t even think of what they are doing to these beautiful creatures that they once called THEIR pets?  Do they ever think of it from the animal’s point of view?

In the years that followed, I have seen more and more of this lack of empathy and compassion, and lack of thought given for the animals.  Respect for animals is, to a large degree, nonexistent in our society.  My Inbox is filled every day with petitions and calls to action, each asking for help for a particular animal or group of animals, or to prosecute an abuser or stop some legalized slaughter of animals.  Cecil the lion was only one small example of the thousands of atrocities that are perpetrated upon animals every day, every minute.  Did it occur to you that the Dentist’s only defense was that he “thought it was a legal hunt” ?  The fact that this was a needless, horrific act, whether legal or not, never even crossed his mind.  For years I’ve wondered if it could be proven that there must be something wrong with a person whose idea of  FUN is to kill something.   It’s an acceptable concept in the human world, so why not for animals?  Is it because they don’t speak a language we  understand?  It’s really all that separates us.  If your dog (or cat, or bird, or guinea pig, or rabbit) could ask you where you were going when you put him in the car to dump him at the shelter, if he could scream your name, if he could beg you not to leave him and sob loudly as you hand his leash over to someone and make your way out the door, could you still do it?  Would you?  Because I’m sure all of the feelings are there inside the animals.  Every day, scientists discover more and more that animals are capable of feeling emotion.  Anyone who has ever loved a pet knew that a long time ago.  To the rest I can only say, we know at the very least that animals feel fear.  It’s one of their greatest defenses for survival.  So if there is one emotion, doesn’t it follow that there must be other emotions – perhaps even a full range of emotion?

So why am I here?  Why have I started this blog?  Because I believe that one of the reasons why I am here on this earth (maybe the only one) is to speak for the animals, and to be one of the many who helps to make many others more aware, and more animal conscious.  (Self appointed, yes, but emanating from within.)  Every petition hurts.  Every call to action hurts.  It hurt when I went to Albany to lobby for Bills to end certain animal abuses.  It hurt when I was adopting my dog and at least three more were dropped off while I was signing the papers to bring him home.  It hurts every time I see another homeless cat wandering the streets, trying to survive the cold winters and the lack of food, water and love.  It hurts every time my dog still reacts with terror when he enters a room lined with tiles and stainless steel, just like the shelter was (and more than two years later).  To quote the character John Coffey in the movie, “The Green Mile”:  “There’s too much of it — it’s like pieces of glass in my head,all the time.”  Even so, I can’t be one of those people who closes their eyes and covers their ears whenever the ASPCA commercials come on.  It hurts me just as much as it hurts the next person, but closing my eyes and allowing myself to remain ignorant just means more animals will suffer.  So which is easier to live with; Watching the heartbreaking commercials or knowing that if I don’t, if I don’t keep it fresh in my mind’s eye, more animals will suffer?  It’s the watching that creates the motivation to then create a change, because IT IS so horrific and unbearable!  I (we) have to watch the commercials because otherwise the animals will just keep having to go through it, and alone!

And finally, admittedly, I am here in this blog because I can be somewhat of a zealot on this topic.  My hope is that perhaps a blog will allow me to channel the passion more constructively.  At least in a blog you can shut me down if you want to.  Not always the case in real life.  If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for listening.

“Some people talk to animals.  Not many listen though.  That’s the problem.”  (A.A.Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh)