Memorial Day Reminder

What with all of the sales flyers that have filled my mail box this past week and the celebratory posts and invites that have been floating through my Facebook feed nonstop, it seems like many people in this country have forgotten what this day means. The photo below truly captures what Memorial Day symbolizes.

Despite what the car dealers or Macy’s or the party planners would have you believe, it’s not about the excellent deal on that gas guzzling SUV or the 50% off sale on shoes you don’t need or that rowdy beer infused bbq party you won’t half remember on Tuesday at work.

Memorial Day is about giving thanks to our nation’s true heroes as we honor those who have fallen in their service to our great country.  So enjoy your day, most definitely, in whatever way you decide to do so. But let’s just remember those who made it possible.

memorial day 2

Once Upon a Time There Were Rhinos

Hang your heads in shame, patriots. The hunt is on. Remember my previous post about Corey Knowlton, America’s poster boy for wildlife conservation? Well, he’s finally gotten approval from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to bring back—as a trophy—the critically endangered black rhino he paid the Namibian government $350,000 to wipe off the face of the earth. It’s basically the US government giving him the thumbs up for helping to annihilate a species.

Of course Mr. Knowlton (so tough to type out his name, my fingers start to ball up into fists when I get halfway through) isn’t going to prance around in a black mask and black cape and tell you he’s a horrible, rotten, no-good villain. He’s still trying to desperately spin his bloodlust into some positive PR routine so that people will believe he’s actually helping the conservation efforts of the rhino. Uh huh. Killing to save lives, you say? Who would fall for such a ridiculously hypocritical stance? Oh, our government. I kid, I kid. Truth is our government wasn’t fooled by Knowlton at all, they were simply bought. Apparently hundreds of thousands of dollars can buy just about anything these days.  As if we didn’t know that already.

I know Knowlton says that the money he paid for the hunt is for aiding the anti-poaching and conservation efforts, but my original question still stands:  Why not just donate the money? I wish someone would slap him up side the head tap him on the shoulder and tell him his money is still good, even if he doesn’t kill something critically endangered just for the chance to hang its head on his wall.

click photo for info

click photo for some actual facts on the whole mess

Of Haunting Images and Hope

Okay, so time for a more serious post.  I hope you’ll stick with me long enough to read this one through.

I’m sure everyone has seen those horrific photos on Facebook and elsewhere on the internet. The ones that show an animal starving or abused or neglected.  They’re horrendous and just who the hell wants to see them anyway?  Ye Gads, once they’re seen it’s difficult if not impossible to un-see them.  It just ruins a person’s day (I had someone tell me that once).  Honestly, I understand just where those people are coming from.  I hate the photos for the very same reasons.  I’ve always had a problem with getting images out of my head.  Some people can’t stand to see horrible things, but I take it further in that once I see something horrific or disturbing, I can’t seem to get rid of the image…ever.  It stays with me, in my head, and pops back up at the oddest and most inopportune times.   Of course, it’s the emotion that is behind the image that stays with me….but it is the visual that truly haunts me. Forever. It’s like a kind of demented eidetic memory.

But you know what?  These photos are necessary.  It’s easy to say “I know what happens; I don’t need to see it.”  That really isn’t true though is it?  I mean, being told “that dog was starved to death,” isn’t nearly as moving as seeing a dog that had been starved to death. Sometimes words just aren’t enough.  And of course that’s what makes people so angry….the photos hurt their heart.

I support the fight against animal cruelty in all forms but I especially work towards ending horse slaughter.  It’s such a needless and inhumane business.  And I know that by supporting animal advocacy groups I’m helping to keep animals from being exploited and slaughtered and I realize that raising awareness is the key to change.  But I’ve often wondered if I can continue to deal with the constant horrific images floating around in my head and in my heart.

I had a revelation one night and it came, as they usually do I guess, through a dream. I dreamed of watching a horse slaughter transport truck go down the highway from a spot high above on a rocky hill, and seeing a horse, a splendid fawn colored, spotted horse, falling out of the truck thru a gap at the top of the side wall.  In real life, this would of course be physically impossible…but then…this was a dream.  And in my dream, the truck was so completely overloaded that it caused her to fall out, to basically be forcibly shoved out through a small gap in the sidewall of the truck.  In my dream I sat there gasping in horror as the horse fell completely out of the truck. I was just sure it was dead because there was no way it could survive the fall, let alone make it off the busy highway without being hit. Instead, to my absolute delight, it ran across the highway and up the hill where I was sitting. It came to my vehicle and leaned down to look in the open window as if to talk to me. I looked into its sensitive eyes and face, knowing that it was free of the horrors that had awaited it, that it had escaped, and I was inspired by the hope I saw there. I awoke with this amazingly beautiful image in my mind.

And that, people, is the image that will be sticking with me from now on, regardless of anything else that I might see. That horse, that one magnificent horse, can turn into hundreds and into thousands and then tens of thousands of horses that are saved from future slaughter, from future horrors that they do not deserve. That image of hope in her soulful eyes, of future, and of survival moved me far more than the horrific pictures I’ve seen.

It moved me more because that horse represents everything animal advocates, myself included, work towards.  Her heroic escape from an overloaded truck headed for a slaughter-house, gallant run to safety, and entrance into freedom represents a journey.  It is a journey that we must all take to stand up for the rights of animals who cannot stand up for themselves.  It is a journey that requires facing our fears and standing up to evil itself.  It is a journey of hope and hope is what gives us all the strength to fight animal cruelty every day.  Hope is so much stronger than evil.  Hope can move mountains and save horses.

 

 

Charitable Music Contributions

Charity starts at home on the road and I want to give a shout out to all those altruistic folks on the highways, at red lights, and in parking lots who are oh so kind enough to share their music with those of us less fortunate who might not have music of our own to listen to.

Without you we might have to sit in glorious silence going over that speech we have to give in the PR meeting later, or perhaps, god forbid, we might catch up on the news or the latest weather report, or even be forced to listen to that audio book we checked out at the library just for our commute to work. If it weren’t for you sharing your music at such a loud decibel that our cars shake, we might never know the pleasures of obscenity laden music or lyrical rape scenarios, all while having our spines realigned and our heads on the verge of implosion from the sheer force of the bass.

So thank you! Thank you for doing your part to make what is already an annoying undertaking — our daily commute or running errands — that much more intolerable by giving of yourselves and your delightful taste in music.

Unlikely Plaything

Kids can be so cute, can’t they? The way they have endless curiosity about everything they see; their exuberance over new experiences that we have grown jaded to and take for granted; the wide-eyed openness to everything the world has to offer regardless of how taboo, odd, or grotesque. They’re simply amazing.

Take this video of a little girl traipsing around her front yard playing lovingly with a dead squirrel:

If it were a doll or a stuff animal or a photo of a family member I’d be letting all sorts off oohs and awwws escape my mouth. The only thing holding me back from sharing in her happiness is that it’s a freakin’ dead squirrel! Mouth agape, eyes rolled back in its head, limbs hanging heavy, neck slack, this squirrel is deader than dead. And recently dead. As in their dog just killed the poor thing. So of course, why not let the kid play with it. It’s the natural order of things, right?

I don’t wag my finger at the girl, though. She’s so young, she obviously doesn’t understand what her newest toy actually signifies. I’m more angered at the parents. The Dad who saw this as the perfect opportunity to grab a camera and film his daughter being so oblivious that it’s “cute” and the Mom who can only stand there, hands on her hips and smirk on her face, looking at the camera with an inner monologue that screams, “Don’t kids just do the darndest things!?” What is wrong with these parents?

You don’t have to agree with me, but in my opinion the Gods that be (or whoever you want to name) just gave them an absolutely perfect teaching opportunity about oh, I don’t know, empathy, compassion maybe, life being a sacred thing, and they squandered it. This could have been a prime moment to impress upon their child a lesson about the sanctity of life, the inevitability of death, and the respect that we can show the dearly departed. But no. What do they do instead? They mock the animal that tragically lost its life (in the jaws of the family dog no less…not even a natural death) and turn what could be a window into the frailty of life into playtime. The little girl sees the squirrel as a toy (again, not blaming her for this because she’s too young to know any different) and the parents just go along with this little show, encouraging it even — with the Dad calling the dog into his video masterpiece so he could introduce “the killer and the killed.”

I could also go off about the fact that his kid is rubbing a dead carcass all over her naked chest and the obvious health implications of that. I’m not saying that the squirrel definitely has fleas or a virus or a disease or whatever, but until I’m 100% certain a wild animal corpse isn’t going to pass along some transmittable illness, I wouldn’t want my kid laying a finger on it let alone using it for playtime. But I’ll let the other YouTube comments harp on that point.

My main concern centers around this one question: Where is the empathy? Clearly not with the parents and because of what they are either knowingly or unknowingly passing on, the kid has none either. What message does this send to their child? Sure, it’s all fun and games for now, but I wonder what they’ll do when she drags home a dead dog to play with.

They’re Only Dogs

I don’t know if I should waste the time writing about what may not even technically be “journalism” based on the warped or altogether absent logic presented in the writer’s argument, but I can’t let such a horrendously out of touch article slip by without saying something. Please read the inane ramblings of Adrian MacNair.

I don’t know how much back story I need to give but here are the nuts and bolts of a dog killer’s cruel and bizarre voyage to prison.

This dog walker, Emma Paulsen, left a bunch of dogs in her truck for god knows how long. That should be the first sign that she shouldn’t be taking care of dogs in the first place. It’s one of the cardinal rules when traveling with a pet. Anyway…long story short—shocker!—they all died from heat stroke. All of them. This little fact leads me to assume that she was gone for a very long time. It’s not like they all died at the exact same second. It must have taken time for all six dogs to languish from overheating.

So what does a kind, caring soul like Ms. Paulsen decide to do at the sight of a pile of dead dogs in her truck? She dumps them all in a ditch and reports to the police that they had been stolen. Yup, we have a real animal lover here, folks. She led on the local authorities and the owners, giving them all hope that, maybe, sometime soon, their beloved animals would return safely. All the while she knew they were decomposing in a hole outside of town. This ruse lasted for a week until she finally fessed up and admitted that she had killed them and hid the bodies. Charges were filed and she ended up sentenced to six months in prison among other reprimands.

You know me. You know how much I love animals. Throwing her in prison for a brief stint seems like a real “no effing duh!” outcome. All too often animal cruelty laws are ignored and enforcement is minimal if not nonexistent. Add in the whole filing a false report, lying to police, etc., and the charges make sense. I was glad to see something come of this case.

Then I read the article by Adrian MacNair that left me in utter disbelief. You think Paulsen’s crime isn’t such a big deal just because they’re dogs? What kind of twisted logic is that?

Let me just look at this from a cold, legal standpoint. If you take away the emotional connection, the sentimentality, and the intangibles of pet ownership, a dog is still property. If I bought or adopted the dog, took it in, gave it a place to live, have a license for it, blah blah blah, it is technically something that I own. Now substitute a dog for any other piece of property people own. Let’s say cars. If this woman had completely totaled six peoples’ cars, messed with evidence, filed a false police report and lied to police, she’d be expected to go to jail for that, right? It doesn’t matter how much the item cost or how easily it can be replaced.  The foundational principle here is that it’s another person’s stuff and people can’t just destroy it without consequence. I’m no lawyer but I’m pretty sure that’s the way it works.

And I’m willing to bet good money that MacNair would agree with me on that particular analogy.  Now, in addition to those facts above, add back in the emotional investment which can’t be measured and try to tell me that the bond between a person and their animal doesn’t add intrinsic value.  That’s the part Mr. MacNair apparently can’t wrap his head around.

The sheer callousness in which MacNair views an animal’s life is downright shocking. In one section MacNair writes, “I felt sympathy because Paulsen is going to lose her right to freedom over the death of six animals who, at the end of the day, are essentially inconsequential to this world. Oh yes, I’m sure the dogs were important to the dog owners. That much is clear. But they’re only dogs. And this is a woman’s life we’re talking about. Dogs are easily replaced. If you don’t think that’s true, head down to your local animal shelter. You can grab one for about $350.”

Yes, we all know how much dogs cost. But their price tag does not determine their value. That’s not how connections between living beings work. Try telling a child, crying and inconsolable after his first dog passes, that his beloved friend didn’t mean anything, that it was inconsequential to this world. Those happy memories of them playing in the grass, the lesson the child was learning about how to care for another living creature, the deeply rooted joy given by the dog that will largely help define his happy childhood, you’re telling me that has no impact on the world? If you believe that, you are delusional.

A commenter, Ida Koric, summed it up best by saying, “Your main issue, MacNair, is that you feel that you’ve been granted the right to determine the value of a life. You have dismissed dogs as “just dogs” with absolutely NO logical argument about why the life of a dog, or any animal is meaningless, other than that it appears to be so to your personal view. Guess what? You don’t get to make that decision…”

Amen, Ms. Koric. And hopefully people like MacNair never will have that authority.

If you’re interested, links to the original story about Ms. Paulsen’s actions are below:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/6-missing-dogs-died-in-back-of-langley-dog-walker-s-truck-1.2647705

http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/drama-unfolds-outside-courthouse-as-dog-walker-case-gets-underway-1.2000206

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/emma-paulsen-b-c-dog-walker-gets-jail-time-for-animal-cruelty-1.2935040

Owners vs Lovers

Okay, so after talking to someone today about “rehoming”– let’s be frank, a great deal of the time that’s just a euphemism for “getting rid of” – pets, I feel the need to rant a little bit.  This particular conversation was about a horse, but it could easily have been about a dog, a cat, or any other animal.

If you were to ask a horse owner what they think of their horse, you will probably get a response like, “Oh, I love my horse!”

That might be true, or it might not.

There is a difference between horse owners and horse lovers, and a lot of people who say they are horse lovers – or even think they are horse lovers – really aren’t.

Loving a horse – or any pet, frankly – means providing for it fully and unconditionally. If there is a food shortage, lovers will make sure their pet was fed first, before they eat themselves. They ensure that all of the animal’s needs are accounted for…in a financial pinch, a horse lover would make sure his or her horse is taken care of before spending anything on themselves.

Ah…now there’s the rub. Who these days, in this economy, is not feeling a bit of a financial pinch? And pets can be expensive to care for.

People who can no longer afford to take care of their horse, or other pet, have no choice but to “rehome it,” and here I’m not using the word “rehome” in a judgmental or derogatory sense. If someone absolutely can’t feed their companion animal, or afford to take it to the vet on a regular basis, a good home where the pet can be taken care of must be found. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Now… a horse lover would take the time to do profile checks and screen any and all potential buyers. A horse owner, at least in my experience, just sells to the highest bidder – not really seeing or caring what might be in that horse’s future.

Now I’m not sure whether you are aware or not, but there are specific auctions just for horses. I’m not talking high-class auctions. I’m talking loose horse auctions where horses are sold by the pound. To a horse lover most of these “events” are an abomination. Abomination is the appropriate word. A horse lover would never subject their beloved horses to the degradation and horror of such things.

A horse owner, well they just see it as a way to squeeze every last penny out of their property. Or they just think it’s easier and quicker than selling/rehoming the horse on their own and just want rid of it as quickly as possible for whatever reason.

These folks will exclaim that there’s nothing wrong with these auctions! It’s a good place for the horse to have a second chance or find a new home!  And as they ship their horse off to these meat auctions, they will swear up and down that they just looove horses. Yeah, right.

This isn’t just something that can be applied to horses. Dogs, cats, gerbils, any animal under a person’s care falls into the same lot. There’s a difference between owning something (and loving it as an investment or “thing”) and truly loving it (as the feeling, sentient being that it is). The line gets a bit blurred sometimes what with all the debate that rages on regarding animal welfare and animal rights, but it’s there and always will be.