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.

 

Affair of the Snowflakes

Although not animal related, this entry could kinda sorta be considered a rant. Do you ever read an article or news story that, while having nothing whatsoever to do with you, annoys you to no end anyway? That’s what happened to me the other day. I just mentally couldn’t let it go. So. Lucky you.

This should sort of go without saying, but my point of view is that someone who’s married really has no way to justify an affair. That may sound like common sense to many of you, but it’s not quite so cut and dry to a lot of others out there. I read this article yesterday about one woman’s dainty traipse through infidelity and couldn’t help but think to myself: “Well, isn’t that just lovely.” That’s a nice way of putting it anyhow. Remember, my New Year’s resolution was to try to be a better person (rein in the road rage and the like) so I’m trying my best to censor my evil thoughts.

In reality, I’ve essentially picked apart most everything this woman spouts off about and have pretty much an opposite view of how this whole marriage, commitment, and faithfulness thing should work.

The one sentence in particular that got to me was when she wrote, “I think that there are times, such as when your marriage is essentially over, and you are just in limbo mentally and emotionally, when a relationship that begins with an affair can end in a happy relationship.” Maybe it can. She might be right. I just personally believe that there should never be any overlap and thus never any way of really proving if that is true or not.

Your vows aren’t just something you say while you wait for the reception to start – they’re something you’re supposed to take seriously. And if your feelings change for whatever reason, no matter who is to “blame,” then you cut ties first before you move on to the next partner. It’s having a little thing called integrity and respect.

In my opinion someone in a troubled marriage should 1) try to fix the marriage somehow be it counseling, time apart, whatever, before 2) officially (a.k.a. legally) separating or divorcing prior to courting new romantic partners. Never should the twain meet.

Another thing that got to me about this piece was the very sly mention of her ex-husband’s substance abuse. “We failed at marriage in just about every way possible, all leading up to me saying “enough is enough” when it came to his substance abuse and… in the end… my falling in love with another man.” I’m sure a few steps were skipped in those literary leaps, but it sounds to me like his addiction was apparently enough rationale for an affair yet not quite bad enough to pack up the kids (who shouldn’t be around drugs) and move to a safer place. So she did what she needed to do to console herself – falling into the arms of another man, but her kids’ needs were secondary? Right. I see how that works.

She brings up many times in the article the age-old dilemma of if you can trust someone when you know they’ve cheated before. Can you trust a cheater? Well, according to her, she and her new man are “different.” They’re the exception to the rule. They’re unique. They’re the ultimate snowflakes. All other cheaters, yeah, you might have to worry about them, but not this woman and her side piece. They’re the real deal. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode “The Deal” where Jerry starts sleeping with Elaine and he’s explaining to George that he and Elaine figured out the whole “friends with benefits” thing.

Jerry: Well, we’ve tried to arrange a situation where we’ll be able to do this once in a while and still remain friends.
George: (maniacal laughing)
Jerry: What?
George: Where are you living? Are you here?  Are you on this planet? It’s impossible. It can’t be done. Thousands of years people have been trying to have their cake and eat it too. So all of a sudden the two of you are going to come along and do it. Where do you get the ego?

So where does this woman get the ego to think she and “40” are the cheaters that have broken the mold? I’d bet dollars to donuts that most couples that began their relationship through infidelity thought to themselves or even went so far as to tell each other the exact same things. “I’ll never cheat again.” “This is the person I was meant to be with.” “I just needed to get that out of my system.”

There’s absolutely nothing unique about how she found herself in the middle of an affair, so why should the aftermath be anything above average either? Maybe they’ll make it, but I’d sure love to see the statistics on how many of these relationships have the partner cheating with someone else in the future and if so, how quickly.  And if they do make it, all I have to say is, they deserve each other. Is that harsh? Well, maybe my New Year’s resolution isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but there you go.

Frankly, I find it a little sad that she’s straining so hard to get people on her team. Why do I say this do you ask?  Well…today I found yet another article she wrote about the same affair – although this time she took a different tack in her subsequent explanations.  In this one, she speaks to her marriage “being over,” how she was the only working on it for too many years and how it drove her into an emotional (and then physical) affair…blah blah blah. Really, for two people who are sooo different, the reasons for their affair have simply been done to death.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging her for having the affair. She’s an adult and can do whatever the heck she wants.  I’m judging her for trying to rationalize it. To justify something that has such ramifications to others around you seems amazingly selfish to me. How did her affair affect her kids? Not to mention what is she teaching them?  How about her ex (we don’t get much back story on him)? An affair doesn’t just touch two people. It has a massive ripple effect that she seems completely oblivious about.

So my advice, readers, is to cheat if you want to. I’m not your mom. Live your life. I simply ask that you own it. Have the balls to step up and say, yeah I cheated because I just felt like being selfish and putting my needs above those of my family. At least be honest and above-board about it.  Oh wait

What is it with Parents?

I had another run-in with a kid that wasn’t mine the other day. Spoiler alert: I almost lost my patience. Big shock, right? I don’t know what it is, but unruly kids are just a real, constant, and severe pet peeve of mine. It’s not so much the kid itself that annoys me; it’s the idea that there are parents that drop the ball on basic child rearing skills. I see it in these kids’ faces, their lack of guidance, and it annoys me to no end. I know not every kid can be given the best parents. Some are born into difficult circumstances. I get it. I’m not talking about that. I just mean, for the sake of this entry, basic etiquette. Little tiny manners that a kid should be taught from the get go. Yet, I was recently shown that, nope, this is not always the case.

I was at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant with my daughter trying to have a decent meal and we were doing a pretty good job at it. Good food? Check. Sparkling conversation? Check. Hospitable wait staff? Double check. Almost everything was in alignment for a perfectly satisfactory meal. The only kink was the group sitting next to us. There were four adults and, oh, roughly 300 kids screaming their heads off. Obviously there weren’t 300 kids there, but it sure sounded like it.

One of the kids, this little girl maybe three years old, was rocking so furiously in her chair she toppled right onto the floor. A concrete floor. It got to the point that I was seriously worried about her. A hard fall like that has “eventual head trauma” written all over it. But she kept on doing it. Or, more specifically, the adults didn’t do anything to stop it from happening. The girl fell off her chair, backwards no less, five or six times. It made for an interesting obstacle course for our server. I have to give her credit (the server, not the girl), she’s quick on her feet…able to leap around unexpected child-sized falling objects with a tray full of food with nary a hair out-of-place.

Without major injury, the child got bored with that little trick (thank god, cause my nerves couldn’t take it) and started to amuse herself by flinging her shoes off, sort of like how adults do after they walk through the front door after a long day and just can’t have those pumps on anymore. You just flick your ankle and send them across the floor a little in front of you. The girl was doing that, except being three years old, she has the coordination of a three-year old and the shoes were flying everywhere. And let me tell you, she got some good distance on those suckers. Again, the adults didn’t seem to notice, care, or think this was something that should be corrected. Shoes were landing on the table and in their food for cryin’ out loud!

Sarah and I ate our meal a bit tensely, waiting with bated breath, like a couple of nervous outfielders at a Little League game anxious for that moment when we might be called upon to catch a pop-up as it made its way to our section of the field. We didn’t want to be caught sleeping on the job and have a shoe end up in our grits.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though. The real winner was when the five-year old of the dinner party came up to our table as the family was leaving. She stood at our table and stared. And stared. And stared. We thought at first she was checking out the pictures on the wall around us, but after a solid five minutes we realized, no, she’s staring at us. Standing stock still, she was unapologetically boring into our souls with her creepy little eyes. She was starting to freak me out, like one of The Shining twins, and I had no idea what to do.

The thought crossed my mind that maybe this was something she couldn’t help doing. But I had just watched her at her table for well over an hour with three other kids and was pretty confident she was nothing but a nosy inquisitive little girl who didn’t know how impolite it is to stare. (If I’m wrong, then this is just one more reason I’m going to burn in hell.)

So right about the time Sarah and I had decided to speak up, the mother apparently realized that this young member of their delightful group was missing (they were almost completely out of the dining area by this point) — but I guess thinking it wasn’t important enough to actually come back, she simply yelled across the room full of dinner patrons for the child to get herself over there. The girl grinned and took off.  And well, there you have it. Dinner and a show a la Cracker Barrel.

So what do you do in a situation like that? Fight fire with fire and stick out your tongue? That could give the wrong message that you’re in on the joke and don’t mind the unsolicited company. It could also garner you some dirty looks from other adults. Do you invite the kid into your booth and adopt her until the parents realize they’re one short? I can’t see the parents appreciating that one. Unless it goes the other way, and you wind up with another mouth to feed. Or maybe take the curmudgeonly route and say “Can I help you?” or some such thing and hope they go away? While probably satisfying…again, not so popular with the parents. Sometimes it would be nice if you could just call in the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me, we’ve all been there.

While I realize that when you’re in public, you have to deal with a lot of annoyances (trust me, I know), there should be certain things that are just a given. For instance, when you’re out to dinner, you should never, ever find yourself in the position of having to quickly sum up ideas on how to deal with an unnerving, staring child. Or catch flying shoes.