Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Books

I ended up reading 40 books this year. It isn't the 80+ books of 2009, but it's better than last year.

My five favorite books I read this year: 
The Dovekeepers - Alice Hoffman
I read everything by Alice Hoffman, and that's saying a lot. She's quite the prolific writer. Some of her books I abhor (Practical Magic), while others I can read over and over again (most of them). Her most recent book creates a story weaved from the actual destruction of Masada in 74 CE. More than 900 Jews committed suicide in lieu of being killed or enslaved by the Romans. Two women and five children survived to tell the story to Rome. Hoffman tries to craft this oppressive world from the perspective of four women who care for the doves in Masada.

You have to be in a stoic frame of mind to endure this story, which is full of so much tragedy and strife, it's heart-breaking. And you know from the onset they do not all survive. But Hoffman crafts beauty amidst horror. This novel is incredibly moving. If I had a gripe, it would be that the most powerful voice (the first woman, Yael) was not used for the entirety of the book.

Undercover - Beth Kephart
This book inspired me to read everything else by Kephart (including her non-fiction book, which I highly rec'd - A Slant of Sun). She writes beautifully with delicate prose and wondrous metaphors.

Elisa finds comfort and solace on the ice. She is a gifted skater but not so gifted socially, at school. Boys take advantage of her talent at writing, asking her to craft love notes for girls. It's a story of secrets and hidden gifts, of emerging love and petty hearts.

The Psychopath Test - Jon Ronson
This book is weird. Ronson is weird. The people he corresponds with are strange. There is no actual test you get to take to discover your psychopathy. Be thankful.

Despite the fact that the book jumps all over the place (and paints the author as off as the psycopaths he interviews), it is a fascinating exploration of the mind and of the really messed up system that puts and keeps people institutionalized, whether they are dangerous or not.

Necklace of Kisses -Francesca Lia Block

This is a re-read, but whenever I read it, it makes my top five list that year. I don't like all of Block's books, but her Weetzy Bat series is an incredible metaphor for all of our experiences in life. This is the final book in the series. It has a fantastical element to it, as all her books do, but at its heart is the human desire for self-discovery and self-love.

City of Illusions - Ursula le Guin
One of my favorite authors of all time. Period. I will not attempt to describe it, because it is convoluted and complex. So just read it.

Most disappointing book I read: Sisterhood Everlasting - Ann Brashares...in which I learn sisterhood apparently is not everlasting and authors fail at doing basic research, like how genetic diseases are inherited. What a crappy way to really end an otherwise great series of books.

What were your favorite books you read this year?

Complete list below

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Aurelia, Iowa - Your Opinion on Service Dogs Does Not Matter

I was going to post this tomorrow, but will post today and add that a judge (as anyone w/ half a brain knew would) ordered the disabled man's service dog to be returned to him, despite a ban on dogs who look a certain way.

Dear Aurelia, Iowa - Your Opinion on Service Dogs Does Not Matter

Aurelia banned Pit Bulls.

Aurelia does not understand that this ban does not exempt service dogs. Per the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a person cannot be denied equal access or equal rights based on their service dog's breed.

I am going to guess that Aurelia will get the same response that Aurora and Denver have gotten - stop it.

Alternatively, before they spend taxpayer money on defending their illegal actions, they could simply abide by federal law and permit this person the legal right to have a service dog, regardless of breed. Currently, they are denying this man equal access and equal rights.

Otherwise, Aurelia is simply violating federal law and, more importantly, discriminating against persons with disabilities.

Auburn, KY Modifying Their BSL

Mina and Celeste Being Pointy
Double dangerous!
Well, sort of.

Back in 2008, Auburn, Kentucky decided to target "vicious" dog breeds and require guardians of said breeds to register their pets. Which is kind of funny, because I cannot fathom how registration reduces the likelihood of dog attacks by any dog. The breeds targeted were Pit Bull type dogs, Rottweiler type dogs, Doberman Pinscher type dogs and Chow type dogs.

Guardians had to pay $20 to register their pets and also provide proof of insurance.

Well, flash forward to 2011 and now Auburn is planning on changing the insurance requirements. Originally, guardians of targeted (non-biting) family pets had to provide proof of $300,000 liability insurance. Problem was, no local insurance companies offered that. So now they need to change the law.

Alternatively, they could eliminate the law entirely and proactively address dog bites. I doubt there is an actual dog bite issue in Auburn, Kentucky, though. Most dogs are not parading around eating people. Most dogs of any breed are not eating people. This is impressive, because dogs are predators and have the behavior and physiology to go around eating people, if they felt like it. But I guess it's something that Auburn is considering altering their insurance requirement (the law itself is totally ineffective if the goal is to eliminate certain breeds one deems dangerous, though).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This Chicken Has Black Bones

Ferdinand the silkie rooster

Ferdie is a rescued rooster living at the sanctuary. He is a Silkie bantam.

Silkies have black skin. They have black bones, organs, and skin. It is called fribromelanosis. It's not a disease.

This is because of artificial selection and a novel mutation. Genetic researchers like studying this phenomenon because it is evolution sped up.

From Science Daily: Genetic study of black chickens shed light on mechanisms causing rapid evolution in domestic animals

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Longmeadow, Mass Police Start Animal Fund

The Longmeadow Police Department has created a veterinary assistance fund for needy rescued dogs and cats.


Longmeadow employs one part-time civilian animal control officer. She spends 20 hours a week helping local animals and their guardians. Oftentimes, she has to pay for the animals' care out of pocket.

I find this ridiculous. The median household income is nearly $80,000. Less than 2% of the region's 15,000 citizens is living below or at poverty level. I am baffled there is not a full-time animal control officer and appropriate funds to pay her and maintain whatever sized shelter is needed for this particular area.

It is great the police department is seeking donations. If half of the 5,200 households donated $50, they'd certainly raise enough money for 1-2 years of operation! Because it's offensive (and borderline illegal) that a part-time civilian staff person has to pay for the care of animals out of pocket. It is both the responsibility of the community at large and the government to provide shelter and medical care to their city's needy animals.


Good luck, Longmeadow police department. Sounds like you might need it.

Mina, Sun Obsessive

MinaDo you have a worshiper of Sol?


Mina is looking for fellow devotees.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thanking Supporters

I'm really grateful to the incredible team I get to work with every day. These people dedicate their lives to improving the welfare of the most exploited group of animals on earth, farmed animals. As a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of people just like you. Most are not vegans or vegetarians, but all have - for one reason or another - expanded their circle of compassion to include cows and pigs and chickens. They allow us to save lives. They make our job easier, and they help shine a light in what can feel like a very dark world.

A Thank You video is a wonderful way to thank supporters. I recommend it for all nonprofits. Showcase how your organization is grateful for donors and volunteers. Studies show that people are more likely to give when they know your organization as human, so introduce staff by their name and title. People are also more likely to want to help your animal group if you highlight people interacting directly with those you rescue.

And while we were lucky to have a very skilled videographer create this video, you don't need fancy equipment to make something people relate to. Groups, like Techsoup, often offer items like Flip videos at discounted rates to qualified charities (it's how we got our first Flip) and supporters are usually willing to donate in kind (it's how we got our second HD video camera).

So check out our Thank You video and think of ways you can incorporate this type of donor communication with your small or medium sized nonprofit!

Happy Holidays From Present Mina

Happy Holidays From Mina

Friday, December 23, 2011

Who is that dog?

Mina from 2003 How strange it was to come across this photo from 2003 and not completely recognize the dog in it.

I knew the dog was Mina. The patchy-eye. The speckled chest. The wagging tail in the background. That ever present grin.

But the Mina I know now is so different than this Mina.

She is more gray, for one. She is smaller, for another. Skinnier. Can't keep on weight. Easier to physically handle.

She's also a little gentler. A lot slower. She is kinder and more sociable. The Mina of now is more appropriate around other dogs. She gets colder quicker - she now likes wearing jackets (yesteryear Mina tolerated it, for my sake).

While I sometimes wish for the Mina of yesteryear when the Mina of now gets tired on a mile-long walk, I love older Mina. A lot more than younger Mina. While her body diminished, her spirit grew larger. Truly, there is more of her to love now than eight years ago.

Why Mina's toys survive forever Look at her! How can you not want to cuddle and protect and love this small dog with her colorful monkey? Sure, the young Mina looked adorbs with a toy, but there is nothing so precious as an older Mina kissing and nibbling on Monkeybutt's head.

If I saw the Mina of yesteryear doing this, I'd get her riled up. I'd get her to play tug and frolic and generally be an energetic young dog.

The Mina of now? I just want to curl myself around her and protect her from everything bad in this world, including that vexing thing called time. I want to tug Monkeybutt away and toss him gently in the air for Mina to air pounce proudly.

Everything she does now is about 100 million times more precious, more perfect, more wondrous. That is the joy and heartache of watching a beloved dog age.

Also, old Mina is so serious, mature:

Being Mina is Serious
I deny your hug, human

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chicken Sweater Adventure

Big Red in a Chicken Sweater
Big Red rocks out in pink
True story: I put a sweater on a chicken today.

Why?

Chickens like warm weather. They descend from wild jungle fowl who, you know, got their name because they lived in jungles. Florida is probably more their style than the Sierra Foothills. Right now, it's 50 F and the chickens would very much like it to be 70 F.

Also, many of the chickens at the sanctuary are from egg farms. Chickens used in the egg-laying industry are bred to kill themselves through egg-laying. I'm so serious, it's sad. They are small, fragile creatures. All of their energy is going into laying an egg nearly every day. They produce 280-300 eggs a year. A normal chicken produces 20-60.

If your body is so focused on egg production, it is not focused on other important biological matters, like laying down fat and muscle for the winter.

A few months ago, a woman emailed me asking if her New Mexico knitting club could make sweaters for the hens. I did not say as such, but in my head I was all HELLZ YEAH. Instead, I said yes please! But no animal fiber, because our hens don't wants to be wearing the hair of another animal. That's just how they roll (actually they don't care, but we humans do).

Sharktooth Thinks Sweaters Are STupid
Sharktooth hates her sweater
Two days ago, the sweaters arrived.

Now I've seen photos of felt sweaters used to keep recently liberated battery cage hens warm in New Zealand and the UK. They are super bland and simple. Like one color, no design, just your basic getup. These sweaters came in ten different colors, with ten different styles. These are fashion chicken sweaters.

There are pros and cons to fashion sweaters.

Pros:
* They look awesome
* They bring out your eyes
* Each one is unique, just like the rescued bird herself (or himself)

Cons:
* Chickens get entangled in them

Unfortunately the con outweighs the pros and so only one hen is now getting to wear her sweater longer than the photo shoot lasted. This is because she thinks sweaters are awesome and proceeded to strut and eat and drink and be merry with it on. Her name is Sunny. She has one leg and a stump for the other due to an embedded leg band put on her at an egg farm.

Sunny Likes Her Sweater
Sunnny gets fitted, she is happy
Killer Sweater
12-yr-old roo Killer considers this chicken torture

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bad Advertising

My concerns with this ad:

Nonhumans are not "its". Dogs are sentient beings who can think and emote. A sweater cannot and is appropriately referred to as an "it". Language is powerful. We diminish the inherent worth and value of another living being when we call them "what" or "it".



Animal shelters are not morgues. They are not where animals go to die. An animal shelter provides safety, warmth, and act as an advocate for the animals in its care. It is or will become a place where animals are adopted. If it is not these things, then it needs to be changed. Using language that perpetuates what should not be instead of promoting what should be excuses the current system.

Dogs are gifts! Children are gifts! Would you seriously tell someone adopting a foster child during the holidays that they are awful, evil people who are only going to subject that child to misery and death? Adoptions around the holidays should be encouraged. Nurture those innate feelings of compassion.

Holiday adoptions can be done responsibly. Shelters could, for example, get the ball rolling by offering holiday match-making services early in December so that all pertinent screening can happen before the holidays. Pets Alive in New York is even offering to "be" Santa and deliver the happy dog to their home on Christmas day.

So why is this bad advertising? Because it does not make you feel good. It does not inspire you to action. It uses language that diminishes instead of enhances.

Spread a little holiday cheer
Make the best New Year's Resolution!
Adopt a dog or cat for Christmas (or minus the Christmas part)


That kind of advertising makes you feel good and good marketers know that, around the holiday season, using words wisely is important. People like to feel warm, gentle, content, comforting this time of year. Plus it encourages people to save a life...and people LOVE saving lives!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mina Ran Into A Car

Pit Bull: Oh ball, how I have scorned you
Lies, all of them lies
When you are with a dog for so long, you don't notice how they age. You pick up on the obvious - gray hair, slowed movements. But you still see the spark, the tiny, bright light that is your friend and companion.

A moment must come, though, when you just know the young dog who sailed six feet off the ground is no more.

Tonight came that moment for me. After work, I took Mina to get some dog treats. As we left the store, in the darkened parking lot, Mina ran nose-first into a car's bumper.

Objectively I had noticed how her night vision diminished, how she would sometimes start, surprised, when I would walk upon her in the yard. If the moon is new, I sometimes catch Mina tossing her head up and down in the fall leaves, trying to figure out home base's location. In our darkened hallway, I have caught Mina by surprise, meeting in the middle. She had not seen me coming.

Still, I guess I had convinced myself they were flukes. A momentary lapse in judgment on Mina's part. Tonight, I could not dismiss the reality before me. Mina had just plowed into the bumper of a Toyota Prius. She is environmentally considerate, at least. Her vision is diminished, as is her body and strength.

I am not prepared for the sorrow of Mina gone. It will be years from now, I'm sure, but it will still be too soon. She is a scar upon my heart and I like it to be alive and warm, thanks. Imagining this moment without her is unfathomable. She who is nestled behind me on the sofa, a firm believer that the best and safest spot is wedged behind her favorite human. She who is snoring in a delicate way, dreaming paws tripping over some foreign soil. She who licks away salty tears made perfectly for her. 

I hope you have a dog like Mina now or in the past or in the future. Sometimes I think she might be a one-of-a-kind deal and part of me swells with hope at that prospect. To hold your heart out, knowing it won't come back unscathed, is risky business.

Mina ran into a car tonight. And while I fight fiercely against the inevitable, Mina sings in her dreams and shares her soul when awake.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Reaching a Milestone - Anyone Can Do It!

Pictures of some of the rescued animals!
I am pleased as some lemonade punch with this number. 3,000. Three thousand!

This is about how many chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and goats a small team of dedicated animal lovers (myself included, yo) have, in 14 months, assisted in rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming into permanent homes through an amazing program called Rescue Ranch.

The number is more amazing when you consider the fact the animals rescued are not traditional companion animals. They are chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, and pigs. 

Obviously not everyone can manage an actual program of this size and scope.

But anyone can emulate the basic ideas.

You can reach a milestone for the animals.

You could decide that in 2012, you will foster 3 dogs or a litter of kittens. If you have a little bit of land and it's legal, you could decide to adopt a small flock of companion hens from your local shelter. You could decide to do a bake sale for your local rescue agency or needy shelter.

Or a drive to gather blankets, beds, toys. You could ask your local shelter to start  a weekend foster program. Maybe you could speak up for the animals at your city council meetings. Or you can commit to writing a monthly letter to the editor with ways people can help all animals.

You can do something fun like knit sweaters for rescued chickens (seriously, we have ten sweaters on the way to the sanctuary for the less hardy hens rescued from battery cage egg farms).

I would be remiss in a suggestion that will easily save more lives than any of the above-mentioned ideas - you could adopt or transition to a vegan diet and save nearly 100 animals a year (or at least reduce the need to kill that many animals). Just throwing it out there, folks - think about it!

Doing something amazing for another living being is within your reach.

What are YOUR milestones for the animals?

The Strange Case of Petunia

Petunia is lucky her previous guardians in New York microchipped her. The dog had wandered away from their farm in 2003 and disappeared.

Someone must have picked her up. In my mind, someone cared enough to help this loose dog and gave her a good life.

Who knows when or where that good life changed, but Petunia was once again found loose. This time in 2011 and in Yuba County, California.

When the shelter scanned her for a microchip, her original family's contact information came up.

After eight years, Petunia has been reunited with her original guardians. I wish them the best.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Maybe Next Foster Dog

BreeThis is Bree.

She is available for adoption.

I may be fostering her in January, unless you adopt her now.

There is a lot more I would like to write about Bree, but that will have to wait until I get to know her better.

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Awkward Interaction With A Starbucks Barista, Also My Screen Door is Broken

This morning I picked up an 8-mos-old Pit Bull who I am dogsitting this weekend. She is a velvet soft bubble of too much energy. Also, she can leap 5' into the air, which I discover later.

After getting her set up in my kitchen, I snuck the ladies out to get some coffee.

Admission time, I am lazy. Given the choice between parking and going into a coffee shop and using the drive-through, I'll use the latter. Yeah, whatever.

I pull up to the window and am sitting there waiting for my beverage.

Is it a girl or a boy?

Without thinking, I respond in a horrified voice, I am NOT pregnant!

Which is not something I've ever been asked and only an off-planet deity can guess as to why THAT was my immediate response.

Confused, the guy responds, Um, I mean your dog. The one in the back seat.

And get this, readers, in my caffeine-deprived state, I actually pause and LOOK in the back seat as if somehow, someway, there is some novel dog sitting back there. Nope, just Mina and in the way back, Celeste.

Oh, Mina? Girl!

Geez, give me my drink already. 

As to the screen door, thank Bree. That's the temporary house guest. I decided, hey, I'm a big girl, I can safely introduce a big puppy to Mina without much fanfare.

I navigate Mina to the backyard and as I was about to leash Bree in the kitchen, she sees Mina and is like HOLY CRAP A DOG I SHOULD GO SAY HI TO. And then she just ran into my screen door and tore it off its hinges.

It collapsed onto Mina's head, which pretty much ruined ANY chances that she would like Bree.

Bree has the social skills of a large boulder. Her idea of saying hi is to body slam a dog, then play bow, then ram her head into the head of the other dog, and then twirl in a circle, play bow, rinse and repeat. I am pretty sure she does not breathe the entire time.

So anyway, Mina ends up rammed against the fence, tail between her legs, petrified. Introduction nation failure.

And that is why my screen door is broken.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Comforting Dogs Before You Kill Them Is Not Compassionate

All I see are pictures and descriptions of dogs who are healthy, loving, wonderful animals. They should be alive. Instead they are dead and money/time is being spent on a program that gives dogs a walk before they are killed. To me, that is a betrayal. What say you?


From The Bark, "Could you spend the night comforting shelter dogs scheduled to be euthanized the next morning? The Compassion Program, based out of New York's Animal Care and Control in Manhattan, is comprised of nine volunteers who take turns sleeping over with death row dogs. Whether it's a long walk, a special treat, playing with a toy or being cuddled, they ensure that every dog spends his last hours being loved. The program staff consider it a form of hospice, even though these dogs are not necessarily dying due to medical conditions, but lack of loving homes."

Source

The original article from earlier this year

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Can the Bulldog Be Saved?

English BulldogNY Times article, read it.

My first experience with English Bulldogs occurred in the back room of the vet clinic I worked at in college.

An in estrus female and an intact male were being prepared for breeding purposes.

Neither dog could have normal intercourse. At least not successfully.

I watched as a vet tech "massaged" the male dog's penis until it was erect. She continued until the dog ejaculated into a collection tube. I don't think horrified quite covers my reaction. If you discovered your neighbor molesting the family dog in this manner, you would probably call the cops. In the name of producing "cute dogs", though, the practice of artificial insemination is the gold standard of breeding English Bulldogs.

The female's experience was more distressing. She had never mated before (not that she physically could, so grotesquely abnormal were her proportions).

Because English Bulldogs can have difficulty with anesthesia (although I would see this dog a couple months later for a surgical c-section), some (many?) breeders choose to artificially inseminate the female while she is conscious.

The process involves inserting a catheter into the dog's vagina and depositing the semen into her uterus.

The young Bulldog female was physically restrained by two technicians. She screamed and yelped when the rod was inserted. Her body was violated by humans for reasons I find unfathomable. I think of this happening to Mina and I feel numb. It would feel like a violation of her trust in me. Not to mention a violation of her body that does not improve her welfare or health.

I don't think the question is can the English Bulldog be saved, but should it. Should we continue artificially selecting for dogs whose physical structure prohibits them from engaging in basic behavior? I'm not just talking about Bulldogs having sex like normal dogs. English Bulldogs do not breathe normally. They cannot. English Bulldogs cannot exercise normally because they might keel over.

Allowing a dog to exist in perpetual discomfort, unable to act in normal ways, because they provide human beings pleasure is not merely misguided, it is cruel.

Full disclosure, I do not believe dogs should be purposefully bred. But I do not want a world without them. Ah, being human.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Leave Dogs Off The Construction Site

Yesterday, I took Mina to the veterinarian because I thought she had cancer. She doesn't. I see one weird mark on her and jump to the conclusion she is dying from some rare sarcoma.

While there, an emergency arrived. A man carried in a young 4-mos-old Pointer puppy who had been attacked by two dogs.

The man was working at a client's house and brought his brand-new puppy with him. Seriously. He brought a recently purchased dog wearing no collar to this client's home and let him run loose. Guess what? This curious puppy ran over to the neighbor's house, under the fence, and was promptly attacked by the neighbor's dogs.

Lucky to be alive, I had the misfortune of seeing his leg bones sticking out of his leg. He suffered two severe breaks but will recover.

I have never understood why private contractors feel it necessary to bring their dog with them and allow them out of the vehicle. It's stupid, reckless and irresponsible. This guy is lucky his dog survived and he still had the audacity to blame the neighbor for, oh I don't know, properly confining his dogs in his own backyard! Only person to blame is holding a broken puppy, standing in the lobby of an emergency vet clinic.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Racially Offensive? Nevada County Says Historically Significant!

When Gail Smith bought a home in Rough and Ready, California, she discovered the creek running through her property was called Nigger Creek. She wrote a letter to the US Board of Geographic Names and requested it be changed to something more appropriate. She suggested Butterfly Creek for the numbers of butterflies.

The Assessor's Office renamed it Negro Creek.

Enter the Nevada County Board of Supervisors. They don't want to change the name. They feel it is not offensive (probably because they are white dudes, down with the patriarchy!) and that it is historically significant.

Their argument in support of retaining a racial slur as the name of a creek is a doozy.


“The name Negro Creek is therefore of historic importance as it is one of the few designations that allude to the importance of the Negro miners in the area. The current efforts of many to eliminate what are called derogatory names in this case would actually cause the efforts of these early miners to be deleted from the historical record of this area.”

Think of the black miners, people. They will essentially be erased from history if the name Nigger/Negro Creek is not retained. Alternatively, books - where lots of people get their history - could include the information on the importance/presence of African American miners in California's gold country. Of you can find the information on the internets.


White man supervisor states as if fact that if you are adverse to calling a creek Nigger/Negro, then you are in full support of wiping out all mentions of black miners in Nevada County. If this creek's offensive name is changed to something less so, then we will have erased all knowledge of black miners in California. I refer you back to the internets.


White man Supervisor said, "he was not in favor of a name change, unless a compelling case was made by the NAACP."

Seriously? He needs black people to make the case that calling a creek Nigger/Negro is offensive? Like what century is this guy from?

Well, here, ""If you are going to change that name, change it to something that black people living in your county today can take pride in, too," says Irma Jordan, the head of the Butte County NAACP, the closest chapter of the organization to Nevada County. She agreed that "Black Miners Creek," would be appropriate - a name that would both recognize the historic past and not offend anyone. She added that the use of "Negro" is offensive to her."


or


"Senator Curren D. Price, Jr., Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, believes that African American or Black would be a more appropriate term than Negro."

That's like what, two actual black people? Does the Board of Supervisors need a third? 


As an aside, I'm about as embarrassed by the Board of Supervisors as I am by local reaction. Like, are these people for real? Is this 2011 or did I get shoved in a space-time continuum that honestly believes "Negro Creek" was really named after a "color"? I mean, these people could be my neighbors!
  • What a complete waste of time, money & resources (racism, it brings in the dough)
  • Negro translates to black from Spanish. Many California sights have Spanish names. Will every one with the word "Negro" be changed? I agree with John F. Way to make something out of nothing. (Yes, because Nigger/Negro is Spanish and not at all racist).
  • Ummm butterfly? lol why not "black creek" then? But seriously, the word Negro is on the 2010 us census bureau, soooooo, no. Leave it alone. Historical value :)) (seriously, the census bureau knows its shit)
  • Don't we have better things to do in this county? It's the name of a color in spanish for goodness sake! Ridiculous!!! (yeah kike is just a letter, yo)
  • I'm not offended and it's not my place to judge for others' if they should be offended. However, I don't care if anyone is offended. The nuances of NevCo are what make it what it is.  (99% white?)
  • It's called "Negro Creek", not "Nigger Creek" so save my taxes as the former is not offensive, unlike the latter. (because changing the name is gonna cost a bazillion dollars and jap is also not offensive if written with a lower-cased J!)
  • Negro is a color and the history that goes with "nigger" has been resolved as the creek maintains it's name minus the slur. Should we change the name of Grass Valley to "Marijuanaville" in keeping with "politically correct" and now that everyone has come to their senses? :-) haha (hahah, super funny, cuz calling someone a Marijuanaville-head is just another way to oppress them and also it's just like calling a black person a Negro/Nigger).
  • No. And, what next change the name of Rio Negro, The Black Mountains, The Black Sea, ... ... really, quite ridiculous. (Totally ridiculous, too true.)


Friday, November 11, 2011

Detroit Animal Control Riding the Shame Boat of Fail

Yet another Pit Bull has been killed by Detroit Animal Control.

Detroit Animal Control claims they did not receive a Wayne County Judge's injunction to not kill the dog. The millisecond the dog's 4-day hold ended, they injected this dog with euthanasia solution. They took his life, not because he ate people or was medically hopeless, but because he looks like a Pit Bull.

Detroit officials don't really like being in the spotlight - just check out the statement they made.

Let me translate.

However, if we grant this one exception, we are simply not set up for what will undoubtedly lead to overwhelming appeals in similar cases.

Translation: The slippery slope of NOT killing dogs is just unfathomable. It may lead to dogs getting adopted. Rescues may flood the shelters with requests to save lives. Adopters may enter the shelter and exit with an actual, breathing canine. This will put an undue burden on our staff who will have to stop killing dogs and start getting money for adopting them out. Chaos will undoubtedly follow.

Urgent calls for help from elderly citizens, school principals, postal supervisors and the police are going unanswered because our Detroit Animal Control dispatch line is overwhelmed with calls from outside of the city, state and even the country.

Translation: Every time you care about a dog at Detroit Animal Control, a grandma is killed by rampaging packs of rabid canines. Stop caring about dogs, think of the grandmas. We have no actual evidence of this occurring, but the public is still at fault.

There are several communities in Southeastern Michigan who not only refuse to return pit bull dogs to owners but go beyond that and ban ownership of these dogs entirely.

Translation: See? Killing nearly all of the dogs entering our shelter isn't really that bad, our city could refuse to return Pit Bulls to their guardians or just ban dogs who look a certain way entirely. Be happy with what you got, thankless public.
Further, DAC does not adopt out or release pit bulls or pit bull mixes and will not release any dog (regardless of breed) unless proof of ownership can be established through a dog license or supporting documentation such as prior veterinary records.

Translation: We are equal opportunity killers.

We are proud of the dedication of Detroit Animal Control Manager, Harry Ward and his officers for risking their lives every day protecting residents of this city. Attacking their character and integrity is disingenuous, disconcerting and disappointing. We receive calls every year from hundreds of citizens who are appreciative for the work they do.
Translation: Stop it, meanies.
Goodness forbid you tie up the phone lines of Detroit Animal Control. But if you live in Detroit, please speak to their "bosses" and contact the city council asking that they overturn the policy that permits the senseless killing of adoptable, healthy animals. Hug a grandma before you do it, though, just in case.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Judge Agrees That Ace's Story is Ridiculous

Read about Ace here

A Wayne County judge has halted the senseless killings of adoptable dogs at Detroit Animal Control until Ace's situation is resolved. Of course, the best resolution is to completely stop killing adoptable dogs at Detroit's shelter, including dogs who are either misidentified as Pit Bulls or who are adoptable Pit Bulls.

Real Sight Can Also Be 20/20

"This is a tragedy," Paterno said. "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."

Maybe Joe Paterno, the coach with the most wins in the collegiate football universe, needs to get his glasses checked. In 2002, he had the benefit of "real sight" when he learned that the coach who had high hopes of taking over as head coach was  caught raping a young boy. He reported the "alleged" abuse to athletic director  Tim Curley and a vice president Gary Schultz. After that, I guess the buck changed hands and the responsibility of handling a sexual predator was shifted. Not to police, just off campus. Jerry Sandusky - accused of violating the body of a young boy - was allowed to work offsite with boys. Failure to protect children on so many, SO FREAKING MANY, levels.

And for the next several years, Jerry Sandusky "allegedly" sexually assaulted multiple children.

Jerry Sandusky was not turned over to authorities. He was not immediately suspended until the resolution of any criminal charges. His victims did not receive immediate psychological care or an opportunity at justice through the court system. Sandusky "retired" while maintaining an office on campus and continuing with his off-campus charity in which he could easily access vulnerable boys.

Joe Paterno and company let a sexual predator go. They permitted the future violation of an unknown number of children. And they did nothing.

So to all those fans who are pissed off that Joe Paterno has been fired - shame, shame, shame. Shame on you for supporting someone who allowed a man get away with sexual crimes against children. Shame on you for believing that just because one man is "good", that he wins a lot at football, that that somehow precludes him from being held accountable - in some small way - for turning his back on hopeful children, for letting loose a sexual predator. For choosing a man who preyed upon innocence and received a hall pass from Paterno and Penn State athletics. For picking an adult man who should have known better and done right over children who cannot themselves be advocates, who need us adults to be the ones to speak up and out.

My prayers and thoughts are with the real victims. You know, the ones who were sexually assaulted by a man they trusted and violated by a system they admired. Who never felt they could tell the truth. Who will undoubtedly become victims again against a public and system which somehow believes winning football is more important than stopping child molesters.

-One pissed off, upset football fan (who thinks convicted felons or alleged rapists should also not be able to play professionally, call me crazy).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ace's Story Is Ridiculous

Ace is a Pit Bull. He is named after the store he entered on November 4th, seeking shelter. The dog is emaciated and injured.

Ace had the misfortune of being found by Detroit animal care and control. If a dog looks like a Pit Bull, behavior aside, s/he will be killed if unclaimed by a guardian. Detroit animal control does not allow the transfer of Pit Bull type dogs to humane societies or reputable rescues. You cannot go into Detroit animal control and adopt a Pit Bull type dog. After four business days, these dogs are killed based solely on how they look.

So Ace, who is injured, has been left medically untreated for days while individuals have had to rally support and outcry over what should have been a simple shelter transfer.

To save Ace's life requires a special tax-payer funded session of Detroit's city council. A resolution will need to be passed to save this dog's life.

That is ridiculous.

This is one of those stories that leave you wondering, what could be done for ALL the dogs at Detroit Animal Control? Think about it. The calls to media could have been standard phone calls to a list of rescues. The video footage taken could have been daily or weekly photo and video sessions with adoptable or rescue-only dogs. The time starting a Facebook page, maintaining it, and getting people to sign a petition or call the city council could have been the weekly check-in of "how many dogs do you have who need rescue?"

I think of all this time, precious and amazingly important time for the dogs at Detroit Animal Control, being spent on one dog who should have, the second he was impounded, been medically treated and, after his "hold" period, immediately sent to rescue and it makes me sick. NOT because Ace does not deserve the love, respect and chance at life, but because ALL dogs at Detroit Animal Control do, length of hair and musculature be damned.

City Council President Charles Pugh might heed his own words and rescind the outdated, cruel law RULE that allows for the automatic death sentence of healthy, adoptable animals. ""We don't want our policy to get in the way of the dog's life," Pugh said. "If we can save the dog, then let's save the dog."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Police Sgt. Saves the Lives of Two Pit Bull Mixes

Mason and Kenzi are alive because one person advocated for them. One person. 

In Old Town, Maine, the "Animal Orphanage" took in two Pit Bull crosses who appeared to be brother and sister. The small shelter does their best to refrain from killing adoptable animals. However, they were ill-equipped to deal with the resource guarding male and the withdrawn female.

Enter Police Sgt Mike Hashey. 

He saw two dogs who needed a spokesperson. When he learned the two dogs were slated for death, he found that unacceptable. Hashey enlisted the help of friends, including fellow police officers, to work with the frightened, stressed out dogs. Instead of seeing "unadoptable", he saw two scared dogs who needed some help.

And get this, Hashey brought his own dogs - two Labrador Retrievers - and guess what? No one was eaten. Mason and Kenzi learned how to interact with both people and dogs in positive manners.

The hard work paid off. The dogs are going to their new home because one person cared.

And if you have any doubt on the power of one person inspiring multiple people to goodness, check out the story of Mari(o) over at Yesbiscuit who somehow manages to thank everyone else but herself! But Mari(o) would not be alive had it not been for Shirley. One person.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Live Blogging Halloween

Cool Witch is Cool
Let's get it on this Halloween. I've got the Mina-meister geared up in her witchy-baby costume. Celeste is in the back room snoring so she doesn't have to be annoyed by little children.

And I've got candy! LOTS OF CANDY.

Also, a pumpkin. With a silhouette of a cat that I carved myself.

I'm coming to you LIVE from Grass Valley in a neighborhood full of munchkins.

5:30 pm - Still light out but we got our first four trick-or-treaters. Near panic attack when the neighbor's Lab tried to bite them. All I could hear were kids screaming and a woman yelling and crazy Lab dog trying to go nutso on the kids. All is well, though, and Mina is told she is pretty. She wags her butt.

6:00 pm - Second trick-or-treater is a ghost being driven around the hood.

6:10 pm - 3-yr-old devil child asks if Mina is a cat. No, I say. She is a dog. Are you sure? He asks, in earnest. Yes. Very sure.

Back From the Grave - Parrot The Dog

Checking my blog hits is not something I do very religiously. So when I checked it this morning, I was surprised to see that in the past 48 hours, one of my entries received over a thousand hits.

It was Parrot, The Dog - A Picture Says It All.

I am still not sure why the story of Parrot is news again. I've even seen it reported as if it happened a couple months ago, instead of over a year ago. Any insight?

Regardless, I noticed some people were curious about what happened with the investigation of the officer responsible for throwing Parrot down a stairwell and shooting him multiple times. Nothing. Just like what generally happens to most police officers who shoot dogs, regardless of circumstances.

According to Lucky Dog Animal Rescue (who is also baffled by the recent upsurge in interest about Parrot)
"We were wondering the same thing. Nothing new happened. The police dismissed our complaint and the US attorney's office declined to prosecute."

There you have it. 

The Pork Industry Wasting Millions to Slaughter Downed Animals

California penal code 599(f) requires that cattle, pigs, sheep and goats who cannot walk to their own slaughter must be removed from the human food chain. The law was implemented in 2009 after an undercover investigation revealed extra cruelty at a slaughterhouse killing "spent" dairy cows.

The National Meat Association filed an injunction, arguing the state law violated the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which allows for the slaughter of non-ambulatory animals after the animals are inspected and held for observation.

A federal judge agreed with the National Meat Association, allowing the slaughter of non-ambulatory pigs in federally inspected California slaughterhouses to continue. The case was appealed and referred to the 9th district court in which all three judges sided with California (3/2010), reversing the federal judge's decision, arguing that states have long since had the legal right to decide which animals can and cannot be slaughtered, citing domestic horses as an example.

And now, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided to hear arguments for the case starting November 9, 2011. You can read the case details here.

Recognizing that I am not a lawyer, my layperson opinion is that this is not an animal welfare case. The issue of how pigs are treated is not at the heart of this case. Regardless of whether the state law is deemed in violation of federal law, non-ambulatory pigs will be killed in the same ways as ambulatory pigs. If state law stands, the pigs will have to be slaughtered off the kill floor and their flesh cannot enter the food chain. If SCOTUS sides with the National Meat Association, then non-ambulatory pigs can be set aside for observation and federal inspection, then forced onto the kill floor and their flesh sold for human consumption.

In either case, the welfare of the pigs has not changed - they are still killed, and they are still killed in the same manner. Whether they are isolated and observed or immediately slaughtered off the kill floor, their welfare has not improved in any meaningful manner.

The respondents to the petitioner (National Meat Association), which include HSUS, argue it is an issue of ethics. You can read their brief here.

I don't think this isn't even a human health issue. For example, salmonella transmission will not be reduced by not selling the flesh of downer pigs to humans. Another common zoonotic from pigs is yersinia and most pigs are asymptomatic. Toxoplasmosis won't disappear, and it won't stop swine influenza from spreading to people.

This is all about whether the state of California has the legal right to implement a law that might contradict an already existing federal law.

It is one of the few times farm animals have been considered by the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see what transpires.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How About We Just Stop Killing Dogs?

I should not have been "killed" anyways
Florence city Animal Control in Florence Alabama kills healthy, adoptable companion dogs with the gas chamber. Earlier this month, one of those dogs did not die and thus magically became "special" and a poster-child for the wrong campaign. His name is Daniel and his picture is above. He was rescued by Eleventh Hour Rescue in New Jersey, which is wonderful as he deserves permanent placement.

The wrong campaign is that we should stop using gas chambers. In case you think this is a post in support of gas chambers, please rest easy - I think they are an archaic method of killing multiple animals and should be banned.

The right message is that Daniel does not belong dead, no matter the method. It is easy to fight against less cruel methods of killing dogs and cats in this country. But it is a red herring, and it detracts from the real campaign - the one that involves the immediate cessation of killing healthy dogs and cats.

Yes, when absolutely necessary, when ending the suffering of another living being, choose the kindest method possible. But no, this rule does not apply to the majority of dogs killed in the United States. They are not near-death. They are not suffering. Most of them are healthy and, by any meaningful standards, adoptable.

Daniel did not change in behavior or health when he emerged from that gas chamber. If he is adoptable after a purely coincidental - not miraculous - biological quirk that allowed him to survive, then he was adoptable when he and several other dogs were shoved into that death machine.

We can do better than this and perhaps this will inspire people in Florence to champion change. It only takes a few dedicated, outspoken activists to foment real, meaningful change in Florence. Dogs like Daniel deserve it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Have No Excuse For This Costume Injustice

Every year, I spend between $15-20 on two costumes. One is for a dog who will wear it for a 3-minute photo shoot. The other is for a dog who will wear it on Halloween and convince some people Pit Bulls are pretty neat when they wear clothes.

I have no excuse for why I do this, except I selfishly like it and how embarrassingly awful is that? I guess if I was really mean, I'd make Celeste wear a costume for Halloween, but I don't. Mina tolerates it all well and loves Halloween because children sometimes sneak her sticky fingers to lick or dog cookies to eat. Sometimes they pet her and tell her she is pretty.

It was probably about eight years ago I started sticking Mina in Halloween costumes. This was the point in her life when trick-or-treaters scared her, so I'd leash her up and treat her like mad when kids came to the door. The year before, a parent told his children to not go near me and the dog. Mina wasn't in a costume and she was apparently so frightening to this father that he taught his children to fear (also, no candy, so sad).

Thereafter, I started dressing her up each Halloween. As the years have passed, she has become a fan of the evening, going so far as to tug herself to the door to see the children. The first year I dressed her up, the parents went nuts. Two even had their kids pose with Mina for a photo shoot. When asked what kind of dog she was, I didn't hesitate to say Pit Bull because the damage was done, the kids had touched the dog, the picture was taken.

Since then, no one has reacted poorly to Mina or her breed. Or maybe I've learned to ignore anything negative,  maybe my love for Mina acts as a pair of rose-colored glasses.

Whatever it is, there are no "ifs ands or buts" when it comes to dressing Mina up for Halloween and letting her greet the trick-or-treaters. It is done because it is good for Mina to associate fun things with crazy kids and it is good for Pit Bulls because Mina is so damn polite and sweet with the children. When I am honest, I secretly (now publicly I guess) hope for a day when my own adopted human child will emerge from her room crowned in gaudy sequins or spandex tights or whatever her heart fancies and Mina will be there to give her kisses and lean into her, loving the small, human creature.

Until then. :)

The Orange Witch
I turn my head away from this horror.

Angel? Celeste
I has a signal?

Witchy Witch
INJUSTICE

Celeste Hates Life
Oh. An Angel.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Bystander Effect is Ugly

I'm not sure why I watched the video. I was really, truly hoping that it was fake. That I would see a hint of digital manipulation, something that would indicate a falsehood. Instead, it was an ugly truth from start to finish.

You've probably seen it. If you have not, I can only implore you not to. The honesty of humanity is as un-pretty as it can get. I think a written description captures the horror enough. A little toddler steps out into a road. A driver sees her, does not serve to avoid her, and hits her. His front wheels crush her small body. He pauses and, a few seconds later, runs her over again with his back wheels.

As the little girl lays dying in the street, more than a dozen people walk or ride by her. Another truck drives over her. Finally a shopkeeper pulls the child from the road and seconds later, her mother enters the scene, scooping the child up and rushing her to the hospital. She survived a few days and then died.


People have - rightfully so - reacted with horror. I've seen enough racist reactions to last me a lifetime. Somehow the ethnicity, the country of origin, is a bigger indicator of human indifference? Human nature is not always palatable. It bypasses culture, ingratiates itself in our very DNA.

We all like to think ourselves superior to this ugliness. None of us are, though. In smaller, less mean ways, we all turn away. I remember once seeing a small brush fire start alongside the highway. Surely, I thought, one of the other hundreds - nay thousands - of drivers winding up the valley would call it in. But they must have thought that as well. Less than an hour later, as I drove back down the same highway, the blaze had grown. I called it in. I was the first to do so. No one was hurt, but imagine if that fire had started in someone's home and everyone in the neighborhood expected another person would make the first call.

In psychology, this is called a bystander effect. The likelihood we will do something different than others decreases significantly the more people are present.

I remember last year the story of a man who saved a woman from a robbery. He ended up stabbed. Two dozen people saw the man bleeding and no one stopped to help him. One person took a photo. Another person shook the man, saw the blood, and walked off. It would be an hour and twenty minutes before someone called the police. By that time, the man had died.

And the reaction! I would never do that! Oh how awful, those people not helping! What is wrong with those people? As if everyone interviewed wouldn't have done the same damn thing in that situation.

I like to think I am above all that. I hope I am. But study after study has shown...well most of us aren't. Our likelihood of intervening or reporting decreases significantly if no one else is doing it.

I learned from my experience with the brush fire. A year later, I saw a vehicle on fire. I was the only vehicle to stop. But the moment I stopped, so did other people. Embarrassingly, I had stopped because I thought I had my vehicle fire extinguisher but I actually didn't. So no great heroics, but I did call 911.


Hopefully all of us who are horrified by what happened in China will think of the other ways we don't react. Maybe it's the parent in the grocery store who screams obscenities at their child. Maybe it's the person kicking their dog in the street. Maybe it's the slumped over form you just aren't sure is conscious. Maybe it's the scream you heard but couldn't tell if it was a cry for help or something else. Maybe it's a dog running loose.

Whatever the situation, asking for help is always easier and a better bet than not asking at all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Doing The "Wrong" Thing for the "Right" Reasons?

A man in Florida recently liberated three dogs from a shelter, because he feared they would be killed. The shelter, the Humane Society of Pensacola, is a no-kill facility and does not euthanize for reasons like space or breed or age.

One of the dogs saw an open door and moseyed on through it. She was greeted by a woman who thought the stray Pit Bull belonged to a neighbor. They spent the day together, bonding. When it was apparent the dog did not belong to her neighbor, the woman searched on craigslist and found the Humane Society's ad about the missing dogs. She returned the dog, Peppa...then realized how awesome Peppa is and adopted her. The shelter waived the adoption fee. Peppa has been at the shelter for more than a year.

No word on the fate of the other two dogs.

I have the same feelings of sorrow when I see a stray dog I cannot catch dart in and out of traffic as I do when I see a dog at a shelter I know kills more than it adopts. There is a part of me that would not mind seeing all these animals set free. And there is that conflicting part, saying that life on the streets ain't no walk in the park.

Mostly I believe the system needs to be changed. That we can avoid (rare) situations like this one by changing how we perceive modern animal sheltering. We do not need to kill healthy animals, period. That most dogs with "behavioral problems" are dogs who simply need redirection and guidance, not a death sentence. That barring any illness causing significant suffering, dogs can be medically treated and rehomed.

While I do not condone this man's actions, I admire - if what he says is true - the source of his illicit acts. They come from a place of passion and righteous indignation, of seeing an injustice (even if in this case there was none) and not just turning away. There are a lot of ways to face oppressors, most of them are legal and some require stepping across the bounds of "law" and doing what is, in the face of all obstacles, morally just and right. That is not the case in this situation, of course.

At the end of the day, I am happy Peppa is in a home. And I hope the two remaining dogs are found safe and sound and their happy ending comes soon. Every dog deserves that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mina Lets Toby Snuggle

Toby is starting to get bitchy with Mina. Good thing he is going to his new home. He'll just be all GRRR! and Mina will be all WUT? And I'll be OH NO YOU DID NOT! Then both of them fall back asleep.

On the bright side, Toby discovered the toy box and he better get one of those at his new home. He was so pleased with his ability to take every toy out and nibble a little on each one. Then he settled for the handle to his crate that he tore off the first day here. Comfort chew toy, I guess.

The past couple nights, Toby has insisted on spooning Mina. She likes the whole concept but is a little leery of the dog who randomly growls at her. I kinda think he does it because I get all googly-eyed and bust out the iphone and take a bazillion pictures.

Trust me, Marji, we are IN LOVE!
Mina has been waiting for this level of snuggle for four years

Um, yeah, did you catch that on camera-film?
Yeah, we cool

Countdown to Thursday transfer to his new home has begun!

Everyone Needs a Hug

Douglas Gets Hugged

Douglas loves hugs. Sometimes he loves them so much he tries to mount the person hugging. This is to be discouraged, of course, but the moments of solidarity before is to be appreciated.

You can make Douglas happy in one of two ways: A) Hugging him; B) Drinking almond milk. If you cannot do A), do B)!!! Douglas is the dirty little secret of the dairy industry. All those cows gotta give birth so people can drink the breast milk of another species. Female calves replace their slaughtered mamas. Male calves don't produce milk and are sold at auction at 1-2 days of age for about $15/calf. They are killed for veal or "cheep dairy beef".

You can make kick ass stuff without dairy milk.

Like here are some orange cupcakes I made that didn't use any dairy or eggs or any of that nonsense. AND THEY WAS GOOD!

And chocolate chip cookies with a glass of soy milk made without dairy butter and stuff. They were the soft gooey choco chip cookies, warm out of the oven, and screaming to be dunked in milk or just crammed into your face!

Quesadilla without the dairy cheese...places like Raleys are offering lots of cheese alternatives, including the best for melting - Daiya! I just found out my local Raleys is selling the stuff and bought like five bags so they'd think it was super popular. I mean it WILL BE super popular, I'm just giving it a jumpstart!

There are other vegan food items in my flickr account. I feel like I should cook more, yo.

So I'm just saying. If you want Douglas to give you hugs and try to mount you, then totally try the other white juice - soy, almond, coconut, whatever-nut.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Update On Toby

Toby thinks vet offices are cool. He is a confident little bugger in them. Curious about other dogs but not dog-reactive. Even after he was stepped on by the vet, causing Toby to bleed, Toby was still super happy to see hi.

The vet thinks Toby has a chemical burn. So he probably is sensitive to whatever cleaning agent the shelter is using. He now has a secondary infection. I went home with more oral antibiotics and some topical stuff for his paws.

Toby, who is taller than Mina and more muscular, weighs only 32 lbs. He came in about 10-12 lbs heavier.

Thankfully, the shelter agreed to pay for the vet visit and so neither myself nor the rescue had to cover the costs.

I think he will be adopted next Tuesday. I am still a little scared the adopter won't want him because of his medical problems. I love the little guy and it has been a real joy watching him go all butterfly-emerging-from-a-cocoon on me. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Toby

The first pictures I saw of him showed a fat, happy dog. Big smile. Shar-Pei triangle ears.

The dog I met on Sunday did not mirror those photos. This dog was 10-12 lbs underweight. His ribs stuck out. He walked with a painful limp. Upon closer inspection, all four of his paws were infected, yeast, secondary bacteria, I don't know.

Some dogs shut down in shelters. Toby is only alive because someone wants to adopt him. I would not have met him otherwise. I was asked to foster Toby for the weekend, but when I saw him, I knew it would be until I handed his leash over to his new guardian, not a moment sooner. No way could I, in good conscience, send him back to a place that could destroy a dog's soul with such little effort.

Toby is going to the vet tomorrow. He will heal from the physical wounds, as he already heals from the emotional ones. He has a gentle spirit with the Shar-Pei talent for not listening to a word you say. Unless you have good food, and he defines that very narrowly, he will take little notice of you. But he snuggles, oh how he snuggles. On the sofa, he wedges me in from the south, Mina from the north. We make quite the trio.

I am hoping (but really scared to ask) the adopter will still want him. He is sensitive. He will be prone to yeast infections throughout his life. I do not know how long these infections will take to heal. He is a picky eater. He needs to be catered to, or he will slowly starve as he did at the shelter. I really like him (Mina tolerates him, Celeste is on vacation with my parents, lucky duck).

For now, Toby is my foster-adopt-to-another-person foster dog.

He also meets my new gold standard for fostering - adorbs ears.

october 10 2011 toby sma

october 10 2011 toby smb

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Training

Celeste completed her second round of training classes. She was supposed to take the CGC but my car broke down and I did not make it.

This ended up a good thing. The trainer who was supposed to run the CGC for us had her husband do it. He is a popular CGC evaluator in my county. He also believes we should jerk dogs around and dominate them. All the dogs failed.

One of my fellow classmates had taken a class with him. She has a very soft Wheaten Terrier. When I say soft, I mean the dog will die of sadness if you raise a voice to her. She went from being a "I'm kinda sad about living" to "Kill me now" after taking one of his classes. It's how she ended up in my class, which is marker-based.

She blossomed and was to the point that strangers could come up and give her cookies. She made doggy and human friends alike. Unfortunately, she was failed by her guardian who did not immediately exit the class when the CGC evaluator in question arrived. The dog regressed about sixty steps before even taking the test.

Even Henry, the most confident of Bernese Mountain Dogs, pancaked himself in the presence of this evaluator. Celeste probably would have been fine with his handling - she is pretty oblivious to aggressive people. But because of her phobia of wooden floors, she would have failed the walking part unless we had done it outside. Which is moot, there isn't any pro or con to Celeste getting a CGC. So long as she does not eat people, she's a good dog in my book. ;)

But what struck me most is what did not happen.

Several years ago I was working with one of Mina's trainers outside a store. We were helping Mina get her confidence up. When another dog approached, I took Mina to an alcove and started working on her "watch me" and "leave it". She did really well. The other dog was being dragged by a choke chain. Mina's trainer waved at me to stay where I was, and she went and talked with the woman. It seemed like a good conversation and I hoped it ended with the woman working with her dog in a way that didn't damage the dog's trust or trachea.

When I got back, I asked if the talk was good and she said yes. She went on to explain why she spoke up. Years back, she was a young trainer apprenticing with an experienced traditional dog trainer. She started to become uncomfortable with how rough the trainer was with some of the softer dogs. When a gorgeous Labrador Retriever puppy was brought in, the woman complaining the dog - 6-mos-old - jumped a lot, she watched in horror as the trainer taught the woman to knee the dog and pinch the dog's toes until the dog screamed.

It was an a-ha moment. She was holding onto the leash of her very own snarky Lab who she had taught to stop jumping by simply ignoring her and asking for a sit. Physical methods with her dog would have resulted in a swift bite (the dog was a known biter. By the time I met her, she was a real darling). More than that, she couldn't imagine violating that trust. So she spoke up. She was petrified and had no canned reason for why she disagreed with the method, just that it was wrong and mean and spiteful. And she was fired.

Being silent identifies you with the oppressor. Remaining quiet is easy. Sometimes it is justified if your well-being or that of others is in jeopardy. It's frightening in a profound way to disagree with someone, especially a person of "authority" and in a public setting where you're not sure others will come to your defense, chide you or stay quiet.

I get that on a very deep level.

What I do not get is that my trainer and another positive-based trainer present remained silent. They did not do justice to their students, human and canine. They WERE the authorities. And the handlers remained passive as well. One ripped up a piece of paper and stormed out, which is a form of protest...and I'm really thankful she did that. Sure, it was passive-aggressive, but it at least made some point. But she did not speak up when her dog was pancaked, quivering on the floor. No one should do that to any dog in a safe space.

It just reminded me that even those we are supposed to entrust with the well-being of our canine companions can be embroiled in politics and not wanting to step on toes. This was a well-respected and well-known trainer. While the other trainers bad-mouthed this traditional trainer when he wasn't present, they did nothing when he was there freaking out the dogs of paying clients.

So I'm glad Celeste and I missed that class. I do not plan on attending any more classes with this trainer, which is disappointing. I'd like to do more training with Celeste, because it gets her socialized around novel dogs, works her mind and body, and is fun 1:1 time, just me and her (Mina is stiff competition). I will just have to find another way to do that.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Something Sad, Something Glad

My something sad today is a 4-mos-old Pit Bull puppy with recently cropped ears "wired" to stay upright. SAD.

My something glad was a woman patient with her young Bullmastiff who had difficulty jumping into the back of the station wagon. She kept waiting for traffic to pass by (she was in the parking lot), trotting the dog out and making a run for the open end of her vehicle. She did it three times and everyone was so happy when the fourth time was the charm! The dog was all wagging butt and the woman was all pinching dog jowls and saying GOOD DOG!


Double glad of the day was Mina curled up under a blanket because the outside temperature was below 75 F.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Celeste's Encounter With A Fence

This could have been a funny story if the fence was wooden and she face planted against it. I would have laughed, Mina would have snorted, and Celeste would have feigned ignorance.

The Story.

The ladies and I on a walk. We come upon a bend where a gate separates one pasture from another. As I open the gate, the girls hear a rustling in a bush. Mina chooses the scenic route, entering the field through the gate's opening.

Celeste is firm in her belief the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Her alternative route leads her to a barbed wire fence, which she commences to ram into at full speed. This is definitely how I know she is part sighthound.

I hear her squeak and, yeah well, I just start swearing. There is this moment as I watch her when I think she will get caught in the wire, and I will only be able to hold her, screaming (both of us, probably). I am thankful this moment passes, because Celeste has gotten free.

She comes running to me and sits. Unacceptable, I tell her. Absolutely unacceptable. Okay, she seems to be in one piece. This is good. I crouch next to her and start gently prodding. I remove burrs and notice a cut on her paw.

Dum dum head's pawIt is about a 1/2 inch long and I think, hey, that doesn't look bad. Then I pick up her paw and the wound spreads open and oh my god, I nearly faint, because what do I see gazing back at me but Celeste's actual tootsie bones.

Seriously. They are very white and really should not be exposed to the world ever.

But Celeste is totally fine with all of this. She is ready to continue the walk.

We don't, of course. We about-face as I frantically use my walkie-talkie to call one of my colleagues. Thankfully one hears me and drives out to pick us up.

Celeste is very excited to see this person, because if she could live anywhere else, it would be with this woman. I'm pretty sure she loves her more than me, and honestly I'm okay with this. In her excitement, her chest starts dripping blood and gets me panicking again.

Mina is also happy because she was getting tired and a car ride seems very nice right now.

Of course, it's nearly 6 pm. My vet is open but it's considered an emergency. Whatever, it is what with bones breathing air and a blood speckled chest.

Two and a half hours later, Celeste is all stitched up. And I've added another $400 to my CareCredit card.

Sad Celeste is absolutely sad, but also just fine:
Dum dum head all stitched up

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mina Is Awesome

In case you didn't know.

Sup

11:08

Last night, at 11:08 pm, Troy Davis was executed. Despite overwhelming evidence that he did not commit the crime for which he was convicted. Despite questionable witness testimony and 7/9 of witnesses recanting their statements.

I don't care how you feel about the death penalty. Really, I don't. Maybe you think it's awesome. Maybe you think it sucks. But I hope that, no matter what, you know that people make mistakes and people are fallible and the justice system is not perfect. People who committed no grievous crime have been wrongly convicted in the past, and they will be wrongly convicted now and in the future.

Our prison system is a reflection of a society that is deeply wounded. Troy Davis is yet another scar added to our map of wrongs.

Today I donated $11.08 to the Innocence Project. They have helped to exonerate 273 innocent people.

No matter your feeling on the death penalty, the voiceless need advocates. My passion is advocating for animals, especially farmed animals. I speak up because they can't. Those who have been incarcerated, wrong or right, deserve a voice - they are humans part of this sad system too.

If you feel Troy Davis was wrongly executed, donate $11.08.

If you believe our justice system needs all the fail safes it can get, donate $11.08.

If you support the death penalty but understand that new evidence can change a person's fate, donate $11.08.

Do it today. It's a small price to pay to help others like Troy Davis who, in the face of mounting contrary evidence, was still killed for a crime he most likely did not commit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Does This Say About Us?

A dark, windy road. Lightning flashing, thunder booming. A dark mass lumbers onto the road. The driver slams her brakes, stops. Her headlights reflect the dog's eyes, bright yellow. She gazes at her own dog, emits a few choice words, and pulls over.

The dog comes to her, and she stands there, flummoxed, torn between calling someone to help and standing there for hours until she can think of something easier than sticking this big, fluffy dog in the back of her car.

Decision made. Introductions between those two unknown dogs on that dark, windy asphalt go as smoothly as one can hope. But she has two other dogs at home, one of whom is a snarky pup. She drops the obviously shaved Chow Chow off at the sanctuary for the night.

I meet him in the morning. Mina and Celeste exchange words with him. Actually, they mainly just yell and he stares back confused.

I've been told Chows are one-people dogs. That they are arrogant, aloof, independent, cat-like, alien. That they are dangerous and unpredictable. I have yet to meet one of these deadly assassin Chow-Chows.

This dog is sweet. He is well-fed. He has been shaved, so someone took the time to cool him off during the hot summer months. He has a collar but only a rabies tag, which indicates someone took time to get him licensed and vaccinated.

I crouch down before him and he waddles up, entire body exuding happiness. His tail wags a gentle greeting. I look deeply into his eyes, and he looks back with a comfortable confidence. When I stand, he smiles and wags his body some more. When I move back, he moves forward. We could dance together, this brown, fuzzy dog and I.

We try to get in touch with his guardian, but officials won't give us personal information from the rabies license. We think this weird and a bad way to avoid putting dogs in the shelter.

When it is apparent that no contact will be made, he is driven to our local shelter. They have the database. They can contact the guardian. I wave goodbye to the fuzzy dog with the shaved body and the unshaved head.

Our shelter has a 98% adoption rate. Dogs are walked twice a day, at the minimum, by a team of dedicated volunteers. Their foster program is limited to sick dogs and those who need behavior modification - healthy dogs don't leave the shelter, unless it's to go home. It is not a bad place to go, if you are a dog or cat in need of a new home.

A few days later, I end up at the dog shelter, handing out flyers for an upcoming event. I cannot, in good conscience, enter the lobby of a dog shelter and not visit the dogs and cats inside. I just can't. When it's a shelter I know has a hi-kill rate, it's hard. But even at this shelter, knowing almost all of these dogs will go to homes, it's still hard. They shouldn't be here, period.

Then I see him. The chubby, shaved (but not the head), Chow Chow. Oh, I exclaim. I bend down in front of his cage and stroke his big fat head. He looks up, with recognition? I don't know. But no matter, his body sways side to side, his tail unfurls to wag as low and slow as he can get it. Even in here, in this small little prison, he is happy to see me. A little part of me shatters. Why wasn't he back at home?

I corner the staff person I know and demand (okay, inquire politely) an answer. They had contacted the guardian, she said. The man had adopted this dog nearly four years ago from a Chow rescue. The dog - Koda Bear - kept getting out during thunderstorms. The man did not want him anymore. It was too troublesome, he said.

Oh.

Too troublesome.

Sometimes, there are big thunderstorms up in the hills here. They are deadly beautiful. Lightning twines out across night sky, filling it with power and electricity. Close behind, the booms of thunder lets us know its presence. Mina sometimes reacts poorly to thunderstorms. Not always, just sometimes. Especially if it is winter and already cold. She will curl up, go deep into herself, and shake. In those moments, I pull her close to me. To my chest and its pumping heart. I squeeze tight until the shivering goes away, until she settles head over heart on my body. I cover her with a blanket and we find comfort.

That is what Koda asks for, every thunderstorm. He asks to be respected and loved. Maybe he does not want someone to hug him, but he is afraid and he needs someone to understand. That is what is so hurtful. In his fear, at his most vulnerable moment, the one person who was supposed to just get it, set Koda up to fail. He failed this beautiful dog. And I can't say I don't find myself really angry at him for it.

Four years, tossed to the curb. Can you imagine if I did that to Celeste? If I found her inability to walk comfortably on slick surfaces so cumbersome, so irksome that I just got rid of her? If I just reacted to her fear with disdain? I would make this world a crueler place. This man already has. So many people have.

Koda is available for adoption. He gets along well with other dogs. I do not know too many dogs who would, in the face of my two screaming she-demons, stare gently, give off appropriate "I'm totally cool here" cues, and then gracefully walk away. I don't know how he is with small dogs, but he did meet big dogs and he was fine. I don't know how he is with cats, a couple shelter employees thought he would do poorly but who knows.


If you have a moment, spread the word about Koda. He is at the Nevada County Animal Shelter, which is run by Sammie's Friends. He needs someone to love him with fierceness and dedication.

I don't know exactly what Koda's story says about us. I read the cards of many dogs at this shelter, and well, I left unimpressed. Dogs left in homes, nervous biters - nearly unadoptable - given up because of a job loss, dogs abandoned to the streets, or dogs no longer wanted because they pee too much or too little or don't jump through flaming hoops to get the beer out of the fridge. I know that we can do better. We must.