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

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


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


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.