Don’t Just Read the Label. See the Dog!

The shelter I volunteer for caps how many pit bulls it will take in at one time.  I understand their reasoning for doing this, even though I don’t like it, but this practice won’t change until the stereotype changes. Dogs labeled “pit bull” take longer to adopt out because people are scared of them. Or their insurance won’t cover them. Or their city has banned the breed. (Technically, “pit bull” isn’t a breed. It’s an umbrella term that unfairly covers multiple breeds and mixes.) 

One of the pit bull mixes sitting at my shelter right now is named Gipsy, and she’s such a wonderful dog. If all goes right today, I will be with her in a few hours, playing with the tennis balls she loves so much. She is playful and sweet and loves human interaction, especially if that human has a tennis ball in his/her hand.

The second she walks into one of the yards, she’s searching for a ball, and if she doesn’t find one, she’ll walk to the fence and sit patiently in front of the toy box she knows her beloved balls are, on the other side of the fence. And if you aren’t quick enough in getting there, she may cast you an anxious look as if to say, “WTF are you waiting for? You know I only have fifteen minutes out here.”

It always amazes me how much dogs live in the moment. They take in every moment they have when outside. They don’t worry about when they’ll be taken back to their kennels, surrounded by other scared and anxious barking dogs. They just enjoy the time they have outside doing what they love.

It makes me reflect on how much time (moments) people waste worrying about what will happen three minutes, three hours, or even three years from now. Dogs don’t do that. They savor the moment they’re living AS they’re living it.

I hope all dogs in shelters find homes real soon because they’re all so deserving. We get dogs from all kinds of despicable situations – dogs picked up as homeless strays, dogs taken from neglectful or abusive homes living in vile conditions, dogs used as bait dogs, dogs who’ve been tied to a tree their entire lives. There are so many heart-wrenching scenarios and it’s so heart-warming when they finally find a loving furever home. But the dogs I wish for the most are the ones who have the most decks stacked against them – the pit bulls.

Gipsy shouldn’t be waiting so long for her furever home. She’ll make a loyal and loving pet for any lucky family out there. But instead of walking by her kennel, like so many people do, someone has to actually look and see her, instead of the label card hanging outside her kennel stating “pit bull mix,” and pass her by.

Gipsy is lucky to have ended up at my shelter because we are a no-kill shelter. So she will be with us however how long it takes for her to find a home, but so many pit bulls out there aren’t so lucky. They have no idea their time is about to run out. 

If you’re thinking about getting a pet, please consider adopting at your local shelter. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills.

Check out this cutie below. Gipsy knows how to play, (see how agile she is!) but she also knows how to chill. Plus, she’s got the best darn eyes I’ve ever seen on a dog.

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So Much Has Changed. Time Does That.

In the last few years, I have become a strong animal rights advocate.  I have protested against pet stores that sell puppies from puppy mills (which is most of them). I have joined forces against Ringling Brothers, (with their known cruel treatment toward their animals) when the “Not-So-Greatest-Show-On Earth” came to my city.  And I have protested against fast-food giants and the cruel way farm animals are treated and killed.

I have significantly limited and/or omitted meat and dairy from my diet.   Before I made the decision to cut out meat, I did some research about how to make the switch to a vegetarian diet safely. Surprisingly to me at the time, I found that eating less meat helps the environment. This made the decision a definite no-brainer for me. I’d be improving my health, living a more compassionate lifestyle, and decreasing my impact on the planet. Three slam-dunks!

The more I research and learn about the horrors of factory farming and climate change and the meat industry’s disastrous impact on Mother Earth, the more motivated I am in doing my part in ensuring our planet’s health.

I’m ashamed of the many years I’ve lived in oblivion. I used to think nothing of eating meat everyday, sometimes with every meal. Nor thinking twice about tossing an empty can or bottle into the trash, instead of a recycling bin. And I absolutely loathe the memory I have of my now ex-girlfriend and I, visiting a pet store and gawking at all the cute little puppies while promising that once we move in together, we’d come back to that very store (ironically, it’s the same store I was asked to leave recently when I insisted to the owner  that I be able to visit the place their puppies come from)  and buy a puppy. BUY A PUPPY??? NEVER would that thought EVER enter my mind now, but it had then.

So much has changed. Time does that. I don’t mind change when it’s for the better.  Now, I think a lot about the animals and the environment because in many ways, the two go hand in hand. The best way to protect the environment is to stop, or drastically reduce, your consumption of meat, which in turn benefits the animals.

I wouldn’t feel right proclaiming my love for animals, and then eat them. And I couldn’t call myself an environmentalist if I ate the very food that is “responsible for 80 percent of the planet’s deforestation, 70 percent of freshwater use and 30 percent of human-generated greeenhouse gases.” (Nature World News)

It pains me when I see my mother drinking bottled water at home instead of filling a glass using the refrigerator water, or buying a Brita. According to utahrecylces.com, 35 billion plastic bottles are thrown away every year, with only about 25% of the plastic made in the U.S being recycled.  For me, bottled water is used only for when I am on the go. But when I am home, it’s a glass and my Brita.

I don’t drink much coffee, but when I do, I use a coffee pot, not those environment-killing Keuriq cups.  According to TheAtlantic.com, “In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times.”   Billions of  K-cups end up in our landfill each year. That’s a lot of money spent to kill our planet.

The more I read, the more I learn, and some news is hard to take. I recently discovered that a popular animal-rights group I thought was a friend, may actually be a foe. PETA is not the “animal rights group” I was duped into believing they were. I’m in the process of learning more about their stances regarding pit bulls, Breed Specific Legislation, and No-Kill Shelters, so I can’t write anything definitive right now.

But I’ve read enough from reputable sources to know I am never giving another dime to this organization.loving-mother-cow-and-calf1If you are looking for a way to help animals, and are considering donating to PETA, please give to your local animal shelter instead. From the information I’ve gathered so far, your local shelters are probably doing a lot more than PETA to keep the animals alive….More on that later.

 

Celebrating National Soup Month

Today, I’m celebrating  National Soup Month with talented author, and friend, Sloane Taylor. Please hop over to her site and enjoy a savoring soup recipe that’ll keep you warm these cold, winter months, as well as an excerpt from my sweet romance story, Loving Again.

Thanks!

http://www.sloanetaylor.com/blog/

 

soup pic

 

loving again cover
Loving Again

Soup photo courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Don’t Bully My Breed

I got into an argument today with a stranger on Twitter about BSL – Breed Specific Legislation. BSL is legislation cities can pass directly targeting a specific breed of dog. Some ordinances completely ban a breed from an entire city (Denver and Miami has done this).

The person I was exchanging words with was in support of banning pit bulls (which technically isn’t a breed).  “Pit Bull” is commonly used as an umbrella term for dogs with boxy-shaped heads, are stocky, appear strong in stature, and, of course, look “mean.” The term “pit bull” generally covers a few types of breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, and Bull Terrier.

If found as strays, or rescued from abusive and neglectful situations, these dogs will be categorized as “pit bulls” and with it, in some situations, a death sentence will be imposed upon them because not many people, it seems, are willing to bring home a dog labelled “pit bull.” Most of these dogs will never leave the shelter they are dropped off at alive. 

BSL is another obstacle these already abused and misunderstood dogs have to endure when trying to find a home. At the local shelter I volunteer at  there was a pit/lab mix named Sable. She was a loving dog who wanted nothing more than to have her belly rubbed and to play with a hose. A family wanted to take her home, but found out their home association didn’t allow pit bulls. Sable would have to wait nine more months before she would finally leave the shelter.

But while she was there, I’d hear other volunteers ask, as they’d pet Sable through the cage with her body pressed against the bars, savoring the attention, “Why are you still here? You’re so adorable. Why are you still here?”

I remember wanting to yell, “Because she’s a fucking pit bull! And people are afraid of pit bulls no matter how sweet they are!”

Of course, I didn’t yell that. I didn’t say anything. I walked away, pissed that there is yet one more obstacle these poor dogs have to fight to find a home. Sable was forced to spend her days in a kennel instead of a home because of BSL. And that isn’t fair or right.

I was arguing with this person on Twitter that BSL kills pit bulls because it makes it harder for them to find homes. When pit bulls don’t find homes, they die. My shelter is a no kill-shelter, but if it wasn’t, Sable would have been put-down. Killed. And she deserved to live. They all do. Thankfully, Sable did find a home, but most are not so lucky.

To me, BSL is straight-up discrimination. We are blaming not just one breed of dog for the aggressive actions of a few dogs, who were made to be mean, but five breeds. How can that be right? I’m always leery of media reports of pit bull attacks because how do they know for sure it was a pit bull? Since “pit bull” is already categorized to include five breeds, throw in mixes, and it’s nearly impossible to know for sure the exact breed of dog.

The probability is that the media doesn’t know for sure the dog is a pit bull. But that doesn’t stop the headlines that target pit bulls, because those headlines sell newspapers. Those headlines get people’s attention more than “Some Type of Mix Dog Attacks Man on Train!”

I think pet owners should be held accountable for what their animals do. A dog doesn’t just maul a person out of the blue. There are signs of aggression before that happens, and I’d bet everything I have that it was the owners who made those dogs that way.

I adopted a pit bull mix. I didn’t have to train him to be the sweetheart that he is. He came to me that way. Dogs labelled “pit bulls” are not born mean. They are loving dogs who deserve to live. They deserve homes.

If the town you live in is considering BSL or currently has BSL, please do all you can to stop or end it.  It is wrong. And it kills. These dogs need more people to advocate for them. They don’t need any more adversaries. They already have enough of those.  If you can, adopt a pit. Give a “pit bull” a chance. I can say from experience that you won’t be sorry.

 

Sable, the chocolate lab/pit mix and my baby, Phil. Two “pit bulls” who found loving homes. I wish they all do.

An American Town With No Clean Water

Right now, residents in a city of 100,000 people cannot drink the water that flows from their faucets, nor can they wash themselves from the water that pours from their shower heads. Why?

Because their water supply is poisoned with lead.

An American town, Flint, Michigan, has no clean water to drink or bathe in. How did this happen? And what is the state doing for the thirsty people of Flint?

To the former, this was mostly a man-made tragedy, and to the latter, not much. Yep, the state and its officials, including its Governor, Rick Snyder, has shown a lack of urgency to help the poor people of Flint. And I don’t use the term “poor” to describe the state of their circumstances, but I use it to describe the state of their social class.

Flint, Michigan is a poor neighborhood. Is there a relevant reason to state this fact? I believe so. It is hard to imagine the horrendously slow response time officials took to inform people of the dangers in their contaminated drinking water would have been the same if Flint, Michigan were a rich neighborhood.

Nothing irks me more than child abuse, animal abuse and elderly abuse, but you can rank taking advantage of poor people or treating them as though they matter less, up there too.

If you know nothing about this, let me provide a brief synopsis.

In April, 2014 an appointed emergency manager changed the city of Flint’s water resource to the Flint River. But because of the high amount of salt in the river’s water, the city’s old pipes started to corrode, which caused high-levels of lead to poison the water supply.

Drinking lead-poisoned water can cause irreversible brain damage.  Children were drinking this water.

The question, of course, is when did Governor Snyder know about the contamination to Flint’s water supply? Like a good politician, Snyder is dancing around this question, but according to The Atlantic, in July 2015, Snyder’s then chief-of-staff emailed a health department official stating frustration over the water issue in Flint and the rising “lead level studies.”

Although Snyder hasn’t been forthcoming about his personal awareness to the Flint water crisis, his chief-of-staff knew at least as early as July 2015 about a contamination in a water supply that was changed in April, 2014.

Soon, the water started to smell rancid, and GM switched their water source when it found “city water was corroding engines at the Flint factory.” (The Atlantic)

The water that was corroding car engines was the same water children were drinking – and the State and its Governor let it happen.

Children and adults started getting sick.  An “environmental-engineering professor found that the water had nearly 900 times the recommended EPA limit for lead particles.” (The Atlantic) The aforementioned email about this was sent in mid-2015, but some believe the problems was known as far back as May 2014.

Yet, in Feb 2015, even after it was known by city officials that the water was testing at dangerous levels of lead, “officials were telling residents there were no threats.” (The Atlantic)

Wow… Officials told the people of Flint that the water was safe, even though the lead levels were rising. (I actually heard audio of this and it is inconceivable that a person can encourage people, including children, to drink poisoned water.)

On Jan 5, Governor Rick Snyder, finally did something for the people of Flint. He declared a state of emergency, however it was done on the same day the US Department of Justice confirmed it was investigating the Flint water crisis. What suspicious timing on the Governor’s part.

Luckily, while Snyder sat on his hands and did nothing while people in his state had no clean water to drink, strangers with kind hearts donated water. Corporations got involved donating trucks of bottled water, but the state government run by Snyder, did nothing.

It is always wonderful to see strangers helping each other, it’s good for humanity. But, what if there were no donations? What if strangers didn’t get involved? Would Snyder have let the people of his state drink from puddles before finally doing something?

I’ve been on Twitter supporting a call for Governor Snyder’s arrest. (#arrestgovsnyder) I hope in the end there is a long and arduous investigation into finding who knew what, and when. Who did nothing. And who told innocent people poisoned water was safe to drink.

Where’s Erin Brockovich when you need her?

An ex-Governor of the state I live in is currently serving a 14 year sentence for corruption. He didn’t poison anyone and he got 14 years.

How many years will Rick Snyder get when all this is over?

 

flint water

 

Below is a link to the article from The Atlantic that I referenced in my post.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/what-did-the-governor-know-about-flints-water-and-when-did-he-know-it/423342/

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 24-Hour Dominance of “A Christmas Story”

Since 2004, the cable channel, TBS, has been playing a 24-hour marathon of the movie, “A Christmas Story,” starting on Christmas Eve night looped all the way through Christmas Day. In 1997, this holiday favorite used to feature its 24-hour dominance on TNT.

In 1997.

The movie is a bonafide holiday hit. A classic. And even though I probably haven’t watched it from beginning to end since I was nine (which by then I’d probably seen the movie 1,985,789,121 times), this 24-hour holiday feature loop plays in the background, on my TV, whenever my TV is on.

When you know a movie as well as most people know “A Christmas Story,” merely catching glimpses here and there will bring you right back into the story as if you’ve been lying on the couch, with the dog snuggled in your lap, watching since scene one.

For me, just hearing the scenes play out from a small screen in a room I may not even be in, stimulates the Christmas spirit in me. I’m taken back to the days I used to write Santa long letters of my most coveted toys and leave treats for him to eat on the night he’d come to drop off all my gifts.

I was a young child the first time I saw “A Christmas Story.” And that may be why anytime I see the movie on TV, or just hear the familiar words from across a room, it triggers a feeling inside that is calming and nostalgic.

The fact that the movie is set in the 1940’s may also contribute to my endorphin-like sensation that, for the moment, everything is gonna be all right, whenever that movie is on. The story takes place during a time that is often looked back as “the good old days.” Or, “a simpler time.”

Well, what could be a more simpler time than when we were kids?

So, right off the bat there are two things that automatically make “A Christmas Story” endearing to me. One, I saw the movie for the first time through non-jaded eyes when I was a child, and two, the story is set during the “olden days.”

Even though history tells me life was hard and not so great for a lot of people during those times, and even though, for many personal reasons, I wouldn’t want to live in those old days if given a choice, a sense of tranquility takes over me almost instantly when I watch an old movie. In some strange way the scenes on screen are very familiar to me, even though I’ve never lived it.

As a kid, I loved the part in “A Christmas Story” where the friends dare each other to do something because what kid didn’t do that?

I once put a cicada in my mouth, on a dare.   I once lay across the middle of a dirty, busy road in a white jacket on a dark night, on a dare. And I once made a funny face behind the back of a teacher, on a dare. (And yes, I got ratted out by my fellow-classmates.)

But I never stuck my tongue to a freezing pole in the dead of winter. I don’t know if it’s because I was never stupid enough to do something like that, or because nobody ever triple-dog dared me to do it.

 

 

 

 

Patriots Act

Max Cleland is a Vietnam veteran who came back from the war a triple amputee. Cleland, who prefers to go simply by “Max”, spent eight months at Walter Reed Hospital. In his autobiography, Strong at the Broken Places, Max writes that he felt like “a discarded warrior who’d been warehoused as a long-term patient.” He recalls being transferred to a local VA hospital and feeling left behind, tormented and lonely. He was bitter. Afraid. And he wanted to die.

This, from a man who courageously fought for the country he loved.

When Max returned to his home state of Georgia, an interest in politics saved him from immersing into a deeper depression. At the age of twenty-eight he won a seat in the Senate. Later, Max was appointed to run the Veteran’s Administration. Years later, he would win the Georgia election for secretary of state. He held the position for twelve years until he won the election as US Senator in 1996.

He would lose his re-election bid to retain his seat in 2002 when his Republican opponent, Saxby Chambliss, played dirty by meshing Max alongside Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in attack ads because Max had voted against President Bush’s homeland security bill. He was criticized for this even though he supported a Democratic version of legislation that was very similar to Bush’s.

But that fact was never considered, and Max lost his Senate seat because he was lumped up with two evil men. Max Cleland fought for his country and suffered physical injuries plain to the human eye, as well as invisible injuries his mind will never recover from, yet he lost his seat to an opponent who never stepped foot in Vietnam, citing a bad knee.

Max suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He has anxiety and fear. “And it never goes away.” (Patriots Act)

Max lost his limbs while exiting an aircraft when he had noticed a grenade at his feet that he thought was his own. He bent down and picked up the grenade. Seconds later, the grenade exploded in his hand. Max would later learn that the grenade that blew off his limbs belonged to one of his fellow soldiers. A U.S soldier, active only days from basic training had “foolishly straightened out the pins of his grenade for quick access.” (Patriots Act)

The book, Patriots Act, written by Bill Katovsky, tells the individual stories of people who have risked their career and reputation to speak out against the masses.

I could summarize Max’s story for you, but I think it’s better to hear his experience through his own words. I’ve had this book for quite a few years and each story twists my insides in such aggravated frustration every time I reread it. But Max’s story stands out the most for me because many innocent lives were taken, in a brutal way, because of the lies and deception from people elected to lead this country.

Katovsky interviews Max for Patriots Act, published in 2006, and almost immediately the dialogue turns to the comparisons between Vietnam and the Iraq war, in which Max states, “I wish I’d done more to prevent the current disaster in Iraq that’s exactly mocking the first disaster in Vietnam that I was personally a part of.

“…Seeing all these young Iraq War veterans blown up, missing arms and legs and eyes, I just can’t stand it. It triggers all of my stuff from Vietnam…Iraq is Vietnam on steroids…Anybody who understands Vietnam or went through it…sees this war in Iraq as nothing more than total folly…Bush has created a war that didn’t have to happen…Instead of going after bin Laden and all of his terrorists in the mountains, Bush transferred those resources and those men on the ground to Iraq

“…Bush has gotten young Americans killed and wounded and blown up in a shooting gallery in Iraq…What they created in Iraq is a terror haven, a civil war that has no end. We destabilized Iraq. It had a stable government. We didn’t like it. We had Saddam Hussein in a box. But this President went in and took Saddam Hussein out and thought that was gonna be the end of it…Not only didn’t he know the consequences of those decisions, Bush wanted to be macho and be better than his daddy…It will take a Democratic president to come in, make peace, extricate the American forces and replace it with an international community.

“This Republican crowd is a Trojan horse. They say one thing and do another…You have to tell the truth and seriously connect with people. Average citizens thought they were doing the right thing by voting for Bush [in 2004] and this crowd.

“…Instead of watching American Idol on TV, we ought to be focusing on the lives of these young kids coming back with injuries that would have killed them in Vietnam, like concussions to the brain, because 85 percent of the casualties in Iraq are due to explosive devices….It blows up your insides and your brain in a concussion that you won’t ever get over….But these kids are so brave and so courageous that we ought to be focusing on them: Instead, many people put a sticker on the back of their car that says, ‘We support the Troops,’ and then they put a Bush/Cheney sticker on the other side. And think that’s America.

“Meanwhile, the Democrats are trapped in a mixed message. Anytime you have troops at war, you are reluctant to criticize it. Because then you are attacked as un-American and unpatriotic. So it’s hard to stand up and speak the truth. Those who do get trashed…The price to go up against them is awful. I was on the 9/11 Commission, but I resigned after a year because we would never get access to all of those presidential daily briefs…it’s all part of this massive cover-up that somehow we are fighting the war on terrorism in Iraq.”

This book was published a decade ago, but all the stories, especially this one, are still so relevant today. People say “Never Forget 9/11” and I don’t know how anyone can, but we also can’t ever forget the lies we were told immediately after that tragedy. Our fears were preyed upon and the American people were manipulated. Hundreds of thousands of civilian and military lives were lost in Iraq, and those who survived, like Max, never completely heal.

As we head into another Presidential election year, I will vote for the candidate who is more likely to keep this country out of war. There are way too many fear-mongering politicians out there who seemingly can’t wait to activate our “beefed-up” military first chance they get.

But I wonder if George Bush would have been so quick to invade Iraq, on all those false pretenses, if it were his own children on the front lines.

The war that didn’t have to happen killed other people’s children, and husbands, and wives, and mothers, and fathers. But for so long we weren’t supposed to express our dissent against the war because we would be deemed unpatriotic.

But the people need to speak up and protest peacefully against social injustices and political lies.

Always.

Otherwise, we’re just going along with the masses, which is exactly what crooked leaders want us to do.

Let’s not do that, people.

 

American flag on cracked brick wall

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net