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.

 

This is Me Finally Doing Something

I talk about dogs…a lot. And I write about dogs…a lot.

If you follow my blog at all, you probably already know this. It wasn’t my intention to use so much space penning about my favorite animal, but these things happen. I write about what I love.

Ever since adopting my Lab/Pit mix, Phil, five years ago, I’ve gotten more involved with animals than I ever had before, or ever imagined myself to be. I volunteer at an animal shelter, spending as much extra time with the dogs, outside of my regular shift, as I can.

I protest regularly with an organization against pet stores selling puppies that come from puppy mills, which are most, if not all, pet stores. With this group, I have also sat in on town meetings to support a ban against the sale of puppy-mill puppies, and I’ve emailed numerous politicians pleading for such a ban.

I’ve taken my stance. I’ve lent my voice to a cause I believe in. Whether it be through emails, signs in my hands, or by my mere presence, my voice has been spoken, but whether it’s been heard? I don’t know.

But I won’t stop.

I don’t state this to show how wonderful I am. I’m not wonderful. Trust me. I’m a terrifically-flawed person. A Deeply, terrifically-flawed person. I write this because I don’t know where all this fight came from. I didn’t grow up in a household of activists. Neither of my parents had staunch political beliefs. We just lived our lives in a quiet suburb, where the word “protest” was never uttered.

But then, decades later, I adopted a pit-bull mix, and everything changed.

Even though having a pet isn’t new to me, this time around it was different. Growing up we had a cherished family dog, a Lhaso Apso/Maltese mix named Coco, for over fifteen years. But I was a child when we got him, and barely a young adult when he died. None of the years between that time did I ever think about animal abuse. I had naively assumed that all dogs were as loved and doted on as Coco was. Maybe I was too young, or too capably self-absorbed to look beyond the walls built around my cozy little life to see the world.

But I’m looking now, and I see the kinds of abuse animals suffer. Phil’s breed is the most abused and neglected breed of all dogs. The moment I fell in love with my pit-bull mix, I knew I had to fight for him. But I can’t only fight for pit-bulls. I need to fight for all the animals suffering because of human greed. Whether it be dogs living their miserable lives in dirty, over-crowded puppy mills, or pigs crammed into gestation crates so small they can’t even turn around, or mother cows bellowing for their babies, taken from them seconds after birth, to either be killed for meat, or raised to suffer as a dairy cow.

I need to fight for all animals being abused..

Last week, I participated in my first protest with Mercy for Animals. It was a protest against the way farm animals are forced to suffer.

This isn’t me being wonderful. This me finally doing something. And it’s about time I did.

puppy-mill-     pig_gestation_crates1pigs in crates

loving-mother-cow-and-calf1 Beautiful picture of love right here.

*I don’t own these pictures. I will take them down if they are copyrighted.

Life Gets Better…Thanks Sandy.

Two years ago this month I started volunteering at an animal shelter. The first dog I bonded with was a Collie mix named Sandy. Sandy was an owner-surrender. I don’t remember the exact circumstances of the surrender, but Sandy was very depressed. Her sadness showed in the way she moved – slow and heavy. Her body weighted, not from the extra pounds she carried, but from the confusion I suspect she felt when the shelter became her new home.

I’ve been told that for a dog to go from a home to a shelter is as much of a shock as a free-living human-being waking up suddenly in a prison cell. Although the animals at my shelter are loved and well-taken care of, it doesn’t compare to a home once an animal’s lived in one. The confinement of a kennel, even one attached to a dog run, is jail to an animal accustomed to having free-range of a home.

Animal shelters, no matter how well-tended to, are loud. Dogs who are nervous bark. Dogs who are scared bark. Dogs who are anxious bark. And dogs who are just tired of being somewhere (we’ve had animals who’ve waited a year or longer for homes) bark. So when a dog like Sandy comes to the shelter, and is greeted with chaos she is not used, depression often sets in. Adjustments need to be made and these are abrupt for animals who knew a better life.

My fellow volunteers at the shelters love the animals they care for, and talk sweetly to them, but we are strangers to the dogs. And the ones who had an owner, and faithfully loved that owner and lived in a stable home (for at least a little while), being in a place with so many different hands touching you, no matter how gentle, can fill a dog with stress it never knew before.

Sandy wouldn’t eat, and as weeks went by her weight gradually dropped, but she still moved slowly and wasn’t enthusiastic about anything. There were special notes on her cage and on the dog’s track sheets that Sandy was only to be taken out in the grassy yard, and not the cement and pebbled ones, because all Sandy wanted to do was lay down. I’d lay with her in the grass, pet her, and take her head in my arms, and promise her that things would get better. She’d look at me with sadness in her eyes so deep and profound that I’d challenge anyone who dare say animals don’t have a soul.

I felt close to Sandy and bonded quickly with her because she resembled on the outside exactly the way I was feeling on the inside. I had been laid-off from my job a few months before and battling an illness that was threatening to flare-up again, and I was scared and lost in such profound hopelessness that I desperately searched for any sign that promised better days ahead.

“You’re gonna be okay,” I’d promise while kneeling in front of her and holding her head in my hands. “We both are.”

I kissed her a lot, comforted and reassured her, the way I needed someone to reassure me.

Soon, Sandy was adopted. Her life was going to get better and I was so happy for her. She gave me hope that my life would get better, too.

Last summer I took my dog to a fundraising event for animal shelters. There were all kinds of doggie-themed tents there and as I made my way toward one of them, I stopped near a spectacle of people surrounding a closed-off area. I found a spot and watched as dogs performed tricks and ran through obstacle courses with their trainers, or owners, by their side. The happy dogs circled cones, ran through large cylinder-like tubes, slid down little slides, jumped over rope, and maneuvered across small teeter-totters.

One of the dogs looked a lot like Sandy, but i knew the dog now running excitedly through an obstacle course couldn’t be the same sad dog who ignored the toys scattered in the shelter yards and only wanted to lay down, or the over-weight, depressed dog who moved so slowly I often had to take half-steps when walking beside her. It couldn’t be that dog, and I was ready to walk away believing it wasn’t her, when a man holding a mic said, “Let’s give a big hand to Sandy!”

It was Sandy! My Sandy. And I was stunned. I couldn’t even move. The transformation was incredible. She was a completely different dog.

I couldn’t get to her. The crowd was too big. But I wanted to reach her and pet her again and look into the eyes I was sure showed no more signs of sadness.

I wanted to tell her that I was happy her life was better, and let her know that mine was too.

Sadness doesn’t have to last forever. Life can, and will, get better.

A (Not-So) Tiny Sacrifice

I had IVIG treatment today. For the next couple days I will feel fuzzy and foggy — a small sacrifice to endure for a treatment that has given me my life back (and will continue to for years to come because I’ve been doing this for fours years, every four weeks, and there is no foreseeable end). Four hours of lying in a bed with an IV stuck in my arm is a tiny sacrifice to endure to live again.

How did it come to be known that IVIG (Intravenous Immunoglobulin) would help immune deficient patients battle whatever disease is attacking their body? This therapy has taken the body that has fallen off a couch, too weak to lift itself up off the floor, the body that has fallen down stairs, legs not strong enough to reach the top, and has transformed that body into one that can walk, do yoga, and swallow with no fear of choking.

I’m so grateful, but today, I lay in that hospital bed and wondered about the animals, chimpanzees, in particular.

I volunteer at an animal shelter. I feel empathy for neglected, abandoned, and abused animals. I want to take them all home with me and show them what love feels like. I want them to know hands that comfort, and not hurt. I want the dog who has lived its life tied to a tree to know the feeling of the warmth of a bed with soft blankets. I want the dog who almost died from thirst to know there’s a bowl of fresh water, in the same place, anytime he wants it.

I want all these things because I hate suffering. I participate in protests against puppy mills, and those pet stores who by from those horrible places (which is most pet stores) because I hate suffering. I changed my eating habits to a (mostly) compassionate diet because I hate suffering. I research companies who test on animals and buy a different brand because I hate suffering. I do all of this because I hate the idea of contributing to the suffering of another living being, and yet, I don’t know if the treatment I go for every month has been tested on animals.

A chimpanzee has a 98% genetic similarity to humans. If the therapy I get was tested on an animal to see if it would benefit patients with my disease, (I haven’t yet checked because I don’t want to know. I’m not ready to know. I’m a coward like that) it most likely would have been a chimpanzee. Ironically, my most beloved animal growing up. Stuffed monkeys crowded my room as a kid. My favorite was one where the hands velcroed together so you can sling the arms around your neck and pretend like the monkey was clinging to you. I carried this chimp around my hip all the time.

So how fitting would it be if the suffering of a chimpanzee is the reason I feel better?

Not fitting at all because the only way a company could test if IVIG would work for my disease (and any disease) is to take a species with a similar functioning healthy immune system and make it sick. Yes, make a healthy and vibrant animal sick for the benefit of a human life — my life — possibly.

I don’t believe that animals are here for humans to do with them what they will. Maybe the Bible states Man’s dominion over animals, but I don’t believe everything in the Bible anyway, so I’m comfortable disagreeing. They are not our trophies in a one-player sport, or our entertainment performing a display of tricks while enduring cruel treatment, and, some argue, they aren’t even here to be our food.

They are living creatures who know pain and fear, and experience joy and sadness.

I’ve heard the heart-wrenching screams of a mother cow as she watches her calf being dragged away only seconds after birth. I’ve watched terror take over a pig when it knows it’s about to be killed in a brutal way — thumping — the industry calls it. I’ve seen cows and Beagles, who have spent their entire lives in cages inside factories, without ever once feeling the sun on their skin, frolic joyfully in the grass for the first time. And when given an option to lay on the floor or a bed piled with pillows, my dog will always choose the bed. Why? Because it’s more comfortable, and animals, even farm animals, recognize comfort over discomfort.

Which one do you think they prefer?

Today, I lay in a comfortable hospital bed while receiving the fluid that will help my body function as normally as it can, but what conditions were the chimpanzees living in when they were (are) experimented on? I imagine they were forced into small cages, in a bland and cold room, locked up like a prisoner, frightened and sick, not knowing why they are there because they’ve done nothing wrong — except to have the unfortunate luck in sharing enough DNA similarity to perhaps the greediest, self-entitled, and morally inept race alive today.

And cowardly, too. That’s my race. That’s me. And maybe some day I’ll be brave enough to know how much suffering (sacrifice) a living being endured so I can have my life back.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net