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.

 

We Could Save Them All if We Wanted To

I spent a couple hours today at the the animal shelter I volunteer at. The unusually warm weather we’re experiencing for this time of year affords me extra time to take the doggies out into the yards.

Like many people, dogs don’t really like the cold weather. Unless, the dog is a husky. If the dog is a husky then it relishes the cold and snow.

We don’t have any huskies with us right now, so while this awesome weather is around I intend to take advantage of it and get my furry friends outside as much as I can.

But I was a little more adamant today, than other days, about setting aside time for the shelter. Last Friday, my shelter took in fifteen dogs from animal control in Oklahoma because they were overflowing with dogs, as many animal controls unfortunately are. All of these dogs were on their last day, scheduled to be euthanized. 

While I was in the yard with one of the rescued dogs, Heather, a brown lab mix, I thought about all the poor babies that never make it out of the horrible places their trapped in. Being in rescue you hear a lot of stories, and their all terrible, but the horror of it all is more real, palpable, when you can hold a dog and understand why it is shaking, or look in a dog’s eyes and are aware why they’re petrified; because you know their story.

Heather is a young, very scared dog because she was taken from a property that had over two hundred dogs and one large trough. The big, stronger dogs got all they wanted, leaving the weaker, smaller dogs to fight over scraps.

Heather was shy and unsure when I took her out of her kennel, and she didn’t want to follow me right away. But when I gave her the time she needed and showed that I wasn’t going to force her, that she was in control, she slowly made her way toward me.

Once we were in the yard, I let go of the leash and let her roam and smell wherever her nose led her. I sat down in the gravel, hoping she’d trust me enough to come near me. I saw her look my way a couple times as she explored the area along the fence. She was definitely curious about me.

I left her alone, until, finally, curiosity got the best of her and she came over to me. I petted her gently on her back and sides, and that was all it took. Like most neglected dogs, Heather deeply craved attention and affection. She wasn’t interested in the toys in the yard or the treats in my pockets, all she wanted was love.

Heather is going to be a super-loving dog for a very lucky person someday. That is, if that person is willing to give a shelter dog a chance. Shelter dogs aren’t broken. From what I’ve seen, they have survived some of the most cruel and gruesome living conditions I’d never want to imagine.

That doesn’t sound very broken to me, in fact, it sounds pretty damn strong and resilient.

I’m so glad Heather was able to escape what fate, it seemed, had in store for her. I wish every dog did.

My shelter is a no-kill shelter. That fact means I don’t have to experience a very real side to rescue; killing dogs (oh, the irony in that). I feel for the people who have to administer that fatal, life-stealing shot to a completely healthy dog knowing the only reason the animal is seconds away from death is because someone couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take the poor baby in as their loving pet.

According to OxfordPets.com , 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized by U.S shelters every year, yet only 18% of owned dogs were adopted from an animal shelter.

What the heck is wrong with people? Why, when so many wonderful animals are being killed every day, year after year, would anyone buy a dog from a pet store, online, or even a breeder.

Whenever I see “Puppies for Sale” signs, I take them down. If I’m driving, I pull over and yank them out of wherever their hanging while cursing under my breath how people should get real jobs instead of contributing to the animal overpopulation by charging thousands of dollars for puppies.

Pet stores only take back the dogs they sell for a limited time, no refunds after a couple weeks. Shelters will take back one of their dogs any time in the dog’s lifetime. Because of this, we do get animals dropped off at our shelter that were bought from pet stores. Some of these dogs are sick because most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills, which are inhumane and the mother pups receive zero veterinary care.

As if pet stores, puppy mills, and breeders weren’t enough, recently, I was told about a new craze called “Puppy Parties.”

Apparently, a group of people can rent puppies and gush over them like idiots for an hour or two. Scratch their ears, kiss their noses, and hold them like a baby.

My first thought when hearing about this was,”What happens when these cute little puppies aren’t cute little puppies anymore?” Puppies grow fast. To stay in business, there must be a high-turnaround rate. Which means, now dogs are being bred to produce puppies to keep adults amused.

How pathetic and how sad. When these puppies are grown, they will most likely end up in an already over-crowded shelter, maybe even a high kill-shelter.

So, if you ever attend one of these despicable parties, and you give a puppy a kiss, please ask yourself who will be kissing that puppy in a year, if that puppy will even still be alive.

Puppies are not here for your entertainment.

Strippers are here for your entertainment.

Use them instead.

 

*Note: If my writing about puppy parties made anyone reading this want to throw a puppy party, despite knowing that the puppies’ futures are precarious, (at best); you’re kind of a jerk. I hope the puppies poop all over your carpet, couch, and a couple of laps, too.

 

Below are four of the fifteen dogs that were about to be put-down. They are in a good place now. Waiting for their forever homes. Heather is the brown lab mix with the big ears.

Please adopt and don’t shop!

Save Two Lives. Adopt a Shelter Dog.

When I adopted my dog, Phil, almost five years ago, I didn’t have a specific breed in mind during my search, (although I’ve always had an affinity for Labradors, all labs, Black, Chocolate, and Yellow). So, it was no surprise when I went scouring the Internet for shelter dogs, and my eyes fell upon a beautiful yellow lab mix, that I was instantly smitten and knew he was meant to be my baby.

The fact that Phil’s other breed was pit-bull (please note, pit-bull is technically not a breed, but a broad generalization to include dogs like, American pit-bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and Staffordshire bull terriers, and other terriers) didn’t even factor into my decision to truck down to the shelter and pick up my new bundle of joy.

Phil being part pit-bull didn’t deter me from adopting him, but it also didn’t play a role in my choosing him, either. I wasn’t making a stance of any kind. It wasn’t a conscious decision to rescue him because of his breed. I wasn’t aware most pit-bulls never make it out of shelters alive.

I didn’t know, at the time, that pit-bulls were the most euthanized dogs in the country. I didn’t know much about pit-bulls, apart from what I had heard in the news every now and then. But surely one can not reasonably judge an entire breed over the actions of only a few. (And the actions of those few were without a doubt instigated by neglectful and abusive human beings.)

But I was wrong.

I was ignorant at the time of the very real, and very strong prejudice against pit-bulls. I didn’t know, the day I took Phil home with me, the powerful stigma attached to this wonderfully loving dog.

According to a 2012 article by Save a Life Harbor Animal Shelter, in Los Angeles alone, two hundred pit-bulls are killed each day. ASPCA estimates that 3.9 million dogs (all breed of dogs) end up in U.S shelters every year, with only 35% of those getting adopted, and 31% being euthanized.

Latest data from ANIMAL PEOPLE shows that pit-bulls make up 60% of dogs euthanized every year. Easily over a million adoptable pit-bulls are killed each year because of ignorance, prejudices, insurance refusal to cover pit-bulls, and discriminatory bans on the breed.

This is a horrible shame.

All that I didn’t know about the unfair treatment toward pit-bulls, before I adopted Phil, that I know now, has made me a huge advocate for pit-bulls. I fight for this breed because I have to. I wasn’t looking for this job, and I didn’t ask for it, but I’ve turned out to be pretty damn good at it.

puppymill protest                                            dont shop adopt

big puppymill protest

*On a side note, ASPCA estimates that 70-80 million dogs are pets in the United States. That’s beyond the amount that could give EVERY single shelter dog a home, as well as the millions of strays in other countries. So much money is spent caring for animals in shelters. If America would only open their homes to all the homeless dogs here, then shelters can spend their resources on flying abused and hungry strays in from other countries, because the numbers show we have enough homes for them, too.

Please note, most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills. Please stop supporting these awful places. Adopt don’t shop.  Thanks!

P.S – Here’s a pic of my scary pit bull mix…..Shhhh…don’t wake the baby.

phil adorable nuzzle on blankie

John Boy – A Shelter Dog

Everybody hurts. Everyone gets sad. At times, life can seem so hopeless you wonder if it’s even worth living anymore. And then something good happens. You find inspiration in a place you weren’t looking.

A year and a half ago I started volunteering at a dog shelter. I wasn’t prepared for the profound impact it would have on my life. I went into it believing I was the one who was going to save lives, but I was wrong. Those homeless animals saved me.

My shelter takes in dogs from all different situations – dogs from other over-crowded shelters, owner-surrenders, dogs found amid the aftermath of natural disasters or roaming the streets as strays, or taken from abusive/neglected homes, or rescued from puppy mills .

Each dog comes with its own story, its own unique path, that led them to the cages lining the walls of the kennel I work. Some stories are worse than others, leaving you clenching your fists as you witness, first-hand, what the horrendous cruelty and lack of humanity residing within a person can do.

It forces you to question who the real animals are, and they aren’t the ones with four legs, a tail, and a wet nose.

The four-legged beings that I have the privilege to spend time with each week have demonstrated a level of compassion and forgiveness, so heartfelt and ardent, that I fear I will never, in all my life, come close to attaining the emotional intensity attached to the freedom that comes with letting go of the past, and truly allow myself to forgive and forget, while being open to new happiness without the weight of old baggage holding me down or the pain of worn-out, ancient scars running through my body.

Shelter dogs know how to move on. They are eager to love despite the fact that somebody had let them down because they ended up in a shelter. They forgive the hands that have hurt them and forget the dirty shed they were chained to their entire lives because all they want is a home and someone to love them.

The shelter I volunteer at is a no-kill shelter. However long it takes for a dog to find a home, that’s how long it stays. Unfortunately, there is dog who has been there almost as long as I have. His name is John Boy and he is amazing. Despite being passed up day after day, week after week, and month after month, he has not lost an ounce of spirit. Whenever I, or any other volunteer, pass his kennel, he pops to his feet and hurries to the front of his cage, with tail wagging, and watches us with eager eyes, hoping that he is next to go out. He loves his time outside, even in the bitter cold.

When I put him on his leash, he pulls me to the yard with an overflowing excitement he can’t contain, the way I imagine I dragged my mother from one roller coaster ride to the next. But John Boy isn’t hurrying to jump on a fast-paced ride filled with sharp twists and quick turns. He’s rushing toward the same yard, with the same familiar toys, he’s been going to for fifteen minutes a shift, four times a day, for almost a year.

There is nothing “upside-down-roller-coaster” thrilling about that, but John Boy loves it. He inspires me because even though he’s not where he wants to be, he still wags his tail. He still licks my hand. He still enjoys the yard. He still has hope.

John Boy wants to live and he is looking forward.

He deserves a home, like every dog in the shelter, but he’s one I wish for the most. Every Friday night I say goodbye to him hoping I won’t see him the following week, but I always do. I will miss him so much when he’s gone because we’ve bonded during his long stay, but I anxiously anticipate the feeling of joy that will rush over me when I pass his kennel and don’t see his nose pressed against the metal or the stub of his tail wagging side to side.

I can’t wait for the day I don’t recognize the name sprawled across his cage. I’ll smile big because John Boy will finally have found his home.

Millions of dogs are euthanized every year. If you are looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. There are many loving animals in need of a second chance. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills that breed dogs under inhumane conditions. Please Adopt and Don’t Shop. Thank you for reading.