An Uncomfortable Conversation

Note:  This post may be considered off topic by some and if you are interested only in how this post relates to the blog, skip to the final two paragraphs.


Access to healthcare is a right, not a privilege to my mind.  The U.S. is lagging shamefully behind such countries as Colombia, Iceland and Cuba when it comes to healthcare access.  To make matters worse, there is a social stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare in this country which reduces further the number of people who receive needed services.

The reason I bring this up is because there are likely many people in the animal welfare community, as there are in all walks of life, in need of mental healthcare.  And with severely diminished access due to governmental and societal failures, there are probably very few receiving the care they need.

I am not in any way qualified to diagnose the mental health status of individuals who target someone for harassment on social media outlets and create multiple fake profiles to “agree” with themselves.  But as a human being, I know it’s wrong.  And as a friend, I know that this tactic has caused serious pain to some individuals in the animal welfare community.

There is an expectation in social media venues that one must be willing to slough off the haters because no matter what, haters gonna hate, right?  I agree with that sentiment to an extent.  No one should expect that everyone is going to support all their viewpoints and speaking only for myself, I would not want that.  How else can I continue to grow and learn unless I am challenged to expand my worldview from time to time?  And I can certainly deal with the occasional odd duck.

But there is a difference between someone responding to an individual with a comment such as, “Have you ever considered X in addition to Y?” and someone making personal attacks and creating fake profiles to inflict greater hurt by posting additional personal attacks.  That difference is obvious to me as I suspect it is to many here.

What I am coming to is this:  I fear it is only a matter of time before someone in the animal welfare community commits suicide after being relentlessly targeted and harassed by these fake profile idiots.  That may sound extreme to some but on the other hand, how does anyone know it hasn’t already happened?  And if I don’t say it outright and plain, I’m just as guilty of stigmatizing mental health as those I blame for doing it.  So there it is.

The relevance to the blog is that I am going to start restricting comments from anyone I suspect of maintaining a fake profile for the purpose of harassing someone in the animal welfare community.  I don’t like limiting discussion but I don’t want my blog to be the place that someone who’s been victimized by these anonymous cowards comes only to find more of the same they are trying to escape elsewhere.  Differing opinions and disagreement is fine.  Targeting an individual for harassment, and especially using fake profiles to do it, is not.  There will be zero tolerance for this kind of thing from here on out – no warnings, no nothing.  If you engage in what I view as harassment, you are out of here.

And a personal note to anyone who has been targeted by these fake profile asshats – you are not alone.  There are more of us than there are of them – that’s why they have to make up fake names, yo.  If you need mental health care and have access to it, take care of yourself.  The animal welfare community needs you.  Don’t give up.

Waxing Rhetorical

On my worst days as a blogger, it seems like most commenters don’t bother showing up unless they want to disagree with me on something.  And I wonder why I am not in with the In Crowd, despite my numerous appealing qualities, which my Mom reassures me I possess.

On my best days, I remember that the overwhelming majority of readers never comment and since I am lucky enough to have readers, at least according to WordPress stats, I feel grateful.  There are plenty of places to find reading material on the web and the fact that anyone drops by this little cranny regularly is both humbling and happying.  Welcome to My Pretty Secluded Location.  There are clean towels.

In between the worst and best days are all the other days.  And on those days I think about plants and birds and rocks and things but also that I believe.  I really do.  I believe that the killing of shelter pets could end today, as untidy and challenging as it may prove in the short term, and that it could be maintained long term.  I believe that shelter dogs and cats have a right to live, regardless of whether they are being carried in their mother’s womb or have lived on the streets for 10 years.  I believe that no kill is possible and have resolved to live in accordance with its most basic tenet – that the life of every pet (and I use that as a general description meant to include feral cats and dogs) must be granted individual consideration and respect.  Sometimes it’s inconvenient and requires I make personal sacrifices.  I make them.  Because even if I didn’t want to, there are no reasonable alternatives.

So if there are days when you feel isolated, alienated, or helpless, or perhaps just find yourself wondering whether anyone in the no kill movement would actually stand by you and the homeless pets in your community if push came to shove, know that I will and I am.  This blog is a testament to that promise.  If you are fighting for the right of every dog and cat to live, go ahead and put me down as your +1.  And thank you for reading, which I should say more often.

master bedroom by andrew wyeth

“Look for the helpers.”

Keeping a good thought for all the victims, first responders and their loved ones at the Boston Marathon today.

bomb sniffing beagle

In Memoriam

Tonight, as President Obama represents the nation in mourning the tragedy in Newtown, CT, I am sharing a couple photos of the brave women who gave their lives to protect the children in their care.  Our public school teachers are national treasures and the 6 women who died on Friday in Newtown also happen to be heroes.

Rachel Davino in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website.

Rachel Davino in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website.

Victoria Soto in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website

Victoria Soto in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website.

Mental Health Break: Quote

“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are not.”

– Attributed to multiple authors on the internet, most commonly “Unknown”

Alleged Arizona Shooter was Shelter Volunteer

In the inevitable attempt to understand what sort of person commits mass murder, the media is digging into alleged Tuscon shooter Jared Loughner’s past.  He apparently liked dogs and some neighbors remembered he used to walk his own dog around the neighborhood.  One year ago, Mr. Loughner volunteered to walk dogs at the Pima Animal Care Center in AZ.  Shelter staff became concerned when he was allowing dogs to play in an area designated off-limits due to a recent parvo virus infection:

“He didn’t think the disease was that threatening and when we tried to explain how dangerous some of the diseases are. He didn’t get it,” [manager Kim] Janes said.

He wouldn’t agree to keep dogs from the restricted area, and was asked to come back when he would. He never returned.

I don’t know if that tidbit provides us any insight into Mr. Loughner’s mindset.  Or if anything ultimately would.  But I find it interesting that he apparently failed to comprehend that he was putting dogs’ lives at risk by his actions at the shelter.  And that rather than change what he was doing, he opted to abandon any commitment to the dogs at the shelter.

Someone Saved My Life Tonight

If you are part of a movement to change the status quo, you will hit the skids from time to time.  It’s natural.  It’s part of creating change.  You might feel alone, overwhelmed, and/or ineffective.  I wanted to create this post as a reminder that you are not alone.  We’re in this together.  And change is gonna come.

If you’d like to share a story (or two), please post in the comments.  Tell about a pet you rescued or fostered or sponsored.  Talk about your volunteer work at your local shelter.  Post a link to a website or blog or some other media you’ve had a hand in creating to help save pets.  And give us your location so we can be reminded that helping pets is not a geographically isolated concept.

I’d like this post to be a place people can visit anytime they need a little extra Keep Going in their coffee.  So share whatever it is you are doing – especially small things – as you keep going.

The drops of rain make a hole in the stone not by violence but by oft falling. ~Lucretius

Is This America?

I talk a lot on this blog about holding public shelters accountable.  Like most of our taxpayer funded services, shelter workers would be my heroes if they just did their jobs.  Anything above and beyond the call of duty – I’d worship them as gods!  Firefighters are another taxpayer funded group who get to be heroes simply by doing their jobs.  I truly do appreciate all of the public services we often take for granted in this country – clean drinking water, education, roads, etc.

Unfortunately for the people of Obion Co, TN, they do not have a taxpayer funded fire department.  Perhaps some people there – the types who are always complaining about paying taxes – think that’s a good thing since it’s one less tax.  The fire department for the city of South Fulton offers service to rural residents in Obion Co for an annual fee of $75.

Gene Cranick’s family lives in Obion Co.  When his grandson was burning trash last week, the fire got out of control.  Mr. Cranick called 911 but was informed he had forgotten to pay his annual $75 fee and as such, wasn’t on “the list”.  Mr. Cranick offered to pay any amount of money required to get the firefighters to come to his home.  Nope.

Eventually the fire spread to his neighbor’s property.  His neighbor had sent in the $75 fee so the South Fulton fire department came and doused the flames that had leapt into the neighbor’s yard.  When they were finished, they stood around, watching the Cranick family home burn to the ground and presumably hearing the 4 pets inside being burned alive.

“They could have been saved if they had put water on it, but they didn’t do it,” Cranick told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann.

The city of South Fulton stands by the actions of the firefighters:

South Fulton’s mayor said that the fire department can’t let homeowners pay the fee on the spot, because the only people who would pay would be those whose homes are on fire.

Fair point.  Except we’re not talking about something less than a family’s home, all their worldly possessions, and 4 beloved – living, breathing – pets. How could this have happened?

Last month, I did some grocery shopping, packed up my car with the bags and found it wouldn’t start.  I was stranded.  Although I would have liked to have renewed my old AAA membership when it expired several years ago, it just hasn’t worked out financially.  I called them that day and asked if I could renew.  They said sure and asked if I needed service that day.  If so, there would be an extra $40 fee in addition to the membership renewal fee.  That seems fair.  Couldn’t the South Fulton fire department offer something like that?  I mean, we’re talking about a family home with pets inside burning to the ground.  Hullo!  Where is the love?  Is this how Americans treat each other now?

Let’s be clear:  Firefighters were on the scene of the Cranick family home with means to put out the fire and prevent the 4 pets inside from burning to death.  They did nothing.  Over an unpaid $75 fee.

Afterwards, Mr. Cranick’s son was arrested for assaulting the fire chief at the firehouse.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

We were hanging around the lobby of our local pound last weekend trying to get a neuter voucher for Scout (we weren’t successful).  A family was there adopting a puppy.  I was sitting in front of a corkboard in the lobby where people had put up lost pet notices.  The little girl from the puppy adopting family – I would guess she was about 6 – came over and was looking at the notices.  She pointed to one with a big white dog on it and asked me, “What does he like to eat?”  I told her I didn’t know, the notice didn’t say.  She replied, “If we knew what he liked to eat, we could go to the last place he was and leave a trail of his favorite food from there to the animal shelter and he’d probably follow it and walk right in the front door!”

I told her that was an excellent idea.  I held back my fears for any dog who did walk in the front door of our local pound.

She was too young to realize that not all shelters are safe havens for lost pets.  It wasn’t my place to tell her.  And besides, I am hopeful that by the time she grows up, all shelters will be exactly what she, and many others, believe they should be:  a refuge for the lost, the homeless, the victims of neglect and cruelty; a place for the sick to receive treatment and for the weary to rest in comfort; a peaceful stop at the end of life’s journey to relieve suffering for medically hopeless pets; and a house of joy where owners are reunited with lost pets and adopters find new family members.

Los Angeles Fire Department Heroes

The news hasn’t been very good this week but it cheers me to know that there is still room in our hearts to make the saving of one dog national news. Thank you LAFD for rescuing this poor dog who had gotten himself trapped in the L.A. River. The heart stopping end of the rescue is on video here.