Saturday, January 31, 2009
I was on Caveat's website reading about Ingrid Newkirk's latest spew against Pit Bulls in the L.A. Daily News when I noticed something interesting in the comments section of that newspaper. Out of 26 comments (so far), only 2 commenters agreed with Newkirk's kill all Pit Bulls stance and one of those wrote "I read in the Bible that Pit Bulls are instruments of Satan," so you know that person's either a barely functioning idiot or even more ironic than a Leafs fan.
The remaining 24 comments were vehemently against the Ingrid "Meat-is-not-murder-as-long-as-it's-Pit-Bull-meat" Newkirk kill message and, here's the holy shit part of it: out of those 24 comments, 8 of them were from Canadians. I mean WTF?
Personally, I blame Caveat for that. Doesn't she know there's enough of a brain drain of Canadian talent heading south already? And doesn't this just give Americans more fodder to abuse Canadians? They're going to start thinking we're all just a bunch of polite socialist mounties living in igloos with Pit Bulls pulling our sleds.
Hey, now do you think that would work? Pit Bulls pulling sleds? I hear they're really good at pulling although most of the ones I've met would rather sit in my lap and slaughter me with kisses than do any real work. Oh Ingrid get your gun and save me from their tongue lashings.
"We euthanized her worm-infested, scared-to-death, unsocialized young pups."
The best thing about Ingrid's annihilate the victims philosophy is just that. Annihilating victims. I mean, no one likes victims. They're so, I don't know, morose and they're always complaining about being "abused" and "neglected" and "tortured". Who wants to listen to that? Certainly not a busy business woman like Ingrid. She's got fundraisers to go to goddammit. She's got stars with nice tits and asses to woo. The easiest solution, then, is to just get rid of those thin skinned, whiny four legged bitches and sons of bitches.
Can you say "injection"?
Does PETA really rake in 30 mil a year in donations? Does PETA really only save a couple dozen of the thousands of dogs they get their hands on? Does PETA really believe that the best way to animal utopia is through animal extinction? Who knows and who cares. As long as the star studded cash happy gravy train keeps on serving Pit on a spit, Ingrid's going to be just fine.
Can you say "dead dogs in a dumpster"?
Shit, now I've gone off on a tangent. Where was I about polite Canadians?
Oh, never mind.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Best Friends Animal Society may not yet be a common name in Canada. I certainly never heard of them before I got into this whole dog rescue thing. They are huge in the States, however, and deservedly so. Unlike some other big name animal organizations down there that seem to crave publicity more than doing good deeds, Best Friends rescues thousands of animals a year and is one of the leading proponents of the no-kill philosophy. They've got a large ranch in Utah where they operate the nation's largest no-kill sanctuary for domestic animals, housing approximately 2000 animals at any given time. Being a no-kill facility means that animals which can't be placed live out the rest of their lives in the sanctuary and while their lives may not be as ideal as being in a true home environment, the huge runs and daily attention they get are exceptional.
Best Friends really started making a big name for themselves when they played a lead role in rescuing almost 6000 Katrina dogs over the course of their 249 day rescue operations there and then, more recently, showed us how it's done when they took in 22 of the most abused Michael Vick dogs. They were in the media often enough already but then in early 2008, National Geographic started filming and airing the show "Dog Town" and, well, I think they're going to help create a whole generation of kids that are going grow up putting dog rescuers on par with fire fighters and policemen.
Now I work in media and like to think that I'm a pretty media savvy guy (well, don't we all?) and I recognize that one of the most important tasks of a television show is to polish turds so that viewers go "I wish my turds looked that good" thus engendering the feeling in them that they must go out and buy something disposable and plastic to make themselves, or their children, feel better about having sub par turds.
Watching the "Dog Town" videos, though, I can tell you that while the turd polishing aspects of popular television are present (the sombre this-is-important voice overs, the over-dramatization of non-events, the criss-crossing storylines, the time compression), they don't detract from the fact that the people in front of the lens genuinely love their jobs and the animals they care for. And the animals genuinely love their people back.
The show hits all the emotional buttons. Worry and anxiety on part of the staff are apparent when dehydrated puppies are brought in from an oven-like desert junkyard or when a severely wounded dog with its guts ripped open still manages to lift its head to nuzzle a rescuer.
Determination is abundant as the various staff hunker down and get to the ofttimes long and arduous task of rehabilitating these dogs back to physical and emotional health, sleeping beside the dogs that need to learn to trust, spending months training dogs how to behave well enough to live in our human environment.
Happiness ensues when homes are found for these "lost causes". The untrainable dog is trained and finds a home. The left for dead dog is revived to health and finds a home.
And tears flow. And not the hysterical, woe-is-me-look-at-me type tears but the embarrassed, let-me-wipe-that-away-quick type tears. The emotions are more palpable because they're not overwrought, they're trying to be kept hidden as a nod to personal dignity. That's almost quaint when you compare it with the ludicrous in-yer-face, screaming, insipid boobjobs and bigdicks that populate every other reality tv show.
While the human side provides the necessary narratives and talking points, the dogs are equal stars of the show. Each episode follows the rehabilitation of three or four animals. Throughout all the near hopeless situations, the dogs' happy natures keep revealing themselves and despite the sometimes painful procedures these dogs have to go through, they remain brave and mostly without complaint. The few times a dog does utter a whimper or whine, you know something's really really hurting.
Almost all the stories have happy endings but the one story that got to me was a story about an old Chow named Bruno. He was suffering from some sort of vestibular imbalance which caused him to be wobbly on his feet and sometimes fall over. Our old dog Barclay was afflicted with the same condition before he passed away so this story got to me. Bruno, though a Chow and normally looking nothing like a Bearded Collie, had also been given the same haircut Barclay had, namely all shaved except for around the head. We did that to Barclay to help him stay cool in the summer. Bruno needed it to get rid of impossible matting.
There was a scene of Bruno's foster parent, a vet, lifting a bowl of dog food up to Bruno's face to help him eat better because he was having trouble "finding" his food and it immediately reminded me of how Barclay had so much difficulty eating his food as well. Even when the food was right in front of him, he'd reach down for it but because of his balance issue, he'd miss it or just get a bit at the edges. He had an even harder time drinking water. It took him forever because he could only just barely lap at the surface, not being able to judge distances very well anymore.
Bruno didn't make it through his rehab. His funeral is the closing scene and while I knew that it was a very overt attempt on the part of the writers of the show to wring out as much teary-eyed melodrama as possible, it still worked because the dog was true.
I also said goodbye to Wally who is going home this evening, hopefully for good this time. He'd been adopted and returned once already last week after less than a day with a new owner. Someone told me the reason the owner gave for giving him up but it was forgettable. The usual blah blah.
While there, I came across this little stubby legged guy, Scooby, who had just been brought in yesterday. He was found curled up in his owner's lap who had been dead for two days. No living arrangements had been made for the dog so the family signed him over to TAS for adoption.
Of course I'm going to say this: We must remind ourselves that if there is any chance of us dying, and at last count that would be 100% of us, we really need to make arrangements for our pets. That may sound insensitive but it's not as insensitive as neglecting to make sure a beloved pet has a secure future.
This guy's story will have a happy ending, though, because he's an adorable sausage of a dog who will be everyone's favorite. I took him out for a walk and some photos and he was very well mannered on leash and sat whenever I stopped. He's easily trainable with a gentle, owner focused personality.
By the time I got back from the walk, a new dog had just been brought in - another owner surrender, again for the same forgettable reasons. This one was an 8 month old puppy. She seemed a little scared but was highly affectionate, constantly trying to crawl between my legs, and quite submissive. All the experts at TAS say she's a Lab/Pointer cross so that's what she is.
Hopefully, both these two wonderful companion dogs will be on the adoption floor before too long.
Update on Scooby here and here.
The first is that the heating in part of the building has been spotty for the past few weeks because the heating equipment contractors can't seem to do their jobs properly. For a week or more, the heat was completely off then it got "fixed" for a few days and then it went off again. The part of the building affected most by this is in the back where rescue dogs are kept under observation for a few days before being put into adoption. It's freezing back there. They tried area heaters but that just ended up tripping the breakers. The rescue dogs that were back there weren't happy and had to be moved into adoption which of course caused some confusion amongst the public who were wondering why dogs in adoption weren't actually up for adoption. Plus, it's not a good idea to mix the potentially unhealthy dogs with healthy dogs cleared for adoption in the same environment. Anyway, it was a bit of a mess, so, it was decided to postpone bringing in any new animals from other jurisdictions for rescue until there are warmer accomodations for them.
The other reason for there being no dogs up for adoption or in strays is a great reason and that's because, in general, Torontonians take care of their dogs. As much as a big part of this blog highlights abuse and neglect of some of the dogs that come through the front doors of TAS, I have to remind myself that we in Toronto do pretty good by our pets. Now being a typical Canadian, I feel I must curb any self congradulatory enthusiasm by saying something like, "Yeah, but we could do better," which, of course is true of anything, but really, we do pretty damn good. I think most urban jurisdictions would love to have our animal control problems (or lack of them).
I'm not really sure there's any good explanation for this other than for some reason, as urban dwellers of Toronto, we seem to have a good general sense of how dogs should be treated. I don't think I'm sticking my head in the sand when I say that I hardly ever see stray dogs wandering the streets or hear about large scale chronic neglect like backyard chaining or abandonment or starvation or dog fighting. I even asked the staff at TAS about dog fighting and they tell me that they've never come across it, certainly nothing organized.
I don't think we as a city did anything special to get this way, at least nothing explicitly directed to animal welfare. It's not like we have great animal outreach programs better than other places nor do we have much stricter enforcement (at least I don't think so). I have to wonder then if this is because, as a city, Toronto is doing pretty good for itself socially and economically - certainly relative to other major urban centers. That, combined with the fact that, as fairly well educated, liberal North Americans, we have a more (though obviously imperfect) enlightened sense of animal welfare perhaps just naturally creates a better environment for the animals in our care. (I know it's another taboo for Canadians to openly and unironically declare ourselves to be more enlightened than others in anything whatsoever but there you go. I've just gone and done it.)
Our animal related legislation, our shelters and rescues, our outreach programs all help (or in some cases hinder: BSL), especially in acute situations but they don't really differentiate us in Toronto that much from other cities. I'm thinking our animals do well mostly because we do well.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Brindi's owner, Francesca Rogier, lives in East Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia and she wants her dog back. She wants her dog back so much that she's helped get a city by-law changed, spent thousands of dollars in legal fees, launched an awareness campaign that's gotten her enough publicity to be interviewed by all the major Canadian networks - and all of this since last July when Halifax animal control officers entered her house with a court order to seize Brindi for euthanization.
This all started over a year ago when off leash Brindi attacked another dog by grabbing and holding onto the back of the other dog's neck. According to Rogier, she got them separated and there was little to no injury involved and the other owner declined her offer to cover any vet bills. Still, the other owner reported them to animal control reasoning that "it might have been a child".
(As an aside, I just want to mention that I hate it when people use this type of transference model. Maybe to certain morons on two legs, it's difficult to tell the difference between a child and dog but most dogs are highly aware of the differences. Why is it that when a dog kills a squirrel or herds sheep or hunts a fox, those same concerned morons make no child associations with such actions? Is it because the moron's own sense of the world around him is so vague and blurry that he himself can only distinguish between, say, a rat and child but not between a dog and child? Perhaps in the case of those morons, it would be in the public interest to have them wear the collar and the dog hold the leash.)
A second incident resulted in an injury to the other dog that resulted in a vet visit and a course of antibiotics for minor puncture wounds, the total cost of which was $150 which Rogier offered to pay (hell, I pay $150 just to breathe the air in my vet's office). It also got Brindi a permanent muzzle order.
According to the officer who issued the muzzle order, a number of people in the community had phoned in to the pound insisting that Brindi be put down - and this is where I find it gets a little troubling. If the officer wasn't exaggerating, this means that either Brindi had a history of running loose and getting into dog fights which Rogier is keeping quiet or else the community she lives in has more than its share of spiteful, small town, rumour mongering xenophobes (and at least one moron who even now may be sending his dog off on the school bus while his child is eating green tripe and raw chicken out of the dog dish because he just can't tell the difference between the two).
Strike 3 for Brindi occurred last July when once again she was off leash and started circling and acting aggressively towards two dogs being walked in front of Rogier's property. None of the dogs were hurt and the other owner wasn't even going to call the pound to report the incident until he heard about the previous occurrences. But, report it he did and four days later, Brindi was hauled away to await execution.
So far, it wasn't looking so good for Rogier or Brindi. Irresponsible owner, vicious dog, a whole community up in arms. At least that must have been the way it seemed to the city officials who wanted Brindi dead.
But it wasn't going to be so simple. As it turns out, Rogier isn't an irresponsible owner, Brindi isn't a vicious dog and no one really seems to be 'fessin' up anymore to who or what city department or bureaucrat really wants Brindi dead.
The rest of the story so far can be found on Rogier's blog, Free Brindi. It's a long and emotionally bumpy story and along the way there are trials and letter writing campaigns and Facebook groups and petitions and marches and television crews and reporters all drawn together by the threat of execution of this one dog and her owner who just won't give up. I have to admit I haven't read every single entry but I've read enough from there and from other third party sources to come to my own conclusion which is expressed well enough by the title to this post.
How many times did I promise Brindi, gazing up at me with her sweet brown eyes, that she is safe with me, and nothing bad will happen to her again, that I will do everything to protect her, that I will always love her, and that we will be together always. Call me stunted, call me sentimental, but I have never made or been able to make such a promise to anyone in my life other than these helpless beings. I cannot comprehend that after such a brief time in her first real home, Brindi's life is at risk because the city believes she's a risk. And I cannot accept that I am helpless to save her: a dog that has not bitten a single person, whose "attacks" on passing dogs at the edge of my property were short-lived, and minor by any standard.
Comment from House of the Discarded:
Did I miss something? I don't understand how Rogier couldn't be considered an irresponsible owner. She may love her dog, but not enough to protect him.
It's true - her dog shouldn't have to pay the price for her negligence. How many times does this dog have to attack other dogs for her to keep him on a leash?
I've moved your comment up to the main section because it really goes to the heart of this matter and I realized that I should have addressed the issue before putting this post up last night. At the time I was thinking that Rogier does a much better job of explaining herself than I ever could and it would be best for interested readers to just to go to her site (which in turn leads to other sites if one wanted to explore different sides of the affair). I still highly recommend readers do that but now I realize that the conclusion I wrote really was the result of a very subjective judgment call on my part (and thus obviously debatable) about her character and whether or not she would be a responsible dog owner in the future.
What I should have written last night is that I feel she is not an irresponsible dog owner though she behaved irresponsibly in the past. Yes, it's hard to fathom how someone who knows her dog is dog aggressive under certain situations (protective of property, in this case) can allow her dog to go unleashed not just once or twice but three times. I know my Rocky is highly dog reactive and the last thing I would do is open the front door for him without leashing him first. That just seems to be common sense. So, why did Rogier allow Brindi access to an open door or an unfenced yard without a leash on? I don't know and Rogier doesn't really explain other than to say they were accidents (at least I haven't found an explanation). Now one accident I can understand, but three in under a year? That was irresponsible behaviour and if that was all there was to it, well, Brindi needs to get into a new home.
On the flip side, though, Rogier took the responsible action in each case by immediately breaking up the fights and offering to foot any vet bills. Post incarceration of Brindi, Rogier has made the necessary changes to secure her yard against any future off property wanderings. She has tried to visit Brindi at the pound only to be barred (and this makes no sense to me at all so I'm thinking there's more to the story here). She has engaged lawyers. She has taken the case to trial. She has gotten a very unfair dog by-law repealed to the benefit of the community. She has created a very successful media campaign around her case. She has garnered and maintained the support of thousands of people (and that's no easy task). She has basically put her life on hold for the past several months trying to get Brindi off death row and back into her home.
I come across the results of truly irresponsible owners all the time. They leave their dogs at large, don't bother looking for them, won't even acknowledge the dog belongs to them if the dog is picked up, deliberately dump their dogs, abandon their dogs in vacated apartment - and the list of neglects goes on. In my subjective view, an irresponsible owner is someone who does not hold enough concern for their dog to care or take action if their pet is sick or hit by a car or out in the cold or hungry or in a cage at the pound. By that definition, I don't think Rogier is an irresponsible owner, though for some reason, she did not have the wherewithal to act in a responsible fashion in the past with regards to keeping her dog under her control. For those acts of irresponsibility, though, Rogier has more than paid the price: months of emotional anguish and thousands of dollars in legal fees. The optimistic side of me believes she's learned from her mistakes. Rogier deserves another chance with Brindi - and I suspect it'll be the last chance she gets - and Brindi definitely deserves to get out of jail.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
First the bad news then the good news so you don't leave on a sour note.
Another Heartbreaking Story from Heartbreak City London, On is about a lovely dog named Faith who was rescued by a mother and son from abandonment only to be made homeless again by some officious jerk in a uniform.
This good news ABC News video is about how Pit Bulls make crappy police dogs because "they're too nice. All they want to do is just sit at your feet or crawl in your lap. They're very nice dogs." This according Deborah Thedos of the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff's K9 unit.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Jenny was starting to feel a little less anxious about leaving her pups alone and I was able to take her on a longer than usual walk on Sunday afternoon. She seemed to like the snow so we went into the middle of an untouched snowy patch and she tore around the end of her leash, kicking up as much powder as possible. It was like she was letting out some pent up energy from all her time indoors caring for her young these last several weeks.
I knelt down to give her a pat and she immediately sidled up to me and tried to sit on my lap. I think she would've climbed into my arms if I'd offered. It looks like her ambition is to be someone's eighty pound lap dog one day. It was actually a bit of a challenge taking her photo at first because as soon as I stepped back to frame the shot, Jenny would step forward to keep in contact. Several times, I had to push her away and quickly snap the shot before she managed to close the gap.
It was a cold afternoon, and the wind was sharp, but where we were, the snowbanks held off the wind and I could actually feel the warmth of the sun on my back. Its light had a fiery glow, reminiscent of much warmer weather, and did a great job of shining up Jenny's red coat.
Then for about five minutes, Jenny settled and was fine where she was. Maybe she too was surprised by the light, by the stillness. I could see a calmness in her - what she would be like when the mental burden of pup rearing in a strange environment became a thing of the past. I realized just how much of a stress the whole situation must be for her. Not only was she kicked out of her home but five of her pups had already been stolen from her at too young an age, way before they were ready to be weaned. It's no wonder she'd been overly concerned about her remaining two who were only now just eight weeks old.
A blast of wind surged over the top of the high snowbank and hit us and Jenny started looking anxiously back at the Toronto Animal Services building. Does she mourn the loss of her young? Is the sadness like a needle jab, felt and then forgotten or is it an ache that never goes away? I ended the session and back we went.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
there was one fine day
A day in the fall it was
away in the field it was
where the grass and the thistle grew.
We ran and we ran and the sweet green tickled
and we ran and we ran and the scratchy thorns prickled.
For no good reason
for some unknown reason
we made towards the stream that flowed to the river
to a place we had never seen.
So far we had never been.
My brothers and sisters tumbled and bumbled
and fell all jumbled
and rolled across that field with a roar.
We barked and we howled
and we snarled and we yowled.
We were wolves then eagles
then horses then more.
We crept and we crawled
and we sprang and we sprawled.
We were crow and bear and snake and boar.
O laughs and snorts
and snarfs and sniggles
O dirt and sticks
O games and tricks
O fun and fun and more.
Round about noon
we lay down still
to be in sun
to be in sleep
for our eyes open
we could not keep.
Sleep flowed over us like water over stone
and I began to dream of home
but my dreams were filled with sorrow
for 'twas just the week past when
we were undone
by the odd smelling man
with hard hands
and white teeth
who took our dear young mother.
He made her cry and then cry another
and then we heard nothing and no other.
When I was young and just begun
he took our dear young mother.
Yet the dream did end
and I sighed a sigh
and breathed a breath and
woke back where the grass and thistle grew.
I made my mark
ran up a hill
which touched the blue
that held the beckoning sun.
My brothers and sisters ran up with me too.
We dashed we raced we flew
to a place we had never seen.
So far we had never been.
And then I saw her in the afternoon,
traveling with us towards the sun
singing praises to the sun.
"Come here," she said and we wanted to
to do as we were told.
She held out her soft hands and
we shrank and we curled but
"Come here" she said and
soon we danced and we twirled.
She laughed and she pointed,
she named and annointed
us all one by one.
And she picked us up and
held us high and
held us tight and
then she let us go.
We ran and we ran and the sweet green tickled
and we ran and we ran and the scratchy thorns prickled.
"You must come back," she called but
"O we cannot" we called
and on and on we ran.
And we crashed and we pounced and we tripped and we trounced
and we hollered across the land.
"You must come back," in a while she called and
we swayed and
back to her we ran.
When we were young and just begun
there was one fine day.
The finest of all it was
a day in the fall it was
when all we felt was brightness, lightness, life.
Friday, January 23, 2009
This is a real treat for photography and history buffs alike, not to mention dog and Pit Bull-o-philes. Now that Jere Alexander has had a bit of time to relax her body, recover her spirit and regroup her thoughts, she's starting to reassemble the bits and pieces from her online Pit Bull site, Pit Archive, which went buggy on her last year and couldn't be recovered (something I'm always worried about with Blogger software as well, actually). The intent of her site was to search out, preserve and present historically significant Pit Bull related documents.
The group of photos Jere has just recently reloaded onto Flickr, the Clyde Mason Photos, were sent to her from Clyde's granddaughter, Macie Martin, who asked if Jere would like to put them into the Archive. They are 25 black and white (except for one) photos of the various Mason family Pit Bulls posed with the kids, adults, cars and dog houses. It's obvious the Masons looked after their dogs and were proud of them. The dogs themselves look well socialized with their people and seem healthy and comfortable enough given the different standards back then.
What they did with the dogs, though, is another question entirely. Were they pit fighters? Did they breed fighters? Did they make money off of fighters? I suspect so but I don't know so. But if they were fighters, why the cutesy kiddie photos? Or was that nothing out of the norm back then, like smoking and drinking while pregnant, like not wearing seat belts while driving, like casual bigotry in front of the hired help. The whole Pit Bull game dog culture, especially the traditional aspects of it, is a big unknown for most of us. The perpetrators are viewed as the enemy - certainly their actions are deplorable - but as with anyone, there are many facets to their humanity or lack of it.
And so there are many questions. Like how can one care for something and take pride in it only to throw it into a pit to watch it maul or get mauled? What is the duality in our nature that allows us to do such a thing? Was Pit Bull breeding and fighting an open family affair for the Masons and other game dog breeders in those days? These days, dog fights seem to be relegated to street corner losers and moneyed criminals skulking about in alleyways or behind locked doors. Was it a point of communal neighbourhood pride back then to own winning game dogs? Was it like owning race horses? Or was it even then frowned upon as a "sport" of the lower classes? And, of course, what about the dogs? What were their lives like? Were they put through the same odious physical and behavioural conditioning as modern game dogs or were they just let off their chains to go at it? Were the losers and non-fighters killed or kept on as family pets? Even today, there are still listings of Mason dogs' progeny online. Are they still being force bred into cruelty? Or have their descendants been finally emancipated?
I don't know if Jere's intention is to eventually duplicate the old site in its entirety - in which case, we might see some of those questions answered. There will undoubtedly be finger pointing if she did restore the site, though, as there has been in the past, but we must remember that studying something doesn't mean one is a fan of it. (People study cancer to cure it, not to propagate it.) For now we have these few evocative, mid-century Americana photos of a bygone era and while it's certainly not a time to harken back to, it's not a time to forget either.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Hello to everyone and a Happy New Year! First of all, I want to thank everyone for the amazing job that they are doing at animal services.
My husband and I adopted a puppy from your centre and took her home on July 20, 2008. Freyja was born at animal services, along with two other liter mates (a brother and sister). I had the pleasure of walking their mother, Alice, a beautiful Siberian Husky, and when I saw her puppies, I knew that I would be taking one home with me. We decided to adopt the playful female that had been nicknamed "Blue" and up till today, we receive compliments on her unique look, and questions about where we got her - to which we proudly say, "we adopted her from animal services!". Also, we recently completed a DNA test to finally figure out her heritage - and the results were Siberian Husky, Bernese Mountain Dog and Rottweiler.
Freyja, now going on 8 months and 55 lbs, is gorgeous and the center of attention wherever we take her. She is well-adjusted, extremely outgoing, and is an all-around happy, silly puppy. She likes sleeping on the sofa with her teddy bear, but lives for running and playing in the snow. We are glad to report that she hasn't destroyed any furniture, although we are missing a few socks!
Freyja completed Puppy Kindergarten last fall, and we are currently working on Rally Obedience under the guidance of our very awesome trainer at Dog Training That Works. We hope to get a Rally-O title by the end of the year.
So from the three of us, thank you again for your hard work and your true dedication to the wonderful animals at the centre. We hope that all the animals that pass through the centre have a journey as happy as Freyja's.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Jenny, a Shamagopoo, was brought in by her owner along with her two remaining Jashamagopoogle puppies. Considering how rare this breed is, I'm quite surprised that the owner was willing to relinquish such fine specimens of some of the finest, most sophisticated breeding this dog aficionado has ever seen.
Of course, the ex-owner's claims about the dam's and puppies' lineages were not to be believed at first but then he produced a bill from P.J.'s which confirmed that Jenny's lineage was indeed true and we can only conclude that the sales staff at P.J.'s that day must have been mad monkey crazy to let her go at such a bargain sub-basement price of merely $1999.00.
But our maverick didn't stop there. He was obviously a man of ambition and vision and he wasn't satisfied with Jenny's already superior genes. He wanted to improve on them and to that end he left his intact JRT/Pug cross and intact Jenny alone to do what intact dogs do best.
The result was a magnificent litter of seven, five of which were given away. I suspect that if the ex-owner's choice of premature puppy recipients was as carefully planned as everything else he's done so far with regards to his dogs, we may have the privilege of guest housing some of those pups at TAS in a few months.
While such risque and, dare I say, opulent breeding has not been seen in weeks at least, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Jashamagopoogle becomes the next "it" dog. Agents are calling and I hear there are already two book deals and a movie in the works. All interested parties might want to get one of their own designer furballs before the bandwagon starts rolling and they become the latest A-list celebrity accessories.
I don't want to have to say I told you so.
note: Jenny really is one fine dog and the photo above doesn't do her justice. I couldn't get her to relax long enough for me to get a good shot because she was a concerned mum and was anxious to get back to her pups.
Update on pups here and here.
Excerpted from Main Line Animal Rescue.
The Third Twin
When Oogy was four months old and weighed thirty five pounds he was tied to a stake and used as bait for a Pit Bull. The left side of his face from just behind his eye was torn off, including his ear. He was bitten so hard a piece of his jaw bone was crushed. Afterward, he was thrown into a cage and left to bleed to death.
I am not a religious man, but I can only conclude that at that moment God turned around and paid attention. The police raided the facility, found Oogy, and took him to Ardmore Animal Hospital, where Dr. Bianco stitched him up and saved him. This coincided with the last weekend of life for our cat, Buzzy, who was 14 at the tine. My sons and I had taken Buzzy to AAH for his last visit. The staff had gathered Buzzy in when out comes this pup to be walked that looked like nothing more than a gargoyle. He covered us with kisses. The boys and I fell instantly in love with him.
Life goes out one door and in another.
You can read the rest here.
You may already seen this one since it's been going around the internet like wildfire the last couple of days but in case you haven't, get that box of kleenex out all you sensitive ones out there.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Sure, that all seems pretty obvious but still if you're born a genius, you're a genius and bound to get ahead of the rest of us middling masses, right? And if you're born with natural superstar talent, you're bound at some point to realize that talent and at least do pretty well for yourself, right?
Apparently, that just ain't so. For example, two thirds of Canada's professional hockey players were born in either January or February. Unless there's some weird weather effect on babies conceived in May or June (maybe watching the NHL finals creates sperm with better stick handling abilities) that just doesn't make sense - at least not until you consider the luck of good timing. Kids hockey leagues in Canada are organized by age based on the calendar year. That means that the kids born in the first two months of the year will inevitably always be bigger, stronger and more coordinated than the other same numerically aged, though months younger kids on their team and because those Jan/Feb kids seem "more talented", they'll get more training, more ice time, more attention from their coaches and parents. Those Jan/Feb kids get more chances at being superstars. Those talented Nov/Dec kids, on the other hand, might want to consider broomball instead.
Inopportune genius doesn't fare much better. Consider Chris Langan. He is the world's smartest man with an IQ of about 200. Einstein, at 160, was a relative idiot. Mozart and Darwin, at 153, were barely smart enough to pick Langan's nose. The rest of us, with our average IQs of 100 must be positively amoeba-like in comparison.
Langan is a genius among geniuses. He could talk at 6 months, read at 4 years. He could learn in an hour of textbook skimming what it takes most people a semester to learn. He taught himself post graduate level physics and math while still in high school. He's a freakin' super sci-fi brainiac.
So how come the height of Chris Langan's career path is his job as a bouncer? That's right, a muscleman whose main task is to escort blathering, violent drunks out the front door. Why is it that the world only sees usefulness in his fists and not his brains? How did it come to be that this genius, this world's smartest man, is only valued for his aggressiveness?
In a word: unlucky. He had a horror story of a childhood because of a jealous, brutal father. Opportunities were scarce and the ones that did crop up were not taken full advantage of. Small bumps in the road became huge roadblocks for Langan because he never had the social skills to deal with them. Now, in his fifties, he is a soured man who visibly looks back on his life with regret and anger.
Reading and watching the videos about Langan, I couldn't help but think about how much environment plays a role in the outcome of a life and, of course, not just human life - this is a blog about dogs after all. I see more and more examples of dogs in the shelter who behave like a complete idiots and yet blossom into something magnificent in the care of nurturing, loving owners. I have to wonder if we do those dogs justice with our behavioural assessments. I have to wonder how many dog "geniuses" we write off because of a previous deprived life, because of being brutalized or starved, because of lack of training and socialization.
Water without a cup is just a messy puddle.
The situation for Pit Bulls is a perfect example of this. What were once considered desirable traits in a dog: loyalty, strength, courage, resilience, tenacity have been in the last decade turned against them. They live in a perfect storm of being born into an unfortunate time, systemic prejudice and lack of a cultural desire to provide them with the training for success in our human environment. Even if Pit Bulls were geniuses, they'd still be considered only good enough for fighting.
Gladwell makes the argument that if we continue to ignore the good traits in others and only concentrate on deficiencies, it is all of us who end up paying the price. Talent, genius, strength, courage, anything we call good, can fall by the wayside if not recognized for what it is and encouraged to grow. We have to learn to nurture, not to discard.
Clay without the hands to mold it is just mud.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
The internet is evil. Such a time waster but it does have it's upside. You see, my original retirement strategy was to start doing drugs when I hit 80. I figure by then most of my friends and relatives will be dead or as equally brain confused as me and I may as well while away my final years of decrepit old age solitude in a drug induced euphoric stupor.
I can't wait.
I do realize, however, that my preferred option might be a pricey proposition, (unless, of course, recreational narcotics are covered by OHIP by then) and it's quite possible I won't be in the right financial circumstances to support a long term, hopefully heavy, drug habit. You think dealers give seniors old age discounts?
But anyway, now there's the internet and so if I can't afford to inhale from the pipes of blissful smoke, I can always induce mental and spiritual stupor from chronic over-surfing.
Balloon killing Jack Russell:
And this one, which is ostensibly about a really smart dog, and it is, but the thing I found even more captivating is the relationship between the dog and his owner:
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Mornings like that, coming across these disseminators of hate and suspicion, get me down. I try to be understanding but it's no use. I try to explain it away and call it ignorance, call it human nature. I try to justify the behaviour by saying it's because of culture, because of background, because of bad experiences. It's still no use. It still doesn't brighten the morning.
I mean it's not a huge thing. It's not a huge thing like polar ice caps melting or our air turning brown but on a morning when I step out the door with the dogs for their hour long walk and the sky is still black and the -30 degree air feels like needles against any exposed skin, well, the additional bigotry from strangers doesn't help.
And then, just when I'm thinking people are the shits, I get something to remind me that there is always some counterbalance to the nastiness and maybe every black thought is illuminated by hope; every bad deed is pushed back by something good.
I receive an e-mail update about Sammie who was at TAS last summer. She came in with half her body scalded by boiling water from her previous owner. We weren't sure how easy it would be for her to find a home because her burn wounds were so appalling that most people were frightened off but, nevertheless, someone with a great big heart came through for Sammie.
This is the update:
My husband and I adopted Sammie from the location at the Ex this past June. We have been so happy with her progress and wanted to send you an update and some photos. Sammie has become much more outgoing and isn't as afraid of men anymore. She socializes really well with other dogs at dog parks and has been great with young children also. Her scars on her back have gotten better - some fur has grown back and she has put on weight.
Thank you for bringing her into our lives! She is the best!
No, thank you for making my morning bright again.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Sasha is a timid little 5 month old pup that has been kept as a "guard dog" at a car garage for her entire yet short life. Sasha had never been to a vet for a check-up or vaccinations and her owner's had no intentions of having her spayed. She has been housed out doors with 5 other dogs and being the runt of the litter Sasha has always been picked on. This is not the first time she has been to the vet with open wounds; she was previously attacked by the other larger dogs. Her previous owner made no attempts to keep Sasha safe from the other dogs and in the mean time Sasha has tried to fend for herself. She is the smallest and has never been able to fight for her share of food so she is also very underweight right now. As of late Sasha was attacked again, she was brought to Pyne Hills Veterinary Hospital in Tottenham, ON where she was to be euthanized when her owner declined treatment for her wounds which would likely cost upwards of $2200. Dr. Bajwa the vet on call could not let that happen to such a sweet young dog and asked Sasha's owner's if they would surrender her to his care rather then euthanize her, they agreed and Sasha's recovery has been in the caring hands of Dr. Bajwa and his staff at the clinic.
When she arrived at the clinic just before New Years poor Sasha was so caked in mud and blood that staff had to bathe her before they could begin assessing her injuries. She has just recovered from her last attack and has hair growing in on her nose and face where she was previously tended to by the vet. This poor girl has lacerations on all of her legs, inside and out, some are so deep that her muscle tissue is visible. There are also lacerations on her ears, thighs and other minor ones all over her body. Most of the wounds that may require stitches can not be closed because they are on her lower legs where there is not enough skin to close them all properly, they also need to be left open so that they can drain and do not cause further trauma by becoming abscessed (swollen, full of bacteria and infected).
Further updates on Sasha here.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I believe Whitney is from the States. She's a classic beauty with great temperament, knows basic commands and is highly trainable.
She'll be easy to adopt out.
Here's a hypothetical question - and it is hypothetical. Let's say there are two families who want her. One family is two working parents with three young kids and lives in downtown Toronto. The parents are looking for a dog because they grew up with dogs and have always wanted one as part of their family but haven't had the time until now. They're still quite busy with the kids but know that now would be a great time to introduce a canine member to the household. It'll teach the kids love, respect and responsibility for animals. Of course, they'd like a dog that is child friendly, affectionate, etc. but most of all, "easy" because they'll be strained for time if they have to train out any problems the dog may have.
The other family who would like to adopt Whitney, is a recently retired couple with no kids and lives up north on a few acres of wooded land. They've had dogs all their lives. Their last dog died a year ago and they miss him terribly and would love to have another fill the empty dog beds in their home. They've got loads of property for the dog to run around in and will be able to spend pretty much 24/7 with the dog. The retired couple could very well be a thirty years older version of the first couple.
When an adoption is granted, ideally it's done for the individual dog's well being but it's also done for the collective well being of all the dogs in the facility present and future. So, for example, a big untrained highly exuberant dog wouldn't be adopted out to a dog inexperienced person with kids because that's just setting everyone up for failure and that gives the facility a bad name ("Oh, they only adopt out bad dogs.") and decreases the adoption possibilities for future dogs.
On the other hand, shouldn't good owners be rewarded with "easy" dogs - if that's what they're looking for? And isn't there some kind of karmic justice that a naturally well behaved, loving dog should be sent into a home where it can be loved with undivided attention by experienced and stable owners?
Where then should Whitney be sent in this hypothetical situation? Into a household where she will in all likelihood be loved but also somewhat abused by noisy kids, lack of attention and a life of relatively short walks along congested city streets and uncertain dog parks but also where, in this household, she may foster the next generation of responsible and caring dog owners?
Or should Whitney be sent up north to live in dog luxury with the retired couple who will dote on her and take her for long jaunts in the woods and countryside, free from traffic, fences and leashes because that is her just reward for being an "easy" dog?
In real life, the situation may be even more extreme. There are potential adopters out there who are borderline failures but may do okay with a dog like Whitney. Does she deserve to be given to a borderline adopter so that the next dog, a more "difficult" dog, can find a home with someone who is more experienced? In other words, should incompetent, inexperienced owners be rewarded with easier, much more in demand dogs or should the easier, much more in demand dogs be rewarded with the best owners?
I know the practice is to match the more difficult dogs with the more experienced owners. This gets more dogs out the door and that means more lives are saved. Still, it would be a shame if Whitney ended up with some minimally functioning knucklehead simply because she's the only dog well behaved enough for him to just barely be able to handle.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
- a part of a shoelace (I just bought a pair. Laces are expensive these days. Who knew?)
- 2/3 of a North American made chocolate bar (or 1.5 of a made in China counterfeit chocolate bar. Yes, they make counterfeit chocolate bars with counterfeit milk laced with real melamine - well at least something's real)
- 10 minutes of parking downtown (after 30 minutes of frustration trying to find a spot)
- eternal karmic gratitude from the dogs you help to save in this province by overturning Breed Specific Legislation now being challenged in court
Caveat and FrogDogz do a splendid job of explaining the Banned Aid legal campaign. So, press some buttons. Donate some change.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Whoever you are, where ever you are, I hope you've found your calmer place in the sun.
Date: 2006-12-10, 5:04PM PST
Well, this one has been several years in the making.
Hello kids. I'm your friendly neighborhood Animal Control Officer, and I'd like to officially tell you all to bite my ass. Before I ride off into the sunset, however - here are some parting words...
1) To all the jackasses who ask me if I don't have something better to do than giving them a ticket for no license/dog off leash/being a douchebag. The answer is no. No, I have nothing better than to take my precious time and taxpayer dollars to write you a COMPLETELY LAME ticket for not doing what was your responsibility to do in the first place. I love nothing more than babysitting grown adults who seem incapable of wiping their own ass without law enforcement present. Thanks, dirtbags.
2) To all the jackasses who ask me why I'm not rounding up all the killer pitbulls. Where...WHERE!? Where are all the killer pitbulls that are roaming the streets and attacking your women and children. My god, the city should just issue you all SHOTGUNS to fend off these land sharks. In other news, THERE IS NO VICIOUS PITBULL EPIDEMIC. Let's all hold hands and say it together folks, the only epidemic is misinformation, ignorance and animal neglect. Thanks, please drive through to the second window and receive a punch in the face.
3) To all the jackasses who refuse to spay/neuter, or who think they're "breeders" because they put fido and fifi together and produced a litter of mongrels who will all likely end up in a barrel behind the shelter by the time they reach sexual maturity: Die. Diediediediedie. I wish to god that there was a mandatory spay/neuter law and that the penalty for breaking it was to be forced to spend a day working in the euthanasia room. Seriously. It's simple fucking math, people. Every dog or cat you carelessly add into this world takes away a home for a dog or cat that is already here. So breeding means killing...so have a good day, executioners! I hope the 50 bucks you made off that puppy sure feels good.
4) There is no goddamn thing as "No Kill". I hate to burst your collective bubble, but when you call and ask if our shelter is "no kill", don't treat me like a kitten murderer when I tell you NO. There are simply not enough resources or homes available to find every pet a home and that is NOT MY FAULT. Quite simply, there is no "dog whisperer" in the world who can save your eight year old Rottweiler that spent his entire life chained to a tree in your backyard. Sorry, buster - but this one's on you. And the places that claim to be "No Kill"? They simply send the unplaceable pets across the street to Animal Control who do the killing for them. WAKE. UP. Until mandatory spay/neuter becomes law, killing is going to happen.
5)You know what's fun? Being told that I must "really hate dogs" because I'm an Animal Control Officer. Yessir. I put up with retards like you, the abysmally low pay, and this fabulously flattering uniform just so I can take all my bitterness out on your dog. That's also why I foster animals, paying for their care out of my own pocket and using up my precious little free time to do it. Yeah, that's it. Now how's about you shut your mouth and put a leash on your dog you asshole, so I don't have to peel him off the street later.
6) LEASHES, PEOPLE. They're not just for the "bad dogs". Quite frankly, dogs are carnivores - predators, if you will. When they see something furry and running fast, like a squirrel or a cat - they tend to chase after it. Next thing you know, I'm scooping up Scooby with a plastic bag...not fun. Or, how about the person who does not in fact, like dogs and has to be accosted by your poochie when they walk down the street? Or, what about the dog aggressive dog being walked safely and in control on a leash until your unleashed dog comes up and just wants to say "hi"? Dog fights are pretty ugly, and NO ONE seems to anticipate them until it's too late. So don't piss and moan when I give you a verbal warning for having your dog off leash...because that leads me to:
7) Your mouth will write you a ticket. Oh yeah, no kidding. I hate writing tickets. They're a pain in the ass. I have to deal with your melt down, then I have to go back to the office and write a report about it. Next, I have to show up in court because you want to contest the ticket, even though 60% of the time YOU NEVER SHOW UP YOU CHICKENSHIT BASTARDS. So, the deal is this - if you're nice and not eggregiously breaking the law, I'm probably just going to warn you and then go about my day. As soon as you break out the lip however, I'm breaking out the ticket book. Press hard, there's four copies.
In conclusion. I quit! Actually, you dipshits broke me a while back and it's been months of therapy before I could write this little missive. I still shudder when I see a pair of testicles on a dog though, so watch out.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Milgram set up his (in)famous electroshock experiment where he got test subjects to electrocute a "learner" (actually an actor, unbeknownst to the test subjects) whenever the learner answered a question incorrectly. Each individual test subject was guided by an authority figure, in this case a "scientist", who required the test subject to increase the shock voltage with each successive wrong answer from the learner. Milgram wanted to see if the test subject would blindly follow orders from a superior by continuing to electrocute the learner despite the obvious pain and terror the learner displayed as the voltages increased and despite the highly questionable morality of the whole situation.
Many of the test subjects protested but still continued to increase voltages and apply shocks to the learner. In the end, Milgram found that 65% of the test subjects were willing to crank up the dial to the full 450 V. This test was repeated several times in different locales with different groups of people and the findings were fairly consistent. 61% - 66% of people were willing to electrocute another human being if they felt they were being asked to do so by a figure of authority.
Some researchers wondered if perhaps the test subjects in the Milgram experiment somehow guessed that the learner was faking it so they reproduced the test using a real victim: a puppy. Despite the screams of pain from the puppy being electrocuted and the distress within the test subjects who were doing the electrocuting, 20 out of 26 of the test subjects fully complied.
Contrast this with a similar experiment done on rhesus monkeys.
From "Neither Victims Nor Perpetrators: Beyond Animal Sacrifice" by Gary Kowalski
In this experiment, rhesus monkeys, also known as macaques, were confined in a laboratory where they were trained to receive food by pulling on one of two chains, right or left, depending on the color of a flashing light. After they had properly learned the sequence, another monkey was introduced, visible through a one-way mirror and held in restraints. By pulling the chains in the correct fashion, the first monkey could still get his snack, but one of the chains now delivered a powerful electric shock to the other animal whose agony was in plain view. In effect, animals who refused to deliver the shock were cut to starvation rations. Trapped in this situation, it was discovered that most of the monkeys would not cooperate. In one experiment, only 13% would deliver the shock--87% chose to go hungry instead. One of the animals refused to pull either of the chains and went without food for twelve days rather than hurting its companion. The experimenters, who were interested in learning whether kinship plays a role in altruistic behavior, found that unrelated macaques were just as likely to be spared as those who were genetically similar. Only one variable really seemed to predict how the animal would respond to the dilemma. Monkeys who had been shocked in previous experiments themselves were even less willing to pull the chain and subject others to such torment.
So all that happened in the Sixties and maybe you're thinking that was a real long time ago and back then it was quite possible that monkeys really were better than humans and that we're way smarter and ethical now and that type of stupidly blind behaviour could never happen again what with all our independent thinking and our rebellious ways and our MTV generation awareness and iPod hip savvy and internet access to information.
In 2006, Jerry M. Burger, repeated Milgram's experiments.
Seventy adults participated in a replication of Milgram's Experiment 5 up to the point at which they first heard the learner's verbal protest (150 volts). Because 79%of Milgram's participants who went past this point continued to the end of the shock generator's range, reasonable estimates could be made about what the present participants would have done if allowed to continue. Obedience rates in the 2006 replication were only slightly lower than those Milgram found 45 years earlier.
That means that more than half the people you see walking by you on the street would electrocute you for no other reason than because they were told to do so by someone they considered an authority figure.
Say hello to the modern man.
But what does any of this have to do with dogs? Well, it goes a long to explaining why something like breed specific legislation has gained such wide acceptance despite the overwhelming evidence against its usefulness, never mind the questionable ethics behind such laws. It's because people are told to accept them and the majority blindly follow. It explains why Pit Bulls in the last decade have suddenly become known as evil monsters instead of victimized dogs. It's because people are told to believe those stereotypes and the majority blindly do just that. It explains why millions of dogs are still being killed annually in North American public shelters despite the fact that there could be alternatives for many of them. It's because people are told it's the right thing to do. People are told there is no other way. People are told it's for the best and so they blindly without question continue to kill dogs.
We're still worse than monkeys.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
I really liked this girl. Of course it's the ears but there's something really pleasant about her personality as well. I'm glad her owner agrees:
Doudoune (now Dottie) is great!!!! She gets along really well with our other hound and she is really just a total doll. We started her in basic obedience training. She's also great with our cat (much better than our other hound!) and is almost fully housetrained now (a few accidents at the start, to be expected).
Happiness is a radiator and the smell of old shoes.
Friday, January 9, 2009
A month ago, I wrote four posts about Jere Alexander, a Pit Bull academic/activist and fellow blogger who I felt had been maligned in the media and then lynch mobbed into quitting her job as director of the Fulton County pound in Georgia. I used excerpts from her private blog and also looked at the way the media chose to (mis)interpret her job performance and then the ensuing public hate bashing that was leveled at her.
And now, after months of waiting, this highly deductive comment arrives:
This blog is the biggest bunch of crap going. Anyone with 1/2 a brain can clearly see that it is Jere writing about herself in 3rd person. I have gone from seeing her as a pit bull breeding, gamedog loving nut to really questioning her sanity! Stop trying to blame Randy, the kennel manager and everyone else for the fact that you and your "boss" were incompetent and arrogant enough to think you could take on the responsibility of that shelter with no experience. Give us all a break Jere and climb back under that Rock or should I say Rocky!
Yes, despite the fact that my name is Fred (of course I could be faking that) and that I've been writing about Toronto Animal Services for more than 6 months (I could be faking that too), someone actually thinks that I am Jere Alexander, a woman living in Georgia and ex-director of Fulton County Animal Services.
I couldn't have asked for a better example of the kind of anonymous bully who carries around with them their sick anger, hatred and blind ignorance, who comprises the rabid mob that targeted Jere Alexander right from the start.
I also can't believe someone thinks I'm a red head.
But maybe I shouldn't be making light of this. After all, what is it they say about fleas? If you find one, there's bound to be more. I'm not too worried, though. Extermination is just a delete button away.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
From Marty's (now Rex's) owners:
Since adopting Marty, my husband and I have changed his name to Rex. Although the Jack Russell has been labeled as very high energy & hard to calm down, I have not found it difficult to care for him. Rex has not been trained yet, but he does continue to use the bathroom outside although we have had a few accidents inside. He has also learned a few commands. He is very much a lap dog and loves all the attention we provide. He especially loves to literally burrow himself under our comforters at night and always sleeps through the night. The only real issue that we have had with Rex from the day of his adoption, is that he whines quite a bit. Even if he is not muzzled or in his kennel, he sometimes whines. I am confident that with a little more exercise and activity, we can get rid of this problem soon. Rex has seen the veterinarian since his adoption and his evaluation was great. At the shelter, my husband and I were told that rex had some aggression issues with other dogs much like other Jack Russell's, but through experimentation we have come to find that this is really just playfulness that he was exhibiting and is really more interested in playing with other dogs that he encounters. Overall, I couldn't be more pleased with our adoption and I'm sure if Rex could talk he would agree!
Rex at home
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Around the time I was ten years old, I remember a day when a gopher ran into my family's garage and the more my father tried to shoo it out with a broom, the more it fought back by hissing and screeching - at least that's what I remember it sounding like - and refusing to be moved out of its corner. My father, having never dealt with wildlife before, being from a place where wildlife had been wiped out long ago, didn't know what to do. He thought this little creature was a threat, maybe would bite, maybe had rabies. So, he called the neighbours.
Three of them showed up. One had a baseball bat, one had an axe and one had a handgun. Now even though I was only ten and didn't have a highly developed sense of sardonic humour, I knew there was something sadly comedic about the sight of those three men with their hammer horror weapons of metal and wood going after a furry little creature smaller than a typical house cat, and even though at that age when I was not perturbed by killing, I knew there was something awfully, pathetically wrong about grown men getting excited over killing a cornered and scared animal. Even my father, who still wanted the gopher out of the garage, looked like he now regretted calling the neighbours over.
Part of me wanted to stay to see the action but another part of me felt sickened, not so much by the inevitable killing but by the atrocious injustice of it all and so I walked away to my neighbour's front yard waiting for it to be over. And when I heard the gunshot, once again part of me wanted to go back to the garage and see the blood and guts finale but another part of me just became sad so I stayed away. I stayed away the rest of the afternoon, making sure they had more than enough time to clean up any evidence of their activities.
Many years later, when I was living in China, my girlfriend at the time and I went to the market and bought a dozen small fish to make a fish stew which my students had given me a recipe for. The fish were freshly caught and kept on ice at the market stall and were still alive. Even after we got them home, they were still alive. We flipped a coin to see who would kill and who would clean. I lost.
I brought the fish along with a sharp knife out onto the balcony. I picked up one fish I thought seemed dead and brought the knife up to its belly. The fish squirmed. I wigged out. I dropped the fish and it landed on the concrete floor and then flipped itself off the edge of the balcony onto the street below where it probably got run over by a truck.
Eventually, I did manage to kill the rest of the fish but it took me an hour to work myself up to it. I don't really know why I forced myself to do it other than I thought there was something wrong with me that I couldn't do then something which I could easily have done when I was a child.
After that, the fish soup didn't taste so good.
The last time I think I intentionally killed something, other than a biting insect, was about twenty years ago when I dropped a lobster, either barely living or just dead, into a vat of boiling water.
Nowadays I pick up stray spiders inside the house and let them go outside; I set live traps for the mice so I can release them elsewhere far away - and I know they probably won't survive the displacement but a death removed and not directly by my hand is a death I can more easily ignore; and, I volunteer with shelter dogs to help ease their anxiety in their transition from their previous lives to their hopeful new ones and I do that in part for the reward of their companionship but also in part because, like many others, like many of you, I feel an emotional ache when I think about even their present lack of joy never mind their past suffering and future uncertainty.
I don't know if this means I've become soft or if I've become civilized. I don't know.