thoughts on a sunday in february 2020

It’s cold, gloomy, and Sunday, so I’m hanging out considering these point(s) to ponder about privilege. Note that this is not a post about shelter animals.

Have you fantasized about emigrating to a more democratic country because trumpism is so damn disagreeable?

I know I have. But it’s just fantasizing. I’m not going anywhere, even if I had that option. I don’t have that option.

The folks bearing the greatest negative impacts of trump’s presidency and the authoritarianism he’s implementing at an accelerating pace don’t have the luxury of leaving. And I’m not talking about me, a lower-income college-educated, employed white person of middle age.

Imagine packing up all your stuff. All of it. Selling a majority of it. Your house. Your car. All your furniture, appliances, household goods. Checking balances in your checking, savings, and retirement accounts. Pulling all your funds. Getting a passport. Applying for a visa for the country you hope to travel to. Thinking you can get a job once you arrive there. Assuming your destination of choice will actually welcome you, a U.S. dissident. Even affording the travel—not on foot with all your worldly possessions on your back.

Then get your head out of your white middle-class arse.

The people whom the trump administration are targeting are a helluva lot less likely than you to have homes and cars to sell. Checking, savings, and retirement accounts with large balances that permit travel (or any accounts at all). Access to passports and travel visas.

They wouldn’t be welcome in the countries they might want to flee into, any more than they are welcome here. The countries YOU consider prosperous, democratic, relatively free, relatively nonviolent.

You think YOU wouldn’t end up in a refugee camp in someone else’s country? You have a helluva lot of privilege.

Stay and fight and stand up for those folks. Use your privilege for a cause that’s worthwhile: REAL democracy. Real human rights. Real freedom. For all those folks who have less of the damn pie than you have.

Be willing to die for them.

Don’t hog the puppies

323,459.
That’s how many views to date that my most popular blog post has received. I didn’t think it was “all that” when I wrote it, and still don’t. I was blowing off steam. Venting. The intended reader audience: folks in rescue who have dealt with enraged, entitled wanna-be adopters. But anyway, the response boggles my mind.

It’s not great literature or art; it’s factually accurate snark, but Adoption Application: Denied for some reason struck a chord with a lot of readers. It’s pissed off some too. Ultimately it’s turned into the only essay I’ve written that anyone wants to read or share, so I retired it. Poof.

Let’s call this a sort-of flip side to that post. Neither adopters nor rescue entities are perfect. Humans aren’t perfect, and given power, at least half abuse it.

Here, I’m not going off about the unreasonable expectations some rescues have for adopters (I’ll rant write about that someday; others have written about the topic).

Instead, I’ll focus on one weird issue: how some competitive rescues make it damn near impossible for a competent, experienced, highly qualified prospective adopter in my region, the Southeast, to adopt a young (8- to 12-week-old), healthy puppy directly from an animal control shelter, because those rescues swoop in and snag them all up before adopters have a chance to apply.

This is likely gonna make a lot of folks mad, too, but so be it. Bear this in mind: when I say healthy, adoptable puppies, I mean exactly that. Not sick pups, underage pups, special-needs pups, or any other type where rescue is the only sane option. God bless all rescues who step up for babies who need far more than the average adopter can provide.

Shelters, pounds, and ACs around here often give rescues the privilege of pulling animals when the facility is closed to the general public, after hours, even on holidays. And if there’s a surrendered single or a litter of adorable, healthy-looking babies over eight weeks of age (most responsible shelters won’t adopt out pups before that age, nor should they), those rescues race in and grab ’em up.

The pulling rescue may then beg for temp fosters, start fundraising for money for shots, spay/neuter, and health certs, and then all too often ship the babies “up north” to that magical land where there’s a mythological dog shortage, fosters grow on trees, and adoption fees for cute youngsters run $500­–600 and up.

Those healthy, homeless, ADOPTABLE 8- to 12-week-olds the pound just posted on Facebook at 5:00pm? Those little guys who got 400 comments in ten minutes? They might just have found perfect, loving, forever homes fast, without rescue-group brokering.

But the Caped-Crusader-to-the-Rescue-on-a-Mission-from-God rescue called AC after hours and the pups’ post was updated ***♥!!RESCUED!!♥*** before regular people who have to abide by rules even got to apply. Of those 400 who may have commented on the pups’ Facebook post, some were qualified local adopters, now disappointed, and probably not for the first time.

Ponder this: Some of us regular Southern folk may not want or need to adopt from a rescue; sometimes we’d prefer to adopt straight from that “kill shelter.” Not every Southern adopter is a backward, ignorant, cheap-hillbilly-redneck dumbass, a neglecter/abuser, a backyard breeder, or a purveyor of bait dogs. And—surprise—it’s not because the Southern adopter is “too cheap” to pay a rescue group’s adoption fee. It’s this: Not every Southern adopter wants or needs everything done FOR them.

Believe it or not, some folks want the full experience AND the responsibility AND the personal expense of doing all the work themselves—yes, really! Many have years of canine care experience, have spent many hundreds or thousands of dollars giving companion animals the best of care, and have been fosters themselves. They’re ready to cut out the middleman, and do the basics from the start. Because for some of us, basics are an integral part of the process.

The basics like taking that pup for the vaccine series, for microchipping (and perhaps they’d like that microchip registered in their own name rather than to a rescue group who in essence retains default ownership for the dog’s life), for frequent puppy wellness checks, for spay/neuter surgery. Basics like doing the housetraining, crate-training, leash-training and basic obedience work. The reward is getting to see and grow and bond with that puppy as a baby, from the stage where it’s legal to adopt onward.

Yes, there are actual responsible, civilian non-rescue folks here in the South who can do all the startup work, and who prefer to. But in some areas, they can’t, because rescues who have an “in” with the AC pull all those healthy, adoptable-aged, precious pups the minute they’re listed or even before that, while the shelter’s closed—before qualified would-be adopters have a chance.

What’s the alternative for those would-be adopters? Buying from a breeder? From somebody with an oops litter? From somebody selling puppies out of the back of a truck in the Walmart parking lot? Or paying a rescue’s adoption fee, jumping through dozens of subjective screening hoops, and signing a multipage contract that allows the rescue to “check in” for the next 15 years at will, and to take back the dog if they see or imagine anything at all they disapprove of? Or driving around the countryside looking for a “stray” pup that may or may not belong to someone, and may or may not be semi-healthy?

mixed-breed-pups

Source: Pixabay (Creative Commons)

Look, rescue groups. “Rescue” used to do two vital things: relieve shelter overcrowding, and give second chances to the unwanted, uncared-for, unhealthy, unsocialized pets who need the extras that only a nonprofit charity can reasonably provide. That includes  underaged babies separated from their mothers, that need extra care, OR abandoned moms with their neonate/unweaned litters incarcerated together and at risk for parvo, distemper, URI, and other diseases that plague shelters. I won’t even go into rescues that pull puppies and leave their moms behind.

Sure, there are legit situations where a rescue should hustle to claim adoptable pups if that rescue can act fastest: the shelter is overcrowded, and even adoptable puppies are at instant risk for euthanasia for space. The shelter has a communicable-disease problem. The shelter is poorly run or understaffed or can’t begin to screen adopters adequately (and this is often a subjective judgment, since many consider all facilities that euth for any reason “hellholes”). Etc., etc., etc. But to claim these scenarios are ALWAYS the case across the board isn’t legit. Many shelters prioritize adopters before rescue groups. More should, if they have the space and resources. That’s great.

If you’re pulling adoptable, of-age pups to recoup some of the expenses you incur when you take in dogs with a lot of pricey medical needs and long foster commitments—that is, because healthy, desirable pups offer quick turnaround, low expense, and a ready adoption fee—that kinda stinks to the average observer. Ditto if your fosters have puppy mania. Why do they take precedence over adopters? If you assume that NO ONE but you/your group can take care of those initial puppy needs because all the locals are inbred yokels/backyard breeders/dog-fighters and YOU are the shizz, you need to examine your bigotry and your control-freak tendencies.

Ditto with the healthy, well-adjusted, highly desirable purebreds and toy-sized dogs that don’t need an intermediary to get good homes. Stop snagging them out from under good potential adopters. Highly territorial breed rescues that grab ALL animals of their breed that land in shelters, regardless of interest from adopters or all-breed rescues, are a mafia in themselves. If the breed isn’t a “difficult”* breed to raise, vet, train, and socialize, an adopter is just as good as a rescue. But that’s another essay.

*GSDs, English Bulldogs, Cane Corsos, Border Collies, for example. Sensitive, major high-energy, serious medical challenges, tend to guard their humans, etc.

Please consider: some of us here in the South are competent, caring, compassionate, intelligent, dog-knowledgeable grownup folks with years, even decades of caregiving experience, who might like to give a young pup a great home for life without conforming to the rigid rules of, or forming a long-term relationship with, Rescue Big Mama. Who don’t want the miles of strings attached and pages of terms and conditions. When you constantly moan on social media about how harried, underfunded, under-fostered, in debt, and stretched thin your rescue group is, yet you snap up every cute, healthy, highly adoptable infant doggie or litter thereof from every facility within a hundred-mile radius before actual adopters can apply, it’s gonna look like your martyr complex is showing.

Don’t hog all the easily adoptable puppies. Please. And think the points in this essay through carefully, slowly, and objectively, instead of just reacting.

 

What it’s like (to blog as an introvert)

Writing a blog over a span of time presents challenges if you are an introvert, or if you have any expectation of personal space. I am one such introvert, but I’m writing below in the second person (“you”) for fellow introverts who may blog or write and have similar experiences.

Let’s say you’re an introvert who comes out of the cave only on occasion. Who seeks balance between extremes. Who weighs rationality and emotion, objective fact and subjective experience, isolation and socialization. You write because you need and want to write — not professionally, not for fame, likes, shares, profit, followers. You know you’re a multifaceted being, with more than one interest. You chose a blog for that writing because it’s simple to keep your stuff in one place. Your essays typically are longer than Facebook users want to read, and far too long for Twitter. Plus, trolls and haters run rampant on both those platforms. You prefer to write for like-minded readers in smaller numbers. You don’t want to grant full access to entire population of the planet.

You start out OK. You get a bit of feedback that a handful of people have read and enjoyed one or two of your posts.

Then your posts get shared on other platforms, and before too long, all hell breaks loose. Over several years, what proves to be your most popular post is a rant, written to blow off steam. It is not by any means your best writing. Oddly, readers come to believe that’s all you are. That one post.

…..

You, in essay: “I am focusing here on Issue A, from the perspective of my experience, research, and the experience of people I’ve worked with. This essay cannot be all things to all people. It’s somewhat focused, somewhat narrow. While issues B through Z exist and are valid issues, trying to address them all in one essay dilutes the focus on Issue A. Some of this is documented, and I’ve shared the documentation. Some of it is my observation alone. You should be able to tell the difference.”

Most of your readers see where you’re going, and decide either to read along, or not. You get a few comments: “thanks,” “that was thought-provoking,” “I can relate.”

But inevitably, trolls pop up like dandelions, like fire ants after a rainstorm. You start to get a few of these:

Comment 1: “But what about issues G and T? That’s what you should be writing about.”

Comment 2: “No one gives a shit about issue A.”

Comment 3: “My experiences with Issue A are totally different from yours; therefore, you must be wrong. Oh, and you’re also ugly, stupid, and you dress funny.”

Comment 4: “Issue A doesn’t exist in my region. It must be a problem only for you stupid Southerners. Therefore Issue A does not exist.”

Comment 5: “I like your avatar photo. Are you single?”
Comment 5b: “Your avatar photo is dumb. Why do you have purple hair?”

Comment 6: “This story reminds me of my aunt’s boyfriend’s cousin’s cockapoo back in 1958 in Fresno. It did backflips for cocktail weenies. I miss that dog.”

Comment 7a: “Can you crosspost this blind, diabetic, dog-aggressive, one-legged ‘Pit’ mix with cancer in Chicago? He’s gonna be murdered by the horrible, heartless subhumans at the shelter in an hour.” [string of emojis follows]
Comment 7b: “Can you take my dog?”

Comment 8: <spam self-promotion>

Comment 9: “Why aren’t you writing about dog rescue? No one wants to read about your political crap, about nature, about middle age… and no one reads poetry. Even if I did, I can’t stand that puerile garbage you write.”

Comment 10: “This is SO-O-O-O negative. YOU are the problem.”

Comment 11: “I agreed with/liked this right up until you said ____. It’s obvious you SUCK, and know nothing about ____. I’m sharing this all over with my opinion so all my friends can scoff at you. And I’m unliking/unfollowing you and you can go to hell. But I’m gonna Google you to see if there’s any manure I can spread.”

Comment 12: “Whoever wrote this never responds to my comments. WTF is wrong with you?” (i.e., “I DEMAND your attention.”)

You: Sigh.

<disable commenting feature>

…<remove email address and contact buttons from blog>

…<turn off notifications>

…<turn off phone and computer>

…<go outside to walk dogs>

…<think about never returning>

Time-resistant

I stop for beauty.
For moments — for hours. For surprises. For little things.
I stop to help. To observe. To listen. To learn.
IMG_4922
More often than not, my stops make me late for a destination or appointment someone else has assigned me.
People tell me I’m inconsiderate, or unreliable, or undisciplined for being late.
For daydreaming.
Attention deficit disorder: that’s when I pay attention to anything — anything — but what you think I should be attending to.
But my priority is to appreciate beauty.
To attend a need when I find it. Not “later.”
To observe, to listen, to learn.
To understand.
I don’t want to miss the whole world
while I’m watching your clock.
All I have is now.

Three-fifths moon

(unedited)

At 6:00am on November 19, 2016, I stood in the yard, predawn, clutching my coffee mug to my chest for warmth, fighting the nightmares and the headache they brought me, and I looked up.

There, clear and bright, the three-fifths moon glowed, surrounded by thin clouds edged with the complete spectrum of colors.

I didn’t see our moon. I saw, clear and bright, the millions of people around me who were once considered (by people who look like me) to be only three-fifths of a man. Those who were defined that way by a hateful law enacted in 1787, and who were not free… no freer than is the moon from the earth’s gravity. And with the three-fifths men, I saw the full spectrum of humanity – women who were considered nothing, the women AND men who were considered nothing because they did not and do not conform to the blinding white light of the sun.

To earthbound eyes, the moon waxes and wanes, and waxes again. From full to nothing to full again. An endless cycle. Yet even when we don’t see it, it’s there, full and round and three-dimensional and complete. That full array of color is always there, different wavelengths of light. But there the metaphor falls apart.

The moon does not generate its own heat nor light. The full spectrum of color appears when light is reflected and refracted.

You, the unseen man and woman, generate both heat and light and a gamut of colors that make a full circle.

You are not three-fifths, on November 19, 2016, at 6:00am. You are not reflection or refraction. You are whole, equal, complete, entire, glowing, brilliant, beautiful.

Without you, we are not we, and we are none of those things. I am none of those things.

For what it’s worth, I see and love you.

The too-many

It’s like
the world got a taste of
globalization
for one 20-year generation
thanks to our own
curiosity –
our talent for
forging double-edged swords –
and what we discovered
is
we are
– seven billion of us –
the same
but different
so we choose
to focus on
and fear
the differences.

Only the differences.

Always the differences.

They terrify us
so now too many want to
unglobalize
slam the gates
hoist the drawbridge
build a wall
build our arsenals
kill what we fear.
Shut
them
out.

The too-many
want to be free to
go out
go everywhere
take everything they want
but
not let anyone in
ever.
So the too-many revert
to tribalism
and killing
and hate
and prejudice
and competition
and survival of the fittest.

(How ironic that the too-many
don’t believe in
evolution or natural selection, so they
practice devolution
and unnatural selection via purging.
This ‘time’ concept we invented
doesn’t run backward
and in purging….
Well, dead is dead forever.)

News flash:
Pandora’s box is wide open.
You – we, not “they” – opened it.
The too-many can try to shut it
but
all the chaos is out
Out there
In here
Everywhere.
The too-many can’t live with it
so
like fools
will die trying
to reverse that
sorcerer’s-apprentice spell
of our own making.

And will wait
for a full-fledged sorcerer
who does not exist.

Somewhere along the way
“I want to live, but if I can’t live
in a world that fits my expectations
I’ll die
and take as many motherfuckers
with me
as I can”
became a thing.

[15 july 2016]

Adjust that bow and watch them go

On Thursday, December 17, 2015, Clemson University will award doctoral degrees – PhDs – to ­approximately 80 graduate students (final roster will be out next week). 80 young people will shake the university president’s hand and stand awkwardly as their advisors and the provost drape the colorful doctoral “hood” around their shoulders.

These are scholars from the US and 15 other countries, including Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Haiti, India, Iran, Libya, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

My tiny contribution to these scholars’ graduation is in reviewing the formatting of their dissertation manuscripts before they’re released for publication. I help them make sure their terminal projects look their best before they enter the larger academic world. It’s like adjusting the bow on the new baby’s head before that first family photo.

These young people have already exceeded the academic achievements of most of the world population. They’ve long surpassed anything I’ll achieve. I get to watch them assume their doctoral robes next Thursday and receive their diplomas as they leave to become leaders.

This makes my heart sing.

Patience to teach

We are all uneducated and unaware about some topics.

As advocates for companion animals, we should see a question asked by a newbie as a teachable moment, not a moment for ridicule. We should never be too impatient, or complacent in our own acquired knowledge, to reach out with kind and factual answers to someone’s questions.

It’s a chance to add an ally instead of making an enemy.

Often I fail at this, and react with impatience, forgetting that there was a time when I didn’t know much about much of anything, and that time wasn’t so very long ago.

In this skin

[21 September 2015, spontaneous birthday essay]

In this skin lives a baby who was blessed to be wanted and loved and born on this day in 1963, with all the parts that humans consider average, two parents, and a roof over her head.

In this skin lives a little kid who was fascinated with every little detail and color in nature, who adored animals of all kinds, but who also learned to value books and reading and (eventually) writing as she sat in her mother’s lap listening and looking at the pictures—a little girl who could say “my daddy is a physicist” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” at age two.

In this skin lives a shy 12-year-old who didn’t make the adolescent metamorphosis gracefully, and who then sat at home in her shyness and undiagnosed depression (that some misconstrued as being stuck-up) at 16 and wondered if she’d ever fit in, or date, or choose a career path, or even reach adulthood. This kid didn’t realize, until she learned the value of metaphor, that when someone said “you’re so talented—I hate you!,” it was a figure of speech, so she learned to deprecate her own abilities.

In this skin lives a broken 18-year-old rape survivor, victimized for the only time in her life just as she was beginning the scary journey to independence—a survivor who had no social or emotional support and didn’t know she was a victim, rather than a shitty human who deserved whatever she got, until a professional therapist told her—at 38—that it was not her fault. A rocket meant for distant galaxies, destroyed on the launchpad.

In this skin lives a young woman in her twenties and thirties who searched for her identity everywhere except within herself. Her self-doubt and self-loathing led her to bad decisions, lousy self-care, and missed opportunities, a failed marriage, short-lived dead-end jobs… to constantly feel hurt, to hurt herself, and to unintentionally hurt others. This rudderless ship drifted from idea to idea, from person to person, finding neither safe harbor nor destination.

In this skin lives a woman in her unglamorous forties who learned, who woke the hell up, who sought professional help better-late-than-never after physical and mental illnesses brought her time and again to her knees and to the brink of ending her own life. This woman learned to embrace her other-ness, her weirdness, her intellect, her love for animals, her odd skills and her imagination. She began finding her voice and using it to advocate for all those she’d watched from the hidden vantage point of her invisibility. Ever so slowly, she began advocating for her right to be fully herself, to detach from others’ expectations and to let go of her own expectations. She realized that she didn’t need a partner to be whole and valid, and was better off without the burden of someone else’s baggage and without inflicting hers on someone else. She stopped caring so much about not fitting in, about being judged by people whose opinions don’t really matter, and even by those whose opinions do matter. She stood up; she spoke up; she doesn’t shut up.

And now, in this skin lives a woman entering her fifty-third year, with whatever grace she can muster. Having claimed a little internal healing and beaten some of her demons into submission (putting them into little boxes where she can examine them as needed without having them take over), she plans to work on salvaging her physical body and health before it’s too late. She no longer has to worry about being “hot” or attractive to others or to think about the fact that whatever looks she may have had are now gone, because really, who the hell cares? But she still has plans—real plans—and work to do, and things to see, places to experience, and walks to take, and dogs to love and help find good homes. And she still has a lot to write.

This aging solitary woman with a soul covered in self-inflicted scars has discovered that her best role in this world is not to be the blooming flower, but to be the fertile soil, the sunshine, the rain, the bees, the mulch that make flowers bloom.

All these people live in this one skin—we don’t always coexist comfortably, but we’re not done yet. There’s room and time for more.

Continuity

[Journal entry, Aug. 17, 2015]

Some days it’s apparent that there’s a ribbon of continuity and harmony that winds through my life, the way a subtle melody runs through each movement of a  symphony and ties them together. That ribbon may be invisible most days, but it unites each movement, each episode of life, rising to the surface when it’s needed to remind me that there is meaning to life’s music.

This morning I shared on Facebook a sweet news story out of Eau Claire, Wisconsin that featured a man who’d planted a four-mile long band of sunflowers along the rural roadside near his farm, in honor of the dear wife he’d lost to cancer last November.

Though I didn’t think of this consciously, after I got to work I posted a status update that included one of my favorite quotes of affirmation, from poet Walt Whitman: “Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and your shadows fall behind you.” My one and only tattoo – a 50th-birthday gift to myself that acknowledges my lifelong fight with clinical depression and my struggles to stay positive in a world that bewilders me – was inspired by this quotation: it’s a sunflower face, with the words “Face the Light.”

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After I left work this afternoon, I made the trip to my vet clinic to bring home the ashes of my sweet old dog Jesse. I took the perimeter road around the west edge of the university campus. In the student organic field gardens by the lake, right there along Perimeter Road, a big field of yellow sunflowers blooms, turning their faces toward the light. Until today I didn’t know they were there.

There it is – that thread, that ribbon, that melody that repeats itself. uniting fragments into a whole. This is the road of life, and J.R.R. Tolkien captured it thus:

“The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

Independence day, responsibility day

It’s July 4th – Independence Day in the United States. The day Americans celebrate our birth as a self-governing nation. Many of us get a day off of work, and we get together with family and friends to celebrate our American-ness, to pat ourselves on the back for our own wonderfulness.

After the barbecue and beer, the festivities, fireworks and fellowship that usually mark our July 4th, we each have a few moments at the end of a day to reflect on what freedom, the hallmark of our nation – independence – really means.

We know freedom doesn’t come for free.

People fought and died to make it possible, and are still fighting, sacrificing, and dying today to keep us free, and to bring freedom to others around the world. So we think about all those who have sacrificed to bring us freedom.

We think about all the things we as Americans can do, and say, and think, and feel, all without being persecuted or prosecuted by our government. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee us “certain inalienable rights,” and we’re thankful for these, even as we often disagree about exactly what each one means and how each should be interpreted.

The United States is still – for the time being – recognized (and ofttimes resented) as the free-est, the most prosperous, the most powerful nation on earth. What we sometimes forget is that freedom, wealth, and power come with immense responsibility.

Do we want to wield our freedoms like a weapon, and force them on other peoples and other cultures? Do we really have the right to do that, or are we acting like the overbearing, iron-fisted father-figure of the world when we do? Do we exercise our individual freedoms at the expense of our neighbors’ freedoms? Is that really the right way to be “free”?

I know that, whether I like it or not, my freedoms end where yours begin.

I can think, do, or say pretty much anything I wish in this country, but I am not free from the consequences of my thoughts, actions or words.

Conscience, respect, responsibility, kindness, individual accountability, morality, duty, tolerance, absolute equality for all people, respect, even good manners – these are necessary complements to freedom.

We have to care about and consider the rights of others when we exercise our own liberties… even when those “others” may be folks we wholeheartedly disagree with on topics like economics, politics, religion, sexuality, culture… you get the idea.

freedom_flag

Absolute freedom – liberty without responsibility, or conscience, or concern for consequences – is simply hubris.

That’s a word you don’t hear much outside the classroom or academic writing – HUBRIS, from the Greek hybris: “Overbearing pride or presumption; exaggerated haughtiness or arrogance, leading to behavior without regard to consequence, an excess of ambition, pride, etc., ultimately causing the transgressor’s ruin.” It’s most often used as a literary term. Historically, the gods of ancient myth struck arrogant people down in horrible, humiliating, painful, and disfiguring ways for hubris.

The 2010 oil spill in the Gulf? Hubris on the part of BP.

The unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hubris on the part of Al Qaeda and the US, both.

The rise of Islamic extremism on the global stage, just the latest faith-based conflict among a succession of them? Hubris on the part of several major religions, each thinking it’s the only religion and every other religion needs to be exterminated.

Four million (depending on your statistical source) homeless pets killed in US shelters last year? Hubris: “it’s a free country, so we can do whatever we like with OUR dogs and cats.”

Via Wikipedia: “In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of knowledge, interest in, and exploration of history, combined with a lack of humility. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional pairing of hubris and Nemesis in the Greek world. The proverb “pride goes before a fall” is thought to sum up the modern definition of hubris.”

In short, exercising too much freedom without a hefty portion of conscience to balance it, and throwing our weight around – as individuals or as a society – can get us into messes we may not be able to get out of. And worse, hubris ensures, excuses, and condones the suffering of others.

So tonight when I think about my freedom and the liberties and privileges I enjoy, I’ll also think about the vital complements to freedom that prevent it from turning into hubris: Conscience. Respect. Responsibility. Kindness/compassion. Individual accountability. Morality. Duty. Tolerance. Respect. Even good manners. These values are just as important to me as my freedoms.

What bothers me, in a nutshell, is that we too often use our “freedoms” and the rights guaranteed by our Constitution to excuse bad behavior. I don’t think the U.S. Constitution contains a clause condoning meanness.

Happy Independence Day, friends!

(Originally written and shared on Facebook, July 5, 2010)

Come to the party

What if you threw a party, and nobody came?

Many nonprofit animal rescue groups here in my region (the Southeast) feel like no one will come to the party.

The “partygoers” they invite are volunteers, foster families/individuals, donors, sponsors, transporters, fans who publicize the needs of the rescue and the animals it saves, and adoptive homes where those pets can live safely and happily the rest of their lives.

The flood of dogs and cats entering “kill shelters” and county or municipal pounds, or thrown away by people who think they can’t afford to care for them, increases in volume as our economy worsens, but the resources that rescues need to help give these pets second chances dwindle under the same circumstance.

No one has time.

No one has room.

No one has money.

But everyone has dogs and cats that need homes.

Rescue does not end when a group springs a dog from death row at AC. That’s just the beginning. That dog needs thorough vetting, including (not limited to) sterilization and possibly treatment for illness or injury, a foster home with someone who can work on social skills and healing and can take her to adoption events, and publicity to be seen by potential adopters. The same kind of publicity she got from social-media crossposters while impounded at AC.

Rescue groups and the companion animals they care for need you and me! Please… come to the party. Support a good rescue – do your due diligence and select one local to you that you can actually check out to make sure youre resources are well-invested – with your voice, your funds, your hands, and your heart.

To set a record straight

Daisy02

For the official record, I am VERY HAPPY this girl has found a forever home, and I DID NOT dump” her on a rescuer. This essay is not intended to be either offensive or defensive. It’s simply my side of a two-sided story.

This essay is not open for comments or sharing. It’s a purely informational statement.

Daisy was left at a Summerville, GA vet clinic in late may 2014 to be put down, by her family who no longer wanted her. I saw the Facebook post for her (it’s pictured below) and offered her a home, tentatively—with help and fostering through a rescue for an undetermined period of time—and contingent upon my own circumstances allowing me to fit her in.

Yes, I wanted to adopt Daisy, but at that time, I couldn’t bring her into my home right away. I’d just moved and started a new job. I was in the process of building a house, and was staying in my aging parents’ home with three of my dogs—a real imposition on my parents who are not dog people and are unused to chaos, noise, doghair, and canine potty indiscretions. My dogs had to be leash walked three to six times daily, and confined outdoors in a 20×40-foot fenced area while I was at work. My agreement re Daisy was that I’d bring her home once I was in my own place and 1.25 acres of my yard was fenced for all my dogs to have ample exercise room. This process took much longer than I anticipated; I didn’t get moved in until January of this year. Plus, at the very end of June 2014, I took in as a medical foster a young dog who a good friend saved from death after seeing her get hit by a car. This dog, Weezy, was truly urgent. No rescue was available to help her; I was available, and I felt compelled to take her in. I didn’t know at the time how young, hyperactive, untrained, in-your-face, and unadoptable (to most normal people) Weezy would turn out to be, but I was and am committed to taking care of her. She’s still with me, and that looks unlikely to change.

After finding out in July 2014 (after Daisy had been in foster for several weeks) that she did not appreciate being jumped on constantly by boisterous, in-your-face young dogs,and that she had had confrontations resulting in bloodshed (however minor) in her foster home, I made the determination that bringing her into my family to join two young, hyper females and two senior males, one of whom is approaching the end of his life and whose care is a priority, would be setting her up to fail, I will NOT do that to any dog. I’ve broken up more than my share of dogfights and I won’t have a pack in my home that doesn’t coexist peacefully and without having to be crated and rotated daily, permanently. And I’d have to question the judgment of any rescuer who’d willingly place a senior dog—or any dog—in a home where she wouldn’t be completely relaxed, happy, and safe. It’s a rescue’s responsibility not just to get a dog out of a death-row situation, but to find her THE RIGHT home. That’s why rescues become incorporated as nonprofits, raise funds, fully vet, spay, and neuter, recruit fosters and volunteers, hold adoption events, and adopt via a contract after careful screening.

My home and pack would not have been ideal for Daisy. Period. No matter how much I wished it to be so. I had sense enough to realize it. Because I care, I paid for her pull vetting, and then offered to sponsor her and continue to share her until she was adopted—but was turned down on that offer. I’m no longer involved with, nor do I support, this group. This dog’s situation did not influence that choice.

If anyone feels the need to read the complete conversation, verbatim, from actual correspondence, here it is. All names other than dogs’ names, and all conversation not relevant to Daisy, have been redacted.

June 6, 2014, Facbeook

This was my first conversation with the rescuer about my potential adoption of Daisy, with sponsorship of, and temporary but open-ended fostering by, the rescuer.

Daisy01 June 8, 2014, Facebook
My reshared post, with details of how she came to be in need in her original caption: Daisy00 June 16, 2014, email (all subsequent conversation via email)

RESCUE: “Would you be able to help with the vet bill? We are pretty swamped right now; otherwise I wouldn’t ask.” {Followed by attached Paypal statement}:

Amount: $125.65 USD
Merchant: Summerville Veterinary, Summerville, GA

ME: {attached notification from PayPal}

Ellen sent you $125.65 USD
Transaction ID: ________

Dear________,

Just thought you’d like to know Ellen sent you $125.65 USD.

Note from Ellen:
Daisy June’s shelter pull vetting

June 18, 2014
RESCUE: “Thank you! Did not expect this so soon; I appreciate it!”

[NOTE: On 29 June 2014, quite unexpectedly, I took in Weasel as an emergency foster after my heroic friend Barbi saw her get hit by a car and stopped to save her life. Taking in Weezy has complicated my life immensely, but was the right thing to do, and I don’t regret it one bit. As her injuries healed, I started to realize that she was a handful, and was going to be difficult if not impossible to find a suitable (patience-of-a-saint) home for.]

July 16, 2014
RESCUE: “Haven’t told you but on weekends when I’m only gone from the house 3–6 hours at a time, I’ve been leaving Daisy June out of her crate—she’s not a fan and does the “perp walk of death” when I try to get her to go in—and there have been zero issues. No issues in the crate either—what’s funny is that after dinner I’ll collect her bowl (she eats in her crate—no need to encourage her to be bitchy), and she just stays there—with the door open—all night until I get up in the morning and open the front door to herd the rest of them out—she follows then.”

ME: “How funny—she wants her own space as long as it’s HER idea and the door isn’t closed. That’s a female for you. She should be able to stake out her own spots when she gets here—the rest of my pack will have to as well in a new house. “I have to feed these pests separately so they won’t raid and fight. They are all bowl-snarly, even Weezy.”

REPLY: “I can’t imagine the brawls I’d have if I didn’t feed everyone in their crates or behind closed doors….”

July 20, 2014
ME: “…Given my parents’ attitude toward my dogs, and refusal to help, and the size of my house, the limits of my income, my very expensive senior dog, the unexpected intake and ongoing expenses of Weezy, who is even more hyper and in-your-face than Aggie is, there is no way I would set up a sedate elder female—who needs heartworm treatment and quiet—to fail by bringing her into a chaotic situation wherein I have no support or help. I’d be setting myself up to fail, too, and Aggie would likely be badly injured. She has no common sense about size differences or her own safety. I will be glad to do everything in my power to help find Daisy a truly appropriate retirement home…. Naturally I will end up the bad guy, the shithead who bailed on a dog. Never mind that responsible rescues don’t place dogs into ill-fitting or inappropriate homes.… While I could integrate [a completely dog-friendly dog] at some point, it’s going to be some time—probably after Jesse dies—before I can consider bringing in another dog. Minnie Pearl has priority; she has been MY dog since 2009 and she is turning feral left with [my long-time roommate in Georgia]; she won’t let other people near her most of the time.”

REPLY:Daisy is fine here. The snarkiness has diminished greatly, she’s a sweetheart, she’s housebroken and I’ll just do the slow kill with her. I agree Minnie Pearl should be your priority. And yes, my initial reaction to seeing … was ‘WTF, she’s bailing on Daisy and leaving me stuck with her?’ but I DO understand the rationale behind that. Really.”

[Please cross-reference the rescuer’s comment highlighted in the Facebook thread above: “…even if you won’t take Daisy, I will.” Last time I checked, THAT’S WHAT RESCUE GROUPS DO.]

July 28, 2014
ME: “Thank you for not posting ‘adopter bailed’ when you share Daisy. I’m sure there’ll be enough of that circulating anyway. I would still like to be considered as her retirement home—backup at this point—if you see fit. It would be contingent on Weezy getting adopted fairly soon, and [my Georgia roommate] being able to keep Minnie Pearl happy in Oglethorpe County until Jesse passes away. With my parents’ lack of support for the dog situation and [lack of progress on] fence-building, and my move-in date still completely up in the air, I just can’t give you a precise date when I could get Daisy. That is also unfair to her and to you, having to tie up a foster space at your place with a less-adoptable senior. I am trying to figure out how to make this work; I’d really like to have a mellow old companion for Amos.”

REPLY: “I will admit that that was my reaction at first, but I do understand. And she is NO problem; most of the snarkiness has abated—the others have learned to, like they learned with [another senior female], to simply stay out of her space. Granted, Daisy drew blood on a couple of ’em, but it wasn’t serious. I understand and she’d be perfect for Amos…. Just let me know; I seriously doubt she’ll be going anywhere. I could easily keep her myself.

ME: “I would’ve thought you knew me well enough that you didn’t think I’d bail on a dog unless taking that dog would create a dangerous situation for any dog involved, or unless my living situation wouldn’t allow another.
“My limited understanding when Daisy was at the clinic in [GA] was that she was thought to be good with other dogs; I guess they couldn’t assess in that environment. Because of Aggie’s in-your-face disposition (Weezy is twice as bad, but I hope she’ll get adopted fairly soon), any dog that come in will have to be VERY tolerant. I’m glad Daisy is adapting. She is a lovely girl—I don’t want to subject her to excess hyperness in her retirement years.”

REPLY: “…the snarkiness has abated; the others have learned to give her her space and there are no problems now. I’m certain that Aggie would learn just as my crew has learned; in any event I don’t want you to do anything you’re uncomfortable or unable to do out of a sense of obligation.”

August 2, 2014
ME: “Just checking to make sure it’s OK for me to continue share Daisy’s adoptable status. I do feel a responsibility to help, but will stop if it’s more hindrance than help. Would a donation of $25 per month help with slow-kill HW treatment? That is manageable for me right now.
“Thank you.”

REPLY: “I appreciate the shares, and it’s not necessary to contribute towards her upkeep.”

August 7, 2014
ME: “…I gave you what you ultimately showed me you wanted: I left. And I gave you prior notice, too. Kindly do me the courtesy of not making me the fall guy for whatever is f***ed up in your life or your rescue. I have nothing to do with your problems. You need to look closer to home for answers.”

August 14, 2014
RESCUE: “Daisy June is a total sweetheart, very much like [another rescued hound] except for her personal space issues, which are no problem 98% of the time—she stays by herself in a corner or a crate more often than not. She would not make a good “bed buddy”—does not like having one of the others touching her and will tell them about it, but the longer she’s here the better she is about that too.”

[END OF CONVERSATION. Shortly after this, the rescuer blocked me on Facebook. My personal correspondence with the rescue, and any responsibility I felt I owed them, ended completely as of August 18, 2014, due to what I’d reasonably call irreconcilable differences. I check in on the group page via Facebook occasionally because there are still dogs in care of the group whom I met, helped, sponsored, transported, loved, and whose well-being I care about.]

And, Miss Daisy, I am truly happy you found a good home.