Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mac, I Have a Feeling We're not in College Any More

A few weeks ago, I met a man at a formal event who was probably about my age- late 20s. He was white, with his girlfriend, and wearing a long ponytail and a mid length skirt and birkenstocks. This was the most formal event I've been to in years, and he was decidedly under dressed, as well as being dressed in a way to make a statement. Although the event was held in San Francisco and was a wedding of two women, the statement was still a bold one. I spoke to him for awhile and he told me he was staying in San Francisco for awhile for an "anti-racist school." I was compelled- maybe by the nervousness I feel at events that compel me to make small talk, and maybe by the warmness I felt at talking to someone who reminded me of people I used to hang out with- to tell him that I try to live with anti-racist praxis in my life, in my law enforcement world, with it's decided potential for racism. He looked at me skeptically and blankly, like he either didn't believe me at all, or didn't really care.

This event was almost exactly 2 months ago, and the conversation is still with me. His remarks bugged me as pompous, and my replies bothered me. And I find myself becoming more conservative, and wondering why. I went to a very liberal liberal arts college on the East Coast that felt like a transplanted mini-Berkeley. We were famous for our clothing-optional dorms, and the curriculum and the students challenged each other to move further and further left. I loved that stuff- ate it up. I even had dreadlocks for awhile. Men in skirts would have been no big thing- I remember thinking my boyfriend looked hot in my skirt at Queer Prom. So when I saw the Dude in the Dress at the wedding, and heard he was doing anti-racist work, I was surprised at my internal reaction that this guy struck me as a white guy trying too hard to provoke, too hard to NOT be the man, and having all of his intentions backfire into standing out at someone else's party. I mean even I wore a dress.

I'm not in college any more, is what I've decided, partially due to the recent/ongoing protests at the UC system over the ridiculous tuition hikes. These kids CARE- they're blocking buildings, they're protesting, they're organized. And they're kids. In college, we are young and motivated- the civil rights movement and the Vietnam protests led by college kids come to mind. When the (2nd) Iraq war started, we took to the street. Why? What's up with this? I've come to a few conclusions: rebellion, surrounded by like minded people, being out of high school constraints, exposure to new literature, etc. And why the movement back to the right when we "grow up"? Were we rebels without a "real" cause?

For me, college was not exposure to new ideas in the sense that I was raised with more conservative ideas: I was raised in the Bay Area, in a liberal family at a liberal school. I was encouraged to think for myself, and to form my own opinions. I was a vegetarian who had traveled nationally and internationally and thought I knew a whole lot about a whole lot of different "causes." When I went to college, I found a whole bunch of people who thought like me, some who felt stronger than I did about the same things, and some people who felt nothing like me. And I read books that helped me articulate some of the things I felt, question the things I believed in, and learn about power. We organized protests and letter writing campaigns, though we were mostly preaching to the choir. We hated war. My parents approved of my actions, but many of my peers were fighting the good fight against their parents, which probably strengthened the passion in their beliefs.

Some people were so passionate that they graduated and continued their fights. They became organizers or went to work in relevant non-profits or graduate school. And then there are people like me, who went to work in something mostly totally unrelated. I care about the same things- I still abhor war. I still think we're fucking with the environment, and think that society tramples on anyone's rights who can be defined as "other." I continue my education as much as possible through reading and discussions. But I don't march in the streets. I don't go to meetings, I don't belong to organizations, big or small. From the outside, I've become apathetic, the person I hated when I was at school. A few years ago, my mom suggested that I had lost interest in everything but pit bulls. This stung, but she was right- pit bulls and their plight was all I talked about- a far cry from the 3 year old who was upset about apartheid. But at least then I was doing something; I was active in a pit bull advocacy group (don't laugh). Now, I'm "just" a civil servant. I still care about so many things, but I don't "do" anything.

I got sick of all of the talk in college- all this talk about movements, change, and power, and problems, and all I wanted to do was "do." Now, my doing is my life, my job, my choices. I wasn't lying to the Dude in the Skirt: I do live my life as consciously as I can. I try to treat everyone as an individual, with respect, and with an awareness of how society might have influenced his actions. Civil service is not just a "just": it's hard and for me, rewarding, but not always. But at the end of my day of my not-so-important job, I'm too tired to do anything perceived as more meaningful. But I don't think it's just that I'm tired: I think that as we grow older, most of us get more conservative. How many baby boomers are still out there protesting the government, or even fighting against the current totally unjust wars? My grandmother, one of my heroes, a white woman from Missouri, all gungho about civil rights, could never quite catch up with "politically correct" terms, sticking with things like "oriental" and "colored." Again, as we grow older, we grow more isolated: we live in or single family units, and we grow into a routine. We're not forced to share space with thousands of people, challenging each other to work on our perceptions, and to move forward with them. Our media comes from mainstream, or conservative sources. And our passions as young adults shape us: I still care, I just don't have a lot of fight in me now. I have to work, and a fear of getting fired for my outspokenness unfortunately hangs over me. I never thought I would say that, and I certainly never thought I'd work for a police department. But I do, and what I do and say and protest represents my workplace. There is a pressure to conform. To wear a dress. To keep my passions in reasonable bounds.

Mac, we're not in college any more. We're grown-ups.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sharon Kay Penman: When Christ and His Saints Slept

I'm not sure what keeps drawing me to these long, long and longer books, but I should have known, right? I mean just looking at the cover of "When Christ and His Saints Slept" should have told me this was a saga. And sagas are long: physically and in the way they twist and turn and confuse the reader. I don't know Sharon Kay Penman (and probably won't pick up anything else she wrote, since I gave up this kind of historical saga when I was about 12) but it appears she writes historical fiction/sagas of the middle ages: kings and queens and knights and vassals and castles and England and Normandy, and oh, so romantic! The first and last parts of this book were quite interesting, but the middle half, where the knights and lords and queens and kings fought back and forth and killed and pillaged and never quite seemed to finish their war, while probably realistic, got really dull. I'm sure there wasn't really much suspense in the middle ages, although I would be practically a constant panic attack if I was waiting 3 weeks for a letter to be hand delivered to find out if my husband had conquered a territory for me, but I felt I knew what was going to happen before it happened. If you like sagas, I think this is probably a good one. If not, it's an airplane read- if you're traveling the world 6 times.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Thoughts On "Oreo"

or, Another Open Letter to Nathan Winograd.

There has been a lot of recent hubbub about a pit bull that was thrown from a roof in New York about 6 months ago. This was pretty much the epitome of a cruelty case by commission: someone literally took his dog and threw it off a roof. Every day animals are subjected to all kinds of cruelty- from the worst, like dog fighting, to things like what happened to Oreo, to more subtle, but still bad, things like being tied up and left in the yard and undersocialized with poor shelter from the element, or left with matted hair and some kind of untreated ailment. If they weren't, I would be out of a job (and I wouldn't mind being out of my kind of job.)

Very few of these acts of cruelty make the New York Times. This story originally made the Times when the dog owner was first charged. I'm not sure why the story was news, but it was. Maybe it was news because pit bulls are always news (usually when they attack someone or something, or a dog looks like a pit bull when it does anything wrong), and recently they're semi-positive news due to some of Michael Vick dogs making it. Maybe it was news because many people saw this dog fall. Maybe the ASPCA made a big deal of the rescue of the dog. But speaking from someone who deals with human beings' shitty acts every day, let me tell you, this stuff doesn't normally make the news. And that's probably a good thing, because usually it doesn't have a happy ending.

This is something I struggle with a lot, and recently had an interesting discussion with a coworker about, in the euthanasia room, of all places. Each of us were going to put down one of our dogs- dogs we cared about. My dog was a cruelty case, one that will never make the news, and that no one would know about if I weren't blogging about it here. I went to post a picture, but it's on my work camera. I got a call about a dog in a kennel, in an abandoned house. I went out, and the house was empty. It didn't look abandoned to me, but it was messy, and maybe the people had just moved out. I don't know and will never know, because they never came in for their dog. The dog was indeed living in a kennel, if you can call it that. It was more like a cage, a 6x4 cage. The dog was a very large German Shepherd mix, maybe with husky or Akita. A VERY large dog, 80 or 90 lbs. The cage had a top on it and was closed up with a weird combination of wire and bungee cords. There was a build up of feces in it and the water was a bucket of green water. I was just looking at this situation, trying to figure out how I was going to get the cage open, and then, how to get the dog out, when the dog picked up one of the toys (toys?!) in the cage and started throwing them at me. Turns out, this extra large dog was actually quite happy to see me. So I took pictures, opened the cage, and walked the dog out. He was a NICE dog. He waited out his cruelty impound wait, 10 days in California, and was evaluated a week later. He didn't pass his evaluation. I had a friend who works with rescue come look at him, and he was really borderline. He was older than I originally thought, probably 3 years old, and he was very "doggy"- a term I learned from Diane Jessup- sort of intact male, interested in intact male things, and just not very social. He could be social for a minute, and tolerated handling, but didn't really have a place in an urban home. He was a backyard (well, a cage) dog, and couldn't compete with the adoptable dogs the shelter was bursting at the seams with. So his euthanasia day came, and I put him down.

I put a lot of dogs that I seize down. I keep a picture in the office of a puppy I seized that was about 6 months old and looked two months old. A pit bull puppy, so riddled with demodex that she had a secondary skin infection all over her body. There was not a spot on her body that was not infected and oozing and scabby. Every lymph node on her body was swollen- her ankles and jugular were swollen like they had tumors. Her hip bones jutted out. I put her and her sister down the day they came in, as they were suffering. What does it mean to put down dogs I seize for cruelty? It is not easy for me: I have *rescued* these dogs from some of the shittiest situations, some of cruelty by commission and some of omission, and then I kill them. Yes, Mr Winograd, I kill them. I euthanize them humanely, but at the end, they are dead. They aren't suffering anymore, but they're not living, either.

But no one is scrambling to place them, like they were scrambling to place Oreo. No one is following me around and writing up these dogs' stories. Thank Dawg. If everyone saw what I saw every day, they would be numb to it. They wouldn't care about every dog, or any dog. On the other hand, the three dogs I just described weren't aggressive. Why was everyone trying to save Oreo, a dog that a respectable organization, the ASPCA (read: not PETA or HSUS) deemed unadoptable? If Oreo was aggressive, why the clamour to save her? No one created a stir to save my shepherd and he was not aggressive, he just wasn't particularly awesome, either, and at most municipal shelters, only the awesome go up for adoption. No one clamoured to save my mangy pit bulls, either, and they certainly weren't aggressive. They were just very very sick, and needed so much medical treatment that it could have taken years to work them back to health. No local or national group took up their cause, and certainly not Nathan Winograd or the list of groups he gives.

Winograd is thrilled that a law is being authored to stop the "executions" of more Oreos. He says that this law is like the Hayden Law, which is in place in California. Interestingly, though, the Hayden Law only requires that STRAY dogs and cats (and rabbits and pigs) be made available to 501c3 rescue groups. (See SB 1785) And again, the Hayden bill only works if it's, well, working. My dogs were all SEIZED, not stray, and 501c3s are swamped. Would the Sanctuary that everyone was pleading for Oreo to be sent to have stepped up for my dogs if they weren't in the media? Honestly, my Shepherd would have been fine in a kennel at a sanctuary with daily play time. But for the pit pups and many other I seize, it would be another step in the wrong direction: they need an instant family, that would spend lots and lots of time and money. And what rescue group or family has room for all of that? Very few.

I hate that this is the truth. I hate that I "save" dogs and then "kill" them. It is one of the crappiest parts of my job. But I'm also distraught that an aggressive pit bull is the impetus for a bill that would make any dog available to rescue. Rescue is awesome. It's necessary. Cruelty is terrible, and the animals are not the ones that should pay. The idiotic, foolish, ignorant, and sometimes badly intentioned people should suffer. In the meantime, Oreo is the wrong posterdog, and I wish we could unite without pointing fingers at the ASPCA (armchair sheltering again) and rather work together to fight cruelty and to partner in rescuing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Everything I Know, I Learned on Twitter

I'm behind on my linking, and my Twitter favorites are really starting to pile up. I'm going to attempt to roughly organize these, but they're really worth checking out.

Womanist Musings has a great reminder that it's never JUST all about gender, or JUST all about race. (I thought I had written here before about my annoyance with the "whiteness" of the "feminist movement", but I can't find it.) On the other hand, a new book, "The Accidental American," about immigration argues that it's ALWAYS about race. I haven't read the book, but the review alone is compelling. And check out these mythbusters about race and immigration. A few more interesting immigration notes from racewire. And since I haven't given my monthly shout to Racialicious, you MUST read "I'm for gay rights, but..." which discusses black/gay civil rights.

There's been much ado about health care reform, of course, and La Frontera Times has an insightful look at the effects of HCR on both abortion and health care coverage for immigrants. And while we're on the subject, 2,266 Veterans died last year as a result of being uninsured. Another disturbing article on health care centers on Chicago's mental health system. Prepare for nightmares. If you're not depressed enough about mental health, check out Jessa Crispin's article about her relief about getting the hell out of dodge, I mean the US, for mental health care.

With Maine recently voting against gay/civil rights, and DC voting for them, queerness has been all in the news. The Catholic Church has decided to take the extremely progressive stance of stopping all services in DC until they do something about that infernal gay-marriage law. Mother Jones thinks "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" might be repealed next year (though I'm not sure I know any (queer or other) people chomping at the bit to sign up for a wartime military, it must be a relief for current gays in the military). And LOVING this post about missing the point of queer advancement.

Think that will probably tide you over for now. If you got past one or two links...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Official Definition of Seasonal Affective Disorder

I have just promoted myself to themacinator, PhD, MD, LCSW. Congratulations, and please pay me $2.60 an hour for the privilege of reading this blog.

For all of you doubting Thomases, Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. And I have discovered the root of all of the bio-chemical-feedback-loops that cause it (excuse me if my scientific terms are a little wobbly; my promotion has come very recently and I believe the diplomas may have been lost in the mail). Additionally, I am in the process of discovering a cure.

When standard time kicks in, many people start suffering from a vague malaise. They are hard pressed to define what this malaise is, or the root cause. There is more complaining: night comes sooner, and most people leave work when it is dusk or dark. This is something to complain about. Some people are able to compensate for this, but for many of us who are already sensitive to ... many things, are deeply affected, both by the complaining, and by the early nightfall. By the time we get home, it feels like nighttime. We don't want to go out again, it feels too dark to see our friends, too dark to walk our dogs or go to the gym, and driving in the dark is always dangerous and a pain in the ass. It becomes hard to motivate to do much more than our inside-the-house activities like TV, reading, sleeping. If we like to drink, we might drink inside (and alone) rather than out at dinner or a bar. Can you see where this is going? YES! Alcoholism, car accidents from driving at night, and TV addictions. Basically, nowhere good. Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real. And all due to short days and long, long nights.

For themacinator, the specifics are thus: we have the inability to go out and take pictures. I could patrol the environs with an ultra-heavy-duty flash, but I'm not so good at flashes, and the night is kind of a deterrent to leave the house, as aforementioned. I could just shoot in indoor locations, but many of these are semi-hostile to photography, and not nearly as fun as strolling the out-of-doors. Then there is the nervy Mac who loves to be walked but does not do well at night: every shadow is a cat or small dog, the better to be hunted. And finally, standard time always coincides with the end of baseball season. What is one to do for 2.5-3 hours when one can't listen to a baseball game? Sleep, I suppose, or read. But one cannot read for 2.5-3 hours without sleeping. And thus, one's social life suffers, one's exercise and creativity suffers, and one suffers in general.

My solution, which is still in the works, as my PhD, MD, and LCSW degrees were very hard to complete and I am still working on my engineering degree (what's that called?) is a very very large flashlight. Those SAD lights are fabulous, but my research shows that SAD is not actually a deficiency in light or vitamins in total, but rather, a deficiency in daylight time to do activities, see people, and get moving. Thus, this very large flashlight will project daylight blocks at a time, thus allowing people to do their normal outside activities in these heavily illuminated blocks. Photos can be taken, driving can be done, dogs can be walked, and friends can be seen, all due to this handheld, but extra strong flashlight, brought to you by themacinator. You heard it first here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Scott Anderson: Moonlight Hotel

I guess Scott Anderson is a fancy war correspondent and knows how these things go down: who better to write a satirical novel about a fake war in a fake country that the very real US messes up and then ... "fixes." Though the novel starts off slowly, it picks up steam until it's extremely hard to put down. It's the early or mid-80s and David Richard and his unlikely cohorts get stuck in Kutar, the fictional country (something like Iraq or Afghanistan), after Richards is almost done with his two years of a foreign service tour. During the two years, it's all the State Department can do to even get the US to acknowledge Kutar exists. Although there has always been inter-country-strife (the borders were artificially created by colonial parties, of course), the Pentagon takes sudden interest and manages to create a mountain of trouble for everyone involved. Though "Moonlight Hotel" takes place in the '80s, Anderson writes with post-9/11 insight. The book nicely complements all of the nonfiction about the deceptive government policies in Vietnam, Central America, and for decades in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Doggy Jailer

Another thing I hear all the time when I'm out and about at work (are you sick of hearing about this, yet?) is something along the lines about how I must be out "picking up bad dogs." Or when people come into the shelter, how they're there to get their dogs out of "jail." Along the same lines of the lines of the comment about not being able to do my job that makes me bristle, is another: something about how my job is so dangerous because of all the horrible, vicious animals I must have to deal with. I've started to just tell people that actually, my job isn't really about dealing with nasty, bad, or even very dangerous animals. For the most part, it's about dealing with owners, and their poor decisions.

Here's a scenario: A dog bites someone (or another dog) while loose, severely enough to cause the person (or dog) stitches. Animal control gets a report of the bite, and a day or two later figures out where the dog lives. The dog (if the dog bit a person) must be quarantined for 10 days. If the dog bit another dog, or has a history of being at large, or if he is not securely confined, must be impounded for public safety. I show up at the address, speak to the owner, impound the dog. The owner, and the nosy neighbors, see me "jailing a bad dag."

Here's another take on the same situation. Not all of these factors may have happened, but they are factors I see every day, and for the sake of argument, I'm going to chain them all together to show that ownership is the main factor in the majority of cases I deal with, and to demonstrate that I'm more of a bad-owner-social-worker than a "doggy jailer."

Let's start two years before the date of the bite: An imaginary person (not the dog owner) gets some dogs. In this instance, I'm going to say they're pit bulls. If you've been paying attention to my blog, you know I'm not trying to malign pit bulls. I'm using them as an example because of the law of large numbers, and because I'm familiar with this particular ownership problem. So, Joe Jones gets two pit bulls. He gets one, and a couple months later, he gets another, this time a female. They're awesome, and he's sure he has homes lined up for them. So he breeds them, at about 8 and 9 months of age. He doesn't really know much about the two dogs, except that they are from "Champion" lines. They look healthy, and they have all of their shots. They stay in the yard, but they are nice dogs. They've never really left the back yard, but his kids play with them, and they've never gotten into a fight. The litter comes out pretty healthy- one seems kind of small, and one seems kind of growly, and the mom develops some hairloss during the litter and won't let people get too close, but other than that, the breeding experience is pretty smooth. Joe sells the first 5 puppies for 500 dollars each, which is some good money. By the time he gets to the last 5 puppies, they are 6 weeks old and the female's hairloss is getting worse. Joe's ready to be done with this whole thing, so he sells our dog owner his dog for $100.

Back to our dog owner. Our dog owner, John Smith, is a friend of a friend of Joe. He lives in a decent neighborhood in a city that is struggling with crime, bad schools, the usual. Basically, his neighborhood is going to shit. He is 21, and has a kid, and really, just needs a dog because he's always had one (his last one ran away, but it was just a dog he found anyway) and because there's some crime in his neighborhood. So a friend of his tells him that Joe has a few puppies left that he's selling at a discount. He picks up the puppy from Joe who says the dog has had a shot, but doesn't have any paperwork to prove it. The mutual friend says you can trust Joe, so the new puppy, Pirate, goes in the yard. John doesn't really have a doghouse set up for Pirate, but his tool shed is open to the yard, so John clears some space and puts down a nice blanket for him and buys a huge bag of food at the grocery store. He and his kid play with the dog every day. The puppy is super cute. The neighbors love him, so they leave the wrought iron gate open like they always do. They have to move their car in and out, anyway, and this way Pirate can go chill with Jr's friends.

Then Pirate gets a little bigger and starts knocking Jr's friends over, and the parents start getting annoyed. One of the neighbors who doesn't have kids calls animal control one time because of the "vicious pit bull" that's out in the street. Animal control comes out a couple days later but John is at work and the wrought iron gate is actually closed. Pirate barks and growls and sticks his head through the gate. Animal Control leaves a notice on the door that tells John in order to comply the dog must be confined and licensed. John comes home and is pissed off about his grumpy neighbors. He considers buying a chain for Pirate, but decides he'll just tell Jr to stop leaving the gate open, but Jr is only 5, and John forgets after about a week. Yeah right, animal control will take Pirate over his dead body.

Pirate becomes big and rather obnoxious. John doesn't walk him because even though he got him a choke chain and tried to walk him once or twice with that, Pirate is just really strong and pulls on the leash a lot. He barks when he's on the leash, and though he's just trying to greet people, dogs, and other animals that he sees, he's now 80 pounds of intact pit bull, and scares everyone, including John, though he'd never admit it. Pirate gets used to some behavior that most people consider rude, or disobedient: because he was separated from his mom and littermates at 6 weeks, he hasn't learned a whole lot of bite inhibition. When he jumps on people, he tends to do it with an open mouth, and he often combines his over-enthusiastic greeting by biting any available piece of clothing, and sometimes even humps a leg. When he gets pushed away, he feels like he's received an invitation to play and jumps and mouths even more. Sometimes he jumps on John and John yells at him or hits his but and Pirate hits the floor. But most of the time, Pirate tugs at people's clothing until he gets bored and walks away.

So one day, John leaves the wrought iron gate open when he goes to work. Pirate tosses a plastic 2 liter soda bottle around for awhile, sleeps for awhile, then when patrolling the yard for a good place to pee, sees the open gate. An older person walks by slowly on the way to the store. Pirate runs up to the older person and jumps on him, grabbing his shirt. The older person flails his arms, trying to get Pirate off. Pirate gets more excited, and rips the old man's shirt, and punctures the old man's arm in 3 places in the process. A neighbor sees that something is wrong and hollers at Pirate (everyone knows Pirate from when he was a cute puppy) and Pirate gets distracted long enough for the old man to get away. Pirate goes back to his backyard and sunbathes. Life continues for John and Pirate.

After the old man goes to the hospital for his wounds, the hospital reports the bite to the local animal control, as they are required by law to do, as every state is concerned about rabies. The old man describes Pirate and tells the officers where he thinks the dog lives. Animal control comes out to John's house. John tells the officers that Pirate never gets out, and is not happy when they take Pirate for his mandatory quarantine. When he comes into the shelter to find out about reclaiming Pirate and they quote his fees and explain that the dog will be neutered by law, he tells them he wanted to breed Pirate, because he comes from championship lines (remember Joe?) and because Pirate is so good with Jr. He tells them that Pirate has all his shots and that he is part of the family. When he hears the total fees, he tells them he will go get the money. John never comes back. Pirate is put to sleep: he is a pit bull with a bite history. He probably also had hairloss as he was the product of a female pit bull with hairloss (probably demodex). He may have ended up in a shelter that didn't out pit bulls anyway, or had too many. Odds are, John will have another pit bull soon.

It's likely that John thinks animal control "stole" his dog, and "just wants money." He thinks his dog "had all his shots," even though he only "had" the one that Joe claimed he gave the puppy. It's likely that many of John's neighbors feel the same way, as they are used to Pirate being in the neighborhood and doing what Pirate does. They may have dogs in similar situations. There may be a few neighbors who are glad to see Pirate go, as he was always jumping on their fences, or chasing them with his over-exuberant mannerisms. Jr will grow up thinking that dogs are expendable, and that animal control is a place where dogs go to die. He will think that dogs just act like Pirate acted.

So many factors played into this dog "being bad" and "ending up in jail." Dude got 2 pit bulls just to breed them. He bred them without knowing what they were about, health or temperamentwise. He bred them before they were mature. He sold them to pretty much anyone, without knowing where they were going to live. Another dude bought a dog without researching the breed, or the breeder. He put him in the backyard, which may be fine (topic for another day) but essentially turned him into a resident dog. He did not care for his health or training. He allowed him to roam the neighborhood and turn into a bratty, rude teenage, intact dog with no manners. The dog had no exercise than what he could manufacture for himself. This was a dog-problem waiting to happen, created by a people-problem.

I'm not suggesting that this is what happens in all bite cases, or that all pit bulls are owned like this, or that all pit bull owners are irresponsible, or any sort of generalization at all. I am suggesting, however, that there is a lot more to any given scenario that animal control deals with than a "bad animal." There is the breeder (and the breeder before that, and the cultural issues that come with "breeding") and the buying (and the cultural issues of "buying" and "owning") of the dog, and then the manner of ownership. There are issues of confinement, of training, and of stewardship: shots, health, and dogs/children. It's not about a vicious or dangerous animal, although many of our laws are worded in such a way so as to make the dog sound dangerous, not to make the owner sound irresponsible (California has a Potentially Dangerous Dog Provision). It is about choices we make, whether by omission or commission, that make my job about humans, rather than animals.

Marjorie Garber: Symptoms of Culture

This is one of the dorkiest books I've read in awhile. It's been on my shelf since I-don't-know-when: definitely after college, but years. And I don't know why I picked it up, I must have been inspired one day to read some sort of college-like textbook. Don't get me wrong, the essays are right up my alley, but really? Even the cover is dorky. Garber directs the Center for Literary and Cultural Studies at Harvard, and seems to be an expert on Shakespeare and all things Fruedian. I loved the first half of this book- she deconstructs (I know, right?) things like "culture" "symptoms" and "syndromes." The first essay, on what makes "great" things "great" was really fabulous. She looks at the connections between Christianity and sports and gentility and Jewishness. It's just that at the halfway point in this book, she got into her main obsession (or fetish, to use a Garber-ian term): Shakespeare, and lost me completely. I started skimming, something I never do. But hey, this was a book I really have no idea why I was reading, so I feel absolved. Garber writes with a wit that belies the serious nature of her topics, and any of the first 5 or so essays is well worth reading.