Thursday, September 30, 2010

Think Good Thoughts for Oakland

Because this is what we're up against in November:

Well, this and Don Perata. I can't even talk about him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Professor Mac

Beware, cheesiness ahead. Those who read themacinator for dry wit and serious analysis, skip this post. I flatter myself- "those who read themacinator"- ha ha. And here I go with the dry wit.

I took Mac to the vet today, again, for the second time in two weeks, or maybe in one week. Mac has been in pain, although it took M to kick me in the ass and remind me. Just this December I started a running program for both Mac and myself. It was amazing- Mac was a puppy again and I was in shape. When I say running, I mean a slow trot for myself and a fast paced walk for Mac, mostly on flat ground, never for more than half an hour. It seemed to bring Mac into a new energy- energy he's never really shown, since he's mostly a slug, willing to energize when I ask it of him, or when he's on the beach. The we had some setbacks- one day he wouldn't run, I had a weird itchy thing (don't ask)- and we stopped running in about May or June. I took him to the vet in May and he was diagnosed with lumbar-sacral disease- some kind of scarring around the very back of the spine by the tail. The vet told me I could keep running with him if he told me he wanted to keep running. Mac was prescribed a low grade herbal pain medicine.

Lately, maybe the last two months or so, Mac slowed down. Walking became a peaceful easy stroll with him. He stopped hulking out over c.a.t.'s, and never pulled on the leash. And for the first time ever, I saw him pant on walks. Even when we were running, he rarely panted until the very end of our runs, his jaw slowly dropping and then heavy breathing would start. Recently, our walks would include true panting after only a block or two of strolling. In the last month, I've been walking only a couple blocks- sides of blocks, not whole blocks- before turning back, because Mac was panting, telling me he was done. I had been slacking on the glucosamine supplement that I had been giving Mac for years, and had completely forgotten about his herbal pain meds.

I was dumb and blind. M gave me a much needed wake up call and said what I needed to hear- Mac was painful, not just slowing down due to age. At first I was mad at myself- duh, themacinator, Mac is painful, why couldn't I see that 9 years is not THAT old, and I should have seen this. But when you live with a dog (or a person) every day, subtle changes just become routine and hard to see. I appreciated Mac's new pace, and that it was easier to walk him. After 8 years of constant scanning for c.a.t's and working on leash walking, it was such a relief to walk him easily. Sometimes it takes an outside person to see what's right in front of you. Two weeks ago (one week ago?) I took him to the vet, where the vet found nothing specific wrong with Mac- he refuses to show pain. Remember when he broke my windshield? That had to hurt, but it didn't. So the vet prescribed "real" pain meds and took blood work. The pain meds haven't helped and the blood work turned out fine. I cried when I heard this- I wanted so much for there to be something wrong, something that would be easily fixed with a pill.

This morning we went back to the vet again. (They love me. They love Mac because he rocks, but they love me because I am a big spender.) More xRays showed that Mac has a disc issue- right above the lumbar sacral thing, he has scarring around the disc, which is probably what is causing him pain. We changed his meds and added a muscle relaxant. Hopefully this will help, since we have a more precise idea of what is causing Mac's pain.

But this isn't the point. The point is that I started crying again a little, and spilling my guts to the receptionist, because Mac is my teacher, and my teacher is getting old. (Read the quote on the sidebar at Running With Dogs for an awesome quote on the subject of dogs as teachers.) He's my partner and my teacher, and the epitome of what dogs can be as partners. I told her our story, and I thought I would write about it, because it helps me process. When I was little, I started my autobiography. It seemed a little premature, even at the time. Precocious, but premature. When I started this blog, I swore it would not be an autobiography. Yucky overshare. This is not an autobiographical posting as much as a panegyric to Mac and the life lessons he has taught me and continued to teach me. I think I've written about some of them here, maybe all of them, and I apologize for any repetition, but I'm sad about my old dog. It is what it is.

I loved my family dog, Kozi. When I went to college, I kind of begged to bring her. It wasn't practical, my mom would have missed her too much, and Kozi would have melted in the snow. She hated getting her feet wet. By the middle of my freshman year, I had a boyfriend in a nearby town, and I *really* missed Kozi. I bought an old Volvo for a couple thousand dollars and started driving back and forth to visit my boyfriend and to volunteer in the animal shelter. I was hooked. I was especially hooked on pit bulls (much like my shelter now, the shelter was full of pit bulls, rottweilers, and chihuahuas.) I quickly fell for the pit bull optimism and love of people, and was charmed by their unconditional love for any volunteer who took them out of their kennels. I became a regular volunteer, coming at least two times a week. The spring before my senior year in college, I spoke to my upcoming roommates and landlord, and all agreed that I could foster dogs for my final year.

That summer, I was set to volunteer for Amigos for the second half of the summer. The first half of the summer, I arranged to do a mini-internship at a different shelter by my house, full time, every day. Maybe a month into it, I found Mac. You've seen this picture before, but he was really really cute.

When I got him, I didn't know what I know now in so many ways. We (shelter workers and I) aged him, by his teeth, as a year old. We though, based on that, his size, and his shape, that he was a beagle/pit mix. (I still get asked occasionally if he's a beagle, but it's sort of like asking if he's a rottweiler. He's not.) He had those huge hound ears, and he was about 40 pounds. He carried his tail at flag tail all the time like a pit bull, and pointed. He was only a little bigger than Kozi, the wheaten. Oh, the things I've learned about dog conformation. He also submissive peed, on every man, woman, child, tree, dog, stick, person, building, sidewalk, etc. He wasn't scared, he wasn't flinchy, he was just soft. Oh, I'm so happy to see you! he said to everyone, let me show you by squirting all over you. You like pee, right? There was this great time where he peed on someone my thesis-advisor was mentoring. That was great.

I kept him on a leash all the time in the house I shared with my college friends (this was before I even knew this was a good idea), but I had to keep him on one of those chain leashes, because he chewed through the other ones. We had an open floor plan downstairs, and if I didn't do this, he used our house as an obstacle course, and of course, if anyone said hi to him, he jumped on them and peed. Everywhere. Everyone hated the noise of that leash. He didn't chew anything that wasn't his, but he did love to shred paper. He was generally a Very Good Dog. But he was a puppy- not a year old, as we thought. He was probably 6-10 months, and he grew. Into a pit bull. Maybe a pit mix, maybe just a badly bred pit bull.

Mac taught me a LOT. He kept pointing. First he was obsessed with squirrels. He would silently point, much like a real beagle. He treed them, but didn't do much else. Then he forgot squirrels and moved onto pigeons. He didn't point at pigeons. He lunged at them, silently, hitting the end of the leash. Then he forgot about pigeons. He moved onto cats, and I believe I've discussed cats and how Mac turns into the Hulk around cats. See above post about the windshield if you need a refresher. For another reminder, I at the vet today, Mac heard a cat and growled and hackled. The vet had never heard him growl or seen a hair raise on his body in almost 7 years of going there. The Vet! I worked on his submissive peeing and had that mostly under control after a year, with occasional slip ups for the first 3 years or so. Mac also had what I thought was separation anxiety. He wouldn't stay in a crate, and I believe he ate through 7 or 8 of them, starting during our first year, in college. He would bust them, and then pee and poop. One time, we left him in the car, in a crate. This was in the back of a jeep. The crate was carabinered shut on top of the normal latch. The crate had approximately 2 inches of room between the door and the sides of the Jeep walls. We left him for 10 minutes- I came back to check on him and he was in the front seat. Mac has a big head. It was a miracle of physics.

The first year that I was out of college, I got a job at a fancy pet store, selling fancy beds and fancy food and fancy shampoo to fancy people. I brought Mac to work, because I couldn't leave him at home. I learned much from my boss who had been "doing dogs" for decades, and from the pit bull rescue that I was volunteering with. I brought Mac everywhere in the car, where he was fine, or stayed home. And then I decided that this had to stop. I left Mac alone one day, for about an hour, out of the crate. I got home, and found Mac sleeping on the bed. He didn't have separation anxiety. He just hated to be crated. So I got a new job, at my first animal shelter. I haven't looked back, and I've only tried to crate Mac when I'm in the room. It still doesn't work very well.

My first shelter job was cleaning kennels, evaluating behavior/temperament both at other shelters, and at that shelter, and training dogs. I did adoption counseling, and learned to teach training classes. I learned a lot and continued to learn from my dog. He was developing some leash reactivity, but this was maybe the easiest challenge I have ever dealt with with him. I made tons of "dog friends" and we worked together with our "problem dogs," especially pit bulls and pit mixes. I moved and worked at an animal control facility, where I staffed the shelter, and learned more about community issues, and also about cats and other small animals. Mac developed a fear of and prey drive towards children that I'm still working on, partially due to the dramatic decrease in our socialization opportunities. He learned to co-exist with "the kids" (the dogs belonging to T, although Abby wasn't around yet) and we fostered Ditty, who Mac did not coexist with- we crated and rotated.

There have been all kinds of emotional events, eventful events. The time Mac literally swam to sea in the bay, and we had to have a yacht rescue. The time Mac almost bit someone, and I thought I was going to euthanize him. The next time he almost bit someone, and I was sure I was going to euthanize him. The time I moved in with my dad while I tried to find somewhere to live with a big-head-dog. The time I got pulled over with Mac in the car and I held it together while holding my breath hoping the cop wouldn't shoot the big head dog. All the awesome time Mac helped me help my friends with their leash reactive dogs. My second parents who actually *like* Mac, even though they don't like dogs. My parents, who told me they turned down one apartment building because Mac couldn't come there, whether that was true or not. These are all parts of our time together.

Since my first shelter jobs, I've done a variety of animal welfare jobs, including teaching humane education and currently, working as an animal control officer. I continue to learn about raw feeding- when we moved back to California after college, Mac began his spell of "mustard poop"- nothing came out of him that wasn't the color and texture of French's. After trying what felt like everything- bland diet, different "prescription" dog foods, antibiotics, etc- we switched to raw, and Mac was better two days later. I've learned tons about dog behavior, dabbled in dog sports for Mac's benefit, and taken at least one dog training class every year. He has slept in my bed almost every single night since I've had him- for over eight years.

I have a hard time leaving Mac alone- I joke that I have separation anxiety, but it's not really a joke. And I've been stressing about his back, even though I tell myself to "be here now." Which is why I wrote this: the point is, our life together has been a life together- a journey. Mac has taught me so much. I've become an adult while I have him, whether I feel like an adult or not. He's aging now- all of those problems he's had, and I've only listed a few of them, believe it or not- these are old dog problems. And now, I'm going to have to learn how to deal with them, with Mac, and also for Mac. He has taught me so much, I owe him to learn a little more, about how to age gracefully. Change is hard, but I'm going to do it as best I can, for Professor Mac.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Princess and the Bone

(as opposed to the pea. He *does* know how to eat peas.)

Most dogs eat bones like so:

This is Abby, of Running With Dogs fame, demonstrating proper bone eating technique. You can sort of see one of her paws under the bone. Another paw is raised, ready to pin down the bone, as if it were a hand, helping to get the food into the mouth. This is useful, especially if the bones are awkwardly shaped.

Here, Pocket demonstrates this type of awkwardly shaped tasty morsel (a bull penis). Soon, she too will settle down and use her paws to manipulate the food into her mouth. Smart dog!

Everyone knows Mole is a wise older fellow, but this photo demonstrates that this paw technique is useful. The bone is now empty of its innards, and Mole looks content, and happy.

Contrast this with my very lovable, very dumb, and VERY prissy dog. Mac does not like his feet to get dirty. Anyone who thought pit bulls were rough-and-tumble dogs has not met Mac.

He started like so, and it took him a LONG time to realize he could lie down.


Prior to lying down, he stooped. This allowed him slightly different angles on the bone. Very clever, Mac.


Genius dog finally lies down, and picks up giant bone in his mouth, rather than holding it. Notice where his feet are- as far away from giant bone as possible.


Genius dog finally gets comfortable. I think the missing paw in this picture may actually be tucked UNDER him, to avoid contamination from messy messy food.


Finally, a closeup on the extremes to which Mac will go to avoid touching his food. Contrast this with the success Mole had eating his food. It's a good thing I love him, because this dog... If a dog can't even eat properly?


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why I Am Sad About the A's

It is not because they were eliminated today- it's impressive they made it so far. I am sad because they are old. Older than me. (Well, not all of them, but too many.) Which makes their upside not very great.

Let's have a look, shall we?

Boof Bonser, relief pitcher: DOB: Oct 14, 1981. Career experience: 19 wins, 25 losses. 5.23 ERA. 107 Appearances in parts of 4 major league seasons. He's almost 29.

Bobby Cramer, starting pitcher: DOB: Oct 28, 1979. Debuted this month. He's almost 31. Career experience: 2-1 including a not terribly bad start I saw last night. Not terribly good, either, for a 31 year old rookie.

Justin James, I think a relief pitcher: DOB: Sep 13, 1981. Grand total of 4 innings pitched, all this month. Just turned 29.

Jeff Larish, supposedly first base: DOB: Oct 11, 1982. OK, he's practically a kid, and a veteran at a career 95 games in parts of 3 seasons. At almost 28 that's not too bad, right?

Steve Tolleson, second base and wherever else the A's feel like playing this stunner: DOB: Nov 1, 1983. Debuted April of this year. Another kid, he has a grand total of 47 at bats at almost 27 years of age.

Matt Carson, outfielder: DOB: Jul 1, 1981. Debuted September of last year and in his 40+ games has a stunning batting average below .200. It's ok, he's got 11 years till 40.

These are only some of the guys on the active roster- I've lost track of the 25 other guys who have been up and down and up and down this year. I know, we're all getting older. I'm getting older and self conscious about it. And they can always have cruciate repair surgery or Tommy John or something else. But with "rebuilding" always on the horizon, this makes me despair.

Go A's. Next year in Jerusalem. Or Fremont.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Film Friday

From my vacation (did I mention I was on vacation?):

spartacus: stranger #49

Jennifer Egan: The Keep

I remember why I started writing these book reviews (to remember which books I've read) but I don't remember how/if I ever wrote fiction reviews. The reviews sort of morphed into something much bigger- discussions of the "issues" and what I thought about them. They've turned into something I really care about- while I'm reading, I'm thinking about what I will write, which is great, because it means I really think about what I'm reading. On the other hand, sometimes I'm reading books, especially fiction, and thinking, what on earth WILL I write? So basically, I'm going to try to simplify fiction reviews, to let myself just read, and to take the pressure off this part.

I don't even really like fiction that much any more, which has nothing to do with blogging. It has to be Really Good Fiction, or to be topical to something I care about a lot, or nonfiction disguised as fiction. Jennifer Egan's "The Keep" was none of those. It was a hand-me-down from Dad, sitting on the shelf for a long time, and I read it in an effort to keep getting through the "Books I Haven't Read" shelves. Yes, there are two shelves, as well as the pile on top of the shelves. I'm guessing that if I do another scan through of my shelves, I can find more "Books I Haven't Read," but I'm going to keep working my way through the existing ones before I let myself do that.

"The Keep" was another one of these magical realism books I keep stumbling on, or maybe some kind of psychological suspense thing. Partly I stumble on them because Dad likes them, and partly because it's popular maybe? I've read some other book by Egan, and remember liking it, but I'm sure I couldn't tell you what it was, or why I liked it. This book was well written, and had some cool twists and turns, especially in the last third, but it also had some not particularly likable characters, and some not particularly believable twists and turns that turned me off. It's very modern- cool to read about texting and internet and not feel like the book was dated, and some of the underdeveloped characters were very well sketched- I knew the type. It's going in the free-pile, though, so if anyone likes this kind of fiction, it's all yours. If it's your kind of fiction, I think it's a good, fast, hard to put down read.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Mac Helps Clean


Hypocrisy, Double Standards and Coming Clean

I think this will be the last on my eating choices for now. But I've thought that each time I've written something about Safran Foer. I guess that's the sign of a good book- it sticks with you. And blogging is for me- it's so nice to know that themacinator has dear readers, but, dear readers, this blog is for me. Ouch! Bam, boom! Piff! Poof! It's to process. And as I spilled all yesterday about the pain and suffering, and how those things were secondary to me, (I realized I forgot a large dog/factory farmed animal connection), I felt like a self-righteous jerk.

I eat cheese and milk things with eggs in them. I don't eat eggs straight, because I just don't like eggs. But I eat all kinds of processed foods without reading the labels, and I seek out dairy products. And as much as I was moved by "Eating Animals," the stubborn American in me says "So WHAT!? It's all about freedom, my freedom, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Human happiness." And I'm going to be honest, I see that stubborn flag-waving voice winning out over the "right" voice in my previous two posts for now. Because I love cheese. I'm drooling over my lunch at Gordo's in a few hours already. The tortillas are probably going to be dipped in lard, and I have a don't-ask-don't-tell policy about Mexican food- I can't live without it, and if it means minimal meat goes into my body, (i.e. if I can't see it, it's not there,) that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

How does that fit with my previous posts? It doesn't, at least where the pain of the animals and the environmental damage comes in. It does when you consider Safran Foer's eating as storytelling, eating as ritual, and just the importance of food. That doesn't mean eating can't and shouldn't be rethought, but that I'm not there yet.

The second half of this is Mac. He eats meat, all day, every day. He eats a modified BARF diet- Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, depending who you ask. He eats mostly poultry these days when he eats whole bones, because he's old, has soft teeth, and has already had two of his chompers pulled. So chicken feet, chicken backs, duck wings. We've recently found a company that makes great ground mixes, so there's beef and green tripe back in his diet. He loves fish. LOVES fish. Actually, I'm lying- Mac loves any animal product. And I'm going to continue to feed Mac animal products. I'm not going to feed him a vegan diet because I believe it's inappropriate for dogs, and I'm not going to feed him kibble because a) he did terribly on it and b) because I think it's terrible for dogs with all the crap in it and c) it's probably one of the worse things for the environment out there.

I used to say (maybe until last week?) that it's all about moderation. I still say it's all about moderation, and that I don't really care what other people do, eat, drink, etc, because we have to make personal choices. I wrote about this in the very relevant discussion of why I voted against Prop 2. So I have always justified feeding Mac meat for the last 7 years (well, besides the above reasons), that his minuscule about of meat is a moderate amount that doesn't make a dent, especially if I consider my sources carefully. Sort of the flip side of what I would say to people about why I was a vegetarian: It's all about moderation. If everyone ate meat in moderation, maybe I would, too. (I probably wouldn't at this point, because it doesn't appeal to me taste-wise, but it intellectually, it sounds good.) But honestly, I don't always consider my sources carefully. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I pick up a tasty morsel of full fish at the Mexican supermarket that I know Mac loves. It comes in a shitload of packaging, which should be the first tip off. Now I know how many animals got thrown overboard to make Mac a cheap pound of fish- two meals for Mac. Sometimes I check where the companies I buy from get their animals, usually I buy by convenience- filling a freezer full of Mac-appropriate foods is a pain.

Yesterday I wrote about being human, and how much suffering I felt was appropriate to inflict and still call myself human. I don't want to hurt anything. But part of being human is erring. And downright fucking up. And making choices that don't add up. And doing things out of convenience. And feeding your loved ones the things they love to eat. Even if your loved ones are dogs. Even if your loved ones like to eat things that aren't good for the Earth. I don't have any answers, because part of being human is gray area. Hypocrisy, if you must. Honesty is part of being my kind of human. I'm not going to hide behind what is Right. I want to continue to grow, and learn. And improve. And be honest.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Pain: Eating Animals, Continued

You may have noticed, or you may not have, that I didn't really get into a whole lot of discussion about animal cruelty in my discussion of Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals." This may or may not have struck you as odd, since it's a big part of Safran Foer's book, and a big part of why many people don't eat animals (or animal products) and a big part of any (reasonable) discussion of eating animals. Commenter Jennie of City Pittie (check it out!!), commented that I discussed the "human cost" Safran Foer writes about. This wasn't meant as a criticism, and I didn't take it as such, but she is absolutely right. This was only one part of "Eating Animals," and it's only one part of conscious eating.

Some background maybe is in order. I stopped eating meat (animals), in a fairly traditional order- I didn't go "cold turkey"- what a terrible phrase in this context. In an odd twist, it was the Seventh Day Adventists that started it all. I went to camp every year as a kid with my chorus, who rented space at a Seventh Day Adventist boarding school for two weeks. Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarians- until this moment I had never thought to look up why. Apparently, SDA's believe "For more than 130 years Seventh-day Adventists (SDAs) have practiced a vegetarian dietary lifestyle because of their belief in the holistic nature of humankind. Whatever is done in eating or drinking should honor and glorify God and preserve the health of the body, mind and spirit." (See more at the SDA website.) Ironically, the food at this boarding school was complete and utter crap. Sure, it was the early to mid-90s, but I think I ate more potato products and things cooked in Jell-O molds in each 2 week period that I was there than I have in all of my life since then. The second or third year that we were there, they turned off the soda machines, since they had been plugged in every meal, and kids were going sugar crazy. They definitely served fake meat, and I remember it being the early kind of fake meat (probably made of potatoes)- white strips of fatty looking stuff with pink stripes was bacon. Vegetarian does not have to equal healthy. The point is, after the year that I was 12, I came home from camp stopped eating red meat. A couple years later, I'm not exactly sure why, I stopped eating chicken, turkey, etc- "white meat." I was down to only eating fish/seafood, and not very often. When I went to college at 18, I quit all fish, altogether, though for the first year or two I would eat sushi when I came home on vacation- sushi has been my favorite food since I was about 2 years old, and that was hard to kick. After the first couple years, I eliminated all meat.

Long story short, I eliminated meat from my diet because I thought of myself as an environmentalist. I obviously wasn't influenced by the SDA's, though looking at that position statement and their nutritional recommendations, they're clearly onto something. About a year ago, I wrote about how I'm just not as passionate as I used to be. I also don't feel like I know as much about as many things as I used to. When I was in little-kid-school, I feel like I knew a lot about a lot of things. I especially knew about the environment, and cared a lot. Remember how the "rainforest" was a hip "cause?" I cared, a lot. Cows were a big deal to me- I knew exactly how many gallons of water it took to grow a pound of beef, and how many acres of rainforest were decimated each minute to grow a cow. This really bugged me. I also knew the numbers about chickens and antibiotics- I could spout this at you and would say "I want to have antibiotics work when I need this." I still believe all of this, but I don't know the statistics off the top of my head to back it up. And I'm not going to look for them. The point is, I didn't stop eating meat because the animals were suffering. I believed they were suffering, but that wasn't The Point. I stopped eating meat because I believed my individual choices mattered in a big picture way, for the Earth. It wasn't about the pain. Which is weird, considering what I do for a living.

On the other hand, it's not weird at all. I was recently described by a good friend as having a heart of steel (more on the context a different day). I flinched at this- I'm not heartless, or cold-hearted, or even steel-hearted. We amended the definition- I have a cage with barbed wire around my (very large) heart. I don't do my job solely because of the pain the animals I deal with suffer. This sounds terrible, like I'm one of the "bad" animal control officers out there (and yes, there are officers out there that just don't care. I'm not going to stand up for them). I do care. I'm not going to defend the fact that I don't cry at every animal with a broken limb, or that is hit by car. And I'm not going to defend that I don't eat meat solely because the animals suffer. If I didn't have my cage, I wouldn't be good at my job. I would cry all the time, and basically lose my ability to do it.

Safran Foer took the cage down, though, when it comes to eating Animals. Again, not meat, Animals. I didn't talk about this at all in my previous post, which is why I am back for part two. This isn't really what I want to be writing about on my vacation- vacation posts are pictures of Mac at the beach, discussions of car shows, of the Phillies back in first place. But eating Animals is more than just the human factor, it's the Animal Factor. Safran Foer tells a story of his first "aha" moment when he was 7: he had a vegetarian babysitter who was watching them eating chicken. Her answer to not eating with them was that she didn't want to hurt anything. Safran Foer writes
What our babysitter said made sense to me, not only because it seemed true, but because it was the extension to food of everything my parents had taught me. We don't hurt family members. We don't hurt friends or strangers. We don't even hurt upholstered furniture. My not having thought to include animals in that list didn't make them the exceptions to it. It just made me a child, ignorant of the world's workings. Until I wasn't. At which point I had to change my life.
So most of us, especially the people I chose to surround myself with, and I like to include myself in this, don't like to hurt anything. Eating Animals involves hurting things. Sin of omission or comission? Does it matter? Does it matter once you Know Better? Reading this book means you know better.

Safran Foer describes some of the sadism that people who work in the factory farms engage in. I'm going to continue to be the eternal rose-colored-glasses and tell myself that the shitty conditions of The System make them do it. I'm not going to repeat the pain that these things cause. Some of the things that stuck with me are again, with the pigs and the fish. Fish first this time. Aquaculture is not the answer, even if it somehow seems better than wild fishing, based on the grossness of line fishing described by Safran Foer. In salmon farm, there's so many "sea lice" in the dirty water that the fish have open wounds on their faces. Sometimes the lice eat through the fish's faces, all the way down to the bones. In order to lower the bodily waste prior to transport to slaughter, the fish are starved for seven to ten days before transport. Starved, for over a week.

Pigs live in crates, for all of their lives. They're bred with all kinds of deformities in order to achieve "more tasty meat," which causes them to suffer without even really doing anything. Pigs are outdoor animals- they nest, the burrow around, they shit and live in separate areas. But in their factory farms, they never even see outside. Female pigs, sows, have about 9 piglets at a time, and is pregnant for as much of her life as possible, because we need more pork. Her "gestation crate" is not even as large as animal welfare people recommend for a dog who is going to be "crated": she can't stand up, lie down, and turn around. She can't turn around.
Her bone density will decrease because of the lack of movement. She will be given no bedding and often will develop quarter-sized, blackened, pus-filled sores from chafing in the crate... More serious and pervasive is the suffering caused by boredom and isolation and the thwarting of the sow's powerful urge to prepare for her coming piglets...To avoid excessive weight gain and to further reduce feed costs, the crated sow will be feed restricted and often hungry... The system makes good welfare practices more difficult because lame and diseased animals are almost impossible to identify when no animals are allowed to move.
The pigs are treated like brood bitches at a puppy mill. Only worse, I imagine. And then we eat them.

The meta question is "What does it mean to be human?" I can think of all kinds of excuses we can make. The weakest one is "it tastes good." There are lots of things that taste good. They don't have to involve cruelty. Other weak ones include "it's cultural." Well, no. Until the last 50-60 years, factory farms didn't exist. Safran Foer documents the woman who "invented" (I guess developed?) the first chickens who would become the chickens who can exist in the factory farm situation. Eating this kind of heavily doctored (literally- genetically and once alive) animal is not a cultural thing. It's a recent, economic development. Another argument is economics: "only rich people can eat ethically raised animals." Well, yes, maybe, right now. But it's perfectly possible to eat as a vegetarian- people do it all over the world. It's also perfectly possible to eat a hell of a lot less meat than most Americans do now, and at least wean ourselves off some of our dependence on factory farmed animals. Another economic argument that doesn't hold water: "But it's the jobs! What about the jobs!" The amount of jobs in factory farms and slaughterhouses are very small compared to what agriculture used to be for the US (of course I can't find this in Safran Foer's book right now). The jobs are shitty, have extremely high turnover (I think it was over 150% a year, if I remember the number right from the book), and are dangerous. Few people will work them. Read Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" for more statistics and information about this human toll. The industry is not "for the people."

"But I like it." Well, so do I. What a first world problem. I eat eggs, and dairy, in the form of cheese, and pizza, and quesadillas, and ice cream and lots of other delicious foods that right now, I can't see giving up. And I don't eat consciously at every meal. And I still consider myself human, and a pretty decent one. I'm just no longer able to pat myself on the back quite as easily as I was last week. It kind of sucks. Also, a first world problem. I certainly don't have any answers, as self-righteous as I sound. I hate sounding self-righteous. Part of me regrets reading this book. Ignorance can be bliss. But that's not how themacinator rolls.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Jonathan Safran Foer: Eating Animals

When I read Novella Carpenter's "Farm City," I was annoyed and confused (did you see the awesome post about the pig shit? anon- if you're out there, you rock, and sure, you can read the book!) and also intrigued. I wasn't interested in reading Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" until I read "Farm City," because I could absolutely positively not read his famous book "Everything is Illuminated." I tried and tried and just couldn't. And that's saying something, because when I try to read a book, I usually succeed, even if I shouldn't. But "Eating Animals" is a good book, a really good book, that's making me want to read a whole lot more books. Already, today (and I just finished "Eating" this morning) I've purchased Michael Pollan's classic "Omnivore's Dilemma," which Safran Foer responds to directly with this book. And I'm considering rereading (something I never do) Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation," a book that I loved, but never considered rereading. So, though Novella Carpenter annoyed me, she pushed me, and I'm glad.

First, I have to say that I keep referring to "Eating Animals" in my head and sometimes out loud as "Eating Meat." But the book is very specifically about eating *animals*- the fact that Americans eat meat as though the meat did not come from real live animals in the first place. I think it's telling that even though I'm a vegetarian, even though I have not intentionally placed any meat product in my mouth for over a decade, that the phrase "eating animals" is very linguistically difficult for me. Safran Foer is right: we have lost touch with our food. He writes
Perhaps there is no "meat." Instead, there is this animal, raised on this farm, slaughtered at this plant, sold in this way, and eaten by this person- but each distinct in a way that prevents them from being pieced together as a mosaic.

Safran Foer didn't start out intending to write a pro-vegetarian treatise, and he didn't end up writing one, either. He ends up as a vegetarian (not for the first time, but for the first time with clear reasons behind his eating choices) who supports ethical and responsible animal agriculture. He walks a line between believing in the importance of individual choices such as being a vegetarian or only eating the "right" animals (a mini-boycott, or the importance of purchasing power), and also believing in the importance of system-wide overhauls: laws with actual power over the factory farming industry, and using his influence to write a book that can hopefully shine light on what's really for dinner. It's nice to be able to see shades of gray, and it's much more convincing than some of the more prevalent arguments about eating animals, such as the animal rights folks at PeTA, and the pie-in-the-sky locavores. It also doesn't feel any more realistic, especially when confronted with the numbers that Safran Foer provides: over 99% of meat in the US comes from factory farms.

We don't just eat because we're hungry, obviously. Safran Foer drives this home, and it's what makes his book wonderful. We eat, we tell stories about eating, we nourish each other spiritually. And we don't always make choices about what we eat. We might choose what we eat in terms of what it tastes like or where to have dinner, etc, but we aren't really thinking, most of the time. If we were thinking about the animals we ate, we probably would do differently. Strangely, the discussion about ethically raising meat has become about providing a "kind death." The ethical farmers that Safran Foer finds (the very few left) are flabbergasted by this: one describes raising animals for food as a kind of deal. In exchange for the eventual death for meat, the animals should have the best lives possible while they are on the farm. This includes, but is not limited to a kind death. Unfortunately, this isn't the case in the vast majority of food animals' lives, and Safran Foer spares no details. Each detail by itself is no real surprise, but all together they're sickening. I found myself wondering something I have never done before: wondering about eliminating all meat/dairy products from my diet- i.e. becoming a vegan. (Side note: this is something that Safran Foer does not touch on at all, and I was disappointed. I'm sure the factory farming conditions for layers/dairy cattle are virtually identical, but it's relevant, nonetheless.) I was aghast at the thought, but it was That Bad.

Here's a few details that stuck in my head. The pools of shit from pig farms (the largest pork producer in the US kills 31 million pigs each year, and each pig produces 281 pounds of poop for each person. Even people like me, and I haven't eaten a pig product in close to 20 years) are, well, not just pools.
Imagine if, instead of the massive waste-treatment infrastructure that we take for granted in modern cities, every man, woman, and child in every city and town in all of California and all of Texas crapped and pissed in a huge open-air pit... all year round, in perpetuity... Children raised on the grounds of a typical hog factory farm have asthma rates exceeding 50 percent and children raised near factory farms are twice as likely to develop asthma... The impression the pig industry wishes to give is that fields can absorb the toxins in the hog feces, but we know this isn't true. Run-off creeps into waterways, and poisonous gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide evaporate into the air. When the football filed-sized cesspools are approaching overflowing [the farms] spray the liquefied manure onto filed. Or sometimes they simply spray it straight up into the air, a geyser of shit wafting fine fecal mists that create swirling gases capable of causing severe neurological damage. Communities living near these factory farms complain about problems with persistent nosebleeds, earaches, chronic diarrhea, and burning lungs.
That's right, you don't even have to eat pork to eat (pig) shit.

I was also stunned by Safran Foer's description of the fishing industry. Even wild fish are part of the factory farm game, and factory farmed fish are no better off. Fish were the last animals I crossed off of my eating list, and I think others are in this boat (think "Berkeley Vegetarian"). Safran Foer describes modern fishing in terms of war (maybe genocide is more appropriate, given the numbers- he says that for every 10 large predator fish that was in the ocean 50-100 years ago, there's one left), war in the "spirit of domination." This is how fish are caught: captains of the boats sit in rooms full of electronics, they use GPS devises and "FADs" (fish-attracting devices) to figure out when to rope in ginormous amounts of fish. When they don't get enough on the first try, they go back and try again. In just a few minutes, one vessel can haul in 50 tons of sea animals. And in a most sickening blow, most of it is "by catch." When shrimping, 80-90% of a "haul" is thrown over, either dead or almost dead, since it's not shrimp:
shrimp account for only 2% of global seafood by weight, but shrimp trawling accounts for 33% of global bycatch. We tend not to think about this because we tend not to know about it. What if there were labeling on our food letting us know how many animals were killed to bring our desired animal to our plate? So, with trawled shrimp from Indonesia, for example, the label might read: 26 POUNDS OF OTHER SEA ANIMALS WERE KILLED AND TOSSED BACK INTO THE OCEAN FOR EVERY 1 POUND OF THIS SHRIMP.
I'm not feeling good about leaving fish for last in my meat-eating days. Safran Foer's next paragraph of 145 species that are also regularly caught during tuna fishing is extremely depressing: "Imagine being served a plate of sushi. But this plate also holds all of the animals that were killed for your serving of sushi. The plate might have to be five feet across."

I am not trying to ruin any one's dinner. Or lunch or life. "Eating Animals" was a strange vacation read. It was a fast book, but a disturbing book- I alternated between wanting to read it cover to cover, and not being able to stomach (eek) more than a few pages at a time. Safran Foer rightly points out that we learn from a young age that being cruel is wrong. And yet what we do when we eat is many times the product of extreme cruelty. Does not compute. If nothing else, reading the book is a wakeup call, a forced kick in the ass, a spraying of shit all over unacceptable indifference.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mac on Vacation

(I promise, posts with more substance will return soon. But I'm on vacation. is in vacation mode. Can you blame me?)

T reminds me how ridonculous Mac was on the beach this time. If you look at that picture of Mac (yes, definitely check out the other kids, too), the thing hanging out of his mouth is a piece of kelp. I couldn't find a "monkey" (all of his toys are "monkeys") that was beach appropriate. Once Mac gets into toy mode, it's really hard to get his toy back from him. So tennis balls are just too much on the beach, and that's all I had around. So I took him down to the beach and hoped to find an appropriate stick. Only, we found kelp first. Kelp is Mac's new favorite toy.

One day, we actually did play with a stick. Mac would only catch it two times, then he had to come back to the house.



He HAD to come back to the house. He wouldn't play any more. I made him walk with me, but play time was over, according to Mac. I wouldn't let him bring his stick into the house, and he wouldn't let me have his stick, so he stayed on the porch, with his stick in his mouth, for 20 minutes. I eventually traded him for treats, and he came inside.

(same dog, same stick, same day, different camera. noticeable difference)

Mac loves vacation. His whole life is vacation, really. But at the beach, he gets to go on the beach, he gets to play with monkeys in a big house, he gets to take walks with no stressful c.a.t.s, and this time he got to hang out with Auntie T a whole lot. I hope you enjoyed looking at him enjoy his vacation- just watching his happy mug makes my day.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Dog, The Hydrant, and Vacation

You've probably heard it, but I only heard it recently- Some days you're the dog, and some days you're the hydrant.

Until the last month, I've felt like the hydrant a lot lately. It's easy to do, and I'm not complaining or looking for pity. Nothing really substantial changed- I think mostly I was burnt out, feeling compassion fatigue. I hadn't had a vacation in a long time. I stopped accepting overtime, and in a big change for me, I took some days off. I did fun stuff. I always do as much fun stuff as I can- I go on weekly shooting (camera) outings, I go to thinks like santacon, byobw, and everyone is sick of themacinator during baseball season. But this month, I got to do it like a "normal" person, on the weekend. I went to the Sonoma County fair with M and watched dock diving and just had an awesome day. I took the day off for a photo event and didn't even go. And didn't care.

And then, my long awaited vacation arrived this week. I have 10 straight days off. I've been down at the beach with T since Tuesday and it's been amazing. I forgot what relaxing feels like. It's like a muscle relaxant. I'm the dog, not the hydrant. T makes mean mojitos, I know how to open beers, and grilled cheese is amazing sustenance. Woman can live on grilled cheese, leftovers, and grape nuts. And alcohol. We went to the hot tub. I wore a bathing suit! We walked the dogs, multiple times. Mac got to play on the beach.

Today, we tried to recreate some of our old family photos. We've never had great ones, but I was hoping for something respectable this time. With the addition of Abby (the iggy on the right in that picture), I knew things would be more complicated. I highly recommend reading T's blog for more background on just how interesting. T has done amazing work with Abby, but Abby will always be special, just like Mac is special, only in pretty much the opposite way. Mac is, in T's words today, very big, and oafy. He is. Big. And Very Oafy. Abby is small, prey-like, and was semi-feral when T got her. She's now a Real Dog with lots of skills, but still, a Big Oafy Dog? Yeah, no. Pocket and Mole know that their mom and auntie aren't going to let Big Oafy dog do anything to them, and that most of the time, he's not interested in doing anything. But maybe Abby is the smartest- one step of his doofy paw and Abby's delicate body is- I don't want to think about it.

So this is the best we got. Notice how many dogs are in the picture:


I do have one awesome shot of Mac leaping in front of Mole, Pocket, and Abby. But all there is is blurry Mac-side. We were too relaxed to attempt this again.

So here's Mac, by himself. I don't have one of Pocket, which is unfortunate, because, well, uh, she's (my favorite).


Friday, September 10, 2010

Andrew Ross: The Celebration Chronicles

I quoted Andrew Ross the other day in a discussion of dog issues, but really, "The Celebration Chronicles" has nothing to do with dogs, and is only tangentially related to education issues. I just liked the quote. I do that sometimes- find that whatever I'm reading is related to whatever I'm thinking about, even if they're not related at all. I don't know if this is something many people do- see connections where they don't really exist- or if it's just the nature of how my brain works. I see patterns, whether they're there or not, and I like to collect things (see the currently on-vacation House Files blog and my current obsession, It's what I do.

So the point is, if you were expecting dog stuff, or educational theory, or anything related from this review, yeah, no. Basically, the Disney corporation built a town in Florida in the 90s called "Celebration." A whole town. Celebration was built on the basic principles town planning of "New Urbanism": "a mixed-housing, mixed-use, walkable town with small lots, interconnected streets, and an identifiable center and edge" (quote from Ross, read more at the website). Ross describes the original Celebration residents as pioneers in building a community, including in the civic sense. Disney quickly rescinded any visible and outward connections to the town, partially because of the shoddy work the contractors did building the homes, partially because of the negative press Celebration received, and partially because that was the plan all along. Many of the "pioneers" felt disillusioned about one thing or another in town, but it took some doing to get them to band together in a way that would cause them to give up their private organization (HOA) for some government interference.

Ross lived in Celebration for a year, and writes as both an outsider and a "pioneer." He doesn't have a child enrolled in the controversial school, but he volunteers there, and documents how, with Disney's backtracking on their financial backing of the school, along with the parents' panicking about the less-traditional successes of their children, the potential for greatness turns Celebration's school into just another public school in Central Florida. The book is interesting, but for me, the most important part, the spoiler, as it were, was sandwiched in the last third of the book. Disney invested in Celebration, had the town built, not for the money, not because they believed in New Urbanism, although Ross talks a lot about Walt Disney's various theories of future living (Epcot, etc). Disney built Celebration because it was a work-around for environmental legalities. They obtained a permit for Celebration that allowed them to get long-term development rights to the area which were a huge asset:
The "permit" in question was obtained through an environmental mitigation agreement on a massive scale, negotiated with the South Florida Water Management District and EPA head Carol Browner, at that time Florida's top environmental official. In the customary practice of bit trading, five acres of land would have to be preserved for each area of impact. Instead, the company did a wholesale swap. It purchased the entire 8,000-acre Walker Ranch in Osceola and turned it over to the Nature Conservancy to manage as the Disney Wilderness Preserve. In return, Disney won virtually blanket approval for twenty years of development rights on its landholdings. Given the likelihood of stiffer environmental policies down the road, this one-shot deal... was immensely lucrative for the company, and Celebration had been the critical card to play in winning approval.
This wasn't all. Disney also needed a whole bunch of new roads for a new theme park, but Disney doesn't reveal plans until they're about to open parks. They needed to change the traffic patterns of all of Central Florida, which required that they reveal all kinds of their plans to the government. In order to get around this problem, they used Celebration as bait to the various governmental agencies, as they were comfortable disclosing how many traffic trips they believed would be added.
The subsequent agreements were unprecedented for the federal highway system, which does not usually approve new interchanges until they are about to be built. Disney got approval for three new interstate interchanges, some of which would not be built for ten years. The entire city of Orlando had only six interchanges, and now Disney would have five of its own.
Disney pulled off a coup. Ross' book suggests that they pulled off lots of coups, and not just for the Pioneers of Celebration, but the local, state and federal government. The book is a rather dull book with lots of fascinating insights on cities, suburbs and exburbs, corporate and civil governance, and education.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Money Grows on Trees

No really, it does. Watch this piece of performance art. I found myself upset with the stereotypes that came up for me about what I thought would happen with the various people's reaction to the tree.

H/T to Laughing Squid.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Scraping the Plates- More on Letting Go

When I was writing this morning's post about worrisome dog behavior and troubled pets, I had my friend's cat in the back of my mind. Her cat had recently developed serious, terminal (what a terrible word) cancer. She came over the other night and T, J and I had a long talk about the "time." At this point, J was in the rational part of the brain about letting go- she didn't want her brave, tough, stubborn street cat to suffer. No one wants their pet to suffer, but J was particularly adamant- that was not Jack, and she didn't want it ever to be Jack. She was frustrated that she hadn't felt heard at the vet- she felt they wanted her to do more treatment and pain management and had sent her home with pain medication and antibiotics (she was at my house picking up the next round of them). She was questioning her choices and how she would know it was time. T and I had different feelings- I was kind of surprised by mine, actually. Talking it through was all T and I could offer- no one can tell you when is the right time.

After I wrote about letting go- very shortly afterwards, actually- I got the call from J. It was time. Jack was bleeding, and J couldn't poke him for his pain meds, not even one more time. I went over to her house and took her to the vet for a comfortable passing. J told Jack all of the things that she loved him for- never biting her, keeping the dogs in line, scaring the shit out of her on the nights he didn't come home. Rest in Peace, Jack.

The odd coincidence in this all (I once had a teacher who didn't believe in coincidences. I don't remember what she believed was going on at times where it seemed like coincidences- fate? actions of our own doings? But every time things like this happen, and I think that it's a a coincidence, I think of her and wonder. What *is* this?) came after writing my post on letting go which I decided to write without letting it sink in because I had a memorial today for my uncle. I went straight from the vet to the house he had shared for the last two years with my aunt and cousin. My uncle passed last week after having cancer for the last 6 months or so.

I write "having" because I can't really bring myself to write "a battle with" or "fighting" or any other trite word. I highly recommend the Atul Gawande article from a fairly recent New Yorker about hospice, death, and dying. My aunt, uncle, and cousin had chosen the hospice route towards the end of my uncle's life, and this choice seems appropriate for their situation (they shared much of it through a blog that they all participated in). I don't think he "fought" his situation so much as "lived" it. The family was very close- the three of them were/are an extremely tight knit group, in an enviable way. Words that kept getting mentioned today were "dedicated," "matched," "devoted." And not in a cheesy way. And someone read a letter from my aunt from 1996 about how she was in a good place- she had let go of his terribly terribly annoying habit of scraping his plate when he was done eating. It was a wonderfully poignant moment. At the end of sharing stories, my aunt read something she had written- she hadn't known her old letter would be written. She mentioned letting go of the small pieces, and remembering to "take your time," something her husband had always said to her.

My mom said to me, later, during the eating portion of the memorial- can you mourn without eating?- did you catch that about forgetting about scraping the plates? I said, oh, I was going to say that to you! It was the take home message- letting go. On my way out, I mentioned to my aunt that both of us had been moved by remembering to let go of the plate scraping. My aunt looked at me and said, you have to, or you could end up divorced.

You have to forgive, forget, move past, the plate scraping. The nights the cat doesn't come home. You have to take your time, and let go.

Rest in Peace, Zen Master Mort. Happy Trails, Jack the Cat.

jacques le chat

Warning Signs and Letting Go

The one sure thing I had grasped was not to expect to see immediate results from my teaching. The most valuable lessons are absorbed and utilized five or ten years down the road when students find themselves in circumstances where the insights make sense. Very little of this can be evaluated in the short term, and least of all by testing.
Andrew Ross, "The Celebration Chronicles"

I came across this quote this morning in Ross' "Celebration Chronicles" (review coming as soon as I finish the pretty good book) and it really hit home. We learn, we absorb, but it's not until we really hit a relevant circumstance that we truly understand. In my case, I spout the stuff I've learned, but I may not *really* get it. And for me, I didn't know this until I knew it. Yesterday, I learned a big lesson about something I've heard about for a long time but never seen in action.

There was a dog in our shelter who was the epitome of an overstimulated, crazed dog. I didn't know a thing about him, except what I could infer from his kennel card, his kennel presence, his "jewelry", and his appearance. His kennel card said he came in as an aggressive stray, and noted that he had a low intake score (hard for the officer who took him in to handle,) and noted that he had been tazed, meaning that the police originally brought him in. He was wearing a prong collar and harness, which meant that the animal control officer was unable to remove the prong collar- we try to remove any large hardware before kenneling, for the dog's safety. And the dog, a very large intact male pit bull (probably a mastiff mix by breeding and type, but definitely a pit bull type) was at the front of his cage when anyone opened the door to his row of kennels, barking, hitting the cage, hard staring at the person, sometimes snarling and showing all teeth. His hackles weren't up, his eyes were blown, he was full bore at the person in front of him. If I had to describe him, I would say "his arousal was through the roof."

This is something I've said a lot: that dog is aroused, the dog is over-aroused, he has arousal issues, etc. I've seen it in dogs- the blown eyes, unfocused look. I'm not having a lot of luck finding good links for people who haven't seen it, or to describe what I'm talking about. The best I can do is this short video:

The video isn't really what I want, as it's predatory arousal, but it shows it a little. The dog is entirely focused on the squirrel on the roof. She doesn't care about anything else, but it's not a "good" focus. The owner (in the blog post where the video comes from, it sounds like the video-er is the owner) attempts to make contact with the dog, and the dog flicks tongue a couple times and moves away- the dog is gone. All that matters is that squirrel. The predatory arousal is All That Matters- it's a chemical thing. I saw this when Mac attacked a dog. I thought I had written about it, but I can't find the post right now. When Mac attacked another dog, it was purely chemical- Mac was just Not There. Normally, even when he sees a C.A.T., he knows where I am. I can call him, and I can watch the wheels turning- do I want to go away from this really really awesome, tasty treat, for my person, or do I want to Hulk Out? When he went for the dog, he was not Mac. He was dog over the top, dog single mindedly on a task. Not a job, a chemical necessity.

The dog in the kennel yesterday was the same way. There was no dog there. Then his owners came. The details are not something I can share, but basically, they had asked to have the dog picked up after he had bitten a relative. They wanted to see what their next steps were. They wanted their dog back. My eyes widened, and I warned him that he was quite aggressive. On the way back, they described a sweet, typical, nanny-dog pit bull. They were pretty well-versed on the breed. And they were shocked when they saw their dog. His aggressive bark changed a bit when he saw them- it changed with some recognition, but it didn't stop. He didn't relax, he didn't put four feet on the floor. He just Kept Going. His eyes did not undilate. He mostly looked at me. Fast forward a few twists and turns and I opened the cage (fatal mistake) to let them remove the prong collar. When the owners went to shut the cage, the dog busted out. They went to put him back into the cage, and he attacked his owner. He bit and held onto his leg. When I got him off, with surprisingly little effort, he bit and held my boot. His owner choked him off using his harness, which I hadn't let him take off, and physically threw him back in the kennel. All recognition was gone. I was fine (yeah for combat boots!) but the dog's owner has some wounds on his leg.

This was the event that convinced them that they did not want the dog back in their home, with their small children.

I spoke to the owners for a long time. This had "never happened." The dog, previously had been a calm, mellow dog who loved the two small kids in the house. The only behavior they could pin point as remotely worrisome was some shyness with strangers. I believe that this arousal came recently. I don't know what caused it to show up, and I believe it had never been this bad. The owners had met the parents of the dog and said they were both chill dogs. The dog is about two, the other dog in the house just came out of heat, and there is a 12 year old dog in the house. The dog was separated from his mother and littermates at 5 weeks of age. The mitigating factors are all in place. I'm sure the kennel made it worse- being confined, being surrounded by other dogs, etc. But I'm also sure this didn't just happen. They were beating themselves up for missing any warning signs. But I tried to convince them that they had just seen the warning sign- before they brought the dog home, and made the correct choice not bringing the dog home. (Although I feel terrible letting the dad remove the collar from the dog, I had permission from my boss, and he didn't believe anything would happen. Before that final incident occurred, he wanted to go home and consult with more family members.)

Letting go is hard. It's easy to be blinded by love for a pet. I know I am. It's also easy to tell other people what decisions to make. You need to euthanize your dog, your dog is going to be a headline, your dog is fine, your dog is sick, etc. In the end, only you can make this choice about your dog. Only you can suffer the consequences, pit bull owner or not. Pit bull community's stridencies aside, this family is the one mourning their dog. Fortunately, although the dog's mom said she always believed that there were "only bad owners, no bad dogs," I told her that she WAS a good owner for surrendering her dog before anything else happened. Her dog wasn't bad, he had serious problems.

That dog brought home lessons I've always known. About the dog who is just "wired wrong." About people who know better making decisions. Not right or wrong decisions, just decisions. I can't let Mac go yet. I may have to further limit his life, to keep the public safe as he gets older and even crankier, but I, too, am blinded.

Friday, September 03, 2010

More Words to Live By

Sometimes I have to remind myself stuff. To be tuff. To hang in there. A photo is worth a bajillion words. Even a photo that includes words.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Katrina Anniversary

Bicycling into the heart of the flood: A Hurricane Katrina remembrance