Monday, February 27, 2012

My rescue habit: can I give it up for Lent… and beyond?

If rescuing her is wrong, do I want to be right?
For those of Greek Orthodox faith or inclinations, Lent begins today.

“It is a time of self-examination and preparation,” according to the Reverend Father George Mastrantonis, posting on a Greek Orthodox Diocese of America website, “and of taking an inventory of one's inner life.”

Traditionally, Lent is a time of fasting, of giving up foods containing animal products, and of learning to get along without something you thought was necessary.

As a vegan, I never eat animals or things that come from them, so I decided to find something else to shed during my Lenten “self-examination and preparation.”

The sacrifice

For Lent 2012, I hereby give up NOT writing.

Yes, you read that right.  I’m giving up the silly habit of not writing—writing being one of the things in the world I love best, and also being the only thing I’m halfway decent at doing, which, therefore, could be interpreted as being the thing I’m supposed to be doing, whether by divine decree or simply by virtue of how I'm wired.

What does all this have to do with dogs, who are presumably the focus of The Dozen Dog Diaries?

Dogs have kept me from writing. 

Kali soon after I found her, starving so that all her ribs and vertebrae showed, and limping
The urge to rescue grows

Sometimes dogs provoke me to write. In fact, every single day, the thought of everything that dogs and other nonhuman animals suffer in this world sets me ablaze with the need to learn and write about them and about those issues.  

But sometimes, when I come face to snout with dogs in trouble, efforts to get them out of trouble bite off sizeable chunks of my time, so that when all is said and done each day, I can barely keep my eyes open or even think straight enough to write.

Even worse, loving dogs and other animals as dearly as many of us do can grow like ivy, so that one day you’re no longer able stop at loving and saving dogs or cats or pigs or chickens or monkeys or mice or birds or bees or dolphins or sharks or sea anemones or banana slugs, but find yourself loving and saving members of the absolute last species with whom you ever expected to get yourself mixed up.

The ones who can be a massive, royal pain to love, not to mention to save.

The ones who can muck up your life a heck of a lot worse than all of the others piled together.

You know very well who I’m talking about. Chances are you’ve gotten mixed up with loving and saving a few of them yourself.

It might have been your boyfriend or girlfriend or sibling or parent or cousin or aunt or your schoolmate or just some sad shredded scrap of a person you met somewhere. You stitched them back together and stuffed them with your most tender love and care. Then maybe they got so full and feisty that they gave you the old heave-ho. (At which point you proudly dusted off your hands and happily waved adieu. Right? Let’s hope.)

Meanwhile, just like ivy can strangle a tree, a rescue habit can grab you by your empathetic little neck and refuse to let go.

Tree-choking ivy
Saving ourselves

As beautiful as ivies might be—and they all are, both literally and figuratively; what can be more beautiful, in theory, than the compulsion to help someone in need?—sometimes, in order to keep on breathing, we have to peel them off.

It’s painstaking work, ivies being the tenacious things they are. You might have to go leaf leaf by leaf, tendril by tendril. Get out an axe for the thicker stalks.

But can you hack them off without losing parts of yourself? Your loving and caring parts?

Lent is as good a time as any for giving this a try. It’s a time to test yourself, to improve, to purify, and to question habits that have become a part of you, for better or for worse.

Some parts of a rescue fetish are for the better. Other parts are for the worse.

Maybe that’s the trick here. To figure out which are the worse parts of a potentially self-destructive habit or predilection, prune them away, and leave the better parts to spread and flourish, stronger than ever.

Wish me luck. If I can manage to keep my Lenten vow, you’ll see more frequent posts here.

Most important, thanks for reading. If anything’s going to help me keep that vow, compulsive overhelper that I am, it’s the notion that others might face similar problems, and that my posts might be of use.

Candles in a church on the island of Paros

COPYRIGHT 2012 -  Please feel free to spread the links to these articles, but reprint or re-post of the photos, or of anything more than a paragraph or two of the text is allowable only by explicit permission from the author, who may be contacted at youradopteddogATyahooDOTcom. Thanks for visiting!

Should Iowa school allow kids to chase Gracie the 'comfort dog’? Do NOT try this at home (opinion)

Our foster pooch Kali loves kids, but would she tolerate being chased by a mob of them? We'd never ask her to.
Gracie, a golden retriever who works as a “comfort dog” for young students in an Iowa school, looks like about the mildest-mannered pooch you’ll ever see. But watching a CNN video of a dozen or more of those children chasing her around a gymnasium made my hair stand on end.

To me Gracie seemed a bit unsure about the romp at Trinity Lutheran Church and School, licking her lips and glancing around a little nervously. On the other hand, for all I know she might have been thoroughly enjoying herself. Yet a few questions troubled me.

Before I get to that list, I'll say that if you ask me, every school should have a comfort dog, not only to help students cope with disappointments and frustrations, as does Gracie, according to the CNN report. I’d love to see it go a step further, so that dogs assist in all youngsters’ humane education, teaching the importance of proper respect and care for our fellow earthlings.

Even better, wouldn’t it be something if such comfort dogs could be formerly homeless pooches who were carefully and lovingly selected, adopted, and nurtured for that work?

In any case, the Trinity school, as well as Lutheran Church Charities (LCC), which runs the K-9 Parish Comfort Dog program, deserve commendation for their innovative service that provides canine companions to enrich students’ and parishioners’ lives.

“A dog is a friend who brings a calming influence,” states the program’s Facebook page, “allowing people to open up their hearts and receive help for what is affecting them.”


Now for my questions:

- Is there a responsible adult nearby at all times to make sure the kids, who are understandably high-energy, don’t intimidate or jostle Gracie during those chases and other activities?

- Is someone on hand to ensure the kids never overburden or crowd Gracie with unwelcome attention?

- Does Gracie get plenty of “down” time away from her duties?

- Do the adults as well as the children keep in mind that Gracie is neither a toy nor a tool, but a sensitive and intelligent individual with needs and rights of her own?

- Most troubling, will the CNN video indicate to millions of viewers that it’s perfectly fine to let a bunch of kids chase a dog? Will this scene be repeated in homes where the dogs turn out to be less mellow than Gracie? Will it lead to unpleasant or even disastrous encounters?

Asking too much of dogs?

A dog who is easy-going and tolerant of attention from folks of all ages throughout his life can suddenly change if he’s placed in a situation he perceives as threatening—for example being chased by several shrieking humans. Something like that might be too much to ask, and his reaction might be to defend himself.

Images that flash into my head are maulings for the kids, which of course would be followed by the dog paying the highest price, as dogs usually do in such cases—impoundment and a death sentence.

Go ahead, call me a worrywart. I know I’m borrowing trouble. But I’ve seen a few too many of the tragic results of humans failing to respect other animals’ reasonable limits.

All that said, I reiterate kudos to the Trinity school, to LCC, and most of all to Gracie herself, for being such a great sport and giving abundant love and solace to “her” kids.

She’s a better gal than me, that’s for sure. If I were in her paws, one chase like that and I’d be done. I’d stop running, whip around, and snap snap snap. Then there'd be stitches for my pursuers and courtesy accommodations at the local animal shelter for grumpy me.

More power to ya, sweet Gracie, for putting up with us humans.

Now you’ve heard my opinion on this question. What’s yours? Courteous comments are always welcome.

COPYRIGHT 2012 -  Please feel free to spread the links to these articles, but reprint or re-post of the photos, or of anything more than a paragraph or two of the text is allowable only by explicit permission from the author, who may be contacted at youradopteddogATyahooDOTcom. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Death Row dog finds a home

Ginger looks worried in this photo but is probably all smiles now

 (Photo: Henry County Animal Control Shelter)

On Valentine’s Day the news came from Betsy at the Henry County Animal Control shelter in Georgia:  Ginger was adopted!

Betsy deserves a paws up and canine kisses for this success story. Her heart broke when Ginger, a “fat, middle-aged,” sweet-tempered Labrador mix, was brought into the shelter because her owner had gone to jail. (See previous article.)

Through no crime of her own, Ginger was essentially “jailed as well,” as Betsy put it.

Typically, chances are miniscule for an older, relatively nondescript dog like Ginger to find a new home. Chances are a lot higher that they’ll end their days at a kill shelter. But Betsy took the extra time to network Ginger through her contacts and through the Internet, and somehow worked a miracle.

I hope to get more details about Ginger’s lucky adoption and new life.

Meanwhile, big kudos to Betsy and to Ginger’s new forever family.

Learning that Ginger had been sprung from the slammer was one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts I’ve ever received.

COPYRIGHT 2012 -  Please feel free to spread the links to these articles, but reprint or re-post of anything more than a paragraph or two of text is allowable only by explicit permission from the author, who may be contacted at Thank you!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ginger’s ‘dad’ went to jail - now she's on Death Row

Ginger, doing the time for someone else's crime.
(Photo: Henry County Animal Control Shelter)
Every time our father went to prison—four different stints over a couple of decades, or maybe more; I lost count—my siblings and I were lucky to have a loving mother and grandparents to care for us.

Ginger is not so lucky. When her owner got evicted from his home and then arrested, the easy-going Labrador retriever mix ended up at the local animal shelter.

Or, as it says on her Henry County Animal Control Shelter profile, “Her owner was evicted and then jailed, so Ginger is also a victim of his situation. They were put out and he was taken to jail, so she came to us, jailed as well.”

On Death Row

Ever since I saw her photo on Facebook earlier this week, I haven’t stopped thinking about Ginger. Maybe it’s because my own father was in prison for so much of my youth, and I remember too well the hardships it created. Or maybe it’s because of the look of bewilderment and sorrow on her face, expressing the same pain carried by many children whose parents are or have been incarcerated. We number more than 10 million in the U.S. alone, by many estimates.

Another reason I keep thinking about Ginger is that she reminds me a bit of Derby, an angelic brown beauty my husband and I adopted from a Chesapeake Bay retriever rescue group in Napa Valley years ago, after her former owner had gone to jail too.

“We held her as a special circumstance,” Ginger’s profile reads, “but a family member has let us know her owner is not getting out. So here she sits, possibly facing the end of her life [in a kill shelter], alone and confused.”

'Amazing' girl

“LOVE this girl,” her profile continues. “She is so amazing. Must come meet her! You will not leave without her!”

Via email I asked Becky at the Henry County shelter in McDonough, Georgia what makes Ginger so amazing.

“She is a VERY sweet girl,” Becky replied. “A big couch potato—a fat, spayed, middle-aged house dog. Needs someone to love her for the rest of her life.  It is very heartbreaking to watch her languish here. We’ve held Ginger for a few weeks hoping a family member would come but none have. So I listed her on the net for adoption.”

Ginger sounds like the kind of mellow, pleasant companion who could fit into just about any home with a minimum of fuss. It’s hard to go wrong adopting a middle-aged dog. They’re a ton less work than puppies or teenage pooches, who can easily drive you up the wall. Yet you still have a lot of great years ahead to enjoy with a middle-ager.

Regardless of what Ginger’s ‘dad’ might have done to end up in the slammer, sweet Ginger certainly doesn’t deserve to be imprisoned too.

Can you help spring this innocent jailbird?

Please consider adopting Ginger, and/or spread the link to this article.

To help sponsor Ginger with a donation, visit her ChipInpage.

For more info about her contact:

Tel. 770-288-PETS (7387)

Please use Ginger’s ID number when inquiring about her: ID# 1/9-4704


COPYRIGHT 2012 -  Please feel free to spread the links to these articles, but reprint or re-post of anything more than a paragraph or two of text is allowable only by explicit permission from the author, who may be contacted at Thank you!