For the Children

Those of you catching my blog for the first time will soon learn what those who’ve been around awhile already do:  I am obsessed with animal advocacy.  This ISN’T what I’m going to write about today, though.  Not exactly.

I’ve mentioned previously the circumstances surrounding my divorce, and that those circumstances centered around my stepson’s abuse by his biological father.  The trauma and emotions and everything just destroyed my family. The divorce may have happened anyway, but the abuse and accompanying trauma was the trigger.

So, how does this tie into my affair with animal advocacy?  Well, I’d gotten a dog as a way of moving on and into another chapter of my life, and the more I loved my dog (and who couldn’t), the more I felt the need to be involved with animal rights.  It occupies a great deal of my free time, but I love it, I love doing it, I love being part of positive change.  I love knowing that I may contribute to the success of any given campaign.

But I often imagine my ex-wife asking me, “Why do you do all of this for animals, and you’ve never done anything for abused children, for children’s rights?”  I often ask this of myself in my own voice, let alone hers.  I feel guilty for not doing it.  Shouldn’t this be a topic even closer to my heart?

I’ve seen what abuse can do to a child’s life.  My stepson’s reality became daily and nightly rages that would require restraining him most days, for he couldn’t get himself under control and he was a danger to himself and everyone around.  He was diagnosed as having dissociative flashbacks as the cause of these rages, and obviously these are not remotely anything a 7-year-old can handle.  He usually couldn’t make it to bed without incident.  He couldn’t even make it to school a lot of the time.

By his 9th birthday, he was living in therapeutic homes and hospitals for children in such situations.  By that point, my wife and I had already separated.  We were back together, and then not, while he lived in several such homes for the next 3 years.  Having lived all of this and seen it happen to the child I tried to raise as my own, shouldn’t this be a cause I’d more eagerly join?

He still has the rages.  Anything can trigger them.  I don’t get reports from his mother as to how he’s doing most of the time, and frankly, I really can’t stand having to deal with her anyway.  My stepson himself isn’t going to volunteer the bad things that have gone on in my absence.  I still see him every couple of months, but I’m almost more of an uncle in a way at this point.  But when I DO get the news of incidents he’s having, I die inside.  He’s 13 now; He’s already lost his childhood, and now his adolescence is jeopardized.  I don’t know how to handle that, how to accept it.  It’s a crippling feeling.

I think this is why I don’t get involved in children’s advocacy, especially that for abused children.  It might be too close to home.  I see so many things daily on the internet doing animal stuff, like dogs being tied up and thrown outside to freeze to death.  Puppies who’ve had their eyes gouged out and then shot with BBs.  These things make me want to curl up and give up so much of the time.  There’s so much wrong, so much evil in the world strictly dealing with animals.  It’s hard to go on sometimes.  I don’t know if I can do this same thing and hear the stories of what’s happening to kids out there.  I already know so much of it.  Maybe it’s partially because MY OWN trauma is tied up in these things.  I don’t think I can handle seeing what I’ve seen happen to animals happening to children, but I still beat myself about not being involved.

I can only thank whatever powers might be, mankind generated and/or higher, that there are people out there who deal with those things daily.  Some of those folks are and have been involved in my stepson’s life.  There are so many programs out there that you wouldn’t know existed.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to stomach doing it myself; I hope it doesn’t make me a bad person that I’m not involved at present.  But for now, all I can do about it is what I did back then: cry.

      

In Better Times

2012, My Personal Apocalypse: “May You Live In Interesting Times”

I wanted my blog to consist of thoughtful things, things which might engage potential readers, and to NOT be a bunch of updates on my life.  I have FaceCrook for that.  I didn’t want my page to be a bunch of diary entries, essentially.  But I haven’t had any topic ideas, and it’s been 11 days since my last post (I think).

It is said there’s an ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”.  The phrase is allegedly NOT Chinese, nor ancient, but it proves an amusing curse nonetheless.  And I find myself in interesting times.  As I wrote about in my post “A Week of Friday the 13ths”, I began the year with some unexpected veterinary issues (with accompanying bills) after a clean semi-annual checkup of my dog on January 4th.  This all has come to $139 I didn’t expect to spend (on top of the $132 I’d just paid for the blood work, stool and urine samples, and office visit for the clean checkup).  The worst part of it , though, is Furgii having the seizures and needing to go back on the Phenobarbital.  The money is nothing compared to concerns for her health.

Then, on the 25th, I noticed that my email account was sending some strange emails to every email address of which there were records, even if they weren’t in my address book.  I figured it out when the Mailer Daemon sent me notices that my messages to Shop.NFL.com and some other addresses were undeliverable.  This had been going on for 5 days.  When I looked into my “sent” folder, the outgoing messages consisted of what sounded like Biblical passages followed by some kind of coding.  I had to get a new email account, and I changed every user name and password for everything I do on the computer.

Today, I found upon checking my bank account (which I do fairly regularly to double check my math) that a charge of $45.51 to a merchant (WMV*Match.com) is awaiting clearance.  I naturally thought of the dating site, Match.com, to which I have never gone or used.  I called my bank, and was informed that I can dispute the charge once it clears, which will likely be tomorrow.  I had to cancel my debit card and will have to wait for a new one to arrive via mail.  In hindsight, I maybe should have gone to an ATM to get some cash before canceling the old one, because I now have no access to money.  I do have enough food in the house, so I’m not that stuck.  It’s just inconvenient.  I wanted to cancel immediately so no other charges could be made by the villain.  After getting off the phone with the bank, I googled the address, and there has been a string of credit card fraud of varying purchase amounts all made to this “merchant”.  I happen to joyously be one of the latest victims.

Not a good start to my year, to say the least.  It’s funny because just a few days ago, I was telling a co-worker that I have always been a generally unlucky person.  I have had luck kick in when I needed it most, but otherwise, mine has been dreadful.

For example, I should have failed my senior year of high school, most notably because of my history class.  I can only conclude to this day that my teacher passed me because he liked me.  I never did the homework, I never paid attention, and my tests had to be abysmal.  But I used to talk to the teacher about music all the time after class.  I simply couldn’t have earned a passing grade based on anything of a scholastic nature.  It’s unfathomable., but luck allowed me to graduate.

My wife and I found out after moving to Rhode Island that my stepson’s father was abusing him.  Very unlucky thing to have happen (most so for my stepson).  But we found out just before we were up there 6 months.  After that time, my stepson would have been a resident of that state rather than New Jersey, where he was born, and the original custody agreement that my wife was his guardian, with visitation rights by his father, would have been nullified.  Once back in Jersey, we retained the original custody order and could pursue the eventual restraining order against his father.  This was the only lucky thing in the situation, but we got the information we needed in the literal nick of time.  March 1st of 2006 would have been the deadline, and my wife and stepson made a run out of town on February 27th (when we found out about the deadline) and enrolled him in school in Jersey on the 28th.  Nick of time.

Wy wife left me, twice, in the years that followed, but the one lucky thing for me there is that I’m no longer embroiled in the drama that has befallen my former family since then.  This is an awful thing to say and think, but I know I would have been destroyed if she hadn’t left me.  Nick of time (though the scars remain).

My first dog, which I’d gotten to help me move on from that situation, came with chronic health issues that were hidden from me by a completely irresponsible and negligent foster home.  I had the dog 5 weeks before I was able to get someone else to take him.  I could not as a single person care for the dog’s needs.  But he and I were a nearly perfectly compatible match of personalities.  It’s still heartbreaking.  My”nick of time” luck there might have transferred to poor Chance.  If I hadn’t adopted him, the foster home probably would have killed him through negligence, and the home that has him now was finally able to get the proper diagnosis for a dog that has many years to go still.  My 5-week role in his life literally did SAVE it.

I got my current dog to replace him.  She had 2 seizures in my first 2 weeks with her.  The foster home that had her had not witnessed any.  I covered this also in a previous blog post, but I DO NOT in any way blame that foster situation.  It was a young couple that worked and had social lives, and if the seizures had occurred, they hadn’t noticed them. They weren’t even part of the rescue.  They just found her and agreed to foster if the rescue paid the bills.  I truly believe them, and still correspond with them sometimes.

But at this point, my abused stepson, the woman who dumped me twice (and hooked up with someone in one of her outpatient step-down programs after she went bonkers), the two dogs’ health issues….God surely hated me.  In fact, I wondered if Furgii had never had seizures UNTIL she came here, because I’d given my bad luck to her.

And last year, I had a very bad year at work.  I had let so many of the negative issues in my life effect how I was behaving on a day-to-day basis.  I’m deeply ashamed of my conduct during the middle stretch of 2011.  I am very lucky that I was given a chance to turn myself around and was not disciplined or punished in any way, though I should have been.  I was fortunate to “see the light” before it was too late.  Nick of time.  I was looking forward to a good 2012.

And now all of this email nonsense and financial b.s. happens.  I seem to have caught both in the….well, you know.  But It’s maddening that I have to go through this shit.  I know my problems are greatly outweighed by the problems some others have, I do.  But still.

Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls”.  Well, THIS MAN wants to TRY to put the SOULS of his shoes up the ass of THESE TIMES.

“And I Say to Myself….’What a Wonderful World’….”

Previous entries of mine have talked about the evil in the world, mostly that inflicted on animals, and I am in no way doing an about-face regarding that.  There are so many disgusting and disheartening things to be seen daily.  But today, I want to do something else.  Yes, there are those things that are born in the darkest corners of the human mind, but there are amazing, beautiful, wondrous things, too.

There IS love out there, the love of people to make a CHANGE, and even to BE changed whether they want to or not.  I have been doing what I can to change the injustices out there, and I am but the metaphoric grain of sand in the movements I have joined.

I read an article today by someone who fostered animals, including dogs, but never considered herself a dog person until her family fostered, then adopted an aging pit bull, and helped him to live the rest of his years with dignity.  I also saw a PSA featuring a player on the St. Louis Rams football team for pet adoption.  I signed a petition for the protection of wild buffalo and other creatures.

But it’s not just about animals.  A friend of mine supports Somali Mam Foundation, an organization that’s fighting to stop human slave trafficking.  There are movements to protect children.  There are movements to save the environment.  Speaking of which, I received an email today that a bunch of jungle land that was going to be destroyed to make paper plates was saved, as per a petition I had previously signed.

There is darkness, but there is also light.

There are still individuals that care, saving farmland, saving the underprivileged, saving animals, saving the subjugated.  There are the people that even FIND OUT about these troubles in the first place, and act to CREATE the petitions I and others are signing, and making sure it’s all sent where it needs to go.  THAT can only be called LOVE.

It’s still here in this world, though it faces many obstacles.  But instead of focusing on those obstacles, today I want to focus on and be grateful for the people tearing them down.  Because I want to express what they’ve been expressing:  LOVE.

Somaly Mam Foundation

Becoming a Dog Person, article about the aging pit bull

HOMEGAME with PSA, PSA for pet adoption

(Look, I figured out how to install links!)

The Ghost in the Machine

I have been posting for a few months now, and this is my 25th post (a milestone!).  What I want to say here today is how in awe I am that I’ve been able to reach readers.  It started with friends in one of my writers’ groups at a meeting about beginning/promoting/streamlining blogs.  I have since somehow magically gained readers, or at a minimum written posts that at least one of which landed on someone else’s computer screen, and they liked it enough to click “like”, to comment (nicely), and/or to even subscribe.

I thank all of you that have enjoyed what I’m doing and especially those that follow regularly.

I’m still very new to this, and very new to computers in general by comparison to most suburban Americans.  I’m definitely NOT a tech-savvy person.  I’m amazed that the wizardry of these computers and the internet has allowed me this “voice”, and for the digital ears to “listen” to it.  I’m grateful for that, grateful for the spirit in these electrodes and wires and satellite beams that lets us reach out to each other this way.         (Reaching Out)>>

But I’m most grateful for those that support what I’m doing via that spirit by liking and continuing to be open to what I have to say.  I most humbly appreciate that and thank you all.  Peace, love and light to you all, as my friend Jacquie would say.

Revolution # K-9

I was talking with members of one of my writers’ groups during a meetup based on blogs.  Somewhere along the line, I got to talking about dogs, and it was suggested I write about dogs for my next blog post (thanks, Marie!).  This was a great idea, especially since I had earlier mentioned having a hard time coming up with topics upon which to write.

Doing all of the advocacy I do for animals, I know I shouldn’t probably have favorites, but I can’t help it; I’m a dog person.  As far as I can recall, I always have been.  I can’t relate to cats (and I’m allergic to them anyway), but the way dogs show they love and need your companionship, return all that back to you, are so expressive, and have such loyalty draws me in.  I am an extremely loyal person myself (to a fault), and I’ve been hurt by that fact in my life, most recently by my ex-wife (but we don’t need to go there).  Of course I highly regard what is arguably the most loyal creature on the planet.  I advocate for cats as well, but my heart is with canis familiaris.

The conversation I was having during my meetup centered around what we, as people, have done to make dogs the creatures we know.  At no point did golden retrievers and chihuahuas occur in the wild.  We made these breeds over approximately 15,000 years as man domesticated wolves, or wolves entered into a partnership with us.  The theory is that wolves got closer and closer to our ancestors’ encampments to feed off our scraps, perhaps gain warmth near our fires, and our ancestors saw the benefit in having protectors and mobile “alarm systems” hanging around.  Domestication was inevitable.

Why don’t the majority of today’s breeds resemble wolves?  I refer to an article I read in National Geographic (Taming the Wild, March 2011) which covered the story of a Russian geneticist doing research on foxes in the 60’s.  The most fierce and volatile-tempered of the foxes were bred with ones of similar temperament, and the most docile were bred with other docile ones.  There were also control groups bred from mixed temperaments.

After 9 generations (9 years), the ones bred strictly from volatiles were nasty little demons, but the ones bred from only docile parents began to develop patterned coats (the original generation’s just being grey), and had their ears stay droopy longer before standing upright as adult fox ears do.  They would also wag their tails and lick the geneticists’ faces.  By the 13th generation (13 years), they had tails which curled upwards upon seeing humans.  Still later generations of the foxes would include red and chestnut colored fur.

People react to puppy dog eyes and floppy ears, and pretty much every breed of puppy dog has ears and eyes that do that.   People also respond to different colors and patterns and curly tails.  The hypothesis?  It’s an evolutionary trait that developed to make us go “Oooh and Aaahhh” when we see them, and we want to take in these adorable little furballs.  So the foxes started retaining their droopy ears longer and developing different patterns, and sometimes more vibrant colors.

They even started whining when the handlers came by their cages while the aggressive ones snarled and threatened menacingly.  Some “nice ones” would even jump up into the humans’ arms.  All within 15 generations, or 15 years of selective breeding.

So, different traits would change with wolves as they became more and more domesticated, and as different jobs were created for them, such as guarding, herding, or hunting.  Then we cross-bred different emerging subclasses with others to get newer combinations of appearance, size, personality, and function.

My own dog is believed to be a rat terrier/miniature pinscher mix.  Both breeds were designed to be vermin hunters, and are smaller in stature, but possessing a very strong prey drive.  The miniature pinscher was created by mixing the German pinscher with the Italian greyhound and dachshund in all probability, and the rat terrier was likely created by mixing various terrier breeds.  So my Furgii is an amalgamation of generations of specifically designed breeding for specific purposes.

The downside to all of this is that so many of us want “purebred” dogs, such as the different retriever breeds or Yorkshire terriers or mastiffs.  But breeding “like with like” too closely will eventually cause a degradation of the health of the breed if genetic lines are bred with themselves.  The fact is that most breeders in the world are not of the careful or responsible kind, and are just mass producing dogs for a bottom line return.  They don’t remove unhealthy ones from the breeding lines.  Hence we have breeds that are likely to have ailments such as hip dysplasia, cataracts, heart conditions, patellar problems, and so on.

It’s just like human genetics.  Those of Jewish decent are at risk for Tae-Sacs, and African Americans for sickle cell anemia, while the child of a half Caucasian/half African American parent and half Latino/half Asian parent will have a significantly greater chance of being healthy, and would probably have phenomenal skin, too.  It’s the same for dogs (and other creatures, of course).  A mutt can still have been bred from poor genetic stock along the way, but mathematically should have the best chances of escaping these unwanted traits by dilution.

Wild animals, by the way, generally seem to know not to mate incestuously for these reasons.  It’s evolutionary survival not to to do so.  But long story, short, this is how we got dogs from wolves.

Now, I ultimately don’t know where my long-since-descended-from-wolves rat terrier/min pin (rat pin?) Furgii came from, who bred her, or why.  She was found wandering around North Carolina and was in a rescue for 6 months before I adopted her.  What I CAN tell you is that there’s nothing you could offer me which I would accept in trade for her.  Nothing.

And that takes me to the point I really want to make:  You could go to a breeder, even a reputable one, to get the breed of your dreams or even, as many people want, the puppy of your dreams.  But there are so many dogs that are being killed in shelters every damn day because no one wants them.  They were abandoned; they got lost; they “no longer fit into the family’s plans”; they were dumped at the shelter after getting chewed up as a bait dog in a dog fighting ring.  Some of these dogs just need a new family, are just victims of circumstance, and some need to receive love for the first time in their lives.  They’re out there waiting.  Waiting for someone who wants a dog, like you.  So please, if you’re looking for a dog, check the shelters, check the rescues.  As the slogan says, “Rescued is MY favorite breed”.

And Still More Advocacy–(Notice a Theme?)–vs. Diet

I’m obviously kind of gangbusters with animal rights issues if you know me or have read previous posts of mine.  One of the major issues I have WITH MYSELF and all of the stuff I do online for animal rights and such is the fact that I DO eat meat.  Go on, call it hypocrisy, call me full of shit, call me what you like.  You’d likely be right, and I’m telling you now that I have a hard time dealing with my diet when it comes to my conscience.

I even tried going vegetarian two years ago.  I still ate seafood a few times per week, because I was worried that my system would go into shock after over 35 years of just eating meat, bread, and ice cream.  I thought cutting that type of protein out of my life “cold turkey”, if you’ll pardon the phrase, would be harmful to me.  So seafood stayed, with plans to phase it out over time.

I was sick for the entire 5 month period.  I ate salads and other mostly raw vegetables, ate less junk food, should have been healthier than ever before in my life.  But I was weak, tired, ill-feeling, and had cold-like symptoms.  I spoke to 2 full-on vegans I worked with about it. Their responses?  “Oh, yeah, I was sick for 2 whole years when I gave up meat.”  I was like, “There’s no way in Hell I’m going to feel like this for two years….”

I went back to eating meat, and within 2 weeks, I felt like myself.  I know it would be easy to say that this was all some self-fulfilling prophesy, that I really wanted to eat meat, wanted to believe I needed it, and so therefor I got what I wanted.  Not so.  I really wanted to make this change and was convinced I was doing the right thing, “becoming an enlightened person”.  I later heard something that people with different blood types require different food types (makes sense, really), and that O blood types require proteins from meat.  I am an O Positive blood type.  Again, I want to stress that this was a revelation that came AFTER I’d already conceded defeat on the vegetarian diet.

Doing the things I do for animal rights and such, it still eats at my conscience (pardon the use of that phrase, too).  I see a lot of things about how food animals are raised and treated.  Today I saw a video showing the abuse of chickens by throwing them around, merciless beatings of pigs while they squealed in pain, and cows watching while other cows are hoisted up, thrown onto a table and having their throats cut by hand.  The camera closed in on the cow’s eye rolling back while its life left its body.  Within the last week I saw a film of a camel that was forced to the ground and had its knees tied into a permanent kneel to hobble it, and then had a guy go forth and repeatedly stab it in the chest.

I’m sorry to drop all of these images on you, but this is, well, what it is.  I have given up the eating of pork and lamb, because I’ve seen video and heard stories of both animals being kept as domestic pets.  I’ve seen film of pigs and lamb reacting in such cases in ways very similar to my beloved canine species.  Since they can be companion animals on that level, I can no longer justify myself consuming them.  So I’m down to chicken and beef.

Today I actually had a vegan egg and sausage sandwich for lunch; the doorway is still open for change.  Perhaps I will one day make another run at changing what it is on which I subsist, or at least diminish the amount of animal product I consume if not entirely cut it out of my diet.

A Week of Friday the 13ths….

Last Wednesday, January 4, I took my little Furgii to get her semi-annual checkup.  She passed her physical examination, and all of her blood work and other bodily function samples came back negative.  This, of course, was simply awesome.

But then came this week.

On Sunday, the 8th, I came home from work to hear Furg making noises that were “snorty”, like she was having trouble breathing.  Someone came up with the description of a “reverse sneeze”, and it’s as good a description as any I could come up with for it.  She wasn’t doing it all the time, but fairly often.

She also tends to wake up in the night and move around a lot.  At one point that night, she had gotten up, resettled, and was shaking.  Shortly after that, she got off the bed and went to a corner of the room to lay down.  She has a dog bed in the bedroom, but that’s not where she chose to go.  She went to the other side of the room, to an area she doesn’t generally go.  That really freaked me out, because my Mother’s poodle died when I was growing up, and the dog had never been in the dining room unless he was passing through to another area of the house.  He never stayed in the dining room.  When the poodle died (of old age), he went to the dining room to do it, like he had pre-designated that area for that purpose and avoided it until the time came.  This is what I thought of when Furgii went to that corner.

I called out of work Monday, and took her to the vet.  After listening to her lungs, trachea, and nasal passages, the exam yielded nothing out of the ordinary.  I was told to give her some Benadryl for 3 days to see if it was an allergy causing this.  I had vacuumed up the apartment (which I admittedly hadn’t done in a bit through the holiday chaos period) in case it was from dust.  I also cleaned the tub in case there was some kind of mildew that wasn’t visible causing this(ditto).  By Wednesday, the 11th, she was dry heaving, but not doing the snort thing, and Thursday yielded an end to the hacking but instead a persistent dry, guttural cough was the symptom of the day.  We returned to the vet.

After all airways and lungs still showed nothing abnormal, it was theorized that it may just be Kennel Cough, which could go away on its own, but it could also be from some form of infection, so The Furg’s now on an antibiotic for 10 days.  One day seems to be making a huge difference.  There was some coughing this morning before I went to work, but almost nothing since coming home.  That, and her energy had returned; during the week, the usually always-ready-to-play Furgii was very subdued.  She would start to play on instinct and then quit, with her tail making curious poses rather than curled upward and over her back like normal.

But then the worst of it came.  I wrote in an earlier post of the seizures she experienced in my first 2 weeks with her but that the foster home had not seen, as well as the theories on what may have caused them.  Around 3:30, I looked from my computer to see her in the midst of another one.  I had weened her off the phenobarbital as of October 29th, and there was no recurrence of seizures or evidence of any such events happening in my absence.  But there she was, having the 3rd I’m aware of and first since those first 2 weeks a year and a half ago.

I took video of it on my phone, and got 4 minutes of footage before she returned to normal, and I started shooting about a minute after I’d noticed the seizure.  Thus it was at least 5 minutes long, her previous ones being 15-20 minutes each.  From the point I had recognized what was happening, she was definitely seeing her environment and could move her head (the previous 2 events, she was completely locked except for a Stevie Wonder-like swaying).  She tried to get up, and her left paw was locked initially before she moved a foot or so and laid down again.  That was when I started filming.  After the 5 minutes, it was over, and my Furgii was back, as if nothing had happened.

I had hoped that this was all behind her, and I hate having to put her back on that medicine.  It definitely changed who she is as a dog, I believe.  But I took my risk with her health by seeing if she could do without it, and I lost that gamble.  I’m so grateful she doesn’t seem to have paid for it long-term.

So, the whole week leading into Friday the 13th was bad enough, but today, Friday, was naturally the worst.