Sunday, August 26, 2012

Letter to an Anonymous Animal Rights Activist

Today was National Dog Day and Elise and I celebrated by taking Miles (pictured here) on a long hike in the woods. All of the dogs here at the Ranch always get daily free runs and treats after their meals, but I try to do a little extra something with each of them every day - especially during the time of year when we aren't training regularly.

Sadly,  for the first time in the kennel's history, I also sold three dogs this weekend.

Mind you, this is the first time in seven years of being involved in this sport that I have decided to part with an adult racing dog this way. In fact, six years ago when I initially started into this sport, I said I would never sell any dog - that all of my adult dogs would live - and die - on my land.

I was idealistic and naive.

Unfortunately, no one can foresee the changes they are forced to make until they happen. And sometimes we have to do what we must do to survive.

Interestingly enough, I received a scathing email from an animal rights person criticizing me for "shuffling dogs around," because I recently posted some dogs for sale on an internet forum.

I wish I could write this person a letter. But since I cannot - theirs was anonymously sent - I thought I would write a letter to them here.

To the animal rights activist who sent me an email: 

I saw you once picketing outside of a fur shop. You had kind, smiling eyes, and I admired your courage, standing there that cold day in October with a handful of other activists. Cars drove by without noticing your signs or hearing your chants - and yet, you held fast to your lonely vigil in the hopes that somehow, you could reach just one person with your message, save one animal's life.

And I understand your message - more than you give me credit for. For years I refused to wear leather and was almost vegan (I couldn't quite give up cheese). I loathed the process by which animals were factory-farmed - harvested for food, clothing.

But the fact is, we will not bridge the gap between "us and them" by filling our hearts with hatred and sealing ourselves off from those we disagree with. The only way to successfully tackle the problems we see in society is by calmly, rationally engaging in dialogue with those who our opinions differ from. 

I no longer despise leather. I wear a parka in the winter lined with coyote fur (thank you, Coyote, for my parka is the warmest piece of clothing I own). I am able to cross a divide to see things not in such harsh black and white terms, but to see so many beautiful shades of in between. Our country is divided in such stark lines of hatred at this point in history, isn't it better that we engage in peaceful discussions about our differences, no matter what they might be?

I imagine you expected me to react angrily to some of your accusations. If I am honest, I admit, you did piss me off initially, but not for reasons you might think. Here's why:

Had you taken five minutes to investigate my kennel, the animals who live here, or even me personally, you would know you have attacked the wrong person. 

I would tell you about the runt puppy I stayed up through the night feeding for three weeks with a medicine dropper to save her life. She lives at the Ranch now - a happy and healthy 2 1/2 year old dog.

I would tell you about Sasha the malamute who I took into my home because she had been diagnosed with hip dysplasia and her family was simply going to put her down and trade her in for a cute little Lhasa Apso puppy (no doubt, from a puppy mill).

I would tell you about Gracie the little black cocker spaniel/lab mix I pulled from a high-kill animal shelter after seeing her picture on the web site for three straight months. Anyone whose works in animal rescue for any amount of time can tell you black animals - both dogs and cats - stand a slim chance of escaping the pound alive. Thin and terrified, with the whites of her eyes constantly showing in a look of startled terror and surprise, it took a full year for sweet Gracie to relax in my home. She is sleeping at my feet as I type.

I would tell you about the dog I rescued who was pregnant with inbred puppies with disabilities - how I spent my entire savings for that seasons races on countless trips to the emergency vet clinic at all hours right before Christmas (no doubt, whittling down my children's Christmas present money as well) trying to save those puppies' lives. And how one died in my arms while I tried unsuccessfully to give it CPR. And about the one I literally spoon fed in a custom built high chair because he was born with a condition called megaesophagus and how I had to force him to stay in that high chair for 20 minutes after each feeding...four feedings a day.

I value each one of my dogs' lives as individual, beautiful and sacred. So you can keep your harsh, generalized judgments of me and my kennel to yourself.

I suppose in your mind I should keep all of the dogs forever even though my life is changing. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I also value my own life as beautiful and sacred. I have been without steady employment for the last four years. And now, as I embark on a journey into the unknown without my husband of eleven years, sadly, life changes have forced me to part with some really great dogs and friends.

Let's be honest. Keeping dogs is not always in the best interest of the dogs. So do I hold onto them selfishly? Or allow them to flourish in new homes where they can be adequately cared for with families who love them?

The answer, in my opinion, is clear.

Now I ask you, who is the cruel one?

As always, even for you, my friend, the Animal Activist -

1 comment:

  1. I admire your commitment, love, and honesty. You are an example of how actions speak louder than words. I want to come back as one of your pups.


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