Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Animals”

Adopt! Don’t Shop!

It is perhaps the best slogan/advertisement.  Easy enough to remember.  Just three words, “adopt, don’t shop.”

I got triggered this morning, because of all ads to appear on my news feed, is the advertisement for a new pet store that is opening today.  In general, I am not opposed to pet stores, just those that sell dogs and cats.  And this is one that does sell those cute and cuddly kittens and puppies.  It is also a chain of stores.

I am not sharing a snapshot of the advertisement because I do not want to draw attention to their disgusting business.  But I noticed something when I responded to the ad, with an angry emoji, and an explanation of why pet stores that sell pets really should not be in business, a sentiment echoed by others on that same ad.  Later in the day, the comments and ability to “like” or dislike the ad were turned off and the negative comments were removed.  And then, more ads for the same store came across my feed, and before I could respond on those, as any advocate would do, the ability to comment was also turned off.  So far I count at least six attempts for them to try and get some positive exposure.  But as I mentioned, this is a chain store, and that means that people who had negative experiences will share those negative experiences in any perspective new locations.

Instead of just facing on the criticism, the most frequent complaint, selling puppy mill puppies, their first line of defense is “deny, deny, deny.”

Semantics is defined by Websters as the “language used to have a desired effect.”  In other words, pet stores deny that they buy from puppy mills.  And technically they would be correct.  Except they have a middle man called a broker.  This broker goes from puppy mill to puppy mill, then sells those cute and cuddly puppies to the pet stores.  Semantics.

How can I prove this?  Simple, I went through the experience.

This was Pollo, an eight week old Golden Retriever.  OMG he was so cute and cuddly.  I really had no business going into the pet store in the first place.  I was leaving on a week long trip in two weeks.  Really bad timing.  But he was sooooo cute.  I had to have him.

Pet stores know what they are doing.  They know we cannot resist puppies.  Why do you think people avoid walking into animal shelters, because they know there is a good chance they will walk out with a rescue, because we have hearts and empathy.  But to be able to get a puppy and start from the beginning?  They are just so cute!

And then, if you are unfortunate, you find out there is an ugly truth behind where he came from.

Pollo loved the water.  At around the age of six months, he experienced an episode that I ended up carrying his limp body into the vet hospital.  I never did find out what happened to him, but he did recover.  To help the vet, I figured it would be helpful if I got the health history of his parents and I approached the pet store for his vet records.  That is when I ran into an unbelievable roadblock and in the end, discovered that Pollo came from a puppy mill in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area.

This is not a photo of the exact Amish farm that Pollo came from, but it is very similar to the image of where he came from.  I know this, because of my efforts of involving the USDA, the Pennsylvania Department Of Agriculture and Dog Warden, journalists and more.  As we got close to the truth, circumstances got bizarre in that evidence of any puppy activity had been relocated, we would later discover to another family member, a common tactic to avoid regulation and discovery of these awful conditions.  All because the pet store fought me on some simple and basic information.  The pet store, Pollo, and I all ended up on People’s Court over this very issue.  Needless to say, they lost.

Other than that one fateful day, I enjoyed nearly fifteen years with my best friend, known affectionately as “the Happy Golden,” a nickname because of his non-stop wagging tail and always giving the appearance of him smiling.  My fur family member went to the Rainbow Bridge nearly seven years ago, breaking my heart, but not my resolve.  I am unable to have another dog yet, emotionally.  But I will still advocate for awareness of the need to adopt the many pets that are abandoned, lost, or even rescued.

It has been a long time since I got involved in this effort, the last time happened when that same pet store opened a new location where I was living previously.  But as this new pet store is opening today, with lots of fun and excitement, and get this, $500 off the price of a new puppy.  THIS IS DISGUSTING!!!!

The puppy mill industry is a billion dollar industry for the Amish and other groups.  And the more puppies you buy, the longer they are all just too willing to meet the demand.  Remember the picture above.  I have seen situations way worse, and it is only because of pet stores selling their merchandise.  Stop buying puppies from pet stores, and the demand stops.  It is that simple.

There are all kinds of ways to adopt pets, even puppies if that is a requirement.  There are animal shelters, humane societies, and even breed specific organizations.  There are so many ways to adopt a wonderful fur friend who has been abandoned or lost, unable to be found by its owner.

But the demand needs to end for puppies from puppy mills, and that starts with stop buying dogs and cats from pet stores.

“All” Is A Distraction

These are such stressful days.  I am going to do my best not to make this a political post.  Because at this point, our leaders in politics are not helping, AT ALL!  This really falls upon each and every one of us, to make the difference, to take the steps toward recognizing that all lives really do matter.  And I did not put that phrase in quotes, because it does not need to be quoted.  It should be a way of life.  And while we can say it, while we can live it, we need to have everyone understand why we are not at that place right now.

Now, I need to stay in my lane here.  I am not black of skin color.  So I cannot even begin to know how many, if not all, are feeling right now with all the violence being inflicted upon them, unnecessarily, and all too often, fatally.  I have many friends of all colors, the majority of those colors being black.  Again, I am going to stay in my lane.  I know what I have seen, heard, and read.  I have made my mind up on my own, not what media or groups want me to see and believe.  All lives do matter, again not in quotes.  But that also means that has to include black lives.  And as long as our society stays complicit in its tolerance of racism and white nationalism, too many are willing to express all lives matter, but they actually mean “except blacks.”

Before I go any further, I am going to get into a lane that I know all too well, and this will help me to explain and prove my point mentioned above.

All cancers matter.  Of course they do.  But there is one organization that will tell you that all cancers matter, but if you get specific about a certain type, like mine, you would find yourself disappointed to find out, that your type of cancer, or in my case, Hodgkn’s Lymphoma, does not matter enough to be included in their mission.

I learned this reality several years back.  Being a cancer advocate for thirty years, it was just something that I took for granted.  But several years ago, I discovered only certain majorities of cancer mattered to their organization:  breast, colon, and lung, the big three.  Of course, that led me to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, because they represented my type of cancer specifically.  But now, I found myself, being pulled in two different directions.  Of course I cared about other cancers.  I had five other family members die from cancer, one of those had two different types of cancer, and another had a relapse.  But I also needed to focus on the organization that I relied upon for my cancer, especially realizing that I was not going to get any support I needed for my Hodgkin’s.

All cancers do matter.  I know that.  But it is not only understandable, but okay, for my cancer to matter more to me.  Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a rare cancer, but I need you to know it matters just as much as all of the others.  But you will never know about my struggles if all you hear is “all cancers matter.”  I need to make you aware of the cancer that I deal with.  That is why, “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma matters.”  That statement does not take away from the needs of the other cancers.  It is an awareness.  And that awareness would get lost if it were not announced by itself.

So there are all kinds of cancer movements or specific activities, Relay For Life (all cancers… sort of), Light The Night (for Lymphoma and blood cancers), Making Strides (breast cancer).  But as a cancer patient and survivor, you will never hear one of us at any of these events, protesting about an “all inclusive” demand to be recognized.  We know what and who we are participating for and with at these events.

Which brings me back to “Black Lives Matter.”  No one can deny that “all” lives matter.  We are human beings, whether with religious beliefs or not.  But right now, there is just something so awful going on in our society, and in my short lifetime, I have been witness to too many horrific incidents against black lives.  And I have seen all too often the aftermath as the black population tried to bring awareness by themselves, only to be misrepresented in history as thugs and destructive vandals.  And currently, because of our current leadership, politics now plays a role in this “disease”, and that is exactly what it is, because by making all of us aware of blatant racism, it is somehow perceived that it is an attack on that leadership, which of course brings out all of the other “lives matter” mantras, in hopes of drowning out the “Black Live Matter” cause, a shiny object if you will, a distraction.

I do not know what it is like for a black person to be approached by a police officer, even if the officer is just being friendly, just to say “good afternoon.”  I am starting to see it now, with one particular incident standing out way before the murder of George Floyd.  His name was Walter Scott.  He was pulled over for a traffic violation.  But as he had a concern about law enforcement, he made the decision once he got out of his car, to run.  Unarmed, he was shot in the back by an officer claiming self defense.  This scene plays out too many times, yes, most recently with the murder of George Floyd, and already more have occurred.

I support the Black Lives Matter movement.  Any other reference to them other than a peaceful protest is nothing more than a dog-whistle distraction to call out antagonists to commit acts that would dishonor the intentions of the BLM movement.  There is a big difference between a peaceful protester and a looter/rioter.  They are not the same.  The first amendment guarantees the right to peacefully assemble and protest.  It says nothing about restricting or defining what a peaceful protest is.  It cannot be helped if you do not like the language, the message, or the volume.  Those things make no difference in making it a peaceful protest.  And I do believe everyone matters.  But right now, this is their cause.  I do not know what my black friends are going through, but I understand it.  And I support it what they are doing.  And hopefully different than what I witnessed in 1992 with the LA riots following the Rodney King injustice of the five cops being acquitted of brutality which was witnessed by the world, I am hoping this finally brings the changes necessary to make sure that everyone matters.

When You Want To Help

Many years ago, I worked for a major corporation.  Inside this location, several “community outreach” activities took place several times a year.  One of those, was a blood drive.  Having several thousand employees, it was a major donation drive, made even more popular because donors were often given “gifts” for giving the gift of their blood.  I would see some of my co-workers come back with some major swag from windbreaker jackets to coolers, all kinds of things.

But that was all I got to do as far as blood drives went, look.  As a cancer survivor, I am ineligible to donate blood because of the my blood being compromised from my radiation and chemotherapy treatments, even though they were over thirty years ago.  I understood the rules for donating blood and why they were in place, but when I asked if there was any way that I could help, to make a difference, that I might be able to get some of that fine merchandise, I was told “no.”

As an advocate, I was kind of taken back by the short response.  I know, you have blood donors, you have the phlebotomists, and of course the other staff of blood banks.  But do you mean to tell me, you have no need for any other help with such a critical effort?

If you follow this blog, you know my role as an advocate.  You also know that I can be determined when I hit a stumbling block when I try to help one way and I cannot.  I find another.

With my health issues, my days of participating in actual protests are long over, though if it were not for Covid19, I would likely find it hard to not want to stand by, supporting efforts against police brutality and racism.  But unlike my efforts, there are ways that I can still make a difference in these intense times for racial equality.

Back in 2009, as my older daughter was about to begin elementary education, there was turmoil in our school district.  The school board at that time, filled with bullies, had taken their negotiations public, humiliating the teachers union.  Again, if you know me, I do not tolerate bullies, and there were nine of them sitting on that board.  I attended only one school board meeting to protest the way the school board representatives were conducting themselves, and faced accusations of being disingenuous and unscrupulous.  Such big words to be used against one solitary citizen making comments during the public commentary of the meeting.

And with that, I made a decision to campaign for school board.  I never even ran for any position in student government.  But I soon found out, that unlike my fear of the anonymity I had in school would prevent my likely election, my skills as an advocate, and accompanied by four other strong candidates, soon found ourselves in a position to finally break a stronghold in our school district for decades.

I had no experience.  But I had a desire to make a difference.  I am all about treating people with respect.  Regardless of my feelings for or against the teachers at the original time, I did not like the way they were being treated, especially publicly.  And soon, not only did I receive recognition from my well educated and experienced running mates for my ideas, our adversaries soon found out, not only how resourceful we were, able to discover “behind closed door” activities, but with our lack of being politicians, we did not make decisions as politicians and they did not know how to prepare for us, or deal with us.

We lost that first attempt, barely.  Four of us lost by less than 300 votes, two less than 200 votes, and one actually lost by a few dozen.  The end of the night, of course none of us were sitting on the school board, but we did “win” the battle.  We made a difference because we got recognized.  A simple concept, people not getting out to vote, even just 300 more in a district of 60,000 voters, was all it would have taken.

So, we kept trying.  Two of our slate got elected that next election, and a third finally not only got elected the following election, but was voted as school board president.  Today, the entire board from 2009 has been replaced.

My last thirty years, and as many as I have left, I have always been, and always will be an advocate for as many causes as I can:  cancer, adoption, long term cancer survivorship, discrimination, parental rights and the list goes on.  I do what I can, when I can, as my energy allows.  I have my physical limits but I find ways to help in other ways.

Looking back, perhaps my motivation may have been wrong with the blood bank.  Because I have been able to make more of a difference when appreciation, gratitude, and success are enough of a motivation.

My daughters have witnessed my many forms of advocacy.  And they both have great hearts filled with compassion and empathy.  In recent years, I have seen their actions to help others whether in school or in public.

A couple of weeks ago, on Tuesday, my older daughter made a post of a black “jpeg,” in support of “Black Out Tuesday,” in memory and support of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.  She knew what she was doing.  And what made it even better, she did it on her own.

Over the last sixteen years, I have done my best as their father, to set examples for them in regard to advocacy, money, relationships, education, and so on.  It is when I see something that has been done, unprompted by me, that I can see the impact that I have indeed had on my daughters.  And I am proud, as always.

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