Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the air waves

My chat with radio host Tom Young yesterday went pretty well, I think. It was a bit of a strange experience though. For one thing, I did it over the phone from home, and I didn't set eyes on a real human being all day. A big disjuncture between the media connections and the physical world! Such a fast half hour, too. I just got started, looked at the time, and saw it was already half over. The nine or ten calls in the second half hour were mixed. They started out generally positive, a few became critical or skeptical, and the last two ended up strongly positive. All in all, very glad of the chance to speak, and hopeful that they do continue to follow the story at News 95.7, as they indicated they would. 

Can I just say, all things aside, it still takes me aback to hear how freely some folks would like dispense with a dog and/or its owner, never troubled by their limited knowledge of a situation. Perhaps I didn't get across all I did and do to "take responsibility" for things. What do you call paying a vet bill for another dog, putting up a fence, taking time for training, volunteering to pay fines, etc. -- my dog, who is vaccinated, microchipped, licensed, has health care coverage, and passed a rigorous obedience class? 

Then there are the people getting very righteous about a dog getting loose, as if there is something immoral about it. Okay, it's not what anybody wants, I am very upset at messing up. But it's not the number one cause of teenage death... Dogs that are tied up wriggle out of collars all the time, it's an everyday occurrence, usually harmless. Lord knows I've had plenty of people knock on my door looking for their runaway canine. 

And that is exactly why I did good training with Brindi, and lining up more training all the time. Every dog owner knows there are days when you just can't control anything, let alone the dog, as precisely as you'd wish. Stuff happens, we do what we can, and ultimately, animals are, well, unpredictable. Ask Jay Leno. Don't we teach children to be careful around animals because we recognize this fact? Where does this expectation come from, that it's possible to be in control of an animal 100% of the time? How can such a notion reasonably become the basis of a law or a euthanization order all by itself? Why should death be promoted as a catch-all solution?? It's not as though everything else in society is so perfect, that people such do a flawless job of controlling objects or themselves. A lot of people do a pretty lousy job with cars, for instance, but the city doesn't seize the cars, even though a whole lot of other people die. Not remotely near the number of people who die from dog-bite injuries every year (in Canada, 2007: two, vs. 30-something from lightning strikes). 

Maybe these waves of anti-dog laws - from breed legislation to subjective by-laws - are remnants of primitive human fears, just like a dog's undesirable behaviour may be rooted in its own primitive fears. They evolved with us, though. Why not put it into perspective then, and see to it that the law is applied consistently and fairly before calling for radical measures like death or removal of private property. This is an issue I would expect a humane society would be very concerned with.
But perhaps because I talk about the unfairness of the law and its uneven application, some people assume I don't care about public safety. I certainly do care. That's why I built the enclosures and that's why I'll be putting in a permanent boundary fence. I care a lot about public safety in my community, including the threatening dog on the beach who seems to be loose all the time, charges up to you barking its head off like it owns the place, and
 even bit a friend of mine's dog last summer (she never called animal control). I am not happy about that dog, or about another dog that chases the kids next door when they walk down the street. Again, no calls on that. When we had our meeting last week, a man who lives down the road came along who said when he has issues with a neighbor's dog, he goes to the owner and deals with it - "I go to the source, there's no need to involve the cops," he said. I sort of felt that way too - especially when the other party is responsive and caring.

When people so freely call for the death of any being - especially an animal they will never see in their lifetimes - it really gives me pause. Somehow they seem to think in one dimension, leaving aside their knowledge (and experience) of the deep bond between humans and dogs. Such as mine!! Brindi and I have/had a very strong bond. She always connected with me, let me know she was ready to learn, and by July our routines were set well, everybody here was flexible and peaceful - meaning the cats, Brindi, and me. They were my comfort through a lot of pretty tough days with the excavation work. 

Look at my face in the photo with her - a rare happy moment! It's not looking like that anymore, I can assure you. Nearly half a year of my life and hers - a big chunk of her life - has been stolen. Half a year in a cage is not good for any animal, and a waste when it has a home to go to. And I'm out of shape now from no more daily walks with her. I can't bear to walk solo along the same routes we used, and we used all the routes in the area. 

Once I forgot to close the car windows and it filled with mosquitos, huge black bombers swarming in the car. I drove off without realizing and had to pull over and started smashing the inside of the car, all over. I was moving erratically and glanced back to see Brindi, calm and quiet. She was not anxious, and just moved aside cooperatively when I was aiming at one near her. She tolerated it for a long while (there was an unspeakable number). I thought it was pretty remarkable; I know other dogs who would have become quite excited and upset by that sort of thing. It's just being in tune with each other, and I think that's a great start for advancement.

The more some stranger says I can't have Brindi back, the more I am sure I can and will. A minute later, I get nuts just thinking about it. I just don't see how one can justify implementing totalitarian regulations for a species that does so much to sustain and enrich human life - urban life too, all poop problems aside. Everybody loves dogs, right? Apparently not everybody, not as much as they seem to.
So many people don't have the time to go to classes, and it's real work. It's totally worth it though. It paid off around my house so much, and I am so frustrated each time she slipped out; each time was a sudden fluke, believe it or not. Most of the time, she wouldn't bolt anywhere; she was my shadow. SO much that I got used to it. Except for a few moments spread out over a ten month period.  

I don't want to have any problems with my dog, I want her to fit in with me and anywhere, rather than having her eat off my plate when my back is turned, or having to shutting her in a bedroom when guests come over, and so on. I want a well-behaved dog. That is why I spent so much time socializing her and being as consistent as I could in training her. I am ready to put in the time it takes to drill the recall commands so that she can be 100% socialized. She's about 90% - or WAS!!! She formed a strong bond with me and anywhere else would be another stress on her. I am her rightful owner - and legally, I have not been charged with anything that would disqualify me as owner, so the idea seems so erroneous. 

The issue for the public should be, in terms of safety, to ascertain whether she is verifiably dangerous before carrying out a death order that would destroy my "property". The flip side of that is the law. Once we finally get a chance to present our case to a judge, it will be very clear just how much it differs in enforcement from so many other cases with more serious infractions and injuries, in which a fines, or even less, was meted out. 


There are other issues, but the fact is, on the spectrum of danger/threat/damage, Brindi is at one end, and they are on the other, yet she receives the ultimate punishment, and others are untouched. I am in no way dismissing the need to prevent any incidents. BUT, and I wonder if the callers actually heard it when I said it, there has to be some consistency across the board. Animal Services' Andrea Macdonald speaks about each case being addressed on its merits. Really? When you have each officer practicing their own version of law enforcement, total discretion without review by a higher-up (the law awards the officer, not his bosses, the power to issue fines, declare dangerous, and order euthanization, or should I say euphemization), what mechanism exists to insure consistency, let alone fairness, throughout? Instead it is a very subjective system of enforcement, without accountability.

I would think it would be very alarming to hear that dogs that bite people and/or dogs or even kill other animals are typically handled with fines, while one dog that did neither is condemned to death. Anyone talking about community safety or owner responsibility should put that in their pipe and smoke it, then come and tell me where I stand. I took the trouble to do obedience class and take Brindi all over creation precisely because I wanted to socialize her well and be able to count on her good behavior. It worked very well for the most part, and within less than a year I would brag she was doing just as well or better than most dogs we ran into or knew - but just my luck, the part that didn't work so well became a police matter before I could correct it fully!

Yesterday, as I was preparing for the Tom Young interview (that's him above), I received copies of very vehement letters from folks in Colorado to Mayor Kelly and others here. Out in Alberta, Heather Anderson tells me she's called his office at least 17 times, and two of her friends have called a handful of times. They have yet to get through to him or get a call back. Others have 
had mixed receptions when they call Animal Services. I don't know how many are calling and writing every week, but it's got to be at least a small trickle if not a steady stream at times. 

The good news for today is that it appears the trainer can do her assessment at the SPCA tomorrow. The results will take a bit more time, and I don't want to pressure her at all. Otherwise, things are not moving fast in the legal department, as is sadly so typical. I am hoping for the Herald to publish an article soon. I didn't get a chance on air to talk about some key th
ings, unfortunately, including fundraising, the link to Montreal  - the benefit last night, the jewelry - or to express my gratitude to all the people out their who have been so committed to helping me. It is not every day that a person sees something on the TV news for a few seconds and decides to ring up the person in the story whose name was flashed for a few seconds; it is not every day that several people in New Zealand decides to start calling elected officials in Nova Scotia. And around here, the donations and the donated auction items have been so great. Which reminds me - I do hope the auction moves a little faster - it's not too late to bid and win on things, and have them sent to you before Xmas!! We just got a few more lower-priced things, like a man's watch, an alarm clock, and a book on "Birds of Prey of the World". 

Yesterday, I was working in the office (for once). I noticed that Rudy, who has been ever-present at my side while I work in the bedroom, was under the drawing table curled 
up on a makeshift bed I had put there for Brindi - it's her spot. Normally he would never dream of using her bedding (she once hilariously tried to squeeze into a cat bed, however - missed the photo op). Normally Rudy (aka Prinz Rüdiger Weichenpels ab und zu Mausenjäger der I.) implemented a strict policy of detente towards the dog. But there he was, with well-gnarled bones ringing the bed.
 Who knows, he might even be 
missing her. 

Which reminds me, there's a cat up the road I need to feed...