Irresponsible Pet Ownership

Today we were victim to a sad situation, perhaps even a tragedy, depending upon the ultimate outcome, which as of this moment, we don’t know. My boyfriend and I drove his 17-year-old son to his mother’s house across town so he could talk to her, a very dysfunctional woman, now without a phone or any way of reaching people. While Dominic and I stood outside listening to their yelling and crying, her Airedale got out of the house, took off down the street, and attacked a Shepherd who was being walked by his owner.  Her dog bit the Shepherd, drawing blood, which set off a barrage of swearing and threats by the Shepherd’s owner.  The mother was oblivious to this entire drama, remaining holed up inside the house while her son grabbed the Airedale by the collar and dragged her home. In the meantime, the Shepherd’s owner continued spewing until his threats turned to action when he pulled out his cell phone and reported the incident to the police.

Here’s the sad part, for the Airedale, that is. She had previously and viciously attacked two other dogs, one of which lost its eye, thus, setting the precedent  for a dog who needed an ultra-vigilant owner that kept the dog under control at all times. Didn’t happen. Sigh.

Later, I saw from the police blotter that a squad car was indeed dispatched to her house, and I don’t want to think the worst, but what else? The Airedale is a nice dog, fine with people, albeit unruly at times, and relatively young at five years. But she is vicious with other dogs and she needs a strong , experienced and responsible owner to give her a happy life.

This is what breaks my heart about animals, owners, and adopting – yes, this dog was adopted. But even if she hadn’t been, she has been laid victim by an irresponsible and careless owner who doesn’t deserve to have a dog, or any pet, at all.

A Little Mule Named Rudy

RudyYesterday was shots day at the barn. Spring shots – the yearly standards including rabies,  flu and a few others. Our barn “Mom” (owner) gets the list together of who wants what, and when the vet arrives, we have our equines polished and preened such as we did with our kids when we took them to the pediatrician for their yearly physicals.

Our barn is home to a ‘feral’ mule; correction: a mule who was previously owned by an Amish farmer and while he was there, something happened that filled his little life with terror.

This boy, Rudy, has an exceptionally soft and gentle eye, except for when he is startled by something or when one of the minis in his paddock pick on him, and then soft brown turns to white flash. I fell in love with his as soon as I set eyes on him, but it is just in the last year that I made him my personal project. Our barn Mom welcomes my efforts, and helps me from time to time, but mostly she lets me do my thing. With Rudy, it’s not about technique, it’s about patience, body language, softness and consistency.

A year ago, Rudy would not come to take a treat and if I moved,  even slowly, he bolted in fear. Now: he takes treats – he has become a HUGE fan of ginger snaps – from my hand. He is incredibly gentle, just brushes his lips against my hand, now with happy anticipation and a level of confidence we never thought we’d see.

Yesterday Rudy needed to get his shots, too. In the past, the vet had to tranquilize him just to do so. Not yesterday. Barn Mom got him into a narrow but open pen. I held his head and while the vet did her thing, I whispered sweet nothings into his big mule ears and plied him with ginger snaps. And then, I touched him! I petted him, and he welcomed it – probably the first human touch, besides shots, that he’s had since that Amish farmer did whatever he did to a beautiful little mule with  warm, soft eyes, and a muzzle as soft and gentle as they come.

Brinkley’s “Woof”

Brinkley after his 'woof' serenade
Brinkley after his ‘woof’ serenade

My household is often filled with the sounds of dogs barking and birds whistling. But in the mornings, I am always greeted by my Boston Terrier Brinkley’s ‘woof.’ Actually, I have three BTs, all of whom I adore, but for those inexplicable reasons, I have a particular bond with Brinkley. Brinkley likes my company, and I like his. He is my ‘walk-dog’ because he trots along easily and dutifully, unlike Sasha who about jumps out of her fur with excitement, and precious little Timmy, our puppy-mill fellow, can only walk half a block without becoming exhausted and needing to be carried. Fortunately he only weighs 10 lbs. Brinkley is also my go-to travel dog because a. – he loves being in the car, and b. – he sits very contentedly on long rides, and c. – wherever we end up, he is easy! Not so with dear Sasha, my adorable female, who foams at the mouth and gets on the floor in the back seat and shakes uncontrollably. Timmy is also a ‘mover and shaker,’ minus the mouth-foam.

Back to Brinkley’s woof. Once the morning routine is over, I go down the hall into my home office to begin my day of grading papers, writing, and trying not to spend tons of time surfing and lurking on the Internet. In the meantime, the dogs remain in the kitchen to laze around with their bellies full of food. All except Brinkley. Brinkley parks his little butt as close to the gate as he can get and begins his woofing. It is very calm, relatively quiet, but VERY constant – just imagine, a continuous, perfectly timed in intervals, sort-of-subtle “woof.”  I am admittedly not very good at resisting animals and so I end up scooping him up to join me in my office.

End of story, right? Wrong.

I of course have to have a second cup of coffee after I have spilled one quarter of my first on some poor student’s paper, and upon entering the kitchen, I am greeted by four very sad, seemingly tearful eyes that I simply cannot resist. And so, the gate opens, the stampede begins, and I am now operator of my very own doggy day care, all thanks to Brinkley and his woofs.

Privacy vs. Protection

Edward SnowdenOne man, a single, previously unobtrusive young man, appears to have forever changed the course of intelligence and privacy (lack-there-of) in the United States, perhaps even the world.

Edward Snowden

Questions abound: is he guilty? Did he do something wrong? Is he a modern day hero? A trailblazer in restoring the freedom of speech, and just plain freedom, this country is supposed to be all about?  Has our country, our government, gone too far in the name of protecting us against terrorism?

I, at least, was shocked at the extent of the invasions in the name of these ‘highly classified surveillance programs.’ How many of my phone calls have been monitored? Did government agents hear me expound when I spoke to my daughter about birth control? Did my text messages to my students advising them on their reports about terrorism get pulled into the pile of red-light risky communications? Was I, then, a victim of more intense scrutiny?

I recently wrote a book as a ghost writer about a cyber-war with origins in Russia. Several weeks later something quite similar occurred. My client was the one who mapped out the plot of this tome and when we were finished, he said all of the emails and communications he’d had with me on the project mysteriously disappeared. He was convinced he was targeted by a surveillance agency. At the time, I thought he was nuts. I don’t think so now.

Listening: A Lost Art?

listenTo be heard: I think this is one of the greatest gifts we can receive. To have someone hear us, look us straight in the eye, without fumbling or doing anything else, and LISTEN!

I did a Google search on “The Lost Art of Listening” this morning and got 47,000,000 hits. Books, articles, and PDFs abound, evidence that this is indeed a hot topic. I wonder why? Have we forgotten how to give the gift of listening to one another? Dare I proffer an answer, it being YES?

As part of my college course curriculum, I talk to students about listening.

I ask them, how many of you feel like you are a good listener? Twenty of twenty-five hands go up. Bravo to you only brave and honest souls, I think to myself about the five who didn’t put their hands up.

Then I ask, how many of you ‘multitask’ when you are talking with someone else. Twenty-five out of twenty-five hands go up.

Then I say, how many of you hear? Some hands go up. How many of you listen? Some now look at me with confusion, others give me the  “look,” as in, “you have GOT to be kidding…” and one asks, “What’s the difference?”

With this skillfully maneuvered segue, I proceed to talk to them about the fine art of listening versus the passive act of hearing and regretfully send them off on their merry way to their multitasking, multi-stimulated, and non-listening world.

I write about this topic because more and more I also find myself in situations with individuals where they spew words in a non-stop cascade and I quite literally cannot get a word in. If I am so lucky as to nail a small word-nugget or two, I am drowned again in another torrent. It seems that the majority of people I encounter these days very loquacious.  I often wonder, is it that people are just talking more and listening less, or am I attracting big-talkers because maybe I am a good listener? Or maybe we ought to think about the importance of the elements of our most basic communication media: person-to-person, face-to-face, voice-to-voice.

One of my favorite poets once wrote:

“We do not believe in ourselves until

someone reveals that deep inside us

something is valuable, worth listening to,

worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch.

Once we believe in ourselves we can risk

curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or

any experience that reveals

the human spirit.”

– E. E. Cummings

(American poet 1894-1962)

Birds of a Feather

Oh for the joys of a lazy Sunday morning after a night of big booming storms. Now we relish the calm – and the coolness. So do my beloved cockatiels who are at last settled after a week of

Freddie, MAD, Frederika
Freddie, MAD, Frederika

being shuttled here and there.  The poor creatures were relegated to the hallway as we rearranged the household while moving my 27-year-old daughter out (at last!!) and re-converting her room back into my study. My tiels stopped eating for a few days and my personal avian alarm, Frederika,  quit her earsplitting screaming, which she does to demand my company, or alert me to the immediate need to have her food replenished.  Her companion, my Freddie, stopped singing his rendition of London Bridge is Falling Down, which is really quite beautiful and definitely audible, even in the backyard.

But now they are now ‘home,’ they are now ‘happy,’ and they have resumed their alerting me that it’s time for their 4 p.m. bowl of popcorn.

Diane Schuler’s Ghost Lives On

What is it about this tragedy that occurred in 2009 that is so palpable these four years later most deadly accidents and their victims are forgotten just months later? Perhaps it is the fact that this was the worst accident in 75 years in Westchester County. Perhaps it’s because five beautiful children were involved, only one of whom survived. Perhaps it is the absolutely unfathomable fact that this ‘rock’ of a mother drove the wrong way down a major highway at 85 mph, drunk and high, and smashed head-on into an SUV, killing the three men in that vehicle as well.

It is, I think the fact that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, about any of this makes sense. There is her husband who relentlessly insists she was not drunk, her husband’s lawyer who mysteriously disappeared, the cacophonous contradiction between everything Diane was known to be and this horrific event and the toxicology reports that clearly and unequivocally reported the alcohol and cannabis levels in her system. Many of us continue to desperately put our heads around what happened on that July day, but sadly, must rely on conjecture and our mostly amateur detective work.

Though there is a sliver of a silver lining for this story, and that is that Jackie Hance, the mother of the three beautiful little girls in the car with Diane that day, the little girls that never came home, has since given birth, despite having had her tubes tied, to another beautiful, and now 17-month old girl. She talks to Anne Curry in this clip from an April Today Show segment. As she says, “there is a reason.” Isn’t there always one?

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