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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Dream For A Better World

I have a dream.

My dream is that some day, the killing of millions of dogs and cats will be no more. Some day, there will be no need to 'put to sleep' millions of animals simply because no one wants them. Some day, every dog and cat will be cherished and loved. We will cease to view them as throw-away objects, to be disposed of when they become 'too big' or 'too much trouble' or 'too old.' We will no longer view them as sources of income, as cash crops, by using them to mass produce still more puppies. We will view them as companions, not to be chained to a dog house or kept in a kennel, lonely and forgotten. We will never make animals fight for our entertainment and profit, and no animals will ever be tortured by being used as 'bait' to whet the blood lust of dogs trained to fight. Animals will no longer be abused to get revenge on a former spouse or partner.

We will deal with those who abuse animals with severe punishments, rather than the all-too-common slap on the wrist and a warning not to do that again. In my dream world, those who deliberately abuse an animal will be punished with a punishment that fits the crime. Political correctness will give way to serious treatment of animal abusers. There will be no tolerance for abuse of animals, children, spouses or the elderly. It simply will not be tolerated. Should it occur, it will be dealt with harshly. Society will accept no excuses about how the perpetrator came from a dysfunctional family or was unloved or grew up in a culture that saw nothing wrong with abuse. The cycle of abuse needs to stop, and NOW.

In my dream world, district attorneys and judges will treat abuse for the serious crime it is. They will recognize it as a common precursor to the murder of humans. Anti-cruelty laws will be strengthened and enforced. Children who abuse animals will be sentenced to mandatory psychological help. Adults who abuse will be dealt with severely. Abused children and animals will NOT be returned to the custody of their abusers.

People who abuse others have serious psychological problems, whether they be psychogenic or drug-induced. Those problems will not get better on their own. They require treatment. For those who refuse treatment, the only other option available will be serous jail time.

Rather than getting better, the problem of animal abuse appears to be getting worse. Take Patrick, a red pit bull found hours from death. He had been starved for weeks on end, so weak he couldn't even lift his head. His body temperature was so low it didn't register on a thermometer. He was stuffed into a trash bag and thrown down the garbage chute of a 22-story apartment building in New Jersey. Fortunately for Patrick, a custodian saw movement in the bag, opened it, and Patrick is now on the long road to recovery. His alleged abuser has been identified and arrested. Her claim? She "couldn't take care of" the dog.

Patrick's story has galvanized people around the world. To date, his Facebook page has more than 75,000 'likes' and that number grows every minute. A new group, Patrick's Law, has formed to advocate for stronger anti-cruelty laws and especially for stronger punishments. Another group, Patrick's Pals, provides an on-line site to publicize the plight of dogs on death row in shelters across the country.

Perhaps Patrick's unspeakable torture had a greater purpose -- to galvanize people to demand stronger penalties for animal abusers. Patrick continues on his long road to recovery, buoyed by the well-wishes of tens of thousands of people he will never meet. Perhaps Patrick has started us on the first of many steps to making this dream a reality.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fighting Cancer One Step At A Time

With apologies to Britney Spears, "Oops! I did it again." I signed up to walk in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Albuquerque on May 1.

Cancer hasn't been a major problem in my family, but this cause has motivated me to get involved. I want to do something to try to stop this horrible disease that takes so many lives every year. My family has been lucky, but cancer can strike anybody at any time. I have friends and acquaintances who are cancer survivors, and I lost a friend to cancer. It also claimed my grandfather many years ago.

This event is but one in a series of ACS events in which I have participated. It started in 2003 when I did the 3-day, 60-mile Avon Walk against breast cancer in San Francisco. In 2005, a friend and I did the 2-day, 26-mile breast cancer walk. My involvement continued in 2008 with the Relay for Life, a 24-hour cancer walk. Last year, my daughter, dogs and I took part in the Albuquerque Bark for Life.

So this is a cause that means a great deal to me. I have given my time, my sweat, my energy, my feet and my money to the fight against cancer. Quite frankly, cancer scares me. It scares me because we never know who or when it will strike. It strikes kids as well as people in the prime of life. It strikes men and women, rich and poor alike. It strikes people of all races and nationalities.

Cancer also strikes dogs with far too high a frequency. I have lost two beloved dogs to cancer. Patches, my little terrier mix, died of pancreatic cancer in 1989. Gage, a golden retriever and my daughter's best friend, collapsed one day during a walk in January 2009. By that night, he was gone. He had shown no obvious symptoms until he collapsed, and his physical exam just three months prior was normal.

While this upcoming event focuses on breast cancer, advances in detecting and treating any kind of cancer ultimately help the fight against all cancers. I don't like asking people for money, but I make an exception when it comes to the battle against this horrible disease. I have recruited six other people from one of my Meetup groups to join me on this walk.

I had a scare last year when I noticed a lump on my neck. I went to an urgent care clinic, where I was told the lump was most likely a lipoma or fatty tumor. I made an appointment with my new primary care physician, who sent me to a specialist. Waiting to get that appointment, which took several days, was the most frightening thing I have experienced in a very long time. Finally I saw the specialist, who confirmed that the lump is indeed a lipoma. Nothing to worry about. What a relief!

I'm not asking for money for myself. All I am asking is that people consider making a donation of any amount to support the fight against cancer and to help people live to celebrate another birthday. If you can't walk with me in person, please become a 'virtual walker' by making a tax-deductible donation. Give up a Starbuck's coffee and donate to fight breast cancer. Every donation, regardless of amount, brings us that much closer to the day when the dreaded words "You have cancer" will no longer be part of our vocabulary.