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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Don't Cry for the Animals. Fight for the Animals.

Don't cry for the animals. Fight for the animals.

A similar statement appeared recently in a story about a young woman who had lost her battle with drug addiction. But this sentiment can apply equally well to other issues ... homelessness, animal abuse, environmental issues, and on and on.

Far too many Facebook posts seeking a home or rescue for an animal, or action on a piece of legislation, are flooded with useless statements such as "Somebody please adopt this baby" or "I wish I could, but I have three dogs already." What, exactly, do these statements achieve? Nothing. They achieve nothing. They don't help the dog, cat or horse find a new home. They don't help persuade people to change their way of thinking. They don't do anything useful. All they do is to flood a post with useless statements and make it more difficult for the person making the original post to find any legitimate offers of help. 

So don't tell us how sad this makes you. Don't tell somebody else to adopt the animal in question. Don't sit at your computer and demand that somebody else do something. Don't carry on about how 'somebody' needs to do 'something.' BE THE SOMEBODY! YOU do something! Write a letter to the editor. Adopt an animal. Make a donation. Join a peaceful demonstration. Call your legislator. Sign a petition. Volunteer. Help educate others. BUT DO SOMETHING! Get involved in whatever issue or cause touches your heart. Become the 'somebody' who does something that might make a difference.

But please, drop the useless comments. To paraphrase a statement attributed to Gandhi, 'Be the change you wish to see in the world.'  If you want stronger penalties for animal abusers, get involved to make these laws a reality. It won't always be easy, but there is hope for a real change. 

Saying 'Somebody needs to change this' doesn't change a thing.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sponsor a Student, Change a Life

I recently signed on to sponsor the high-school education of a deserving student in Kenya who otherwise would not be able to attend high school. I have joined other like-minded people who believe in the power of education to save lives, and who are willing to commit to sponsoring a $1,500/year scholarship through the Save the Elephants scholarship program.

I am sponsoring a female student, whom I hope to meet next  year when I visit Kenya. But I want to do more. There are many students deserving of a chance at a better life. This is where you and others can help. 

I have set up two Web sites: https://desertmountainphotography.smugmug.com/ and http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/1-ann-sullivan.html with my best photographs for sale. Every penny raised from the sale of
photographs and other items will be donated to the Save the Elephants scholarship program. 

Or you can donate directly at www.savetheelephants.org

Please check the websites from time to time, as I am adding new images all the time.

Just imagine the difference an education can make in the difference of a student in Kenya. Imagine the possibilities that lie ahead for these students from pastoralist communities who otherwise will spend their lives herding goats and cattle, living in huts. 

I visited a school in rural Kenya in 2014. Despite the fact the school had no electricity or running water, no computers, and no classroom supplies or equipment, the students were engaged and eager to learn. Most of them, including the little ones, walked several miles to and from school each day. They ate their lunch, brought from home, on the ground. Their classrooms had dirt floors. Yet the students wanted to learn. Now imagine what your donation can do to make a direct impact on their lives. 

For more information, go to http://savetheelephants.org/project/elephant-scholarships/


Friday, April 8, 2016

Our Amazing Dogs

The more I learn about dogs, the more they amaze me.

Just think about it. Dogs provide unconditional, unending love and companionship. They ask for so little: good food, clean water, a safe place to live and of course, love. That's a pretty small price to pay for all they give us. Unlike humans, dogs are quick to forgive and don't carry grudges. They are happy to see us, whether we have been gone for a few minutes or for several months.

Dogs soothe the minds and provide comfort to those with PTSD. They are the ears of the hearing-impaired and the eyes of the blind. They can detect an approaching seizure and tell when a person's blood sugar is getting too low. They provide emotional support. They can detect explosives, and find smuggled narcotics, weapons, money and humans. They can track and find escaped criminals, runaway kids and wandering senior citizens. Dogs can locate human remains, even those centuries old.

Some dogs can detect cancer cells in a human body long before the human knows anything is wrong. Dogs protect soldiers in combat areas, they parachute into dangerous situations, they stand guard over their soldiers and they provide companionship to those serving far from home. Service dogs help those with physical challenges, by pulling wheelchairs, picking up dropped items and turning on light switches. They can help a person with balance problems keep from falling. Dogs can detect the use of an accelerant in an arson fire. Some therapists use dogs as a way to calm and relax their patients. Some universities now have dogs visit during final exams, as their presence can help the students relax during this stressful time. Even dogs with no special training can have an uncanny ability to seek out those who need some extra support.

All these things aside, just think about what our dogs do for us as individuals. My dogs have never been trained to detect seizures, or to find explosives or to provide security and guard services. But they nonetheless have done a lot of things for me. Study after study has shown that petting a dog can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. A dog's goofy antics can make us laugh, another great way to relieve stress. One of my dogs gets very wound up about 10 o'clock every night, so now we enjoy a few minutes of playtime and chasing each other around the house before we go to bed. Dogs are wonderful listeners, and we never have to worry about them betraying our trust. They won't gossip about us, and they won't tell our secrets to anyone. Our dogs give us a reason to get up in the morning, and to go for a walk. My dogs demand a walk first thing in the morning after breakfast and a potty break.

Have you ever watched dogs run when they have the freedom to really race and stretch their legs? They are so exuberant and they get such joy out of the simple act of running. Watching dogs compete in agility and fly ball is an exhilarating experience. They don't care whether they win or lose; they just like to run. And how about watching border collies do what they are bred to do -- herd sheep? They are amazing to watch.

After years of living with larger dogs, I now have two small dogs and a medium-size dog. Despite their small stature and long, flowing coats, 'the girls' are quite the explorers. Bailey, the smaller of the sisters, loves to go 'off roading.' She will go after rabbits, birds and anything else that is small and moving. Her 15-pound body is fearless.She is always the first to sound the alarm when the door bell rings or the wind blows too hard.

Layla, left, with sister Bailey.


Benny







I think the world would be a much better place if we lived more like dogs -- don't worry about the future, love the ones you're with, enjoy each day, eat with gusto, and run whenever you get the chance.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Living in a World Full of Madness

I'm not sure whether to feel outrage, depression or surrender, but the goings-on in this world are weighing heavily on my mind. And they make me angry ... very angry.

Recently I read about the brutal murder of three rangers and a member of the armed forces by elephant poachers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This brings to eight the number of rangers and soldiers killed by poachers just last year in the DRC.

Fourteen elephants were poisoned by poachers in Zimbabwe, the same country where Cecil the lion was lured from the preserve where he lived -- in supposed safety -- and killed by an American 'trophy hunter.' Zimbabwe announced that it will not seek his extradition from the United States. There are reports of still more elephants and a pride of lions being poisoned in Zimbabwe. Thousands of elephants and rhinoceros are slaughtered every year for their tusks and horns, so some Asian can have an ivory trinket or an Asian man can feel more 'virile' by consuming ground rhino horn.

A judge in Austin, TX, ordered the death of a dog after it bit a 2-year-old child's face at an adoption fair. Despite ignoring repeated requests from the rescue group's staff that the parents not put the kid on the ground in a pen with five dogs, the parents not only let the kid run around inside the pen, but they allowed the child to hug a dog named Neville. The second time the child tried to give Neville a hug, he reacted and snapped at the child. The parents -- who in my opinion should be charged with child endangerment -- are now suing the rescue, and Neville is facing execution, all because of the stupidity of the parents. What kind of parents let their 2-year-old run around in a pen full of dogs -- dogs that undoubtedly were already stressed from being in a strange place with unknown dogs? What kind of parent ignores the requests of staff and then lets their precious little angel to hug a strange dog? How would the parents feel if a 6'6", 300-pound stranger walked up behind them and gave them a hug? Neville's life was ultimately spared after a legal challenge and massive public uproar.

There have been more mass shootings in the United States. Fourteen people were gunned down in San Bernardino, CA, by a couple -- one of them born in the U.S. -- who pledged their loyalty to ISIS. How many police officers have been gunned down on purpose in the last year? Gun violence in this country is out of control, with no agreement on what to do to stop it, and no apparent willingness by any of our so-called 'leaders' to do anything about it. The NRA's solution is to arm everybody so there will be lots of "good guys" to shoot back. Just what we need -- a return to the wild west. Why are we letting gun violence and mass shootings become the new normal?

Crime in Albuquerque, near where I live, is out of control. Carjackings,shootings, road rage killings, all are now common. Once in a great while, someone is stabbed to death, but the vast majority of killings involves use of a hand gun. 

ISIS continues its war on innocent people in Europe, Pakistan and other countries. The most recent attack targeted families with children celebrating Easter in a local park. Attacks in Belgium killed and injured hundreds, while plots in France were stopped before they could be carried out.

Swaziland has sold 18 young elephants to zoos in the US after tearing them away from their families. One has reportedly died already. Calls to remove protections from the American grizzly bear are growing. Western-state politicians are trying to force the federal government to hand over public lands -- lands that belong to all Americans -- to state and local control so they can be exploited by a select few cattle ranchers, oil and gas companies, and mining operations. Bison are being slaughtered -- this year's goal is 1,000 dead animals -- by the National Park Service at the behest of cattle ranchers, who also successfully demanded the extermination of a wolf family for killing four precious cattle for which the cattlemen are being reimbursed. Since when are cows more important than wolves and other wild animals?

The campaign to elect a new president has reached its lowest point ever. I don't care for either the leading contenders from either party. One is a blustering bully; the other is of very questionable integrity. Is this really the best a country of some 330 million people can do?

Religious fanatics and their political cronies are attempting (and in one case, have succeeded) to pass legislation that allows people to refuse service to others if they object to their lifestyle on 'religious' grounds. So it's now OK in North Carolina to discriminate against gays. What's next, a religion-based refusal to serve women or fat people or Hispanics?

Once again, four wolves (including the alpha male and female) have been slaughtered in Oregon for allegedly killing a couple of cattle. I am so fed up with state fish and game agencies kowtowing to the almighty cattle industry. These cattle ranchers often graze their cattle on public lands and refuse to do anything to protect the cows. When a wolf or other predator kills one of their precious bovines, the ranchers are reimbursed for the cost of the cow. And then they demand -- usually successfully -- that the offending wild animal be slaughtered. I have given up beef and will continue to do so until some balance and sanity are introduced into these state commissions, which are typically packed with pro-hunting, pro-trapping, anti-wildlife appointees beholden to cattle ranchers and hunting outfitters.

We little people, the people who care about other people and about our world and the animals struggling to survive in a world governed by the greedy, uncaring corporate masters, have no voice. It's all about pleasing those with the big money and influence. 

My heart aches for what this world has become .. and even more for what it will become if there isn't a fundamental shift in the way humans live and think. What happened to our morals, ethics and compassion? I fear it may be too late to recover.