<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Long Overdue Update - Fosters, and Personal Stuff 

Well, today we are taking the three neutered male foster dogs out to try to be adopted into good homes. Sugar Boy (the pit mix), Dusty (the black one that has the red mange), and Jake (the other black one who has been so destructive, tearing everything up and having a wonderful time chewing everything within sight and trashing up the woods). You see, despite our best efforts, we have been completely unable to keep any of these three dogs in a pen.

Jake would sit there and work for days at a corner of the pen and go at the wire until he finally made a hole for himself and get out, so we finally gave up and just left him out with our dogs to roam and play (despite the fact that there were two strands of wire on the pen he was in - both hog wire and chicken wire, as it was really built to hold puppies (not grown dogs) whenever we had a litter of them and is the yard where we put Sophia and the puppies after the little ones were big enough to go outside). Jake and our dog, Junior made especially good friends, and he would also occasionally play with Chakra, Junior's mother. So, since he was so much happier, we just left him out to run and play and be happy, as opposed ot being so miserable in a pen that he worked all of the time on a way to get out.

Dusty and Sugar Boy dug big - really big - craters all in the yard they were in and kept digging out. That yard is just completely ruined and will have to be completely redone before it will ever hold another dog again. We kept filling the holes in with rocks and chunks of cinder blocks, so then they started going over, so we decided to try just leaving them out, under supervision, to see how they got along with everyone else and hoping that it would be like the case of Jake and be just fine. That did go just fine for awhile, but then one day Sugar Boy jumped on one of the two other foster dogs that Warm Hearts had brought us (poor little Bill, who we had finally let out one day when Laura was in there cleaning out his pen and he got by her, and since he was the happiest we had ever seen him his whole time here - running in circles all over the yard and playing with Junior and Jake instead of huddling sadly in the corner of the doghouse - we just didn't ever have the heart to put him back in there once she was done) and really hurt him, almost killing poor little Bill that one day. Then, we locked up poor Bill again as well as Dusty and Sugr Boy, but Sugar Boy and Dusty got back out again a day or two later, and it wasn't long before Sugar Boy got Spaz, though luckily not nearly as bad, though poor Spaz was hurt and did have a very hard time even walking for about a week. We took him to the vet after he started getting a big swollen place on his chest next to one of his front legs just to be sure he was okay, and he is - just mainly sore and swollen, but very few teeth marks. After that incident, we put Sugar Boy in one of those chain link kennels that Laura's sister had brought up from Shreveport just in case it was needed, but he even got out of that by grabbing the links of wire and unraveling them until he even got out of it, too, so he has been out roaming free for around a week now, though we have very, very carefully watched when Bill and Spaz went outside to go to "do their business." (Both of them have now moved up to Laura's mother's inside, as her mother has decided to adopt Spaz, and her sister has decided to adopt Bill.)

We are also taking the three male puppies with us this morning, along with the adult males, to try to find homes for them. All of them are going to be at one of the local grocery stores (Bob's in Mt. Ida, if you happen to be a local reading this), where For the Sake of Animals (who brought us these dogs, if you remember) is having an "adopt-a-shelter-dog day." We are just hoping for the best. We know that they have to go, as there have been too many incidents, besides just the incredibly large expense of caring for all of these dogs, but we are so very sad about it and extremely worried about what kind of homes they will ultimately go to. But, having exhausted all means of finding them homes ourselves by asking all friends, relatives, and even animal-loving strangers in stores and wherever else we could think of, as well as making many, many appeals all over the web to find them homes, we have just had no luck in doing so. It's just so hard to place a grown large dog, especially when you live in the kind of rural area that we do (not to mention that we have already placed so many after taking in so many dumped dogs - we have just used up all of the willing people we know).

We live so far away from anywhere, that even if a person online in a city were to agree to take one of them, it is a logistical nightmare to get the dog there, though we know it can be done through volunteer networks who do this sort of thing, each driving a leg of the journey, handing the dog off to each other to eventually get them to wherre they are going. We would have even driven the entire journey ourselves to place one of them if it had only been a state or so over, even if it had been far enough to require an overnight stay or a turn-around that simply took all day and night to drive it, but we haven't even been able to set up anything like this. Not one single person has written to say that they will take one of these dogs.

They are pretty sure that they will have no problem placing the puppies, as everyone likes to adopt cute little puppies, but the large dogs, especially with their "issues," are not going to be so easy to place, and especially not with people who will be as patient and loving as we have been with their eccentricities (so, if you are reading this and are just now seeing this appeal and how far we are willing to go to make sure they are properly placed, let us know ASAP, and we will let the shelter know, as we don't expect them to have much luck - last time they tried this at this location, they sat out there all day long and didn't even give away one single large dog. Not one. And, you very well may save a life, especially Dusty's, as they might not be willing to do the work and go through the expense to care for him and heal him, as they are now at over 150 dogs, whereas when we got these they only had over 100. To tell the truth, we are considering very hard telling them that if they do not find a home for him and intend to put him down, that we will take him back and try to heal him ourselves and get him adoptable if it is the only way to save his life, especially since we have already gotten him neutered and gotten his rabies shot and had him so long that we have grown to love him so very much. With the rest of them gone, we would be able to afford that one, and Laura's mother has said that she would agree to help us do it if necessary, as she has gotten very attached to him, too, and does not want to see him killed after everything we have been through, as he is so very sweet and loving and has NO "issues" at all except his red mange, which is NOT contagious to other dogs, in case you did not know - it's not THAT kind of mange, and no one else has gotten it, depite the fact that Sugar Boy has lived and shared a pen with him). He won't even hurt cats. The first time he saw one, he ran away scared and yelping! He gets along with every dog here, even the ones that are hard to get along with, like Sugar Boy, loves children, is just fine inside or outside. Just the mange problem - otherwise the perfect dog, except for not wanting to be in a pen all of the time, and can you blame him?

But we are still especially worried about homes for all of the grown ones - very worried. We are worried enough about the puppies, especially as they are the right breed for hunters to be attracted to, and the vast majority of them don't take very good care of their dogs at all and are the most likely to shoot one if it doesn't "perform" well. But, I mean, how many people are going to put up with a dog like sweet Jake tearing up everything in sight? He has torn up Laura's sister's tent, along with the bedding and other belongings that were in it, gotten into Laura's mother's shed and torn up stuff in there, gotten into our recyclables and carried them off into the woods over and over again, keeping us having to retrieve them over and over again and put them back where they belong (especially the plastic jugs and bottles). He has even carried off tools, like hammers and such! He has to be quite a young dog, just coming out of puppy-hood to be this playful and to have such a desire the chew up everything in sight! And, as annoying as that part of his personality can be at times, all puppies are like this, and he is the friendliest and sweetest dog you could ever hope to meet. He isn't even shy with strangers. He just loves everybody! We will probably miss him the most. (Laura is crying once again at just the thought of him going, as we really badly wanted to find someone we knew to take him so that we could visit him often because we became so attached to him.) But we really just don't have any choice about this.

It isn't just the destruction and the expense and all of the other trouble that they have been, but there is also the simple fact that Laura's mother has had enough and put her foot down about this, and after all, it is her place that we live on, so all of us who live here have to go by the few rules she has or makes. And, there is also the fact that For the Sake of Animals never lived up to their end of the deal (any more than Warm Hearts did). Although they did pay to get the dogs neutered and provided food a few times, we have had them since September, and they never did come out to pick them back up like they said they would when they had previous days like today when they were adopting dogs out, just like they didn't keep up their end of the deal as far as providing all of the food and having this whole deal cost us nothing. And just like the fact that Sophia was supposed to be a spayed female when they brought her, yet she still dropped a litter of puppies who have cost us a fortune to care for, especially during the time that we were having to bottle-feed two of them every few hours. That puppy formula is expensive! Just like the regular puppy food we have been buying for them after they were weaned is more expensive than the regular dog food, and since they are all growing so fast, they eat like there is no tomorrow!

So, this is kind of a bittersweet day for us. We are relieved to be finally having at least some of these dogs taken off of our hands, as this was never supposed to be a "forever home," but only to serve as a foster home until a permanent one for each animal could be found. But, since we have had them for so much longer than we ever anticipated and gotten to know and love each and every one of them, we will still miss them. And, worst of all, we will always wonder and worry about where they go and what kind of home they end up in. When you are dealing with dogs that come from backgrounds that are so bad that the dogs end up at Animal Control to be put to sleep, you know for a fact that the home they came from was not a good one or they never would have been there in the first place. I mean, Dusty had red mange. Sophia's eyes were so crusty, red, inflamed, and so infected that it took us quite a while to get them healed up, so she had to be living in completely filthy conditions. And Sugar Boy, though he has never been any kind of a danger to a human here (not even growling at us, even when we made him do something he didn't want to do, like return to a pen he had escaped from), he has been very leery of us and wary of anything and everything we have ever done, stiffening up completely when we would catch him to put the leash on him to lead him back to the yard almost as if we were going to beat him or do something equally if not worse to him for escaping in the first place, although petting him is enjoyed andnot taken as threatening as long as he is in a pen. But, the last time he had gotten out and attacked Spaz and we had to put him in that kennel, he just ran from everyone, letting no one get close to him. Laura just finally kept circling around him in the woods and cutting him off wherever he tried to go to escape her until he finally just gave up and stopped trying to get away and just stood there, letting her wrap her arms around him until someone could get there with a leash. He wouldn't even accept the treats she had in her hand - just stood there dejectedly waiting for whatever punishment he must have expected (but never came).

This whole foster home thing has been a very emotional time for every person on the place. Even when you are mad at the behavior, you love the dog and can hardly blame them for acting the way they do, given who-knows-what background they came from. They didn't even have names when they arrived. All we knew about them was that they were to die the very next day if we couldn't/wouldn't take them in since For the Sake of Animals was full, as was the Humane Society.

(There should also be a correction made here about the Humane Society of the Ouachitas. We were told by the woman from For the Sake of Animals, as you may recall reading in an earlier post, that these dogs actually belonged to them and that they were a kill shelter, but we found out otherwise after actually going out there to try and bring these dogs to them a few weeks ago after Laura's mother said that they had to leave. The man who runs the place is not the same man who ran it back when the arrangements were made for these dogs, so he knew nothing about them and said that they were not his dogs and that we had been lied to by For the Sake of Animals after he called and confirmed that they had indeed come from Animal Control, and then he also told us then that they did not kill, though he did admit that they would have put Dusty down due to the mange. So, anyone local reading this blog should feel comfortable dealing with the Humane Society, as the man who ran it before was fired, the guy who runs it now is very, very nice, and THEY DO NOT KILL DOGS THERE!!!)

Now, you may be wondering about what will happen to Sophia. Well, according to the woman from For the Sake of Animals, she told Laura that they would come tomorrow and pick her up and get her spayed before she had any more puppies again, and then they would work on finding a home for her now that she has been rehabilitated and better socialized as well. And, as for the female puppies, well, Laura was told that if all of the male puppies were adopted out today, that they would come and pick them up as well. They do not adopt out a female dog, not even a puppy, without spaying them first, which is proper and responsible, as all shelters should be. They will adopt out male puppies who haven't been neutered, but they provide some kind of a voucher deal and require the person adopting them to have them brought back to be neutered within 30 days. But they don't take any chances with females. Every female is spayed first before being placed permanently, as the overpopulation problem that causes so many dogs to end up in shelters and at Animal Control (or dumped or shot in the woods) is directly due to having too many dogs around here living with people who are too irresponsible to make sure that they get their dogs fixed. Sure, most of the people around here are poor, but twice a year there are low-cost spay/neuter clinics advertised in the papers, and even then, in special cases like ours, the shelters can usually find sponsors who will pay for the cost of the discounted surgery (plus they get a rabies shot, too). So, really, there is no excuse for anyone not having the procedure done, especially as the group working in our county is even willing to come to the person's home and pick up the animal, get the surgery done, and return the animal after it is over later in the day if the person has no way to get the animal to them. Warm Hearts (who brought us Spaz and Bill, but for some reason also quit bringing food, and even worse, never even showed up with the forms to authorize us to take them in and get them neutered, though Laura's mother paid for Spaz to be neutered since she decided to adopt him, but which is not an option for her sister for Bill since her sister has no income and will have to wait for one of the spay/neuter clinics and have a sponsor like we did to get it done, apparently) really does go out of their way to try and help the dogs in this county the best they can, even though they have no shelter and depend completely upon foster homes and the kindness of strangers to do what little they can do to stem the tide of unwanted dogs being dumped and shot. They just don't have the kind of budget that the shelters in neighboring Polk County do, as this county just doesn't have anywhere near the same number of people in it, being about 75% National Forest and another 10-15% being owned by Weyerhauser. They do what they can, but it isn't nearly enough to get anywhere near to the point of taking care of the overpopulation problem.

That's why we have worked with them before, spending the whole day with them when we took in animals to the spay/neuter clinic so that we could help them take care of the dogs who were there and needing to be comforted as they woke up and then walked around before they could go home, since their people were not there. We felt like it was the least we could do, especially as they had been so kind as to find us sponsors to pay for getting Princess and the cats fixed. (Chakra and Sweetie, our other two female dogs were spayed at the vet, with the bill being picked up by PETA after we told them of our plight, as you may recall if you have been reading this blog that long, as the times of the clinics always seemed to fall about a month later than they went into heat, leading to each of them having a litter of puppies after we had made an appt. that one year, delivering a day apart in February during an ice storm after Laura's mother's Newfoundland male broke a cedar post holding him in his pen so that he could get to them and leaving us with both mothers and 20 puppies up inside this little 28' travel trailer for the whole 3 weeks until the babies were ready to go outside into the pens. We and PETA both didn't want THAT to happen again! Though we dearly love Junior, and are glad to have him around, especially me, as he has decided to be "my" dog - or to put it another way, he has decided that I am "his" person, even though he dearly loves Laura, too - it certainly would have been better if we had not had to contribute to the already overwhelming overpopulation problem by giving away so many puppies and going through the same ordeal as we are going through today, never knowing what kind of lives they will ultimately live - or not.).

Also, just to keep you all up-to-date on the other situations going on around here:

I am continuing to recover from my accident. I still have dizzy spells, especially if I look up. I have regained most of the use of my right hand, though it is nowhere near as strong or as dexterous as it was before the accident when the tree hit me in the head. I still have problems with, well, basically just being a bit clumsy, shall we say. I stumble sometimes and run into things, sometimes resulting in knocking things over or even falling. I also have a tendency to spill things, especially carrying that first cup of coffee in the morning. Occasionally my hands will still shake. And, even more rarely, something will start to try and trigger one of those pseudo-seizures, though I have not had a full-blown one in a long time. They stopped a couple of weeks after the accident. But, to give you an idea of what happens now (and this is still rare, you understand), the other day I was sitting in a chair in the front yard of a friend's house who is working on our broken-down vehicle, and he was flipping through the pages of a car parts magazine/catalog as I watched, and that started me to twitch a bit. I said something immediately, though, and he stopped immediately, and so did the twitching. And, a couple of times when I would go up to Laura's mother's for supper and see Laura's sister's boys playing their video games, the flashing lights would do the same thing. I have not been able to play my own video games since this accident happened. That is not just due to the flashing problem, as we play different types of games that don't do that the way those kids' games do, but my eyesight is still really bad, and I just don't see very well, many times having double vision. I also am just not able to be able to react as fast as I once did, as my reflexes have been affected, so when the enemy comes to attack me, I have a lot of trouble trying to even grab my units to try to defend myself, so I always just end up quitting the game rather than lose and ruin our perfect winning streak. (We have never lost a game on this one, and that matters since this particular game keeps track of such tings and rewards you with medals for winning X number of games in a row. I am not about to mess that up, as we have built up a large number of wins, already having earned several medals for this and accomplishing other things - the game is Command and Conquer Generals Zero Hour, as we got the deluxe edition with all 4 disks, two for regular Generals and two for the expansion pack of Zero Hour, for you curious fellow gamers - our favorite type of game is RTS [real time strategy for you non-gamers, where you build big armies with many different types of units and fight terrorists. We also have Real War and the expansion pack of Rogue States, too, for you gamers, aliens {like in Starcraft, and yes, we do have the expansion of Brood War, too}, or whomever the enemy happens to be. I like first-person shooters a bit, like the Rainbow Six series, too, though Laura doesn't, so we don't have many of those and don't play them so often.].).

Anyway, I have been a gamer for a very long time, as has Laura, though she had never played RTS before getting with me, and is the first woman I have ever been with that actually enjoyed playing these games with me, which has been wonderful for me and our relationship since it is something we enjoy doing together - I have to admit that she is very, very good at these RTS games - so I really badly miss my games. They were one of the ways I had of coping with stress and my aggression problems, and, believe it or not, a psychiatrist actually recommended me playing these games to help me deal with my stress and the tendency to get aggressive and hostile and feel like breaking things (in the past, actually doing so before getting psychiatric help - I don't need to do this as much now, as that isn't such a problem anymore) as a way of being able to get out all of that pent-up stress, frustration, rage, etc. and not hurt anything or anyone. And it has actually worked, though to be quite honest, when I first started playing games on a computer rather than one of those game systems like a Playstation or Xbox or something, I did go a bit overboard, as I had never before in my life played a video game with such wonderful graphics, much less one where you could play so many different games, build so many units, and certainly not have the game "learn" from you and not act in the exact same manner every time you played it, making it more challenging and fun! In fact, to be quite honest, before Laura and I became activists, we had this computer custom-built just for playing these games because the requirements to play a game like Zero Hour just can't be played on a computer you buy off the shelf at the store without being upgraded with a ramped-up video card that doesn't dump all of the RAM onto your processor and things like that. In fact, the guy who built it for us told us that he had had many very upset customers come in to him who had just gone out and spent even more buying one off the shelf than we had spent having this one custom-built, only to get home and discover that it would not play the games they wanted to play. And, even now, just 3 years after buying the top of the line that was available back at that time (with a Pentium 2, 512 MB RAM, and a video card with 64 MB), when we were far exceeding anything that any game required to play it (as Laura knew how fast even the "top of the line" would become obsolete and not be good enough in a relatively short time), we are now at the low end of what something like Generals Hour requires, so likely we will have to deal with that situation in the next year or two if we intend to keep being able to order more and better games and keep up with the ability to play them, as even Zero Hour will occasionally get jerky on us and every once in a while completely lock up the whole computer - and I don't have to tell you how frustrating THAT is, especially to you gamers who have been playing for a couple of hours, plotting your strategy and getting everything lined up just right and actually starting to move in for the main attack that will finish off your enemy.

Anyway, the whole point of that long paragraph is just a way to demonstrate (especially to gamers who understand the kind of level of alertness and reflex action you have to have to be able to play such a game) how far I have yet to go before I fully recover, if I even do (which is still in doubt). But I have been able to resume some of my duties around here, like feeding and watering the animals (at least 90+% of the time), I can now at least dress myself and fix my own food and pour my own coffee (even if my hands shake enough to spill it on the way to sit down occasionally), dress myself and brush my own hair, and things of that nature - you know, the basics of taking care of yourself and all.

Also, we have finally - FINALLY!!!!! - resumed work on our house! No, we are not doing it all by ourselves this time, and no, I can not do most of the stuff on that as I did before, since I lack not only the strength, but the ability to even hit a nail without a LOT of misses, but I am trying. My doctor told me that the more I continued to try and use that hand, the better it would get. I finally got to where I could accomplish all of the little piddly exercises that were first assigned to me, like simply being able to try and take my thumb and touch the tip of each finger on that hand with it, pick up pages of a book with a spoon until eventually I could pick up the whole book, and things of that nature - VERY simple things that were extremely frustrating at the time when I could not do even those things and had to have Laura zip up my pants after...well, you know, relieving myself...put my shoes and socks on, and basically do everything for me. The one thing I refused to let her do for me was to "hold it" when I needed to relieve myself or "clean me up" after doing the other - NO, even for her, WAAY too humiliating for me!!!

But, I AM slowly (oh! every so slowly - way too slow to suit me, as I have never been one to be taken care of - it grates on me not to be able to take care of myself and make my own way in life, being totally dependent on another person for everything since I cannot work at all - I just can't STAND not being able to take care of myself and having to ask for each and every thing I need from someone else, especially a woman [yes, I know that you feminists don't like those last three words of that, but I am being honest here, and that is just the way I was brought up and taught - that you, as the male, are the one who is responsible for being the one to have the job and bring home the money and not just sit on your butt and live off anyone, and especially not your woman, as that was thought of as being lazy and low-down.).

But I have really been trying very, very hard to work on my feelings about that, and Laura keeps reminding me that this is not my fault because I am injured and simply cannot work, no matter how much I want to, any more than she could when we first got together and I supported her. It's just very hard to overcome a lifetime of conditioning that society put onto you and the ideas that have been drilled into your head since childhood. Very hard. Very frustrating. But, I am getting somewhat better with that, too, though it still grates on me every time I have to ask her for as much as a drink when we are on the road since I am so used to being able to simply pull out my own wallet with my own money in it that I earned and simply buy it for myself. That's bad enough, but then also having her foot the bill for all of my medical bills and prescriptions, buy all of the food, pay all of the utilities, and, worst of all, to have her actually pay what she could on my child support, just really rankles.

The last one is the worst, as that is my responsibility, one I take seriously, and when I worked, I never, ever missed paying that. I even covered his health insurance and went above and beyond what was decided in court and spent extra bringing him things since his mother just still couldn't (or wouldn't - I am not sure which, as the last time I saw her she had a major drinking problem, though that was years ago, and people DO change - look at me!). In short, I took my responsibility very seriously and always made sure that my son has everything he needed, whether the court told me to do it or not. Of all of the things that I cannot pay for by myself, that is the one that bothers me the very most. It eats away at me, especially as I don't want to be sen or thought of as a "dead beat dad," because I am not. If I had ANY way of paying it, I would. I don't even own any assets to sell that I could use to do that with, as every single thing I have (which isn't much) Laura or her family has bought for me (or owns themselves that I just get to use), including the clothes on my back. Laura did that for me even before we were a couple and were still just friends. In fact, her ex gave me some of his clothes that didn't fit anymore, and then Laura took me to one of the resale shops and got me a few more just so that I would have something to go to work in after my trailer burned and they took me in and gave me a room to stay in rent-free, and even fed me.

I told you before that I was one of the many strays that Laura has taken in, and I truly was. She is just that kind of person. Anyone in need, human or non-human, she does her very best to help, even if she has to go through her own stuff and give it away. I even knew of her raiding her cabinets of food once when a young single mother with two small children and who barely survived on welfare and food stamps, with no child support coming in, didn't have enough food to feed her children nutritionally complete meals for the rest of the month, just as she has opened her refrigerator and pantry and given her own food to dogs and/or cats who wandered up when she had no money to go out and buy food for them.

Have I said before what a wonderful and caring woman Laura is and how very, very lucky I feel to have found her? And this that I have revealed in this post is really only a very small portion of the kinds of things she has done for me and others throughout her life since she was but a small child. I mean, she even picked up litter and threw it in the trash when she was a toddler and still does this to this day, just as she picks up cans out of parking lots, crushes them, throws them in our vehicle, and brings them home to be recycled. She even also always searches out a cart at a store that some lazy person has left out in the parking lot to bring into the store with her just so that the guy who has to do that has one less to have to gather up and bring in, and in some cases, opens up a parking place for someone to park that is blocked by one.

For a very, very long time, I just truly didn't - couldn't - believe that such people actually existed in this world. I truly believed that if someone did something nice for you that they must want something in return - that they had some kind of an agenda. That always made me wary of doing favors because you never knew what kind of favor would be asked of you later down the line in return. And, you know, even after all of the years that Laura and I have been together, it is only now that it is even starting to sink in that she really is just what she seems to be - a kind, loving, warm-hearted person who does nice things with absolutely no thought as to what she might get back out of it. I mean, just now, within the past few months has this been starting to finally penetrate the social conditioning that was so deeply programmed into me. And, what's shameful, is that I still catch myself at times wondering what the "catch" is - waiting for the other shoe to fall, as they say. Because every single time that anything at all good has happened in my life, all it meant that it was followed by a letdown.

I guess, no I KNOW, that this belief has been what has led to a good bit of the misery and troubles that I had in my life before Laura took me in and just opened her home and heart to me, asking absolutely nothing in return. I mean, at first when I no longer earning a steady paycheck at Tyson, I truly felt like any help I received had to be earned in some way. If her mother fed us a meal, I did something to help her out around the house. Same with her grandmother. But those were small things. Ever since I got hurt and could not only not earn one red cent of my own money doing odd jobs, much less take care of a single chore around here, even having to have Laura's help in dressing myself, for goodness sakes, and waiting on me hand and foot - getting my coffee and making me a sandwich before I could do such things, for instance - I went into a great depression and felt totally worthless. I felt like I "wasn't a man" anymore. And it didn't matter how many times I was told differently or reminded how much I helped Laura when the situation was reversed and she could not only not earn any sort of a living, but didn't even have the strength to pour herself a cup of coffee if the pot was more than half full because it was too heavy back when she was recovering from the 18-wheeler hitting her car and breaking so many bones and all, and even how back then I paid for taking care of her son, who was living with us at the time - I mean, the situation really WAS totally reversed when we got together! - it just went against everything I had been conditioned to believe was right for so long that I have to confess that I even at one time thought about going out and putting a bullet through my head, thinking I was washed up and feeling so ashamed. I certainly didn't want people going behind my back and saying things like, "Virgil has gotten so lazy that he just sits there and lives off his old lady and doesn't lift a finger, not even to do any chores or anything." I have heard that so many times, and that is exactly what my stepfather did when I was growing up. Lived off my mother's welfare check and food stamps, then sent me to work at 14 catching chickens in the middle of the night, even though I had to go to school the next day and walk to and from where we went to work, even after doing all of my chores after I got home from school and hid out to do my homework (he didn't think I needed to go to school once I was big enough to go to work and bring home money - that it was a waste of time and would even tear up a book if he caught me reading it because I wasn't working and he viewed it as "wasting time." Needless to say, he didn't have much education and can't read.) But I did graduate, just as I promised my mother and my grandfather (rest his soul) that I would.

I know that this has been a long post, but it has been a while since I had written, and I really felt like the people who have been reading this blog from the very beginning and who have been writing personal messages of concern deserved a much fuller explanation of what has been going on that what I have said in the short answers I sent back that just basically said that I was "busy" working on projects, both personal and in the movement. No need to touch on what work I have been doing for the movement, at least not in detail, as it is the same as always - just acting as the consultant that I have come to be, answering questions and giving advice, doing interviews, etc. And, of course, like I said, during this time, I have also devoted a good bit of time to working on the book. In fact, every tape I own that fits my little tape recorder is full on both sides just waiting for Laura to transcribe them. She already did that with the things I had written before receiving the tape recorder as a gift from her mother last Christmas, but with all that has been going on, she just hasn't had the time to do that tape part yet. As you can see from all of the stuff I have talked about above, she has been so busy taking care of ALL of the responsibilities around here, even directing the crew building our house and making sure they know what we want done, not to mention making sure they have all of the materials they need)we spent over 3 hours in Lowe's a couple of days ago and would have been there longer if they hadn't been closing and telling everyone to finish up their purchases and get out! LOL!

So, I guess now you are about as up-to-date as I can manage and still get these puppies bathed, making sure there are no ticks on them and that they smell fresh and clean and are more likely to be adopted out to good homes. Experience has told us that if a well-dressed person driving a nice car and who looks like the type of person able to give a dog a good home comes up, acting so nice and loving towards the puppies and even going so far to pick one out, even so much as sees a flea or a tick on the puppy, that most of them will walk away, not wanting to infect their home and yard or get their nice clean car dirty with dirty little feet and bodies and bugs, so it is time for us to head up to Laura's mother's and bathe the three male puppies to give them the very best chance we can possibly give them at getting the very best home. Because people who don't care if a dog has fleas or ticks on them is much less likely to ever do anything to ever control them, and that's NOT the kind of home we want for these little guys. It was two of the males who were the ones we had to bottle-feed, so we got attached to them even more than we did the others. We love them all, but there is just a special sort of bonding that happens when you hold that little baby in your hands, even before their eyes are open, and feed them with a bottle. Laura has done this many times, both with puppies and kittens (and even some orphaned baby squirrels once!), but I never had, and it made me feel feelings that I had never felt before about a puppy. I mean I have always loved puppies and done my best to properly care for them, but to bottle-feed one is on a whole new level. If you haven't ever done this, then there is simply no way for me to describe the feeling it gives you. It's just wonderful! :)

Oh, I hope they go to wonderful homes where the people are kind and loving, never harming them, only using positive reinforcement as a tool for training and any discipline they might need. It would be nice for the people to even have a couple of children, as the puppies have loved playing with Laura's sister's boys just about as much as the boys have loved playing with the puppies. Puppies and caring children who love animals and who have been brought up by the right sort of parents to always respect and take the uttermost care to never harm just go perfect together. That would be the ideal situation. A family who has a big yard to let them play in and do their business in, but who also lets the little guys inside and be a part of the family. It would be best if people took two puppies at the same time so that they could play together, but since there are only three males, that isn't even a possibility for at least one of them. Part of us wants to sit up there all day to watch over and get a "feel" for who gets these little guys to do our best to make sure, but then, especially since the grown dogs are involved and we have gotten so very attached to everyone, Laura and I know from experience just how hard it is to do this, especially with strangers simply walking into and out of a store. You just never know. Even with people you know well, there is still no guarantee that they will be well-cared for, as we have found out the hard way.

So, I will close this post now so that we can do what must be done. But I do want to ask one wish of anyone reading this.

Please direct your complete, undivided, and concentrated attention, positive wishes, affirmations, prayers, and everything within the fiber of your being that these dogs and puppies will indeed go to good and loving homes. And please give just a little extra bit of a wish that Sugar Boy will, as there are still FAR too many people in these parts who would see that pit in him and think "fighter!" And even those who wouldn't, since he does have a history of attacking at least two dogs that we know of here, that he will go to a proper home where that isn't a problem (preferably one where he is the only dog), and since there is no way to keep him in any kind of a fence, no matter what you do, that they will not put him on a chain and just leave him out in the yard. Or even worse, that he will do something, and someone will shoot him. We are REALLY worried about him. We are worried about all of them, but he has the most potential to be abused and/or neglected, if not outright killed. Maybe even a little something special for Jake so that when (not if, but when!) he tears up things wherever he goes, that the people will be as understanding as we have been and not hit him for it. Just scold him a bit, smile, and shake their heads and wait on him to grow out of it. And, while I am at it, poor Dusty, who has the red mange. May he not be put down, but be treated for it livingly and properly by someone willing to do so.

Oh man, is this hard.

If you have an animal, please, PLEASE spay/neuter him/her and encourage everyone you know to do the same. We MUST stop this. MILLIONS of animals are euthanized every year in this country while more are bought at pet stores instead of being adopted from a shelter.

In other words, please be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Please. (Yep, you knew it - Laura's crying again.)

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