Of all my three dogs, Daisy is the one I most consider my co-pilot. She has been almost since the moment I adopted her (once she realized that the car took her to “good” things). I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, how much I love having her as a co-pilot.
There is something about her easy companionship that I treasure. She doesn’t bark at other vehicles or people walking by. She doesn’t hop from seat to seat or cause a disturbance while I am driving. In fact, she barely even moves at all. She mostly just dozes in the back seat and waits for me to tell her it’s time to venture out.
And when that time comes, she is ready to go, with tail wagging in anticipation.
Daisy has accompanied me on my pet sitting and dog walking rounds, and on road trips to visit friends. She has traveled with me on most of my picture-taking adventures and to many of our local parks. She’s been with me at sunrise and sunset and everything in between.
I value her steady companionship on the road. It always makes me smile when I make a quick stop at our local pet store to pick up some dog food and look out the window and see her sitting in the passenger seat, waiting for me to come back.
She is my muse, steadfast companion, and fellow road warrior. There is no better co-pilot.
How about you? Do you have a special dog co-pilot too?
As an advocate for animal welfare, I’ve mostly been active in activities geared towards regulating or closing down puppy mills. On occasion, I’ve been involved in local issues related to a specific animal abuse cases, but not often, and only in cases that are so horrific I cannot help but get involved.
I’ve also attended animal humane day for several years in a row and lobbied my legislators to pass the Minnesota commercial breeder law, the Beagle Freedom law, and body-grip trap legislation.
Through each of these experiences, there was one thing I knew to be true, our laws are woefully inadequate when it comes to protecting animals. Animals are still defined as property. They are not individuals with rights and thus, the law usually addresses them under the headers of “protection” or “welfare.” not as beings with their own individual rights.
Even if you do pass a law meant to protect an animal or improve its overall welfare, you are likely to face roadblocks. You can pass a law to regulate puppy mills and require commercial breeders to provide enrichment and social interaction for their dogs, but if the agency charged with enforcing the law refuses to do so (ahem, that would be you Minnesota Animal Board of Health), then animals continue to suffer. And, if you have an animal felony cruelty law, and the prosecutor charged with prosecuting the law as it is written or the judge charged with following the law, refuses to mete out the punishment required, the animal that was killed, maimed or tortured receives no justice. After all, they are just property.
But maybe that is about to change. More and more we are starting to hear about a specialty within the world of law called “animal law,” and the work that is being done in this area is amazing.
- In August 2015, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) won a federal court case challenging Idaho’s Ag-Gag bill, designed to stop undercover investigations into animal welfare (this case may have set precedent for future lawsuits against other states with these types of laws).
- In April 2015, a judge recognized two chimps as legal persons and granted their Writ of Habeas Corpus, something not granted by any judge previous to this.
Under the law of New York State, only a “legal person” may have an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus issued in his or her behalf. The Court has therefore implicitly determined that Hercules and Leo are “persons.” (Judge Recognizes Two Chimpanzees as Legal Persons, Grants them Writ of Habeas Corpus, Nonhuman Rights Project, April 20, 2015)
- Between March and June of 2015, federal courts in 4 states upheld pet store bans (city ordinances aimed at stopping the sale of puppy mill puppies in city pet stores) as legal, and more cities are passing them (44 new ordinances go into effect this year).
- In February of this year (2016), the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sued the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for gutting the “Dog Law” passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 2008. If the judge grants a judgement in favor of ALDF, it could have huge implications for other states dealing with a similar issue (did you hear that Minnesota Board of Animal Health?).
In the March-April 2016 issue of Harvard Magazine, animal law received a special spotlight. Whether a social-justice movement or a sign that how much our pets have become members of the family, interest in animal law is growing. Both law students and practicing attorneys are seeking to learn more. More than 150 law schools in the United States now offer classes on this topic. Harvard has offered a class on the topic since 2000 and recently expanded its curriculum to include a new Animal Law & Policy Program.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) and other animal welfare groups are joining forces to change how we see and treat animals and they are using the law to do it. They also have a Student Animal Legal Defense Fund (SALDF) and a Animal Law Program.
Then there is the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is active in challenging the law around animal rights, and the Animal Law Resource Center, which provides resources on animal case law for lawyers and the general public.
Whether we know it or not, the world is changing and animals may soon be the better for it. As consumers and pet owners, we are demanding it. Cases related to animal law are showing up in civil courts, federal courts, criminal courts and even divorce courts. Legislation on the treatment of animals is becoming more common, As new legislation is passed and new court cases are decided, precedent is being set. The new is encouraging. Animal law is about to change the world for animals. Are you ready?
Dean Martha Minow thinks the climate for animal-law growth is ideal. “Though treatment of animals has always been an issue, only recently has law begun to take it seriously,” she says. “For anyone thinking about the purpose of law, the legal treatment of animals forces a confrontation with what law is actually about—‘What are its purposes? What are its limits? Is law only about human beings?’” One way to understand legal history, she explains, is to trace “the ever-expanding circle of law—who’s in and who isn’t.” Animal law is part of the newest expansion of that circle, and “there’s an opportunity now to contribute to the development of law reform in a way that hasn’t always been the case.” (Are Animals Things?, Cara Feinberg, Harvard Magazine, March-April 2016)
I was just preparing a post for my Facebook page (it will post later today) and realized that in my comments introducing the piece I had put the words “normal dog” in quotes. It was in reference to a dog that had been on its own for 4 years and was now safe in a shelter and learning how to be a dog again. He is very fearful and shy and not what one would term a “normal dog” right now.
I haven’t had dogs one would call “normal” for some time now. Daisy was my first puppy mill dog, Jasper probably came from a mill or a backyard breeder, Cupcake came from a mill, as did Maggie. Of all of them, Jasper is probably as close to normal as they get.That’s a whole lot of not normal in my life.
And, I’m not the only one. I know lots of people with reactive dogs, frustrated dogs, or dogs who just need a little extra special handling. It makes me wonder what we consider to be a “normal dog” these days. Do they exist?
How would YOU define a normal dog? What characteristics would fit a normal dog? Does your dog fit your definition of normal?
Knowing and understanding dog body language can be so helpful in understanding your dog and the other dogs you encounter. Whether it be a play bow, a look away, or a raised paw; what a dog does and how it moves tells us something about how they are feeling.
But sometimes, I wish I could ask them a question that can’t always be answered with dog body language, like …
How is your day going?
Do you want to just stay home and cuddle?
What could I do to make you feel better?
Are you in pain?
Do you prefer to walk here? Or, there?
Having one sided-conversations with my dogs is nice, but not helpful for them or me. Being able to ask questions and interact with them would be so much easier than guessing what they want or think.
If only I had a magic lamp with a genie in it huh? But then again, I would probably be limited to asking only one question (or maybe, three). That’s still not a full conversation. I wonder what I would ask my dogs if I could only ask them one question to ask them? Hmmmm…. Maybe “Do I make you happy? Or, “What do I do that makes you uncomfortable?” Or, “What could I do to make your life even better?”
Do you know what one question you would ask your dog(s) if you had the chance?
For me, Hurricane Katrina and my late dog Indy will be indelibly linked in my mind forever. While it was a disaster of epic proportions for the United States, and a deadly and devastating hurricane for the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, it was also the beginning of the end of life for my dog Indy.
Evacuations were going on in New Orleans. It was all over the news. Like everyone else, I was glued to the news, watching the city and state leaders plead for people to leave the city and shorelines.
I was also focused on getting my dog Indy into the vet. It was not a particularly memorable day that day I brought her in. I think it might have been beautiful and sunny, but I am not completely sure. I brought her in, she got her rabies, distemper and bordatella vaccinations. I bought her a treat and we went home. That’s it.
It was the next day that when it began. Indy had a seizure. I rushed her to the vet, where she had another one. They recommended we rush her to the emergency vet clinic to be assessed, because of course, it was a Sunday and the vet closed after noon. My mother came with me to the emergency vet. We sat in the waiting room for hours as they assessed Indy and treated other patients. The television was on CNN in the waiting room, where coverage of Katrina evacuations were in full swing. We watched the flow of vehicles leaving the city using all lanes of the highway to get out. It was something we had never seen before.
Indy ended up spending the night, but when she came home, the seizures continued, at first once a month, then once every couple of weeks, then once a week. Throughout it all, was the horror of what happened in New Orleans, on the nightly news. It was an epic tragedy playing out on our television screens, but a very real traumatic event for those living there. We might’ve been going through our own tragedy at home, but what the people of New Orleans (an their pets and children) suffered was so much greater. I cannot forget it.
In April of 2006, disaster recovery was in full swing. The devastation left behind by hurricane Katrina was undeniable then, the population of New Orleans had been cut in half, whole parishes were destroyed,and we said goodbye to Indy, who by then was having seizures every few days.
It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since all that happened. Time has a way of healing all wounds, but also etching moments and events in your mind forever, like Hurricane Katrina and Indy.
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Back when we were kids, my dad had an old time movie projector on which he would play family movies he had taken throughout the years. I remember the flicking sound of the 8mm film running through the reels, and watching the images flash on the screen. We kids loved to watch those old movies, most of them featuring our young family interacting with one another or being goofy in front of the camera.
Whenever dad wanted to get to a good part on the film, he would turn a knob on the projector and fast forward through the boring stuff. I would watch as fleeting images appear quickly on the screen, just little wisps of family and memories flying by at a rapid pace, until dad would stop the projector, pause, and then turn the knob and let the movie run at regular speed again.
To me, time is a lot like that film in the old movie projector. Sometimes it runs at regular speed and you sit back and soak in every little moment. At other times, it seems to go whipping by in fast forward mode and you only get the chance to see fleeting moments of days gone by. But every once in a while, the film stops, and in that moment something changes and you are forced to take stock.
Six months ago, I heard the words insulinoma and cancer and Daisy, and the film stopped. I was forced to take stock, and to take action. I remember those early days and the agonizing decision-making involved. So much happened so fast and yet, so much slowed down too. There is nothing like hearing your dog has cancer to make stop and take notice of all that is around you.
Looking back now, I am amazed at how much time has gone by. In fact, it wasn’t even until today that I realized six months had already passed since Daisy’s surgery to remove her insulinoma. I guess the film in the projector sped up again somewhere along the way huh?
Back in February, I had so many doubts about whether I was doing the right thing by going forward with the surgery. Today, I am grateful for the extra six months with my girl. I am hoping there will be even more.
We’ve made good use of our extra time together.
In the past six months (what I now consider bonus time), Daisy has…
Can I get six more please?
What is it that changes in a dog’s face that suddenly makes her look old? Is it the lightening around her muzzle? Or, the increasing milkiness of her eyes? Or, is it the way she smiles, flashing that toothy grin at us?
What is it that we first notice? Is it a moment or an accumulation of moments? It seems like one day we are looking at our dog and seeing a young and energetic face, and the next day we see an old one in its place. It always seems like a surprise to me when I finally see it.
A couple of months ago, I took a candid shot of Cupcake standing out on the patio. What I saw on my camera’s viewing screen made me stop and stare. “Wait. What happened?” I thought, “That doesn’t look like Cupcake. That looks like an old dog.” And it was. It was my Cupcake, in all her glory and beauty, as an old dog.
It was as if all the little pieces of the puzzle (her diminished eyesight, her inability to hear me calling her in the dog park, and her slowing, arthritic pace) coalesced in that moment to magnify and make me realize what I had not seen (or wanted to see) before. Cupcake was a senior citizen. She was an old dog. What a revelation.
Of course, I’ve known that she was getting older (as have all of us), I just didn’t SEE it. My brain had continued to live in the past while life (and Cupcake) continued to move forward. I guess my brain just needed a jolt to see her as she really is now.
Seeing her as an older dog hasn’t changed how much I lover her, if anything I love her even more, but it has made me more conscious of the subtle changes in her behavior and when she is not feeling well. It has also made me more conscious of her ability to get around. Getting up and down on the hardwood floors is a little more difficult now. Keeping the fur in between her toes cut short helps with that (as do rugs). Tripping over the bottom step when coming in does happen on occasion, but lighting the step with my iPhone helps. And I may have to lift her into the car for the rest of her remaining days, but I don’t care. The joy she gets when we reach our destination is worth it all.
Seeing Cupcake’s old dog face was a good thing. It woke me up and made me treasure our special moments all the more.
And you know what? She is still just as beautiful, sweet and strong as she was when she first came to join our family. I love her face no matter how old she gets to be.