On a more serious note…

puppy in shelter

On Thursday I attended a community forum about our local animal shelter, the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA. For years many local folks have been pushing to get this shelter to adopt modern practices which would save more lives. The R-H SPCA has a much higher “euthanasia” rate than many surrounding animal shelters of similar size, type and resources.

At the forum the room was packed, and stories about the shelter’s insularity, apathy, and apparent incompetence poured out. Several former volunteers spoke out, as did well-respected rescue groups the shelter refuses to work with.

The room was electrified when a former employee (who left to go to school) spoke about the dog manager. She stated that the dog manager is abusive toward many of the dogs in her “care”, cursing them and deliberately trying to incite aggression from them so she can label them “dangerous” and put them down.

Why is this being allowed to happen? Why has this employee not been fired?

I think it’s because doing an inhumane job as a routine brutalizes the person doing it. This shelter has had such a high kill rate for so many years, that the workers have become hardened to suffering and death. With so many other shelters now saving over 90% of their animals, people whose compassion hasn’t been stunted can’t work at a high-kill shelter like this one for long.

PETA, an organization I used to respect, turns out to have this weird, cultish “kill-them-to-save-them” mentality about companion animals. I didn’t believe this when I first heard it, but I have since done my homework and it is true – they pick up or take in healthy cats and dogs, make no attempt to adopt them out, and kill 90% of them. The reasoning seems to be that death is preferable to the “slavery” of living as a pet. To date, PETA has been doing this with impunity.

If an individual kills a cat or a dog for no reason, that person can get jail time. But if a Virginia shelter does it, it’s no problem. Shelters don’t have to have adoptions as their goal. Strays can be killed after a legal holding period. Animals surrendered by their owners can be killed immediately; no waiting period or reason required.

Or rather, this was the case until 2015.

Up until last year, this is how “Private Animal Shelter” was defined in Virginia law:

2014 “a building… that is used to contain a primary enclosure or enclosures in which animals are housed or kept. (perfectly fine to “euthanize” every animal, no homes need be found).

Animal advocates got this law changed in 2015, so it now reads:

2015: “a facility operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals that is used to house or contain animals… (what most of us think of as a shelter).

This change got PETA all upset. Now amendments have been proposed to take the teeth back out of this new protective law.

House Bills 156 (HB156) and HB 340 propose this change (in italics) to the Virginia Animal Laws:

2016: “a facility operated for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals – or for any other purpose authorized under this chapter (creating wriggle room for not bothering with adoptions.)

To further bolster a shelter’s ability to do whatever they want, also proposed is:

House Bill 157 (HB157) further amending the Virginia Animal Code:

Any new guideline that the State sets for protection of shelter animals:

shall not have the force of law

and

A guidance document shall not be the basis for issuance or denial of an approval letter for the operation of a private animal shelter. (In other words, any new protection regulations enacted don’t have to be followed by a shelter.)

It is beyond belief to me that PETA would consider it “ethical treatment of animals” to kill healthy, adoptable dogs and cats.

But PETA is not alone. My local shelter, the Rockingham-Harrisonburg SPCA, is run by Anne Anderson, who is on the steering committee for a group called the Virginia Alliance of Animal Shelters (VAAS), (not to be confused with the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies). The group subscribes to the inaccurate and outdated notion that any group saving 90% or more of its animals does so because it “picks and chooses” the animals it takes in.

VAAS is supporting these changes in the new law, which would effectively make shelters not accountable to the public for what goes on in their back rooms.

If you love cats and/or dogs, and you live in Virginia, I ask you to contact your state representative right now and ask him to work AGAINST HB-156, HB-157, and HB340. (Find your representatives here: http://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/ ). Send an email or leave a phone message.

Changing laws is only one little piece of animal welfare, and it moves exceedingly slowly. But it makes a vast difference.

Thanks for caring.

 

 

 

 

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Kindergarten Identity Crisis

Puff and the milkman_2

I attended kindergarten in Mexico City, where I lived  with my mother. She had originally moved to Mexico, she claimed later, because it was easier to live off my father’s army check there. When the checks stopped coming a year later, she had to go to work. She managed to get a job teaching first grade at “Escuela Moderna Americana”, a private, allegedly bilingual grade school. As a teacher’s kid I attended for free.

I loved school. I loved Dick and Jane, and especially Puff, sneaking onto the milk wagon. I loved the pristine large coloring books in which we did our first writing exercises. I loved the smell and feel of crayons; the fat ones.

As part of our “bilingual” education, we had a short lunch-time ritual. The teacher would hand out little triangular, crustless white bread sandwiches, and ask, in heavily accented English: “What are we having for lunch today?” In the same heavy accent, the students would dutifully reply: “We are having sandwiches.”

I was, of course, completely bilingual by this time, having spent my first four years in the U.S. and now a year in Mexico. But I wanted to blend in with the other kids, so I sing-songed the answer along with everyone else in my fake-Mexican accent.

One day I suddenly got inspired. I would still fit in, but I would also show off my extra knowledge and be special. “We are having sandwiches”, I piped along, then added to a silent room: “of cheese”.

The problem, I realized when the class broke out in giggles, is that “cheese” pronounced in Spanish is “chis”, (rhymes with “lease”), and this happens to be a slang word for urine, along the lines of “pee”.

I smile now as I think of it, but, obviously, I haven’t forgotten it. My mortification was complete.

This experience turned out to be a harbinger of many to come. My entire life I have tried, sometimes successfully, to fit in to society, and my entire life I have tried to shine via my intelligence, with mixed results.

If I had known this then, would I have kept myself from blurting out “of cheese!” or proudly showed off my perfect American accent in the first place?

I doubt it. It’s a lifetime’s journey to be who you are, and not try to be “more than” in the process.

Still on the path.

 

The Squinch that Could Steal Christmas

blue tango shoeI consider myself healthy. I don’t have hypertension or diabetes or heart disease or cancer. My cholesterol is good. I have no autoimmune diseases. I rarely get colds. But these days I feel as though I’m being nibbled to death by ducks.

Starting with a throat condition that made me have to stop singing, progressing through chronic neck pain and headaches that limit reading, driving, computer work, and sitting at any events such as classes, social occasions or concerts, I’ve been making life-style adjustments for years. I feel like an idiot carrying a pillow into a restaurant, but if I don’t prop myself up to sit very straight, I’ll have a headache by the end of the meal.

The older I get the more of this small stuff goes wrong. For tango dancing I now wear bunion-sparing sneakers with dance socks over them rather than gorgeous tango shoes. I started walking more for exercise, only to come down with that no-good-deed-goes-unpunished condition, plantar fasciitis.

And now that unkindest cut; parosmia has stolen the joy from my life’s central theme: food. Coupled with shorter days, this last blow has brought depression knocking at my door.

I was thinking about all this as I was working out in the yard today, wondering how to write about these minor but mounting travails without seeming like too much of a whiner. Frowning over the problem, I suddenly felt the sun on the side of my face, accompanied by a soft warmth.

This made my face relax, which in turn made my whole body loosen. A quiet joy visited me for a few moments. I was able to recall that I was in my wonderful yard, with a dog I love, mulching with leaves I had collected with my husband one fun fall morning, creating rich soil for the spring.

And the sun was shining.

Part of my work in appreciating the joys and minimizing the sorrows of life is to exercise, meditate, eat well, and socialize. I’ve been doing the best I can with each of these efforts. Perhaps, though, I need to add one more item.

The parosmia makes me grimace a lot, because many things (like coffee brewing) smell bad to me. I need to remember to “feel the sun on my face”, and unsquinch.

 

Dr. Kinkade goes to Washington

MrSmith

 

 

My friend Gail recently took me to task about my usual blog subject — trying to eat healthier. “Nobody gives a damn if you’re on a diet, Josie. You’re smart, you’re a good writer. Why don’t you write about something important, like politics?”

Ok, Gail, this one’s for you.

My Take on Politics, by Josie Kinkade

The single most important issue in America today is repealing Citizens United. Without this we can’t elect people to represent the People. If you don’t know what this is, Google it.

Today’s Republican Party seems to be dominated by fear, hatred and greed. I can’t fathom wanting to part of such a group. Yet I know numerous kind, nice, generous (if misguided) people who do. Go figure.

It is high time we had a woman president. Hillary is perfectly capable and wants the average citizen to get a fair shake. Sure we can talk about her hair, her bitchiness, her lies, her vote to enter the Iraq War, and her pantsuits, but she’s smart, caring, and capable.

Oh, and she’s ripping good at foreign policy, despite that stupid but politically necessary vote she made as senator of — what state was that? Oh yeah, New York, where the Two Towers (sic) were taken down. Goddam it, I want a woman president before I die, and I don’t want it to be a Republican.

Unless it’s Condi.

Bernie Sanders, I think you’re terrific, and if I thought you had a chance in hell of becoming President I might almost consider forsaking my alter-ego Hillary to vote for you.

Black lives matter.

Narcotics should be legalized. All that wasted prison money should go into prevention, rehab and social justice.

We should stop subsidizing corn and soy beans to feed to animals, and start subsidizing fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains including soy and corn for human consumption.

Obamacare doesn’t even come close to what we ought to have, but it’s the best the poor bastard could do. (I love the poor bastard, by the way.)

Feral cats and TNR should be protected by federal law.

I haven’t got the slightest idea what to do with Syria. The American perhaps most qualified is — wait for it — Hillary Clinton.

Tune in next week for: How is Josie Doing with her Food Issues?

 

 

 

 

Slog the Blog

This is a slogging wrench. You hit the stubby end with a hammer.
This is a slogging wrench. You hit the stubby end with a hammer.

Since my last blog post I just haven’t been able to figure out what to write about. Everything seems so uninspiring. I don’t seem to have anything original or clever to say, no brilliant ideas, no aha moments. What is wrong with me? I’m not depressed, but I just have no oomph.

Then, suddenly, AHA! An aha moment. It’s the end of October, the beginning of November. The days are shorter, and my body has not adjusted. I’m still in “missing the long days” mode, and haven’t yet made it into “cozy and creative winter activities” mode.

So I’ll just slog on this week. A few too many games of spider solitaire, a little too much white food*, a few too many snippy remarks at my long-suffering husband.

But I am getting the garden tucked in, I’ve started a blog about learning to recycle, and I’m experiencing the joys of figuring out what health insurance to go with next year.

All is well.

Send me an inspiring story.

*I still have parosmia, and it seems that almost everything that doesn’t smell bad is white. White bread, white potatoes, white rice. I’ve started making jokes about going to the “white food” section of the grocery store. Sounds vaguely racist, but I can’t figure out exactly how.

Shhh…Mind the Baby…Habit

SeedlingI am hardly Miss Meditation. In an early post, I mentioned that I found the idea of Mindful Eating was boring. But my attempts at circling in to better eating behavior were just not working. Sure, I was eating plenty of vegetables, and drinking plenty of water, but the poundage of chocolate eaten on the couch was easily overwhelming my other efforts. And the poundage was sticking to me.

So, on my birthday, the day I found I had re-gained twenty hard-lost pounds, I read the first two chapters of Mindful Eating and tentatively began to practice it.

And found it not at all boring. If I really pay attention to the food, the process has its own pleasure, sort of like stepping into a warm bath, or sitting on the porch on a sunny spring day and feeling the sun on your face. Who knew?

The wonderful side effect of tuning in is that I noticed when I’d had enough – way before eating half a bag of Oreos.

I hadn’t yet blogged about this experience. It felt too new, too tender. I didn’t want to crush it by shining too bright a light on it. Nor did I want to have to admit later that I only kept it up for a week.

A few days into these first attempts at mindful eating, parosmia crashed into my life. Nauseated and disoriented, I stumbled around just trying to find where the horrible smell was coming from, and learning what few foods I could eat.

Three weeks into parosmia, I have a list of foods that taste good or at least all right, and have begun to branch out a bit. Added to white rice, potatoes, and French bread, I discovered pound cake and vanilla ice cream. Yesterday I tolerated a bowl of white rice mixed with plain canned diced tomatoes and plain canned kidney beans. The protein felt so good!

But as I re-discover high-fat, high-sugar foods, I’m realizing that parosmia can become an excuse to return to compulsive eating. “Oh I’m sick, I need special treatment…Honey, would you please bring me another piece of cake?”

So, tentatively, I am returning to mindful eating. Yesterday I baked a small potato, added margarine, placed it in my favorite blue bowl, sat at the table without the radio on, admired the hand-embroidery on the table-cloth, took a bite of potato, rolled the rich, soft potatoey-ness around in my mouth, and enjoyed the feeling of food reaching my stomach. A small potato was just the right food, and just the right amount for that meal. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mindful eating is still new. It’s still tender. I still have parosmia. I continue to stumble around doing the best I can.

Life is good.

Parsley Gratitude

GasMaskAt bedtime I often review the day and name things I am grateful for. The list always starts with my husband Ed, then meanders through the day’s activities, perhaps including pancakes, a chat with a neighbor, a completed project, a hot bath. But not until today did the list include parsley.

A week or so ago I started noticing a vile smell in the house. It assailed me as I reached the bottom of the stairs in the morning. Opening the refrigerator, I realized I hadn’t cleaned it out in way too long. I worried whether the recent sewage leak in our basement was back.

Ed and I cleaned out the fridge thoroughly. I checked the sewer pipe (no leak). I started sniffing everywhere – the heat vents, under the couch, the attic where we have bats, the trash can, the closets. No source found.

The smell got worse and more pervasive — a nice concoction of rotten onion, dog doo, and vomit – flambé.

When the newly sparkling and baking-soda’d fridge started stinking again, I began to realize something was rotten in Denmark. Perhaps I was smelling normal things, but they smelled “wrong” to me. I had heard of this in people who have temporal lobe seizures, but not in any other context. Could there be something called “parosmia”?

Yes, there could. Apparently, damaged olfactory cells are trying to regenerate, but they’re not hooked up to the interpretation center properly, so they just send out random (and in most cases unpleasant) signals.

Turns out the smell at the bottom of the stairs in the morning was Ed’s coffee brewing. The smell of onions makes me gag. The fridge was putting out the gases of ripening fruit and vegetables. Mint is horrible, including toothpaste.

And, I can’t stand the smell of chocolate! I can’t figure out if this is a nightmare, a dream come true, or just God having a chuckle.

I am trying to figure out what to eat. Ed took all the produce out of the fridge and put it in a cooler outside. He re baking-soda’d the fridge (see why he’s first on my gratitude list?) and it is now bearable. I am eating white bread, peeled potatoes and margarine. I never thought I would miss vegetables.

But parsley tastes great. Picked out of my front yard, it’s crisp and fresh, and decidedly not disgusting.

Parsley potatoes for supper.

I’m so grateful!