Many of you know that in January I was diagnosed with stage 2 Invasive Breast Cancer. I remember that day well. I felt a bit out of sorts. I was in disbelief. I was scared and overwhelmed.
Yesterday, as I was scrolling FB, I came across an article that caught my attention. I started reading and reading and scanning and reading more. It was long and so much of what it said went against every single thing I stand for in my book, Bark Until Heard. It was as if every single thing I absolutely KNEW TO BE TRUE was under attack.
My heart started beating fast and my stomach turned. I could feel the blood pumping and my heart racing and my entire body trembling.
It was the exact reaction I had when I attended my very first dog auction and saw hundreds of dogs neglected and mistreated. It was like this punch to my gut that left me breathless yet trying to scream. That feeling when you cannot, in any kind of way, believe what is right in front of you because it is so awful. You just can’t fathom that anyone would want to hurt animals or, in the case of yesterday, destroy all the progress we have made improving conditions for breeding dogs and shutting down mills and curbing pet store and on-line sales.
What kind of person would want to set us back decades of passionate work? Work that so many of us fueled with our hearts and souls. Work so many of us would do all over – every single day of our lives.
When I got my cancer diagnosis, I did not feel nearly as sick as I did reading that article. When I had surgery and fought my cancer, I never felt as raw or as enraged or as nauseas as I did yesterday. Cancer couldn’t make me as sick as what I read in an article attacking an organization that has saved thousands of lives and has worked tirelessly to educate people on puppy mills.
Whenever I read about mill dogs, I always look at the 3 sitting near me. Puppy mills aren’t something I imagine as I read words on a page. I saw them with my own eyes. I have held the survivors. I have sat for hours trying to earn their trust. I have cried endless tears re-living the horrors I witnessed.
I take this all very seriously. The day I bought #171 for $65 changed the entire course of my life. And 11 years later, a single article that attempts to erase the truths I have fought for, the pain and angst I have endured, can bring me to my knees. Something even cancer couldn’t do.
Immediately, I reached out to my most trusted advocates. They were calming. They shared their unhappiness about the article, too. Then, they spent time explaining things to me that left me even more disheartened.
Lately, I have been following and contributing to the puppy mill mission from afar. My personal life took me in other directions and I guess I haven’t been in the trenches enough these days.
The article ripped my wounds open, but what some of my friends from across the country explained deepened the pain.
While the pet industry is busy solidifying – building a united front, the animal welfare groups have been busy attacking each other.
Everyone explained to me that between egos and financial jealousy, rescues are not supporting each other.
What a tragedy. Pure tragedy.
Decades of work are at stake – legislation passed and legislation in progress that is FINALLY happening- while rescues worry about egos and who fundraises the best?
I am in disbelief. Saving lives was never meant to be a competition. In fact, we all used to agree that the best thing that could happen to us is that we would “go out of business” because all the animals would have homes.
How in the Hell did we get so lost? At what point did we lose sight of the goal? The horrific irony that we let egos get in the way of saving the most selfless creatures on Earth?
How did we become so complacent that we can’t see all of our work and the millions of innocent lives that are at stake?
Let me be clear: we are under attack! And whether or not our legal work gets trashed might seem inconsequential, but we should at least all agree that the animals STILL matter! Do we all still recall that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the US mistreating animals every, single day?
Can we agree that those lives MUST COME BEFORE any of our differences?
If we don’t get on the same page, we are going to lose. And that means animals suffer, literally SUFFER and DIE. I am not being dramatic. I am being honest and real.
The pet industry is ripping us apart. They are finding ways to spin the truth and make themselves sound like the better group! The very ones who have shoved metal pipes down dogs throats to silence them, the ones who have poured agricultural acid on hundreds of dogs all at once to remove fleas, the ones who have shot dogs one at a time simply to dispose of them. They are promoting themselves like they are the heroes and we are the villains!
Do I really have to remind everyone who they are?
I have been distant, but not dead. The article wants us to think that mill dogs are socially adjusted, healthy animals… Well, just two years ago I fostered a little Tzu completely broken by the milling industry. She hid behind the wash machine for days on end. Her eyes so infected, her tongue hanging from head trauma, she was emotionally gone. Despite our best efforts, last summer she lost her eye after all her years in the mill with no medical treatment. She has come a long way, but her scars are still visible to anyone who meets her. And, she is one of thousands not dozens like the article suggests.
I certainly didn’t wake up today to find a whole new country treating animals as I always dreamed – but that is what the article attempts to say.
I will never forget my second auction when a man named Chuck told the rescuers and the protestors that while our tactics were different, ultimately, we were all there for the same reason. We needed to respect each other if we were ever going to make a difference.
I will forever be proud of all the people in WI who fought TOGETHER to make things better. Yes, our minds had different methods, but our hearts were all in it for the animals.
I know that if you are part of a rescue organization, your heart has to be in the right place. We have got to get back to the core of this fight. Look in the mirror and at the people who stand next to you at conferences and post endless pics of animals in need… no matter their tactics, their goal IS the same.
UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL… those aren’t just patriotic words, they ring true for us. We are better than this.
I always said whenever I had a chance that “WE” would win this fight because we did it out of love and compassion not money and greed. I still believe that – we ALL need to believe that.
Just look around you, I know you have at least one dog near you that would be dead if it wasn’t for your rescue or some other group that saved him. That desire to save them all – it is real and it is what unites us.
We are against an industry that brings in BILLIONS of dollars – we are already fighting an exhausting war with a limited arsenal, but we cannot turn on each other. NOT NOW.
We are so very close that they are exercising every play they have to destroy our momentum.
Please, let’s not focus on what makes each group different, but what makes us all the same. That passion we all feel deep in our souls is our greatest weapon. It demands that we continue to speak the truth and to fight for justice for the animals. There are millions of wagging tails and desperate eyes counting on us.
Cancer was a fight I couldn’t win alone and this fight against a massive pet industry with the power and financial backing of Big AG is a fight each rescue group can’t take on independently. We cannot let them turn us against ourselves.
WE NEED EACH OTHER and the ANIMALS NEED US.
For the love of all creatures, we cannot let them down. UNITE!