The ritual of the click

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 12, 2015 8:16 PM

I don’t know when it started but it was many computers ago. Maybe with my first color laptop, the 3400c. Before that, the internet was more of an occasional thing. Now it’s there constantly. Somehow I got hooked into clicking for food, specifically for food for animals. It’s through and each day, after I check my mail, it’s the first site I visit. I read the story of the day and then I click to contribute to food for homeless and rescued animals.

There are always stories about rescued animals, often dogs but almost as often cats. I read the stories always. I love that there are people in the world who rescue, because I abhor that there are people in the world who neglect, abandon and abuse. I can’t fathom what type of human could and does do such a thing just as I can’t fathom the abuse of a baby or toddler. These are defenseless creatures and we are a lot bigger. What causes someone to be so cruel? I have no idea.

My Facebook page is filled with friends posting about things in their lives. I post occasionally but mostly I’m just a Facebook voyeur. The pages I like tend to be about the Patriots, wine, politics, dogs and specifically rescue sites. People who have the capacity to rescue abused animals are heroes to me. Eldad of Hope for Paws and Annie of Rescue from the Hart come to mind, as do places like Old Dog Haven in Washington. Like elderly people, we seem to have little regard for elderly animals, tossing them aside or into shelters. Granted, sometimes this happens because an owner has passed away but too often dogs who are 10 years and older, are abandoned. Old Dog Haven takes them in to foster or for hospice care. There’s also a place in Southern California that I’ve just become aware of because of a senior dog that Eldad just rescued from a water treatment facility. His name is Mufasa. The senior dog rescue is called Lionel’s Legacy.

I’m a sucker for anything dog and I have a special place in my heart for older dogs. That’s Maguire’s legacy. That beautiful boy of ours, who started his life with us as a 10 week old puppy, and was with us for more than 15 years showed us how wonderful a senior dog can be. Regal, calm, filled with the wisdom of life with a don’t-care-anymore attitude that is earned. It’s much like people I suppose, minus the get-off-my-lawn mentality.

I read the stories, I watch the videos, I send money. And I hope that perhaps one day I too will be brave enough to foster animals that no one wants. It’s a dream of mine to help more than through money. But I cry when I read the stories and watch the videos. I can’t imagine having one of those creatures in my house to care for. I think I would bawl the whole time.

Until then, though, until I manage to get brave enough to take in an animal that I will then have to give up to another good home, I click. Every morning. And I hope that just that little bit helps all animals of all ages to live it out loud, safe from those who would do them harm.

The story of Susie

by Lorin Michel Monday, September 29, 2014 8:42 PM

I hate people. I know that’s rather a negative statement to begin a blog post that is about celebrating something, but it’s true. I don’t hate all people of course. But I really hate what people are capable of and I hate that I am compelled to read about it. Such is the case of a dog named Susie, a pit-bull mix who just won the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog of 2014. A dog whose previous owners beat her and set her on fire when she was a puppy because she did something horrible. She licked their baby’s face.

Susie was found in Greenfield Park in Greensboro, North Carolina with second and third degree burns over most of her body. Her jaw was broken as were her teeth. She was taken to Guilford County Animal Shelter where she gradually healed enough to be adopted by a woman named Donna Lawrence. It was 2009.

Interestingly, Donna herself had been the victim of a pit bull attack just 10 months earlier. The dog who attacked her had been neglected for most if not all of its life, tied to a tree in a neighbor’s yard. It broke free, grabbed Donna by the ankle and then went into a full attack, lunging at her throat. She was treated for severe lacerations. She was also pregnant at the time and miscarried. Doctors told her she would probably not be able to have children because of the attack.

Naturally fearful of dogs and especially pit bulls, she was still drawn to Susie, the dog who had trusted, received the worst kind of betrayal and abuse, and yet still loved. Donna adopted Susie and together, they went into training so that Susie could become a therapy dog to help others who had survived traumatic events. They also started fighting for stronger anti-cruelty laws, and in 2010 North Carolina passed House Bill 1609, Susie’s Law, which reclassified the malicious abuse, torture or killing of an animal from a Class 1 to a Class H felony, punishable by prison time. Ironically, the man who set Susie on fire would have received no jail time for what he did had Susie been his dog. But Susie actually belonged to his girlfriend so LaShawn Whitehead went to jail for two years.

I am forever appalled by the cruelty I read. That human beings are capable of such an act makes me physically ill. This is why I hate people. I read in the news today about a horse owner in Vermont who woke up to find his horse dead, shot by an arrow in the night. No doubt because an arrow is quieter than a shotgun. I got my ASPCA magazine and read a story about a cat named King who was abused by a neighbor in Brooklyn, kicked nearly to death. He’ll stand trial for misdemeanor animal cruelty. King, who found a new owner, remains “trusting and positive.”

All 50 states now have some sort of felony anti-cruelty law in effect. South Dakota became the last to pass such a law just this year, in March. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 2013 report, the states with the strongest cruelty laws are Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Oregon and California. The states with the weakest are Kentucky, Iowa, South Dakota, New Mexico and Wyoming. Many of the laws involve the treatment of farm animals and rightly so. Puppy mill  laws are on the books in 28 states, which means 22 have no laws regulating the breeding of dogs. Many states, including Arizona, still allow dog racing; twelve states as of 2011.

Susie was up for American Hero Dog this year, competing against 8 other heroic dogs including Bretagne (pronounced Brittany) who is thought to be the last surviving rescue dog from 9/11. The first ever winner was a dog named Roselle who led his blind owner down from the 78th floor of the World Trade Center on that horrific day. On Saturday night, at the Beverly Hills Hilton, Susie stood proudly with Kai, an arson dog, Xena, an emerging dog hero who helps an autistic child, Xxon, a guding and hearing dog, Kota, a K-9 officer, Chaney, a military dog, JJ Krawczyk, a service dog, search and rescue dog Bretagne. Each dog received $1500 to go toward its favorite charity. Susie received an additional $5000. Her winnings went to her foundation, Susie’s Hope.

In 2013, a movie was released also called Susie’s Hope. It was based on Susie and Donna’s story, triumph over tragedy, love and forgiveness. The foundation teaches children that having a pet is a huge responsibility, about staying safe around animals. Together Donna and Susie continue to heal, and love, and lead the effort to get more laws on the books that protect more animals from hateful people. Donna and all of the owners of the American Hero Dogs are the kinds of people who give me hope.

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