Media Monday – Man of Steel

That’s right, we’re back with another Media Monday! This week I wanted to write about dogs in a new show I watch; but I saw Man of Steel last night and I can’t really contain myself.

Just because I have to say it – I really loved it. If you haven’t seen it yet and you’re a fan of the genre, go see it. Great actors, awesome story (always a superhero fan, myself), and as always, an amazing score from Zimmer. (Did I ever mention I used to be a band geek? Oh, random thought – the MP3 version of Zimmer’s Inception soundtrack is just $5 on Amazon right now. Totally worth it!)

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Mmmmm, hello Handsome! This gorgeous image borrowed lovingly from Jeffrey Taylor’s totally awesome “Spoiler-Free Review” of Man of Steel on Movies.com. You might wanna go read it (just click the image to go). He obviously has fantastic taste.

Okay, now to get this train of thought out of the gutter *ahem* back on track…

As we drive home from a movie, my family always discusses what we liked and disliked, why we think the director or writers did this or that, and how it stacks up to similar movies. Last night, my mother asked me why I thought the Kent family had two breeds of dogs. Aside from the obvious: ‘the first dog wouldn’t live 30 something years so why not?’, we started to come up with some other ideas.

Maybe a producer, a writer, or the director had both an Australian Cattle Dog and a Border Collie and wanted to pay homage to both breeds? Both are great farm dogs, though I don’t actually recall seeing any livestock to herd. I can easily see how people who like one breed would also be fond of the other (case in point, many of my fosters and Lana).

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But I wonder if someone thought to avoid recreating the whole ‘101 Dalmatians fiasco’, as I (and probably a bunch of other people) call it. Remember when Disney made the live action version? About a billion people thought Dalmatians were perfect for them because of that film, and many found out they were wrong. They are pretty big and tend to be active dogs. Really not the right breed for everyone! An old article on CNN written by Beth Nissen explained, “Within months of the 1996 film’s [101 Dalmatians] Christmastime release, thousands of Dalmatians had been rejected — let loose in the streets and along highways, or brought to animal shelters and municipal dog pounds.” Nissen quoted Rose Channer, vice president of outreach for the SPCA in Los Angeles, California: “Dalmatians were outnumbering every other breed brought in that year”. Not only that, but they were buying the puppies from backyard breeders who began breeding the dogs for money rather than quality.

Still of Richardson and Daniels in 101 Dalmatians

I get the allure; they’re freaking adorable. This still of Joely Richardson and Jeff Daniels in 101 Dalmatians borrowed from IMDb. (Thanks, IMDb!) Click if you wanna go there.

By using two different breeds of dogs were they trying to avoid a bunch of people going out and buying ‘the dog Superman owned’?

Honestly I doubt they would have thought of that, but it’s a nice idea. Not as nice as using mutts, but still. I gotta say I’m tired of seeing German Shepherds in every movie ever (not that I don’t love the breed). Regardless of the breed used, it was nice to show that people can, in fact, fall in love with more than one type of dog.

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Simply beautiful still borrowed from insidemovies.ew.com. As always, click the picture to go to the link!

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I couldn’t find a picture of his other dog, so I did this. He’s cute too. The dog, that is. And the man…Where was I going with this? (Click the image to go to the link – shockya.com)

I was pretty pleased by how often the dogs showed up considering they weren’t really important to the story (does this count as a spoiler?). I imagine this was meant to emphasize the all-American-ness of Superman, but who can say for sure? Either way, I was happy. Side note: apparently some people were upset about the lack of Krypto the Superdog in the movie, but honestly I’m not. I think that would have made it too… campy? Not quite the word I’m looking for, but it’s the closest I’ve got. The same reason there were reservations about giving Batman one of his Robins in the Dark Knight trilogy. Krypto was just not necessary. Also not necessary, but somewhat disappointing, was that Miss Lana’s namesake only showed up once. Though, I admit, that’s still better than not at all, which is what I expected.

All dog things aside, the movie was fantastic. Thanks for reading this week’s Media Monday, now go get your tickets for Man of Steel!

My Search for the Truth About Gas Chambers

*WARNING: This is a LENGTHY post. I will include pictures of dogs rescued from euthanasia in order to break up this massive wall of text. I think it’s an interesting read and I tried to avoid bias at all costs, but be warned, it is four full pages on Word.*

I had an article planned for today, but I will have to put it off. You see, a good friend of mine, and a fellow blogger, made a plea on her blog to end gas chamber euthanization today. But truth be told, I don’t really know why. I mean, why gas chambers in particular. I tend to be overly emotional and empathetic, so I try to avoid painful topics. But that’s just not excusable if I’m going to be serious about animal welfare. So I went on a little research spree to see what was worse about gassing than other forms of euthanasia. (Granted, none of them are good, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about.)

Pets who are euthanized because their quality of life is low are killed by lethal injection, often with the owner by their side. Is lethal injection used for beloved family pets because it is less painful, or so that the owner can be there when their pet passes on? After hours of research, the conclusion at which I arrived surprised me to say the least. One thing’s for sure, I didn’t fall victim to the confirmation bias…

 My Search for the Truth About Gas Chambers: More Questions than Answers | DreamBigBarkLoudly.com

It turns out euthanasia by gassing takes longer than euthanasia by injection. When animals receive an injection, they generally lose consciousness within 2 to 5 seconds. They die within minutes, according to American Humane. The same group claims gas chambers may take up to 25 minutes to kill the animals, but does not say how long until they lose consciousness.

The same group says shelter workers prefer to euthanize animals with injections. They do not provide the source for their information, and I could easily see the argument going both ways. They explain that workers would rather allow the animal to feel comforted in its last moments, which is only possible when they are euthanized through injections. While I imagine it would be heartbreaking to witness so many deaths, I would have to agree – I’d rather provide the animals comfort than avert my eyes for my own comfort. However, I imagine there are some who would rather not see what it is they have to do and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand that, too.

Their most logical argument, at least for people who are more concerned about money than morals, is a cost comparison between injection and gassing. They calculated that injections cost less than $2.5 per animal while gassing, even without tranquilizer (and tranquilizer would obviously be more humane), costs more than $4.5 per animal. However, other sources say lethal injections cost about $5 more per animal than gassing. I’m not sure who to trust on this issue, but money’s not my priority anyway.

 My Search for the Truth About Gas Chambers: More Questions than Answers | DreamBigBarkLoudly.com

So maybe you think I feel like my job is done. But I don’t. All I know is one side’s arguments, and my source didn’t even cite all their sources. I know more than I did before, but I’m too gullible a person to not research a little more. What I wanted to see was what actually happens when animals are put to death. To see the difference between gas chambers and injections, “first hand”. The closest I could come was searching the internet for videos.

I saw a ton of videos of sad music and pictures of bodies. It is awful to see piles of carcasses, there’s no denying that. But seeing a dead dog does not tell me whether or not its death was painful. So I had to search a little more. I came across one video where I saw a handful of dogs, many of them puppies, receive lethal injections. Naturally, I was crying by the end. But through blurry tears I saw what was described above. Dogs receiving an injection while in the arms of shelter staff, who were giving them as much comfort as one can through touch. I counted the seconds until the dogs lost consciousness, or at least until their heads fell, and as American Humane said, it was just seconds. Even after they lost consciousness the staff gently turned their bodies over. While you sometimes hear about cruel staff who abuse the shelter animals, more often than not they respect, love, and care for the animals, even after they are gone. That’s why they do what they do. I honestly believe that’s probably one of the hardest jobs out there. (Don’t blame the shelter staff for euthanasia; they are merely cleaning up a mess made by their community. A no-kill shelter cannot work in a uninformed community allowed to breed, buy and sell pets, etc. freely.)

My Search for the Truth About Gas Chambers: More Questions than Answers | DreamBigBarkLoudly.com

I had to search to find videos of injections, but it would take even more effort to find proof of what happens inside the gas chambers. These were the videos I dreaded most, based on internet rumor, but I felt like I needed to know. I needed an unbiased source, or my word was worthless. I found the same video over and over. It showed the outside of the windowless gas chamber (really more of a box). All the viewer had to rely on was sound. Don’t get me wrong, the sound was nerve wracking. But how could I know it wasn’t added after the fact? Well, honestly I can’t. The video showed shelter workers piling dogs into a gas chamber, and when the gas was turned on, there was screaming. But was it caused by the gas or by piling so many animals into a dark box? Was there perhaps a fight between some of the confused dogs? And is it really common practice to euthanize so many at once, or do we merely see the extremes, because the rest isn’t “shocking” and won’t bring viewers?

My Search for the Truth About Gas Chambers: More Questions than Answers | DreamBigBarkLoudly.com

I had to look elsewhere, so I looked at Capital Punishment. Gas chamber execution of humans is no longer allowed in the United States. It was deemed inhumane. This may be partially attributable to our perception of gas chambers as particularly cruel because of their association with the Holocaust. For human executions, the gas of choice was usually Cyanide-based. The exception being the Holocaust, which like animal euthanasia generally used Carbon Monoxide (though a compound called Zyklon-B, a Cyanide-based poison, was also used). However, the Holocaust had far more cruelties than gassing, so I am not sure comparing the two is fair. I concluded that firsthand accounts of human executions by gas may not be comparable to what animals suffer in gas chambers – another dead end for my search for unbiased data.

I thought looking specifically at Carbon Monoxide may take my search in a different direction. When I was a little girl, I learned in school you could die of Carbon Monoxide poisoning and not even notice you were dying. They said it would make you fall asleep. Needless to say, I was terrified to sleep at night for many months. Later, I learned about Carbon Monoxide poisoning as a method of suicide. It’s less messy than some. I’ve heard horror stories of people who jump from buildings but during the fall change their minds and start flailing around, but it’s too late. If people panicked during suicidal Carbon Monoxide poisoning, (more often than not) they could change their mind. They could open their garage door, run onto the driveway, and breathe in the fresh air. They would still need to seek medical attention, but they could avoid the death. This leads me to believe controlled Carbon Monoxide poisoning might not be so cruel after all. But, I refuse to end my search based on personal inferences. So I did a bit more research on Carbon Monoxide.

The speed of death by Carbon Monoxide poisoning depends on the concentration of CO in the air. Most accounts of which I’ve heard say animals may spend 20-40 minutes in the gas chamber before their bodies are removed, but since nobody can witness the deaths, it may not take that long for them to lose consciousness or die. I found a chart about Carbon Monoxide poisoning on Wikipedia, but no data on the concentration of the poison used in gas chambers, so there is little I can deduce from the chart (though I’ve included it here for you):

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National Geographic tackled this issue in the past, and quoted the following: “It’s America’s dirty little secret,” said Grim, author of Miracle Dog: How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row. “If people actually saw the gas chamber working, they would sign a petition tomorrow to ban it.”

But I tried to see one working, and I couldn’t. Not that I would have enjoyed possible ensuing nightmares, but because I need to know the facts. And they are currently eluding me. Taking a step back, I have to admit Grim, as an author, has something to gain by saying gas chambers are cruel. In fact, judging by his book’s title, I’d guess he opposes all non-medically necessary euthanasia. So does he really believe gas chambers in particular are worse, or would a bit of context change the implied meaning of his quote? I can’t answer that question without having witnessed the interview, so I have to keep searching.

My Search for the Truth About Gas Chambers: More Questions than Answers | DreamBigBarkLoudly.com

So I checked with a new source, one that is supposed to be completely unbiased: The American Veterinary Medical Association. They made it clear lethal injection is the preferred method of euthanasia, but they do not consider it the only acceptable one. The following appears on their website:

This means that the use of CO or CO2 for euthanasia of dogs and cats is ONLY considered acceptable when ALL of the following criteria are met. For more details, consult the full Guidelines.

  1. Personnel must be instructed thoroughly in the gas’s use and must understand its hazards and limitations;
  2. The gas source and chamber must be located in a well-ventilated environment, preferably out-of-doors;
  3. The gas must be supplied in a precisely regulated and purified form without contaminants or adulterants, typically from a commercially supplied cylinder or tank;
  4. The gas flow rate must allow operators to achieve known and appropriate gas concentrations within the recommended time;
  5. The chamber must be of the highest-quality construction and should allow for separation of individual animals. If animals need to be combined, they should be of the same species, and, if needed, restrained or separated so that they will not hurt themselves or others. Chambers should not be overloaded and need to be kept clean to minimize odors that might distress animals that are subsequently euthanized;
  6. The chamber must be well lighted and must allow personnel to directly observe the animals;
  7. If the chamber is inside a room, monitors must be placed in the room to warn personnel of hazardous concentrations of gas; and
  8. It is essential that the gas and the chamber be used in compliance with state and federal occupational health and safety regulations.

No matter what, I believe euthanasia should be completed by trained personnel and precisely regulated. Sanitation should always be a priority. So if shelters follow these common sense rules, the AVMA deems gas chambers as “acceptable”? It seems so.

I still wanted one more source. A veterinary student who was kind enough to share her time with me. She informed me she was unaware of a stigma about gas chambers among her circle of peers, mostly fellow vet students. I asked her if she knew much about gas chambers, particularly if they were a painful or slow source of death. Despite my research, her answer was surprising to me. “Gas chambers are definitely not painful. It is pretty peaceful, they just kind of fall asleep. I don’t know if it is necessarily quick, but I don’t believe they are painful.” She followed up with the reminder that of course no one can know for sure. In our chat, we did specify that we were discussing Carbon Monoxide poisoning, not just any poison, but again, that is the most common poison used for euthanasia. (I believe Nitrogen is also used sometimes, but I’ve heard, even from anti-gas chamber advocates, that Nitrogen is more peaceful.)

My Search for the Truth About Gas Chambers: More Questions than Answers | DreamBigBarkLoudly.com

So what did I conclude after hours of painstaking research?
Lethal injections seem to be the ‘best’ form of euthanasia, though finding homes for all shelter animals is obviously everyone’s first choice. Other than that, there was insufficient unbiased information about gas chambers for me to feel as though I could confidently say they should be banned. My search for the truth about gas chambers led to as many questions as it did answers. However, it seems at this point, that if gas chambers really are that much cheaper than lethal injections and the only thing some shelters can afford, they are, as the AVMA worded it “acceptable”.

Are you unconvinced? As I said, I thought there was irritatingly little factual evidence, such as the percentage of the concentration of gas used in chambers, and I still feel like I don’t know as much as I would like to about gas chamber euthanasia. If you know something I don’t, I will gladly listen. I would like to clarify that I am by no means attacking anyone’s view. When I started this article, I thought I would walk away emotionally charged and ready to knock on the doors of the White House demanding an end to gas chambers. But that didn’t happen. I still hope for a future where the United States is a no-kill nation (except for medical/dangerous behavioral reasons). But at this point I am not comfortable expending my energy on a war against gas chambers.

*Update: among my friends who work in animal shelters, many seem to believe gas chambers are unacceptable. I’ll soon be diving into more research on why, and of course will update this post if I find new evidence.

I feel like one of those stage moms right now…

We have some pretty cool news!

You know that AMAZING photographer who took those stunning pictures of my last foster baby, Precious? (She also happens to be a friend of mine, and the mom of two very awesome Dachshunds, too.) Well she has been featured in a book called “2013 Paws for Charity“! The book is actually for sale, just click on the title. All proceeds are donated to charity. One woman said to use the Coupon Code: CSVIP to get a 20% discount on your order (one time use only, expires April 5th). (She may be the editor? I’m not really sure, but she seemed to know a lot so I’m going to go ahead and trust her.)

Shopping for Charity | Dream Big, Bark LoudlyThat’s not all! The picture above is a screen shot of Betsy’s page in the book. Do you see what I see? Precious really is a star!! I’m so happy for Betsy and thrilled to see one of my beautiful former fosters shown off, too. So if you want to help a shelter and get an awesome coffee table book, too, go buy the “2013 Paws for Charity” book now! I’ve heard the hardcover version is worth every extra penny.

Reputable Breeders: My Perspective

A friend and fellow rescue advocate just shared on her blog her recent experience with a reader wanting to buy a pit bull from a breeder.

She explained that as a rescue advocate, she is not likely to start researching breeders on behalf of anyone, not while there is still an overpopulation problem. She finished her article (complete with cute pictures of puppies!) by asking readers what they would have told the person if they had been asked. “How do you deal with people that don’t believe in adopting?”

First of all, I’d like to give a little background information about myself. I am 21 years old. Many members of my generation are subject to the belief that our entire lives should be publicized on the internet, because for some reason we’re positive everyone cares about our opinions. To an extent, I am guilty of this. I have gotten into my fair share of internet rumbles, most recently in an attempt to convince a man to neuter his dog (as well as give him heart worm preventative).

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I imagine a few of you will recognize Levi and may even remember that fight from a dog rescue page on Facebook.

Despite my best efforts, the battle was lost. I started out polite and informative, explaining why I was qualified to speak. I ended up defending myself from an onslaught of negativity and throwing a fair amount back at him. I realized nothing good would come of our fight and I was angry, both at him and at myself because I felt like I failed. I was proud he branded me a bitch, because I took solace in the fact that, while I couldn’t change his mind, I know I hurt his fragile ego. It was all I had.

But I didn’t fail. Okay, yes I did, but I don’t think anyone could have convinced him. You just can’t change everyone’s mind. I will rescue my dogs and will try to convince everyone I can to do the same, but if someone is adamant that they will not rescue, I think it’s our duty as animal welfare activists to at least point them to a reputable breeder (it’s not our job to actually do the research for them, just emphasize they should not go to a pet store). Responsible breeders DO exist, they’re just a bit harder to find than pet stores and puppy mills.

Breeders who breed quality over quantity, those who specialize in one type of dog and know everything there is to know about them. Those people on Craigslist who breed a million breeds of dogs (by the time they start breeding the ‘designer mutts’, at least) are NOT the breeders I’m calling responsible. The breeders I’m calling responsible keep tabs on their dogs for the rest of their lives and would rather take them back in the future than have them sent to the pound if an owner changes their mind. Maybe they require their puppies be spayed and neutered before they go to their new homes (I believe EVERY breeder should do this).

Purebred Lab puppies

These purebred Lab puppies were pulled by the rescue from which I got Lana from a shelter. All the lucky adopters saved lives and money when they went with a rescue!

I am of the opinion dogs like Labrador Retrievers and Pit Bulls should pretty much never be purchased from a breeder. These are among the most over-bred and thus most often euthanized dogs. I am much more likely to judge you for buying a Greyhound (I live near several racing tracks, though they may be less common in other areas) or a Lab than an uncommon breed such as a German Spitz. I also understand people who go to breeders for working dogs. Narcotics dogs, search and rescue dogs, police dogs, companion dogs of handicapped handlers. More than likely, you could find a dog in a shelter that would be good at those jobs, but I certainly understand the ‘just to be safe’ appeal of a breeder in those cases.

Like Morgan said, as an animal rescue advocate, I obviously prefer adoption, but you just can’t convince everyone. I think it is so much better to go to a responsible, reputable breeder than a puppy mill or pet store. The dogs in their care are much better taken care of. You might not be helping the overpopulation problem, but at least you’re still faithful to the animal welfare cause.

Anything but puppy mills.

Such a little victory may not seem like much, but it is still a baby step in the right direction.

Shopping for Charity? Sounds Great!

A group I follow on Facebook, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, posted a link to a website that sells super cute animal rescue inspired bumper stickers, magnets, and T-shirts. They even offer some of their proceeds to various rescues!

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Tennessee Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, their featured rescue of the week, sent me to their site, so I feel as though I should promote them. Not to mention they take in tons of dogs with serious health problems, including some of the most stunning Pyrenees I’ve ever seen (aside from Precious, of course)! However, you can choose from many rescues if you have a specific group that you would like to receive the proceeds!

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So, if you’re in the market for some goods that do some good, the website to visit is: http://www.simpledog.org/shop.html

Multitasking is a habit

If you know me, you probably know I love multitasking. Sometimes when driving long distances (like between my parents’ home and my college apartment), I pop in an audio book or some Japanese practice tapes (and by tapes I mean mp3 thingies) so I have something to do. I also walk to class with an audiobook going when my workload gets really busy. I like to do calf raises while I wash dishes. I like to dance around the apartment and practice my singing, much to the horror of my neighbor (or so I assume). Point is, my mother instilled in me the desire to always be busy, and I’ve learned that multitasking isn’t just a skill, it’s a habit. It becomes a need. I feel useless if I’m not using my full potential. Which brings me to this idea…

Today on my Facebook news feed I saw a plea from a local shelter. They needed ten kittens (yes, ten!) transported about eight hours south early next week. I created a status suggesting my college-aged friends consider transporting while they were driving home for the holidays anyway. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help, too, but I’m still waiting with bated breath to hear what’s going on with Miss Sierra. Anywho, a good friend of mine saw the post and brought up an equally good point: sometimes rescues can even help cover the gas money.

If you are already making a trip and have room in your car, consider offering a free ride for an animal in need. I understand that some people have nicer cars than mine (honestly I do), but you’ll be rewarded with the warm fuzzies, and maybe even some cash to help cover gas.

Just a stray thought.

Sierra

“Thanks for the ride!”