On Sharing, Being Awake, and Vegan Dog Food

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

When I interviewed for the Humane Education program, the director asked me how I would deal with coping with some of the information I would learn about.  How would I keep my spirits up when some of what I will read and see is the sort of thing that most people would turn their eyes away from, like the ASPCA commercial that has Sarah McLachlan’s song, “Angel” playing in the background?

To be honest, it’s been hard sometimes. Luckily, one of my coworkers went completely vegan at the beginning of the year so I have someone else to talk to about the whole factory farming thing and why we have both gone vegan. With her, I don’t have to hear “I’ll never be able to NOT eat meat,” or “Why don’t you eat dairy?  The cow has to give milk and it’s not like they’re killing her for the milk.” She “gets it” when I say that I don’t want to be part of causing any animal pain, and she doesn’t look at me like I’m nuts when I say that I’m considering feeding my dogs a vegan diet such as V-Dog.

It can be kind of depressing (or maybe disheartening is a better word) to see what is happening to so many animals every day and know you can’t stop all of it.  Add to that the quandaries you find yourself in, trying to figure out how to best spread the message about becoming vegan or vegetarian, or how our climate is changing every day, or why it’s better to adopt an animal or rescue one off of the streets instead of buying one from a breeder, thereby encouraging the use of puppy mills or the existence of backyard breeders.  Some days, you wish you could still be ignorant of a lot of the pain and suffering that animals go through for humans.  But deep down, you know it’s better to be awake and aware, than to not know what really goes on behind slaughterhouse walls.

So, you push through things and you watch or see images that hurt your heart.  But you do it because the animals need someone to be their witness.  Someone to be their mouthpiece.  I also tell myself that my brief suffering of watching the event is nothing compared to having actually gone through it.

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

I’ve found that I have needed to spend some time out in the sun and a lot of time holding Snuggles close to me, especially when watching documentary films like The Witness or Earthlings.  I’ve also found writing in my journal to be so helpful in guiding me through the crazy maze of my thoughts.  Posting on here has been cathartic too.

I try to not beat myself up for having eaten animals and related products in the past, or for having worn wool and used products that involved animal testing. That was when I didn’t know better.  All I can do is help the animals now, going forward, both by my own actions and lifestyle choices and by writing posts like this one from January.  (In case you want to see more animal issues awareness posts of mine, look here.  And for other posts about my love for animals, look here.  Of course, there is some overlap.)  In case you are wondering, yes, I still have plans to make lots of updates to this website and making changes to incorporate suggestions that some of you generously offered in response to my post of last December when I requested input from you, my readers!

Last night, I came across a job board called VeganJobs.com.  You have no idea how excited that made me!  These past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been spinning circles, trying to figure out how to earn a living wage while still working in an animal-related job.  Unless you are the executive director of a shelter or sanctuary, the jobs are usually very low-paying and as I have my student loans, I can’t afford to take a job at any less than what I am now.  It’s hard enough at my current salary level.

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Image courtesy of pixabay.com

It was on VeganJobs.com that I came across the website, Bite Size Vegan and her corresponding YouTube channel.  She has so many educational videos on her channel, and many can be shown to kids or young adults. I want to help spread the word about the incredible work she is doing so I am sharing it here.  Please go give her some love!

My last few posts have been longer than normal, so I’ll stop this one here today.  Today, I’m feeling more upbeat and hopeful about things.  I may not be chosen for the jobs I’ve  applied for but now I know there are jobs out there that I would love to do and for which I feel qualified.  There is light out there at the end of the tunnel.

As always, thank you for reading.  Please share if you know someone who you think can benefit from reading it.  And as always, comment if you have any thoughts!

 

 

Embarrassed to be a human sometimes

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image from pixabay.com

The above image is what most of us would like to think is how most cows live.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

I spent most of my afternoon watching different videos for my Animal Protection class, and one of them was the 2005 film, Earthlings, which you can watch for free by clicking here.  (I must warn you, the film has graphic images.  The first link goes to the Wikipedia description.)  If you watch it, I can guarantee you will be changed as a person.  I cannot believe what some humans are capable of doing to another living creature.  I really can’t.

Now, I know that telling people all the things that they are doing wrong will just result in their tuning you out. So I’m not going to do that.  But I will say that it caused me to rethink the cavalier way that I sometimes react when I really want a cookie and it might have been made with eggs.  “Oh, it’s vegan today!”  I sometimes say.  Crunch, crunch.

Well, no more.  The images from that movie are seared into my brain.

Chickens crammed into cages so tightly they can’t even move or stretch out their wings.  Dairy cows unable to move from their milking area all day long, pumped full with antibiotics and pesticides so that they will produce more milk, having had their babies ripped away from them on the very first day of their lives.  The slaughter scenes are what really did me in, as I knew they would.  (I’d already known what happens in those buildings but seeing it again is something else.)

Another thing.  In the past, I thought I could be in a relationship with someone even if they ate meat.  I don’t think that I could do that, going forward.  If I were dating someone, and they sat down across from me at the table and started to eat a raw steak, I think it would be nearly impossible to not imagine a cow being slaughtered and the immense pain it suffers from how it’s treated.  I would hear its cries as my partner munched away.  And I really don’t think I can do that again.

I choose to no longer be a speciest. 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, speciesm is defined as the following:

Definition of speciesism

1prejudice or discrimination based on speciesespecially discrimination against animals
2the assumption of human superiority on which speciesism is based
When I was eating meat and using dairy, I was being a speciest without even knowing it.  I was raised to think that eating meat (even veal) was just something everyone did.  Animals were put on this earth to make our lives easier.
I’m not condemning others who eat meat.  But I do think that more people should step out of their comfort zones, and open their eyes to the suffering that goes on every day with so many thousands of animals who are raised for purposes of our food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research.  I no longer accept the phrase “Yeah, I’m good.  I don’t want to know,” as being a valid excuse.  In this day and age, we have so much information at our fingertips.

It may sound like I might be going to too much of an extreme in saying I can’t be with someone who eats meat.  However, I realized today, watching that movie and holding Snuggles closely to me, my animals are all I need.  I don’t need a romantic relationship in my life to make me feel complete.  A few very good friends, located near or far, are enough for me.
A line in the film really stuck with me.
Humans are the one species on this earth that inflict pain just to inflict pain.  No other species does that.
Animals may inflict pain on one another but it’s for survival reasons.   The predator kills and eats his/her prey.
Humans have so many other choices for food and clothes.  We don’t need to kill an animal just so we can have the newest “cute” handbag or “sexy” boots or softest fur coat.  We have so many other options.  The only vitamin a vegan needs to take in order to supplement their diet is B12.  The rest can come from foods that don’t include dairy or meat.
I will add links to some of the other videos I watched to my animal rights page of this blog in the near future.
If you’d like to leave a comment below, please do so.  If someone else’s comment goes against what you believe in or think, please respond in an above-board way.  A healthy exchange of ideas is best.
As always, thank you for reading.

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Chasing your dreams, even simple ones, can be difficult sometimes

 

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Image via pixabay.com

I just found out the other day via LinkedIn that a former coworker of mine just left Harvard Law to take a new position at another university, and from the sound of her title, it sounds pretty high up there.  I’m sure the salary corresponds to it well.  This person is a very smart cookie and knows how to negotiate.  (It was only after she got hired there several years ago that myself and another coworker were then given substantial raises in salary (ahem, readjustments.))

Why do I even mention this?  Because it made me feel kind of crappy.  I mean, I was happy for her.  She has always been a very hard worker and an excellent librarian.  She manages working full time with twins and has since had another baby.  And now she has this big-time sounding job. And here I am, scrimping to get by on just under $25K per year, not counting in my freelance work.  It made me question myself.

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Image via pixabay.com

Experiencing Compassion Fatigue and Feeling Burnt Out:

I think I have begun experiencing what they refer to as compassion fatigue.  Receiving multiple calls, day after day, from people who have just adopted a pet but can’t afford to take care of them, can really get to you.  Getting a call in which someone says “my pet just got hit by a car, but I don’t get paid until next week,” is really rough.  I’d love to say to them, “I can help you pay for that,” but the reality is that on $12.50/hour, it’s just not possible.  I have my own bills to take care of.

I’m taking a class in Animal Protection this semester.  I’m going to have some hard emotions to work through.  I already know that.  When I read about factory farmed animals, I experience physiological changes.  I feel it in my heart and in my throat.  I want to yell, scream, or hit something. (Not my pets, of course.  They actually help calm me down.)

The film Earthlings is assigned for us at one point.  (That link goes to the Wikipedia description of the film.)  The teacher has made it clear in the syllabus that we have the option to not watch it.  I haven’t yet figured out if I will or not.  I don’t want to have nightmares as a result, but in learning to be a humane educator, a part of me feels it’s necessary to bear witness to what is going on in this world so I can better advocate and educate humans for those who can’t speak.

Did I also mention that I have been trying to find extra side work with a few transcribing companies?  I have, and going through the assessment process can be somewhat stressful.  But the good news is, this morning I found out from one that they would like to work with me.

Stressing about finding a job in my field or determining what that field is:

In addition to feeling a bit burn out, I’ve been starting to feel a bit down about finding a job that really makes me feel like I’m making a difference and having the funds to make a move sooner rather than later.  (I’d like it to be in the next year or two.)  I spent some time talking/texting with my friend Dan, and applied to be a member of the APHE (Association of Professional Humane Educators) so that I could start networking with others in the field.  My application is currently pending.

They (the APHE) are hosting a conference this March in Orlando, Florida so I’m considering going, but it would be a substantial financial investment for someone at my income level.  And while I like meeting people, and can be extroverted at times, I hate the idea of schmoozing.  I’m just not a schmoozer.  Makes me nauseous when I see others doing it, and my past experiences at conferences showed me that a lot of that goes on.  I hope this field is different, though. So I will let you know if I decide to go.

All of these reasons are why I haven’t posted in about a week.  I just didn’t feel I had anything positive to say, and you know what they say – if you don’t have anything good to say, best to say nothing at all.  It could be the cold weather we have here in ABQ, or the fact that it’s winter, or the fact that payday is still two days away, but I’ve been feeling a bit down.  I’m working through it the best I can.  And trying to get enough sleep.  But nothing is a miracle cure.

Change in my personal life:

Oh, and I broke up with the Canadian boyfriend a few weeks ago.  I’m sure that having that in the background of my mind doesn’t help.  We still talk occasionally.   I know it’s for the better but I think subconsciously, it brings back some feelings I experienced when I left my marriage.  That fear of being alone for the rest of your life and wondering if there’s something wrong with you.  However, truth is, I think I’m not in the right head space or life space to be in a relationship right now.  Not when I’m trying to figure out a lot of things.

I hope you are all doing well, despite the cold and heavy snowfall a lot of the country has been experiencing lately.  Please drop me a line and let me know how things are going for you, or if you’ve felt down at times, and what you’ve done to pull yourself out of it.  Or share this post with someone you think would appreciate or benefit from it.  And as always, thanks for reading.

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Low-Cost Animal Healthcare Options

If you find this post helpful, or know someone who it can help, please share it because as they say, “Sharing is caring!” 🙂

 

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Morgan, giving the puppy dog eyes as only she can do!

 

As a veterinary receptionist, I get so many calls every day from people who tell me about a pet that needs help, or that needs to be spayed or neutered, and when they hear what my hospital charges, they say “Well, I can’t afford that.”

The other day I was volunteering at a food pantry, giving out pet food as we do every third Friday of the month, and some ladies told me that they were trying to feed 15 cats that were just dumped on them.  The daughter seemed at her wit’s end, having called a few different organizations and not hearing back, or being told no over and over.  And I was at a loss not knowing of some low-cost spay and neuter clinics, but I did give her the names of some foster care programs if she could trap the cats.  Being a former librarian, that just didn’t sit right with me!!

I went to an outdoor festival on Saturday and met a volunteer with Animal Protection of New Mexico.  Their literature states that there are about 40 different spay/neuter programs in New Mexico alone, so I made a note to find that information and spread it on here.  Please note I’m not intending for these few paragraphs to be all inclusive of every single organization that helps out with low income spay and neuter clinics — that’s impossible to do for the entire globe.

For those of you reading this in New Mexico, click here for a list of spay and neuter programs listed by county, in alphabetical order.  Also, check out the SpayNM spay and neuter program website for another listing of spay and neuter clinics.  SpayNM also provides information on TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs to help deal with feral cat colonies, and PACA (People’s Anti-Cruelty Association) is also helpful in the area of TNR.  And in case those don’t have enough information for you, then check out Love That Cat’s listing by state of spay and neuter programs (note that some only work with pet animals and some only work with feral cats).

Not in New Mexico?  That’s fine.  Here is the link to the ASPCA’s website that has a listing of clinics and programs which you can search for within 50 miles of your zip code.  Not in the US?  That’s ok – go to this listing compiled by the HSUS that includes TNR programs in Canada too!!

If you are reading this from outside of the US or Canada and know of similar type programs in your country, would you kindly drop a comment below so I can share that information on your behalf?  I’m thinking of creating some pages on this blog with helpful resources like this.  It could be a lot of work but the librarian in me will be happy to be kept busy and have her brain engaged. Do you think something like this would be helpful? Please drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

And enjoy this video below of my two nut job dogs (Morgan and Snuggles) playing!

 

 

 

 

Comforting animals at the end: a plea for them

 

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Capturing Snuggles mid-shake, enjoying his walk in the cool mountain air

I would like to ask a favor of you, the reader.  As you read through this, if you feel like it’s touched you in some way, or you think that there is someone out there who can benefit from reading it, I would ask you to share it with them.  Thank you.

I came home from work yesterday and said to my roommate, “I need to go somewhere with Snuggles and feel the sun on my face.”  You see, right before I left work, some folks brought in their 14 year old dog to have her euthanized.  She was a total sweetheart, and I could tell that they loved her.  But when it came time to be with her at the end, they decided they couldn’t be there through the procedure with the doctor.

I brought treats into the visiting room for her, and she eagerly gobbled them up.  (Chicken and yogurt, in case you’re wondering.) When her parents left the room, she tried to scramble after them.  She thought she was leaving too.  But her arthritic legs wouldn’t let her move fast enough. It broke my heart.

I took her into the back to our treatment area, and offered her treats again.  She had no interest in them whatsoever.  She kept staring at the door toward where she had last seen her family.  Why weren’t they with her?  I could see the confusion in her eyes, and knew she was afraid.  I petted her all over her back and hair was just shedding off of her nonstop.  A coworker got her some water in case she was thirsty.  But no, her panting was stress panting.  I kept hugging her and kissing her head on the head.  It’s all I could do.

One of the nurses said it used to bother her when owners wouldn’t be there during the euthanasia procedure with their pets, but she’s gotten used to it.  Me, I NEVER want to get used to that.

I wished I could offer to take over her care and let her live just one day longer.  But I couldn’t, and maybe it was truly her time to cross over.

 

snuggles profile.jpgA few times, when we have not been busy out front at the desk, I’ve asked my coworkers to cover for me so that I can comfort an animal at the end.  I tried to do this for this pup, whispering to her, “it’s okay, it’s okay, shhh, shhh,” but the doctor was having problems with her veins, and finally the pup lost her patience and nipped at her.  So I had to leave as she was muzzled.  If she bit me, my doctor would get into trouble for it.  I’m a receptionist who loves animals, not a veterinary technician.

Imagine at the end of your life, you’re scared, you don’t know who any of these people are with you, but you see a white coat and it scares the crap out of you.  So you lash out and for that, you get a muzzle put on you.

I understand why they had to muzzle her.  I do.  The human part of me does, anyway.  But that inner child that has always felt like I sometimes understand animals better than I do humans — that part grieved for her.   I wanted to be with her, to tell her that she was loved, that she was going to be okay, and wouldn’t feel any more pain as she slowly fell into a very deep, never-ending sleep.

The vet that performed the procedure is amazing when it comes to her love of animals, and that is why she is my vet.  She’s been a vet for many, many years, and I’m sure it doesn’t get any easier.  I’m sure that’s part of why she tries so hard to heal them and keep them alive.

Here is my plea to animal parents out there.  I know it’s hard to say goodbye to your pet.  I know, believe me.  I’ve comforted so many of you in our visiting room as you make that difficult decision.  And each time, it touches another part of my heart.   To many of you, I know they are a member of your family.  Please think of how it would feel to you at the end of your life, to not have one familiar face around you.  You’re not sure why you’re being stuck with needles, and you’re confused.  No one can explain it to you in a language you understand.  Please rethink not being with them at the end.  Your pet has given so much love to you during their (comparatively) short stay here on this earth.  Think of this as your last gift that you can give to them, to be with them at the end.

And if you still cannot bring yourself to do it, then just know that there is at least one person who will love them and hug them and comfort them at the very end.  That person is me and the countless other “me’s” that just wear other faces. We will do the best we can for your baby, but just know it’s not the same as feeling the comforting hands and kisses and words from you, their parent.

Please know, I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty or sound like I am lecturing.  I am simply trying to give a voice to those who can’t speak in our language, but who definitely feel many of the same emotions as we do.

Please enjoy the pictures of my little Snuggles enjoying his “mommy and me” time as well as the beautiful flowers I saw the other day at the ABQ BioPark.   Take time out to savor the little things in life.

Thank you, as always, for reading.  And if you think there is someone out there who should read this, please do share it with them.  Thank you.

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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

As a veterinary receptionist, or as my official title says, “client service representative,”  I take many phone calls every day from owners who have pets with major health problems, yet have limited funds with which to care for them.  I would also count myself in their numbers, but luckily, I work for the animal hospital so I do get many services at a hefty discount and I am allowed to carry a balance.  (However, they do charge 18% on an unpaid balance, so it’s not such a huge benefit in that sense.)

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Many times per day, I refer callers to low-cost animal clinics, who, I am sure, get overrun with walk-ins or appointment requests.  A lot of times, I think the problems can be easily prevented.  Take, for example, vaccinations.

Many times, people don’t bother to get their animals vaccinated after they adopt them.  It may be ignorance – they just assume that the dogs or cats have received everything that they will ever need to get, by the time they are adopted.  (We definitely hear that from some.)  Or, it may be that they think the vaccines are too costly, and they might not take the time to actually call around and get pricing info on them.  If they did, they might find some low-cost vaccination clinics, or as is the case with my animal hospital, certain days of the week when the vaccines are given at half price.  Yes, HALF PRICE! There are also places like Vet-Co where you can go to get vaccinations.  Sure, they might not spend as much one-on-one time with your pet as they do at my hospital, but you are getting the bare bones care that is really NEEDED for your pets to stay healthy.

For dogs, these are the vaccines we generally suggest:

  • Distemper/Parvo (2 boosters and a third one that lasts for a year) starting when the animal is about 6-8 weeks of age.  Boosters should be given about 3-4 weeks apart.
  • Bordatella (commonly known as the vax for “kennel cough”).  Again, get boosters, and a third one that lasts for a year.  (Some places may say it’s only good for a year – check with the vet to see how long the one lasts that your pet is receiving.)
  • Rabies!!  Your pet can get a yearly vax as soon as they are 16 weeks of age.   Once they have had the one year vax, when they come back the next year, you can get a three year vax.

If you are going to take your dog to a dog park, or the groomer, please please PLEASE get them vaccinated.  I can’t tell you how many calls we get about dogs who have come down with kennel cough after they go to a grooming appointment.

Also, if you have a puppy, please don’t take them to a dog park or walk them on the sidewalks where a lot of other dogs venture, before they have had all their boosters.  This is something i never knew growing up.  Then again, as a kid, I never heard of parvo.  Parvo is one of those disesases that is very easy for a young pup to contract and which can be SUPER expensive to treat if you have your pet hospitalized.   Parvo is an illness that can be noticed by signs such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea (usually with blood in it) and many times, it can be fatal.  Pups with parvo end up not wanting to eat or drink, and if they do, they can’t keep it down, or inside them. (i.e., the diarrhea).  Oh, and when they have the diarrhea, trust me, it smells something AWFUL.  Parvo is something you want to catch early, because for young pups, it can be FATAL.

For cats, these are the vaccines we usually suggest (and require to board at our facility):

  • Feline panleukopenia
  • FVRCP
  • Rabies (once they are 16 weeks of age)

Many times, people think that if cats don’t get outside, they can’t contract something contagious from other cats, or contract rabies.  Well, have you ever had a bat fly into your house?  Because I have.  And while I don’t intend to make people afraid of bats (because they are actually kind of cute in their own way), they are known for being carriers of rabies.  Or, if your dog gets into a fight with another dog that has not been properly vaccinated, (and, especially if yours has not been also), it might be at risk of contracting rabies, and therefore, passing it onto your cats.  So, at the very least, get them vaccinated for rabies.

Another good preventive health care step to take for your pets:

SPAY AND NEUTER!!!

I cannot stress this enough, and I KNOW my friends who volunteer at shelters or sanctuaries will back me up on this — there are SO MANY unwanted pets out there in the shelters.  So many shelters, whether it be for lack of funds and/or lack of space, euthanize dogs and cats on a daily basis.  And SO MUCH of it could be prevented!! It really could!! Spaying or neutering is also good for their health! It can prevent a lot of problems such as a higher risk of cancer and plyometria (which requires surgery, pronto), just to name a few.

While people may be shocked to hear what some hospitals charge for spaying and neutering, they should ask some questions when they are calling around for pricing:

  • Do you have any wellness plans that can bring down the overall cost to me or provide me with additional services that I can utilize all year long? (We do!)
  • Do you know of any low cost spay or neuter clinics when I can have my pet fixed (or “altered” as we call it) for a fraction of the full price?
  • Are there any shelters or sanctuaries that provide spay or neuter services to low-income individuals?
  • Do you base your pricing for services on the income of the pet owner? (While it’s rare, some do.)

Keep in mind, also, that some cities, such as Albuquerque, charge pet owners more per year to have an intact pet than a spayed or neutered pet.  It’s part of the city’s way of encouraging owners to be responsible owners.  So in addition to preventing a lot of unwanted animals and health problems for your pet, why not save yourself some bucks, and do the responsible thing by getting your pet spayed or neutered? 🙂

If you do end up having a health emergency, ask the hospital if they do take payment plans, but be prepared to hear them say “no.”  Many don’t.  But many may take something called Care Credit, which is a credit card you can use for your own health or that of your pet. While it is a lifeline to some, and can give them some breathing room because the hospital can offer to input certain promotion codes depending on the charge applied (for us, it’s 0 percent for 6 months if the charge is over $200), keep in mind the interest rate that kicks in after that promotional period is pretty hefty.  As in 26.99 percent. Let me write that again.  26.99%.  To anyone who applies for it or uses it at my hospital, I tell them to make sure that they either get it paid off or make sure that balance is transferred off the card by the time the promotional period ends to avoid that hit.  Because it’s huge and who can afford to pay interest at that rate??!!  I certainly can’t! (And please don’t think I am endorsing Care Credit, I just mention it because like I said, for some, it is a lifeline when they can’t bear to say goodbye to their pet, but can’t afford the hefty vet bill all at once and don’t have other means to pay for it, credit card or otherwise.)

If you have enjoyed this post, or think someone can benefit from it, please do share it and pass it on! And please drop me a line if you have a comment or suggestion.

And please note that all the opinions expressed herein are my own and not that of my hospital. I only speak for myself in my posts.

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