There is a principal in yoga called ahimsa, it means to do no harm. The idea is to do no harm to any living thing. Most yogis do their best to honor ahimsa when it comes to the people in their life, but what about our furry friends, the animals? Some yogis choose to be vegetarian or vegan because of the way animals are treated at factory farms. Some believe negative energy transfers from the moment of death from the animal to them, and therefore choose not to eat meat. Ahimsa doesn’t stop at not eating meat, it also involves animal testing. One subject that is very near to my heart. Let me tell you my story about animal testing.
When I was seventeen years old and had just graduated from high school, I took a job selling perfume door to door. It was an experience to be sure. In a nutshell, we schlepped our box of “merch” all over town. Sometimes we had to get creative in gaining entry to the employees that had the no solicitation signs. Knowing this, I made my way to an industrial park, just down the street from where I grew up. Most of the doors were locked, but every now and then we would luck out and find a bored employee willing to let us in. On this day, most of the doors were locked, so I decided to get creative and go around back to the service entrance. One of the doors was unlocked and I walked in. I entered the building, rather amused by my ingenuity.
I stopped dead in my tracks. I was overwhelmed by a pungent smell. There it was, a rack, not unlike a rack you might see at a bakery full of tasty donuts and croissants. There were no pastries on this rack, it was full of bunnies. They were being used for animal testing. The rack was pushed off to the side much like you might find a patient left in the hallway waiting for a hospital room. My gaze met one of these bunnies in their eyes. There was sheer terror in his eyes. My heart raced as I quickly darted out of there. The image of that rack of bunnies is as clear now as it was over thirty years ago. This is the reality of animal testing. These helpless souls living in a rack while being subjected to terror, day after day. When I arrived home, my family consoled me and explained that’s just the way it was. That’s what animals are for. They don’t feel pain or they are too stupid to know what is happening. I knew at that moment that it was wrong. Just because something has always been, does not mean it should be.
How can we as people be so compassionate and at the same time so very cruel? As an adult, I choose to buy products that do not test on animals. It can be inconvenient at sometimes. After all, ignorance is bliss. It is easier to not know, just to look away. That doesn’t change the wrong that is being done.
We vote with our dollar. Consider supporting companies that do not test on animals with your patronage. A new awareness has risen. Try to give it some thought the next time you choose between two comparable products. Choose ahimsa.
Thanks to our guest writer, Michelle Rae Sobi, RYT-200, Owner of Power Edge Yoga Fitness, LLC www.poweredgeyoga.com and Edge Yoga School® www.edge.yoga, a Registered Yoga Alliance School. <3
Well, It's hard to believe it's been so long. In the end, Lady and Grumble ended up having four puppies at some point. Wasn't my idea, but my room mates at the time chose not to keep them separated when I went to work one day.. and .. well.. we ended up with four puppies. I brought them all to the Magazine Street vet I used to go to, placed three of the four and kept one, Ocha.
Jack, Ocha's brother ended up going to my mom. Lady also ended up getting placed... something I regretted, actually. At the time the puppies were born, I myself was expecting and I was becoming overwhelmed. Lady was a tough dog to manage due to her abuse. We also had the little German Shepard at the time. We called her Salina - but the new owner changed her name. She was just such an amazing dog. Eventually we moved to Illinois permanently after all the dogs except Grumble and Ocha were placed and my daughter was about 18 months old. It was the second time my mother had a bout with cancer - a lengthy treatment process - so we decided to stay.
Grumble lived to be about 15 years old and Ocha lived to be about 17. They were just about the best dogs anyone could ever have. I still miss them.
It wasn't until 2015 when I adopted Sammy from ADOPT (Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment) in Naperville, Illinois. They said he is a pit bull mix and I think he is mixed with some kind of Mastiff judging by the color and his bulkiness. He's about 80 pounds which would have outweighed my other dogs by about 30 pounds. He was brought there when he was a puppy at 9 weeks or so, had been adopted out once for about a year and they brought him back when they decided to have a child. He's like a bull dozer in strength, but he is just the most lovable guy and a huge cuddle monster.
The thing that makes this so much more difficult is because I live in the suburbs of Chicago, sometimes there is a huge lack of understanding about these dogs. So rather than he do his natural job of protecting me, I have to protect him. He's slightly intimidating having a bark and guttural sound that resembles some old muscle car from the 70's. He is loved, however. I was walking him up the Riverwalk one day and an ADOPT volunteer was walking toward us who I didn't recognize. I brought him close to me and tried to have him sit quietly. I said, "He's friendly, really!" over all his noise.
She said, "Is that Sammy?!" and put her hand to her mouth and began to cry. "Oh my, I am so glad he is doing well. You know they had to put down his brother. Oh, he is such a sweet dog!"
The woman was walking a small white dog and with all the noise Sammy was making, you would think he was angry, but he got close and gave a few smells and smiled and that was enough. On to the next smells. He really could care less. Having grown up in the large wonderful pens at ADOPT, he was very well socialized with all kinds of dogs and people. He never quite got the hang of walking nicely on a leash, however. Last year when I was marathon training I found it took about three miles before he would begin to run along side me. He often went on three, five, ten mile runs with me topping out at 17 miles. I feel bad for him I am not training this year - I think he misses it.
A few months later, a friend of mine was having some logistical troubles after moving here from California. After a while I noticed he was really struggling with what to do with the dog. Finally, I realized if I didn't speak up it would be a shelter so I told him to bring him over. Remy is a little less trusting than Sammy, but now that he is part of the family I cannot imagine life without him. Although he isn't a runner, he's quite a character and likes to .... sing.
I am not going to say it is easy by any stretch of the imagination. It is not. They're strong, they aren't fluffy little lap dogs (don't tell them that) and they ... believe it or not... scare people. I try so very hard to walk them in a calm environment and work with them on manners and I take them to the dog park when I can. I'm lucky because I have a son that helps me with them quite often so it doesn't all just fall on me all the time. Adopting a dog isn't always easy and they are not some commodity or trinket for display. They are family member. Part of the pack. And they require a lot of care and attention. So - If anyone out there is thinking about shopping for a pet, consider adopting and, first and foremost, consider the long term of bringing this life - this sentient being - into your home.
And, as you can see, I can't seem to take enough photos of either of them. They are rather spoiled, but hey. You only live once.
Well, one fun little experiential phenomenon that I forgot to mention that comes with picking up a street puppy from a clown on Bourbon Street is mange. That's right. The adorable little staffie mix with the wormy belly had mange. For people, that translates to scabies. I would bet that most of the readers out there do not even know what that is. Well, neither did we. They're tiny little mites, and they're the reason all the fur falls off a "mange" animal. It's like lice on steroids.
Just imagine three adults standing in a claw foot bathtub soaked in a scabicide head to toe a few times a day for a few days in a row. Miraculously, Kaya didn't catch it. Just lucky us. We washed all the clothes and blankets and bedding with bleach and hot water. After a week or so, everyone was recovered with no further incident. Erik was less than pleased, yet it caused a strange bonding between us all.
Fast forward to months later when our landlord found out and politely asked us to find a new home. He actually expressed disappointment in a true southern gentlemanly sort of way and I felt bad that we'd let him down. But we moved and that was that.
So, you would think that I would quit jogging around the neighborhoods after what happened with Lady (that's what we named the female dog that was going to get thrown into the dumpster from the second floor), but I just loved running around those Oak tree lined streets. With the Crepe Magnolias and brick side streets and sidewalks, it was so romantic and beautiful, I couldn't help but want to get out in it.
My running path began to take me down toward Tchopitoulas Street off Louisiana Avenue and for about two weeks I'd run past this house with a chainlink fence and a concrete yard. There was a dog house and one day I noticed a small German Shepard. The first thing I noticed was her sweet eyes. Every day I'd run past early in the morning. There was never any food or water and the dog was always out there. Many people in New Orleans believed keeping a dog, any dog would keep them safe since the crime rate was so high. This dog barely had the energy to bark at me. I felt so bad for it so I started bringing treats for it. I wanted to complain to the home owners so one day I went knocking, but there was no answer and you would think the place was abandoned due to the shambles. I left a note to please take care of the dog.
Finally, I ran past and noticed someone had put flea powder all over the dog. They must have just thrown it on her because it was in her eyes and around her food bowl and unevenly dispersed in her fur. Well, that was it for me. I waited all day and into the night when the sun went down and asked my roommate if I could borrow the car, grabbed some wire cutters and went to get her. I cut the 8' chain locked fence at the driveway enough to open it and brought treats. We covered the back seat with a blanket. She was afraid, but finally came out. We helped her in the car on the blanket and brought her home where I had a hose and flea and tick shampoo waiting. It was plenty warm outside and we sat in the back courtyard of the apartment and washed her long fur. When we pulled the blanket out of the car, it was covered in bugs.
The courtyard was red brick and Crepe Magnolias lined our patio and she made a nice bed for herself that night on the step by the door. When I got up in the morning and opened the door she stood up and there were hundreds of dead ticks on the step. I pet her and fed her and promptly swept the step and after a walk, I washed her again. She had the sweetest, most gentle eyes and I needed no leash for her. She would just walk by my side. I brought her to the vet that day and found that as a full grown adult German Shepard, she weighed only 25 pounds. She also had heart worms, a deadly disease and a very expensive one to cure.
I had no intention of keeping her since we had dogs already so I made flyers and went around to all the natural food stores, natural pet stores and other places where I thought like minded and empathic folks might shop and put them up. Sure enough, a Tulane professor of women's studies saw the flier and called me. She met with us and I explained the situation. She told me she was just starting to feel the sadness from losing her own German Shepard after fifteen or so years and when she saw the flier she thought it was a sign.
The woman had long salt and pepper hair and soft skin. I told her I was so thankful to have met her and I asked her to go home and be sure to sleep on it and give me a call the next day because it was a very big responsibility and I understood that. She agreed, but she called me early the next day. She was ready. She came by and picked up the little shepard who was gaining a little weight now and chose to go to a homeopathic vet for the heartworm treatments. It was a risk because even the treatments could kill her.
Six months later, Grumble and I were walking at our favorite spot on the levee by the Mississippi up at Audubon Park and there they were. She had completed the treatment and put on weight and walked next to the professor right at her side, just as she had done with me. Most importantly, they both had huge smiles on their faces and were doing very well. I couldn't have been happier. I will never understand why people treat animals so badly sometimes. This is just not something that is in my nature and sometimes I feel every pain of it. I'm glad I didn't just stand by and let this happen. Even though I know I can't save them all, I am glad I could save this one.
Our landlord was a smooth talking Louisiana man who always wore a suit with a bow tie and drove a big white Caddie that resembled a 25 foot boat more than a car. I'm not sure how it really got around corners. He was a nice man and regretted to inform us that since we had indeed broken the rules, we would have to leave.
We found a place up Magazine Street a bit, a little closer to All Natural, the health food store we used to go to, and to the levee around Audubon park. I would ride my bike up the Camp street cobble stones and Grumble would follow along. If I went to the A&P, he would wait outside. If I went to the park, he would run along side my bike. Only if I went to the French Quarter would I sometimes put him on a leash, but I rarely brought him there so he was rarely on a leash.
One day, when I was out on my run with him, I saw a man on a second floor balcony carrying a dog out of the corner of my eye. As I got closer I could hear he was yelling something. Then I noticed there was a dumpster below the corner of the balcony.
"Hey! What are you doing with that dog?!" I yelled.
"I'm gonna throw 'er in the dumpster!"
"Stop!" I yelled. "I'll take her!"
I ran up the stairs with Grumble following along behind and met the man face to face. He was a fowl looking man, drunken and unshaven. I could see there were children in the apartment through the cracked doorway, dirty and blonde still in their underwear.
Now I was not in some bad neighborhood. I was running off St. Charles Avenue where all the nice restaurants and mansions are and the huge oak trees line the streetcar tracks.
The man didn't have a leash so he went inside and got me a necktie. The dog was terrified. He threw a bag of dog food at me. The children's eyes looked low at me and I wished I could take them too.
The last thing I needed was a dog, however, much less any stray children. How could anyone even think to throw a dog off a balcony into a dumpster? How was this dog raised? Who could be so cruel to an innocent animal? I wondered if the children were even in school and what they were doing there.
It was difficult getting the lean, black, female dog back to my apartment with the necktie always coming loose as she would resist and then try to run forward quickly. The tie was made of a slippery material and I had a good seven or eight blocks to walk with her, the dog food and Grumble.
Finally, I got her home. I could not believe what had just happened. Now what was I going to do with this dog?
Well, first thing's first - so I gave her a bath. 'Tomorrow I'll bring her to the vet,' I thought. I made her a little bed and gave her skinny self some food and went on about the rest of my day crossing my fingers nothing else out of the ordinary would happen.
To be continued.....