How Deep is Your Soulprint?
Fingerprints. Footprints. Pawprints.
I first learned of the concept of a Soulprint a few years ago, thanks to the incredibly talented Martin Page. Martin and his manager, Diane Poncher, allow me to use Martin's music in my animal welfare projects. When Martin released his "In the Temple of the Muse" CD in 2012 and I first heard the song, "Soulprint," I knew I would try to use it some day. I just didn't know at the time that I would end up using it to honor a loss.
I think all of us want to make a difference in some way. All of us want to be remembered. Only some of us are truly able to change the world or society or even a community. Most of us do well to be good people who love our families and our friends, who work hard and who try to help others when we can. Also universal is the reality that the longer we live, the more precious time becomes as we lose those we love. Death is a part of life. I have my own beliefs about God and death and The Other Side which I don't force on anyone. Although I believe that there is an After, I feel incredibly strongly that we must all do our very best to be grateful for the time we have here and the time we share with the people we care about. It is easy to let ourselves assume that we will have X amount of time based on how long other people in our family lived or based on how hard we try to eat well, exercise and avoid bad habits. The truth is that no one is guaranteed any more time than today and we are well served to do our very best to treat each day as our last.
Losing beloved animals over the years taught me about death at a young age. Losing my parents in a 6 month window of time to cancer taught me to leave no words of love, apology or advocacy unsaid and to do my very best to appreciate the blessings in my life. I have always been outspoken and I attribute part of that to my military background. Your tax dollars at work, I guess. Losing Snake put me on a path of animal welfare advocacy. Losing my parents simply honed my focus on my advocacy and allowed me to cast away some of my fears about what others think.
I've crossed paths with a lot of wonderful and passionate people over the years in my animal advocacy and we all lost an incredible person yesterday. Dana Kay Mattox Deutsch. I think I was just lucky to see the post about her passing in my Facebook feed. Had I not looked at the right moment, it may have been weeks before I heard the news. It took me a while to process. Surely she was not gone. I had just talked to her a couple of months ago and she sounded fine. I am told she had lung cancer even though she had never smoked, which is the case with many people. I am also told that it moved to her brain, as was the case with my dad back in 2010.
Dana. I first met her in 2004. I was working on some slide show to promote animal adoption and I ran across her photostream in Flick. I emailed her to ask if I could use some of her images and of course she said yes. I went on to use countless images of hers over the years. At one point I did a slide show specific to the shelter where she worked at the time. We used "Ordinary Moment," by Fisher, a song which has always held a special place in my heart since it was the first Fisher song I ever heard. We kept in touch when she moved on to her new job in North Chicago. I was kind of surprised that she had chosen to become an animal control officer. It is a hard and often thankless job in which you see a lot of neglect and tragedy. I knew from talking to Dana that she took an incredible amount of pride in her work. It was her life's passion. I could hear the energy in her voice each time we talked and I always felt empowered after speaking with her. When I later did a project for her about Ralphie (her beloved dog she rescued after Hurricane Katrina) I felt closer to her. I had seen so many images of him, and of all the animals she had helped for so many years, that I felt a tight bond with her.
We will never really know how many people Dana helped. How many animals she saved. The numbers are surely staggering and for that I am grateful.
Dana's Soulprint was, and is, deep. She is gone from this place far, far too soon. I am so very happy to call her friend. I am honored to have walked Life's Path with her for a while, even if from different physical locations. She was a kindred spirit and I have to believe her legacy will be strong as she inspires others to live with the type of passion she showed each and every day.
I read something yesterday to the effect that Dana will still making calls to try to place animals from her hospital bed in the days prior to her passing. I had to smile when I heard that. Of course she was.
I miss you, friend. I love you, I will honor you as I move forward by using your images and remembering how very hard you worked each and every day to make a difference. How deeply you loved.
I feel your Soulprint, even though your light has gone. I feel your Soulprint on me.
(images courtesy of Dana Kay Mattox Deutsch; "Soulprint" courtesy of Martin Page)
A dog is a dog is a dog is a dog.
I have long stood against breed discriminatory legislation and breed specific legislation. It is my genuine belief that dogs are products of the manner in which they are treated immeasurably more so than the breed they are perceived to be. I got deep into this subject back in 2009 when I was asked by my local animal shelter director to write a research paper advocating adoption of pit bull type dogs. She claimed she would use the paper to help persuade city officials and long-time members of her staff that adopting out dogs believed to be “pit bulls” was something her shelter should be doing. I have blogged on my research paper before (which I later updated in 2014) and won't revisit the entire topic here. If you'd like to read the paper, you will find it here. If you would like to look at the hundreds of pages of research, you will find it here.
I was brought back to this topic of breed bias recently when I learned that the very shelter director who asked me to write a research paper almost a decade ago either never read the paper or has never taken any steps to educate herself on this topic even though she is a licensed veterinarian. I learned recently that she not only relies on but “studies” a website called Dogsbite.org and that she truly believes that pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous.
No. No. No and no.
It seems that not a week goes by when I don't hear of someone singing the praises of Dogsbite.org. The site is run by a web designer and self-professed fortune teller named Colleen Lynn who was once bitten by a pit bull type dog. I am sorry she was bitten. Taking that personal experience and using it to create a platform which is based not on science or actual research is both irresponsible and incredibly harmful to all dogs and all dog owners. The site is based, on its own admission, by media reports which are notoriously unreliable and more often than not wrong. Others have written about the website before me on more than one occasion. One glance at the data for my state shows that the information is focused on pit bull type dogs and to the exclusion of other breeds. The 2012 dog bite fatality attack I became involved with indirectly in 2014 due to my job involved Rottweilers so you won't find any mention of it on Colleen Lynn's website.
I rely on research from the National Canine Research Council and from reliable sources like the Animal Farm Foundation. I believe the JAVMA study about dog bite related fatalities and I believe in the research of Karen Delise which is based not on media reports but on official records like law enforcement reports. I have communicated with Karen on more than one occasion related to her research of dog bite fatalities in my state, referring her to law enforcement authorities as part of her research. If you have never taken the time to look at the NCRC website or read Karen's book, "The Pitbull Placebo: The Media, Myth and Politics of Canine Aggression," you owe it to yourself to do so.
The reasons for actual dog attacks (as opposed to incidents of simple and avoidable injuries) are often complex, but the answer to preventing dog attacks is relatively simple: humane care and control of dogs is often all that is needed to prevent most dog attacks. The National Canine Research Council's investigations into dog bite-related fatalities reveals the majority of these tragic cases involved circumstances where owners failed to provide necessary care and human control of their dogs: 1) failure by dog owners to spay or neuter dogs not involved in a responsible breeding program; 2) maintaining dogs in semi-isolation on chains or in pens; 3) allowing dogs to run loose; 4) neglecting or abusing dogs; 5) maintaining dogs not as household pets, but as guard dogs, fighting dogs, intimidation dogs, breeding dogs or yard dogs; and 6) allowing children to interact with unfamiliar dogs.
The 2016 Final Report on Dog Bite-Related Fatalities by the National Canine Research Council was most recently updated on March 8, 2018. If confirmed the data in the 2013 JAVMA Study and states:
MULTIPLE FACTORS CONTINUE TO CO-OCCUR THAT ARE WITHIN THE CONTROL OF OWNERS.
THE CONCLUSION OF EXPERTS:
I realize that the topic of dog attacks on people is an emotional one. The fatality case I was involved with indirectly was the most gruesome case I have dealt with in more than 25 years in the legal profession. But we do our society, our families, our dogs in animal shelters and our family dogs a complete disservice when we focus on breed - because there is no scientific basis to show that it has anything at all with dog attacks and fatalities.
A dog is a dog is a dog is a dog. When dogs are treated well and socialized to people, they make wonderful companions. When dogs are not treated well, are used as resident animals, are not socialized to people and not sterilized, they all become potentially dangerous no matter what they look like and no matter what breed we think they are.
If you really think that pit bull type dogs are naturally aggressive, I challenge you to educate yourself on the topic. You can start with my research paper, which is not particularly long, and go from there.
If your lead an animal shelter that destroys dogs based on perceived breed, shame on you. It's time to stop relying on junk science and time to get educated not only on the causes of dog aggression but about how you can better market pit bull type dogs to get them through the system and into good homes. If you are not willing to do that, it truly is time to find another occupation which does not involve making decisions regarding who lives and who dies. Now.
(image of Roo Yori and Wallace courtesy of Roo and Josh Grenell; infographic images courtesy of Animal Farm Foundation)
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson