When you hear the word, "legacy," what does it mean to you? Do you automatically think of other people or do you think of your own legacy and how you will be remembered once you are gone? I suspect that most of are so involved with the day-to-day activities of life that we don't give a whole lot of thought to our legacy. Introspection takes time and effort. I think I am more mindful of having a purpose-driven life now that my parents are gone. I know that I'll never be famous and I know I won't change the world. The best I can hope for is to try to be a positive force for change in some way.
Which brings me to the subject of Harley Taylor and his legacy. I was at work when I read the news that Harley had passed away on March 20th. It shocked me, I started to cry and I could not stop. So much for being the hardened, crusty old soldier. I was overwhelmed by a sense of loss for a dog I had never met, but with whom I felt a strong bond. Harley was a "client" of mine, for lack of a better description. I had spent so many hours marveling at his advocacy and working with his images and videos for projects, that the loss seemed personal to me. I know that grief is a selfish emotion, but that did not help the wave that came over me. (If you do not know who Harley Tayloris, I encourage you to learn about his life through his website and perhaps by reading some of my earlier blogs about him.)
When I was finally able to "get a grip," as mom used to say, my next thought was for Harley's family and friends. Harley lived a very public life and I am grateful his family shared him with all of us. I knew that if I was being so affected by his passing, surely what his family was enduring was beyond description with words. I expressed my condolences in my own ways and hoped that time would bring peace to them somehow.
As the days and weeks passed, I wondered about Harley's legacy. How would his family move on? Would they continue his work to educate the public about the evils of the commercial dog farming industry or would it just be too much? How would they really be able to grieve their loss while the rest of us were reminding them of our feelings pretty much every minute? Social media is a great thing, but it can also be a terrible burden and I know that even the most well-intentioned words of support can keep a wound from healing.
As Dean Koontz (famous author, huge dog lover and philanthropist) once so aptly wrote, "grief can destroy you or it can focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it." In the case of the Taylor family, I think it is safe to say that their grief has focused them and that the legacy of Harley Taylor will be strong. Harley's Facebook page is as active as it ever was and new social media pages have emerged to help people show their support for his advocacy to end the mill industry and their support for his family. The Taylors have also established the Harley Puppy Mill Education and Outreach Fund which will be used to carry on Harley's mission to bring awareness to the commercial dog breeding industry. The money raised will be used to develop educational curriculum materials about Harley’s life for use in schools, fund billboards to raise puppy mill awareness, create brochures and promotional materials, and to complete a documentary film about Harley which was started last summer.
I like to think that most people are inherently good or that there is good in them. I also like to think that we all to change the world in our own small ways during our lives whether it relates to our own families, our professions or social issues. For myself, I can only hope that my legacy will be a fraction of the one being forged right now by Harley's family in his honor. And I am happy to be involved in perpetuating that legacy in some small way through our educational projects. If you would like to support Harley's Puppy Mill Education and Outreach Fund, you can learn more about it on his website.
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