I Lost My Friend Today

falcor, chow-lab mix
Falcor

It was one and a half years ago that I met my dear friend who I would come to know as Falcor.  The name was picked out by my partner who said she reminded him of the dog-dragon from the Neverending Story.  She was a chow-lab mix with a fluffy beige coat, a pink and purple tongue and nose, and big brown hound-dog eyes.

The shelter said she was six years old when we got her, but I had a feeling she was probably a little older.  (Shelters do that sometimes to boost a dog’s chances for adoption, but I wouldn’t have cared either way.)  She was always a timid, gentle dog, especially on her first day at our house.  We did our best to make her feel comfortable while still giving her enough space so she would be able to get used to us on her own terms.

When we first got her, she was the fattest dog I had ever seen with my own eyes.  She had difficulty walking and her breathing was labored.  For the most part, she tried to stay sitting or laying.  She wouldn’t even get up to eat.

We had already been feeding our younger dog, Layla (a 2-3 year old german shepherd-husky mix), a vegan diet and had seen good results, so there was no question that we would feed Falcor vegan food as well.  After a few weeks of feeding her vegan food we noticed that she was able to move around a little easier and could come get her food rather than having it brought to her where she was sitting.  We started giving her some exercise.  Nothing too tough at first, but soon enough she was keeping up with Layla running laps around the pool, chasing squirrels and rough-housing with us.  Within a few months time she slimmed down to a normal, healthy weight and even our veterinarian was impressed by the unlikely turn-around.

Layla had been an “only-dog” in our house for a year before Falcor joined our family and she would sometimes assert her dominance over Falcor in very nasty, scary fights.  One particular fight landed me in the emergency room with blood running down my left arm and leg and chunks of adipose sticking out from the wounds.  Someone didn’t close the door to the room where our three rabbits live and the dogs must have seen them and gotten excited.  I’ve heard you’re not normally supposed to get in between two dogs in the middle of a fight, but I had to push them out of the room where rabbits were hopping around without any barrier between them and the dogs.  I don’t blame either of them for what happened.

Falcor would always lose their fights and after the first one she realized that I was protecting her from getting beat up.  She started following me around everywhere.  When new people would come to the house she would stay close to me and when people would pet her she would look to me to see if it was safe to trust them.  She considered me her guardian and I was honored to have that duty.

She loved getting pets and rubs and would do this funny thing with her head if you stopped rubbing her, even for a few seconds.  She would snap her head back and give this disapproving stare back as if to say “I didn’t tell you to stop”.  Wherever I went, she wanted to go too.  When I would be finished showering I would open the bathroom door and see her laying on the floor looking up at me with her head resting over her paws, waiting for me to come out.  When I would come home from work she would do this “happy dance” with her front feet as if the ground was really hot.  Any time I would say her name (I called her Falcorsies), she would wag her tail.

My fondest memory of Falcor would have to be right after the first time we had her groomed. My partner brought her home smelling like flowers with a big pink bow on her collar.  She was glowing with happiness.  She must have felt like a princess.  Moments like that is what rescuing a dog is all about.  She would have languished and died in a shelter, wondering where her family went, feeling afraid, alone and confused, but in that moment she was the happiest, most loved dog in the world.

One night she couldn’t stop panting.  She panted so loudly I wasn’t able to sleep.  I took her to an after-hours emergency clinic.  She didn’t want to go into the back with the veterinary technician without me.  She took a few steps, looked back, noticed I wasn’t following her and promptly planted her butt on the ground and pulled against the leash.  She wasn’t going anywhere without her protector.  They let me come in with her.

They took x-rays of her abdomen and discovered that she was full of fluid that had collected around her lungs, making it difficult for her to breathe.  They would have to do a tap to remove the fluid.  After about an hour and just over two liters of fluid removed from her chest, the vet recommended that we send the fluid to a lab to see if her condition was caused by an infection or cancer.  About a week later we had the results.  It was cancer. Continue reading “I Lost My Friend Today”

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National Animal Rights Day 2013 Los Angeles

Opening ceremony for National Animal Rights Day in Los Angeles, California on June 9th, 2013
Opening ceremony for National Animal Rights Day in Los Angeles, California on June 9th, 2013 [image credit: Sarah Jane Hardt]

Sunday, June 9th, 2013 is a day that will be remembered by many as a turning point in their lives.  At the 3rd annual National Animal Rights Day in Los Angeles, CA, activists from far and wide came together for a historical demonstration of compassion, remembrance and solidarity.  It was the first time a demonstration of its kind had ever been done on U.S. soil.  A demonstration that had made a life-altering impact on the people of Spain, Australia, Israel and others before, and sent shock waves around the world in the form of social media and word of mouth powerfully telling the world “we demand equality for animals NOW”.

I was so deeply moved and inspired by the commitment and strength of my vegan brothers and sisters, standing united under the cause of animal rights, paying our respects to the animals we held in our hands.  Animals who had every right to be alive but had been deprived of that right by the greed, gluttony and vanity of humankind.  We broke down, we cried on each other’s shoulders, we held each other up — we came together.  We were one.

eva gutierrez holding a dead baby rabbit at NARD 2013 in LA
We earthlings are impermanent, but our message is immortal. [image credit: Sara Jane Hardt]

For me, it was the culmination of months of emotionally trying work that had finally reached its transformational conclusion.  Acquiring animals from slaughterhouses for the ceremony, carrying the physical and emotional weight of their deaths back with me at work and at home was no easy task but it had to be done and I am so thankful that I was able to fill that role.  During the ceremony, as I walked back for another animal to hand to the activists, feelings I had tried so hard to keep bottled up for so long had grown to such intense proportions that when the levee broke and I could hold them in no longer, they hit me all at once like an flood of pure emotion in waves of sorrow, gratitude, awe and relief so intense I almost fell to my knees.  To see on the faces of fellow activists the impact this event had on them moved me to tears.  To look at them looking down at the animals clasped in their hands with tears streaming down their faces, a mix of sorrow, pity, shame, despair, anger and resolve.  It was beautiful and profound in its bottomless sadness.  As I handed animals to Brenda Calvillo, Eva Gutierrez, Jessica Schlueter, Carol Glasser and others, I thanked each of them for their strength and dedication to the animals and for sharing such a powerful moment with each other and the world.

Nothing would have been accomplished if not for the hard work and dedication of all of my fellow organizers who for the past five months have been diligently and uncomplainingly working to make this event possible. Aylam Orian, Vida Jafari, Brenda Calvillo, Dave Simon, Robyn Hicks, Jill Ryther, Christine Hess — these people did the lion’s share of the work and deserve a medal for their hard work and dedication. Continue reading “National Animal Rights Day 2013 Los Angeles”