Monday, December 22, 2014

Exactly. One Bomb Maker. We're Trying to Figure Out How An Entire Network of Terrorist Groups is Financed and You Give Us One Bomb Maker. Hardly the Big Picture, Wouldn't You Say?

I'm getting deeper and deeper into this puppy business.

Mary's group has been researching which pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills, and which stores get their puppies from breeders. This is a difficult task, because while the Hunte corporation is a huge puppy mill company, it's just as possible for that individual breeder to be running a puppy mill out of their backyard. It's hard to know which breeders take care of their dogs, and which ones are mass producing puppies for profit (Thus why you should never buy a dog, only adopt them!).

There is a local pet store that, unlike most of the pet stores around here, does not get their puppies from the Hunte cooperation. The group has tried to figure out where they get their puppies from, but of course the store is very secretive. They have tags next to each of their display cages, saying the name and city of the breeder, but no one official checks that information, so it could be made-up or falsified.

The number one problem is that since Mary's group has protested several times in front of the store, the store knows everyone in Mary's group and will not let them inside to see the tags.

By chance, the group got a name of a breeder on one of the tags. He has several violations going back several years for animal cruelty and neglect. he's one of those breeders who runs his own puppy mills. His licence for breeding has been revoked. He is also a registered child molester who broke parole last year and has a warrant out for his arrest.

Mary's group, with it's nationwide connections and know-how, figured out how to track this guy down and bring him to justice, BUT, they needed to make sure he was actually providing puppies to this store,

Mary asked if I could go undercover. The group needed photographs of the tag with the breeder's name on it, and to see if there were any other puppies from that same breeder. Mary asked if I would go in pretending to want to buy a puppy, and sneakily take pictures of the tags.

It was exciting! I took the girls with me, and gave Ash my camera phone so she could take the pictures (no one questions a kid playing on a smartphone!) and not only did we get the information the group needed, but the girls got to see a bunch of really, really adorable puppies. We didn't get caught and hopefully we did our part to rid the world of one animal abuser and child molester.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Only Have To Sign Your Name, Don't Even Have to Read It.

I went to a protest. Despite all my talk, I've never actually participated in a physical protest. Probably because I'm very uncomfortable with confrontation. Can't we all just get along? Can't everyone just realize that my opinions are the right ones?

For me, the most surprising thing about the protest was what I was protesting. Was I  protesting the human slave trade? No. Unequal pay of women? No. The marketing of baby formula to disadvantaged mothers? No. Slaughter houses? Nope.

I was protesting a pet store.

A while back I met a women named Mary. Mary loves dogs. Mary is one of those people that loves dogs more than people. Mary is part of a group that is actively working to ban the practice of Puppy Mills.

Never heard of Puppy Mills? Google it. Right now. Educate yourself. "Google Puppy Mills" is the slogan plastered all over Mary's car. She's all about education, and I love that by telling people to Google it for themselves, she isn't trying to teach them biased hyperbole; she wants them to get the facts for themselves. I'm all about that!

The solution to Puppy Mills is simple: Don't buy pets, adopt them. Pets from your local animal shelters need homes and only cost adoption fees (for shots, spaying and so forth). If people stop paying money for dogs, they will no longer be a commodity. No demand, no mass-producing. There will be no more puppy mills, but everyone can still have a pet if they wish. Everyone wins.

Mary got me into all of this. Her group protests in front of different pet store. They have a protest every Saturday and Sunday. This last year they were a huge part of passing a law that bans the sale of puppy mill puppies in a neighboring city. It was a major victory for them, and they want all the cities in our area to pass a similar law.

Mary asked if Ash and I would come protest on a weekday with her. She thought that having a five-year-old with us would really get people's attention. Ash really wanted to go, so they finally convinced me. We headed down to the mall.

The pet store was conveniently located right across hall from the mall's playplace, so Alexa and I settled down there so I could watch Mary do her thing. She held up a sign (telling people to Goggle puppy mills) and asked people if they would sign her petition to pass a the aforementioned law in this city. After a few minutes, I felt I had gotten the gist of what she was doing, so I stepped in and took the petition from her so she could hold her sign.

My goal was not to make the pet store shut down. I wanted the people to know that, so I came up with my own approach. It was a weekday evening in December in a popular mall, so there was plenty of foot traffic. I would ask people if they wanted to sign a petition to help protect dogs. Well, this is Sunland. EVERYONE here has a dog. Everyone loves dog. Many cities have their own Halloween parties just for dogs. Dogs are a big thing here. Of course the people at the mall wanted to protect puppies. They would stop and say something along the lines of "How?"  or "What's the catch?" or "What are you trying to do?" And I would launch into my speech:

We are trying to get this store and others like in this city to do what big chain pet stores like PetsMart have already done: Stop selling puppies that have been bred to sell and instead partner with local shelters to adopt pets out. This would save the dogs and cats, but it would also make getting a dog from this store more affordable for you. Instead of paying upwards of $2,000, you'd just have to pay the adoption fees, which are usually under $100.  Will you sign our petition to ban the sale of puppy mill puppies in this city?

One of the first guys I talked to was very defensive. He demanded to know what i was doing, he made little sniping comments, he seemed very condescending of my ideas, but he kept asking questions and I kept answering them, explaining about animal shelters and puppy mills. In the end, not only did he sign the petition, but he went and got his brother so I could explain the whole thing to him to he could sign. I was amazed. Did I just win an argument? Does that even happen in real life? I swayed someone over to my side with an even tone and facts? AMAZING!

Of course, the vast majority of people I talked to not only knew all about puppy mills, but a bunch of them had rescued puppy mill mothers. They had horror stories about the condition of the dog when they were rescued. They had some astonishing stories.

Near the end, out of the corner of my eye I saw the mall manager, assistant manager, and a few security guards heading toward us. I was talking to someone, so I just kept talking. They approached Mary, asked her what we were doing, then after she explained, they asked her if she was with the group that protested on the weekends. She said yes and they handed both her and me a stack of papers outlining the rules we needed to follow while protesting in their mall. They also told us we were supposed to fill out a form asking for a permit to protest and that the form needed to be turned in 24 hours prior to the protest. By this time, they were talking directly to me. I calmly answered that I was unaware, but thanked them for the information and I would be sure to follow all their procedures in the future. The manager then looked at Mary and said "Your group has never once filled out a permit request."

Mary opened her mouth, then closed it again, unsure how to answer.

"Because if they had, we can really do a lot." The manager continued. "We can have tables set up for you guys, chairs, even. We can have areas where you can hang your signs and banners. In another mall I own, a few years ago, I helped a group like yours organize an adoption day with the local shelter, so that instead of buying a puppy form the store, people could adopt one from the protesters."

At this point both Mary's and my mouth was open. "Uh...what?"

"I mean, I'm not here on weekends, so I've never seen your group, but I heard it was kind of provocative, but here you guys are and I see that you are just trying to help. You're being polite and not causing any trouble and you just really want to spread the word for these dogs. You are the kind of people I want to work with. I love dogs. I have two rescue dogs, myself. I'd really like to help you and your group."

And that was that. We exchanged phone numbers, told a few stories, shared a few laughs, and then they left. Mary and I stayed for a few more minutes fore heading home. We had over three pages names on our petition (Mary said that is more than they usually get over a weekend) and it was getting late. Mary called the group leader, who was thrilled, and they've already started planning an adoption day at the mall!

Not only was it my first protest, it was a hugely successful protest!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Let Us In, Let Us In! Let Us Out, Let Us Out!

Our front door broke today. It wouldn't open at all. After some inspection, it was deduced that it wasn't so much the door that was broken but the deadbolt. It's wouldn't un-bolt. We were locked in.

Drek got out his power tools and set about taking apart the hinges. He then went around to the out side and strategically hit the door until it came off its frame.

"Hey!" I said. "Remember that time, in our first apartment, where I came home from work and our front door was missing? Because our landlord just took off with it for a few hours?"

Drek frowned. "No."  He examined the deadbolt and declared it broken beyond repair."Remember that one time we had to break down a door to free my mom from the not-yet-opened Mexican hospital we were squatting in?"

"Oh yeah!" I laughed.  "Good times."

Drek went to the hardware store to get a new lock while I stood guard against coyotes or alligators or whatever else could just wander in to our house on account of our no-door policy. He came back and returned the front door to its hinges and frame.

Of the two stories, I've just told all there was to the first one, but the latter is way better:

When Drek and I were dating his family decided to do a service project down in Mexico over Christmas break because they are awesome like that. Realizing these were my kind of people, I volunteered to go along. The day after Christmas we drove across the border and found ourselves in a very poor area of a Mexican city. The Catholic Padre who was our contact in Mexico said we would be spending the night in an under-construction building that would eventually be a hospital.  The building was almost completed: The walls and floors and roof had all been finished, there was even tile in some parts of the building.

To this day, I don't know if we were "approved" to be there. I know the Padre said he was going to lock us in "for our protection" and he would be back to free us in the morning. There was nothing official about the situation. We were just locked in a building and told to stay there until morning, so Drek's family laid their sleeping bags out on the concrete floor and Drek's mom went into a room to change into her pajamas, closing the door behind her.

The door closed a little too well and, like our front door, then refused to open back up. Drek's mom for several minutes to open it before calling for help. The whole family then tried to open it. Drek's dad and brothers tried to break the door down by running up to it and throwing themselves against it, but the door was surprisingly solid. Drek's dad broke out the power tools we brought with us and removed the door handle, but that didn't open the door. It wasn't a broken lock, the door itself was broken.

I already gave away the ending so this story isn't very suspenseful. Needless to say we did not just leave her to rot in a foreign country.  The next suggestion was that we take the door off its hinges, but the hinges were on the other side of the door. We tied the power drill to an extension cord and swung it out the window to where Drek's mom could catch it. She then took the door off its hinges and the door FINALLY opened. Of course, we fixed the whole thing before leaving the next day.

And that is all the stories I have about doors.