Thursday, October 29, 2009

House of Sand

I was discussing with a friend the other day why I have not been writing in this blog of late.

It seems the easiest explanation is that of either inertia or sense of hopelessness -- or, perhaps its a combination of the two.

After several years of writing this blog, the challenge became to try and keep it fresh and interesting.

One can of course, always write about new animals rescued, but after 20 years in this work, the stories can seem to be blending into one another, despite the individual circumstances and animals.

One can of course also write about the latest happenings or changes in the city animal control sheltering system (AC&C) but unfortunately, those entries had become increasingly negative in recent months and quite frankly could put the writer (me) in jeopardy of suspension if shelter management were to read them.

I don't particularly mind and in fact, welcome opportunities to speak out about conditions in our city animal shelters, but if only one or two people do this, then we come off more as "crazies" and fanatics than whistleblowers and our concerns and grievances tend not to be taken seriously.

One woman, (a rescuer who was kicked out from the AC&C last year) has been posting like mad on Craig's List and other places about grim shelter realities, but she is generally viewed as "disgruntled" and extreme and her campaigns for change have mostly gone unheeded.

The cries for change need to come from more than a hand full of passionate or knowing people. They need to come from shelter insiders. They need to come from media. And mostly, they need to come from the public at large.

Unfortunately, most of the public is in the dark about the realities of our city animal control shelter system.

Certainly, the biggest "changes" that are desperately needed in New York City are fully functioning animal shelters in every borough.

That is something we were promised years ago, but have yet to see the ground broken to actually establish.

In fact, "ground broken" is something we are unlikely to see even IF the city were actually to get serious about creating shelters in the Bronx and Queens.

We may build new baseball stadiums, but constructing new animal shelters from the ground up?

No way!

If we get any "shelters" in the two neglected boroughs they are likely to be converted warehouses, schools or other (non-animal shelter) buildings that otherwise were heading for the wrecking ball -- just like the Manhattan "shelter" once was.

Unfortunately, in the city's "penny wise and pound foolish" mentality, a building that is not created as an animal shelter in the first place is NEVER going to be a fully functioning, humane and healthy environment for the city's abandoned, lost or stray animals no matter how many cost draining "renovations" are undertaken. To quote the old adage, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig." (no offense to the pigs of course, but you can't make them into human fashion models. Nor, can one make a school or warehouse into an animal shelter.)

The Manhattan "shelter" is perfect case in point.

Since it originally opened in the early 90's (under the auspices of the ASPCA) the Manhattan Animal Care and Control shelter has been a perpetual and ongoing disaster in plumbing, electricity, ventilation, air conditioning, construction and other problems too numerous to elaborate on.

Throughout the years, various wards have been closed for long periods of time for so-called "renovations" that never seem to see fruition while thousands of loving cats and dogs are routinely killed for so-called "space" constraints.

But, even the statistics of animals killed for "space" are deceptive because virtually every cat and dog that comes into this overcrowded, stressful, disease-inducing environment gets sick, usually with Upper Respiratory Illnesses. Unless "pulled" by rescue groups thousands of treatable pets are instead "euthanized" for so-called "illness." -- Illnesses that the overwhelming majority of these animals acquired in the "shelter."

For almost ten years now, New York City, along with The "Mayors Alliance," the ASPCA,. North Shore Animal League and the AC&C have been boasting that New York is "On the road to no kill!"

But, how can ANY city become "no kill" when it fails to provide the basic FOUNDATION to bring such lofty goal about? -- The foundation of healthy, humane and fully FUNCTIONING Animal shelters -- preferably in every borough?

The TRUTH is we don't have a "healthy, humane and fully functioning animal control shelter" in ANY borough -- least of all, Manhattan!

For one full year now, the second floor of the two-story Manhattan shelter has been closed for (once again) so-called "renovations."

This has resulted in thousands of animals dying unnecessarily.

In the Upper East Side neighborhood I reside in, two brand new high rises have been constructed in less time than that!

So far, the second floor of the Manhattan "shelter" is nowhere near completion of the so-called renovations.

But if that news isn't bad enough, the "plan" is that if and when the renovations are ever completed on the second floor, similar construction will begin on the first floor, necessitating the main floor to be closed and all animals and offices shifted to the second floor!

In essence, we are discussing HALF a shelter to be operational for a period of two years or more while cat and dog adoptions are conducted out of a refurbished garage and tens of thousands of animals die.

And we claim New York City to be "on the road to no kill?"

How does that occur without the necessary foundation to bring it about? Perhaps we can also build a city atop a sand dune?

I guess the salient question to ask is, Is reality reality? Or, is reality simply what most of the public believes?

I am reminded of the old joke about the "Three Biggest Lies in the World."

I only actually remember two of them, but perhaps we can add a new third?

1-- "The check is in the mail."

2-- "I'll pull out baby, just in time."

3-- "New York City is on the road to no kill."

Reality is, that lacking the foundation to bring it about, "No kill" New York City is a house of sand. -- PCA


Monday, October 12, 2009


As our society forever seems to seek new ways to "be connected" 24/7 whether via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Cell phones, Blackberries and text messages, I, by contrast, have been gravitating towards seemingly new needs for detachment and freedom.

The very last thing I would want in my life is a cell phone. Were someone to give me a cell phone for Christmas, I would probably hit them with it.

I am amazed sometimes when walking my dogs in the wee hours, the number of people "texting" or talking to someone on a cell phone at 2 in the morning.

"Who the hell are they talking to at 2 AM?" I wonder. Or, are they texting or twittering to someone, "I just got off the subway...heading for late night pizza."

Why is this stuff important to anyone?

I suppose its a good thing that New York City no longer seems to be the cesspool for muggings and robberies as it was in the pre-Giuliani era. A person walking around nearly deserted streets with face and concentration buried in small, electronic devices seems invitation for mayhem.

Then again, I guess the muggers are busy twittering and texting, too.

In the last couple of weeks I have been avoiding coming online at all.

There are a number of reasons for that, but the greatest is, I think, a desire for simplicity and quiet.

When I say, "quiet" I don't mean deadly silence. I mean in the sense of being able to avoid for a short while, the daily email "noise" of constant alerts, pleas and daily animal kill lists, all of which, I am powerless to do much or anything about.

We have had to scale back on animal rescues over the past few weeks as it was important to try and "move" some of the dogs we already had. -- Especially those in boarding situations.

And yes, the past couple of weeks have been pretty good. Three of our dogs have been adopted. Three others went out to foster homes. On the other hand, two dogs were returned from foster homes and have since had to go to boarding.

And of course, we cannot "assume" that new adoptions have necessarily worked out until the animal has been in the new home a while and the feedback is positive.

One of our recent adoptions, Leon, (a Belgian Malinois/Leonberger mix) has presented with some adjustment challenges in the new home and I have had to spend several hours on the phone with his adopters. The home is a good one, but I am not sure if the adopters have the necessary patience, knowledge and understanding to see the adjustment phase through.

Keeping fingers crossed on this one and staying reasonably close to the home phone, just in case......

But, no, I don't take a cell phone with me when going out.

My "out" time is my own. Any questions, emergencies or sudden animal "returns" can wait until I get back home and immediately check phone messages.

I don't like feeling "attached" to anything when I am out, other than music.

Its important to me to be able to live in the moment -- whatever that moment is.

As Joplin sang:

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

Perhaps someone else could sing:

"Connection's just another word for bondage, addiction and dependency." -- PCA