Saturday, February 21, 2009

A tough week

I've spent the past week or so thinking and writing about laws a lot. The legislative session in Washington is in full swing, and there are a number of laws that have been proposed that have impact on me as a dog owner, a rescuer and a breeder. Sometimes the intersection of those identities is an uncomfortable place to be.
  • There's one that would fund voluntary spay/neuter for pets of low income people.
  • There's another bill that would impose a number of regulations on people with over 10 intact dogs - whether they are breeding them or not.
  • There's yet another that would require the Department of Agriculture to define what shots and worming protocols puppies should have.
  • And there are two that would take an old law that requires the Sheriff to shoot a dog running at large in the months between August and March - a hold-over from a more agricultural time in our state.
I support some of these laws, and I'm opposed to others. So I've been doing what I'm supposed to do in a democracy - reading the bills, calling my legislators when I have questions about them, and writing to them to let them know what I think. I went down to the capitol and testified on one bill, and I've sent out some emails to others that may share my concerns to encourage them to contact their legislators.

What's most difficult about all of this - other than the fact that it's keeping me up late at night reading and writing - is the level of distrust that people have in each other over these issues. People on both sides of the bills see the folks on the other side as the enemy, and accuse each other of terrible things.
  • Some people accuse breeders of being Nazis and trying to breed a "master race".
  • Some breeders accuse people involved in rescue of seizing people's dogs in raids only to profit for them or to kill them.
Some of this I know about because I've been reading blogs and listservs and people's comments on articles in the paper. Some of it I know about because I know and talk with people involved in rescue and people involved in breeding pretty much every day.

All in all, it's an atmosphere of distrust, fear, bitterness, and yes, sometimes even hate. I've been struggling for several days to find something really eloquent that I could say, something that would make enough of an impact that everyone would stop all the name-calling and accusations.

In the end, I don't have that power, and I'm not even that eloquent - all I can say is that it makes me really sad.

I've spent my whole life with dogs - dogs from the pound, dogs from good breeders, dogs from rescue, dogs I've bred. I've played with them, hung out with them, held them when they were ill, taught them when they were young, and held them when time came as they crossed over to the next realm. They've slept in my bed, and I've slept on the floor next to more than one - scared pups on their first nights new in my home, my beloved Phoebe her last night on this earth. Every single one of them has left their mark on my heart.

And I'm no different than anyone else who has so loved a dog that they felt their heart would never heal when they lost them.

I'm not sure how we get to the point where we can all sit down and speak from the place in our hearts where those dogs live. If we could, I think we could find ways to be as good companions to our dogs as they are to us. If we can't, we might end up in a world where the connection between people and dogs is irretrievably broken. I don't want to live in that world.

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