4. The Heart of the Season: A Dog’s Purpose and Justice for Karley and All Who Deserve It

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

Anyone who loves a dog will relate to this story at some time. My uncle, who was probably the original “dog whisperer,” sent it to me.  I don’t know who wrote it or where it came from, and it is a bit maudlin…but, it sums out how many of us dog lovers feel.  Unfortunately, not all people are dog lovers, or lovers of ANY animal, including people who are supposed to be role models.  More on that later…First, see if this little piece doesn’t touch your heart…

***

A Dog’s Purpose (from a 6-year old).

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolf hound named
Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to
Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything
for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to
observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so
calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few
minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat
together for a while after Belker’s death,wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal
lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ‘I know
why.’

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more
comforting explanation.

He said, ‘People are born so that they can learn how to live a good Life — like loving everybody all
the time and being nice, right?’ The six-year-old continued, ‘Well, dogs already know how to
do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.’

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would
learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always
run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to
go for a joyride.

The last line about the joyride makes me smile, because like many dogs, my own sweet boy, Slick, is madly in love with riding in the car.

Slick was a lucky boy because I finally managed to take him in after he spent 8 months as stray.  But so many don’t have that sort of luck. So many dogs (and cats and other animals) are cruelly mistreated. And what sort of message is sent when someone in a public office or someone with celebrity status commits heartless and inhumane acts towards animals?

Consider the case of Karley, a 6-month old shepherd mix who was so brutally beaten that she had to be put down.

KARLEY

KARLEY

The perpetrator? A  Los Angeles County Assistant Fire Chief named Glynn Thomas Johnson. And this is not the first time that Johnson had attacked a dog owned by the Toole family who live near Riverside, California.  A site called PetAbuse.com has compiled the case:

Shelley Toole called deputies in August 2000, saying Johnson shot her dog Kahlua above the eye with a pellet gun. The deputy, she said, told her that it would be her word against his and advised her not to pursue the case.

Bryan Monell, a senior investigator with Last Chance for Animals, a Los Angeles group specializing in animal cruelty cases, has interviewed residents in Johnson’s neighborhood who say their dogs have gone missing or have been shot with pellet or BB guns.

Chris DeRose, founder of Last Chance For Animals, said that in his 30 years of investigating animal cruelty cases, this was one of the worst beatings he’d seen.

“When you see something like this you got to take a stand,” he said. “To me, it’s not just an animal issue, it’s a people issue.”(my bolding)

The incident happened Nov. 3 in an unincorporated area near Riverside.

Travis Staggs, a friend of the Toole family, said he was returning with Karley from a walk when Johnson approached and asked if he could take the dog the rest of the way home.

“He walked maybe 100 feet with the dog and that’s when it happened,” said Shelley Toole, who had discussed the incident with Staggs but had not seen it herself.

“Travis saw Karley on her back and Glynn punching her with his closed fist at least 10 times to her head. He then literally pulled her jaws apart until they broke.”

Staggs told police that Johnson then hit Karley more than 10 times in the head with a rock.

Staggs called 911. Not long after, Johnson’s wife called 911 reporting that her husband had been attacked by a dog.

Karley’s nasal cavity was crushed, her skull cracked in three places, her ear canal collapsed and one of her eyes lost, according to the veterinarian’s report.

“The vet told me, ‘We can try to save her, but if she survives she will have permanent brain damage and may not be able to function,’ ” said Shelley Toole, who chose to have the dog euthanized.

“She was never an aggressive dog. All she wanted to do was play. We took her to the river and she rode in the boat with her head over the railing. She loved the water.”

A public outcry, demonstrations and demands for tougher penalities in animal abuse cases have been ongoing since the November 3 incident.  Extensive media coverage and the involvement of  Warren Eckstein, who hosts “The Pet Show” (whom I listened to years ago when he broadcast from New York) helped spur the public’s involvement. Eckstein’s site has extensive coverage of the case, particularly the protest actions.

After weeks of protests, Johnson was arrested on last Tuesday (12/16) and will be arraigned on January 13, 2009 on charges of “one count of felony animal cruelty and the use of a dangerous weapon in the commission of a felony. He was released on $10,000 bail and faces up to four years in jail if convicted in the beating of 6-month-old Karley.”

The family has set up a site, Justice4Karley.com,  and a group of retired LA County firefighters have set up a fund to help pay for legal costs as the family pursues a civil suit against Johnson, which they will pursue no matter what happens in the criminal case.

But there is more at the site than a plea for donations. There is a picture taken of Karley (the “least graphic”) as she was being treated by the vets after the attack. It is testimony to the viciousness of Johnson’s actions.

But locally, a high-profile animal cruelty case has been dismissed. Why? With the help of  delaying tactics by the defense, too much time has gone by to prosecute the case!

Judge dismisses animal-cruelty case

By Lauren E. Toney Sun-News reporter

LAS CRUCES — A visiting state district judge ruled Tuesday that too much time had elapsed in the case of a Las Cruces teacher charged with multiple counts of extreme animal cruelty, and dismissed the charges.

Jack Catlan, 57, a speech pathologist at Picacho Middle School, was indicted in February on two felony counts of extreme cruelty to animals and 20 misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals.

“The judge felt that there was a speedy-trial violation,” explained Susan Riedel, chief deputy district attorney, citing a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. “Nobody wants to see a case lost on a technicality.”

She explained visiting Sixth Judicial District Judge V. Lee Vesely, of the Silver City area, traveled to Las Cruces to assist with the caseload and ruled that too much time had passed since Catlan was indicted.

Riedel noted that trials were previously set for June and then November, but despite efforts to push the case through a fast-track program, it was delayed by defense motions, and a heavy caseload at the state district court.

“It’s largely based on clogged dockets at the courts,” she said.

On June 28, 2007, the sheriff’s department spent 10 hours removing 125 animals from Catlan’s property at the 500 block of Fairacres Drive.

Earlier that month, Catlan’s neighbors contacted officials about the number of animals on the property. A search warrant was served on Catlan, but he refused to allow deputies on his property, holding them at bay for more than three hours.

A rooster, two goats, five ducks, 25 chickens, 33 dogs, and 59 cats were eventually seized.

Officials reported some animals suffered from neglect, including dogs with visible sores and matted and tightly twisted fur. One female dog had a perforated uterus from over breeding, authorities explained.

A teacher, a role model, let off the hook because the courts are too busy and the defense files delaying motions.   So much for justice here in Southern New Mexico when it comes to animal abuse cases (and there are many!)…and how many cases related to things like child abuse or domestic violence?

Of course, this case is small potatoes compared to the Michael Vick case.  Vick was back in court in late November on felony charges.

Report: Vick, co-defendants found humor in killing of helpless dogs

Updated: Saturday November 22, 2008 12:35AM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Michael Vick put family pets in rings with pit bulls and thought it was funny watching the trained killers injure or kill the helpless dogs, a witness told federal investigators during the dogfighting investigation that brought Vick down.

In a 17-page report filed Aug. 28, 2008, by case agent James Knorr of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and released Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, a person identified as confidential witness No. 1 said Vick placed pets in the ring against pit bulls owned by “Bad Newz Kennels” at least twice and watched as the pit bulls “caused major injuries.”

The witness said Vick and co-defendants Purnell Peace and Quanis Phillips “thought it was funny to watch the pit bull dogs belonging to Bad Newz Kennels injure or kill the other dogs.”

Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison in Dec. 2007, and is due to be released from the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., on July 20, 2009. He returned to Virginia on Thursday and is being held in Hopewell pending his appearance in Surry County Circuit Court on Tuesday, where he is expected to plead guilty to two felony charges but receive a suspended sentence.

The report, which has some names and other information redacted to protect some of the parties involved, also details the killing of several dogs at property Vick owned on Moonlight Road in Surry County in mid-April 2007, just days before the first search warrant was executed on the property, turning a drug investigation into the one that sent Vick to prison.

(SNIP)

The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, once the highest paid player in the NFL, has been suspended indefinitely by the league and his football future is uncertain. He’s also in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings with $16 million in assets and $20.4 million in liabilities.

Peace, who also was convicted in the case, said there were times he suggested that dogs unwilling to fight be given away, but that Vick said “they got to go,” meaning be killed.

The dogs were killed by shooting, hanging, electrocution and drowning, and in at least one instance, according to one of the witnesses, when Vick and Phillips killed a red pit bull by “slamming it to the ground several times before it died, breaking the dog’s back or neck.”

What really angers me is the Vick, like the local teacher, won’t feel the full brunt of the law.  The local teacher’s lawyers basically delayed his case to the point of extinction. Vick is already serving a sentence of only 18 months for the dog-fighting conviction  and the punishment on new felony charges is probably going to be suspended.

When I think of how the law is being watered-down in these cases, it makes me think of what we’ve seen over the last few years, first with Bushco and now with Obama.  A lot of skating around the law, bending the law, and judges ignoring the law.

I’m hoping that the fire chief who beat Karley, if convicted, has the book thrown at him.  Somewhere, somehow, the law must be applied.  Isn’t that’s why it’s there?  To be applied? We’ve seen how a lenient judge paved the way for the horrible tragedy suffered by Bettyjean Kling’s daughter Louisa this past week.  Cruelty is cruelty, causing harm or death is wrong, whether it’s against an animal or a woman.

So let’s pray that their is Justice for Karley…and all of those who deserve to see it.

Godspeed, Karley…and all other innocents that have died or been harmed at the hands of heartless humans.

****

The Rainbow Bridge at PetLoss.com

Justice4Karley.com

Pet-Abuse.com (cases, law, databases, and local case pages which includes lists and maps of recent animal abuse cases for your local area)

Warren Eckstein

3. The Heart of the Season: Weeping for the “Unnatural History” of Chimpanzees (Updated 2X)

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

I’m not exactly sure why, by as I get older I’m just as likely to cry at happy endings than I am over sad endings.  Maybe because along the way to a happy ending there’s usually some sadness BEFORE an ending becomes happy…

I find it hard to watch nature shows these days, for example. I love seeing animals living where they’re supposed to live, in the wild and not in cages and I admire the amazing photography and the beauty of the wild but the shows are usually presented in the context that all this wonder is fast disappearing.

I used to watch Animal Planet all the time, particularly the shows about animal control officers.  The Humane Society in New York did fabulous work and some of the officers had a lot of star power. Passionate, dedicated, articulate,  involved in compelling work.  But, oh, there was so much routine cruelty and neglect that finally I had to stop watching.

These days I spend most Friday nights watching Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer) and the Dog Town series if it’s on.  Both shows tend to focus on more hopeful resolutions to problems involving dogs and other animals.  I need to see things like that, don’t you?

Last Sunday (12/14) I happened to tune into Nature on PBS by accident.  Within minutes my heart was aching. The show was “Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History.” I don’t think I’ve ever spent an entire hour with chimps, especially chimps that had been used in research in labs for most of their lives.  Some were taken to labs directly from the wild, others had been pets who were no able to stay in homes, and some were performers who were sold after they were no longer needed.

A couple of years ago I head read reports about a research facility that was here in New Mexico, the Coulston Foundation biomedical research lab,  that was being closed down ( subsequently taken over by Save the Chimps.)  I saw it for the first time last Sunday.  A prison for sentient beings, often living in solitary confinement and being subjected to many, many painful experiments. Even though the facility is closed, chimps are still there, with some waiting to be transported to the Save the Chimps cage-free sanctuary, the largest chimp sanctuary in the world.

Ron and Thoto are two of the chimps that were moved out of the New Mexico facility with urgency, when it was discovered that Ron had heart problems. Caretakers wanted give him at least a brief time out of a cage and to make the adjustment easier, his best friend Thoto was moved with him.

The video recounting the journey of these poor souls was so moving that I found myself weeping. (And I wept through the entire program.)  Thoto,  in his first night of freedom, slept outside under the moon.  In contrast, Ron was so frozen in his brutal past life that when he ventured out of his shelter, couldn’t even walk on the grass. Accustomed to nothing but concrete under his feet, he paced up and down before going back inside.

Although it’s not possible to download the video (which is definitely a must watch) you can get some sense of how these old souls lived for most of their lives.  From the show’s site (under “Chimp Profiles”):

RON  

Not much is known about Ron‘s life before he was used for research. What is known is that Ron spent most of his life at NYU’s LEMSIP facility. In 1996, LEMSIP closed its doors, but Ron would not be lucky enough to be spared more time in research and was sent to the Coulston Foundation where, according to his medical records, he lived a grueling existence. The many studies he was used for required that Ron be “knocked-down” (anesthetized with a dart gun) sometimes every day for a month. In 1999. Ron was recruited into an experiment called Spinal Dynamics in which researchers removed one of his spinal disks. To accommodate his pain from the experiment, Ron was given 3 days of ibuprofen. When Dr. Carole Noon and Save the Chimps found Ron at Alamorgordo, he was living alone in building 300. They suspect that he’s always lived alone.

THOTO   

You might say that Thoto, a 44 year-old male, has lived the lives of many chimps. Thoto was born in Africa, captured at a young age and sold to the circus. It was probably during his circus years that all of his teeth were extracted. After enduring the emotionally and physically stressful life as a circus chimp, Thoto became a pet for a long time until he was finally sold to a research lab. Thoto, who is one of Ron’s closest friends, now lives a cage-free life at his island sanctuary at Save the Chimps.

***

The program also featured the Fauna Foundation in Canada. This segment of the show focuses on how a wonderful couple gave up everything to finance this sanctuary which,  after years of refusal, received permission to turn their sanctuary into a cage-free home by building “islands,” inspired by a visit to Save the Chimps.  According to Gloria Grow, who runs the sanctuary with her veterinarian husband,  the islands are critical because:

It just gives them a chance to make choices; to have control. When all of their choices have been taken away I try to give them something. The chimps can choose if they want to go out to the islands and who they want to go out with. But the islands are a place with no bars over their heads. They can come out, surrounded by water and look up at the sky without any obstruction.

The segment included three touching stories.

SPOCK       

Like Sophie, Spock was also born in captivity, in Norman, Oklahoma and sold to The University of Montreal to be raised as a human child. With no chimpanzee mother of his own, he had to trust a human mother. He grew very close to other chimpanzee children in his human and un- natural environment. As usual with this kind of cross fostering experiment, his fate included eventual separation from the humans he grew to love and know when the research ended.  Then, sent to a zoo, he lived “ on exhibit” as part of the “animal collection” for the next 25 years until his rescue by Fauna.

TOM

Tom was also born in Africa. Like Annie, he should have known the beautiful world of the wild chimpanzee. Ripped from his family, he spent his first 30 years in the cold world of the laboratory. In his 15 years at LEMSIP, Ch-411 was knocked down over 369 times. Completely uncooperative in the lab, he was even knocked down for cage changes. After enduring some 56 punch liver biopsies, 1 open liver wedge biopsy, 3 lymph node and 3 bone marrow biopsies, Tom gave up. Plagued constantly by intestinal parasites, he often had diarrhea and no appetite. When he had some strength, he banged constantly on his cage. Today, Tom lacks the necessary social skills to be a part of a social group – all of the skills he would have learned with his mother and his siblings where he should be right now, in Africa.

Tom’s story is especially moving.  Here’s a description (with pictures) of his first day outside of a cage from the Spring 2006 Fauna Newsletter:

Tommy’s day on the Island was outstanding! He is the oldest resident of Fauna, in his mid forties, but he looked like a young
fellow, stomping very quickly across the grass, heading to the structure, to check it out.
He too did the trip, walked around, tried all the resting places and even looked bored for a
moment, and then the greatest moment came. He looked up at that big old tree on the edge
of that Island. We knew the way he was looking at ‘the tree’, that he had every intention of
giving it a shot. We were kind of panicking now, all the humans, running back and forth,
calling his name, then with the realization that with or without our support, he was going to do
it. We looked at each other and Pat who is Tom’s favorite human friend, said
to Tommy “Go Buddy, you can do it!’’ That was all Tom needed to hear. We
all just stood there, held our breath and watched this dear old fellow climb up
that tree, snapping the little branches carefully while stepping up on the
stronger ones and just kept on going up. It was as though he had done it before,
knew what to do, even though he was now quite heavy, but that wasn’t going
to stop him. He rested at about 25 feet, and then went another 10 feet or so. He
looked very proud of himself, and truly magnificent up there. We were crying,
calling out cheers to him, hugging each other, and feeling a mixture of
emotions, from extreme happiness to complete sadness for all the years that
had been taken from him.

Tommy’s climb was captured in the Nature program. I cried along with Gloria Grow, who wept with obvious joy at seeing Tommy doing something he hadn’t been allowed to enjoy for decades.

Perhaps the most poignant story is that of Billy Jo (video available at the Nature website). He passed away only two weeks after his first chance at being outside of a cage after the islands were finished.

BILLY JO

Billy Jo was purchased in 1983 after some 15 years in entertainment. During those years he had his teeth knocked out with a crow bar. He fared no better in the lab. In 14 years at the lab, Ch-447 was knocked down over 289 times – 65 times by dart, sometimes with 4 or 5 men surrounding his cage. To this day, Billy cannot bear to have strangers grouped in front of him. In addition to several HIV challenges, Billy endured 40 punch liver biopsies, 3 open wedge liver biopsies, 3 bone marrow biopsies and 2 lymph node biopsies with no tangible or practical results. He also chewed off his thumbs waking up alone from knockdowns when no one was around to care for him. During one fit of anxiety, he bit off his index finger. Anxious, aggressive, and fearful, Billy banged incessantly on his cage, rocking and staring into space when left alone. Even today, Billy is still plagued by anxiety attacks- attacks so bad that they leave this majestic adult male chimpanzee choking, gagging and convulsing.

***

Billy Jo left us on February 14, 2006, at age 37.

***

Billy Jo was one of Fauna’s most famous residents, He was an ambassador for all chimpanzees and for Fauna. For nearly 10 years, Billy was the first face you saw and the first voice you heard when you arrived at Fauna.

Billy was always there to meet anyone new, always available for a social situation, even if not always in a good mood. He had the most unforgettable presence, and the most majestic of looks. Incredibly handsome and extremely charming, he was a very complex character.

He was intelligent and perceptive. He understood so many conversations that he was easy to talk to and simple conversations with him could usually get him into doing things that needed to be done. He would always try to help us once he understood what we needed from him.

Billy was a troubled soul and very confused about who he was and how he fit in. He did not do very well with other chimpanzees, and yet, of course, he was not able to live in the human world either which would have been his choice. This conflict left him alone a great deal of the time. He so often seemed sad about this. Yet, when he was with his chimpanzee family, it would often be a big problem for him as he simply didn’t always fit in.

***

Billy is a sad example of why captivity — cross fostering, entertainment, and research — is so destructive to the chimpanzee mind, soul and body. Billy is missed terribly by his hundreds of human friends. We only have to see him in a photo or a documentary and we are brought to tears thinking about this very special chimpanzee person.

“ Good night sweet prince”

As Gloria Grow points out, the chimps are all in a compromised state of health, many having been used in AIDS experiments or in space-related testing, as well as other medical research;  they have been robbed of their health through years of what has been described as “torture.” They still suffer even as they find homes in sanctuaries and bond and become families. As she says, they are all living on borrowed time.

If you ever doubted a chimpanzee’s ability to feel the pain of the death of someone they have known (chimp or otherwise), read this small part of the description of what some mourners did after the death of Donna Rae (also in the Spring 2006 Fauna Newsletter):

When the girls went in, there were all five around Donna Rae: Miss
Pepper, Sue Ellen (Donna Rae’s dear little companion for years), Petra,
Chance and Rachel. Donna Rae was now lying on her back but she
had some blood on her lips from the turn she took with Binky. All the
girls were just hovering over her body, examining every part and going
through the very same ritual they did with Annie and Pablo with such
love, tenderness and compassion. We stayed with everyone while all
was taking place. Rachel left brief y and then suddenly returned with a
paper towel in her hand. This was something that had been handed to
her much earlier on, as so often we do. Rachel lay down at Donna Rae’s
head and propped herself on her elbow. For what seemed an eternity
she ever so gently just wiped and wiped away the blood that was on
Donna Rae’s face, cleaning her lips, her nose, wiping her eyes and her
brow. Donna was immaculate when we finally took her from her home
and her family, to “the port where all may refuge find”.

Look into those faces, those eyes.  When you do, you know that you must look into your own heart.

Please consider helping the foundations that work to reclaim life for these deserving chimpanzees.

****

Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History (The program site has many links to videos, chimp profiles, and a list of organizations and sanctuaries. I urge readers of this article to watch the videos to get a full understanding of what our closest relatives have endured.)

Save the Chimps

The Fauna Foundation

The Gorilla Foundation (Koko.org)

Interview with Gloria Grow, The Fauna Foundation (Transcript, Nature website)

Quebec couple offers chimps sanctuary from abuse (July 7, 2008)

Chimpanzees used for medical testing ‘show signs of torture’

***

UPDATE 12/24/08

I just got off the phone with the Fauna Foundation.  A lovely woman  took my donation by credit card. I had left a message as she was out of the office tending to the chimps and she called me back.  When she called, she was in the process of giving the chimps their afternoon tea!!!

We discussed the Nature documentary a bit and darned if I didn’t start tearing up again!  She extended an invitation for a visit…and who knows, if  I get back East again, I may just visit Quebec again.  (Last time I was there was when I was a child…so I’m overdue!)  Happy Holidays to chimps everywhere!

UPDATE 12/27/08

Literally a few days after contributing to Save the Chimps and The Gorilla Foundation (the folks who study inter-species communication/signing with Koko and her family as well as working for gorilla conservation), I received lovely membership packets with posters, stories, and postcards and wonderful information about the organizations and the work they do!  Gosh, I am so impressed with these folks who work with apes…Fauna and groups like Save the Chimps and The Gorilla Foundation certainly deserve our support!

KOKO signs Baby

KOKO signs "Baby"