Henry Spira

“Their suffering is intense, widespread, expanding, systematic and socially sanctioned. And the victims are unable to organize in defense of their own interests.”~Henry Spira


“I began to wonder why we cuddle some animals and put a fork in others”
~Henry Spira

7 types of meditation

meditation:1. Transcendental Meditation (TM)

Maharishi, an advocate of Transcendental Meditation defines the purpose, “The goal of Transcendental Meditation is the state of enlightenment. This means we experience that inner calmness, that quiet state of least excitation, even when we are dynamically busy.” In this Hindu tradition you sit in Lotus, internally chant a mantra, and focus on rising above the negativity

However, to effectively learn how to practice this form of meditation, expert guidance is recommended. There is internet resources, classes, or even meditation retreats to better learn this form of meditation.

2. Heart Rhythm Meditation (HRM)

Heart rhythm meditation is downward meditation, because it focuses energy on developing the application of consciousness.This form of meditation concentratesprimarily on the heart, with an emphasis on breathing, and the purpose is to experience the mystics’ mantra, “I am a part of all things and all things are a part of me.”

HRM is a triple threat form of meditation because individuals experience physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. It helps the individual better handle stress and develop an appreciative and joyous spirit.

3. Kundalini

Unlike HRM, Kundalini is a form of upward mediation, which focuses on the rising stream of energy. This form of meditation has roots in both Buddhist and Hindu teachings, and in Sanskrit translates to ‘coiled’. Many believe this to be a metaphoric form of mediation, however those who are able to access the dormant energy can attest to its healing benefits. To access this energy the individual must concentrate on their breathing as it flows through the energy centers in the body. Once that energy is felt, the individual can experience an altered state of consciousness.

4. Guided Visualization

Guided visualization is a newer technique that can be used for spiritual healing, stress relief, or personal development. The inspiration comes from Buddha, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Among other factors that set this form of meditation apart, the emphasis on one specific goal is defining.

By imagining relaxing and positive experiences, the body will respond by releasing chemicals that generate feelings of positivity. This method can be done casually by imagining a certain situation in the brain. However, to achieve a more powerful experience, a guided visualization experience is key.

Watch: Master Visualization

5. Qi Gong

This is a meditation favorite because this method improves posture, respiration, and the ability to relax with greater ease. Qi Gong is one of the oldest forms of meditation and derives from ancient Chinese society. This art form of health and wellness uses breath to circulate energy through the body and energy centers. The focused combination on breathing techniques, movement, and meditation helps the individual to control their reactions to stress.

6. Zazen

Zazen is the heart of Zen Buddhist practice and literally translates to “seated meditation.” This method is initially the easiest to engage in because it relies on self-guidance, however, the lack of guidance can make it difficult to progress in the future. Regardless, the mental benefits of Zazen are vast because you aim to forget all judgmental thoughts, ideas, and images.

After sitting in a comfortable position ensure that the back is completely straight and you are centered. Breathing is an essential element of Zazen and this position will allow the breath to deepen and enhance the experience.

7. Mindfulness

The final favorite method of meditation is mindfulness, which also comes from the Buddhist tradition. The Buddhist term sati translates to ‘mindfulness’ and breathes life into the practice. Conjuring mindfulness is essential in overcoming suffering and understanding natural wisdom. It is all about acknowledging reality by letting the mind wander, accepting any thoughts that come up, and understanding the present.

The practice is done by sitting with eyes close, crossed legs, the back straight, and attention placed on breathing in and out. For the period of meditation the individual focuses on his or her breathing, and when wandering thoughts emerge, one returns to focusing on the object of meditation, breathing. Research has found that a regimen of mindfulness can reduce anxiety, depression, and perceived distress.

Watch: Increase Your Conscious Awareness http://visualmeditation.co/downloads/increase-conscious-awareness/

Not every meditation method will be your favorite. Try these seven out and see which one helps you achieve that level of inner peace you are looking for. Once you have found your go to method, incorporate that into your daily schedule to best combat the enormous levels of stress synonymous with life.

This post was originally appeared at lifeadvancer.com and used here with permission.

About the author

Meghan Greene is a vital part of the SEO and Content Development team at Samahita Retreat. Meghan attends Elon University, double majoring in Marketing and International Business.

Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home


The Startling Intelligence of the Common Chicken

Chickens are smart, and they understand their world, which raises troubling questions about how they are treated on factory farms

Feb 1, 2014, |By Carolynn L. Smith and Sarah L. Zielinski
borrowed from: https://goo.gl/otBkcFh Scientific American Volume 310, Issue 2

In Brief

  • Mounting evidence indicates that the common chicken is much smarter than it has been given credit for.
  • The birds are cunning, devious and capable of empathy. And they have sophisticated communication skills.
  • That chickens are so brainy hints that such intelligence is more common in the animal kingdom than once thought.
  • This emerging picture of the chicken mind also has ethical implications for how society treats farmed birds.

In the animal kingdom, some creatures are smarter than others. Birds, in particular, exhibit many remarkable skills once thought to be restricted to humans: Magpies recognize their reflection in a mirror. New Caledonian crows construct tools and learn these skills from their elders. African gray parrots can count, categorize objects by color and shape, and learn to understand human words. And a sulfur-crested cockatoo named Snowball can dance to a beat.

Few people think about the chicken as intelligent, however. In recent years, though, scientists have learned that this bird can be deceptive and cunning, that it possesses communication skills on par with those of some primates and that it uses sophisticated signals to convey its intentions. When making decisions, the chicken takes into account its own prior experience and knowledge surrounding the situation. It can solve complex problems and empathizes with individuals that are in danger.

These new insights into the chicken mind hint that certain complex cognitive abilities traditionally attributed to primates alone may be more widespread in the animal kingdom than previously thought. The findings also have ethical implications for how society treats farmed chickens: recognizing that chickens have these cognitive traits compels moral consideration of the conditions they endure as a result of production systems designed to make chicken meat and eggs as widely available and cheap as possible.

Chatty Chickens

It has taken researchers almost a century to figure out what is going on in the brains of chickens. The first inklings emerged from studies conducted in the 1920s, when Norwegian biologist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe established that the birds have a dominance system, which he named the “pecking order” after noting that chickens will enforce their leadership by administering a sharp peck of the beak to underlings whenever they get ideas above their station.

The next major breakthrough in understanding the chicken mind came several decades later. The late Nicholas and Elsie Collias, both at the University of California, Los Angeles, categorized the birds’ calls and determined that chickens have a repertoire of about 24 different sounds, many of which seem to be specific to certain events. For example, when faced with a threat from above, such as a hungry eagle, the birds crouch and emit a very quiet, high-pitched “eeee.” The clucking sound that most people associate with chickens is actually one they use when encountering a ground predator. The discovery of food elicits an excited series of “dock dock” sounds from males, especially when a judgmental female could be listening.

These early findings suggested that more happens in the chicken’s walnut-size brain than one might think. The vocalizations appeared to encode specific information intended to evoke a particular response from onlookers. Yet connecting these sounds and movements with their true meaning proved difficult until the development, in the 1990s, of technology that allowed researchers to test their hypotheses more rigorously. It was then that the late Chris Evans of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and others began to use digital audio-recording devices and high-resolution televisions to test the function of chickens’ array of sounds under controlled conditions. In essence, they created a virtual reality for the birds, surrounding a test cage with TVs that allowed them to change what a chicken encountered—a companion, a competitor, a predator—and to record how it responded to a variety of situations. A test chicken might see a simulated hawk flying overhead, or a fox running toward it from the side, or a rooster making a series of dock-dock sounds.

This virtual reality led to a truly astonishing revelation: the sounds or movements an individual chicken makes convey specific information, and other chickens understand it. A chicken need not see an aerial predator, for instance, to behave as if one was there; it needs only to hear the warning call from another bird. The chickens’ calls are “functionally referential,” as behaviorists would say—meaning that they refer to specific objects and events broadly in the way that words used by people do. In a chicken hearing the calls, the sounds appear to create a mental picture of that particular object, prompting the bird to respond accordingly—whether to flee a predator or approach a food source.

The virtual world also revealed that individual chickens tailor their messages for their audience. A rooster that sees a threat overhead, for example, would make an alarm call if he knows a female is nearby, but he would remain silent in the presence of a rival male. Females are equally selective, only sending up an alarm when they have chicks.

Taken together, these findings suggested the sounds did not simply reflect a bird’s internal state, such as “frightened” or “hungry.” Instead the chickens interpreted the significance of events and responded not by simple reflex but with well-thought-out actions. Chickens, it seems, think before they act—a trait more typically associated with large-brained mammals than with birds.

By Hook or by Crook

The referential calls showed that chickens are more cognitively sophisticated than they have been given credit for. The research also raised an intriguing question: If these birds have the ability to communicate information about environmental events, might they also withhold that news or even broadcast misinformation when they stand to benefit from such deceitful behavior? Further insights have come from studies of other forms of chicken signaling.

Scientists have known since the 1940s that the birds perform complex visual displays in connection with the discovery of food. The most prominent of these displays is a series of actions collectively called tidbitting, in which an alpha rooster twitches his head rapidly from side to side and bobs it up and down, picking up and dropping food over and over again to signal to a female that he has found something tasty. This performance is the main way he lures a mate. Scientists thought the subordinate males, for their part, focus on keeping a low profile, so as to avoid attracting negative attention from the alpha. Yet some observations of chickens in their social groups hinted that the pecking order of the birds might not be quite as orderly as researchers initially thought. In fact, mounting evidence indicated that chickens could be devious bastards.

Human observers initially missed this underlying drama because interactions between members of the flock are short and often secretive; the birds prefer to hide in the tall grass and among the bushes. At the same time, it is just not possible for a single person to monitor all the chickens at the same time. To minimize those difficulties, one of us (Smith) came up with a solution she called “Chicken Big Brother.”

Smith and her colleagues wired the outdoor aviaries at Macquarie University—large outdoor spaces with lots of vegetation, surrounded by nets on all sides—with multiple high-definition cameras and an array of microphones to catch every move and sound the birds made. They then analyzed the resulting recordings.

As expected, the alpha in any group would crow to show he was the master of the territory. He would perform the tidbitting display to attract the ladies. And he would make alarm calls to warn the flock of danger from above.
It was the subordinates that provided the twist. The team expected that these males should keep to themselves, to avoid the harassment of being chased, pecked and spurred by the alpha if they dared to make a play for his girl. Yet the cameras and microphones revealed a more complex story. These lesser males employed surreptitious tactics in a way previously thought impossible for the birds: they performed only the visual part of tidbitting—making the head motions without making the dock-dock sound—thus creating a new signal that could quietly attract a mate while sidestepping the wrath of the alpha rooster.

The fact that the subordinate males modify the tidbitting signal in this way to secretly seduce the hens demonstrated a behavioral flexibility that shocked researchers. But they had yet to plumb the full depths of the birds’ deviousness.

To examine the animals’ behavior more closely, they added more technology to their tool kit. The chickens’ vocalizations were often so subtle that Smith and the other researchers were unable to catch them, even with the extensive camera-and-microphone setup. They needed a way to record every call as it was made and heard by each of the individual chickens.Ideally, they would outfit the chickens with little backpacks carrying lightweight wireless microphones similar to those reporters wear when working out in the field. But where to find the right materials for those packs? Bras, Smith thought, could do the trick. She began a hunt for old ones with easy-to-latch hooks and preferably colored black so they would not stand out against the feathers. Smith cut off the hooks and adjustable straps and attached these parts to the microphone to create a harness. Once strapped to a bird’s waist, the jury-rigged apparatus—affectionately dubbed Chicken Big Brother 2.0—would record what the chicken said and heard.Smith was particularly keen to take a closer look at how the animals respond to danger. The previous research showing that males would sometimes call out when they saw an aerial predator, such as a hawk, was puzzling because making those squeals would place the rooster at greater risk of getting noticed and attacked himself. Scientists had assumed that the male’s need to protect his mate and offspring was so critical that making the call was worth the risk. Yet Smith wondered if other factors influence the calling behavior.It turns out they do. Using Chicken Big Brother 2.0 to eavesdrop on even the quietest communications revealed that males sometimes made calls for selfish reasons. The birds monitored the danger to themselves and their rivals and were more likely to call if they could both minimize their own risk and increase a rival’s. A male calls more often if he is safe under a bush and his rival is out in the open, at risk of being picked off by a swooping predator. If the rooster is lucky, he will protect his girl, and another guy will suffer the consequences.
This strategy is known as risk compensation, and it is yet another skill that chickens have in common with humans. Many of us will take on more risk if we perceive a mitigating factor. People will drive faster when wearing a seat belt, for example, or when in a car equipped with antilock brakes. Male chickens will likewise take more risks if they feel more secure.Mother HenThe chicken’s list of cognitive skills continues to grow with each scientific discovery. Giorgio Vallortigara of the University of Trento in Italy has shown that young chicks have the ability to distinguish numbers and use geometry. Given a half-completed triangle, for example, chicks can identify what the shape should look like with all its parts. And research published in 2011 by Joanne Edgar of the University of Bristol in England and her colleagues revealed a softer side of these sometimes Machiavellian birds, demonstrating that they are capable of feeling empathy.In Edgar’s experiment, mother hens watched as their chicks received a harmless puff of air that ruffled their downy plumage. The chicks perceived the puff as a threat and showed classic signs of stress, including increased heart rate and lowered eye temperature. Intriguingly, their mothers also became upset simply by observing their chicks’ reaction. They showed the same signs of stress the chicks exhibited even though the hens themselves did not receive the puff of air and the chicks were in no obvious danger. The hens also made more clucking calls to their chicks. These findings indicate that chickens can take the perspective of other birds—an ability previously seen in only a handful of species, including ravens, squirrels and, of course, humans.
The fact that the common chicken, which is not closely related to other bird species known for their braininess, has such advanced cognition suggests something interesting about the origin of intelligence. Perhaps it is rather more common in the animal kingdom than researchers have thought, emerging whenever social conditions favor it as opposed to being a rare, difficult-to-evolve trait.

For its part, the chicken presumably inherited its cognitive prowess from its wild ancestor, the red junglefowl, which lives in the forests of southern and Southeast Asia. There the ancestral chicken society consisted of long-term, semistable groups of four to 13 individuals of varying ages. A dominant male and a dominant female headed each group, and as in many other societies, those in charge got what they wanted, whether it be food, space or sex, mostly by keeping their subordinates in line. Males spent much of their time strutting their stuff for the females and providing them with food; females carefully observed the males, judging them on their actions and remembering what each had done in the past; they shunned the ones that were deceptive or nasty. A rooster’s reputation was important to his long-term success with the hens, and competition for the females was fierce.

Competition within the flock was not the only source of pressure on the birds’ mental capacity. They also faced a range of threats from outside the flock—including predators such as foxes and hawks—each of which necessitated a different escape strategy. These conditions forced the fowl to develop clever strategies for dealing with one another and the dangers around them, as well as ways to communicate about all these situations. Those characteristics are still present in the domestic chicken.

That such a litany of abilities belongs to animals that humans eat by the billions naturally raises questions about how they are treated. Birds that would typically live in small flocks in the wild can be penned in with up to 50,000 others. A potential 10-year life span is shortened to a mere six weeks for chickens raised for meat. They are killed so young because these birds have been genetically selected for such fast growth that allowing them to become any older would subject them to heart disease, osteoporosis, and broken bones. Egg layers fare little better, living only 18 months in a space about the size of a sheet of printer paper.

The chicken’s flexibility and adaptability, derived from its social red junglefowl ancestor, may have been part of its undoing, letting the birds survive even under the unnatural and intense conditions in which humans now raise them. This type of farming will likely continue as long as most people are unconcerned about where their food comes from and unaware of chickens’ remarkable nature.

Consumers have begun to effect change, however. In Europe and some U.S. states, such as California, new laws are being passed that require improved housing conditions for egg-laying chickens, largely driven by buyer demand for better animal welfare, as well as healthier food. In Australia, producers now actually highlight the positive conditions under which they raise their animals, competing for a growing population of ethical consumers. Yet there is still more to be done. The conditions under which meat chickens are raised have largely gone unscrutinized.

Researchers have just begun to elucidate the true nature of chicken intelligence, but one thing is already certain: these birds are hardly the “dumb clucks” people once thought them to be.

This article was originally published with the title “Brainy Bird.”


Carolynn “K-lynn” L. Smith is a research fellow at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her research investigates communication and cognition in animals ranging from giant cuttlefish to elephants. She is the joint recipient of a 2010 Australian Museum Eureka Prize.

Sarah L. Zielinski is a freelance science writer in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared in Science, Science News and Smithsonian, among other publications.

Dr. Gary Daniel’s Mental Tune-up

Maine’s New Drug Law: Veterinary Visits Get Complicated….Part 2

A Vegetarian Gammy Takes a Hike ~ Then a Permanent Detour

Why are the legislators in Maine including veterinarians in a bill that is geared towards stemming the opiate epidemic?

The nation has an opioid abuse problem and it’s naive to think some animals owners have never diverted their pet’s medication or sought drugs for the animal when it’s really for them. To vet shop however requires more than doctor shopping. When doctor shopping one much be a very good actor. If you have a history of chronic pain even better. Veterinarian shopping requires a prop; your animal. It means establishing a profile for your pet at numerous veterinary practices. It means paying multiple veterinary bills to get drugs which A. aren’t really the type an addict wants and B. could be obtained cheaper on the street or through friends.

It’s not uncommon for veterinarians to prescribe painkillers to animals that suffer from chronic pain or that have undergone surgery. In some…

View original post 1,061 more words

The most abused animal on the planet

borrowed from Jeremy Williams https://makewealthhistory.org/2016/02/17/the-worlds-most-abused-animal/

Care to guess what the world’s most abused animal is?

In terms of sheer numbers and the routine suffering inflicted on them, it’s got to be the chicken.

50 billion chickens are raised for meat every year, with around 5 billion more kept for egg production. The vast majority of them are raised and kept indoors in industrial farming systems.

The life of a broiler chicken is short. Though they can live for seven or eight years in healthy conditions, modern industry has perfected a six week lifecycle between hatching and slaughter. Chicks reach their adult weight many times faster than they do under natural conditions, thanks to optimised diets and selective breeding. Because the growth rates are so fast, heart and lung problems are common – broiler chickens essentially have baby hearts in adult bodies. Many are lame as well, unable to support their own weight.

chickenThese chickens never see the outdoors, and spend their short lives in large sheds where each chicken commands less than a square foot of floor space. When they reach the right size, they are hoovered into crates (yes, hoovered, and this is actually better than the old way of catching them by hand) and transported to the abattoir.

I’ll spare you the details of how chickens are killed. Suffice to say that guidelines that cover the humane slaughter of animals are harder to apply to birds, and in many parts of the world there are no rules that prevent them going through the process fully conscious.

Chickens raised for egg-laying don’t fare any better. The EU is phasing out battery hens, but in reality that means marginally fancier cages. Battery cages remain the standard for most chickens in the egg industry. Breeders raising laying hens want different characteristics from their birds than farmers raising them for meat, which means there is no use for the male chicks. They are gassed, and around the world hundreds of millions of male chicks are killed this way, in both free range and battery farms.

Considering it is standard practice around the world, apparently this is not of concern to the majority of us. It should be, of course. If it is within our power to prevent an animal from suffering, there are very few who would argue that we have no obligation to act. Nevertheless, it continues. Ignorance and the pull of cheap supermarket meat is too powerful.

Unfortunately, calling for vegetarianism is not going to be sufficient. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, eating meat is aspirational for the world’s rising middle classes. It’s a non-negotiable part of many people’s diets, and nobody likes to be told what they can and can’t have on their dinner plates.

The reason I’m writing about it today is that in that post on the environmental impact of meat, I highlighted how beef stands out as so much worse than chicken or pork. If we want to take one step towards a healthier attitude to meat, cutting out beef would be a good one. However, as reader Jason Jorgensen pointed out, it would be a tragedy if we switched from beef to chicken and ended up eating more poultry. In trying to do the right thing by the climate, we would add to the already massive weight of animal misery.

Environmental issues often play against each other in this way, and there’s no easy solution. Where it is available, we should always buy higher welfare chicken. Eat less and better – maybe don’t bother with supermarket chicken mayo sandwiches or fast food nuggets. Keep up the pressure through organisations like Compassion in World Farming. If you have space, keep your own chickens and you’ll know exactly where your eggs come from. It would be great if cultured meat and eggs prove commercially viable. Choosing to go vegetarian or vegan is a great personal choice. We can all do something to improve the condition of the world’s most abused animal.

More information on this subject: http://freefromharm.org/animalagriculture/chicken-facts-industry-doesnt-want-know/

My Heart Is IrreparablyBroken

Abolish All Slavery 

If I had my way every single animal on earth, down to the the​ smallest insect to the elephant to any living thing on the planet would be against the law for humans to even touch. We would; have no say on them whatsoever and they would be 100% free, free from any human, free from captivity, from being eaten.  Any interaction initiated by humans would be a felony with automatic life in prison. Or worse. I believe this is the way it is supposed to be. #inmyworld

The Ugly Truth about Animal Shelters

Source: The Ugly Truth about Animal Shelters

I hope Heather of thesimplelens.com doesn’t mind me re-blogging her entire post here, If she does please let me know and I will remove the text and just keep the title:

Posted on May 26, 2016

Written by Heather of thesimplelens.com

The Ugly Truth about Animal Shelters

** Warning: this is a departure from my typical blog post. However, anyone who knows me well at all, knows there are two things I’m passionate about: God and animals. You might find this post unpleasant or perhaps, dare I say, offensive …. but there’s nothing pleasant about this subject.  You’ve been warned**

An article caught my eye the other day. It told the story of a vet, Jian Zhicheng, who worked at an animal shelter in Taiwan. She had euthanized 700 animals in two years – many of whom were healthy and perfectly adoptable. The fact was there was no space to keep them and no one to want them. She worked hard to promote adoption over buying. But animal rights activists threatened her and called her a butcher.

She took her own life. Distraught by the overwhelming burden of euthanizing animals who have nowhere else to go and being labeled nothing short of a killer by her fellow humans, she injected herself with euthanasia drugs from the shelter.

This story hit me hard. Anger swelled inside me: this woman’s life has needlessly ended. She took on the weight of other people’s criticism, the weight of solving a problem that came to feel insurmountable.  The problem that Jian Zhicheng faced is one that many, many shelters in our own country face daily. Too many animals, not enough homes.

Having worked in animal shelters, I have heard no end of criticism of the “kill shelter.” I have seen the distrustful glint in the eyes of the public and even volunteers. I guarantee that if you’re an average member of the public, you hear the words ‘kill shelter’ and a shiver runs down your spine. You automatically think of a horrible place filled with horrible people that murder animals rather than try to find them a home.

Let’s break it down, okay?

Kill shelters are in truth open admission shelters. An open admission shelter is required to take in whatever animal crosses its doorstep. Let’s say they have space for 100 dogs and 100 cats.  On Monday, they start out the week with 80 dogs and 80 cats. Someone comes in to surrender their 13-year-old golden retriever that has lived with them forever. They’re moving and can’t be burdened by an arthritic dog with a weak bladder any more. Right behind the golden comes a mama dog with a litter of 6 puppies. Twenty minutes later, two dogs that were adopted on Saturday have been brought back because they peed inside the house. Three cats come in – all from the same place – their owner died and the daughter wants nothing to do with litter boxes. Two 1-year-old labs are dropped off – baby on the way so no more time for high-energy dogs.  A litter of kittens come in with their mama, still nursing. Five minutes later, another litter of kittens come in but there’s no mama – and they’re only four weeks old. So, we’re up to 86 dog kennels needed (the pups stay with mama in one kennel) and 84 cat kennels (the motherless kittens have been frantically placed with the last available kitten foster). Whew. Still space, right?

Then the animal control officers come in. Officer One has brought in  7 cats – three from traps and four abandoned – and 4 dogs, all without collars, tags or microchips. Officer Two has brought in 3 more dogs who were reported for chasing chickens. Officer Three has been very busy – 2 abandoned kittens, 3 cats roaming at large and 9 stray dogs nosing through the trash at the landfill. That brings our grand total up to 102 dogs (plus the puppies with their mama) and 96 cats. Two dogs more than the shelter can hold. A rolling cage is wheeled into the laundry room to hold one of the dogs – a chihuahua shaking with fear. A staff member takes home the elderly golden retriever to administer meds and free up a kennel.

It’s only Monday. And the shelter has room for 4 more cats and no more dogs. And yet Tuesday will come with more dogs and more cats. Followed by Wednesday with more dogs and more cats and a couple of parakeets.

Potential adopters stroll up and down the aisles, peering into kennels. The mutt with a gentle soul and good manners is given barely a glance as one couple shakes their heads and leave, complaining that there were no yorkies. or pomeranians. or westies.

A young woman brings her son to see the animals, only to turn right around and leave when she finds out it’s a ‘kill shelter.’ She pauses just long enough to look over her shoulder in disgust at the front desk workers, her gaze saying,”How can you be so cruel?”

Another potential adopter wants a dog who is housebroken and already knows commands for sit, stay, lay down, shake, roll over, play dead. Yet another wants a puppy and the puppy must be fluffy. The little pittie-hound mix pups are totally ignored.

In the background, a shelter worker crosses her fingers that her favorite, a 10-year-old border collie with a heart murmur, weak hips and the sweetest disposition will finally find a home. She’s been here a long time – longer than she has any right to be.

Thursday comes. Adoptions were good this week but with so many owner surrenders and strays, the shelter is at capacity – technically over if you count the three rolling cages stuffed into the back hallway to hold the three little dogs who did not get along with their family’s new puppy.

It is euthanasia day. Who gets to live and who will die?

And who are the people behind that grim decision?

They are the ones who everyday open their hearts to the sure prospect of hope mingled with a bitter disappointment. They are the ones who look past the mange, the stinky ears, the overgrown nails, the tangled hair to see animals who were created with intention by God. They see the souls – the sometimes gentle, sometimes fearful question in the eyes of those animals: is it going to be better now?

As they bathe 6-week-old puppies, frail from blood loss because they have been covered in so many fleas, these shelter workers vow silently to show these creatures that yes, it is going to be better now. When officers bring in an emaciated dog, abandoned inside a kennel for weeks – they passionately swear that yes, it is going to be better now. When a recently adopted dog is picked up as a stray and the ‘owner’ says to just keep him, the worker who did the adoption kneels down in front of those questioning eyes and promises, it will be better.

And when it isn’t – when no one chooses them, when the shelter runs out of space – their hearts break completely. And these workers go home and smile for their families and try to bury the guilt they feel that they were not able to help that one. and that one. and that one.

The ugly truth of the animal shelter isn’t the workers pulling up the syringe of pentobarbital. It isn’t the shelter director who is agonizing in his office about the high intake and low adoption rate as he brainstorms new ways to attract potential adopters.

It’s you.

The person who thinks it’s fine for their intact male dog to roam the neighborhood, spawning litter after litter of unwanted puppies. Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who thinks they’ll make big bucks by backyard breeding … until the inbreeding starts creating puppies with deformities … puppies no one wants. Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who spends $500 on the puppy for sale in the back of the truck at Wal-mart, encouraging that backyard breeder to keep right on breeding, never knowing the mama lives a mostly neglected life in a filthy cage outside until she becomes so covered in mammary tumors that she ends up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who takes that puppy home and loses interest once the puppy reaches 7 months old and starts digging or chewing or barking – time to drop her off at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who decides they’d like to travel more and it’s time to dump their senior dog, the one with lumps and sores, at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The hunter who abandons the gun-shy dog on a back road, driving away in a cloud of dust, leaving him for someone else to deal with.

The nice middle-class family who refuses to get their dog spayed and complains when a wandering intact male leaves her with a litter of unwanted puppies. Puppies that end up at the shelter for someone else to deal with.

The person who hides behind a computer screen and leaves nasty messages, calling the shelter employees cruel, cold, unfeeling … all while petting the dog they purchased from a pet shop – shelter mutts are for someone else to deal with.

The person who complains that too much of their tax money has gone to the shelter – how could they possibly want to increase their budget for things like spay & neuter clinics or humane education or microchipping? That should be left for someone else to deal with.

The person who complains about the massive and daunting problem of animal welfare in this country … without offering any solution or any help. That’s for someone else to deal with.

For someone else to deal with.

The ugly truth is that so many people want to pass off their responsibility to someone else, anyone else. That’s why animal shelters exist. The emotional burden of what happens to those unwanted animals is passed off too – to sit squarely on the shoulders of the shelter workers and the volunteers and the rescues trying their damnedest to make a difference, to save lives.

The ugly truth is there is no easy answer. The real answer is simple but it is so hard because it requires persistence and endurance – there is no instant gratification. The only answer is spay and neuter. Pet overpopulation is an overwhelming problem and the only way to solve it is by reducing the population. Right now, society’s answer has been to reduce the population on the back end – i.e. killing. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 2.4 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year – that’s an animal every 13 seconds. The ASPCA reports a higher estimate of 2.7 million euthanized animals per year.

That’s madness, isn’t it?

Let’s change that.

Spay and neuter your pets – there’s no excuse for Rex to be accidentally spreading unknown litters around the neighborhood.

Adopt, don’t shop – shelter pets have every bit as much love to give as one from a breeder.

If you must buy, do your due diligence and fully inspect the premises of the breeder. See where mama lives full-time, not just when buyers come by. Ask about mama’s vet care. Ask for references.

Accept responsibility for the animal that you brought into your family. Dogs and cats don’t speak our language – they have to learn what we ask of them and that requires patience and consistency from you. They want to love you and that requires attention from you. They will get sick, they will get hurt, they may be inconvenient to care for – but that’s what you signed up for when you picked out the puppy with the waggly tail and the kitten with the fluffball fur.

If you do none of these things, then do this at least – look closely at those shelter workers and think – THINK- about the pain they willingly take on every day because someone else chose not to hold up their end of the bargain. And swallow the criticism that can float so easily to the surface. They are in the trenches – and what’s more, they repeatedly choose to be there because if not them, then who?
Written by Heather of thesimplelens.com
And that is the thought of every committed person involved in animal sheltering – if not me, then who?

 UPDATE: In follow-up to the overwhelming response this post generated, be sure to read the next post –  Animal Welfare: Solve for X