Saturday, January 24, 2009

On finding solace in the small pleasures...

After yesterday's post, I thought something a little less serious might be in order. I also thought I'd take my own advice about enjoying my own dog and so we all went for a run in the forest this morning.

For those of you who do not know them, My Beloved and I are privileged to share our home with a beagle and a dachshund/min pin known locally as Darwin the Loud and Humphrey the Small and Irritating. They are both 'recycled dogs' - Darwin (the beagle) from a local hellhole of a pound and Humphrey is a 'Dixie-dog' - finding himself in New England by way of the sunnier climes of Tennessee.

Anyways, they are the loves of my life (along with their Pop, of course) and I don't quite know what I'd do without them. Sometimes - usually when in the car and they're barking and screaming for all they're worth - I fantasize about being without them, but that feeling dissipates soon after we reach our destination - the park, the dog park, the forest, wherever - or after I've had a few moments alone to regain my 'inner poise'. Or a couple of vodka-tonics. But that would be a whole other story!

Moving along. This morning, saddened beyond belief by yesterday's post, I resolved to take the boys on a long run in the forest. We bundled them into their winter attire and off we went. Here are a few pix...

The forest in question, so beautiful....if a touch chilly!

Darwin hoping he can take off and run.....

Humphrey worrying that he's wearing last year's fashions!

Humphrey is very fine furred which means he gets to wear 2 coats in this kind of weather. His faux shearling velcroes up underneath him and then the fleecy green coat wraps around and closes along his back, meaning he's doubly protected. Perhaps I am overly protective, but he really feels the cold in New England, sitting right by the stove even in the summer when it's 95 degrees outside. Personally I think he might be a tad crazy, but that's ok. We all have our insane side, no?

That famous beagle nose gets into everything....including snow piles. Hmmmmmm......

The boys are very close these days. They are incredibly fond of each other and do everything together. This is a classic moment....tails high, ears back, life is good!

And they know to always come back because their favourite treats are on offer - vegan raspberry and peanut butter biscotti, if you please!

And Darwin's not above posing so I can get his 'best side'....

It was a lovely morning - just what was needed to revive flagging spirits. Being in the forest, tramping through the snow, with the pups and the occasional cross-country skier

really boosted my morale and helped me bring back into focus *my* reality. There is so much trauma 'out there', so much to be incredibly saddened by, and it is vitally important to take a break, enjoy moments like this and take stock of your own reality. Find solace in the small pleasures you have in being with your own animal companions and then recharge your batteries and continue doing what you can for the rest of the animals out here.

I know yesterday's post was difficult, but if you have read so far I thank you for not turning away. And the animals thank you too.

Stay vegan, friends!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Go cuddle your own dog...

Yesterday I received an email from an organization I very much respect, Animals Asia. I first came across them a couple of years ago when I was bought a gift sponsorship of 'Bottom' the bear in my mother's name, as she adores bears. Animals Asia works in China and Vietnam to end bear bile farming and do outstanding work in bear rescue and in education - teaching people about the cruelties of bear bile farming and the hazards to human health of this obscene practice.

At the time, however, I did not realise that Animals Asia has also developed a very strong 'Friend....or Food' program, aimed at changing attitudes in China to dog and cat eating. OK, I sense I might lose a few folks here, but I just ask you to please read on. It is SO important.

This is the reality:

And then they become this:

(Images courtesy of Animals Asia)

And the scale of this practice was also unclear to me until recently. Animal People estimates that 13-16 million dogs and 4 million cats are butchered each year for human consumption in Asia.

Let's hear that again: 13 to 16 million dogs.


And 4 million cats.

OK, so back to the email I received yesterday. It came from the founder, Jill Robinson, who has launched a desperate appeal for donations to help provide care for the 149 dogs that were rescued on New Year's Eve from dog-meat traders. This is an excerpt from her message:

It all started on New Year’s Eve when the Qiming Rescue Centre, a dog shelter in Chengdu, asked for our help. The authorities in nearby Pengzhou had just confiscated 149 dogs from an unlicensed trading station (after a tip-off from Qiming staff) and the dogs were on their way to the shelter.

A small team, including one of our vets and a vet nurse, quickly grabbed medical supplies and headed for the shelter. We arrived just as the truck carrying the dogs pulled in. I couldn’t believe what we were witnessing! It was horrible in every sense of the word – the stench (so familiar from our visits to live animal markets), the blood-curdling cries coming from the cages as the terrified dogs bit into each and, as always, the terrible feeling we all get when we look into the haunting, sad eyes of these beautiful animals.

I hate to think how long they had been in those cages, many of them packed in so tightly that they were piled on top of each other. Some of the dogs were shaking with anxiety, while others were rigid with fear. Many were suffering terribly and showing symptoms of parvovirus, distemper and kennel cough. Most were skeletal and their coats filthy from being excreted and urinated on by the top layer of dogs.

Animals Asia is health-checking the dogs, treating their wounds, vaccinating them and, sadly, euthanising those that are just too sick to save or so aggressive that we could not rule out rabies or other diseases; these dogs are also a serious risk to other dogs and handlers. The process is ongoing, but we hope many of the dogs will recover and find good homes. However, these are the lucky ones – this year alone, millions of other dogs (and cats) will be slaughtered in the most brutal manner in hellish meat markets in China.

They will be crammed together into tiny cages, loaded onto trucks and driven day and night for four or five days with no food or water (if they are lucky, they might be hosed down, just to keep them alive). Once at the markets in southern China, they will be bludgeoned across the face, stabbed and bled out, or slowly, torturously beaten to death in the misguided belief that their meat will taste better if they are panic-stricken at the point of death. The same fate awaits millions of cats – some of them are even boiled alive.

What is so encouraging about this rescue is that it was a local animal-welfare centre that alerted the authorities about the unlicensed trader and, for the first time, the authorities actually confiscated the dogs! This is a wonderful example of Chinese people standing up and saying “no” to the cruel dog-eating trade – and it underpins our education efforts to stop demand and bring this industry to an end.

Animals Asia really needs funding right now. And money - however much we can all as individuals spare - goes a loooooooong way in China. I know times are tough financially, but life is tougher by far for those dogs and if you can see your way clear to sending a donation - however small - please click on this link.

And then go and cuddle your own dog. Because s/he knows YOU need it.

Thanks friends, and stay vegan.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The delights of tea....

I am a creature of habit, it is true. Being a Brit, I adore my tea but always with white sugar and milk. I'll admit, sometimes I mix it up a bit and switch out the soy milk for rice milk and once I even used the the last dribble of Silk EgglessNog (or whatever it's called) in my early morning cuppa. It made the drink super sweet, but not altogether unpleasant now that I think about it.....Hmmmm.....

Anyways, My Beloved and I were in NoHo this weekend having brunch at our favourite little place, the Green Bean. We'd taken the boys (bundled up in multiple fleecy coats against the sub-zero temperatures) to the forest for a run and felt righteously entitled to a big brunch. Well, that was my excuse anyhow....So ambulating around the town after lunch, and not wanting to admit defeat in the face of windchills around -15 degrees celsius and run home to sit in front of a roaring fire, we went into one of the cooks' shops and I discovered tea. This tea, in fact:

It's called Caribbean Breezes and it was the smell that initially stopped me dead in my tracks - a beautifully sweet yet tangy mix of hibiscus and coconut. I was instantly transported back to the islands, out of the cold and into tropical temps - I just HAD to buy some!

So this afternoon as I did some baking - a top secret project that I dare not discuss right now lest 'someone' read this entry (all will be revealed later) - I brewed up my first pot.

It made 3 cups of a garnet-coloured ambrosia and I enjoyed each one - fantastic!! A touch of agave nectar in place of the refined white sugar sweetened it delightfully and actually making a pot instead of throwing a teabag in a mug lent the whole affaire an element of civility on this frigid, hard-scrabble Sunday afternoon in arctic-blasted New England.

Stay warm...and vegan...friends! :)