I take the emergency exit row on a plane whenever I can get it. Who doesn’t, right? When the attendants come around and ask if you are willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency, I nod, but think to myself “My job ends once that door’s open then I’m outta here.” I’d like to think I would stick around and help carry out the elderly or infirm, but there is a deep and guilty part of me that thinks I wouldn’t. I would run away.
Running away is an easy way to deal with life. I run when I can because when the exit door’s open, it’s much easier than sticking around; trying to help, trying to change, trying to make things better. Easiest to leave and start over, when there’s a choice. And all I have to say to that is, I am not a good example of humanity and I know this.
When the horrific events of Boston unfolded today, I watched in dismay as did the rest of the world. Hours of “Who? Why?” over and over, 15 second Vine videos of the blast, screaming people running away. I turned it off after a bit. I, too, ran away. What were they going to say that made sense? Would someone step forward and say, “I did this, and this is why,” and that would somehow explain it? It was a horrific evil act regardless of the perpetrator’s identity or reasoning, and so I took a break from the nonstop onslaught of smoky images.
But I turned it back on later, to see if there was any new news. I saw that an eight year old died, a child the same age as my own, one who was likely there cheering on a loved one on a happy Patriot’s Day. And I held my head and turned away, but something in the images starting to come forward changed my mind, despite the despair, despite the urge to run from reality.
In the seconds after the blast, while confused runners and spectators were fleeing, I saw the first responders sprinting towards the victims. Knowing a second explosion had just hit and unsure if more explosions were coming, still, they ran towards those who needed them. I know a lot of these ‘Massholes’, as they call themselves. I grew up as one. I still drive like one. Massholes run towards.
I saw marathoners, who had planned this event for months and months, robbed in a moment of this happy journey, leave the course and continue running, towards the hospital to donate blood. Elite athletes are often accused of being selfish to the point of narcissism in their quest for glory. They, too, ran towards.
I saw other marathoners, paused on the roadside with their shirts off, tearing them into pieces to apply tourniquets to the victims. The one time I ran a marathon I couldn’t even remember my name by mile 23 and here they were, at the end, applying first aid knee to knee with spectators. All labels gone, just humans in the thick of things, compelled to run towards.
You may think you have your life on track and then without warning, reason, or explanation, it can derail in a second’s time, and until it happens, you have no idea of what kind of person you will be. And while there will always be crazy people and awful psychopaths and run of the mill jerks, I’m reminded of the fact that the reason we consider them sociopaths and villains is because most of us, yes, the vast majority of us, even those we don’t like or agree with most of the time, are good and want to support our fellow man, not drown him.
Not one of those people stopped to ask a victim, Romney or Obama?
Do you feed raw food or kibble?
Did you rescue your dog or buy a purebred?
Perspective is a precious gift we can find in the most wretched of circumstances. And on this day, I hope that if I ever find myself faced with a choice, I choose to run towards my fellow man.
For those of you who were around this fall, you’ll remember I did my blogathon Blogpocalypse from the Alpine sanctuary Lions, Tigers, and Bears, in the company of lions, tigers, and bears. At the time they were just about to finish construction on a new bear habitat, but there was still just a few weeks left before the bears went in, which meant I got to hang out in it.
It’s since been completed, much to the delight of Blossom, Delilah, and Liberty. Founder Bobbi Brink has continued her tireless advocacy work on behalf of animals across the country, in the understated way that most true heroes do.
As we’ve discussed previously on several occasions, it’s easy to want to do good. To help an animal in need. Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to research it properly and get truly prepared before taking on a rescue role, you can end up doing as much harm as good- this happens with “rescues” that turn into hoarding situations, sanctuaries that go defunct and sell their wards off to canned hunting facilities, and chimp sanctuaries that are perhaps less prepared to handle the situation than the research facility they were taken from.
Bobbi and I spoke of this a bit when I was out there this fall, and it’s one of the reasons she is a member and advocate of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which is an accreditation organization that provides guidelines for proper care. It was through GFAS that Bobbi was made aware of a failing sanctuary in Ohio, where she was to testify about legislation about wild animal ownership in the face of the Zanesville tragedy.
“Can you help?” they asked, and she said, “yes.” And she did. This is what certain people do, they say yes despite having no clue how they are going to do it, and then they go and make it happen. From the press release:
Bobbi Brink, Founder and Director of LTB, has been working with the defunct facility to place the seven lions, 11 tigers, five cougars, eight wolves and one Black Bear named Sugar Bear in other accredited sanctuaries around the country but time is running out…
Brink, in cooperation with the GFAS, has been successful in working with the facility to find homes in South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas and at her own facility in California. However, the cost of transporting the animals is high and Brink is looking to find funds to help facilitate the travel needs. Private donors have come forward but much more is needed. If the animals cannot be moved in time there is the likelihood of them being put down.
I’m just in awe of her determination. She just saved THIRTY EIGHT ANIMALS. Bobbi is my hero.
Sugar Bear in quarantine at Lions, Tigers and Bear: via Facebook.com/lionstigersandbears
Must plan a stat trip out there to say hello.
For more about Sugar Bear and Lions, Tigers, and Bears, check out the website.
Or to donate to the relocation cost of Sugar Bear and the other animals from the defunct sanctuary: Click here.
We tend to take for granted all the medicine we have at our fingertips for our pets- ultrasounds, MRIs, surgeons with insane specialties. It’s easy to forget sometimes the conditions most of the rest of the world functions in. It’s one of the reasons I am in such awe of organizations like World Vets, which sends vets all over the world to not only help animals, but help the vets in other countries learn cutting edge skills.
Running a multi-national nonprofit like this presents challenges you never would think about until you actually get into it: you can’t just show up in a place, do a few fancy surgeries, and take off without taking into account the people that are already there who might resent your intrusion if not done properly. In the case of World Vets, training is a core part of the program: not only for the veterinary students who volunteer in order to acquire more skill, but for the local veterinarians who take an active role in the projects, get trained themselves, and can use those skills year-round to improve the life of the animals who live there. From their January press release:
This year, World Vets officially opened its first year-round International Training Center. Located in Granada, Nicaragua, the Latin America Veterinary Training Center will train over 500 Latin American veterinarians in 2012. In addition to Latin American veterinarians, the training center will also see 160 U.S. veterinary students this summer as part of the International Veterinary Medicine program offered by World Vets.
But what does this mean, really? It means when a pet is injured in a manner a veterinarian is uncomfortable treating, they have a good relationship with a mentor vet they can call for help, and everyone benefits. Take, for example, Princessa. (more…)
It’s a week of being thankful, and in that vein I’m reaching back into something I used to do regularly and make a Sunday post highlighting something great from around the web. Today, two large scale projects meant to bring more shelter pets into their forever homes:
Home for the Holidays
Iams’ Home for the Holidays program has just surpassed the 6 million mark for number of pets who have been adopted since the program’s inception in 1999. Way to go! They’re still working on their goal of 5 million bowls of food donated, as well.
2011 Results to date:
Since October 1st, we have helped find new loving homes for:
- Total adoptions so far: 413,903
- Total meals donated so far: 1,525,920
The Shelter Pet Project
Speaking of adoption, the Shelter Pet Project has just released a new set of Public Service Announcements in a joint project with the Ad Council, HSUS and Maddie’s Fund.
The PSA message is “A person is the best thing to happen to a shelter pet.” Truer words were never spoken!
Remember those “Like Mike” commercials with Michael Jordan? They were cute enough, I suppose, but the idolatry of sports figures never really went over well in my head. Every time I saw that commercial or one like it, I would scratch my head, think about all the people I knew who had done so many more extraordinary things, and wonder how come he gets to be the hero of so many hearts.
Now that I have kids, it’s even worse. I want them to admire innovators, humanitarians, advocates; scholars and teachers, pioneers and great thinkers. Athletes and celebrities have their place in the world, sure, but if my daughter’s dream growing up is to be just like iCarly, then I screwed up.
I was honored and touched when a different Mike, my friend Mike Arms from the Helen Woodward Animal Center, asked if I would come to the Red Cross Real Heroes Awards Breakfast yesterday at the USS Midway here in San Diego. As the Animal Welfare Honoree, Mike was one of 10 local heroes being recognized.
Joining him as honorees were other amazing San Diegans from all walks of life, such as Dr. Nick Yphantides, a physician who lost 200 pounds on a cross country trek promoting health; Sandy Lehmkuhler, founder of the Freedom Station transitional housing facility for injured military personnel; firefighters Robert Laatsch and Jym Bridger, who provide bicycle helmets for children, and Staff Sergeant Erik Sims, a member of the armed services who has overcome traumatic brain injuries to devote his life to helping others around the world. You can read about them all here. (more…)