Book Review – The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption

Where do you stand with Michael Vick pleading guilty to charges of interstate dog fighting? Without having done a formal survey, I think people fall along the lines of African Americans/football fans and animal lovers.

I empathize with both Vick and the dogs. Why? Consider the broader context: African American men have some of the highest rates of incarceration and the longest jail-times in the United States. You can now count Vick among those numbers, whether you consider him guilty or not guilty. In addition, dog fighting has long been part of male culture, including African American men, and was not condemned like the Vick case until the early twentieth century. Vick like other men was probably introduced to the fighting through family or by his peers. So there might have been a history there too At the same time, I am also horrified about animals abused around the world. This includes cock and dog fights. I love animals and don’t like to see them abused, caged, or encased in Plexiglas.

In The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption, Jim Gorant recounts the events that led up to Vick’s charges and conviction, followed by rescuing the dogs and finding them homes. Gorant is clearly an animal lover, often telling the story through fictional vignettes based on what might have happened to the dogs:

“Sometimes men come and take a few of the dogs away. Sometimes those dogs come back tired and panting from running and running. Sometimes the dogs come back scarred and limping. Sometimes they come back looking the same, but acting completely different. Sometimes they don’t come back at all, as if they’ve simply disappeared.”

Many people found homes for the dogs to my relief; I love animals. People rehabilitated the dogs, many of them pit bulls, new kinder owners. Some even live with children. Redemption!

Vick has experienced some redemption too as the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

So where do you stand?

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Guest Blog: EcoSoul’s Eco Trauma and the Gulf Oil Spill

I am grateful that I am getting know the person behind EcoSoul on FB. EcoSoul is doing important work in health and spirituality: “EcoSoul is a healing arts practice based in Oakland, CA dedicated to raising awareness of the health benefits of Mindfulness and connecting to the natural world. Join us the 3rd Saturday of every month for Bay Area Nature Strolls for People of Color.” (EcoSoul FB)  

Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2004

I was moved by EcoSoul’s musings on the Gulf Oil Spill:

I find myself near tears every time I see images of the disaster caused by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve resorted to not reading everything that is posted on FB nor watching much television but as I spend time in South Texas with my family I am reminded of the intimate connection I have had with the Gulf. It is the first natural body of water I ever swam in, and it is the body of water that gave me the taste of my first shrimp. It is the place I spent time with my mother as a child; just she and I walking along the beach enjoying each others company. I am grateful for the Gulf and as a spiritual person who is an Oricha priest I recognize the natural spirit of Yemaya as a deity of nurturance and family and abundance and the home of the millions of ancestors that did not survive the Middle Passage. I weep for all that humans have done to desecrate the earth, sky and sea. We have become alienated against nature, due to a variety of reasons but now we have the opportunity to reconnect, to wake up and recognize that we are not separate from nature and all of it is sacred. This is a revolutionary idea for some; the belief and understanding that nature is sacred, that there are messages of healing and hope found in the bosom of the earth if only we would make ourselves available to listen. So as we take in the trauma of seeing millions of gallons of oil in the gulf and the many animal and plant life that have been destroyed honor the trauma that you feel–it means you are ALIVE and a feeling sentinent being; you are not strange, or too sensitive you are a human being that recognizes and feels your connection to all beings not just the two legged.

Pier on Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2004

An Ecotherapy blog post by Linda Buzzel states that psychology is gaining a better understanding of the impact of second hand trauma on the human psyche. And because of the ubiquity of the environmental and human disasters we now face, most of us suffer from it. According to the psychologist Peter Levine the author of “Waking the Tiger: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences” animals deal with trauma by literally shaking it off and going on with life, and not getting themselves stuck in the fight, flight freeze syndrome that keeps humans in a constant state of stress.

The new field of ecotherapy suggests we develop strategies to learn how to deal with this type of trauma. Reconnecting with nature through ritual, joining a local conservation group, advocating for environmental justice, and reducing our consumption of oil are some strategies for healing the trauma and pain we may feel.

May we all find our way back home to our true nature, may our prayers of healing extend to our nonhuman allies and may we shake off this trauma so that we can be awake and grounded to make sure that it never happens again.

PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE

Splice The Movie: Makers Not the Creature are Dangerous

From nationalpost.com

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Don't Splice the Duck with Humans

I went to a matinée of Splice, thinking I was going to see a by the numbers horror film. The film is frighteningly more. It is a morality tale of arrogant humans playing at being the maker and abusing genetically manipulated creatures.

In Splice, Elsa (Sara Polley), a young woman, ranks as one of the most evil characters I have seen on film or television, or read about in literature. Elsa’s cool calm rationality, a scientific façade hiding behind her damaged psyche (yes, mommy issues!) is more chilling that an ax murder. Elsa operates outside the law and ethics to bio-engineer a creature from the spliced DNA of human and animal genetic material. It is unclear what animals are spliced in the experiment but Dren, the engineered creature, has legs, wings, and eyes like a bird, and a tail with a poisonous spike like a stingray.

Spliced with a Flower or a Vegetable? Hmmm.

The question for me throughout the film is who is evil? Is it Dren who does abominable things or Elsa and boyfriend Clive (Adrien Brody) who play god and manufacture evil. Much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creation is both a sympathetic and evil character. The film is also a homage to the monsters in the Alien and Species movies.  So who or what is evil: the makers or the creature?

Throughout, Elsa and Clive have crossed ethical and legal boundaries but forge ahead. Ultimately, they fall prey to the evil they created. You’ll have to see the film to understand what I mean.

As I watched the movie, I thought about the Tuskegee Experiment in which African American men in Alabama with syphilis were test subjects used to track the ravages of the disease. Even when scientist discovered a cure, these same African American men were left to go insane and die from the disease as white scientists continued their inquiries.

As we continue to test the boundaries of genetic engineering, looking back to the bad and unethical science of the past, who or what is our nightmare and danger?

PHOTOS BY DIANNE GLAVE unless otherwise noted