When one cause isn't good enough.
A recent study found that Animal Welfare ranked as the #1 issue that people care about.
The cause outranked child hunger and child education, and it pushed public concern about the environment down the list to #6.
While that may be good news for animals, it can't be happy news for champions of children's causes and for those who feel stomach churning concern about the current state of our environment. Perhaps the take-away is that, thanks in part to savvy social media use, people just feel more connected to animals who suffer. All those up close and personal photos of animals that fill our Facebook feed - It can be easier for us to let down our guard and feel empathy for animals, especially while programs that support them are seeing so much success. We care because we've seen that caring makes a difference.
Connecting the dots
But maybe the survey got it all wrong. Instead of asking people to rank the causes, it might be time to ask ourselves how one favorite cause has the potential to influence another.
Q: Do hungry children who miss out on quality education also miss out on teachings and opportunities that encourage better citizenship? The bright minds of Teach Heart would say 'YES!'
Q: Does our sloppy stewardship of the Earth impact the animals we claim to care so much about? That's such a big 'Yes,' that it's hard to decide on one link to point to - wild animals especially - but to stay dog-centric, here's just one example. Cancer in dogs.
Dogs that help sell stuff
In a recent Earth Day inspired Facebook post, we jabbed at an ad campaign that used an image of a Blocky dog and a celebrity owner to promote branded water sold in a single-use plastic bottle as part of a healthy life style. Most of our readers had a good laugh, but a few howled in protest, accusing us of 'shaming' or 'bullying' the model with our critique. After all, any positive image of a Blocky dog should be celebrated no matter the context, so who are we to judge? Happy Earth Day, indeed.
We're calling it. Blocky dogs have arrived -- They're ranked among the 10 most popular dog types in the country, top five in California (see link). We don't need to be so desperate for good press that we give a free pass to companies who want to capitalize on their popularity to sell us water. We've known it for awhile: Pit Bulls and their mixes are a win, but single-use plastic water bottles are a big fail. Leave 'our' dogs out of it, ad boys. They've been exploited enough.
To be fair, we all use bottled water, and we all play our part in being jerks to the environment. But it's time that we use our keen concern for Animal Welfare to smack ourselves fully awake and to help others connect the dots. We give a damn about kids and the environment, and we care deeply about human rights issues, too. Because our dogs have taught us to care, and because we know that lifting one cause lifts all causes up, and builds a more humane future.
We're trying. It's hard, but we can do hard things.
At the Rescue Barn, we've sought every way possible to reduce our carbon footprint while helping the dogs we love. Below are photos of some the ways we're trying work it all out.
The native plants on our grounds give the dogs a blast of happy scents, and they attract a constant stream of butterflies and songbirds. Hummingbirds drink from our fountain. We use a clean burning wood stove (a Jøtul) in the Barn as our only heat source during cold temps.
Kicking the plastics habit has been a brain twister. Have you tried? It's not easy, but like our dogs, we love a good challenge.
We limit the amount of Amazon buying we do, and we cringe when boxes filled with rolls of unnecessary bubble wrap pile up after a big donation ask. Ugh. We do our best to recycle, even though we now know that most of our plastics are being landfilled, good intentions be damned.
You won't find plastic water bottles at the Barn. We rehydrate the old fashioned way, with glassware at the kitchen sink. And we smile like bliss ninnies when our awesome volunteers start their shifts with stainless steel water bottles in their hands.
During our events, we haul out our trusty Arctic Boy, fill it with ice, water and lemons from our tree. We use red plastic party cups, which are typically loaded into the top shelf of the dishwasher, washed and reused.
It's a steep re-learning curve, and sometimes we give in and opt for convenience. But we feel like crap about it when we do - which some may see as progress. Feeling like crap about what the Pit Bulls were enduring is what brought about the massive improvements in their status. Being uncomfortable is part of our evolution.
Let's keep this topic alive, because like you, we care quite a bit about getting this right.