Thursday, August 28, 2014

Responding to Animal Abuse - the social media backfire

Over the past few months, I have deliberately disconnected from various social media sites that primarily report on violence against animals.  It is not that I do not care about the topic, but that I do not care for the vitriol in the comments of those responding to the posted reports.  And so I close my computer and chant my new mantra:  “Not my circus.  Not my monkeys.”

Don’t get me wrong – violence against any sentient being is not, in my opinion, to be tolerated.  And therein lies the rub.  When many of those people commenting on a violent act are themselves proposing violence as a solution, often in very graphic terms, we as a society move not one step closer to a nonviolent world.  In fact, we move away from it.

Today, our local paper(1)  reported the judicial decision of a local animal abuse case, which brought the futility of such comments to the forefront.  In a case where a dog owner was alleged to have punched and thrown a dog, the man was acquitted on all charges.  The judge’s decision, in part, was based on his perception of the key witnesses’ character as viewed through the evidence of their Facebook posts, comments, and ‘likes’. 

I have no knowledge of the case other than what I read in local papers and therefore will not offer an opinion of the acquittal.  But if you have ever written or 'liked' a violent suggestion in response to an alleged animal abuse case, please read the first article referenced at the bottom of this post.  

The judges reasons for his decision clearly demonstrate how the comments and even the 'likes' you post on social media may influence the court's opinion – and not always in the way you might hope. 

Note:  There is a caveat which needs to be underlined:  I am not talking about points of law here, but character.  Judges are required to be impartial on points of law - ie, whether an action was or was not a criminal act.  If the law says it isn’t, then the court cannot find the person guilty even if 95% of the population thinks the act should be criminal.  But when a person comes before the court and his/her character as an honest person is in question – whether as the defendant or the witness – comments he/she makes on social media can be used to help assess that character.]

There are clearly unintended consequences of promoting violence as a response to violence.  It incites a mob mentality, it encourages vigilantism, it advocates against a peaceful society with nonviolent problem solving, and perhaps most of all – it speaks to the morality of the person making the comment more than the morality of the alleged offender.

This is a timely issue given the comments I've seen in reaction to the recent video of another alleged dog abuse case - this one in an elevator in a five-star Vancouver hotel.  In the case in point, the video and the man’s apology(2) provide some measure of certainty that the accused treated a dog in a manner many consider immoral. The comments on at least one social media  page dedicated to the issue(3), however, are proposing actions equally as violent as the images in the video.  Do calls to treat Mr. Hague in the same manner as he is alleged to have treated the dog solve anything?  No.  That does nothing to move us toward a society in which violence becomes unacceptable.

So what action can we, the viewers of the video, take in response to the alleged animal abuse by the CEO of Centerplate?  

While Centerplate has imposed penalties of its own(4), those penalties have little or no long term impact on either Centerplate’s or Mr. Hague’s bottom line.  It was corporate damage control.  But there are ways to make your opinions known and to influence long term change. [I will focus solely on British Columbia here, though the same principle may apply to venues in other locales]. 

Centerplate is a catering company contracted by BC Pavilion Corporation (PavCo).  PavCo is a crown corporation responsible for operating BC Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre – both huge venues hosting hundreds of events and over a million patrons a year.  And who is responsible for said crown corporation?  The Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Todd Stone.  An elected official.  Who elects members of government?  We do.  You and me.  Ordinary people. 

When it comes to long term change, politicians are more accountable to the public than are private catering companies.  As the taxpaying public, we have the right to ask that the Minister address the deportment of the CEOs of companies to which his ministry grants contracts.  It is not reasonable to demand that all those contracts be cancelled – events are planned years in advance, contracts are signed legal documents, and event holders would be the ones that suffer.  But crown corporations can certainly set in place policies that guide which companies will be eligible for future contracts. I believe they also have the ability to discipline an individual or organization that violates existing policy or law.  Furthermore, animal abuse laws are, in part, the responsibility of the provincial  government. The government can be held accountable on many levels, and we certainly should expect our politicians in turn to hold accountable all companies and individuals who, directly or indirectly, are recipients of our hard-earned tax dollars.     

So voice your concerns to Mr. Stone(5) .  Let him know Mr. Hague’s alleged actions are not acceptable.  If you believe the penalties imposed by Centerplate are not sufficient, ask that PavCo also impose penalties. If you are unhappy that an alleged animal abuser is the CEO of a company on the government’s contractual payroll, ask that future contracts with Centerplate not be renewed if Mr. Hague remains their CEO.  Ask what policies govern the integrity of those applying for or holding government contracts. Request Mr. Stone’s personal support to lobby for tighter laws, greater enforcement, and stricter penalties for animal abuse. 

But keep it respectful.  Every time we write or ‘like’ a violent comment on social media, we promote violence.  And that is counter-productive.


References:

(1)  http://www.cowichannewsleader.com/news/272585611.html




(5) Contact info for Todd Stone:  https://www.leg.bc.ca/mla/40thparl/stone-Todd.htm


Monday, August 25, 2014

Eddie's Big Day

Today (or maybe yesterday by the time I post this - August 24th) was Eddie's eleventh birthday.  He's  the baby of the household.

After taking Shiloh and Mitzi for their customary morning walks, Eddie and I strolled down to the beach checked out the action.



The first thing we saw was an alien being.  Or so Eddie thought.  A man with some huge contraption on his back, a  wooden propeller and gas tank attached.  Turns out it was some sort of gas-powered back-pack flying machine which, combined with a paraglider, was going to launch him over the waters and across the Salish Seas.  Having once been married to a glider pilot, I just had to hang around to watch!

Alien being walks the shores


Setting out the paraglider


Take off!


Oh-oh - the ropes get tangled,
the pilot gets whipped around,
and he's grounded!


I bet he hates it when people
see him mess up!

He struggled to get set up again, but the wind was dying down and there were too many boats in the bay, and so an hour later our intrepid motorparaglider pilot decided to pack it in.

Eddie and I headed back home, where the real festivities began.  First, of course, he had to choose his party hat:
How about this one?


Or this one?


It looks pretty good
when I hold my head up!

There's a bird on my head!


Rather flattering,
don'tcha think?


How about if I put on
my serious face?


He finally decided upon the traditional brightly coloured paper cone and proudly posed while demonstrating restraint as he eyed his present -  a box of delicious Organic Beef Kali Wags snacks, placed in front of him with a firm "Leave It!" command.  Such a good boy!

Happy Birthday to Me!

After being given the "Take It" command, he checked out the treats, gobbled down as many as I would let him, and headed off for a nap.  I checked out the garden - the flowers, the tomatoes, the goldfinches at the feeder:











Later in the afternoon, his friend Tanner dropped by.

Hey buddy, Happy Birthday!
Is this where the pawty is?

He brought his mom, Else, who brought beer for me and more gifts for Eddie - raw beef bones, cooked turkey meat, and a bag of Fruitables skinny-minis.

Pressies!!!

Eddie had to practice his "leave it" command once again - then the bones and turkey disappeared into the freezer alongside his frozen herrings and raw chicken backs.  I get one shelf in my upright freezer - the rest is all dog or cat food. He did get some of the skinny-minis though, to which he gave two paws up.

His friends went home, he had another nap and then dinner. And finally, of course, Eddie had to have his birthday cake - a small tub of greek yogurt decorated with dog cookies and hidden in the freezer for an hour or two.  This year he got the whole thing to himself, as Shiloh and Mitzi have recently recovered from tummy upsets and are not allowed anything but their regular foods.  They weren't impressed.

Whaddaya mean, no cake for us?


Eddie, on the other hand, said "All the more for me!" and dove right in.  To heck with "leaving it" so mom can get a photo!

Eddie's cake

YUM!

YUM YUM!

BRAINFREEZE!



Another walk in the evening, and his day was done.



He'd like to remind you, though, that Tuesday is World Dog Day.  He has a sneaking suspicion the cat is going to hide the computer that day so no one can blog about it.

Who wants to read about
World Dog day?
I think I'll see what's on TV. 

Happy Eleventh Birthday, Eddie, and happy World Dog Day to all my doggy friends.

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's WORLD CAT DAY!

Why has no one  wished me a Happy World Cat Day?
Sent presents?
Given me treats?

By Allie

Yes, you heard me.  It is World Cat Day.   You wouldn't know it around here though.  The person who used to write this blog seems to have disappeared from Blogland.  She's still around the house though - just moaning and groaning about the heat, taking long naps, growing weeds (no, not weed, you ninny - WEEDS - the stuff that chokes out the flowers and vegetables!).....oh, and walking the dumb dogs at some undogly time of the morning before the day gets too hot. 

Who in their right mind goes for a walk
at 6:00 AM?

As for me?  I like the heat.  I lazzzzze around in the sunbeams (when dumb human doesn't have the blinds closed so tightly that not a ray of sunshine can get in).  I eat. I sleep.  I play.  Eat. Sleep. Play.  Isn't there a book with a title like that?  By Elizabeth Catbert or something?

EAT
SLEEP
PLAY!

Anyway, in honor of World Cat Day, I'm writing the blog. Because lazy people and lazy dogs around here ain't gonna do it. You can bet it will be different on World Dog Day.  Which is coming up on August 26th.  What a lot of nonsense - every day is a dog's day. It's a dog's life.  In this dog eat dog world, you can be as sick as a dog or be meaner than a junkyard dog or be dog tired or be a dirty dog, and you can work like a dog (which, if the dogs around here are any example, means doin' nothing!) or drink the hair of the dog or look like the dog's breakfast, but at the end of the day, if you lie down with dogs you'll get up with fleas! So there!  And still they celebrate World Dog Day.  Go figure. 

Ohgawd,  what is the world coming to,
that dogs should need their very own day!
Every day is their day.  



So I'm gonna let the cat out of the bag (though I'd like to know what mean person stuffed him in there in the first place!) and make sure everyone of you knows this:  TODAY IS WORLD CAT DAY.   So grin like a Cheshire cat, and walk right up to that dog of yours (yes, I know you have one - or two or three or ten), look that silly fuzzface in the eye, make like the cat that ate the canary, and tell the dogs of the world that 

CATS RULE, DOGS DROOL! 

We rule, and don'tcha forget it!

And you can tell them that ALLIE SAYS SO!  If it is on the blog, it must be true!

Is she done yet?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Butterflies on my Butterfly Bush

I love when a plant does what the plant books promise!  Last year my friend Else gave me a little cutting from her butterfly bush - this year it is about ten feet tall and five feet wide - and attracting butterflies just as the plant books say!  I am thrilled as I usually see very few butterflies in my garden.  Yesterday there were five of these beautiful Swallowtails on the bush at the same time.

(c) Jean Ballard 2014

(c) Jean Ballard 2014

(c) Jean Ballard 2014

(c) Jean Ballard 2014



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Scenes from the Salish Sea



I am a land-based person.  As much as I love the ocean and its beaches, enjoy fishing in small picturesque lakes, like flying in small planes,  have tried para sailing, and even flown on a trapeze 30 feet above the ground (the things you learn about me on the blog, eh?), I am most at home on the land - hiking a mountain path, wandering along a rocky shore, strolling through a park, exploring roads less traveled.

I haven't always had my feet solidly on the ground!

Even though I have lived by the ocean these past five years, I have never seen the Cowichan area from a boat, with the exception of the occasional ferry ride to Salt Spring Island. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy being on the water - but the closest I've ever been to owning a boat was an 8' folding fiberglass boat with a small electric motor I used for fishing in small interior lakes and the occasional fun-filled photoshoot while camping with my sister and my friends.

O'Bear, Robear, Muffin and Teddy
do a little fishing from my boat.

So when my nephew (my late sister's eldest son) offered to take me out in his boat while on a visit to this area with his wife and daughter, I jumped at the opportunity.  This was no 8' Portabote with hard wooden seats and a tippy demeanor, this was a 47' Bayliner with multiple viewing points and all the comforts of home.

I wonder how many teddy bears
my sister and I could have piled
in a boat this size!

The trip wasn't completely without risk - my nephew had been having problems with the port engine and at one point had also lost the steering.  Repairs had been completed on nearby Salt Spring and then again at Genoa Bay, and this was to be a trial run before the family continued on their journey.   It was the perfect day for testing it out - clear and sunny, smooth seas, great company.  I grabbed my lifejacket and we were off.

My first photo of the trip was some bright yellow flowers growing high atop a piling at the wharf - ten or more feet above my head:

Flowers atop a post


We set sail from Genoa Bay in the early afternoon.  We emerged from the protection of the bay and headed north through the Sansum Narrows, past Stoneyhill and the marine-accessible Sansum Point Park with its signature Garry oak and arbutus trees, past Maple Bay, and into Stuart Channel heading towards Crofton.


The Captain

Gotta have a flag!

Heading out

A lone tree stands out on
the top of a very high, round hill.

The scenery was beautiful -  tree-covered hills, ocean washed cliffs, small cottages and large homes that seemed accessible only by boat or whose roadways must have been well hidden, twisting, and treacherous.














Where's my winning lottery ticket?
I want to live there!

There were huge homes that looked more like institutions or business centres and other properties that appeared to be private resorts though I couldn't think of any in that area:

Not my style of architecture
but I bet the view is gorgeous!

Private resort?  

Solar powered beacons warned boaters of rocky points, and hidden beaches and bays drew all types of sea crafts to the area.




I love the tiny hidden beaches.
I just may have to take up kayaking!

A boat slips into a very small cove


Love the Canadian chair
someone has placed here!

Kayaks....

And small motor boats....

Motorized sailboats

And boats in full sail....

Boats towing dinghies, 

And boat scenes that
remind one of a painting.


A seiner provided a picturesque reminder of those who earn their living fishing these waterway and provide us with the amazing fresh, wild salmon and halibut for which the west coast is famous.  In this case, the crew appeared to be inspecting or fixing the nets and the mechanism with which they haul in the fish.





I was hoping we might make it as far as the Shoal Islands where the sea lions live, the ones I hear barking on my early morning walks on the sea walk.  But just as we drew within sight of Crofton, the instruments for the starboard engine - not the one that had just been repaired - started to indicate a problem and we knew it was time to head back.  I was able to get this shot of the mill - it looks so much bigger than it does from land!


We headed back to Genoa Bay, and arrived back in time for my nephew to have the starboard engine looked at in preparation for their departure next morning.  The afternoon sun was just beginning to cast its glow on the boathouses.


And while the boat was being secured to the dock, a seal popped up to entertain me:



I took a few more family photos, gave thanks and hugs all round, wished them well on their journey, and headed for my car.  The tide had come in now, and the top of the piling whose flowers had been so far above my head when we left, was now at eye level, affording me one more shot, one of my favourites of the day:

Flowers atop a pole
(c) Jean Ballard, 2014


An amazing day, a wonderful opportunity to make memories with a part of the family I see all too seldom, and a host of images to enjoy during cold or lonely winter months. I feel very blessed.