Putting things in perspective

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Sorry it’s been awhile. I’ve been so busy trying to get ready for a vacation that I’m not even going to take that I’ve hardly had time to breathe, much less think about keeping up with my blog.

Take yesterday, for example. On top of trying to meet an impossible –albeit self-imposed — work-related deadline,  long laundry list of things to do. Literally.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

So I grabbed some money, two full bags of dirty clothes, detergent, and trundled everything across the street to the neighborhood laundromat. Inside, I loaded my favorite washing machine and then got some quarters from the only functioning change dispenser.

Back at the washing machine, I began dropping quarters into the slot one by one. Clink, clink, clink, clink… I didn’t think much of it when one failed to register, and deposited another one. But that one got stuck, too. Slightly aggravated, I pushed the coin return button. And… nothing happened.

Then I got that sinking feeling. You know, the one you get when you’ve dumped a whole bunch of coins into a vending machine and it either gets stuck or the item you want doesn’t pop out. Then I got really mad. I could see the quarters — I just couldn’t reach them. And I didn’t have anything with me that I could use to dislodge them.

So before I went back home, I asked if anyone in the laundromat had car keys or a paperclip that I could borrow. One of the guys asked what was going on and offered to help. As it turned out, it was a good thing he was there, because he had just what I needed, a utility knife with a long, thin blade. Working quickly, he easily freed the quarters, and then waited while I inserted a different quarter.

For some strange reason, the rest of the quarters registered with no trouble, averting any additional drama. I thanked the man for his help and we went our separate ways.

And that was that. A random, yet ordinary encounter between two strangers on an ordinary day. One needed help. The other was willing and able to provide it.

Oh, I almost forgot. The guy who helped me is black.

Just something to think about the next time you hear a news report about racism and hatred in America. After you’ve given that some thought, ask yourself why the media is promoting that narrative. Who stands to gain from it? And who stands to lose?

That is what is known as critical thought. And that will go a long way towards healing this country.

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California’s anti-puppy mill legislation goes to governor

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It all boils down to supply and demand. By passing A.B. 485, California lawmakers have demanded that puppy mills and similar operations no longer supply pet shops with companion animals.

Specifically the  legislation currently awaiting Gov. Gerry Brown’s signature takes aim at the unscrupulous breeders by ensuring that the pet stores can only acquire dogs, cats and rabbits from animal rescue groups, shelters and similar organizations.

A dog available for adoption at Adopt-a-Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

As reported by Newsweek, “The purpose of the bill is to encourage pet stores to move into the rescue business and to reduce the number of animals killed at shelters due to lack of space.”

According to the ASPCA:

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).
  • Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).

Data provided by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) indicates that most people who have cats got them from shelters, friends or family, while most people who have dogs got them from breeders or shelters.

Many pet stores are already providing another option for people seeking companion animals. As Newsweek reported, “Some pet stores, including PetCo and Petfood Express, have already moved away from selling cats, dogs, and rabbits bred for profit and instead donate space to rescues and host adoption events.” According to its website, PetSmart is also on board.

“At PetSmart, we never sell dogs or cats. Together with PetSmart Charities, we help save over 1,300 pets every day through adoption,” the company says. In all, PetSmart claims it has saved more than 7.6 million animals through its adoption program.

Of course, there are always two sides to every story. And apparently, the AKC is not a fan of A.B. 485.

“AB 485’s proponents misleadingly claim that the bill will promote the purchasing of purebred dogs from local breeders. That claim, however, fails to shed light on the fact that many local anti-breeding laws and breeding restrictions, also supported by these groups, have already eliminated hobby breeding and now make obtaining a specific type of dog bred by a local breeder increasingly difficult,” the AKC says.

However, A.B. 485 does not ban Californians from getting purebred pets if they so choose. It simply bans them from doing so through pet stores. If the bill becomes law, they would still be able to get companion animals by contacting private breeders directly.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? Or will it do more harm than good? Let me know by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below.

As seen at the 30th annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival

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As the old saying goes, sometimes a picture is worth 1,000 words. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite photos from the 30th annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival. Enjoy!

Great Dane wins Best Lap Dog contest at Puttin' on the Dog.
Best Lap Dog winner. Puttin’ on the Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Furr-911 rescues Hurricane Harvey kittens.
Hurricane Harvey kittens make an appearance at Puttin’ on the Dog festival, courtesy of FURR-911. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Owner and dog get a helping hand on the agility course.
Balancing act. Action in the agility ring at Puttin’ on the Dog. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Runner-up in one of the contests at the 30th annual Puttin' on the Dog festival.
Second place? What do you mean I got second place? The indignity of it all. Puttin’ on the Dog, Greenwich CT. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Adopt-a-Dog volunteer with her charge at Puttin' on the Dog.
Take me home! A senior dog steals the show in the first parade at the Puttin’ on the Dog festival. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

 

Nap time! Hurricane Harvey kittens take a break at the 30th annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Why I would never abandon my cat in a natural disaster

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It’s absolutely heartbreaking. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, social media sites have been saturated with news and photos about the dogs, cats, horses and other animals left to fend for themselves when their owners fled.

There have been harrowing tales of heroic rescues from rising flood waters. But there have also been heartwarming tales about all of the animal welfare groups working to reunite these animals with their families, or trying to find new homes for the pets that have been displaced.

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat.

As an animal lover and pet owner, I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, it makes me furious. From a purely emotional standpoint, I find myself wondering how anyone could abandon their pet in such horrible circumstances. As a reporter who has covered my share of natural disasters and the aftermath — I know a little bit of pre-planning could save a lot of heartache in the long run.

On the other hand, I find myself trying not to rush to judgment. After all, an argument could be made that no one really knows how they would react when confronted by a storm the magnitude of Harvey or Irma. It is easy to be an armchair quarterback from the warmth and safety of your house.

All of that being said, I didn’t leave Eli during Superstorm Sandy. And I would never leave my cat to fend for himself in a storm. Ever.

My reason for this is simple. As a person, I have the ability to make certain choices; ride out a big storm at home or seek shelter elsewhere, listen to the official weather advisories or ignore them, plan in advance, or take my chances. So to a certain extent, I have some control over what happens to me — even in the worst of circumstances. Eli doesn’t have that luxury. He is entirely dependent on me to take care of him and keep him safe. No matter what. He is my responsibility.

Yes, I’ve said it before and I will say it again. I will keep saying it until people not only listen, but act accordingly. As pet owners, we are responsible for what happens to our dogs, cats, horses, snakes,  gerbils, ferrets, birds… Our companions are not disposable. They are living, breathing beings with specific physical and emotional needs.

Can they adapt? Of Course. Can they survive without us? Yes. Should we put them in a position where they’re forced to do so? Absolutely, positively not.

That being stated, I’m keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Jose. And from what I’ve seen, if you live anywhere in the northeast, I suggest you do the same.

It’s time for the annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival

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Whatever you do, don’t try to get a hold of me on Sunday. I’ll be busy. All day. And by the time I get home, I’ll be dog tired (literally), hot and bothered. But I’ll also be happy.

Cute Kitten, courtesy of FURRR 911. Photo by A. Bogdanovic
Bolt, a kitten rescued by FURRR 911, at Puttin’ On The Dog & Cats, Too 2016. Photo by A. Bogdanovic

On Sunday, I’ll spend the entire day shooting the 30th annual Puttin’ on the Dog festival, which will be held at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich, CT. Hosted by Adopt-a-Dog, the event is billed as the biggest of its kind between New York and Boston and benefits several local animal rescue and welfare groups.

In addition to raising money and awareness for worthy causes, the festival gives animal lovers a chance to meet some of the dogs and cats that are available for adoption. It also gives dogs and their people a chance to show off by participating in various contests.

You can learn more about the fun and games here.

This will be the fifth straight year I’ve volunteered at the event. And personally, I’m looking forward to hanging out in the cat pavilion, photographing the action in the demonstration rings and on stage, and checking out the silent auction.

On that note, I’d better run. Hopefully I’ll see you on Sunday. If not, don’t call me. I’ll call you!

Why Americans ‘dwell’ on Nine-Eleven

A few days ago, I was scanning through some Facebook posts when I came across a question that made my blood boil: “Why do Americans dwell on 9/11?”

Nine-Eleven memorial. Cos Cob Park, Cos Cob, CT.
Sunlight behind the 9/11 Memorial at Cos Cob Park, Cos Cob, CT. June 2017. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

I wasn’t sure whether it was posted out of ignorance, malice, or both. I started to reply — and then I realized I wasn’t sure what to say. Now, as I watch and listen to the annual reading of the victims’ names at Ground Zero — as I do every year — I will try to explain.

Of course, I can’t speak for all Americans. I can only speak for myself. So I will start by saying that as someone with family that has survived recent wars, I am well aware that there are places in the world where events the magnitude of Nine-Eleven, and worse, happen every single day. Given that, I can see why some people can’t understand — and some may even resent — America’s preoccupation with the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001.

That being stated, here’s why I will never forget that day, or the days, weeks, months and years that followed. I will never forget it because I was living and working in the New York City suburbs on that fateful day. Like millions of Americans, I witnessed the horror and devastation on TV as it unfolded. Watched in horror as the planes struck and  bodies fell from the wreckage of the Twin Towers less than 30 miles from home. Screamed as the buildings collapsed, another hijacked plane hit the Pentagon and the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93 paid the ultimate price for averting further devastation. Wept as the world changed.

As seen at the 9/11 Memorial. New York, NY. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

I will never forget it because I was a reporter tasked with writing about the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and their effects in the small, tight-knit community of Rye, N.Y. There were so many stories of close calls and tremendous loss. There so much sadness. So much grief. So much anger.  There were so many tales of heroism. And there were tales of resolve.

In the face of tremendous adversity, we were united. On that day, and in the weeks that followed, all lives mattered. There was no black versus white. There was no left versus right. We were all Americans. We helped those in need regardless of their race, religion, gender or political ideology. We stood as one.

Today I grieve for strangers. I also grieve for friends who were directly affected by the tragic events that transpired 16 years ago. I grieve for my country — a country ravaged by divisiveness and hate.

On September 11, 2001, and every year since, we have sounded the rallying cry, “Never forget.”

I am afraid we already have.

Happy (belated) International Cat Day

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For those of you who missed it, yesterday was International Cat Day — also known as World Cat Day.

So on behalf of Eli and In Brief Legal Writing Services, Happy (belated) International Cat Day, everyone! I hope that you and your cats enjoyed it!

Charles Dickens quotation about cats.
Famous quotation about cats. Photo by Alexandra Boganovic

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to celebrate, have no fear. There’s always next year. And for those of you who didn’t know about it, here’s some background information about this special day dedicated to the coolest cats on the face of the planet.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare created International Cat Day in 2002. Since then, it has been observed as a way to honor our “feline friends” and “advocate for cats.” Specifically, it is an opportunity to:

  • Adopt a cat from a local shelter or rescue group
  • Visit a cat cafe
  • Donate to a charity that focuses on cats

Of course, it’s important to make donations to pet-focused charities whenever we can. And of course it’s always better to adopt a companion animal than to buy one. It also goes without saying that our pets should be spayed and neutered.

After all, the stark reality is that there are millions of abused, neglected and unwanted dogs and cats in the United States of America alone. According to the ASPCA:

  • Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).

On the other hand, there is good news, too. The ASPCA also estimates that 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).

That’s  a small step in the right direction. But there’s still along way to go.


Upcoming “holidays” devoted to pets:

  • National Dog Day — August 26, 2017
  • National Black Cat Appreciation Day — August 17, 2017
  • National Feral Cat Day — October 16, 2017
  • National Cat Day (U.S.) — October 29, 2017
  • National Black Cat Day — November 17, 2017

Newsflash: pets are not disposable!

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I have got to stay off of Facebook.

For one thing, it can be really depressing. And for another, it is definitely not good for my blood pressure.

Last week alone, I saw at least three different posts that made my blood boil. And I’m not even talking about the political posts. I’m talking about the posts about animal cruelty and neglect. I’m talking about the posts that clearly demonstrate that some people simply should not have pets.

Eli the cat.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot, Eli the cat. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

By far the most disturbing of these was a post shared by a former friend. I stress “former” because I told him off as soon as I saw it. And then I “unfriended” him — on Facebook and in “real life.”

So what could possibly be so outrageous? It wasn’t so much the post in which he asked if anyone knew of a local rescue or pound that would take his two cats. It was his reason for giving them away. In the simplest terms, he said he was “done” with indoor animals. That’s it. He just didn’t want them anymore. Period. End of story.

Now, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to part with their pets. Illness. Allergies. Moving to another country or to a new apartment or condo that doesn’t allow pets. The inability to continue to pay vet bills or buy food… These are all heartbreaking circumstances… but at least they’re understandable.

But to simply say, “I’m done with animals,” or “I just don’t want them anymore,” is beyond unacceptable. It is irresponsible. And it is cruel.

Sadly, my former friend — whom I now classify as one of the most selfish, self-centered, egotistical, self-absorbed, narcissistic people ever to walk the face of the earth — is not alone.

Just as my outrage about his post was starting to ebb, I saw another post that was equally as outrageous. In this case, some people from Virginia were moving in a couple of weeks and didn’t want to take their 10-year-old dog to their new house. So they were willing to give him away, surrender him, or have him put down. But of course, that didn’t stop them from getting a 1-year-old puppy…

Fortunately, in that case, the little old guy was really cute, and the post generated a lot of responses from people interested in adopting him.

And finally, there was the case of an Australian man jailed for committing some of the most heinous and unspeakable acts against animal that I have ever heard of. Not only did he whip his poor dog, but he fed it sausages laced with broken glass! I kid you not.

As far as I’m concerned, there is a very special place in hell reserved for someone like that. And as far as I’m concerned, he can’t get there soon enough.

Paws up, don’t shoot!

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These days, much is made about fatal or near-fatal encounters between police officers and civilians — and rightly so. However, there are other stories that don’t get as much publicity. These are the stories about the lethal or near-lethal encounters between police officers and “dangerous” dogs.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

Most — but not all — of these encounters tend to occur when the officer is on or approaching someone’s property.  Sadly, these stories usually end badly — for the dogs.

For example, as reported by Red Alert Politics, a Minnesota police officer recently shot two family pets, both of which are also emotional support animals.  The officer allegedly shot one of the dogs, a Staffordshire terrier, in the face, causing serious injuries.

“Jennifer LeMay, the dogs’ owner, released security footage of the shooting. The video shows an officer climbing over a seven-foot tall fence and entering the yard housing two Staffordshire terriers,” according to media accounts.

“The officer backpedaled and drew his gun as Circo ran towards him. The dog stopped about five feet in front of the man, then, wagging his tail, slowly approached the officer.  The officer shot the first dog in the face, which fell and fled, and then shot multiple times at the second dog, Rocko, which briefly ran into the camera footage.”

Police claim the dog “charged” at the officer, prompting the use of force.

LeMay emphatically refutes that claim, however.

“He was wagging his tail,” LeMay said about Ciroc. “My dog wasn’t even moving, lunging toward him or anything.”

“My dogs were doing their job on my property,” she continued. “We have a right to be safe in our yard.”

In a Facebook post following the incident, the Minneapolis police chief called for an investigation and said the department “will be implementing updated mandatory training specifically for officers identifying effective tools and tactical strategies with police and dog encounters.”

Meanwhile, the LeMay family is faced with thousands in veterinary bills stemming from the injuries to both dogs. LeMay is reportedly pursuing legal recourse.

But there is hope. Another article tells another story. In this case, the officer did the right thing.

According to the account, “Oklahoma police officer Storm Barrett responded to a call about two angry pit bulls who were running wild in a busy area of El Reno. Luckily, the former dog handler knew exactly what to do. Instead of trying to use force, Officer Barrett got up onto the hood of his cruiser. He pulled a bystander onto the car with him.”
Concerned that the dogs could harm children at a nearby school, Barrett distracted them until backup arrived.
“Both dogs were captured ten minutes later and returned to their owner – who was given a citation for allowing the dogs to get loose,” the report states.

Small child and snake video: harmless fun or accident in the making?

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To think that we are always in control of any situation involving an animal is the height of human arrogance.

A video making the rounds on social media has prompted quite a debate. Some people think it’s cute. Others think it’s an accident waiting to happen.

The video in question, which has gotten more than 1.4 million views, shows a young child sitting on a sofa with what appears to be some sort of albino boa constrictor or python. As the camera rolls, the little child says “do it,” and the snake appears to “yawn.”

I’ve shared the post on my business page, so you can draw your own conclusions.

Here’s what I think

For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve said publicly:

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

An objective and realistic assessment of any situation involving a small child and any animal, is that animals can be unpredictable, no matter how well they’ve been looked after and no matter how well “informed” their handlers/owners are. Animals act on instinct, accidents happen, and people (and the animals) get hurt. The only way to minimize the risk is to avoid potentially risky behavior. This is not a condemnation of snakes; the same thing can be said about dogs, cats, horses and other “mainstream” pets. To me a little common sense goes a long way. But that’s just me. We all have choices.

Just because this snake seems docile in this photo does not guarantee that this is “safe,” or that nothing will go wrong. To think that we are always in control of any situation involving an animal is the height of human arrogance.

What I haven’t said publicly (until now) is that it is one thing for adults to take risks. For an adult to put a child at risk is another thing altogether…

What are the odds?

With that in mind, I scoured the Internet in search of pet python and/or boa constrictor-related deaths and injuries in the United States. Here’s what I found.

According to the Humane Society,  incidents involving large “captive constrictors” resulted in 17 deaths in the United States between 1978 and 2012. Most of the fatal encounters (12) happened between 1990 and 2012.

Citing various sources in a 69-page report, the Humane Society summarized dozens of fatal and non-fatal incidents reported in 45 states. Here are just a few.

Fatal encounters…

July 1, 2009/Sumter County, Florida: A 2-year-old girl was killed in her crib by an
8½-foot Burmese python who escaped from an enclosure in her home. Weighing
only 13 pounds, the snake was determined to be severely underweight. The snake
had been purchased seven years earlier at a flea market. The child’s mother and her boyfriend were convicted of third degree murder, manslaughter and child neglect and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

August 22, 2001/Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania: An 8-year-old girl was
strangled by her father’s 11-foot, 26-pound pet Burmese python. The child had
been left home alone, and the snake broke through the top of the cage. Paramedics said she was not breathing when they arrived; she was taken to a hospital and placed on a ventilator until she was pronounced brain-dead two days later. An autopsy showed the cause of death was compression of her neck and chest.

August 29, 1999/Centralia, Illinois: A couple’s 1-year-old, 7½-foot African rock
python escaped from an enclosure and killed their 3-year-old son while he was
sleeping. They had obtained the snake three months earlier.

July 20, 1993/Commerce City, Colorado: A 15-year-old was killed by his brother’s
11½-foot pet Burmese python. He had snake bites on his body, and an autopsy
found he was suffocated. The 8-year-old snake had been a family pet since she was only a foot long.

Non-fatal encounters

August 11, 1997/Anaheim, California: A 10-year-old boy was attacked by his pet 12-
foot, 65-pound African rock python. The python, who was described “as thick as a
man’s thigh,” latched onto the boy’s hand and coiled tightly around his arm as he
was giving him a bowl of water. The boy’s older brother stabbed the snake several
times while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Worried that the snake would break
his arm, paramedics decapitated the snake with a kitchen knife. The boy was
treated at a medical center. One paramedic commented this was the third child he
has rescued “from the suffocating embrace of pythons.”

August 30, 2008/Las Vegas, Nevada: A 13-year-old girl visiting her father was
attacked by a pet Burmese python while she was sleeping in a bed. Responding to
the commotion, her father and uncle were unable to uncoil the snake. They
decapitated the approximately 15-foot snake with a butcher knife to rescue the girl. The teenager was hospitalized overnight with bruised ribs and a swollen abdomen. The snake reportedly escaped from a large tank with locks. The same day, a student zookeeper in Venezuela was crushed to death by a Burmese python.

I rest my case…

And with all of that being said, I rest my case. But please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below (and in the court of public opinion, of course)…


Source(s): http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/captive/constrictor-snake-attacks.pdf

http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/…/captive-constrictor-snake-incidents.pdf