20 November 2012

Are we losing our humanity?

Photo of Chi by Kara Taylor

A week ago, my heart broke when my son called to tell me that someone had shot and killed his dog. The pain bubbles up as I write this now. Chi was such a sweet, loving little dog, the canine counterpart of my son. They were the perfect match. Chi might have been the very best present I ever gave my son.

As the story unfolds of how this happened, I have struggled to make sense of it all.
Chi ran off after his canine friend who got away from his (new) person. My son and his friends went looking for the dogs. This was an accidental thing, the dogs were off leash, but the resulting walk-about was an accident.

The dogs were shot while in a yard near some chickens. Conflicting reports have the dogs chasing, worrying, killing, in or simply near the chicken pen.

I am a farmer. I keep chickens. I keep sheep. I gain income from my sheep, and from eggs from the chickens. I gain pleasure from keeping chickens and sheep. I have had chickens and guineas killed by dogs. I have had sheep killed by dogs. Never have I thought the solution was to kill the dog.

I want to be fair. A farmer has the absolute right to shoot an animal that is trying to kill his stock. I am glad farmers have that right. Truely. In the event that an animal (or animals) so fierce was killing my stock, and I was unable to get that animal off of my stock, I would shoot it. That is if I had a gun, of course.

That said, my first course of action would be to yell. And run at the dogs waving my arms. Did you know that works for nearly every two or four legger? The pressure created by running, yelling, and waving arms almost always will work to have the animal disengage and move off.

If that didn’t work (I once had a dog killing sheep, and that didn’t work) I would grab the nearest long handled implement and I would beat at the attacker (that DID work with the sheep killing dog, who was near frenzied).

If I had a gun, and the other things didn’t work, I would get the gun, and I would shoot up in the air. The sound is so loud and scary that would work. Of course, if it didn’t, then shooting at the attacker would be my last resort.

I have spoken to many, many people over the past week about this incident. Some pet owners. Some not. Some farmers. Some farmers and pet owners. Many could empathize with my son. One could not (she is a farmer who does not keep pets, and honestly, I felt from talking with her, she didn’t like people much at all). A few thought they knew how they would handle a dog attack, until they heard the story behind Chi’s death, and they changed their mind.

The resounding commonality with the folks who would shoot first, is that they did not consider the humanity involved. They were only thinking of themselves, and how they felt. Only about their stock, and not the other’s involved; the boy and his beloved dog.

Obviously, since Chi is part of my family, this has affected me in a huge way. I loved him, so I am biased. (I freely admit to my bias, so judge me if you must). I know I would not, and could not, kill an animal for doing something that is instinctive.

A gentleman commented on the piece Katrina wrote on Chi  ( http://www.mvtimes.com/2012/11/14/judgment-too-hasty-13353/#disqus_thread ) that this week 34 people were killed in Gaza and a dog was killed on the Vineyard. That comment resonated for me. I know he was trying to drive home the point of priority of life, but what it did for me was amplify that we are losing our humanity.

In this world, we are paying less attention to the caring and concerns for our fellow humans and the results of our actions, and entirely too much attention on what is OURS. What is MINE. All that matters is ME. And what I want. What affects ME.

When we forget about our fellow humans and what life and love means to them, we lose not just our humanity but ourselves.

Killing as a first resort takes away our human-ness. It makes us the same as animal predators who fight and kill for food, and territory, and sometimes just for the gratification. It takes away the part of us that makes us human.

My hope and prayer for this heartbreak is that something good comes of this. Think about alternatives before picking up that gun. Think about your neighbors and fellow humans and think of a positive solution before taking a life, even if it is ‘just a dog’. To someone, that dog is not ‘just a dog’, it is his heart.

16 November 2012

A judgment too hasty -- by Katrina Nevin


I demand that you listen

my words will find you because you need to hear them

today a friend of mine was shot through the heart.

today a friend of mine passed over much too soon

My friend had four paws

his fur was silver and gray with dapples of black and streaks of

tawny caramel

one eye blue and one eye gold his gaze was gentle and filled with



Chi was a dog

the best kind, the always-loving-bounding-and-wriggling-with-joy

kind of dog

Chi was adored by a large and diverse community of friends

he was a child among dogs, not even two years old

and he was still learning


I have cared for and protected my own flock of chickens and ducks

for all the 25 years of my life thus far

I have loved each bird and cherished its peculiar chicken ways

and I have often suffered the hurt of losing birds to predators

There is a particular rage that burns in my heart

each time I remember that one fat horrible rat

carrying away my newly-hatched darling fluffy duckling

carrying it alive and frantically peeping down into his hole to

eat it

I burned with my inability to prevent this terrible death

there I was standing on the wrong side of the fence

looking in

watching death steal my beloved away

Death is cruel

there is a particular frustration that I feel

when I think of the 23 chickens that I lost to hawks during one

single week this August

all the time and energy and love and money that I poured into

those springtime chicks

I proudly brought them to the fair, I didn’t lose a single one

for months

until one week I lost nearly all

But listen

this is important

I don’t blame the hawks

they had to eat

they found easy food

I blame myself for the incomplete fencing

I blame myself for my distracted attention

I blame myself for my lax and too-slow reaction

Chickens are living loving creatures

with unique personalities

but they are not the deep companions of my life

they are replaceable

Today you killed a dog

a dog is not replaceable

a dog is taught from its first breath

how to connect with a human being

how to be a listening companion

how to be an individual

how to love

when you first heard the screaming panic of your birds

did you look out the window and see the two dogs running havoc in

your chicken pen?

Did you put down your book — your cellphone — the

dish — the toilet

paper —

did you put down whatever it was in your hands and rush to the

window to look?

Or did you first grab your gun?

Did you see the blood of your chicken on his chest fur?

Did your eyes glow hot in your face with that particularly focused


Did you feel the injustice and were you awed by the fury of your

protective reflex?

Did you stop to fire three times in the air?

As you entered the pen

did you speak or shout or reach out your hands?

Did you give them a chance and a means to exit the pen?

Did you examine the two dogs and the severity of the situation

before you acted?

Or did you react out of fear and anger?

When you raised the gun to your shoulder

did you notice the way your trigger finger made that split second


while your other three fingers pointed incriminatingly back at


As you took aim did you first notice the beautiful brindle of the

second dog’s coat?

Did you admire the way Chi’s silky hair seemed to reflect the


I remember a day when I was ten

I was home alone

and a large black dog came to our yard in Edgartown

It broke through the electric fence and began to chase our goats

I remember the screaming sound of their bleating, the fear in the

nanny goat’s voice

I remember running out of the house barefoot

oblivious to the stones and branches

My body had the power of an avenging warrior

I chased that dog with a stick

I stood guard over the injured baby goat

I snarled and hurled stones each time the dog came close

All the Power that ever was or will be was in me

because I was the Protector

But I also loved the dog

I admired his rough black coat and the skillful way he predicted

where the goats would go

He had the power of the hunter and even as I refused to give him

what he wanted

Still I respected his perfect Dog-ness

Some dogs discover their Dog-ness and can never be fully

recovered to their human-ness

We’ve had a few of these over the years

the sheep killers

the chicken slaughterers

the ones who keep offending

keep killing

keep escaping and running rampant in the back woods of West


We’ve all read the stories in the paper

and don’t we like to think we know what kind of dog that killer


as if there were a blueprint for rampage

a formula for violence

a cookie cutter murderer

Did you think Chi was that kind of dog?

I bet you didn’t know that Chi had never killed a chicken before


I’ll bet that you assumed Chi was a murderer

but even murderers are given a second chance in court

Chi wasn’t given a second chance

You are one of around 1,254 registered gun owners on the Island

You fired your gun in a residential area

You were protecting your livestock while endangering your


You shot a dog with excellent marksmanship right through the


You might even know whose dog it was

You delivered the body to the animal shelter

And you want to remain anonymous

You know who you are

We will all know who you are soon enough

I hope you step forward of your own accord to face your actions




Dogs can be fenced

Dogs can be trained

Chickens will always need better protection than we give them

Chickens can be replaced

damages can be repaid

The love Chi gave to his owner and to his vast family of Island


cannot be replaced

The Love that Chi’s buoyant presence created in the life of his

owner is gone

all that remains is pain and this gaping wound of


Why did you shoot? Why did you choose to kill rather than scare?

Why did two dogs choose today to escape from their house and go

chicken hunting in a neighbor’s yard

for the very first (and last) time?

Tonight I was at a joyful birthday celebration with dozens of

friends who knew and loved Chi. The news of the dog’s


circulated as the night went on and one by one we were


and horrified. Waves of disbelief spread among us all night and

even as I tried to celebrate the gift of life I was struck by how

deeply we were all affected by the news of Chi’s death.

I came home tonight to my own two dogs who have been taught to

respect my chickens

and I felt the immense, irreplaceable and unique love

that they

each give to me all the time

and my heart breaks over and over and over

It breaks for Chi and for his lost owner feeling all this

wrenching sudden goodbye in the pit of his stomach.

It breaks for you, whoever you are sleeping in your house with

your gun and your dead chickens and whatever it is that you are


It breaks for this Island which strives to keep the trust and the

safety and the loving kindness of this community intact

And it breaks, breaks, breaks for all the large and small deaths

of living creatures, whether humans killed by famine,


squirrels hit on the road, all those millions of deaths which go

un-noticed, un-remembered un-memorialized. At least

Chi will live on in our memories.

by Katrina Nevin 

Initially published in the 

Martha Vineyard Times ~ Wednesday, November 14, 2012

and the 

Vineyard Gazette ~ Thursday, November 15, 2012 - 6:12pm

26 July 2012

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07 January 2012

19 October 2011

30 days of giving love | Tim Wheaton Photography | Southern California Natural Light Photographer

I love this concept, so I am sharing with you. I have already started the challenge and will try to keep it as a part of my life. And yes, somehow I am even going to unplug...Click through for the entire post...

30 days of giving love | Tim Wheaton Photography | Southern California Natural Light Photographer:

"I’m creating this challenge… for myself, and hoping to continue with it beyond just this next month of November… but I wanted to share it and challenge you all… any of you, to take it on yourself as well. Alter it if you want… but I would also challenge you: if you do alter it, make it more rather than less."

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