Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Why I Hate People" a Road Warrior's Perspective

Meagan and Jed
Meagan Downing accompanied Laura Johnson on the trip to TN to rescue the 6 TX Basset Hounds that landed in NY last weekend.  She adopted 'Jumbo' Jed this year from ABC (looks like Jed has found the perfect forever home!)

Jumbo Jed
Following are Meagan's reflections on her recent road trip to TN to rescue the TX 6.  A most awesome blog post.  Thank you Meagan for allowing us to post!  I'm sure it speaks for lots of us.

By Meagan Michele Downing

I hate people.

I am often chastised for using the word ‘hate’ but I actually mean it since my definition of people seems to be vastly different from what seems to be socially acceptable.  It encompasses those who are bigots, racists, who conform to what society says they should be rather than what they really are, and those who are mean to children as well as animals.  By the time I reached the oh so tender age of twenty three, I managed to swath myself in hypothetical armor to protect myself from my fellow homo sapiens.

I have always been awkward.

That kid who could read by the age of six and spent most of her high school years writing rather than worrying about makeup and boys.

Humans make me wary.

I am convinced cats are one day going to attempt to enslave the human race.  Keyword is attempt since they’d be foiled by a laser pointer.  I, for one, may welcome Overlord Mittens until the laser pointer technology is perfected.

Dogs I love.

A dog will never judge you for twenty minute rants that start out about the socio-political climate but somehow end up about how the Tops around the corner stops carrying salt water taffy once the leaves start to fall.  A dog will lay next to you while you’re sick and just want to main line OJ while watching movies from the 1990s. Without arguing about who’s the better actor in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Depp or DiCaprio.  To quote George RR Martin: “A hound will die for you, but never lie to you.  And he'll look you straight in the face.” (A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire.) Loyalty and love they give willingly.

I went on the Tennessee basset transport.  It wasn’t until we reached a rest stop in Pennsylvania that first sadness and then rage took over.  Most of the mission had been devoted to getting there, retrieving the dogs, and returning to New York.  At this rest stop we took just a little time to play with them.  I saw ribs, bad skin, infection, and parasites.  At the same time I saw a pack of dogs that were simply overjoyed that they were in the sun with soft grass under their paws with strange humans.  Rather than cringing away or snapping they wanted to give kisses and play.  In that moment I was their whole world.  Never mind the fact they only knew me for under twenty four hours.

Animal abuse is the face we see most often.  In posts on Facebook and those awful Sarah McLachlan commercials with the depressing song that invokes tears and practically assaults your heart strings. Not that it’s a bad thing.  I expected the dogs would probably snap at me or avoid touch completely. Animal neglect is far worse since it demeans the animal and it can be assumed they were probably never loved.

I am familiar with anger.  I run on it and stress very well, but sadness cripples me.  I convinced myself a long time ago that sadness means you are weak.  Instead of showing it, I learned to hide behind a mask so it could not be exploited.  To never let them see you cry.  I hated that this made me feel sad to the point where I could not put the mask back on.  I hated that it made me feel weak.  I hated that there were people out there who could do this to creatures who only wanted love - who would probably still look up and wag their tails for their negligent masters because they loved them.  I hated myself just a little for not being able to snap back from the sadness in order to function.

But I loved their spirit.

While they frolicked in the sun I saw their new lives beginning.  Remus living among books with a lovely basset sister.  Holly and Yahtzee living out their golden years on soft beds with humans that loved to spoil them and didn’t care if they moved slower or needed special attention.  Seymour with a kid that would hold him tight in the dark to ward off imagined bogeymen.  Norman living in a house with a big back yard to snuffle and occasionally bark at the mail man because that’s how he rolls. And Camilla getting a “Princess” before her name since she is so sweet and will enthrall any human she adopts.  I know these are inaccurate fantasies, but I also know that ABC will place them in homes where they’ll be loved and cared for.

By the time we returned to New York and I got back to my apartment I never wanted to go on another transport.  I marched from our parked car, up the porch stairs in a black mood and wondered why I would put myself through something so emotionally exhausting.  Then I got into my apartment.

Jed barked when he saw me while he tried to head butt his way out of his crate.  I’d been gone forever to him and now I’d returned.  Never mind that Scott had been home to spoil him.  Never mind that it hadn’t been forever but two days.  I opened the crate and instantly Jed started to hop then run circles around me.  I knelt down to greet him properly but ended up on my back with a face covered in drool.  He spent the night on the floor next to my side of the bed instead of on his couch.  Sunday I couldn’t move around the apartment without tripping over him or having a fuzzy head on my thigh while I read, wrote, and watched movies.  When we went for walks he put himself between me and anything he perceived as a threat.  I joked with Scott about how Jed thought his arch nemesis, the black lab across the street, kidnapped me and now it was up to Super Jed to not let it happen again. With his power of the Sonic Headbutt he would shadow his Mommy even if shadowing included almost tripping her in the kitchen.

Scott asked me if Jed’s costume would need a cape.  After a few moments quoting various movies and comic books I realized I frequently create scenarios where my dog is a superhero, and that wouldn’t be possible if he’d never been on a transport to New York.

On my first transport I met the people who’d brought Jed the final leg.  I spent time tracking down his story and his files.  I emailed the woman at the shelter where his journey started and she was simply delighted at the fact he’d been adopted.  I thought of when he walked up to me at Laura’s house as if to say “You’re my human.”  I realized he’d come a long way but his progress wouldn’t have been possible without someone devoting their time and energy to bring him to New York - eventually to me.  They were surprised when I thanked them for taking the time and they just shrugged.  They’d done it because it was the right thing to do.

After reflecting over this I knew I’d go on another transport.  Probably to Tennessee and maybe I’d deliver a rehabilitated basset to their forever home.  I will endure the heart break even though I know the ending will be a happy one.  I will drag myself up my porch stairs, cursing people and myself.

I will open the door and be reminded of why I do it.

I do it because maybe one day I can stop hating people because I see everyone at ABC coming together from different walks of life to save these dogs.  Together they shoulder the heart break when it descends like a storm.

I do it because maybe it can be argued philosophically that a dog with PTSD saved my soul while making me a better human in the process.

I do it because I want someone out there to create memories like my own.

I do it because of Jed.

I do it out of love.

So the end of the story will be a happy one.

Scott, Jed and Meagan


  1. You did it because you knew that these 6 poor neglected Bassets needed your help to get out of their lousy living conditions and on to a better life. I am sure it was depressing to see them look so bad, but just knowing that in a few weeks they will be happy, healthy dogs, and giving thier new owners big sloppy kisses.
    Thank you for going with Laura to rescue these precious hounds.

  2. I Love you Meags, and so does Jed. It was great having you there to share this transport with me. We are officially a team, you and I and we will be going again, I know it! You're addicted now...all part of my evil plan!! BWHAHAHAHAHA

  3. I am the foster mom of Yatzee. I thought his front teeth had been rotted out. Turns out, it's worse. The vet told me yesterday that only his back teeth were rotted. His front teeth, including his K9s, have been neatly filed down to the pulp due to constant gnawing on something hard, like a chain or crate. Up until that moment, I had been holding it together pretty well. But that small detail broke my heart so badly, and I was finally able to fully appreciate the full scope of the abuse and let it really sink in. Like you, I was filled with rage, anger, disgust, sadness. And I still feel that towards "people". But like you said, the wonderful volunteers of ABC, people like yourself, the compassionate people at the vets office, THESE FOLKS are the salt of the Earth and deserve most of my focus. Yatzee thinks so too. He's not bitter. He's not sitting around feeling sorry for himself. He's living in the moment, soaking up all the love. And that's a beautiful thing to watch.

  4. Arielle, I'm so sorry to hear about Yatzee's teeth. Poor guy - will he be ok eating soft foods? He is such a gorgeous hound and looks so young and full of life. Thank you for giving him such a loving foster home.

  5. Thank you Meagan for your heartfelt blog. It made me cry Thank you for transporting these precious babies to their new and better life. Arielle, that is so sad about Yatzee's teeth. All you who work for ABC are angels and have renewed my faith in humanity.

  6. @Bunny
    Right now I throw a little water on his kibble to soften it up. Yatzee's been fine with that. The vet says his K9s need to come out (in addition to the rotted back teeth) because they're so badly worn down from the constant gnawing. But poor Yatzee's not healthy enough for surgery right now (heartworm, etc). Once the all the teeth are removed, I would imagine he would need to be on a soft-food-only regimen. The vet also said that once his teeth come out, his tongue will most likely hang out the side of his mouth. But hey, who cares. It will only add to his charm. :-)