Like Bringing A Knife To A Gunfight vs. Like Bringing A Gun To A Dog Park

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Like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

–Origin unknown

You know that old saying, used frequently as a metaphor for entering into a situation inadequately equipped or prepared?

Well, consider this example of the opposite scenario:

So, this past weekend, my wife and I and our dog Zuki were at the dog park at nearby Lake Padden, nestled amongst gorgeous frost-covered trees at the south end of the lake, the dogs were playfully sniffing and chasing each other around, it was so peaceful…

… and then I saw the gun …

… in a holster on the hip of a guy dressed all in black, with a U.S. flag patch on one of the upper sleeves of his jacket, the owner of a Great Dane twice the size of all the other dogs in the park …

… and I instantly felt flooded by a wave of nausea and fear …

… and my brain tried to make sense of the cognitive dissonance.

I tried to imagine just how awful it must be to live in so much fear that you feel you have to bring a gun to a dog park.

But, then I thought of the epidemic of mass shootings in the U.S., and how some people think that there would be fewer mass shootings if more people were armed, because, they say, there would be more of a chance of someone being at the scene who could shoot and kill the shooter before he kills or before he kills many, even though there’s no evidence that this is true.

And then I thought, even if this guy was somehow motivated by a warped, misguided sense of civic duty, a desire to protect others, nevertheless, his mere presence and the deadly weapon he carried literally terrorized me, AND he’s allowed, by law, to do so, in my otherwise great home state of Washington, without a license or permit.

And finally, I realized that the other people in the U.S. who are legally allowed to carry guns are police, and the only reason I don’t feel terrorized by their presence is because I’m a white male.

Fear and guns.

Is this really the land of the free?

…all in the name of freedom
Freedom is not domination
I believe
Freedom’s got to come from within
Yes it does
Not with the gun
Freedom’s the ability to feel love for everyone

Mason Jennings

Me & Zuki At Raptor Ridge

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Sunset + Kayak + Dog

  

Lost & Found Dog & The Silliness Of Fighting Sentimentalism

zuki-paddenOver the past three years, I’ve posted an occasional photo of my dog Zuki to the Photoblog section here at Fish & Bicycles.

But one only has to spend a small amount of time surfing the millions of blogs on the interwebs to discover that there are people out there who seem to be far, FAR more into their dogs than I am, posting photos many times a week, of their canines doing every single thing you can imagine, as well as some things you’d like not to imagine, accompanied by reflections, observations, and aphorisms, dripping with sentimentalism.

Me: 9 photos posted in three years, mostly because, well, Zuki IS rather photogenic.

But does that really mean that I’m not THAT into my dog?

On Saturday, May 16th, as I’ve mentioned, my wife and I took off for a week-long vacation, for the first time not accompanied by our son, now 17-years of age.

On Friday, May 22nd, the day before we returned home, Zuki, who has a funny loose wire in the noggin, causing her to occasionally bolt away if she doesn’t have solid eye contact with either my wife, my son, or me, took off from a downtown location, only 2-3 miles from our home, but a 2-3 miles she’d never covered on foot before, on or off leash, a 2-3 miles that required crossing over or under Interstate 5 and several VERY busy surface streets.

The Humane Society was contacted daily, ads placed on Craigslist, posts posted to Facebook, streets, alleys, trails searched in as big of a radius as we could manage, a trail of urine and water solution sprayed from our house to the location where she was last seen, the needle eluding us in the haystack, dreams and nightmares invading sleep, thoughts of Zuki preventing sleep, late night departures from bed to check to see if, by some miracle, she had found her way home…

Eight days and nights elapsed, my wife finally had her biggest cry, coming to grips with the possibility that Zuki could be gone for good and that she could be lost, injured and in great distress, or dead, and then, at 4am, after waking from the latest of my dreams of Zuki’s return, I heard what sounded like a faint whine, I arose from bed and walked out into the house, gazed at the first glass door that, every night prior, had revealed nothing, but this time, there she was…

And when she spotted me in return, she bolted to the closer door, the front door to my left, I opened it, and she sped past me, running directly to our bedroom, where her dog bed sits at the foot of our human bed. My wife awoke and asked if it was the cat, I said no, it was Zuki, and in a wave of emotion, tears of joy and relief, Zuki was enveloped back into the family.

I never had a big cry, but I was very sad the whole week she was missing, my sleep was disturbed, I couldn’t imagine life without Zuki, nor replacing her. To say that I’m just not that into my dog is a lie. It’s just the silly, fairly common, though by no means universal, result of male conditioning, where it’s not considered macho or cool to get all mushy and sentimental over a dog.

So, I declare this day, that I am deeply grateful that Zuki miraculously found her way home, grateful that, while clearly shaken up, she survived the ordeal without any injury.

And I offcially embrace and declare my sentimental feelings for my dog, a true and beloved member of the family. 

Zuki, please, don’t run away again. Ok?

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Zuki’s Displeasure Over Not Being Allowed At The Farmers Market

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Why We Love, And Even Need, Photos & Videos Of Interspecies Animal Friends

dog-jerryFrom 1984’s comedy classic, Ghostbusters (my emphasis added in bold in the last line of dialogue):

Peter Venkman: Well, you can believe Mr. Pecker…
Walter Peck: My name is “Peck.”
Venkman: Or you could accept the fact that this city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, “biblical”?
Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff!
Venkman: Exactly.
Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes!
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Venkman: Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!

That the idea of cats and dogs living together in peace should be included in a list of biblical-scale events works as the punchline of this joke, because it’s so tame compared to the other items listed. And yet, it speaks to the endurance of the stereotype that cats and dogs are natural enemies.

cat-dogMeanwhile, anyone who spends nearly any amount of time on the interwebs or watches any number of home video TV shows is familiar with the near-ubiquitous photos and videos featuring animals from different species — in some cases species known to have a predator-prey relationship in the wild, or would likely be enemies if they shared the same habitat — interacting playfully, or even, though some might call it anthropomorphizing, lovingly.

I have to admit, while I’m a true lover of animals, I’m not someone who goes all gushy over them, regularly browsing cute animal photos and videos on the web, using puppy or kitten photos as the desktop background on my computer, etc.

And yet, the videos that feature friendly interspecies interactions do grab my attention and move something deep inside me, and I suspect the same thing happens for millions of people, even, perhaps, some hardcore cynics. I’m sure there are some who would rather suggest that these are nothing more than the result of artificial domestication, but I suspect that this is a slim minority, judging by how often these videos go viral.

Given that we live in a world perpetually wrought with human conflict, often horrific and deadly human conflict, it’s easy to despair, to conclude that there will never be lasting peace.

tiger-pigUnder these conditions, how can we not be moved when we see a cat and a dog peacefully snuggled together, as in the above photo, or, let’s say, a tiger and a piglet doing the same? And even if the two species interacting aren’t known or likely enemies, many of the pairings appear surprising and unlikely and serve as powerful symbols of harmony and hope in the face of differences.

Given that we live in a world perpetually wrought with human conflict, we are drawn to, and I’d even say we need, these images of animal harmony and hope, to keep us from despair. In fact, our biochemistry helps us benefit from these images. Human brains produce a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone”, because it’s released when we experience love and joy, and it’s been proven that we produce oxytocin when we observe baby humans and cute animals.

I could go on and on with this topic, perhaps by bringing the spiritual component to the topic, for instance how Buddhism, which I dabble with, teaches the value of cultivating harmony with all living things, but I think you get the point.

So, even if you think these interspecies friendship videos are a bit cheeseball, try to let go of your initial resistance, allow yourself to notice the sweetness, to consider the far-reaching implications of the fact that our brains allow us to experience feelings akin to love when we see such sweetness, try to extrapolate how this sweetness could possibly melt away human-to-human and human-to-animal conflicts.

Start now, watch this brief yet powerful video of a monkey affectionately interacting with a litter of puppies, notice how gentle the monkey is with these fragile, practically newborn pups, notice the monkey’s fingers lightly stroking the puppies, truly caring regardless of the fact that these creatures must seem incredibly different and strange.

Enjoy.

Can You Spot The Dog?

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