I love learning about various religions. One of those I'm least familiar with is Islam, a religion which offers the lives of ~1.4 billion people meaning, ritual, joy, structure, and answers to their ultimate existential questions. Despite owning a Qur'an I've always been discouraged from reading into it for two specific reasons. The first reason is that the copy I have (at least) seems to begin with a bit of a grave warning, saying that if you read the Qur'an and choose not to accept and follow it, you're screwed (I forget if this meant death, misery, something akin to hell, or what). Being of somewhat good conscience it didn't seem right for me to continue reading the Qur'an if I couldn't agree to its terms. It felt a bit like a software EULA I was being asked to accept, when I knew there was a clause in it I had no intention of agreeing to. I had to hit the decline button. My learning about Islam has thus been somewhat indirect, in the form of summary and analysis by others who supposedly have read it. Out of that comes the second reason I've not delved into much related to Islam. I love dogs, and Islam is the only religion I've ever heard of that has teachings against dogs. I found a site which list many of the specific hadiths prohibiting dogs and outlining how dogs annul prayers, decrease your heavenly reward, and prevent angels from visiting; and how all dogs except working dogs should be killed. The site is certainly biased, written by a Christian trying to convert people from the Islamic faith, but it still presents citations of the relevant portions of the hadiths as well as variations in the teachings as they are interpreted by various Muslim scholars. I tried to find a less biased source (hoping to find a site run by a Muslim) with a similar list, but found none as comprehensive in my searches. I do understand that there are many faithful Muslims who own and love dogs, but they seem to be very much in the minority, and I'm somewhat unclear on how (given the very specific nature of the passages in the Qur'an) anyone could believe in the Qur'an and simultaneously own and love dogs; I'm somewhat of a literalist, if I'm going to bother believing a particular work has divine authorship I would struggle to literally believe some portions while figuratively disbelieving other portions. Dogs have been good friends to the human race, arguably giving us the edge in our war of displacement with the Neanderthals, so I hope the Islamic faith does not continue to discount the value of our furrier friends.
With over four million dogs killed in American shelters every year, the bill of sale that comes with a kennel bought dog serves dual purpose as another dog's death warrant. There is an adequate supply of dogs, why then do consumers keep demanding more? Dogs are not a commodity, or at least they shouldn't be treated as one. A surplus of dogs cannot be stored, repurposed, or recycled; and they should not be thrown away, but they all too often are. Until and unless the senseless euthanization of homeless dogs is ended, we have no right to "produce" more than is needed.
Convincing the American public to participate in this reduction of supply has proven no easy task. People still buy dogs from breeders (and though it's beyond the scope of this article, they continue to choose not to neuter and spay their dogs). And so the question must be asked, why do people buy dogs from breeders when there are so many in need of adoption? The reasons appear to boil down to purchasers wanting a:
- Dog of a specific breed
- Kennel club registered dog of a specific breed
- Puppy of a specific breed
- Puppy (of any breed)
- Dog whose interaction history is known (for safety reasons)
- Dog whose genetic lineage is known (for health reasons)
And beyond people with these motivations there are no doubt many who are willfully ignorant of the scope of this horror, and have simply never considered adoption; they purchase their new warrantied TV from Best Buy, why wouldn't they purchase their new warrantied dog from a pet store.
Let's examine these issues in some slight detail, because many of them are in fact non-issues, merely an ignorance about what's available and meaningful. The remaining issues may not be satisfiable with a shelter dog, but neither can they justify the monstrous toll their satisfaction requires.
First let's eliminate the non-issues. About 25% of shelter dogs are pure breds, and if someone is looking for a rare breed not commonly found in a shelter there are dedicated breed specific rescue organizations eager to adopt out their clan. If someone wants a puppy of a specific (especially uncommon) breed (registered or not) then admittedly there can be serious supply problems. Shelters have no end of beautiful puppies available for adoption, many of them pure bred, but a pure bred puppy of a less common breed may be very hard or impossible to find. The fact is most dogs are abandoned as adults and thus there will always be a glut of adult dogs needing adoption. Insisting on a puppy of a pure line (registered or not), especially insisting on an acquisition time line of "now", forces a potential dog owner down the path of buying from a breeder. How many times I've heard this lousy excuse proffered along the lines of, "I wanted to get my boxer from a rescue group, but none of them had the pure bred puppy I was looking for in time for Christmas." Unwilling to wait for one to possibly become available, unwilling to bend on the puppy requirement, they give their many hundreds of dollars to a breeder and ensure that the professional or hobby breeder will go on satisfying the sick demand, quietly demanding the destruction of the mixed race and mixed age excess left in the shelters. Health and safety issues unrelated to breed preference are rendered moot by the facts that blank slate puppies of pure or mixed race are readily available; if health is a primary concern one would likely be better steering clear of the overly narrowed genes of pure lines and stick to mutts.
The only desires on this list which can't be reliably or adequately satisfied with adoptable dogs are the desires for a puppy of a rare breed or a puppy with a particular registered pedigree. And to those who insist upon these things I would simply say, "Tough." Life is about choices, and accepting limitations which are in our collective best interest. One may want a pure bred registered puppy. That's a fine thing to want. We humans want so many things, and there's nothing wrong with the wanting. But I am terribly sorry, the vast majority of you cannot see that particular desire satisfied. We humans continue to learn over the course of our long evolution that we cannot satisfy certain desires. Our freedoms end where others' freedoms begin. And we have been very successful in pulling ourselves up from our baser bootstraps; despite our desires we have learned to largely stop enslaving other people, raping our women folk, and stealing other people's land and property. Surely we can afford to recognize that animals deserve more than senseless euthanization. And the few who refuse to recognize that animals deserve something better can probably at least recognize there must be better ways to see their tax dollars spent than funding a potentially largely superfluous shelter system.
Our humanity requires us to do better than we are doing, requires us to curb our selfish belief that we have an inalienable right to have exactly what we want despite the monstrous cost. We must adopt our dogs rather than buy them from breeders or proxy pet stores. We must spay and neuter our pets to ensure we don't negligently help them contribute to their own problem. In the time it took you to read this article 46 dogs in America were euthanized because we have thus far failed to do enough.
Finally had a chance to finish up and paint the sidecar cage. I'm very pleased with how it came out. I learned a lot of lessons which would lead me to do some things differently were I to do it again, but I doubt I would do it again because most of those lessons related to my cutting lots of corners knowing my attention span was limited and I just needed to push through and get it done as quickly as possible. And fortunately nobody else will know what I know about the corners I cut, so it hardly matters. I think the entire project took me about 35 hours, from idea to completion.
The dogs have yet to ride in the completed version. On what was to be the first test ride, with dogs all loaded up and in their goggles, the spark advance cable snapped as I tried to start the engine. I replaced that part within a day or two only to have the December rains descend on Southern California. Hopefully by Wednesday they clouds will part and the dogs and I can show it off.
And here's the link to all the pictures of it.
I've been performing sea trials of the custom dog cage I built for my sidecar rig. Below are the photos and video of Osita and Lupa in their new three wheeled conveyance. Fortunately the dogs seems to love it, despite the tight quarters.
Everything seems to be working well, so all I need to do is reinforce, redo, and temper a few welds and then give it a paint job (black). I will also make a removable dog bowl holder so they can travel in style with a bowl of water and food. You can see some earlier photos of the cage.
The Griffith Park Sidecar Rally was this past Sunday and the day before I got the bright idea of making a custom fit cage / crate to fit in the sidecar bucket for the easy and safe transportation of pets. I had the idea about 4 years ago but never got beyond a few sketches. Eventually Osita just started joining me without a cage (instead held in with a padded harness). That system worked brilliantly, but Osita has recently begun palling around with another smaller dog and I'd like to occasionally take them both in the sidecar and the harness system just wouldn't cut it. Sadly, as so often happens, I discovered I was overly ambitious and started way too late, so there was no way I was going to finish it in time for the rally... but that's ok, it was the impetus I needed to get started, and it's now about 85% done. The only tricky part which still remains will be the door, and that will only be tricky because it'll take a bit of planning, measuring, cutting, etc. The rest of the cage I made on the fly without any drawings, rulers, notes, or anything; I just added every new piece of metal where I thought I wanted it (I knew if I started by planning I'd never actually make it). Hopefully I'll be done by next weekend, painting (black) and all. (It's been nice to get back to oxy-acetylene welding... though my hands are killing from all the many burns.)
The scooter group I'm in took great these photos of this year's rally; I didn't make their ride, sadly, I was still working on building this when they left. Among those photos are two of sidecars for dogs, apparently my idea wasn't so unique:
Still, I like my design better.
Follow Up: A few weeks later I finished the job! You can check out the final pictures and the photos of the dogs in it.
I'm not a big fan of anthropomorphizing pets. Dogs is dogs, they ain't people. Treating a dog like a person is unhealthy for the dog and crazy-making for the human.
That said, a few years ago after I got my dog from the pound I guesstimated a birthday for her, and every year my computer reminds me that it's her birthday. I don't do anything wildly special for her, but it's a nice excuse to remember to do something nice for her, in a life busy or draining enough that sometimes I forget to play with her enough or take her for enough walks. Yesterday I happened to be at a pet store buying her the dog food she'd run out of and right next to the register there was a little doggie cupcake, so I bought one for her. And in the evening we went for a sidecar ride down to her favorite cafe. As we sit there, her watching the people and my writing on my laptop, people come up constantly to pet her. I tried an experiment and told every person who came up that it was her birthday. It was amusing and heartwarming to see their reactions, people were extra nice to her extra excited to see her, and seven people bought her dog treats (they sell them at the cafe). I think that was a new record for her, in terms of people buying treats per hour. Her previous record was 13 people in one evening buying her treats, but that was over about 5 hours (and this time it was in just 2).
Ah, the life of a loved dog... If the Buddhists are right and I'm good enough this go 'round I hope my next reincarnation is as kind to me and as furry.
Zen Buddhism includes a koan which asks the question, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?"
From what I gather, their answer is, "No."
But, I say, "YES!"
If I was a sculptor or a painter/drawer of any merit I would redraw Buddha as a dog and construct some vast and believable conspiracy which explained that the real Buddha was in fact a dog who wandered into a Hindu temple, lay beneath a Bo tree for 20 dog years and attained enlightenment, which he demonstrated by being released from desire; he longer reacted when the people of the temple offered him treats. And everyone began to transcribe the dog's lesson, and reinterpret his meditative behaviors, and his glorious liberation from suffering, and want, and see him only as living in the perfect now. But their first book of his teachings sold very poorly, so they made a few minor edits and Siddhartha Gautama turned from dog to a man. And the rest is history.
This week I fixed up my Chang Jiang motorcycle (and sidecar) and got it back on the road. And I got Osita, my dog, all set up to ride with me. I customized some open cockpit aviation goggles with new straps to fit a dog, and reworked a genuine Soviet-era tank commander's helmet to fit securely on her head. To ensure her safety she wears a harness which I clip to a mount attached to the inside of the sidcar bucket (she can sit or lie but otherwise stays put).
Tonight we went for a ride all around Venice, got chai by the beach, then went to Swinger's in Santa Monica for dinner. Everywhere we went people were highly amused.