I am writing this on the morning of Valentine's Day, looking out at a beautiful sunny morning that makes me feel like it is spring. The calm and tranquil morning takes me momentarily away from the stress of daily life.
Reality, however, calls for keeping my feet on the ground while I take hold of my sensitive heart. An enduring question about the Humane Society of the United States has continually bothered me. I wonder what actual shelters the society helped financially after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
I remember one of the spokesmen for this multimillion-dollar non-profit organization at the site of one shelter reassuring the public, "We need substantial financial donations to rebuild the shelters." His request touched many hearts of pet and animal lovers. The television crews were showing dogs desperate for survival: clinging to trees, swimming through debris-ridden water, perched on top of roofs surrounded by rising water. Emotions were raw as we watched the animals left behind. In less than two weeks, the Humane Society raised millions of dollars.
It has been some time now since the aftermath of the hurricane, and I have made inquires about financial help given by the Humane Society of the United States to shelters in that area. I have been told, however, that there are no records of monetary donations. There were, however, many publicity pictures taken next to dogs and cats that appeared to have been rescued by this agency.
This made me reflect on a time some 15 years ago when Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, stated: "The Humane Society of the United States is not, and never has been, a collective voice for all, most, or any other humane societies. Neither does it shelter animals, adopt out animals, neuter or spay animals or share funding with local humane societies. In fact, (it) is an advocacy organization representing just itself."
During the Katrina emergency, many individuals and organizations independent of HSUS rescued and transported animals to shelters outside of the disaster area of New Orleans without any compensation from HSUS. I know of a few that saved many animals, housing them and giving them proper medical treatment. To them, a heartfelt thanks.
It is disappointing, though, that whenever there is a disaster, a couple of organizations always seem to be on site for the publicity pictures that bring the most donations.
This appears to be the case for the HSUS; more publicity, less action; more money for administration costs, less for actual help. Grassroots organizations seem to be more effective in providing the real help needed in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
* * *
With so much turmoil overseas, more calls for peace are taking flight, and the peace dove is appearing on more shirts and bumper stickers.
One story says the peace dove originated with Noah and his ark. As the rains flooded the earth, Noah inside the ark had no way of knowing if the rains had taken over the land. As soon as the rains stopped, Noah sent different species of birds to see if they would return and bring back any proof of dry land. Noah was eager to return to land to set the animals free. Eventually, a dove returned carrying an olive branch, bringing "peace" from the storm.
After World War II, the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso was responsible for the streamlined use of doves as the sign for peace. He designed a lithograph incorporating the dove as a symbol of peace for the International Peace Congress of 1949 in Paris. This lithograph sparked a wave of artists incorporating the dove of peace in varying expressions.
* * *
Today begins the Lunar Year of the Chinese calendar. This is the year of the pig, and it wishes all of us to have "prosperity in all matters."
May prosperity in all matters be the blessing to all the readers. And for those of you who have a pet pig like my friend Joanna B., all the more blessings!
The author is the founder of Harmony Kennels Foundation a nonprofit educational organization that operates a permanent refuge for abused animals. Write her at P.O. Box 5112, Vacaville, 95696, or e-mail her at email@example.com.