Skepticism

COTW & a PSA!

Before we get to the much-anticipated Comment o’ the Week, we have . . . a Public Service Announcement! It’s not even court-ordered.

SmooooooshI was watching the puppy cam the other day when I noticed a banner announcing that it is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week! I can find no information that confirms this apart from the banner, and there are no dates on the banner so for all I know, NASAW happens every week. But! That doesn’t matter, because I am a big fan of animal shelters and I encourage all of you to be, as well. There are way too many homeless animals out there who are scared and alone and would make wonderful companions if someone gives them the chance. A few years ago I adopted two 18-month old sister cats who were surrendered because they clawed the furniture and were a general nuisance. Rarely have I met two sweeter, more loving animals. They sleep next to me in bed, they crawl into my lap whenever possible, they look like spastic goofballs when they see a bug, they once killed a mouse and didn’t spread its guts all over the place, they purr loudly and often, they use the scratching post, they make me laugh, and they are unbelievably adorable 99% of every day. The other 1% involves pooping, but at least it always goes in the litter box. Also sometimes they barf but not often.

Anyway, the point is that shelter animals can be wonderful, even (especially!) when you adopt older companions. You can also donate money, time, toys, and supplies to your local shelter. Oh, and have your pet spay or neutered. That is all. On to the COTW!

This week was legendary, due to the fact that as everyone must know by now, Skepchick had a lengthy political thread that did not devolve into angry bickering. Also, the US elected its first black president. Kudos all around!

The Comment o’ the Week, however, was made in another thread entirely.

Maria posted a Halloween-inspired Afternoon Inquisition asking what really scares you. Apparently, Skepchick readers are disproportionately terrified of adults wearing floppy shoes, wigs, red noses, and white face paint. COTW runner-up number one described clowns as “hell-spawn joy-mongers.” COTW runner-up two suggested “I think next Halloween I’ll own my fears and go as a clown-shark.” The true COTW winner, though, goes to a comment that made me laugh not necessarily because he was trying to be humorous, but because it is the kind of comment that could really only appear on Skepchick:

Tim3P0No Gravatar // Oct 31, 2008 at 9:42 pm

What truly frightens me are clowns. There is just something creepy about someone hiding under a fake painted on smiley face, and have been scared of them since I was little.

Other than clowns, a complete lack of separation of church and state would be down-right terrifying.

See, it’s the last line that gets me. I’m going to repeat it for the most effective horse-beating: “Other than clowns, a complete lack of separation of church and state would be down-right terrifying.”

Disagree with me? Too bad, and better luck next time! Nominate your favorite COTW for next week by clicking the arrow in that comment box and posting “COTW” so’s I see it.

Tim3P0 and, what the hell, everyone who mentioned a fear of clowns in that thread: your prize is a photo of the scariest clown I know:
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(shield your eyes)
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Scary Clown

AAAAAIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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40 Comments

  1. Sylvia has always reminded me of Mimi, from the Drew Carey Show. People-skills and all.

    It’s funny, one of the titles of her many books, is called “If you could see what I see”. Honestly, how much of a revelation into the divine is it to all day see a huge glob of mascarra surrounding images of what are clearly stupid doubters?

    Waitasecond…..that sounds like an ex-girlfriend of mine. HEY-O!

  2. Well back in August my wife’s pug died. We got the call from the vet/kennel as we were driving home from our vacation. My wife went into a deep funk and stayed there for two weeks. Personally I have no use for pets. I break animals into two groups: working and food. But I do have use for my wife. When it became obvious that she wasn’t coming out of her funk my daughter and I went to the humane society and adopted a dog. We picked out a dog that was listed as a labrador mix. She is white with brown ears and seems to be a mix of lab, pit bull and jack russell terrier. We tried to kennel her while we were at work. She chewed a hole through the side of the box. So no kennel. I bought a new back door and installed a dog door. Her name at the animal shelter was Lucy. I added Ricardo as a middle name and she has done her best to live up to it. I put a superman cape on her for halloween. She looked exactly like krypto. When the trick or treaters showed up the were taken with her. They would pet her and make a big deal about her and she would steal candy out of their buckets while they were distracted by her cuteness. She seemed to think the point of halloween was young children coming to the house to visit her, pet her and give her candy.

  3. @Gabrielbrawley: Funny, I have a Sheltie that thinks the very same thing. Except he’s too well mannered to steal candy from the kid’s buckets.

    BTW, keep dogs out of chocolate – It can make them very sick, as in “running from both ends at once” sick. :-p

  4. Our Akita mix was from a shelter. Outside dog, very lovable. Died in her sleep from old age recently. Shelters are a good thing. If we get another large dog, that’s where it will come from.

  5. I can’t go into an animal shelter without leaving with a new family member. Now the city is building a new shelter within walking distance of my house and adjacent to the dog park I frequent. I think I’m in trouble.

  6. BREAKING NEWS: In his press conference this afternoon, Obama stated he wants to get a shelter dog for the White House. I swear, I am trying hard not to love him as much as I do but I fear I’m being sucked in and there is nothing I can do about it.

  7. I WAS A CLOWN FOR HALLOWEEN GUYS! If you click on my name linky it should bring you to my MySpace and there are pictures. I WAS A TOTALLY ADORABLE CLOWN.

    Also, my grandmother — Lee Barnum of Grand Forks, ND — has her very own registered, unique clown outfit.

    Yes, we ARE related to PT Barnum. Which explains a lot, trust.

    SO BOOO CLOWN HATE!

  8. And oh man, my best friends have a black lab/german shephard mix and he is seriously like, the cutest dog ever. We dressed him up as “Ghost Dog” and he didn’t care that he was wearing a pillow case. Also, he’s huge but gentle. AND SO PRETTY!

    Shelter dogs are AWESOME!

    I still remember the lab/dalmation mix we had when I was a kid — we named him George, after our town’s fire chief (yeah, I grew up in the middle of nowhere).

  9. @marilove:

    Wow, I was born in Grand Forks and lived there for up until about 8 years ago. Small world…heh.

    There are so many great dogs just in need of a home that are just waiting to be adopted (as they thankfully haven’t made a law against homosexual pet adoption….yet). Just spending a little time helping out a animal shelter makes a world of difference, as most are under-staffed and the animals spend a lot of time in their cages just waiting for the chance to nuzzle and be affectionate.

    Excellent post Rebecca, and thank you. :-)
    ~
    ~

  10. When my constant companion dog of 14 years died, we got a rescue Queensland Heeler. After 11 years, he too passed on. We now have a Black Lab mix, the size of a small pony. Bubba was found starving in a road-side ditch, with a bullet in his right rear leg. He is back up to 100 pounds, walks without a limp and won’t stay more than ten feet from one or the other of us. Who needs pet-store pets?

  11. Well that was terrifying.
    I wanted to add, that having volunteered at an animal shelter all through university I’ll recommend to anyone willing to listen to adopt an adult cat rather than a kitten. First because everyone wants a kitten, so they go quickly but adult cats sometimes spend months in the shelter. Really though I think adopting an adult is superior because that kitten may turn pyscho as an adult, but the adult cat probably has a stable personality so it’s easier to find a cat with the personality you want Also, do you really want to litter train a kitten?

  12. Well, sorry, but I guess I’m going to be the stodgy, no-fun intellectual for this thread.

    Sure, animal shelters are a good thing, and yes we all love our pet-friends. But you know, we North Americans spend more time, energy, effort, money, and emotional energy helping, feeding, protecting, sheltering, loving our wee pet friends (homeless or otherwise) than we ever do our wee homeless human friends.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to find this kind of sentimental force, energy, and focus directed to our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, who have lost their way and live without shelter? Without a home? Without love?

    Out pet-friends are far better at surviving unwanted, unloved, and homeless than are our human brothers and sisters.

    One of the sickest ironies I can remember happened here in Vancouver, BC a couple of years ago. A bunch of misguided sentimentalists put together a movement to collect money and create political pressure to take dogs and cats away from homeless, street-living people and put the dogs and cats in shelters and find adoptive families for the dogs and cats. Fuck the street people, we got to worry about those doggies and kitties.

    Insane. Absolutely insane.

    We are foolishly, no, ridiculously sentimental about them, and it would appear that most people in the Western world would far rather save a cute doggy than they would save a human, cute or otherwise. And really, that’s just not right.

    Sorry to bring ugliness into an otherwise cute thread, but really, some perspective is wanted here, I think.

  13. @SicPreFix:
    You do have a point about some that are more concerned and caring about our four-footed friends than other humans. However, (WARNING: ANECDOTE AHEAD) You are making the assumption that these people are “one-issue” fanatics. I’ve observed that many of my “animal-friendly” friends actually donate more to activist organizations for human care than others I know (including the fundies), such as Amnesty International, local food banks, CARE, food for Africa, etc. It seems that their caring is about the entire world, but they have to pick their causes. (Only Bill Gates doesn’t face this dilemma.)

    I also have to challenge your statement that domestic animals can survive neglect better than humans can. Not from what I’ve seen! :-( Domesticated animals are ill-equipped to cope with Mother Nature. Many dog breeds have lost vital survival skills since domestication. Most of the dogs we get in that have been on the run for a long time are in horrible shape. Some don’t make it after rescue and have to be humanely “euthanized.” (I hate that word. It always reminds me of the Nazi’s Final Solution, for some reason.)

    So yes, you are correct that there are people out there more worried about the pets than the humans…but most people that I know in animal welfare work are also involved in human relief efforts.

    I fully agree that those folks you describe in Vancouver had their priorities mixed up. They should be concentrating on the homeless people AND their pets together – finding them places to stay, helping them onto their feet and into the world. Sounds like something PETA would do, actually.

  14. @SicPreFix: Yep, I have to admit you’re right — you did bring a bit of ugliness to the thread, and it wasn’t particularly useful.

    Someone who is concerned about animals doesn’t automatically have less concern about humans. It’s not a one-or-the-other situation. Some people are better equipped to help animals than to help humans — they are two very different situations, with remarkably different problems and solutions.

    It actually angers me when people try to guilt others who are doing something good for the world, as if someone who is helping save animals isn’t doing enough. If you want to help the homeless, please, do. Be our guest. Just don’t shit all over other people who are helping with one of the many other problems our world is facing.

  15. @Rebecca:

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Guilt is an unfortunate side-effect from people too insecure with their own choices and therefor they feel a need to push those same choices on others just so they can validate themselves. Doing something because another makes you feel guilty is not only shallow, but shows a complete lack of respect for one’s own busy life (Of course I would love to do more for animals-in-need and people-in-need, but I acknowledge my limits and can only hope people respect that without muttering ,”geez , if only he put in more effort”).

    If this world was more tolerant and respectful of one anothers’ abilities, just think about how much better some states in this country would be right now (freedom of expression, freedom of equal acceptance regardless of religious stance or sexual orientation). That is the kind change I hope is coming…

  16. @SicPreFix and all:

    Not to deflect things too much, but what SicPreFix said is an all too common response, a kind of (not meaning to be insulting to you, SicPreFix) stereotype. Many people link the thought of people helping animals with the thought of the same person NOT helping people. It’s (drum roll, please) a false dichotomy! :-D It is only reinforced by groups like PETA that glory in portraying themselves exactly that way (very pro-animal and very anti-human).

    Please don’t be too hard on SicPreFix, folks. ;-)

  17. @QuestionAuthority:

    You are making the assumption that these people are “one-issue” fanatics.

    I’m not actually, but obviously I can’t deny that it looks like it. I’ll get back to that at the end of this wee note.

    @Rebecca:

    Someone who is concerned about animals doesn’t automatically have less concern about humans.

    Absolutely. And I know that. But, woe is me, I failed to acknowledge such in my dirty, dirty, evil and nasty brindgown post.

    And for the record I wasn’t trying to guilt people out. I was just making a point of variance. I believe that domestic pets issues are a pretty damned small priority in the real world, especially when put up aghainst people troubles.

    And while I’m not trying to be argumentative, I’m quite surprised at the degree of hostility being expressed at my opinions. Yes, I do think that someone who is helping save the animals is not doing enough, if they do not also spend at the very least an equal amount of time, energy, whatever, on saving the homeless.

    If that makes me an evil shit (?!?) then so be it.

    And jeezus Rebecca, I am emphatically not shitting all over other people who are helping with “one of the many other problems our world is facing”. That is a most uncharacteristic, irrational, and defensive reaction from you.

    Listen, I’m sorry that my post caused you such emotional damage; however, I stand by what I said in it. If you cannot see the rational and factual material in my post, well, I’m actually rather dumbfounded by your blinders. Here, find me some evidence, anywhere, anywhere at all that refutes this, any part of this:

    Sure, animal shelters are a good thing, and yes we all love our pet-friends. But you know, we North Americans spend more time, energy, effort, money, and emotional energy helping, feeding, protecting, sheltering, loving our wee pet friends (homeless or otherwise) than we ever do our wee homeless human friends.

    Unless I’m on drugs or something, I think the rather bashing response to my post is way, way, way out of place with what I actually said. Very irrational; very free of critical thinking; very emotionally based; very skeptic-free.

    To restate: In my post it was not my intention to assume, or make a claim that people who help animals do not, ipso facto, help people.

    Perhaps I should have stated with more force that “Sure, animal shelters are a good thing, and yes we all love our pet-friends”. Perhaps my mistake was to state, without some kind of grovelling apology, that my concern was about those who think pets are a priority — and I am not talking PETA here. I’m just talking about normal folks who make the assumption that people need less help because they supposedly have the intellectual capacity to dig themswelves out of their low ebbs, whereas animals do not. And both of those assumptions are incorrect, sentimental, and misguided.

    In my opinion.

  18. @SicPreFix: Um, you’re the only one calling yourself an “evil shit” and saying your post called “emotional damage.” The rest of us were just pointing out why you’re wrong. I’m sorry we weren’t clear enough, so I’ll try one more time.

    You are comparing apples and oranges. You are criticizing people who help animals because YOU think their time and money would be better spent fixing issues with the homeless. This makes as much sense as yelling at people who spend their time skiing, because they could be spending that time in a soup kitchen. In fact, it would make MORE sense for you to yell at those people, since skiing doesn’t benefit any living thing at all except the one person who is skiing, and it costs a tremendous amount of money! If only the millions and millions of dollars people spend on skiing were instead spent on homeless shelters!

    I hope that better illustrates the point.

    About your idea that there are (non-PeTA) people who focus on helping animals because they believe people need less help — I don’t know that it’s a particularly prevalent point of view, but okay. Yup. People need a lot of help. Was anyone at any point making that argument in this post? Because it came out of nowhere. If you’re going to criticize something that has nothing to do with the post, you might be better off really spelling it out in your comment so we know what you’re talking about.

  19. @SicPreFix: I don’t think you’re an ‘evil shit’ or any of that. That wasn’t my point at all.

    The point I’m trying to make is that we all have to select the causes we want to support. No one has unlimited funds, time or talent to devote to curing the world’s ills. I agree that there is far more horror perpetrated daily than any of us, even in volunteer groups, can handle. It’s just the way our world is.

    I completely agree that there are many humans that need help in dire conditions that shouldn’t exist: Look at the Washington Post magazine in today’s paper (available online) for just one example of someone making a difference: Stan Brock of “Wild Kingdom” fame and his travelling medical/dental clinic, currently in far west Virginia. Darfur, Iraq, New Orleans and many other places come to mind. I help where I can with what I can. Like my rescue motto, “I can’t save them all, but I can save this one.” My wife and I donate time, money, food, etc. in a variety of organizations to help in a wide variety of causes.

    I agree that people that need help should come first. However, does that mean that all of my effort should go to helping people exclusively? I don’t think so.

    Perhaps you don’t see it this way, but your post came off as judgmental, at least to this reader. Perhaps that’s the fault of the medium – e-mail is not the best place to discuss emo topics, because non-verbals are lost and misunderstanding is common.

    “I’m just talking about normal folks who make the assumption that people need less help because they supposedly have the intellectual capacity to dig themselves out of their low ebbs, whereas animals do not.”

    I agree with you that people with this attitude are seriously out of touch with the real world. How many people here have nearly been homeless because they lost their job, insurance, etc. all at once? WE ALMOST BECAME THOSE PEOPLE ONCE. My wife and I both lost our jobs almost simultaneously in the early 90’s. We stood in line at food banks in WI, so we could feed our kids something. Even if it was government cheese and generic bologna. I had worked for the same company for over 15 years at that point. My wife is an RN/BSN. We came very, very near to losing our house.

    Believe me, when people ask for help, we open our home, wallets, etc. as wide as we can. Once it happens to you – you never forget and never fail to help, because someone once did the same for you. Call it what you will – social contract, hand outs, whatever.

  20. Rebecca and Question Authority, listen, yes, I probably was rather judgemental and narrow. Sorry.

    Thin skinned too.

    I was homeless from November 2005 to November 2006 and I am very, very sensitive about how people in general view and treat homeless folks, especially when it’s compared and contrasted with how North Americans, in general, treat pets.

    I still think my general points are accurate, but I imagine I could have stated them somewhat more, um, constructively I suppose.

    Please note — because it seems to have been lost in the wash — I did not condemn animal shelters and pet lovers. I simply stated that I believe the priorities are skewed far too heavily in favour pf pets. That’s not an excuse; perhaps it’s a clarification.

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