Monthly Archives: November 2011
Ra-qi (/ra:ki;Arabic: راقي ) : sophisticated, one of status, privilege, and superiority, but to his owner, this five year old Doberman Pinscher is simply a loving and loyal companion with an interesting story to tell. Born September 22, 2006, in Adhamiya, a Northwest neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq, the newest puppy in Saddam Hussein’s (yes Saddam Hussein) Kennel of champion German Dobermans, Raqi’s future at that time was sure to be that of a guard dog. Little did he know, however, that his life would be very different from that of his brothers and sisters.
I arrived in Baghdad in late October 2005, just after the bombing of the Palestine and Sheraton hotels at Firdos square, a mere two hundred meters south of where Raqi and I came to live – in the Red Zone. That would be the first of many explosions we experienced over the coming three years. A year into my project, the guards hinted at the idea of a companion for me, and being practical, I acknowledged that a small pet would be okay given our small quarters. They in turn, presented me with a pint sized Doberman puppy who firmly, and without hesitation, attached himself to me and to my feet. This 13 lb. puppy however, would soon grow to be 90lbs of energy and personality. I was completely unprepared for Raqi’s arrival. There was no neighborhood-pet-mega-mart in which to find collars, leashes, beds, toys, food or treats, and most days we were not allowed to leave the confines of the compound, so we made do with what we had available. The only thing that Raqi really wanted was a belly rub, a water bottle to crunch in his mouth, and a grilled Iraqi Kabob over rice each day.
As he grew older he became very interested in flashlights. All of his neighbors, it seemed, kept several of them due to the daily power outages. Raqi, as a working breed dog, made it his job to find and “acquire” all of the flashlights in his neighbor’s rooms and even from their desk drawers. His collection mounted to over 10, until he was caught red handed by one of the security guards. To better channel his efforts, I searched the internet for dog training tips, including episodes of “The Dog Whisperer”, and ‘how-to-train’ tips and tricks. With my new training knowledge I began to learn how to entertain my little, intelligent, mischievous, and extremely energetic puppy. Hallway tennis ball chase replaced flashlight hunt, Frisbee catch provided lots of running, and he made a friend with a neighboring dog for daily wrestling.
Most days I welcomed Raqi’s antics, as did my co-workers, because he provided a much-needed distraction from the realities of our surroundings. Raqi required 24-hour attention and he was either fully ‘on’, running around the compound like a maniac, or suddenly ‘off’ curled up asleep on his blanket. He stole the heart of my co-workers and even entertained U.S. Army Soldiers who often passed through our compound for a nights rest or an afternoon break. Raqi represented ‘normalcy’ for all of us living in the midst of the background noises of military vehicles rolling down the street, car bombs, rockets and gun fire. Raqi’s unconditional joy brought smiles.
Our first trip back to the U.S. came in late spring of 2007 and I honestly don’t know how we made it. I’m not sure who was more nervous, me, Raqi, or the poor people at the Baghdad airport. All of them were petrified of dogs, because after all, in Iraq dogs were only used for security – not pets. We routed through Amman, Jordan in order to get Raqi his health papers for U.S. entry. Jordanians, like Iraqis are not accustomed to dogs as travelling companions, or pets, thus the best the hotel could offer was space for Raqi and his kennel near the valet parking attendant’s key box. It was a very long sleepless night for me. In the end, it was worth the trip to Washington and our new home as Raqi discovered rolling grassy parks, unlimited dogs to play with, pet stores packed full of toys and treats, and he met his new best friend Raffy, the Boxer. As I write this now, Raqi is fast asleep on his bed next to his best buddy, Raffy. The summer moved quickly and by the end of the year we were packed to go back to Iraq.
This time we started our journey in a small hotel in Sulameniya, a city in Kurdish Iraq January 2008. Winter in Northern Iraq is cold and our hotel didn’t have insulation, and barely had heat. Yes, it does snow there. Raqi and I quickly became a spectacle on our walks – the crazy American in her down parka walking “a lion”- as they would say. After a month of 1 star hotel living, we moved into the famous ‘Green Zone’, to Camp Olympia. The surge had shown some success and things were looking hopeful for Iraqis that year. Raqi was again an instant hit with the security team and quickly made people friends, but unfortunately there were no pets at the camp with whom he could socialize. Never the less, Raqi ruled his part of the camp and kept everyone, who wasn’t supposed to be there, out. Again, he found plenty of men and women in military uniform that were delighted to pet him, talk to him and even take him for runs around the camp. Raqi reminded all of them of ‘home’, and their dogs who were faithfully waiting for them to come back to the U.S. On one evening we returned from a walk to find a stray cat in our apartment that had climbed into Raqi’s large food bowl! We knew for sure Al-Cat-da had taken a suicide mission into Raqi’s home! Thankful, Al-Cat-da escaped without destruction to the furniture.
A year later we said goodbye to Iraq and returned to the U.S., back to the park, and back with his DC Dog crew. We arrived just before Christmas this time and Raqi experienced his first snow. Being from the desert, I assumed the short haired beast would freeze and dressed him in a winter sweater and boots. He quickly indicated none of these items were necessary and in fact felt embarrassed in front of his friends to be wearing such things, as he quickly bolted out in the snow without hesitation. Our time in the U.S. was short again and within 6 months we were on a plane to Kuwait. Kuwait, while much better than Iraq, still was rough for a large imposing dog like Raqi. But just like a teenager, Raqi acclimated as he always had, and met new friends: Ryu – a Weimaraner from Oregon, and Kashmir – an adopted Pakistani street girl. VJ, Raqi’s Indian dog nanny, joined us as well and once again we had a full house of Raqi’s companions who all enjoyed our beautiful view of the Arabian Gulf.
Raqi’s travels are far from over, but as a Doberman, the most important part of life is to be with me, his owner, and for me, I won’t go anywhere without him. I find myself always defending my chosen family make-up, the single lady with a Doberman traveling the Middle East, but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, I feel blessed to have had this time with such a loving loyal companion. (I will refrain from any men jokes here – but you can read between the lines). Dogs teach us a lot if you are open to letting them do so. Raqi and I have been through a lot and at the end of the day he is always waiting for me with a tail wag and a lick – which somehow makes the stresses of the day diminish significantly.
Tamra Hackett was born and raised in Pacific Northwest, and received her bachelors in sociology from Whittier College, as well as her MBA from Johns Hopkins University. After working for various international NGO’s over the years, she joined the State Department in 2009 as a Foreign Service Economic Officer. She now lives with Raqi in Georgetown.
Each year, the Washington Humane Society receives hundreds of calls from Washington, DC residents reporting cases of animal abuse and neglect. These cases range from reports of dogfighting, animals left outside during the cold winter months, or even cases of intentional physical abuse of an animal. Zita Macinanti is the director of humane law enforcement, which investigates these cases of cruelty and neglect. Last month, Zita’s office received a call from a woman in a domestic violence situation asking for help. The woman said something that both of us hoped we would never hear: “My boyfriend just killed my cat, I found her dead in the litter box. I’m scared he is going to kill me too. Can you help me?”
The Link Between Domestic Violence and Animal Cruelty
Domestic violence is pervasive across all socio-economic and racial demographics, touching American families in every state, city, and town. One astonishing statistic says it all—one in four women will be victims of domestic violence during her lifetime. As countless studies and surveys now confirm, when there is domestic violence occurring in the home, pets are frequently victims of abuse. This makes sense given the prevalence of pets in American families, as 62% of households have at least one pet. Based on the frequency of domestic violence and the number of families that have pets, animals inevitably become victims in the cycle of domestic violence.
There is a recognized connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty that has been called the “link.” This link has a predictive value, as violence against animals has been used to predict later violent behavior towards humans. Many serial killers including Albert DeSalvo (the “Boston Strangler”), David Berkowitz (the “Son of Sam”), and Theodore Bundy abused animals before they murdered people. The link also refers to the co-occurrence of violence, as the presence of one form of violence often co-occurs with other forms of violence. The presence of domestic violence and animal cruelty is a prime example of this link.
The urgency of serving victims and their pets is best understood through individual stories. One of the most disturbing examples is directly from the Washington Humane Society’s case files. This story is about Reds, an eight-year old dog who was a victim of domestic violence. Unfortunately, Reds’ story is all too common. One night, the abusive husband came home after drinking and started to argue with his wife. He had already been arrested three times for assaulting her. This night, the husband grabbed his wife and put a knife to her throat, threatening to kill her. As the woman struggled to escape, Reds growled at the husband and barked at him, trying to get him to stop. After the wife was able to grab a bottle and break it on the husband’s head in order to free herself, she immediately ran to the other room to call the police. While the victim was in the other room, the husband started stabbing Reds repeatedly. The police arrived and Reds was taken to the vet, however he died the next day from his injuries.
Challenges Facing Victims with Pets
In one study, 85% of women in abusive situations reported that their partner had threatened, injured, or killed their pet. This is disturbing not only from an animal welfare perspective, but also because the threat of harming a pet is one way abusers force victims to stay in an abusive situation. One survey found that up to 48% of women reported they had delayed leaving an abusive situation because they feared what would happen if they left their pet behind.
The victimization of family pets is too often overlooked, as domestic violence service providers are often overburdened and pets are low on the list of priorities. However, it is important to remember that when abusers harm pets, this presents an additional barrier for women seeking to escape abuse. This barrier is difficult for victims with pets since most domestic violence shelters will not allow animals. Of the roughly two thousand domestic violence shelters across the country, there are only 66 shelters in the entire United States that will allow pets. In Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland, there is only one shelter that will accept pets. Because pets also need safe shelter from domestic violence, communities have established “safe haven” programs. These programs are usually the result of partnerships between local domestic violence organizations and animal shelters where the pet will stay at the animal shelter or with foster families while the owner stays in a domestic violence shelter.
The Safety Network for Abused Animals & People (SNAAP)
The plight of victims and their pets is why we created the Safety Network for Abused Animals & People (SNAAP). SNAAP is an all-volunteer network of individuals and organizations that helps victims of domestic violence who have pets. As pet owners understand, by helping the animal we are also able to provide peace of mind for domestic violence victims, hopefully making the decision to leave the abuse easier. For the past eleven months, we have partnered with the Washington Humane Society to run the Safe Haven Foster Program. Our program is available to victims in the metropolitan Washington, DC area who are receiving domestic violence services.
In addition to the Safe Haven Foster Program, SNAAP works to bring together various human and animal welfare professionals, including law enforcement, child protective services, prosecutors, judges and social workers. Our goal is that different organizations will collaborate to find innovative ways to prevent domestic violence and improve service delivery to victims with pets.
SNAAP encourages the creation of additional safety networks across the country. SNAAP already has one sister SNAAP program in Chicago, Illinois that was started by a fellow Catholic University law school graduate and Illinois attorney, Jessica Katz. Jessica wanted to participate in SNAAP in Washington, DC, however when she moved to Chicago she realized she could start a similar organization there. Jessica explains, “I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback and support both from the animal protection community and the domestic violence community. I have a lot of friends and family around the country, so I’m hoping that my efforts here will inspire them to start SNAAP networks in their own cities. “ Like Jessica, I hope our new organizations will inspire people around the country to start an organization to help domestic violence victims and their pets. Saving one animal’s life, or inspiring one domestic violence shelter to accept pets, would be a giant step forward.
Blair Warner is a co-founder and the executive director of SNAAP. She recently graduated law school from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, and passed the Maryland bar examination. Blair is waiting to be sworn-in, in December, and is also a postgraduate fellow at the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, working on constitutional law issues relating to conscience clause protections. She regularly volunteers at the Washington Humane Society as well. For more information on SNAAP, including animal abuse victims in need of loving homes, please visit www.safeanimalssafepeople.org .
 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Domestic Violence Facts (2007).
 American Pet Products Association, National Pet Owner’s Survey (2009-10).
 Melissa Trollinger, The Link Among Animal Abuse, Child Abuse, and Domestic Violence (2001).
 N. Glenn Perrett, Being Kind to Animals for Everyone’s Sake: The Correlation of Cruelty to Animals & Violence Against People, Amorak & Friends.
 Ascione, Weber, & Wood (1997).
 Carlisle-Frank, Frank, & Nielsen (2004).
 National Institute of Justice, Meeting Survivors’ Needs: A Multi-state Study of Domestic Violence Shelter Experiences (2008).
 Sheltering Animals & Families Together, Directory of Family Violence Shelters Accepting Pets (2011).
 This shelter is located in Arlington, Virginia, and usually requires Arlington residency.
Reston Town Center was bustling with activity on Saturday, November 5th as representatives from dozens of pet rescue groups talked with thousands of people about their organizations, and introduced them to some of their adoptees, at the Home 4 the Holidays pet adoption event. It could not have been a more perfect fall day. The main thoroughfare, Market Street, was lined with booths of over 40 all breed and purebred dog rescue organizations.
Some of those groups represented included K9 Lifesavers, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, Bully Paws Pit Bull Rescue, Virginia German Shepherd Rescue, Homeward Trails Animal Rescue, Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue, American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue, Operation Paws for Home, Blue Ridge Greyhound Adoption, Jasmines House, Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, and Golden Retriever Rescue.
Many volunteers had come out in support of these rescue organizations and one of them was Tyler Modzelesky. He was one of several individuals from Booz Allen Hamilton, and on Saturday he was helping K9 Lifesavers by escorting Riley, a one year old, red Irish Terrier mix who had been living at a shelter in West Virginia, through the crowd, stopping and talking with prospective adopters.
Liz Canzone, a Houston native now living in DC, was another volunteer with Lucky Dog Rescue, and in charge of escorting Manon a Labrador Retriever. She explained, “I went to volunteer at another event and was very excited at the prospect handling the dogs. Shortly after I got there I heard that someone had returned a female Border Collie puppy.” So she asked to take care of that puppy at the event. She went on to say, “The puppy seemed so sad to me and when I was told that she didn’t have a foster home I sent a text picture of her sad face to my husband and asked if he could come out to see this dog. Within an hour my husband was at the event and we ended up adopting the Border Collie.”
Julia Snowdon, who had volunteered often with rescue organizations prior to moving here three years ago, had decided that she wanted to become involved with rescue organizations here in the DMV. So when she heard good things about Lucky Dog Rescue she offered to volunteer with them at Home 4 the Holidays. Her charge on Saturday was Zachary a lovable, tan and white mixed breed.
Marsha French, another devoted animal lover has fostered over 30 dogs in the past two years as a volunteer foster mom with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. She works at events all over the metro DC area just about every weekend and had traveled to Reston from Columbia, Maryland. Marsha was at Home 4 the Holidays with Maggie Mae who she’s been fostering for the past three weeks. She was eagerly anticipating the arrival of a potential adopter and hoping for the best for Maggie Mae.
Another enthusiastic participant at the adoption event was Tina Ponikvar who works with Bully Paws Pit Bull Rescue in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Tina is so dedicated to rescue efforts that she routinely fosters numerous dogs at any given time at her home. Saturday she was with a sweetheart, Marley, an American Pit Bull Terrier/Golden Labrador Retriever mix. (See feature article on Marley on Home page)
Home 4 the Holidays was a well-organized and fun event, but more importantly dozens of dogs found forever homes on Saturday – making it a very good day for dogs and people alike.
Marley is a yellow Labrador Retriever and American Pit Bull Terrier mix, – a very friendly, gentle and loving girl that would make the perfect addition to your home. She is approximately 3 years old, 50 lbs. and mostly tan in color with a bit of white. Marley is also good with kids, other dogs, and cats! She was found as a pregnant stray and taken to a shelter in Virginia before moving into her foster home. There she and her pups were cared for until her brood was eventually adopted. Now, with the pups all placed in forever homes Marley is now searching for her forever home.
Marley has a very sweet and loving disposition! She is wonderful in the house and loves to go for walks in the neighborhood, or on nature trails. In her foster home she quickly learned house manners and obedience commands and is growing into a great family pet. She walks great on leash, knows sit and down and come commands. Marley sits calmly as adults or children pet her or rub her belly. Her favorite thing to do is cuddle, but she is also an active girl. At her foster home she is buddies with dogs of different sizes, both male and female.
If you are interested in meeting or adopting Marley please fill out an application online or contact Bully Paws.
You may also contact Marley’s Foster family directly if you have questions. Write to Tina at email@example.com .
I have read some of the best stories on the net about good people and the pets that reside with them. Some of these stories can be the most heart wrenching stories of lonely, hurt and helpless animals and I’m amazed at some of the courage shown by the people who adopt them. My story isn’t nearly as fantastic or heroic though. Oh sure, two of my cats came to my home very ill from a breeding house, and the other came to me at the request of a dying friend. Friends have commented to me that these cats are very lucky, because I was there to save them from unhealthy conditions, and that they are now provided with a healthy, happy place in which to live. But in truth, I am the lucky one because it was my life that was saved.
For as long as I can remember I’ve never felt at home, anywhere. I was always the odd person out, but not always in a bad way. I didn’t have a particularly bad childhood – I was a good student and athlete. On the contrary I think my upbringing was typical if not better than of most of the middle class families of that era, with a stable home, both parents there and involved, two other siblings, and a dog. But I knew that I belonged somewhere else and I knew the moment that I turned 18 I was going out to find that place.
For years I lived outside of the United States, in fact almost as much as I’ve lived in it. Several years of military service through as many countries, and riding my bike as a civilian through a couple dozen more held my attention for only short periods of time. My attention never lasted. I was always seeking that place I could never seem to find.
In my early 30’s I was given a medical diagnosis that signaled that my eyesight would eventually be devastated – and that all but destroyed my entire life plan. As my vision started to wane so did my spirit. I retreated to a place inside myself where nothing mattered, because I believed I would never find what I really wanted. I wasn’t suicidal and wasn’t terribly depressed. I was angry. I felt cheated by fate, because everything I’d learned or gained was wasted and because I would never be able to use them.
I stayed that way for years. I was able to get some good therapy that certainly helped me better cope with my circumstances, but it still didn’t fully change my perception of the situation. Then one day a friend came by and asked me to hold on to a couple of cats. They had been abandoned and she wanted to save them from the kill shelter. I agreed to hold them for a while and eventually they ended up staying with me not because I particularly liked cats, but I didn’t want them to be put down.
I didn’t do an exceptional job with these cats. I always got the cheapest litter, and bought whatever food was on sale, despite the fact that it might not always have been what was best for them. Visitors to my apartment probably were also not keen on the odor, a result of my cats spraying here and there, and I eventually had both of them declawed as well. And, because I didn’t really have the money, visits to my veterinarian were few and far between. Then one night one of my cats was moaning. I could tell she was in distress, but I was unable to take her to a vet hospital at that moment. Somewhere in me, the medic that once was came to the surface. Without going into all of the grand details, I pulled out my medical kit and tapped my cat’s bladder, as blind as I was. I was terrified, but I was able to relieve some of her pain. The next day I was able to take the cat to the vet and he diagnosed a blockage. Though he chided me a little bit for doing the tap on my own, he put his hand on my shoulder and told me what I did probably saved my cat’s life.
These first cats had a good 10 years with me. I learned more about cat behavior and care and grew to really appreciate these aloof creatures (I was strictly a dog person before). So when they passed from my life I thought it was a good idea to get another cat, this time just one. So one day I went with a friend to a breeders’ home, because she was looking for a Cornish Rex kitten. While patiently sitting and waiting for my friend to look over the cats, a thin, red tabby-like cat jumped in my lap, meowed once and gave me a head-butt in my chest. I liked it and considered adopting him at a later time, if he was available. We were there after all for my friend to get a cat!
So I stayed in touch with the breeder and finally decided to bring “Jake” home, however, before I was able to pick him up I got a call from the friend, who had adopted one of the other cats. She advised me not to adopt Jake from that breeder, because she told me that her cat was not only sick, but she was going to be returning it to the breeder.
I later found out this breeder had several cats returned for bad health and behavior issues, including Jake who as it turned out was a rather talkative and loud cat. Better reason would have had me walk away. I was disabled and my resources were limited. I didn’t drive, this cat was not well and my history with cats was not perfect. Besides Jake was not the gentle, aloof cat like the ones I had before. I realized that I would need to engage him, interact with him more and plan his care. I should have just walked away, but all I could think about was leaving Jake there in that home to be adopted and brought back. So against all better judgment, I went back and got him. While waiting for him to be packed up, a tiny blue and white cat jumped up on the couch and sat on my thigh. She was so tiny she didn’t look real. I took her too.
That was six years ago. Since then we have faced some challenges. Lots of health issues in the beginning, but we’ve overcome them all. I didn’t declaw either of the cats this time so some of my furniture has been destroyed from clawing along the way, but for the most part they have learned how to channel their energy elsewhere. I still budget food and litter, but cheap can be healthy too if you take the time to educate yourself. Jake is still a talkative cat, in fact EXTREMELY talkative. He has taught the other two (now that Moshe Moshi is here) how to talk, loudly. They are needy, demanding and take up entirely too much of my personal time. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I scarcely believe the change in me having gone through this experience. Every day I learn something new about them, and in the process I learn something about myself. I now know that sunshine is an important element of health and that we should embrace it like a welcomed friend; naked if at all possible. I’ve learned that food is not something to just have or waste. We should savor every bite. I’ve learned that with practice and patience even difficult obstacles can be overcome, and that laughing at yourself takes away all pretension – you are whole and perfect, regardless. Where I barely leave my home other than for work, I’ve learned that hiding sometimes can feel comforting. But you can’t hide forever, and you have to come out sometime. Trusting what you have together and not bemoaning what you don’t is a better use of your time.
I’ve become more resourceful, more engaging and less fearful than I’ve ever been in my life. I may fail at times, but I also know that I can take a chance to succeed. All of that is enough to celebrate, but since having lived with Jake, Maus and Moshe Moshi the greatest thing I’ve learned is that I know where I belong now. The place that I was searching for, and the place where I belong is in this moment, and I know that’s because they are here in this moment with me.
Carol Hoshi (CHo) Meir is an avid coffee drinker, crafter, cat slave and principal writer for the weblog, Coffee, Cats n’ Yarn. A former Army paramedic and Gulf War veteran, she currently works in information and support for the Smithsonian Institution. A native Washingtonian, CHo is also a yarn trade fiber artist and tests charts, patterns and schematics for crochet designs. She is currently owned by three cats; Jake, a red mackerel tabby, Maus, a blue and white bi-color, both Cornish Rexes and Moshe Moshi, a cream-point Sphynx.
To read more of her stories visit… http://www.coffeecatsnyarn.com/