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A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals
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- ebook $11.99 $15.99 CAD
- Hardcover $25.00 $31.00 CAD
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“Funny and frank. Ms. Freedman . . . lays it on the line with her unembarrassed love for the dogs in her own life and a perfect plan as to how every dogophile can shake a leg to help dogs and other living beings.”
—Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder and president PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
“This book will show you how to be an irresistibly happy person whose own life has the power to uplift the whole world.”
—Sharon Gannon, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga
“Rory Freedman heard the call of billions of suffering animals and was brave enough to answer it in print, in the media, and in your face.”
—Simone Reyes, animal rights activist and cast member of Running Russell Simmons
“Beg has all the wit and no-pulled-punches style of Skinny Bitch, and Rory Freedman’s intensely personal revelations will tug at your heart at the same time that you are chuckling at her candor.”
—Alexandra Paul, actress and activist
“With writing so crisp, honest, and engaging, you won’t put this book down—at least not until it’s time to walk the dog.”
—Victoria Moran, bestselling author of Main Street Vegan and Creating a Charmed Life
“. . . . Your eyes will be opened, but more importantly, so will your heart.”
—Nathan Runkle, executive director Mercy for Animals
“The message is contagious—an amazing example of advocacy.”
—Tatiana von Furstenburg, filmmaker
“Beg is an important book. . . . It asks us to step up in awareness and begin making more conscious choices in our daily lives. Thank you, Rory, for the wake-up call.”
—Ben Lee, award winning singer/songwriter, actor
“Beg makes the process of changing our relationship to animals feel easy and inspired rather than burdensome.”
—Ione Skye, actress, painter, and director
“In Beg, like in Skinny Bitch, Rory Freedman explains directly and succinctly about how each of us can make simple choices to create a better world. Kindness to animals is good for animals, and it’s also good for us. Highly recommended.”
—Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary
“Rory Freedman is on a mission not just to change our lives or the lives of our companions but to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants.”
—Nellie McKay, award-winning singer/songwriter and actress
“This beautiful book weaves the author’s personal story with individual and universal stories of animals in our world today. I want to put a copy in the hands of everyone I know!”
—Gretchen Ryan, internationally renowned artist
“A searing exposé into the treatment of all sentient beings.”
—Frances Fisher, actress and activist
“ . . . it is the fate of many wild creatures either to be unwanted by man or wanted too much, despised as a menace to progress or desired as a means to progress—beloved and brutalized all at once. . . .”
—MATTHEW SCULLY, Dominion
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”
I find it fascinating. We’re all out in the world, wearing clothes, carrying things, driving cars. We encounter other humans and sum up one another based on what we see. But we totally forget that many of these humans have animals at home. That one of the biggest parts of who they are isn’t immediately apparent to the outside world. Like a secret life. Sometimes I’m out, dressed cute, talking to people, being social. And they have no idea that at home, there are three dogs who are madly in love and totally obsessed with me. And that even though I’m having a good time, in the back of my mind, my dog clock is ticking, carefully calculating the number of hours since they last peed or pooped, and how long we’ve been away from each other. Sure, there are times I’m having so much fun, I’m bummed I need to leave to go take care of my dogs. But I’m usually eager to get back to my brood—my family. The three hairy aliens I live with are my favorite beings on the planet. I have dear, beloved friends I love so much it hurts. I have human kin I adore. But the truth is, there is no one I love like my dogs.
For me, so much of it is physical. I kiss them full on, right smack in the center of their perfect little mouths. I habitually bite them—the tips of their ears, the tops of their ears, the sides of their lips, their elbows, their toes, their nails, their paws, their backs, their necks, their throats, those bones underneath and to the sides of their chins. I pat their chests, bellies, and butts to a cadence I can feel in my soul. I pull their teeth (gently, just a little—just the big ones). I pinch them; I grab their legs when they walk by; I push them; I pull them; I manually wag their tails; I tease them; I body slam them (not really, but you know what I mean); I put them into my own version of a half nelson; I spoon them; I hug them; I squeeze them; I devour them; and I inhale them. They are completely intoxicating. Blindfolded, I could pick their individual breaths out of a lineup, should the need or a contest ever arise. For the most part, I can read their thoughts and anticipate their needs. And when I can’t, I’m unsettled, because all I want is for them to be happy.
I’m just like all the other dog-loons out there who feel exactly the same about their fur-spring. We buy them toys; we buy them beds; we buy them collars and leashes and harnesses; and sometimes we buy them clothes. We talk about them too much—sometimes to other dog people who care (read: people who patiently wait for you to stop so they can then talk about their dogs), sometimes to nondog people who don’t. We talk in stupid voices, and we say stupid things. We get into fights with other dog-loons at dog parks; we gossip about those who are too strict with their dogs and those who aren’t strict enough; and we behave just like the insecure, neurotic parents of human children who want their kids to be included.
Some of us dogaphiles are cat-crazy, too. And some of us even have strong feelings for animals we’ve never met. While it may not be that obsessive love we have for our own children, we care deeply about the animals of the world. They may not be as cute, cuddly, accessible, or relatable as our dogs, but we recognize their capacity to feel. And in this recognition, our own humanity is reflected back at us. This book is a love letter to all animals and a celebration of their amazingness.
But most of all, this book is a call to arms to my fellow animal lovers to be better animal lovers. It’s an invitation to be more than just good parents to the cats and dogs we live with; Beg is a battle cry to wake up and rise up on behalf of the world’s animals.
ALL MY CHILDREN
Like every other psychotic dog mom, I could write an entire book about my pack. I adopted the first two, Timber and Joey, in 2000 with my then boyfriend, Reggie. (Reggie isn’t his real name. In order to protect his privacy, I’m using the name of his first dog.)
Timber is a yellow Lab and, quite frankly, gorgeous. My friends Ari and Mikko call him “the Brad Pitt of dogs” (and they’ve actually met the human Brad Pitt). Timber is the boss of me and the other dogs; he’s the director of kitchen operations; and he’s in charge of all the toys in the house. He’s a great white shark, a polar bear, and brontosaurus. (Don’t ask me to explain this. Just know it.)
Joey, his sister and littermate, is a black Lab. (Isn’t is interesting that dogs in the same litter can be totally different colors?) She’s got bedroom eyes and is big on eye contact, which can be endearing and disconcerting at the same time. While Timber would be happy on a couch eating bonbons all day, Joey is an outdoorsy kinda girl. She’s sporty, very Call of the Wild. If she ever had to go it alone, she’d not only be fine, she’d be happy. Joey’s a kangaroo, a bat, a monkey, and a mosquito.
Timber and Joey are both dreamy. Seriously. And they have great senses of humor. Reggie and I were certain we knew exactly what the dogs’ voices would sound like if they could talk (a mixture of shrill and scratchy) and what they would say (they’re disrespectful but ultimately obedient, funny, and they swear a lot). We would constantly talk as the dogs. So clearly, Reggie was (and still is) as obsessed with the dogs as I am. But one night, out with friends, he pulled me aside to tell me I was talking about the dogs too much and I was boring everyone. Mortifying. But despite that embarrassment, many times after that I observed myself doing it again. I couldn’t stop. Everything Timber and Joey did was cute and funny and interesting and silly and precious and wonderful and adorable and perfect. Okay, the time they turned a hotel room’s two Yellow Pages into confetti while we were at a wedding may not qualify as “wonderful” or “perfect.” And there was nothing “precious” about the destruction of an entire queen-size bed (mattress and box spring), the chewing of walls and floors, the jumping out windows (first floor) and hopping over fences, or the countless times they peed and pooped in the house. But I do think the Thanksgiving when Timber scarfed down an apple pie made by Reggie’s cousin, who was nine months pregnant and had stayed up all night using this little lattice-making tool that some relative of theirs had smuggled out of a war-torn country a century or two ago, makes for a good story. (The cousin cried when she saw the pie remnants. Sorry, Amy.)
“Precious,” “perfect,” and “wonderful”? Who am I kidding? My dogs were evil. Pure evil. Everyone we encountered who had Labs would say, “Yeah, it takes them about two years to outgrow the destructive phase.” It took ours about six years to stop being wild maniacs. But they’re my wild maniacs, and I love them so much it makes my teeth hurt. Speaking of teeth, one time, when we were hiking, Timber had a sneezing fit. He sneezed so many times and with such force, he banged his snout on the ground and broke off one of his big fangs. Ugh, see? I can’t stop myself. And I haven’t even mentioned little Lucy yet and all the ridiculousness she brings to the table. Lucy is my third, “late-in-life” baby.
Reggie and I had long since parted ways, on good terms. Since we adopted Timber and Joey together and since we both loved the dogs, it was never a question of “who would get the dogs” but “how should we share custody so that it works best for all of us.” In Los Angeles, summer and the surrounding months can be pretty hot, and hiking trails can be riddled with poisonous rattlesnakes. In Northern California, where Reggie and his beautiful wife Gina live, winter and the surrounding months can bring so many feet of snow, it’s hard for the dogs to even walk. So as a post-nuclear family, we decided Reggie and Gina would take the dogs for six months and then I’d take them for six months. My jet-setting hooligans summer in Northern Cali and winter in LA. Not a bad life.
Twice a year, I meet up with Reggie and Gina at a park between LA and Northern Cali. We hang out for an hour or so while the dogs run around and splash in the creek. Then, the dogs jump into the car of whoever they haven’t been with the past six months, and off they go. People marvel at this. The three of us can’t imagine doing it any other way. I mean, we get that it’s unusual, but it’s pretty awesome. Reggie and Gina like to snowboard and ski in the winters, and this way, they can be on the slopes for hours without worrying about rushing home to the dogs. I like to travel in the summers, and I love feeling like I can roam the globe knowing my dogs couldn’t possibly be in better hands. Reggie and Gina are Timber and Joey’s parents, too, and they’re the only people on the planet who love them as much as I do and know them as well. (By the way, Gina is a pseudonym, too. I texted her to find out her first pet’s name. It was a dog named Jason. But Gina was a subsequent pet name so I went with it. She also had mice named Pip and Squeak, but I thought referring to her by one of those names might be distracting.) Sharing custody is such an awesome set-up, we think everyone should do it. Yes, there are times we miss the dogs. But we text and email each other pictures, videos, and updates, and there are always other people’s dogs around to love on when you feel a pang.
In the summer of 2010, the dogs were living it up with their other parents, and I was living it up preparing for a monthlong trip to Peru. My friend Jane Garrison sent an email out asking if someone would please help foster a dog for a week or two. (Just like in the human world, fostering means that you take care of the animal temporarily, until a full-time adoption takes place.) God bless Jane and all she does for animals. In addition to a million other things, she regularly pulls ten dogs at a time from open admission shelters, and then finds them foster homes or forever homes. (Open admission shelters are shelters that euthanize animals if they can’t get them adopted within a certain period of time.) On this rescue round, Jane had already placed eight of the ten dogs with a foster mom who had a great track record for finding dogs forever homes. The other two couldn’t be placed with the pack because they had kennel cough, which is contagious, and Jane and her husband were going out of town so they couldn’t take care of them themselves. Since my dogs were away, I was more than happy to help foster a dog or two temporarily, just until I had to leave for Peru. It would feel good to be helpful, and I was in need of a doggie fix.
The next day, Jane brought over Rose. Rose was a shaved little Muppet with white hair and a pink body underneath. Her ears and tail and pink pig belly were scabbed over from fleabites, and if you looked closely, you could see she was missing a bottom tooth. (I later learned she was missing more than one.) She had already bonded with Jane in the few days Jane had her, but she was scared of me. My heart broke for this raggedy little angel. She was an owner surrender at the shelter, meaning the human who was her parent had abandoned her there. Even though she seemed like such an innocent baby, herself, she had obviously had puppies at least once. I don’t know if she was a breeding dog someone had used to make money or if she just came from a neglected home, but she acted like she had never been outside before. She had never seen a mirror, stairs, doors, or cars. She’d never been on a walk.
For the next few days, I did everything I could to take care of Rose and make her feel safe and secure—I gave her a ton of treats, brushed what was left of her shaved white coat, gently and slowly de-scabbed her ears and tail, and took her to the vet. She had fleas, worms, and kennel cough, all of which the vet treated. I spoke quietly and gently to her; I didn’t scold her when she had an accident inside; and I let her dictate how physically close she wanted to be to me. I also changed her name. She didn’t respond to Rose at all, and I wanted her to have a new beginning and new association with her new life.
I was walking her one morning, and she was being so gentle and good (as opposed to Timber and Joey who would drag me around like two pulling maniacs). I thought, “Whoever gets this dog is going to be so lucky. She is going to be the light of their lives. La luz. (La luz is “the light” in Spanish.) Lucy.” Lucy. It just seemed to fit her. And, truth be told, I thought it was exactly the kind of name that would appeal to someone who likes little, white, foofy dogs. I’d sucker some LA glamour-puss into adopting her with a name like Lucy.
It didn’t take long for Lucy to fall madly in love with me. I, on the other hand, had zero intention of adopting a third dog, and did everything I could to keep a safe emotional distance from her. I honestly didn’t think it would be hard. My setup with Reggie and Gina was perfect, and my life was clearly mapped out where dogs were concerned. So I did all the things one does when trying to find a forever home for a dog. I posted her on Petfinder.com. I posted her on my Facebook page. I emailed all my friends and asked them to help spread the word. Through referrals, an elderly woman came to meet Lucy one day, as did a young couple. But somehow, as lovely as they were, it didn’t seem like the right fit. This dog was the sweetest, gentlest girl I had ever met in my life; it had to feel completely right.
Throughout this process, Jane and I spoke daily. As busy as she is being a hero, Jane takes the time to deal with the psychological fallout her foster parents experience. Every time I’d tell Jane something Lucy had done or progress she made, she’d say, “Wow, she’s so attached to you. . . .” And every time I’d cut her off: “Jane, not a chance. Timber and Joey aren’t into other dogs; they’d be totally irked if they had to share me; they’d eat all her food; it’s not even possible to walk three dogs at once; Lucy needs to be the apple of her mommy’s eye, and I already have two apples; and what would I do with her when I traveled? It’s not happening.”
This went on and on for two or three weeks. But after the first week and a half, there were a few chinks in my armor. Jane started telling me about some other friends who had gone through the same thing and how well it worked out. And how she had the perfect pet sitters who could come stay with Lucy at my place while I went backpacking in Peru. And the clincher: how she felt bad for Lucy since she was obviously so attached to me. I had been bringing Lucy with me everywhere so she wouldn’t be home alone thinking she’d been abandoned by another human.
I even brought her to my therapy appointment. (It wasn’t lost on me that I had become a dog-toting LA girl with a little white frou-frou named Lucy.) At the beginning of the session, Lucy had been more independent and less scared than she’d ever been. Instead of trying to sit on my lap, she positioned herself on the other end of the sofa, with her butt facing me, and she just hung out. It was unprecedented. I don’t remember if Lucy did something else unusual or not, or what prompted my therapist to say it, but at one point she said, “She’s a therapy dog. She knows exactly what you need.” I was blubbering, but coherent enough to marvel at the possibility. This dopey little Muppet had peed on my dining room table, could not figure out the concept of doors (she still struggles with this two and a half years later), and didn’t immediately recognize me when I came back from the rare occasion I had to leave her home alone. A therapy dog? My friend James endearingly but seriously refers to her as “the dumbest dog in the world.”
I left therapy and called a friend while driving home. I don’t know what happened that night, but between my therapy session and that phone call, something shifted. Where before there was fear and doubt and logistical impossibility, there was now an overriding sense of wanting to be of service to this creature. It outweighed all my reasons for why it was a bad idea. I kept thinking of the expression “throw your hat over the wall.” Initially, you may not know how you’re going to scale the giant wall in front of you, but once you throw your hat over, you have to figure it out one way or another. Still in the car, I called, Jane crying hysterically, hyper-ventilating, barely able to talk: “We’re suppooooosed to be togeeeeeether. Lucy and I are meant for each ooooother.” And that was it. Lucy was mine and I was hers. I’m the jerk who got stuck with the foofy white dog with the foofy white dog name. Perfect.
A day or two later, I had this nagging “buyer’s remorse” and was filled with doubt about my decision. I was driving east on Melrose and saw this big, white, hunky pit bull, who was so much more my type. I thought, sadly, “I’ll never have him; I went and blew my third dog pick on little bunny foo-foo.” I shared my feelings with Jane, who assured me that my sentiment was totally normal and part of the process, and that it would go away. And of course, she was right. Today, Lucy is not the only one madly in love. The feeling is mutual, and I do believe we were meant for each other. As dumb as she is (and let me tell you, she is really dumb), she’s taught me so much. And she’s wormed her way into my heart. She’s a white wiggle worm. And a chicken worm. And a bucking bronco. (Depending on the hair day she’s having, she can also look like a Chinese luck dragon or Falkor from that ’80s movie, The NeverEnding Story. It’s true. I’m not just being a stage mom—other people say it all the time.)
In a speech I once gave at Animal Acres, a farm animal sanctuary forty miles from LA, I told the story of Lucy and Jane Garrison. I joked about being a “foster failure” and how I got “Garrisoned.” A bunch of people in the crowd started nodding their heads; they too had been Garrisoned. Jane has rescued thousands of dogs from death through sheer tenacity, passion, and determination. Many years ago, there was a photo on the cover of People magazine of the doctor who successfully developed the science of “test tube” babies. He was surrounded by all the children he had brought into the world. I always think of Jane this way, surrounded by all the dogs she’s saved. My little Lucy is just one of them.
BASIC MATH + UNINFORMED PEOPLE = A BUNCH OF DEAD DOGS AND CATS
Lucy came from a shelter in Southern California, and the day she got pulled, 180 dogs were euthanized. One hundred and eighty. Just that day. In just that shelter.
In the United States alone, it’s estimated that anywhere between six and eight million animals enter shelters every year. And that three to four million are euthanized. Every year. It’s so easy to tsk and cluck and shake your head at the number. I’m doing it myself as I type, like a Jewish nana. Can any of us even begin to fathom that number? What it might look like, or feel like to see that many dead dogs and cats heaped in a pile? We certainly don’t want to imagine it, something so unpleasant. But it’s a grim reality and it happens every single year.
How? Why? It’s simple math, really: Animals are breeding and being bred at a higher rate than they’re being adopted. Some of the animals in shelters are strays who haven’t been neutered or spayed, and are caught by Animal Control or concerned citizens. But half of the animals who enter the shelter system come from human families who no longer want them or can no longer keep them.1 Half! Here’s what happens: John Jones wants a dog. He buys a German shepherd from a breeder whose ad he sees online somewhere. Three years later, he has to relocate for a job. And the prized puppy he couldn’t wait to have, who he shelled out $1,500 for, is no longer shiny and new. Instead of figuring out a way to take his dog with him (there’s always a way), he makes a feeble, half-hearted attempt to find the dog a new home. It doesn’t work, so he drops the dog off at a shelter, even knowing that if the dog isn’t adopted, he will be killed.
Susan Smith’s children have been bugging her for a dog for years. One day, at the mall, she sees a golden retriever puppy in a pet store. She feels bad seeing how small the dog’s cage is and has heard how good goldens are with kids. Christmas is around the corner. . . . She buys the puppy and surprises her kids, who are over the moon. All sorts of promises and deals are made about feeding the dog, playing with the dog, brushing the dog’s coat, and taking the dog out for walks. But after a few months, when the novelty of having a puppy wears off, and the dog continues peeing and pooping in the house because he was never properly trained or his humans don’t take him out enough, and he keeps destroying shoes and remote controls because he hasn’t been given enough exercise (and because that’s what puppies do sometimes, even if they have been properly exercised), Susan is at her wit’s end. None of her friends or colleagues want the dog; all she’s done is complain about all the stuff he’s ruined. Off he goes to a shelter. Just for being a puppy and for having the bad luck of being bought by a family who was ill prepared to handle the responsibility.
Of course, either one of these dogs could be the dream dog Mike and Maggie Malone have been wanting for years. They’re finally settled into married life; their careers are going well; and they’ve even got a cute new house with a fenced-in yard. They’re primed and ready for their new best friend. And either of these precious dogs, who just want to be loved and just want a family, would be the most loyal and faithful companion they could ever ask for. But both dogs get dumped at a shelter, then killed. And a new golden retriever gets created and sold to the Malones, instead.
- On Sale
- Apr 30, 2013
- Page Count
- 192 pages
- Running Press