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The University of Colorado in Boulder is an astonishingly beautiful campus, in large part because it’s nestled against a 290 million year old sandstone formation called the “Flatirons.” These “iron” shaped rocks are numbered as they run north and south and have always been popular with climbing enthusiasts.In my opinion, they’re never more beautiful than when low-lying clouds intersect them on a gray, drizzly day, but Colorado climate is a funny thing. One morning some years ago, the Flatirons inspired awe even among native Boulderites when first light revealed the rocks covered in a heavy dusting of snow. It was the Fourth of July.

From the 1950s until the time I attended the university, the letters, “CU” were a painted fixture on the third Flatiron. Enthusiastic rock-climbing students repainted the letters annually, and the huge yellow letters could be seen from any place in the city.

Midway though the 1970s, however, the first wave of environmentalism saw a waning of tolerance for “tagging” on natural resources; sometime during my junior year, the letters suddenly vanished overnight. According to some Internet sources, the City of Boulder painted over the letters, but I know better. The letters were concealed by my best friend in school at the time, a world-class rock climber, and the first real “greenie” I ever knew. The letters had always rankled my native born friend, and he often swore he’d do something about them. One day before sunrise, he pounded on my door and informed me with immense satisfaction that he and a friend had spent the night covering the “CU” with brown paint. Half asleep and irritated at having been woken up, I didn’t believe him.

With daylight, however, came the evidence that the letters were indeed gone.  My friend had made good on his word.

It’s been thirty years since my friend “did the deed.” The brown paint has eroded some, but if you know where to look, you can still see the faint “CU” from any point in Boulder.

Though this photograph shows a climbing route, it also shows the faint remnants of the "CU." Do you see it?

Though this photograph shows a climbing route, it also shows the faint remnants of the “CU.” Do you see it?

Recently, I was a vendor at a craft show. I’m a little embarrassed by this tiny business of mine. I regard myself as a Writer to the bone, and there’s just nothing cool about making breed specific doorknob signs even though my writing is what sells them. Nevertheless, the signs help buy dog show entry fees and keep my dogs in their favorite treats. The business is Internet based, but a couple of times a year I attend craft shows for the sole reason of chatting with John and Jane Q Public. The Publics aren’t dog fanciers, animal rights zealots, or morally superior rescue advocates. They’re just everyday pet owners, many of those pets purebred dogs.  By chatting with these people, I get a sense of what they know  - or don’t know – about issues that matter to dog fanciers. As it turns out, it’s not much.

PETA has passed its “sell by date” and most people now dismiss the group as a bunch of kooks.

PETA. They did it to themselves.

PETA. They did it to themselves.

The Humane Society of the United States, however, continues to bamboozle the general public. A lot of us have come to regard the core of HSUS as a group of shrewd, well dressed suits who’ve glommed on to the money and power to be had through an animal rights agenda, but the public doesn’t see that. I can’t help but speculate, however, that as influential as the HSUS has become, excessive lobbying activities, deceptive fundraising,  ”creative” tax returns and a change in political fortunes will tarnish its halo in time. If and when it does “lose its bloom,” there are those ready to step in its place.

Interestingly, the “recycled dog” movement fills any gaps left by HSUS, and in some ways, I sense that rescue advocacy may equal, if not eventually surpass the HSUS as a threat to ethical, responsible purebred dog ownership and breeding. Presently, the rescue world is mired in layers of unaccountability, inaccuracy (see Humane Relocation and “Overpopulation”), and money-making schemes dressed up as altruism. Seductive because it feels so good to save animals, this movement is harder to pinpoint precisely because it doesn’t have a Wayne Pacelle or Ingrid Newkirk.

At its core, HSUS has gone corporate and uses emotional bait to drive its minions and fund itself.  Nevertheless, it has a soft underbelly bloating with greed, and I suspect (and fervently hope) that its tactics will make it vulnerable with time. The core of rescue activism, however, is emotionally and ideologically charged, its advocates tougher to reach with facts as they wonder how any of us can love animals and still be indifferent to the suffering of rescue dogs?  As yet less organized than the HSUS, rescue groups have a grassroots “feel” and are harder to incriminate.  There is but one Humane Society of the United States, but hundreds, if not thousands, of rescue groups, and money is being made by many of them in the name of rescue. Pet relocation is big business, but when a company like P.E.T. is described as “safely transporting dogs from rescue groups to their new homes,” who with a heart could object?  ”Adoption” is a loaded word when rescue dogs are being sold at “humane sourcing” venues where pet stores partner with rescue groups. In reality, many shelters and rescue groups have become unregulated pet shops, and yet in many states like my own, “overpopulation” shelter numbers are going up because dogs are being brought in from out of state.

The general public doesn’t know any of this.

The people I run into at a craft show go to work, pay their bills, raise their kids, feed the dog, and on weekends they might watch football or NASCAR on TV (or go to a craft show).  They are not like “us,” presuming that most of  ”us” who are reading this right now are plugged into the dog world in some way. They don’t go to dog shows or participate in performance competitions. They don’t read dog publications, join dog clubs or talk with other “dog people.” A couple of times a year, they might watch a dog show on TV; maybe they’ll attend a puppy kindergarden class at Petsmart when they get a new dog – but honestly, are they likely to run into any of us there?  They’re busy with their lives, and unless something threatens their interests, they don’t much want to know.

The average pet owners. We need them.

These are the people we need on our side if we’re to protect dog ownership in general, and the dog fancy culture in particular. We need them.  

How can they help if they don’t know what we know? How can they know if we don’t tell them?  And if you can’t share what’s bad about HSUS or shelter zealots in the time it takes an elevator to go from one floor to another,  perhaps it’s time to educate yourself so that you can. Visit NAIAHumanewatch, and the AKC legislative pages to arm yourself with factoids.

It’s increasingly apparent to me that our fight with the animal rights agenda will not be won by any one organization, or even by organizations joining forces with each other. Animal rights groups have had too much time to go unchallenged and they’ve successfully impacted veterinary schools, law colleges, the media, and legislation. On our own, it will take us at least as long to effect the same influence. As I see it, we need average pet owners with us if we’re to reclaim the conversation about purebred dog ownership, and it falls upon each of us to make that happen. I talk with my customers at craft shows. You can talk with your in-laws, a neighbor, or the person buying dog food at the grocery store.  It might be one sentence that worms its way into a brief conversation (I see you’ve got a Collie. A shame what animal rights groups are doing to Collie breeders). It might be three words: “HSUS. They’re bad!” But say something you must. If not you, then who?

Our purebred dogs are our best PR, and there’s no better way to engage people than by getting out among the public with them. They are natural conversation starters and a dandy way to guide a conversation in the direction that talks about groups that threaten their existence. Some people might not listen, of course, and a few might challenge you, but they’ll hear. The next time they see an HSUS commercial on TV, they’ll have the memory of someone telling them that less than 1% of donated money actually helps dogs. The next time they consider adopting a rescue dog, they’ll recall that someone told them that lots of shelter dogs are imported from Mexico, Europe and Puerto Rico –  and that one litter of imported puppies was found to have been spayed and neutered before their eyes were even open! (a sickening piece of information I learned at the recent NAIA conference).

Who will breed the future generations of these breeds the way hobby breeders do?

Who will breed the future generations of these breeds the way hobby breeders do?

As dog fanciers and hobby breeders, what we do is a lifestyle. If ethical hobby breeders are legislated beyond reason, they’ll stop. If we can’t sell our well-bred, carefully socialized, health tested puppies because the market is saturated with rescue dogs, we’ll stop. Once our dogs die of old age, we won’t replace them, we’ll sell the van or motorhome, and we’re out. We say we love our breeds, but if we’re not breeding them the way only hobby breeders do it, what will happen to our breeds?

One person at a time, we share facts and point out the skeletons in the closet. Figuratively speaking, we point out to them the “CU” letters on the Flatiron. Once they know where to look,  they’ll always see it. Put another way, they’ll never be able to “unsee” it again.

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Kitchener December 6, 2013 at 9:58 am

Wow, Susi. You just keep getting better. This is a magnificent piece. Just awesome!

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Susi December 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Awwww, Jay – you are TOO sweet!

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maggie b December 8, 2013 at 3:41 am

What Jay Said. SO awesome hit the nail square on the head!

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Susi December 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Maggie, you are really kind. I’m hopeful the article resonated with at least one person and encourages them to say something!

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TS aka Chuck December 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

“……..in many states like my own, “overpopulation” shelter numbers are going up because dogs are being brought in from out of state.”

This is true but what would you have agencies like the Dumb Friends League do? After fires, floods, etc. have devastated areas, and the people and pets living in them, often small, local shelters can’t handle the influx of animals. Large, well-funded shelters have the volunteers and funds to bring these animals to larger cities, thereby making sure that the animals are safe, fed and sheltered from the elements. And, frequently, giving those animals a much larger audience from which to be adopted, if necessary.

Small, local shelters can be inundated with stray animals during natural disasters and sometimes have to euthanize their guests because they simply run out of space to house them whereas relocating them to a large facility might ensure that animal’s return to their family or adoption, if necessary.

I believe shelters can exist along side dog fanciers and neither should be in competition with the other. From my point of view, they serve different, complimentary purposes, even though sometimes those purposes converge and which then should be built upon to enhance the well-being of all animals.

While I agree with all the arguments pro the dog fancy, it does fail to address one thing that always bothers me and isn’t addressed by the dog fancy: without animal shelters, what would communities do with the sadly large numbers of animals that are lost or abandoned?

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Susi December 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm

As I see it, Chuck, there would be room in our shelters were they not filled by dogs coming in from out of state, if not Mexico. Colorado taxes pay to feed dogs shipped up from, say, Louisiana, while Colorado dogs are either euthanized or languish a bit longer. Ultimately, we don’t really know for a fact whether relocating pets from a crowded shelter to an empty one increases adoptions or not because participating shelters count the same dogs in their totals which skews up the number of shelter dogs reported for a given town or county. This makes the case for shelters to be held accountable for their data, but thus far only three or four states in the country provide such statistics. Shelters in many of these cities would have a significantly more room if weren’t for “humane relocations.” The NAIA has a few articles on this if it interests you, and I’ve included a couple of others:

http://www.naiaonline.org/naia-library/articles/humane-or-insane/

http://naia.typepad.com/naia/2011/05/massachusetts-waking-up-to-the-dark-side-of-humane-relocation.html

http://www.examiner.com/article/import-of-strays-sustains-the-pet-over-population-myth

http://naia.typepad.com/naia/2011/03/humane-relocation-on-the-brain.html

http://time4dogs.blogspot.com/2011/03/its-raining-dogsfrom-other-countries.html

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Anne Marie Duhon March 23, 2014 at 9:36 am

I want to thank you for using my article! I try to speak out against the lies that are going on in the rescue world. Considering I use to be the director of a rescue and found out first hand how very nasty and cut throat the rescue world can really be all in the name of MONEY not the animals. Even in the aftermath of my rescues death at the hands of another rescue I will not be stopped in speaking out against the overpop myth and all the breeder hate out there. The only thing that our “troubles” did was to show me EXACTLY who the “enemy” really is. It is not really the pet owners because like you say they really do not KNOW what goes on behind the closed shelter doors nor do they really have the time to care. It is past time for us that REALLY know the facts of all the MONEY involved to be more outspoken and not fear what they say now because the fact is if we do not speak out now in fear of a little (or a lot) of name calling later we are going to have to live in a world without our animals. THAT is something to fear. I can not even THINK of a world without the possibility of never having animals again. That is what helps me to make it thru these animal-less days. So Susi Keep on and know that you have staunch supporters behind you

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Susi March 23, 2014 at 10:43 am

I appreciate that, Anne Marie, and I have to thank you in return for having done the work you did with the best of intentions. It simply could not have easy. Yes, you’re quite right. We keep speaking, writing, sharing experiences – and never let up.

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Pam Gipson December 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Thank you for this excellent article to share and use in our individual education of friends and public. As you say, if not me, then who? We all have to do our part or purebreds will be no more.

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Susi December 6, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Thank you for writing, Pam. Not everyone shares your view (see “Chuck’s” comment below), but to be fair, he zeroed in on one passage and didn’t disagree (I don’t think) with the entire thrust of the article. I’m not sure I stressed enough in the piece how important I think the average person is to our struggle with a radical animal rights agenda. They’re the ones that will sway things, I really believe that.

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TS aka Chuck December 7, 2013 at 9:36 am

Not arguing against your points at all. But the question remains: what to do with all the animals that are lost or abandoned? If I’m understanding it right, you’re saying that by bringing in “outside” dogs, there’s no room at the inn for the lost and abandoned dogs, right? But that just makes me wonder why don’t they try to adopt out the dogs they already have. They would make money either way. BTW, the DDFL claims that they receive no taxpayer money to fund their operations. It’s all donations, grants, bequests, etc.

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Susi December 7, 2013 at 11:22 am

You ask a great question, Chuck. Why indeed do shelters take in more dogs from out of state when some dogs languish at the same shelter? I would be speculating, but black dogs, large dogs, old ones and impaired ones generally lose out when competing for the eye of potential adoptees. I’m not talking, now, about DDFL, but some shelters are in the business of moving dogs, and since puppies and cute dogs simply get adopted more quickly, those are the dogs they accept. We know of a shelter in California that “cherry-picks” the dogs they’ll accept for adoption going so far as to troll shelters in smaller municipalities for dogs they know they can place. Other dogs are shuffled off to a different facility to make room for the placeable ones. This shelter is often held as a model of success and its adoption numbers ARE high precisely because they take only the dogs they think they can adopt out. Then, too, is the issue of breed specific legislation. Denver Dumb Friends won’t accept any dog that even remotely resembles a bully breed because of Denver’s Pit Bull ban. When I saved a lost dog from getting killed in traffic a couple of years ago, I took the little guy to the Buddy Center in Castle Rock reasoning that his owners would look at animal shelters first to find their dog, and not my house. I learned with surprise that if the Buddy Center accepted the dog, he’d be euthanized because he looked like a Pit Bull and the Buddy Center was the “sister-affiliate” of DDFL. Disgusted, I took the dog home and spent two days putting up flyers around the neighborhood; happily, his owners spotted one of the flyers and claimed their very happy dog who, as it turned out, didn’t have an ounce of bully in him. He was a Boxer x Cattle Dog mix.

During the Colorado Springs fires both last year and the year before, my friends opened up their private kennel and boarding facilities to take in lost and displaced dogs. They never charged anyone a dime and the dog fancy came together to donate funds while here locally, we drove cars full of dog and cat food to help out these owners of the kennel which breeds champion Old English Sheepdogs. In this case, and at least a few others I can think of, it was the dog fancy which helped the pet-victims of a disaster.

Many of us would like to see the National Animal Interest Alliance’s “shelter model” adopted nationwide so that all shelters will be required to compile and share data. At this point, mot shelters aren’t required to reveal how many dogs are imported, how many of those imported dogs are placed, how many local dogs remain unadopted because of importation, how many dogs at a shelter are there for the second or third times and why, how much money is being actually made as results, etc. We know from the Center for Disease Control that easily 500,000 dogs are imported from abroad every year, something the CDC is watching with great alarm since these dogs are bringing with them parasites and illnesses not seen in this country for for years. Honestly, Chuck, it’s a mess.

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Anne Marie Duhon March 23, 2014 at 9:52 am

Susi, I am going to back what you say about “cherry picking” that is done by rescues at shelters with a first hand experience. My rescue was talked into “pulling” dogs from a high kill shelter in Altus OK, the woman that did it Desiree Witt told me that she had experience in this and knew the staff at the shelter. IT was all about the money. Some animals got hundreds of dollars in donations that went totally unaccounted for This Desiree Witt bilked my rescue out of several THOUSAND dollars in donations and dumped the animals that she could not sell/adopt out on us to the tune of 30+ animals in a 6 week period. I personally KNEW nothing of the chip ins or the donations were until I and my rescue were called on it and someone who had donated to a dogs care wanted to know where the money went. THAT is when the s#!+ hit the fan and Desiree disappeared and it came to light that we were suppose to have gotten several thousand dollars for the care of the 30+ dogs she had dumped on us. NOW understand, it DID NOT cost us ANYTHING to pull the dog/cat from the shelter and that animal came spayed/neutered vaccinated and hw checked and wormed! ALL at the SHELTERS expense but the people donating did not KNOW that. She and others that were pulling from this shelter would post the pic and the animals getting the MOST in chip ins were the ones pulled. The cute pups and dogs and the really sick ones because they pulled at peoples heart strings. SO yes the big black dogs got ignored. It is all about the money.

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Susi March 23, 2014 at 10:41 am

There are times, Anne Marie, when I would love to be wrong. I’d love to think that every animal rescue group in existence does right by the dogs without fail. Sadly, I hear all too often personal experiences like yours. Rescue is big business protected by the ignorance – some of it willful ignorance – of the public. How do we persuade the big hearted person or an largely sympathetic public otherwise? The question is rhetorical, I suppose, but I have to think that eventually the truth will “out” as people like you continue to share your experiences. Never stop telling it!

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bestuvall December 7, 2013 at 11:05 am

to Chuck who says: “But that just makes me wonder why don’t they try to adopt out the dogs they already have.” . the reason they bring in “outside dogs” is simple it makes MONEY and allows them to gt free advertising and free pleas for mo” money. That black stray possible “pit bull” ( except in Denver and another place in CO where they would be killed right away) does not bring in the money like a “Puppy mill bust” or a transport of small animals from the “stupid south” ( many transporters/shelter workers say people in the \”south” are too ignorant to castrate their pets.. so they are forced to transport .. because not only do “dumb Southerners” not know about castration they also never buy a dog from a shelter .. so they have to be moved or THEY WILL BE KILLED ( emphasis to show what they say.). I have seen people call southerners rednecks, stupid, ignorant, greeders and worse..
You can pick up your new used pet at the Wal mart parking lot.. or if it more upscale.. the Target parking lot ( LOL) even some churches allow pick ups..it is huge money.. and they rarely even have to shelter any of the dogs. They just pass them on..
Also it is true that many places do not have the volume of animals coming in in fact one shelter advertised to BUY puppies so they could resell them.. why.. because they said they could buy them and castrate them before they fell into the hands of “greedy breeders) look at it like this.. when a store gets low on inventory .. what do they do? they do not close they order more..

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Mazzuchelli December 10, 2013 at 11:49 am

While it is clearly unethical to bring in strays from out of state or worse, out of the country, to stoke the greenback quest, my better half will not be swayed that it’s better for the dogs to move them to more prosperous venues. Donations to humane societies stopped when I read about the practice. I give large dollars to the local pound for a spay and neuter program. This is an agricultural area and people don’t have the time or money to spend on this issue. The money actually goes through one gal who runs a local charity and stays on top of the government employees at the shelter. They despise her. I adore her. On the other hand, she is affiliated with several local stray dog mills where they charge hundreds of dollars for cute, alleged puppy mill dogs after you fill out ten-page qualifying surveys. I am definitely bitter since living on a small acreage, we’re not fenced, so I can’t adopt one of their animals. That’s fine. I got a Chihuahua from a breeder and a nice walking hound from the pound. To hell with the lot of them.

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Susi December 10, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a story like yours, Mazzuchelli. Truly qualified people denied a shelter or rescue dog. Absurd. Rescue dogs have become a racket, sadly, and I encourage people to do what you do: Donate to their local pound or shelter. Those places are desperate for funds, which of course they’ll never get from HSUS. There are people doing God’s work, as they say, like the woman of whom you spoke. They’re the unsung heroes in this whole mess.

A lot of us – A LOT – share your sentiment. I’m glad you wrote.

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Sharon M December 12, 2013 at 10:47 am

Thank you for writing this. And do you know how appropriate the CU tie-in is? Because guess what the “state pet” of Colorado is? The Rescued Pet. Yep. You know how a few states have a breed as “state dog” – well, we have a “need” as the State Pet of Colorado. Lovely. I wrote letters to senators etc. begging them to vote against this insanity. I think when I looked up the votes, one of the guys I wrote to voted against it. (I’m really not very political and just figuring out my district, etc. was a major accomplishment – I really should have remembered that guy’s name but sad to say I don’t and it would take too long for me to research it).

I consider Rescue to be the Legacy of Irresponsibility. And those irresponsible breeders and the irresponsible owners that they sell to, feel ENTITLED that some responsible person will clean up their mess.

There are some responsible owners who buy from irresponsible sources for 2 reasons: 1) they don’t know any better; and 2) there are not enough responsibly bred dogs to meet responsible demand.

It is a very sad mess and it is my biggest fear, that responsible breeders are simply “the tail of the dog” – we are the minority. I don’t know how to fight that. I suspect that part of the answer lies in educating BREEDERS to be more responsible. We have focused on educating puppy buyers on what responsible breeding is, but if they can’t find a pup from a responsible breeder soon enough, then they go to the less responsible sources.

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Susi December 12, 2013 at 11:18 am

Thanks for writing, Sharon – yes, I know all too well about Colorado’s state “pet.” You probably saw the same picture in the newspaper that I did the day the vote was taken. One of the legislators had brought his son into the Capital for the vote, and the kid was dressed up like a Dalmatian. Oh, the irony. My disgust with the situation led to my discovery that while there is a National Rescue Dog Day, a National Mutt Day, National Pet Day, National Puppy Day, Guide Dog Day, and so on, there is NOTHING for the purebred dog. I wrote to my legislator asking that he introduce a resolution calling for a National Purebred Dog Day, then I started a Facebook page because I didn’t know what else to do. In two days, the page had over 3,200 friends. Now six weeks later, it has over 6,400. I’m not sure I can call it a backlash to the rescue movement, but I think people are tired of being guilted for their choice to own a purebred dog bought from a responsible breeder. My goal is to at least exceed the number of page friends held by the vile Facebook page, “I Hate Dog Breeders,” which has around 22,000 friends. Surely, there are at least that number of purebred dog fans. In a perfect world, the higher the page numbers, the more leverage I feel I have to convince legislators to pursue the resolution.

But I have a deeper purpose in mind for the Facebook page: it’s to educate. The page celebrates purebred dogs, but in between posts about various breeds, I drop links and messages about the fraud of the Humane Society of the United States, and just before Thanksgiving, I ran an all out blitz of factoids about how radical the animal rights agenda is. I think I reached a few people who hadn’t know this stuff before. My goal is to have as many pet owners join the page so that they see that purebred dog fanciers or breeders aren’t the bad guys, educate them about the glorious attributes of purpose bred dogs – then expose them to statistics about HSUS and PETA, and so on.

Like you, I feel it really is a mess, but all I can do is what I can do. Consider visiting the National Purebred Dog Day page on Facebook and help us figure out how to reverse these troubling trends.

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Sharon M December 12, 2013 at 10:50 am

Oh! I just realized that it looks like you are from Colorado, so you probably know this!

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Joyce December 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

Susi, what a great post. May I suggest a potential topic for a future post (unless you’ve already done it, and I just haven’t run across it yet in exploring your blog site….LOL): an “elevator speech” to help educate the public about the failings and true agenda of the animal rights movement? A few easy-to-remember bullet points that we can use to spread the word? Thanks for your blog, it’s insightful.

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Susi December 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I appreciate the kind words, Joyce. I love your suggestion and would have done it by now except for the fear of underestimating my readers. I forget that not everyone will start a conversation with a stranger, so I think I’ll follow up on your suggestion!

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Hilal April 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm

That’s it? Where’s the last frame where the dog slams into you as you both share a hollywood roll, arm in leg, launhigg and yelping, down the slope?

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