"HELP" painting by NDW Artist Donald E. Brown

Today I had scheduled an interview with someone who successfully organizes Peaceful Protests outside retail establishments that sell puppies. Due to recent incidents, this person has chosen to keep a low profile (although for the record, I always promise not disclose names or even the locations of groups or individuals if that is what they wish).  I pointed out that in this day and age of Big Brother there really is no guaranteed privacy or protection.  I read recently that with a new Google Image feature there is a way that your identity can be revealed by dragging your image into a Google Image search bar. If you are protesting peacefully, you are not breaking the law, but if you think your identity is safe, you may be in denial.  I also said that if more people knew they were being harassed, I think they would get thousands of more supporters. No one likes bullies. But, I respect what they do and as others have offered to talk, I will present those interviews later in November.

Earlier this year Whoopi Goldberg caused quite a stir on The View when she defended her right to buy a dog at a Puppy Shop.  You can image the uproar that comment caused.  Technically, she may be right, but we have the right to defend the rights of those animals that suffer so she can enjoy the convenience of buying a dog much like a child buys a toy…often at the expense of its parent’s physical and emotional health as they suffer in horrible or sterile conditions at puppy farms and mills.  I don’t know if she has come around but you can read more about the story here. http://dogblog.dogster.com/2011/03/21/whoopi-goldberg-wants-the-right-to-buy-pet-store-pups/

And speaking of how our consumer-oriented, disposable mentality is harming our Companion Animals, I am posting a link written by the terrific National Pets Examiner Penny Eims here.  It was just posted two days ago. http://www.examiner.com/dogs-in-national/death-desperation-and-struggle-what-i-see Penny is a writer who really “sees” the big picture.

Sometimes dog-bloggers are accused of preaching to the choir, but I hope I am reaching outside the canine-centric circle here.  I have friends who have purchased their dogs in Puppy Shops.  Yes, they are sweet dogs and deserve loving homes, but many of these dogs have health or socialization issues.  These people truly did not understand where their puppies came from.  They wanted a certain kind of dog and they wanted it that day! All they can do is share their stories and make sure people stop this behavior.  Show these “retailers” you are on to them…do not give them another dime.

Below, I am printing a portion a short story titled Human Directional.  It is one of the tales in my Short Story Collection, Something’s Lost and Must be Found (see ABOUT for details).  It is based on a constellation of stories and incidents, but is pure fiction, with a lot of truth and some “biting” humor.  Thank you for reading. Happy Halloween.

Human Directional (Part I)

Enlightenment can be obtained in houses of worship, halls of education, on a magnificent mountain top, or sometimes in the confines of a sweaty dog suit working as a Human Directional.

You’ve seen them, how could you not? They seem to be everywhere, at the corner of busy intersections; living breathing human billboards, hoisting big signs shaped like arrows.  Some dance and jump around in staged excitement, swirling, swinging, flipping, and twirling their signs.  Others stand slumped, stuck in place, brought down by boredom, heat, exhaustion…life.

But the sign they cling to is a life raft, offering its carrier a way to earn wages on which he or she can just scrape by, all the while pointed toward the Grand Opening of some new store in a strip mall, or directing house hunters to a housing tract featuring mini-mansions listed at “Market Adjusted” prices.

Does anyone ever grow up wanting to be a Human Directional?  Perhaps, but you’ll find that these hired walking signs have surrendered hope, at a point in their lives when any job will do because they lack skills, paper work, or opportunity.  Many exist in quiet desperation looking for some personal direction, some kind of sign, while actually being one.  Most won’t get the irony, but there are exceptions, like John, a twenty-five year old college graduate with a degree in business from a prestigious university.

 This formerly goal-directed young man had been laid off a year earlier and just never could find something to replace that good run of employment he’d enjoyed for three years.  For the past six months he’d done some light carpentry work, some house painting and worked as a busboy.  He’d become discouraged about the prospects of ever finding meaningful work with a good paycheck, the kind of work he felt someone of his education and background deserved.

John recalled a time not so long ago when he held little regard for those who were not so smart, so lucky, so entitled; the legions who labored on the lawns of others, waited on tables at chain restaurants, flipped greasy burgers, cared for the elderly, children, or animals… but now here he stood at a busy intersection dressed in a human-sized dog suit, luring customers to a store called PETS-4-U!

He had found his new job after answering an ad on Craig’s List, under the heading of Advertising and Promotion.  In desperate times the John’s of the world overlook a lot, including their inner compasses, when accepting a position like that of a Human Directional for a place like PETS-4-U!

PETS-4-U! had been in business at its new spot for just four months, having moved from one just a few miles down the road where it had been known as PUPS-2-GO!  Now with the Thanksgiving and holiday season near, it was time to take advantage of this new highly trafficked business location and rev up the lucrative sale of adorable pups.

“I need someone with a big bark and lots of energy,” the owner of the shop had explained to John during his interview. “If you can be available weekends, you’re hired.” he’d continued. “I’ll start you out at $15.00 an hour and if business is good, I’ll give you a raise and a holiday bonus.”

As this was the best offer John had received in a while, he accepted, what did he have to lose he’d reasoned? 

 “Call me Ron,” the pet shop owner had said offering John his hand.  “Too bad those good looks of yours will be wasted.”  With this, he’d presented John with his new uniform, a Golden retriever suit which John would be wearing on his beat. “Get it? You’re a member of the Working Dog Group now, a retriever of customers,” Ron said, guffawing.  “You can start tomorrow.  Just keep that big arrow pointed in this direction and move around a lot, get creative, act like a dog, chase cars, offer your paw.  Kids love it!”

John reported to his corner the next morning dressed in a dog suit the color of the amber-hued lagers he used to pound down at the upscale bars he’d frequented in days of yore.  He would have to get used to the stifling sensation that came with wearing a big dog head with slits for eyes, grateful it allowed him to remain anonymous.

The first hour passes without incident, but then it started.  As a car idled at a red light, John twirled and flipped his sign at the woman driver. “Moron,” she yelled, flipping him the bird.  “That place sells sick dogs from puppy mills.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”

But the SUV just behind her car, loaded with smiling kids brought better results.  From the car, a small boy waved at him, “Yay! We’re getting a dog,” he screamed as the car pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall.

“Ca-ching,” said John.  He waved at the car offering the boy a paws up sign.

John reported back to Ron after his first day of successfully directing humans to the store. “Good work, son,” Ron said. “Lots of traffic today.”

John removed his dog suit then took a good look around.  Stacks of crates filled with puppies of all shapes, sizes and colors lined the walls. There must have been at least fifty.  Some pups slept curled up in balls, others yelped and cried, sticking their little noses and paws through the bars of the crate as if begging for a loving touch.  John placed his finger on the under pad of a poodle puppy’s paw.

“Don’t get too attached to the merchandise,” Ron said.

“Where do all these puppies come from?”

Ron was careful in his response.  “Commercial Breeders from all over the nation.  That’s all you need to know.  Do a good job, and don’t ask too many questions and ignore everyone’s comments out there and maybe I’ll make you a sales associate.  Good money in dogs.”

Everyone’s comments? John wondered, recalling the woman who’d called him a moron earlier in the day.  How many other irate people would he have to deal with? John walked over to a crate with two yellow lab pups. “How much do you get for these guys?” he asked.

“Two grand apiece on a good day,” Ron said, smiling. “Labs are my bread and butter. Everybody loves ‘em.  Can’t get enough.”

John gazed at the dozens of cages before him. “There are so many dogs here, what happens if you can’t sell them all?”

End of Part I