Vote, Damnit!

Up until in what was probably sometime in 2008, I was a dedicated listener of a particular Calgary radio station.  With some notable exceptions (*cough*Nickelback*cough*), this radio station generally plays the kind of music I prefer and has a popular morning show I would listen to on my way to work.

But one fateful morning several years ago would be the last that I listened to that particular radio station.

Since 2006, the Progressive Conservatives headed up by Stephen Harper have been in charge with a minority government.  And regularly since then, the opposing parties have threatened at various times and in various ways to dramatically topple the government and either force another election (surprisingly, not responsible for the 2008 election) or take over with a minority coalition.

Cuddling kittens is just one way our Prime Minister proves he’s an average Joe. (See: http://thingsharperdoestoseemhuman.tumblr.com/)

This particular morning show – as many here are – was unabashedly in favour of the party you would expect a Calgarian show to be openly in favour of.  Which was fine, I suppose; I was mostly just listening for the music.

But then the namesake of this particular morning show said something unforgivable.

Rather than advocating for a particular party, politician, or platform, he suggested that if those hooligans in the opposition go forward with a motion of non-confidence and force an election, everyone should just stay home.  Don’t vote.  “Send a message”, he said.  Don’t participate in that treachery.

And since that morning, the dial on my car has been elsewhere on the FM bandwidth.  Because that is actually worse than the occasional Black Eyed Peas song.

To advocate voter apathy – even in an uneducated attempt to label it a defiant political statement – was the last straw on the morning show that devised the “ass cream sundae” as part of a listener contest.  Should I have drawn the line earlier?  Probably.

Pity my poor husband who had to put up with me, still ranting and raving when I got home that evening about how it was completely irresponsible of a public figure, even just the local celebrity kind, to be promoting voter apathy.  October 2008’s federal election saw a voter turnout at a record low: 58.8%.  Pathetic.

If you want to “send a message”, sitting at home watching Two and a Half Men reruns is no way to do it.  If you don’t show up to the polls, no government official sits up and thinks about it.  They just think you don’t care, because there is no way to discern your staying at home out of protest from those who actually don’t care.

Want to send a message?  Vote!

Vote for a party or particular MP you’d like to see in power.

Or see it the other way, and use your vote to count against a particular party you definitely do not want to see win a seat.  If you’re not sure how to do this, check out websites like Vote Swap and Project Democracy.

Hate them all?  Or the system generally?  You can still show up to the polls and reject your ballot.

Provincial elections in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Yukon allow voters to show up at the polling station and actually refuse their ballots, keeping a tally of refused ballots.

For federal elections, the option is to reject your ballot.  This is different than spoiling your ballot.  Spoiling you ballot is to damage or deface it and to do so would run you a $500 fine if the nature of voting weren’t so inherently anonymous (unless you try to eat your ballot, which spoils both your ballot and your appetite).  So while you might get satisfaction out of folding yours into a paper airplane or writing a big “F-U” on it, those ballots don’t get counted and are just recycled away with other ones that are accidentally damaged.

To reject your ballot is different.  You can do so by submitting your ballot blank, by checking off two or more choices, or by writing in someone who is not a candidate.  Elections Canada actually tallies the rejected ballots, and in the 2008 election, 94,799 rejected ballots were counted (0.7%).

Though I suppose this method runs the risk of your ballot being lumped in with those honest/stupid mistakes that can also lead to rejected ballots, it still means you are politically involved.  Ballots are pretty straightforward and as idiot-proof as possible, so I might be so bold as to say the majority of those are intentional, which actually sends a message.

But the bottom line is: vote!

On Monday get off your ass and have your opinion counted if you didn’t already make it to the early polling stations.  Employers are required to give at least 3 consecutive hours so employees can make it to the polls.  Your card should be in the mail, but you don’t even need to be registered – just show up at your polling station on May 2 with your driver’s license.

I know, I know.  Canadian elections aren’t nearly as sexy as the campaigns put on by our neighbours to the south.  No one is asking for Stephen Harper’s birth certificate.  No one is calling Michael Ignatieff a “secret Muslim”.  And we have no noisy, crazy fringe groups naming themselves after 18th Century hot beverage disputes.

But it’s still important, and while they are trying (“hashtag fail”?), citizens in several other countries are fighting desperately for the right we take for granted.  It is our simple duty (how very Kantian) to spend at least an hour looking into the various parties and their candidates and determining where our priorities align.  Besides, the more you pay attention to current political events, the more interesting they become – even the French debate!

And like every major decision out there, there are a variety of online resources to help with this, not to mention the actual party websites themselves.

Want to vote with the party that best represents your animal welfare concerns?  WSPA asked each party about where they stand on animal-related issues, and you can see the results here.

Like to use online quizzes to best see which character from Friends you are or which party best represents your opinions?  CBC has a fun Vote Compass here.  Now, I’m not saying you should take the quiz and vote the results; I took the Vote Compass twice, got a different result each time and still plan to vote neither.

Apparently I’m a Chandler.

Listen.  I get it.  The same party wins by a landslide each time in my riding and it’s not the one I vote for.  But I’ve never missed an election, and this year will be the first time I wasn’t able to hit up the advanced polls like the keener that I am.  Actually, until Calgary’s 2010 municipal election, I had no idea what it felt like to have my chosen candidate actually win.  It was unsettlingly satisfying.

Yes, the first-past-the-post system sucks.  There are several blogs, websites, and undergrad poli-sci classes dedicated to the injustice that allows a party to govern with as little as 35% of the votes, and how 37% of the popular vote absurdly translates to 46% of the seats.

2008 Federal Election results as reported by trusty Wikipedia.

It’s a dumb system, I know, but that’s not grounds to stay home on Election Day.

Nothing’s going to change if you don’t have your vote counted.  On the other side of that same coin, if you like the status quo, you better get out there and vote to maintain it.

In short:  VOTE ON MONDAY.

Wordless Wednesday 5: Osoyoos in the Spring

On this week’s episode of Wordless Wednesday…

Photos from our extended Easter weekend in what was the warmest part of Canada – Osoyoos, B.C.

Sunshine, blooming orchards, ordered vineyards… not too shabby for one long weekend.

Tongue hanging way out – Moses wasn’t really digging the heat at first.

But there is a definite benefit to heading to a warmer climate:

Swimming!

Our ridiculous water dog had initially forgot he could swim, but it all came back to him soon enough.

And there were some relatively dog-friendly tourist attractions to visit.

“How to”? Really? If you can’t operate a poop bag, I might suggest you’re not qualified to own a dog.

I didn’t snag a photo of the “Marmot Crossing” signs

More swimming at the dog beach.

Okay, more like “lounging”.

Fun fact: that house, viewed from a street in Osoyoos, is in Washington state. And that dilapidated barbed wire fence is meant to keep us ruffian Canadians out.

(All photos were taken on the iPhone – left the camera at home.)

Forbidden Foods

You know, I like to think that most Soapbox readers are pretty dog-savvy.

So, if I were to write about how foods like chocolate, onions, macadamia nuts were dangerous for our dogs, I would think the general response would be along the lines of “yeah, yeah, I know – why am I even reading this?”.

The easy to find Wikipedia entry on food dangerous to pets includes the usual: chocolate, grapes/raisins, onions, xylitol (sweetener), macadamia nuts, apple seeds, peach and apricot pits, and hops (in other words, no beer).

And suffice it to say, if it’s bad for your dog, it’s probably bad for your cat, too.

But there are many, many foods that are potentially harmful to our pets that you don’t find on the typical lists.  And for anyone who has – or is interested in – breaking free of the kibble bag, these ingredients are definitely something to be aware of.

Garlic, for instance. Who knew?  While not immediately fatal, even small amounts over time can result in red blood cell damage in dogs and cats.  And for those of us who have emptied our brains of all highschool biology, it’s the red blood cells that contain hemoglobin and are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body and to vital organs, and damage can result in anemia.  So yeah, they’re pretty important. 

Avocado is another toxic food I wouldn’t have personally listed off right away, but appears on this extensive list compiled by the American Animal Hospital Association.  Avocado finds itself in list of cardiovascular toxins and the list of gastrointestinal toxins.  So remember to keep your pets away from the guacamole on Taco Tuesday.  Also harmful are eggplant (a neurological and gastrointestinal toxin) and the leaves and stems of tomatoes and potatoes.

Actually, the  AAHA list noted above also handily includes which household plants are also potentially harmful, which, while that may not be a major concern for some dog owners, cat owners should definitely take note.  Common bouquet flowers that can be harmful are most types of lillies, Chrysanthemum, Bird of Paradise, bamboo, and whatever the heck a Jack-in-the-pulpit is.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Not to be confused with…

Jackass-at-the-Pulpit

Though, at the end of the day, both are toxic.
 
Podium… pulpit… whatever.
 
But I digress.
 
And the question remains: what do you do if you suspect your pet has ingested a harmful substance such as chocolate or Glenn Beck?
 
The quick and easy – and correct – answer if you see your pet exhibiting signs of distress or potential poisioning, such as vomiting (more than usual, they are dogs, after all), diarrhea, or general discomfort, is to call your trusty vet.
 
If circumstances for a vet phone call or visit don’t allow, home remedies are available in extreme circumstances (emphasis on “extreme”).  If it is within 1-2 hours of ingestion, the toxic substance won’t have made it to the small intestine for complete absorbtion yet, and a solution can be to induce vomiting.  To induce vomiting, Michelle Bamberger in Help! The Quick Guide to First Aid for Your Dog, recommends using 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1-2 teaspoons by mouth every 15 minutes until vomiting occurs.  Of course, after this, it is important to ensure your dog stays hydrated and makes it to the vet when possible.
 
The other question is how much can your dog ingest before you should start to worry.
 
Moses, for example, is 175 pounds.  So if he finds a rogue M&M on the floor, I’m probably not going to worry, both because it’s cheap chocolate to begin with (actual cocoa content is the concern), and it’s a very small amount relative to his size.
 
For a great assessment of this very question, and for those of us who enjoy stunning visual displays of data, National Geographic has an interactive chart online.  According to the chart, Moses would need to ingest over 1,400 ounces of white chocolate for it to even give him a bit of an upset stomach.  Just 10 ounces of pure cocoa, however, would be fatal.
  

At 72 oz of semi-sweet chocolate, if Moses found it in himself to eat this whole bag, we'd be making a rush trip to the vet. (Photo: http://meganerdruns.com/)

For those of you with more, say, “average-sized” dogs, a 50 pound dog would exhibit symptoms after 6 oz. of milk chocolate, and could be subject to seizures after 20 oz.  If your dog weighs 17 pounds or less, the chart shows that less than an ounce of pure cocoa can prove to be fatal if not intercepted.

100g = 3.38 oz, so your dog would have to weigh less than four pounds for this entire bar of milk chocolate to be fatal.

So there you have it.

And if you couldn’t tell, this whole post was really just an excuse to use that interactive and informative National Geographic chart.  Seriously.  Check it out. It’s fun.

BtC: Actions Speak Louder (Calgary)

I do apologise in advance if I come across as a bit of a broken record for those who stop by quarterly during the Blog the Change for Animals campaign, but, while the cause is the same, I am happy to provide some exciting new updates from the front lines!

I first participated in BtC4Animals in October 2010 as a new blogger, inspired by Richmond, B.C.’s movement for a ban on the sale of dogs in pet stores.  And I really have to give BtC some credit for igniting the fire when I look back on the path that I have since travelled.

In January my BtC entry was a tale of continued commitment to the cause in spite of little to no recognition, alluding to a forthcoming bigger movement regarding the elimination of retail pet sales.

And now, I am happy to write to you all today about the Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) campaign!

Actions Speak Louder (Calgary) (ASLC) was founded by a group of us who were sick of sitting around and just talking about how change in the pet industry needs to be made – we wanted to do something about it.  And so ASLC was born and officially launched in early March 2011.

The first priority and focus of ASLC is retail pet sales, and we are currently in the process of obtaining petition signatures that ask the City of Calgary to implement a bylaw that will ban the sale of dogs and cats on all commercial and public properties.  Adoptions through legitimate rescue organizations, of course, are exempt, and we would be thrilled to see those retail stores that do currently sell dogs and cats retrofit themselves to enable collaboration with a rescue organization instead.  So no, we are not saying you will not be able to see a dog or cat in a pet store.  Instead, we would like to see an end to the breeding of these animals purely for profit and the treatment of these animals as a commodity to be bought and sold on a whim.

Do we think this is going to solve all animal welfare problems?  No, certainly not.  But it is an important – and very visible – first step, and has so far successfully got many Calgarians thinking more about the issues.

Sure, when we initially sat down we wanted to target pet stores, puppy mills, backyard breeders, online pet sales… you name it.  But in order to avoid being bogged down in the details or spread too thin among several issues, we decided to focus; one step at a time.  And the most visible, effective way for ASLC to start the movement here is at the municipal level.  Then, if enough municipalities follow suit (and the movement is growing), as in the past, that is when provincial – or even federal – governments begin to take notice.

While pet stores may indeed be a small part of the bigger overall problem concerning responsible pet procurement and guardianship, to suggest a municipal pet sale ban is entirely the wrong approach is to write them off as an non-issue altogether, which is inaccurate.  This is a good first step – emphasis on “first”.

And when I say ASLC has started to get Calgarians thinking more about where their pets come from, I am not kidding.  A full list of the our media coverage can be found here on our website.  Highlights include:

The Calgary Herald, March 21, 2011: Petition calls on Calgary council to ban selling of companion pets
CTV Calgary, March 26, 2011, article & video:  Local animal group not allowed to petition at Pet Expo
Calgary Herald, March 28, 2011:  Calgary Petland stores fight petition against selling dogs, cats

And most recently, this televised debate between an ASLC founder, a Petland store owner, and a veterinarian:

Alberta Primetime, April 7, 2011, discussion:  Selling Pets in Alberta (video)

As you can tell from the many comments to the online news articles, this is an issue many in our city are very passionate about.

In addition to media coverage, we have also received overwhelming and very encouraging public support.

The list of businesses and rescue organizations that hope to see ASLC successful is growing regularly, and include rescue organizations such as the Edmonton Humane Society, The Meow Foundation, and Pound Rescue; ethical pet retailers such as Pet Planet, No Bowndaries Pet World, Pet Valu, and Rocky Mountain Tails Pet Shop & Spa; and dog training companies such as Clever Canines and Dogma.  Not to mention those on the list outside of the pet community that have endorsed ASLC and helped to spread the word!

ASLC also currently has 39 locations around the city – and we add more to the list regularly – that have opened their doors to the cause and allowed us to have our petition available for their clients and customers.

So what can you do?

Spreading the word is key – we want to get Calgary (and everyone, really) talking and thinking!

No matter where you’re from, like us on Facebook!  Follow us on Twitter!  Tell your friends about ASLC and why they should care.

If you’re from Calgary, of course sign the petition!  While upwards of 60,000 signatures in a 60 day period would be required for a plebiscite (forced bylaw), ASLC would simply like to petition through the summer and obtain as many signatures as possible and continue to educate Calgarians about the issues.   It is Council’s job to address issues important to the City, so change can and will still come about if Calgary shows it cares and would like to see change – which is exactly why the City of Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services is also supporting the ASLC petition.  So, say we obtain the 60,000 signature target, but it takes longer than 60 days?  Or even just 20,000 signatures?  Those numbers are enough of a representation that City Council will raise its collective eyebrows and undertake a consideration of the issue.

If you would like to volunteer your time at an event, become a petition host, or have your company included as a supporter, contact us at info@actionsspeakloudercalgary.ca and we will make it happen.

We also have ASLC t-shirts and bandanas for sale and hope to add additional merchandise locations in the near future.  Or just pop by one of our events advertised on Facebook, sign the petition, and pick up a sticker or two.

If you’re not from Calgary, but would like to initiate Actions Speak Louder (YourCityHere), get together with a group of committed and like-minded individuals and drop us a line – we would love to assist from here in any way that we can!

To read about more causes from more bloggers, visit the Blog the Change for Animals link list here.

Wordless Wednesday 4: Telephone

You know the drill:  caption this!

(Laziest blog post to date?  Most definitely.)

Guest appearance in photograph by Levi, the lab.

What’s in a Name?

Passer-by:  “Jesus, that’s a big dog!”

Me:  “Actually, his name is Moses.”

I didn’t really think of the endless entertainment that frequent exchange would provide me when we were considering names for our new Newfoundland puppy back in 2008.

Lucky for me, the Husband and I are on the same page when it comes to people and historical names for pets; we both think they’re pretty awesome.

And I’ve encountered some pretty great human names for dogs.  Howie the Labradinger.  Douglas the Lab.  Larry the Newfoundland.  Maude the Labradoodle.  Walter the Great Pyrenees.  Bruce the Great Dane.  Nigel the Bulldog.  All great names!

For me – and for better or for worse – pet names tend to reflect what I’m reading or interested in at the time.  For instance, in the 9th grade I was mid-way through Michael Crichton’s Airframe when I named our family’s new cat Casey.  I was in University working on a paper on the Allegory of the Cave when I named another cat Plato (a female cat, no less).  After Plato had disappeared for several months (suspected coyote encounter), Husband and I (mostly Husband) took in a stray that our neighbours had been feeding but couldn’t adopt, and decided together on the name Isaac, after Isaac Newton.  And the most recent addition went by “Kitten” for a long time, until it was determined that her namesake could be none other than Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse, being the meddling little poop-disturber that she was (and still is to a certain extent).

But coming up with a name for our new puppy involved much more discussion and deliberation than any of the above.  For the weeks before we picked him up he was just “Blue”, going by the breeder’s coloured collars for them.  And we needed to come up not only with a name name, but also a registered name for showing and breeding.  So it had to be good.  And we both had to like it.

Some very good historical names were on the table from the outset.  Isaac wasn’t taken at that time, so both Isaac and Newton were options.  Edison was also a frontrunner at the beginning.  And both Noah and Moses were thrown in for consideration.  But once Moses got thrown into the mix, there was just no getting rid of it.

Now, I can’t actually say if Moses’ namesake is THE Moses: the prophet, male lead of the Book of Exodus, burning bush confidante and recipient of the 10 Commandments.

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments (1956).

Truth be told, the initial idea for the name could also be Moses Maimonides, who I got to know quite well in my final year of University, and still disagree with regarding the Problem of Evil.

Of course, even if it were the latter, to the general public here, ‘Moses’ refers to he who famously divided the Red Sea, despite still being a common male name in other parts of the world.  One person has even been offended by that biblical connection, which was both unexpected and unfortunate.

When it was first suggested, Husband was skeptical on the name.  But then we picked up our puppy and the suitability of the name was undeniable; he was Moses.

Consensus does seem to be that it’s the perfect name for our Newf.  And we, of course, agree.

So now I’m curious – how did you name your pet(s)?