DEAR READERS: With all due respect to the pro-lifers who are striving to limit the scope of Planned Parenthood and curtail women’s rights, we have a deeper issue to examine: Regardless of respecting the life of an unborn child, respect for life is still human-centered and, therefore, fundamentally flawed.
Where is the respect for the lives of all creatures, wild and domesticated? We continue, as a culture, to justify exploiting and even killing animals for recreation, holding them in captivity for our entertainment, and slaughtering them by the billions for our consumption.
What of the forests that are bulldozed to create more land to feed livestock and for real estate development and golf courses? The climate crisis, now intensified by forest fires even in the Arctic and Siberia, is bringing the Hopi prophecy -- “When the trees are gone, the sky will fall” -- to fruition. Reverential respect for all life is enlightened self-interest. Such respect should include those mothers who have the right not to bring more life into the world for ethical reasons even if, as with euthanasia, the moral principle of not taking a life is violated.
Most ethicists have not done much better than moral fundamentalists over the centuries; they have limited the scope of addressing our inhumanity by precluding other species from equal consideration and legal standing.
The greater our empathy for other living beings, human and nonhuman, plant and animal, the greater our understanding and appreciation. There is also the possibility of discovery and revelation, as exemplified by 1983 Nobel Prize-winning plant scientist Dr. Barbara McClintock, who famously shared: “Every time I walk on grass, I feel sorry because I know the grass is screaming at me.”
In sum, we need, as a culture, to feel more beyond ourselves and our personal beliefs and convictions for the good of all life on our fragile and overpopulated planet.
DEAR DR. FOX: My dog Sami, an 11-year-old rescue (sort of resembles an Australian cattle dog), was chewing on her front leg and there seemed to be a tumor of sorts.
Our vet biopsied the growth, and fortunately it was benign. However, the dog seemed to be miserable, and other sores developed on her legs. A food allergy was suggested as a cause. I read online about chicken being a culprit, and after reading the ingredients on many dog food products, I learned that most contain chicken or chicken parts. The vet said this is probably because chicken is a very inexpensive way for manufacturers to add protein to their products.
I switched to a kibble that is chicken-free, and I make Sami’s other food using your recipe. Now, after about a year, Sami’s “tumor” has disappeared and her legs are lesion-free. I realize this may not be the cause of many dogs’ itching and self-mutilation problems, but this seemed to me, for Sami, to be better than the myriad drugs that were prescribed. And it cost me nothing to change to chicken-free food.
Thank you for your help and concern for our animals. -- M.H., Poughkeepsie, New York
DEAR M.H.: I very much appreciate you sharing your dog’s saga with a skin condition that was eventually resolved by removing chicken from the diet. Dogs’ skin is one of the first indicators of dietary ingredient intolerance or food allergy, which should always be considered, rather than simply treating the symptoms with steroids and immunosuppressant drugs that at best give temporary relief but can have long-term harmful consequences.
VA HESITATES TO PAIR DOGS WITH VETERANS
Only 19 military veterans have been paired with shelter dogs through a Department of Veterans Affairs program intended to help veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Scientific evidence that dogs can improve human mental health is thin, according to the VA’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Michael Fallon, and department officials are concerned about unintended consequences. (New York Times, 7/17)
Knowing the documented benefits of dogs for people suffering from PTSD, I am surprised at this report. Studies continue to confirm the stress-reducing benefits of animal companionship and even short-term contact, as per the following story.
HANDS-ON CONTACT WITH DOGS, CATS REDUCES STRESS HORMONE LEVELS
Direct contact with a cat or dog for just 10 minutes significantly reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in university students’ saliva samples, according to a study conducted at Washington State University and published in AERA Open (a publication from the American Educational Research Association).
Cortisol levels were lower in students who interacted with animals than in students who waited in line while watching others engage with animals, looked at still images of the same animals, or waited quietly without external stimuli. (KREM-TV, Spokane, Washington, 7/16)
If the Veterans Administration cannot do better for our soldiers in need of help, this is a call to animal shelters and dog adoption organizations to fill the gap. No need for some special breed of dog or special training. Many rescued dogs make excellent companions, and placement volunteers can determine the right dog for the right person and determine how much initial help is needed to ensure the dogs are well cared for.
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