My Beloved Cats (I had the one on the right for 18 years.)
It took an abandoned dog to turn a vision into a passion.
Introduction: A Journey We All Share
As a preface, Rodney personally converses with you and others concerned and compassionate about our best friends.
This is supposed to be a story about how I started K9Nation, but it’s probably about you.If you identify with that extraordinary bond between dog and man, odds are our experiences are to some extent identical. Communicating with people all over America for the past couple of years has been informative, compelling, and inspiring while fueling my drive and motivation.While these conversations have taught me a great deal, it's one particularly revelation that is responsible for where K9Nation and I are today. And, again, it involves you. That discovery was not that we share the same concerns about our companion animals, which is obvious, but how we all got where we are. So many people I’ve met started with a concern.For many, the concern moved on to a vision.For some, the vision transformed into a passion. It’s this sequence of experiences that you may be able to relate to.It starts with a concern that translates into a vision that evolves into a passion.So, where are you?You’re likely concerned about cruelty to dogs, cats, and/or other animals. You may have a vision somewhere in the back of your mind. It may be blurry right now, but the more you bring it into focus the more you will become passionate about it. The fact is that you and I are vitally similar and connected because we share identical experiences. You may be at the concern level, but you’re not too sure of a vision.Or you may be at the vision level, but for some reason it hasn’t turned into a passion.At whichever level you may be, there’s a lot more of us all across America—likely a great deal more than we could ever imagine. Animal cruelty, particularly the abuse and killing of dogs in the United States, is a common concern among a very large number of Americans. I wonder just how many Americans can find themselves at some point in the sequence of experiences. Probably millions! Now think of this!There must be at least hundreds of thousands of people whose visions have moved them into pursuing their passion against animal cruelty. There must be millions who have taken their concern to some stage of a vision still in their minds. But, there are probably tens of millions, or even more, who are concerned, and yet to begin their journey! So, what does all this mean? This means we have phenomenal potential.Since we are united in our concern, vision, and passion, why can’t we become united in pursuing our passions?Those untold millions at the concern level may not know where to turn.Those at the vision level may have difficulty in bringing it into focus.Those with a passion certainly would welcome support.All of us can unite our concerns, visions, and passions into a power to create an anti-cruel environment in which our companion animals can live in harmony with humans.K9Nation can serve as the nerve center for concern, the outlet for visions, and the vehicle for pursuing passions. Infinite are our strength and possibilities! With the hope that you will allow me to share my journey with you, I ask that you share yours with me.After reading “Our Journey” below, and exploring our Web site, please feel free to e-mail me with your experiences.I’d like to know where you are in the sequence of experiences, and how you got there. Where do you want to go?Do you see a role for yourself in K9Nation?I want to listen to your story. Thank you for permitting me to introduce myself to you. Rodney Hill
Probably, just like you, I’ve always cared for dogs. Dogs have been part of my life for as long as I can recall.As a child I didn’t give much thought to that special relationship we humans have with dogs; I just enjoyed it. While we forget some of our childhood friends, we seem to always remember our dogs, and our cats, too—our real best friends.
Like millions of other sympathetic individuals—again, most likely including you—I helped and donated to individuals and groups that help animals suffering from human abuse. Evidently there are lots of us because thousands of organizations and individuals have surfaced all over America over the years taking the lead in helping suffering dogs and cats as well as other animals.
You probably know people who have started or participated in breed rescues, adoption programs, and various causes related to what I call the all-encompassing horrible “plight” that so many dogs and cats must endure in our human, but so often inhumane, world.
The innocence and friendship of dogs captivated me at an early age. I think it’s the way they express their souls through their eyes—especially when they look directly into our eyes. Don’t we all marvel at the way dogs and humans interact with emotion and sincerity?The bond between mankind and dog is unique and very special for anyone who has been lucky enough to enjoy the true friendship of a dog.
Growing up in the fifties and sixties, I witnessed the progression of the animal cruelty movement in those and succeeding decades. More importantly were the changing attitudes toward the most popular pets in America, dogs and cats.
While cats have always been pretty much house pets, it seemed that dogs were being allowed more and more into America's homes, not so much as pets as they were family members.
Besides dogs, two other things have occupied a great deal of my life:education and travel. Having completed college and starting a teaching career, every summer vacation was an opportunity to travel the world. Necessarily, pets were out of the question, particularly when my career evolved to that of a group travel operator.
Even with a heavy schedule of out-of-town travel, I decided to adopt a pregnant cat and see that it was responsibly cared for in my absence.This kept me in the animal welfare loop and close to what was happening both locally and nationally.
As it turned out, I kept one of my new cat’s kittens and had them both spayed. The mother cat was with me as a devoted companion for 18 years.
For quite some time I observed a growing movement to fight animal cruelty. More and more groups had formed over the years; more and more charities were raising more and more money.In the back of my mind—and I’m sure the minds of lots of other people, too—I was hoping and waiting for the light at the end of the cruelty tunnel.
Share the K9Nation story with others.
Thank you for building awareness by sharing K9Nation.
Was it too much to envision an end to the way we abuse and kill dogs and cats in this country?This was part of a vision that was coming into focus as I observed (1) the growth of animal welfare organizations all over the country, (2) the expenditure in the hundreds of millions of dollars by public and private animal organizations, (3) the formation of numerous rescue and adoptions groups, and (4) overcrowded conditions for animal control departments of municipal and county governments.The promise of a changed society without widespread abuse and killing in our shelters was just around the corner. Wasn’t that what we were led to believe?
We—the American public—donated our money and contributed our time to help bring about changes that seemed only to became more and more elusive.
It wasn’t until the late nineties that my move back to education allowed me to once again have a dog. As any dog owner knows, it’s impossible to take your dog out in public without getting acquainted with other dog owners. It’s a given, and certainly a fringe benefit of being a dog parent.For over ten years a few of my closest dog-parent friends and I became activists for the welfare of our best friends.
We called our group the “Pet Protective” association, and with widespread local support we had the clout to wield significant influence. On one occasion a morning radio talk show host reported how a fiancé killed his girlfriend’s Chihuahua by drowning it in a toilet. Though heartbreaking, the host was disgustingly out of line as he inappropriately made light of the story and even laughed from time to time.Incensed, I publicly reprimanded the insensitive buffoon in a way that resulted in not only a remorseful apology, but also, I believe, his eventual dismissal.
During ten enlightening years of being heavily involved with dogs, my priority was educating myself about the animal welfare movement—where it’s been and where it appears to be going. A vision that I had been nurturing in the back of my mind for dozens of years began to manifest itself in increasing detail—the rudiments of K9Nation.
Disturbed at the thought of killing dogs and cats simply because they didn’t have a home, my vision for an unconventional refuge for dogs first took shape as an adolescent. Over the years, the more I thought about it, the more implausible it seemed because the idea was getting out of control as ideas just kept filling my head.Therefore, it remained in my imagination.
Just recently I came across a newspaper clipping in an attic box of memorabilia. Having forgotten completely about it, I was reminded that at the age of 16 I wrote a letter to the editor of my city’s newspaper. It seems the city had increased its budget to kill disowned dogs and cats. My letter suggested that we use the money to adopt the animals and to enlarge the current “pound” so that more dogs may live. “I’m going to do something,” I wrote as a frustrated teenager, “but I don’t know what right now.”
Funny thing. Though I had long considered my vision as improbable, the more I became aware of what was happening, the more the vision took on renewed meaning and credibility.Was it anger?Was it frustration? Or was it both?Whatever it was, it was haunting me.Every time I looked into the eyes of a dog I envisioned the thousands that at that very moment were being led to a room where within minutes they would put to death. It was disturbing!
One would think that as astounded as I was at the extent of animal cruelty and unbelievable numbers of animals killed in our shelters, that my anger would be satiated with all the organizations and charities dedicated to the plight of our dogs, cats, and other animals.On the contrary it only exacerbated my frustration! Something was wrong because the numbers of our best friends suffering and being killed in shelters just kept growing.
What I couldn’t understand was what I call “The Great Unanswered Question.”In my quest to learn about animal cruelty in America, the following became very clear:
· cruelty has been a widespread concern since the mid 1800s, and since the 1960s animal welfare interests have especially intensified;
· hundreds of charities have organized national appeals;
· thousands of local non-profit organizations have been formed to rescue and adopt disowned dogs and cats;
· tens of millions of people have contributed money, and many have volunteered time;
· hundreds of millions of people, not only in the United States, but around the world, have expressed disgust;
·books have been written, speeches have been made, and today the Internet is flooded with Web sites, blogs, and social media expressing anger and outrage;
·laws have been debated, passed, and defeated;
·issues have passionately been debated and argued so often not from the point of view of what’s in the best interests of the animals, but what’s in the best interest of humans;
·within the movement truth is muddled with lies, misquotes, garbled and twisted facts, and purposeful deceit; · conferences have been held attracting pundits and politicians, government leaders and charity notables;
· letters have been written, petitions have been signed, and demonstrations have been staged;
·pet food and other related manufacturers and corporations have given support;
·and millions upon billions of dollars have been spent for every conceivable purpose.
So, are you ready for “The Great Unanswered Question?”Here it is quite simply:
Why, then, hasn’t the suffering of our dogs and cats ended?
At least, why hasn’t the suffering been significantly impacted in encouraging and positive ways?
·Why are dogs still killed in shelters?
·Why hasn’t every despicable puppy mill been shut down?
·Why hasn’t commercial dog and cat breeding been addressed and logically brought under control in a way that reflects what likely nearly every American would want?
·Why hasn’t abuse of dogs, cats, and other animals by violent individuals been seriously addressed with laws and punishment that reflect the will of probably the vast majority of the American public?
Here’s something to think about. Imagine if we could add up every hour that every person who has ever unselfishly helped in the cause of suffering dogs and cats. Undoubtedly the number of hours would total an unfathomable, stupendous number. Would it represent decades? How about hundreds of years, or even thousands of years?At least isn’t it conceivable that it would total an amount sufficient to have brought an end to, or at least to have greatly impacted the problems that our animals and society continue to face today? Add up every dollar donated to every charity, raised by every non-profit group, allocated by every level of government, contributed by every business and industry, and spent by compassionate individuals on their selfless efforts to help our companion animals. Would it total a few billion? How about tens of billions, or even more?At least isn’t it conceivable that it would total an amount sufficient to have brought an end to, or at least to have greatly impacted the problems facing our animals and society today?
(Note: It is not conceivable that cruelty to animals will ever “end” as long as we have cruel-natured people and there’s money to be made. I refer to the “end” of cruelty to mean an end to its current unabated levels by instituting measures reducing the causes and keeping them in check. We can only hope to “end” cruelty by minimizing it to realistic, manageable levels.)
What do the following symptoms mean?Sadness, loss of interest in things you enjoy doing, feelings of frustration, and anger?These are signs that passion is building. Several years into this new century, I found myself so preoccupied with the injustice being inflicted on innocent dogs that I terminated my college teaching, placed my business in the hands of a manager, and prepared for a big change in my life—though I wasn’t quite sure what it was!Passion was consuming me, and it required my full attention.
My life was succumbing to a growing passion. Was I the only person so driven to better understand “The Great Unanswered Question?”When I posed the question to friends, it seemed to take them off guard.Was I the only person wondering why cruelty hasn’t been dealt a defeating blow?Was I too naïve? Was it too much to ask that with all the time, money, and work that has been expended, that our dogs and cats would no longer be killed by the millions every year?Where was I going wrong?
It was about this time that a friend in Texas (also a dog advocate) invited me to help him start a dog rescue and adoption on his horse farm.While it was something that I’d given thought to, it wasn’t the vision that had persistently gnawed at me.My heart wasn’t in it, but after searching my soul, and with trepidation, I accepted.
Imagine yourself climbing a high diving tower at an Olympic-sized swimming pool. You’ve been climbing for quite some time with a real desire to dive right in.As you reach the top and proceed to the end of the springboard your pace slows.You want badly to “take the plunge,” but you know you’re not ready.Your vision of diving in needs more thought.That’s the way I felt.Should I jump in and pursue my passion, or should I climb back down and preoccupy myself with local animal rescue?What a dilemma tearing at my soul!
Leaving my hometown meant leaving so many animal-advocate friends, but the decision had been made.On my way to the Lone Star state, I still saw myself standing high atop that diving platform staring indecisively into the water below.Did I make the right decision?Maybe I should have shared my vision with my friends instead of keeping it deep within myself. The dilemma was eating away.
Little did I know that a little emaciated mutt would give me a life-changing push off that diving board and into the pool once and for all!
My friend’s horse farm had a small, old house on it that had been neglected; this was going to be the headquarters for our animal rescue operations.It turns out that we had a houseguest taking refuge in the crawl space beneath the porch. This was when I met Charlie, a friendly but apprehensively cautious mixed breed that was known in the area, but a dog that couldn’t find a home.
A dark and muddy corner of the foundation was Charlie’s shelter that shielded him from the bitter winter winds, rain, and even some snow. Without much insulation on his skinny body, the poor dog, about two years old, shivered with fleas, a small open sore, and a few ticks. How happy Charlie was to be welcomed by loving humans and his new canine family! Slowly Charlie’s ribs became harder to see as he gained weight. With a warmer place to stay, neutering, and medical care, he blossomed. He now had the energy to run and jump with other dogs, wrestle and play, and playfully bark at the neighbors’ livestock, and chase off wild critters when they came on to the property. Charlie relished every opportunity to interact with people, and captivated everyone he met with his beautiful eyes and a tail that vigorously gyrated nearly continuously. Never have I come across a more affectionate, loving, dog.With renewed vitality, it was obvious that Charlie simply loved everything about life and living, especially being with the people who saved him.
For several weeks after Charlie came into my life, every time I glanced into his grateful eyes, and every time I saw him running through the fields just absorbing the thrill of living and being a happy dog once again, my eyes welled up with tears.They were tears of joy for Charlie, but mostly they were tears of sadness for all the dogs and cats—just like Charlie—locked in shelters, injected with phenobarbital, screaming with terror in gas chambers, chained and neglected in backyards, and confined for their lives in sordid puppy mill cages. How many other “Charlies” are out there struggling with agony just to survive?How many “Charlies” will freeze to death or expire under a hot sun because they aren’t as lucky? How many “Charlies” abandoned and starving will be too weak to stand, and slowly die a painful and lonely death?
Some would call it divine providence, others perhaps an epiphany or telling disclosure; whatever it was, it changed my life, and it all was in a split second. Here’s what happened: Today I travel quite a bit between Texas and my hometown keeping in touch with the important people who have helped me so much along this important journey.
One day upon returning to Texas, my dogs all surrounded me barking with excitement and enthusiasm, as dogs do.This time, Charlie was among them, clearing a path with a mini whirlwind created by his tail, and pushing his way to climb all over me and lick my face.Instantly for some reason that Olympic swimming pool came to mind. There I was in the air heading straight into the water! It’s as if Charlie came up behind me and pushed me off the diving board forcing me to take the plunge and rid myself of that relentless albatross eating away at my psyche.
Charlie has become a symbol of my vision, and an inspiration to pursue my passion.People who know Charlie agree that he behaves as if he’s enthusiastically grateful for being rescued and given a second chance at life. Whatever he is given, he accepts with outward appreciation that shows in his eyes and body language, especially his rapidly oscillating tail!Whether it’s a treat, a toy, or a chew snack, he savors it to the very end all the while communicating loving thanks as dogs—particularly rescue dogs—do so well.
As strange as it is, the dog that has been such an inspiration also brings sadness. With Charlie’s zest for love and life I cannot stop being reminded of the tragedy that surrounds us every day. If the joy, love, and smiles that our companion animals bring to us humans could be measured in weight, how many tons are extinguished as we shamefully kill so many of them—so many “Charlies”—year after year? Immeasurable!
The Birth of K9Nation
Long last, after so many years, it was Charlie that caused me to get the K9Nation ball rolling. First I wanted to share my vision with a few close friends hoping to get their input. Expecting some skepticism, the blueprint met with considerable optimism and enthusiasm, and for nearly two years I’ve received pretty much unanimous encouragement and support.
Together, like a perpetual think tank, some of my closest friends and I developed the vision for well over a year filling in the blanks and polishing it up for public scrutiny with our initial Web site, which you are now viewing.
Probably the best part of K9Nation is that it’s not an organization with an agenda that organizers decided upon, and that members blindly support with donations.It’s an organization in which the members create the agenda, and the members (Citizens) take part in making decisions, setting goals, and controlling its direction. I’m encouraged by the initial support we’ve received, but I can’t overemphasize the fact that our success is in numbers of Citizens, and in numbers of Citizens who participate. Bringing pet overpopulation under control, and eradicating the levels of cruelty that exist today can only be done if we just simply decide to do it. It’s certainly within our reach, and I believe we’ll do it because I believe in all the people who are concerned, who have visions, and who are pursuing their passions. We all want what is “in the best interests of our best friends.” Thank you for taking your time to become familiar with my journey…oops, I mean our journey; can’t forget Charlie. May your journey and mine, and the journeys of other compassionate people, all come together.