This morning, on the first day of 2016, I sat enjoying my coffee and contemplating prospective projects for the next few months. There will, of course, be my usual run of writing projects–both creative and freelance–but then, a thought drifted into my mind that was quite unrelated. For some time, I’ve wanted to create something that gave back to the world, that enriched or ennobled it in some way. I don’t have much in the way of spare funds, so direct donation isn’t an option. But I do have several charitable organizations to which I subscribe–their posts and updates appear in my social media news feed with great regularity.
Beyond Casual Interest
As an anthropologist and a human being, I tend to gravitate towards causes that champion equality and seek to alleviate suffering. Naturally, I view women’s rights as human rights. To a certain extent, I also champion animal rights, since family pets are often used by sadists to consolidate private power.
In the Deep South, especially urban and suburban areas, domestic violence is a problem. Not that it isn’t a nationwide issue for Americans, but several cultural attitudes and customs render victim blaming par for the course. “You must have done something to make him angry.” Is often the first statement out of an officer’s mouth when answering a domestic abuse call.
While domestic abuse can happen to both men and women, in Georgia, there’s an assumption that violence is a legitimate response, and the woman simply pushed her partner too far. This is built upon thousands of years of masculine prerogative, and as with so many things, the South simply lags behind other areas of the country when it comes to correcting this assumption.
Pets and Abuse
Victims of domestic abuse–which can be physical, but is also commonly verbal and psychological as well–will often remain in a violent situation because they cannot safely leave with pets or children. In recent decades, it’s become easier for such women to take their children along with them to shelters. But what about pets? Science tells us that that the love humans give to their pets, not exclusively dogs, is almost identical to that which they lavish upon human offspring.
It’s this very fact that allows abusers to use the safety of a pet as leverage against their victims–women and children. But many shelters and charitable organizations will not accept pets. This isn’t due solely to a lack of understanding on their part. Rather, it’s a lack of means: personnel, space, or funds. I remember reading an interview with a Southern woman during one of my courses in public history.
She stayed with an abusive spouse for almost a decade after her children were grown and had moved out. When asked why, she’d responded, “Because of the dog. I couldn’t leave her there with my husband, who’d threatened to shoot her if I left him, and I had nowhere to go but the shelter.” The woman had waited until the dog had passed away, then packed a bag and left almost the next day.
Ahimsa House and Inspiration
A few organizations have stepped up in light of the clear connection between intimate violence and animal abuse. They offer space to the pets of people escaping abusive partners. This allows individuals to leave harmful living conditions with alacrity. But these organizations are still few and far between.
In Atlanta, one such group has done wonders with the community. But they still rely on volunteer work and donations to rescue as many pets from violent homes as they can. As I sat drinking my coffee, wishing I could manage to travel into Atlanta to volunteer or that I had enough spare money to give some to them, I realized I have a resource. And it’s a particularly good fit to their Mission to provide for pets of those escaping domestic abuse.
Here’s the Deal
No One Has Such a Dog, and No One Should is my favorite child, so to speak. It’s all about how silly my family and I get about our dogs. But it also delves into the relationship between our species and the domesticated dog. Why not run a bit of a fundraiser using this book? So I sent a message to Ahimsa House, asking their permission to talk about their organization and publicly state that a large portion of the royalties I receive from the sale of the book will be donated to them.
Over the month of January, I’ll be posting weekly essays about domestic violence, animal abuse, and Southern culture. I would love it if you joined me on this journey, since I’ll have to look up the statistics and other vital facts. It will be educational for all of us. If you can do nothing else, please share these entries, which will be obviously titled. Help to educate others.
Then, beginning on February 1, 2016, I will start the fundraiser. For six weeks, half of the royalties I receive for each copy of No One Has Such a Dog will be earmarked for Ahimsa House. Please help me to spread the word about this event, so I can present them with a useful donation. While they are a local organization, I think their success will serve to inspire other cities and states to begin their own programs for pets and owners in need of aid.