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Tag: religion

Dog walks into a bar

acebar


Our forefathers may have overlooked listing it in the Constitution, but I’d rank it up there with free speech, religious freedom and the right to bear arms… maybe even above the right to bear arms:

It’s the right to get a beer at a bar with your dog — one of life’s true pleasures, assuming you love beer and love dogs (and assuming it’s cool with the bar owner).

SONY DSCI’ve always felt, and often written, that allowing dogs into a drinking establishment — especially one that doesn’t serve food — is a decision that should be left up to individual tavern operators.

Local health departments, often, don’t see it that way, as was recently the case in New York City, where The Gate, a tavern in Park Slope, was told it can no longer allow patrons to come in with their dogs.

The city Department of Health based their order on a law prohibiting any live animal from being in a food service establishment.

The Gate is not a restaurant, but, under the law, beer, wine, booze and ice are considered foods.

Silly? Yes.

Unconstitutional? Should be, I say, tongue not entirely in cheek.

All 50 states allow residents to carry concealed guns outside their homes. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio have laws specifically allowing guns in bars. Bar patrons in South Carolina and North Carolina also aren’t required to disarm when entering a bar.

Twenty states, including New York and New Jersey, do not address the question of guns in bars at all.

It makes me uncomfortable, living in a world (and a state) where guns have more rights, privileges and protections than dogs.

And it gives me pause (not paws, for that would be a pun), that local health departments can get so worked up about a hound sleeping on a bar floor when Ebola is at our doorstep. Don’t they have more important things to do?

But back to The Gate.

After the health department laid down the law at the corner of 5th Avenue and 3rd Street, management posted a sign on the door of the tavern, saying, “with apologies to our furry friends,” dogs could no longer be allowed.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn pet owners have started a petition on the website Park Slope for Pets (see the upper right corner of that page) asking the Health Department to “allow dogs at The Gate” and reclassify bars that don’t serve food. As of this morning, nearly 600 signatures had been collected.

“We support The Gate’s dog-friendly status in the neighborhood as well as all other non-food drinking establishments that welcome dogs,” the petition’s sponsors say. “We are not looking for an exception for The Gate but rather a revision to the statute with regard to all non-food drinking establishments.”

SONY DSCI hold an even more radical stance. I’m for letting well-behaved dogs into places that do serve food, and even inside, as opposed to the patio (given it’s OK with the owner).

I’m more concerned with what’s going on unseen in the kitchen than the possibility of evil germs hopping off a dog and onto my plate of mozzarella sticks.

If its OK for service dogs to go inside restaurants, it should be OK for all well-socialized dogs — because all dogs, in a way, are service dogs.

My dog Ace, a one-time therapy dog who now counsels only me (and at a very reasonable fee) grew up spending some time (but not an inordinate amount of time) at a neighborhood bar in Baltimore I patronized.

I like to think he added to the bar’s character, and warmth, and friendliness, and vice versa. Admittedly, he also served as a social crutch for me, making conversations easier to start, making me more comfortable, keeping me from getting too tongue tied.

Just as dogs need to be socialized, so do we. And dogs and bars — independently and especially in combination — can help those of us who have difficulty in that area achieve that.

Dogs in bars lead to more social dogs, and more social people. (With the exception of those humans who are aghast by the prospect of a dog in a bar or restaurant and feel the need to file an official complaint, as opposed to just avoiding the establishment.)

“One of my favorite parts about going to The Gate was that I could enjoy a quiet night out without the lingering guilt of knowing my dog was waiting for me at home,” one dog owner told Park Slope Stoop. “… It’s disappointing that they are losing part of their character because of the DOH’s overreach in enforcing the Health Law.”

thegateWhile the city health department is barking out orders, the proprietor of The Gate, we’re pleased to read, isn’t just going to roll over.

The Gate’s owner, Bobby Gagnon, reportedly plans to fight the health department edict when he appears before the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings on Nov. 18 — not so much to be granted an exception as to clarify the law.

Dog owners need to push back from time to time, as opposed to just letting themselves be pushed around. I think that happens because dog owners are generally calm, easy-going, reasonable, level-headed people (thanks, at least in part, to their dogs), and because they realize having a dog — whether it’s a right or not — is truly a privilege.

Maybe if dog owners got political, played dirty, sported bumper stickers and insisted on exercising the right to have a Bud with their bud, we could resolve the problem, short of a Constitutional amendment.

Maybe if dog owners could be as strident and overbearing as gun lobbyists, they could enjoy more freedoms with their dogs.

Maybe, when authorities come to take our dogs out of a bar in which he or she is otherwise welcome, we should say, “Sure, you can take my dog out of this establishment … when you pry the leash out of my cold dead fingers.”

Maybe someday the Supreme Court will address the burning questions: Is ice food? And even if so, do we have a right to walk into a bar with our dog?

I’m sure critics will say it’s frivolous of me to compare taking your terrier to a tavern with our right to tote firearms, or our Constitutionally granted freedoms of religion and speech.

But are they really that different?

My dog protects me, like a gun. My dog nourishes and consoles me, like a religion. And he frees up my speech better than the First Amendment ever did.

(Photos: Ace and his friend Stringer at a Recreation Billiards, a dog friendly bar in Winston-Salem, Ace at The Dog Bar in Charlotte, and a Great Dane at The Dog Bar, by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; sign outside The Gate in New York, from Park Slope Stoop)

Organizer of “Touch a Dog” event in Malaysia apologizes amid death threats

touchadog2

Facing death threats, the organizer of an event aimed at softening the harsh view many Muslims have of dogs has apologized for the furor his “I Want to Touch a Dog” gathering has created.

Syed Azmi Abhalshi, reacting to complaints that the event in Malaysia was insensitive, said he was only trying to educate people — Muslim and non-Muslim.

i-want-to-touch-a-dog-1He said his intention was not to convert Muslims into dog lovers or lead them to violate the precepts of their faith.

Many Malays took offense at photos from the event.

“I organized this event because of Allah, not to deviate the people’s faiths, try to change the Islamic rules of law, poke fun at the ulama or encourage pluralism,” Syed Azmi said.

Since the event last Sunday, he has received threats, and posts on social media platforms have accused him of being “a Christian in disguise,  according to the Straits Times.

Syed Azmi spoke at a press conference Saturday in Kelab Sri Selango – but left abruptly because he feared for his safety, his lawyer said.

“We are very concerned with his well being,” his lawyer, Syahredzan Johan, said.

In the week since the event Syed Azmi, a pharmacist, has received more than 3,000 phone messages on his phone, many of them hateful and a dozen of them threatening physical harm, the New York Times reports.

syed

The event, aimed at dispelling negative perception of dogs particularly among Muslims, started out as a small get-together for those curious about dogs, but it was attended by about 800 people, about half of them Muslims.

Syed Azmi said he never meant to encourage people, particularly the Muslims, to adopt dogs as pets but was merely trying to offer advice on how to deal with dogs.,

“During the event, the participants were also given detailed explanation on rules and regulations on how to handle dogs,” he said, including instructions in sertu, the Islamic way of purifying.

touchadog

Some Muslim attendees kissed and cuddled with dogs, but organizers said that — despite the event’s name — wasn’t the intention of the program.

“There were those who wanted to learn to touch the dogs and there were those who just wanted to observe,” said co-organizer Norhayati Ismail. “I admit we had no control over the crowd and what they did to the dogs. There could also be those who came late and did not hear our explanation from the Islamic perspectives,” she said.

Although many Muslims in other countries do not view touching dogs as forbidden, conservative Islamic groups in Malaysia view dogs as unclean and followers are required to undergo a ritualistic wash if they come into contact with canines.

(Top photo: Najjua Zulkefli / The Malaysian Insider)

Less dogma, more dogs

malaysia

Hundreds of Muslims in Malaysia put their dogma aside Sunday so they could pet some dogs.

The event was called “I Want to Touch a Dog,” and it was aimed at addressing concerns among large segments of the Muslim population who think dogs are unclean, unpure and of no spiritual value.

It was organized by Syed Azmi Alhabshi, a pharmacist in his 30s who hopes it will help people overcome their misconceptions, sensitivities and fears of dogs and instill compassion for all animals, according to the Malaysian Insider.

About 1,000 people gathered at Central Park in Petaling Jaya for the event, which was promoted though Facebook.

Roughly half of those present were Muslims, Asia One reported.

Those attending were asked to wear coded colors — yellow for those who wanted to touch dogs, orange for those who just wanted to watch, and red for pet owners and volunteers.

“I came here to learn more about interacting with dogs,” said a mother of two who identified herself as Fatimah. “I’ve never done such a thing before.”

The ‘pettable’ dogs included a purebred Afghan hound, Chow Chows, and mutts.

Organizers also hope the event will help reduce rock-throwing and other abuses directed at dogs as a result of the dim view some Muslims have of them.

“Spent two-three hours of my morning strolling around Central Park and playing with these cute furbabies!” one attendee wrote in a post on Pinterest ” … I always thought that as a Muslim I needed to stay away from (dogs) by all means. Ignorance at its best? Perhaps. This program was a great initiative … to raise awareness about the position of dogs through the Muslim perspective and I even learned the proper way to wash-up after being in contact with a wet dog/their saliva.

“We are all so quick to judge and say that dogs are ‘haram’ because that’s what we’ve been taught all along, but we never bother to learn beyond that. Islam has never taught any of their believers to discriminate against any of God’s creations, so why should we treat these beautiful creatures any differently?”

(Photo: By Aileen Chuah / Facebook)

Pastor finds she can retrieve more souls with her dog, Kirby, at her side

kirby

The Rev. Arlene M. Tully jokes that there are some similarities between her dog and members of her congregation.

“He sleeps through my sermons like everyone else,” the Methodist minister said.

But there is someone that Kirby — the golden-lab retriever mix who is almost always at her side — reminds her of even more:

“Kirby is a living, breathing metaphor for God’s love,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “The way he expresses love is as unconditional as God’s love. He instantly and fully embraces every person that he meets and that is a more accurate metaphor for God’s love than human love.”

Kirby the Ministry Dog attends services at First United Methodist Church in Bangor, Maine. He’s present for church dinners and other functions. He accompanies her on home visits, and trips to nursing homes and hospitals. And everywhere they go together, she notes, Kirby has a way of connecting with people, and getting them to open up.

“He’s a catalyst for those kinds of conversations,” said Tully,

The 2½ -year-old dog was trained as a service dog by Canine Companions for Independence at its campus in Medford, New York.

If Tully tells him to “visit,” Kirby will put his head in the lap of a person. If she says “lap,” he’ll gently place his paw on the leg of the person he’s visiting. When she say’s “push,” he’ll open an automatic door by pushing the button.

Tully, 57, became the church’s pastor in July. While she grew up a Roman Catholic, she left the church as a college student. She worked in restaurant management for 25 years before attending Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.

Kirby, her second “ministry dog,” came to live with Tully in February while she was pastor of Pleasant Street United Methodist Church in Waterville, and he’s been helping her reach out to people ever since.

“Together, we have an instant bridge to people that I alone might not have otherwise,” she said.

(Photo: Ashley L. Conti / Bangor Daily News)

Group urges Catholic parish to cancel human-pig mud wrestling event

pigwrestling2

(If you’d like musical accompaniment with this article, click on the video at the bottom of the post, then scroll back up to read.)

The mission of St. Patrick’s Parish in Hortonville, Wisconsin, is to “be one with Christ in making the reign of God a reality … celebrate His love in Word and Sacraments … and be responsible stewards of time, talent, and treasure.”

Yet the Catholic parish has no problem sponsoring a fundraising event in which frightened pigs are punched, kicked, body-slammed and crammed into steel vats.

Apparently, they don’t see pigs falling under their “stewardship.” Or they think that “dominion” we supposedly have over all God’s other creatures includes the right to thrash farm animals in the name of sport. Or maybe the 44-year-old tradition is just too big a moneymaker to cancel.

Canceling the event — scheduled for this weekend — is what a Wisconsin-based animal advocacy group is calling for.

The Global Conservation Group says the event violates state laws prohibiting cockfighting, dogfighting, and other fighting between animals or between animals and humans. They say even being a spectator at such an event is a felony under state law.

The parish says the annual “Round Up” event consists of two to six people getting into a muddy ring and wrestling a hog — one they say is “sized accordingly” — into a vat.

“We take very strong precautions to make sure our pigs and our participants are taking care of each other,” organizer Glenn Van Handel, the chair of Saint Patrick’s Parish, told NBC 26.

The Global Conservation Group says the pigs face a high potential for being injured in the event, in which it says pigs are punched in the face, kicked, body-slammed, jumped on, yelled at and thrown into a bucket.

The group says it has filed reports with local, state and federal agencies alerting them to what they say is an illegal event.

A petition urging the church to cancel the event can be found at change.org

(Photo: Change.org)

Dachshund won’t go back to owners after all

The old dachshund abandoned with a note at a Los Angeles County shelter, then saved from euthanasia by a rescue group, then offered back to the “poor, sick and elderly” owners who wrote the note, won’t be reuniting with them after all.

Upon further reflection, Toby Wisneski, founder of Leave No Paws Behind, decided life with his original owners — two traveling ministers – might not be best for the 13-year-old dachshund, and apparently Otto’s owners have said they’re good with that decision.

ottoThe owners, initially anonymous, have now been identified as Chris Gonzales and his wife, Christine. That’s Rev. Chris in the video above, seemingly speaking in tongues at times, and not appearing too sick, poor or elderly. (Public access to the video was removed after this post appeared.)

The video, and some other interesting information, was unearthed by Mary Cummins, an animal advocate and wildlife rehabilitator who writes a blog in Los Angeles.

Cummins reported Sunday that Wisneski had decided that, in the dog’s best interest, “he will be remaining right here in our care and his humans agree.”

harley-note2Going back to the beginning of the curious story, the dachshund was found outside the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter March 6, tied to a basket, with a handwritten note that said:

“We are both seniors, sick with no money. We cannot pay for vet bills, or to put him to sleep. He has never been away from us in all those years, he cannot function without us, please put him to sleep.”

Before euthanizing the dog, the shelter called a rescue group, Leave No Paws Behind, which agreed to take him in. They named him Harley, got him treatment for a skin condition and pronounced him healthy enough to be adopted.

Wisneski, the group’s founder, also held out hope, at the time, that she might find the anonymous owners and return the dog to them, along with an offer to pay for all his medical care and food.

When the couple learned of the offer, and about donations coming in to help them, they came forward and agreed to reclaim their dog, whose real name is Otto, when they returned to town at the end of the month.

In an interview with KTLA, Chris Gonzales — though he wasn’t identified by name – said he and his wife were out of town and planned to return to California and pick up the dog once they raised enough money to buy new tires for their car.

What seemed, up to then, a heartwarming story, was slowly getting squirrely — turning into the kind it’s hard to keep the faith in.

Cummins, who had publicized the dog’s story on her blog in an attempt to help reunite him with his owners, did some investigating, and came away less than impressed with the couple.

gonzales-facebook“They are not senior citizens. They are not disabled. They are merely obese. They are not poor. They are traveling ministers who give little talks then beg for money. They are not a legal church, corporation or non-profit. They make $60,000/year,” she wrote.

“He’s one of those faith healers that puts his hands on people and then everyone shakes like someone having a seizure,” she added. “He likes to spit out mumbo jumbo made up words while doing so. He invites people to meetings at Sizzler or the Old Country Buffet restaurants. People pay for their food, listen to him talk then he asks for money. He calls it a ‘love offering.’”

Cummins now feels, in case it’s not obvious, that returning Otto to his owners would be a mistake.

While that means a detour before Otto finds his happy ending, we think that’s the right choice, too — based on what we’ve heard about his owners and the fact that they abandoned him in the first place.

Despite all that faith they travel the country professing, the couple apparently didn’t have too much in their dog.

Wisneski has said all of Otto’s medical problems turned out to be minor and treatable, and that he’s in good health now.

Here’s hoping Otto finds the home he deserves.

And that the reverends find some tires.

Praise the Lord, I saw the light

 

It’s dark down here. Even with every light on, even when the sun’s up, the temporary home Ace and I have landed in — a cellar apartment in an old southern mansion — is, given its subterranean location, something less than bright and cheery.

I have window wells, but little light shines through. I look out and assume it’s a rainy day — only to step outside and see that it’s as sunshiny as it can be. Down here, it’s as if it’s always 3 a.m. Ace wakes up, looks around, and — like me — assumes it’s not morning yet.

I haven’t been cursing the darkness. That’s best reserved for internet connections. But I think it has been keeping me from being awake as I might be, and I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done. Instead I’ve mostly been oversleeping, setting up housekeeping and visiting my mother. She lives about a mile down the road, so Ace and I have visited almost nightly — conveniently around dinner time.  I mentioned to her how dim things were in my apartment, and she, being a former newswoman, felt the need to share that — at least with my sister.

“This just in: John’s apartment is kind of dark. Details at 11.”

I’ve introduced you to my sister before, when Ace and I passed through Madison, Wisconsin. She’s prone to random outbursts of karaoke singing, sermonizing, deep thoughts and good deeds, and I was about to be a recipient of one of them — luckily the latter.

She called to tell me she had found four lamps on Craigslist, and that she was giving them to me as a Christmas present. All I had to do was drive to some town called Midway, and find the home of a man named Ken. She sent me an email with the directions. Like all her emails, it ended with the same quote from Edith Wharton: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” (Buying lamps via Craigslist wasn’t an option in Edith’s day.)

Thankfully, Midway was only about 20 miles away. Ken was in the driveway when I pulled in.

I popped open the back window of the jeep. He greeted Ace, noticed there was no air in the tires of my bicycle, still attached to the rack, and offered to pump some in. He helped me load the four lamps into the car, and told me to help myself to the kitchen items packed in boxes in his barn. They, like the lamps, had belonged to his mother, who died last fall at age of 98.

I tried to pay Ken $60 — $48 for the lamps, the rest for everything else I grabbed – but he insisted on giving me change. I stuffed as much as I could into the car — or at least as much as Ace would permit. Ace doesn’t like things rattling around back there, or any of the contents to shift while we’re driving, and given the back seat has been his home for most of the past nine months, I try to oblige.

After loading up, we stopped for lunch in Midway, which is next to a town called Welcome, at a place called The Dawg House, then headed down the road to the Midway General Store, where it was hard to find things because it was dark inside. But I got three copies made of the key to my new place, bought two plug adaptors, three packages of cuphooks and a big greasy hambone for Ace — all for a mere $11.

Ace nibbled his bone as I took the back roads home, passing church after church — all with marquee signs out front:

‘Hands joined in prayer are never empty,” one said.

“The church is a pit stop in the race of life,” read another.

“God’s plans for us are better than our own,” another advised.

Space being limited on church signs, attribution for the words of wisdom on them is seldom provided — so you never really know whether they come from God, the local preacher, Edith Wharton or some book, like “1001 Catchphrases for Your Church Marquee.”

Whether they are original words, or a reflection of somebody else’s, doesn’t really matter — as long as they are getting shared, because church marquees, even those that don’t light up, are all about spreading the light, giving life some meaning, tossing a little hope, inspiration and joy our way.

My new lights, once plugged in, didn’t lead to a hallelujah moment of the religious kind. But I can read now, and find where I put my coffee filters, and make sure the socks I’m putting on match.

On top of that, never having lived in darkness before, I’ve learned that, much like a chili cheese dog, light – the non-symbolic, simple wattage kind — makes me happy.

For Ace, a hambone works just fine.