Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Tenderize Their Hearts, Lord

By Janice Price

The morning after tearfully burying my seventeen-year-old cat, I was e-mailed a story I would still have trouble believing if I was not already aware cruel people can exist anywhere, including in positions of authority.

In early July, a city supervisor in Jourdanton, Texas ordered two animal shelter employees to dispose of several “sickly” shelter dogs while their veterinarian was on vacation. The workers carried out their assignment.

The city claims there were only five dogs. A teenager doing community service who witnessed the incident says there were more than five. The teenager was so affected by what he witnessed, he told his mother, and the city of Jourdanton is now internationally infamous, under scrutiny from the press, the District Attorney’s office and the State Health Department. Because of public outrage, the extensive publicity and the possibility of criminal charges being filed, this supervisor is no longer allowed to work with animals.

“Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.” – Albert Schweitzer

What is so horrendous about this? The employees put the dogs into cages, carried them next door to the sewage plant and dropped the cages into the city sewage system. Yes, these animals were drowned in raw sewage. (This story can be verified at by doing a Google search of “Jourdanton dog drownings” or at http://archive.mail-list.com/petwarmers/msg00505.html )

For every beast of the forest is Mine (God’s), And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Psalm 50:10-12

And as for the dogs being “sickly” (as if that would be any excuse)? Well, they had such strength they broke out of their cages and the workers had to use snares to hold them under the sewage for “a couple of minutes.”

"He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." – Immanuel Kant

During an interview, a city official tried to dodge the bullet by claiming this was the only such incident. “You can take my word for it,” he insisted. When pressed, he finally admitted there was no record made of the disposition of these dogs. These animals in their care simply “disappeared.” The only animal deaths they record are those killed and billed by their veterinarian.

So there remains the debated question over whether this was the first and only time this happened. The claim is made that this was not an isolated incident, and no amount of tap dancing by officials has been convincing enough to warrant trust in the city’s disclaimer. How many dogs have died in this cruel manner – and what about cats and other small animals?

"Cruelty has cursed the human family for countless ages. It is almost impossible for one to be cruel to animals and kind to humans. If children are permitted to be cruel to their pets and other animals, they easily learn to get the same pleasure from the misery of fellow-humans. Such tendencies can easily lead to crime." – Fred A. McGrand

In Texas, animals can be “euthanized” in one of two ways and drowning them —especially in sewage — is not one of them. What occurred was an overt act of cruelty to animals, whether or not they were “strays.” Perhaps the fact that this has surfaced in the media will cause other towns and individuals to think twice about breaking the law in such a manner, but the death threats the city officials have been receiving are as heinous as the cruel crime.

The fact that, after this was brought to light, the city manager issued a written slap on the wrist for the supervisor and assumed the issue could be closed set a bad example for today's youth. If adults are cruel to animals — and get paid for it, no less — they validate cruelty as a casual circumstance of life. There is nothing casual or appropriate about cruelty.

"The tendency to cruelty should be watched in children and if they incline to any such cruelty, they should be taught the contrary usage. For the custom of tormenting and killing other animals will, by degrees, harden their hearts even toward man. Children should from the beginning be brought up in an abhorrence of killing or tormenting living beings." – John Locke

Cruelty is often a means of having control and expressing anger toward something smaller or more helpless than oneself. Children are not born abusive; they learn and mimic cruelty. Animal Control workers are often taught to report animal abuse, as it can indicate child abuse in a home.

"One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it." – Anthropologist Margaret Mead

I’m not saying these city workers were animal abusers as children, but I do not imagine they just woke up one morning and decided it was going to be fun to torture helpless animals entrusted to their charge that day. Neither do I imagine that if this was the first time, it would be the last if a furor was not raised.

After reading about the dogs, my friend, Evelyn, wrote, “There's much cruelty we are not aware of, but when we learn of it, to sit by and do nothing is cruelty too.” Cruelty should never be condoned or swept under the rug, whether it is against animals, children or adults.

I pray for those responsible for this and for other atrocious behavior — whether against an animal entrusted to someone’s care, a child, a spouse or a stranger — and I know many others are praying for such situations too. Unfortunately, cruelty will continue to exist in this present age, as there are those who have not come to understand the saving grace of God, nor will some ever accept it. But through His Son Jesus Christ, God is able to change those who have shown cruelty toward any of His creation, if they turn to Him, desiring to have their hearts tenderized.

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27

© 2005 Janice Price

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Jenny's Love
By Janice Price

There is nothing like the prospect of death to help you put things into perspective. Suddenly, vacuuming is not all that important. Spending time with the dying is.

In this instance, I am referring to Jenny, my feline companion of seventeen years. We have survived great patches of summers without air conditioning and winters without heat, bad health and poverty. When I moved across country several years ago, Jenny and another feline companion, Grayce, rode in the truck cab with me. Two years ago we grieved for the loss of Grayce.

Jenny has always given unconditional love, even when I was short-tempered and impossible to love, and I have always admired her feisty and independent spirit. She has put up a valiant fight, but eventually death catches up to all of us, animal or human.

Despite the heat and humidity, she wants to be held. With her head on my shoulder, she sleeps deeply, while I watch the barely perceptible rise and fall of her breathing.

For the last four nights I have tried to sleep on the floor. No amount of padding can make the floor comfortable or easy to rise from. But it’s important to me for her to know I’m nearby, where I can offer her sips of water and change her wet bedding.

I have had a lot of quiet time in the past few days. Of course, my mind dwells on our days of fun and laughter. She has given me lots of reasons to laugh. Since she went blind two years ago, she has needed extra care, but continued to be as independent as possible. More than once she has come close to death and rallied, but this time is different. There is a time to be born and a time to die. My heart is heavy and I’ve already shed many tears.

But my mind doesn’t just dwell on Jenny. So many things flood my mind.

I have no children, but each time I hold a sick or dying pet, I think of the unbearable pain of any parent who holds a dying baby or young child — even an adult child — for the last time. I can’t imagine such suffering.

I think of Mother, who never had the opportunity to hug her son one last time before he went into the hospital for the final time. Nor, for health reasons, was she able to attend his funeral.

I remember last year when I scooped up her old dog, Shorty, saying, “We’ll be back in an hour,” thinking he would get a shave and a rabies shot. Instead, I returned with his body. She didn’t get to say good-bye.

A couple of months ago, her other old dog, Benji, died at her feet. She sat alone with his body all through the long night. When it was apparent his time was fast approaching, every time I was there, I intended to pick him up and put him in her lap, so she could hold Benji one last time. Intentions are worthless, if not acted upon.

I think of my friend, Jay, in Ohio who flew home from Hawaii after burying her mother, only to find her husband had died in their bed during the night.

Of my friend, Carol, who endured the funerals of two sons who each committed suicide.

Of my friend, Pat, who has such a heart for helping others, and whose husband has been a quadriplegic for forty years. An accident changed whatever plans the young couple had for their life together. I’m sure they both grieved for the lifestyle that was lost, but they picked up and carried on together.

Of my friends Mark and Janet, who struggled for many years through Mark’s severe asthma problems. Then, when his health and their financial picture brightened, Janet was diagnosed with cancer. I picture him hugging her during her illness, wondering each time if that would be the last time he would get to hold her.

Of my friends Pat and David. Theirs is a similar type of situation. After years of his health trials, she suddenly became the priority after a diagnosis of leukemia. How often did he wonder if she would be there with him the next day or the next week?

And, of course, I think of Jesus and his agonizing death on the cross. Even though God had not the slightest doubt Jesus would be resurrected, I can not help but think there was joy in heaven when Jesus was reunited with his Father, and if ever there was a time for a Spiritual hug, this would be it – at least in my mind.

God can use any situation to teach us. As I sat here the other day feeling alone, with no local friend to call, I began to realize that after years of misunderstandings, Mother has become my best friend in the area.

When Grayce died unexpectedly. I worried about Mother living alone, and tried to find a way to move both households into one house large enough to accommodate her wheelchair and my “office” —not to mention our pets .— but was frustrated at every turn. Perhaps it was not time. Maybe neither of us was ready for such a move.

If it is not too late, perhaps the time has finally come for the merging of two households. Our circumstances are such that only God can open a door and provide means, opportunity and the strength I would need to pack up and move two households. But just as Jenny has needed me more the past two years, and especially the last few days, Mother needs more attention and help than I can give her hauling things back and forth between two houses. I want to be there for her as much as possible, just as I have been here for Jenny.

God has taught me so much through the life of all my pets over the years. Jenny has lived with me the longest and she is taking a little piece of my heart with her, just as each of the others have when their time came, but she is leaving an even bigger deposit of loving memories.

Letting others know you care for them and making amends should always be high on a list of priorities but they usually get relegated to the “when I get the nerve to say that” list or brushed off with, “He (or she) knows I care. I don’t have to say it.” Yes, actually we do need to say it, as well as to show it. I’m not very good at either, but I have to learn. Tomorrow, or even today, might be too late.

Yesterday, when I began writing this, Jenny’s heart was still beating. This morning her body, once so active and full of energy, grew still and stiff. I buried her beside her old friend, Grayce.

As I walked the dogs this morning, all I could think about was to pray, God, please make me into the kind of loving person you want me to be – and my pets think I already am.

© 2005 Janice Price

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


The Murphy's Law Dress Shirt
By Janice Price

For three years, I have been privileged to participate in the local National Night Out — a crime prevention event — both through my Neighborhood Watch Association and as an American Red Cross volunteer. The Police Department, Sheriff’s Department, State Patrol, Narcotics Task Force, Forest Rangers, 911 Coordinator, Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, Red Cross, National Guard and other community agencies, departments and town dignitaries get together with local media and convoy — with sirens and horns blaring — to designated stopping points.

I am generally invisible, or at least unnoticed, in a crowd. My first year the local Red Cross Chapter Manager was unavailable. People would watch me park the Red Cross truck, look at my Red Cross photo ID and ask, “Where’s Martha?”

Last year Martha and I arrived together at the old Police Department. As we were leaving to begin the convoy, a police Captain smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you. It was nice to see you again.” As we were leaving the first stop, the Captain. smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you. It was nice to see you again.” By the second stop, he was repeating this, but his eyes were asking, Why is this woman following us? How many watch groups can she belong to?

It would probably have helped if I was wearing a Red Cross ID tag, but that was one of those Murphy’s Law stories.

The other day Martha called and asked what size shirt I wear. When she arrived, I put it on and realized I should have asked, “Do you mean in Men’s, Women’s or Redwood Tree size?" Yes, Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will.) even applies to dressing for the occasion – or overdressing, in this case.

This year I was anything but invisible when we arrived at the Police Department parking lot. I can only imagine that I resembled Paul Bunyon’s Christmas stocking — a bright red shirt buttoned under my chin and ending just barely above my knees. A name tag was pinned on one side and “American Red Cross” and the chapter name were prominently displayed on the other.

I didn’t mind the good-natured teasing, but I was uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like a good delegate for the Red Cross with my shirt tail hanging so low. I did finally figure out how to fold the shirt over itself so I could tuck it under my waistband. It wasn’t easy, but what a relief! I felt more presentable, better able to relax and face the public as a representative of such a well-known community-oriented group.

As Ambassadors for Christ, we should be even more concerned about our attire, both in private and in public. But dressing in the Spirit begins in the heart and has little to do with clothing, jewelry, comb-over, shaped and colored hair, manicure or pedicure, collagen lips, down-to-here-eyelashes, or age-defying make-up. We should be properly dressed in modesty and humility, with our sins forgiven instead of hanging down around our knees for everyone to see. We can’t fold up our sins and tuck them away in public, although we do sometimes try.

To dress in the Spirit, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27), the new man (Ephesians 4:24); the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12) and love (Colossians 3:14).

According to Mark Twain, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

So, before deciding to “evangelize” the world —alienating one neighbor, friend, or family member at a time — make certain you are properly dressed in the Spirit.

© 2005 Janice Price

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Breaking Rules and Stretching Limits
By Janice Price

At eight months of age, Buddy is thirty-five pounds of lean muscle, selectively “untrainable.” In other words, he learns exactly what he has an incentive to learn, no more and no less, and he does his own thing, regardless.

Food is the primary love of his life. He can learn anything necessary to reach food. He learned to climb the chair bed/stairstep I made for my oldest cat to climb onto the washing machine. She used it to reach her food; so did he. She moved to the dryer and the shared food bowl was moved to a cabinet between the washer and dryer. He learned his way around the stool blocking his path and onto the cabinet, where food for six cats tempted him. He would crawl, climb, squeeze through — whatever it took to reach his favorite crunchy snack This was temporarily resolved with a two-pound weight in the cats’ food bowl to keep it from tipping, as much as possible, and a two-pound weight on the tray beneath it.

He is tall enough now to stand on his hind legs, lean against the stool and snag Jenny’s bowl on the dryer. I turn my back for two seconds while fixing a sandwich and he filches bread or toast from my plate on the kitchen table or steals my dinner when I carry a plate in to eat at my desk. Catsup, mustard or peanut butter already spread? That’s the slice he will steal first. And when I stare at my plate, thinking, I know I had two slices of bread, Buddy will stare at the plate, as if he, too, can’t imagine how the other slice disappeared. I can see the little wheels in his head turning: I thought you still had a few bites of hamburger left. Those cat critters must have taken it again.

I already know he is a lot smarter than he wants me to know he is. But the other day he took the prize for canine ingenuity. The large dry cat food bowl, with its tray and two-pound weights, now sits on the highest cabinet in the kitchen. Buddy can almost, but not quite tip the bowl over to steal food.

I walked into the kitchen and stopped dead. A kitchen chair that was supposed to be at the kitchen table was across the room in front of the cabinet. Buddy’s two hind feet were firmly planted on the seat. His two front paws were resting solidly on top of the cabinet. His head was deep in the bowl, with mouth wide open, about to scoop up as much dry cat food as he could fit in his mouth at one time without including the two-pound weight.

“B!U!D!D!Y!,” I yelled.

Now, Buddy knows when my voice has that many decibels (!!!), he is in b-i-i-i-g trouble. Did it bother him? No, he calmly backed down from the counter, turned on the chair seat, jumped lightly to the floor, and then ran like the blazes to crawl under the couch.

How can a dog that can’t remember where he left my half-eaten sneaker figure out how to access the unattainable?

I have learned a lot of lessons from my pets. In some respects, dealing with them is much like dealing with children. They need rules and limits set to keep them safe, healthy and happy. And then they expend a lot of energy finding ways and means to break those rules and stretch those limits.

People seem to do the same with God. Ever since Adam and Eve, God —like a good parent who cares about his children — has given rules and limits to keep men safe, healthy and happy, while men have expended a lot of energy finding ways and means to break those rules and stretch those limits. People also can be selectively “untrainable.”

It’s all right. We have to change with the times. Today, homophobia is out and homosexuality is in.

According to the law, I don’t need any reason to divorce my spouse, other than irreconcilable differences. But if you want to be technical about it and quote the Bible, divorce is permissible for reason of sexual immorality. I’m already involved in an affair with another person, so it’s okay to divorce my mate.

I have never stolen anything in my life! Well, maybe a paperclip or two - Well, yes, I have eaten an apple or three, and maybe some grapes, and I guess I should count the candy bars I ate occasionally while shopping.

So I copy and paste stories to send to all my friends to forward to all their friends. And, no, I don’t bother to ask if it’s all right with the author. I just delete the name and other information with it and – well, what’s the harm in that? The Internet wasn’t even a gleam in God’s eye when the Bible was written.

I don’t read the Bible. I can’t understand it. Besides, all these folks who write books about the Bible know what they’re talking about or their books wouldn’t sell.

It doesn’t matter what I believe.

I’ve never told a lie in my life. What do you mean, I just told one?

What’s the matter with being a Christian on Sunday and an aggressive business shark the rest of the week?

Why should I forgive him? After what he did to me, God would never expect me to forgive. Yes, I know Jesus is supposed to have died so I could be forgiven of my sins, but I’ve never done anything that bad to anyone.

Buddy will continue to test new ways to break the rules and stretch the limits, but he really is not “untrainable.” Patience, correction and love, along with age and maturity, will gradually change him into a more obedient pet.

Christians are not “untrainable” either. God exhibits greater patience than I will ever have with Buddy, and because he loves us, he administers correction when necessary.

We all sin and fall short of God’s perfection, but, still, we must age and mature in Christ. Jesus never made excuses, broke the rules or stretched the limits.

© 2005 Janice Price

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Sometimes You Have To Bail
by Janice Price

There’s something about determination that sets the blood pumping and the neighbors wondering, What is that strange woman doing?

In this incident, “that strange woman” used a crowbar to lift the heavy cover over the water meter, only to find the deep hole three-quarters full of water. The uncovered meter could not be read through the water and mud, so I traipsed into the house several times. First I returned with a large measuring cup — the one used for kitty litter, not the one used for food! — to bail water. It must have been a sight for passing motorists to see a not-so-young woman on hands and knees, bailing water out of the hole almost as fast as it was running back into the hole. (We have had some heavy rains recently.)

On subsequent trips to the house, I returned with a flashlight, pen and paper, a paper towel to wipe mud from the face of the meter, reading glasses and — finally — a magnifying glass. I bailed water after each trip.

Whew! The city’s utility bill was wrong. They did bill me for an extra thousand gallons of water and sewer usage.

In case this sounds petty, let me explain there was a stagnant water pool on the city’s side of the meter that they fixed earlier in the month. I went through the same procedure when I discovered the leak — minus the multi-bailing task — checking the meter reading against the last bill, hoping it would not show there was a leak on my side of the meter also. When the new bill arrived, either the city was in error or I had a slow water leak.

Today is Saturday. My choices were to either worry all weekend about the possibility of a leak or entertain the neighborhood. I chose to grab a crowbar and try to find an answer.

The first time I was billed for extra gallons of water was after a hot water pipe burst. It was caught early. I paid the bill without complaint, aware it could have been much higher.

The second time I was billed for a few thousand gallons over and above my normal usage. I called the city and was told they would not re-read the meter, but not to worry because if it was wrong, it would be corrected on the next bill. The problem was that my budget didn’t include “not-to-worry” water and sewage, and the metal cover was too heavy for me to move to check the reading to prove my point. I know; I tried.

So I worried; then I prayed. Martha stopped by and popped the cover for me. I called the city back and gave the correct reading. The meter was re-read and the bill adjusted.

The budget wasn’t quite so tight the next time I was overbilled. I did nothing and the proper adjustment came through the following month, without any effort on my part. If there wasn’t the concern about a water leak, I wouldn’t have bothered crawling around in the mud and wet grass bailing water today. The error should be corrected next month.

Some things in life are like that. If you leave them alone, they are resolved without any effort on your part. Other times you need to speak up and let people know there is a problem that needs attention. And then there are those times when you need to take action, to do something to help yourself, even if it entertains the neighborhood.

Yes, we can and should give our problems to God. Sometimes we have no means to resolve them. We do not see the whole picture or have all the facts, nor can we change another person’s mind or heart Some things we have to just leave with God and trust him to work them out.

But the fact is that in many cases we have to trust God to lead us and guide us through the problem. He is not coming tomorrow morning to wake me gently, brush my teeth, fix my breakfast, shower and dress me for the day. Nor will he phone the city office to notify them there is an error in my bill, or bail water out of the hole so I can read the meter. Some things I have to do for myself.

The first time there was a problem I needed physical help to remove and replace the cover and God sent someone to assist me. No action was required the next time, but if the city had not sent a corrected bill the following month, I would have notified the city their meter reader needed to send his equipment back to meter reading school. By the third time, I was physically stronger, able to use a crowbar to remove the lid and to turn the lid over into place when I finished. Action was required.

Head knowledge is what we learn in the physical realm; it is stored in the brain. I was going to use the term “Spiritual knowledge” here, as knowledge that comes from God — usually through his word but also through the “still, small voice within or wise Spiritual counsel — but I ran the term through Google and discovered that is not necessarily a Christian term today. So I will call it heart knowledge instead.

Wisdom is what we do with knowledge. Part of Spiritual wisdom is discerning when to act and when to wait on God, which direction to take back to him when we have wandered off the path, and which voice to listen to when indecision clouds our thinking.

Wisdom isn’t a crash course, especially not Spiritual wisdom. This is acquired through a deepening relationship with God. We learn to listen, to hear and to heed. I’m not an expert on the subject. I’m still taking the course with the rest of God’s children. Some days God’s direction is rest and I plow full-steam ahead into danger. Other days I’m dragging and complaining. The good days are when a lesson is learned because I was alert and responsive.

This was a good day.

© 2005 Janice Price