It’s All About the Focus

Posted by Paula Mullen, ALDF's Executive Assistant on November 19, 2007

The holidays are upon us once again.

Now don’t get me wrong; I love the holiday season for many reasons. For one thing, the true goodness in people often comes out this time of year. And for another, I’m a sentimental sap; soon after Thanksgiving, I love digging out the holiday ornaments from my childhood, hanging up my companion animals’ stockings and dressing up my dog in his holiday bandanna. And I enjoy watching my loved ones open my gifts to them, and seeing their eyes light up if I happen to luck out and get them something they really need or want.

But with the joy of the season comes some difficulties that we animal advocates often face when we go "over the river and through the woods" to spend the holidays with our loved ones. For example: watching your sister sashay into the room in her mink fur coat. Or, watching her dogs shiver outside in the cold. Having dinner with your aunt, who is contributing to companion animal overpopulation by letting her cat have another litter of kittens. Debating whether or not to visit your family at all because they won’t allow you to bring your beloved dog.

Some of us also find that our dietary choices become front and center this time of year. You find yourself wondering if you can endure yet another snide remark about vegans from your brother. You ponder if that pink stuff mixed in with your sister-in-law’s green beans could really be bacon. (Who knew that a perfectly good vegetable could be so perfectly ruined?) Or my personal favorite, the question asked every year by far too many well-meaning but clueless relatives: "You’re a vegetarian but you eat turkey, right?"

And worst of all – thinking about all of the billions of animals worldwide who continue to suffer in some way or other, as you sit with your loved ones in a warm, comfortable home.

Okay, hopefully I haven’t thoroughly depressed you. Because this year, I think I’m going to approach things a little differently. In a recent meeting, ALDF staff learned about the phrase, "You get more of what you focus on." This simply means that if you focus on the negative, that’s what you’ll get, and if you focus on the positive, you’ll have more uplifting, positive experiences. It sounds awfully new agey and "woo-woo," I know. But many of us can attest to the success of following this simple rule of human experience. And it doesn’t mean that we should ignore animal cruelty and abuse, just that we should focus our energy on finding solutions.

So this holiday season, I choose to see the good in people and to find common ground where I can, instead of division. For example, I have a relative who is not a vegetarian but who wishes that farm animals would be treated humanely before ending up on her plate. When I see her this Thanksgiving weekend, I will be sure to have a conversation with her about something she’ll be very interested in, the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, for which some of us California citizens are currently gathering signatures. If passed into law, this state bill would outlaw three of the most horrendous cruelties of the factory farming industry: veal calf crates, pig gestation crates and chicken battery cages (see for more info).

This Thanksgiving week, I am also focusing on the friends and family in my life for whom I am grateful. This includes our beloved dog, Connor, who presented quite a challenge during his initial "difficult behavior" years. Every time we see Connor sitting politely (if bouncily) by our side, we are also grateful for his dog behaviorist (or as we affectionately call her, "Connor’s doggie shrink") who has enabled him to coexist peacefully with us and fit perfectly into our family.

And on a national level, how about the fact that ALDF won the Woodley hoarding case, and that the dogs, who suffered at the hands of Barbara and Robert Woodley for so long, are now officially able to be adopted by their amazing foster parents! Or the case of Maggie the elephant, who was recently transported from a cold Alaska zoo to bask in the bright California sunshine at a wildlife sanctuary. Or the fact that Adam, the kitten in Sonoma County, CA who was deliberately set on fire several months ago, is now done with his skin graft surgeries and is living the life of a normal, playful kitten. He’s been adopted by his caring veterinary nurse and has a happy life ahead of him. Watch Adam’s video:

These are just some happy endings for animals; there are many more I haven’t mentioned. And there is, of course, still much more to be done. But I say, somebody pop the champagne! Because now that we’re nearing the end of 2007, animal advocates everywhere have much to celebrate.

We need to take a moment to focus on these victories, and use them to shore up our strength as we get ready for the challenges ahead.

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