Friday, September 11, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Thirty-Five

35. Put people before pets.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one story struck me as immensely wrong. While people were still being evacuated and rescued and searched for, while there were still missing or sick or dying humans, there were people who were spending their time and money and effort searching for pets.

I read, all the time, stories about people who have surgeries for their animals, people who spend days volunteering to rescue mistreated dogs and cats, pet therapists, pet spas, and, frankly, it makes me a little sick.

We have two cats. We've had other cats before. Growing up, I had cats and dogs and a parakeet. We've had hamsters, gerbils, fish... a whole petting zoo of pets. I don't dislike animals. Not a bit.

What I do dislike is the fact that people spend money and time and energy saving a dog or cat while people, living breathing human beings, suffer and go hungry.

This is sad:

But this is heartrending:

Americans spend between $40-48 million dollars on their pets each year.

I'm not suggesting not having pets. I'm not suggesting not caring for pets. I'm suggesting that we place more emphasis on people than on animals. I'm saying that before we send a boat out to round up dogs in a flood, we ought to make sure that all the people are alive. I'm saying before we complain that there's no money for health care, we might want to skip that trip to the cat spa. There are people who need jobs and health care and legal help and homes and cars and help, many of them right in our own neighborhoods, and we drive past them on the way to take the poodle to the groomer so she looks cute.

It's easy to follow this rule: Here's what you do: Before you spend even a single dollar on a pet, either send that little boy or someone like him a dollar, too. Or imagine looking him in the eye and telling him why your cat needs a new bed but he doesn't need dinner.

Every year, I contribute to the Shaw Twins an amount of money equal to what I spend on our pets and my music. You can do the same for them or someone else. If you want to know more about the Shaw Twins, click here. To find out how to contribute to their medical bills and other needs, click here.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

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