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  • Feb
  • 8

Why Was I Doing This?

Posted by at 1:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

nhThis was just one question I repeatedly asked myself on the way to a demonstration at the Golden Gate Kennel Club dog show. Did I really want to participate in a protest? Was it worth a 100-mile drive? Was I emotionally prepared?

Many people who are actively involved in animal issues understand that your heart strings are constantly tugged. You may be more attached to your extended animal family than what relatives deem “normal.” You constantly write checks to animal shelters or local rescue organizations. You have daily conversations about your “radical” diet. At times, it is exhausting.

On top of this day-to-day reality, the past week had been even more challenging. A friend announced the purchase of yet another “show dog,” and a cousin shared pictures of the eight puppies her unspayed dog had just delivered. When those nearest to you do not understand, the disappointment seems greater and the hurt runs deeper. I felt defeated and discouraged.  

In spite of my current mood, I decided to go to the demo. Within minutes of arriving, the venue staff was expressing their displeasure at our presence. Why did they not understand that we were there only out of concern for the 3 to 4 million individual animals killed in animal shelters every year? Unlike the breeders or the kennel club, we had no financial incentive. We were driven by compassion alone. Undeterred, we held our ground. Then the police arrived.

The questions I had asked earlier came back to haunt me. I was not ready for this confrontation. I should have stayed at home. Then something unexpected happened: The policeman kindly reminded us to avoid the entrance, and then he pulled out a picture of his rescue dog and said, “Best shelter dog ever. Good luck today.”

His positive comments set the tone for the day. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who immediately understood our mission and thanked us. They stated that they would never buy an animal as long as the shelters were full. Others seemed confused by our presence, but as they read our signs and watched the video of animals being euthanized, their faces softened, and they graciously accepted our literature.


I participated in constructive conversations about the impact that breeding has on the overpopulation crisis and on the misconception that purebreds were somehow better than other dogs. There were, or course, individuals upset by our presence. Some would avoid eye contact and look down at the ground as they quickly entered the building.  Others were more vocal about their displeasure. For these people, we were a reminder that their choices have fatal consequences. But we were also a reminder that a benevolent option does exist-adoption.

By the end of the day, my spirit was renewed. Surrounded by compassionate activists and encouraged by the kind words of strangers, I was confident that our message had been heard. I knew there would be shelter pups soon going to their forever homes. My original doubts were gone. I no longer questioned what I was doing there but instead questioned why it had taken me so long to get there.

Nancy Hartwig is an engineer by day, a harpist by night, and an ethical vegan all the time. She is currently working on her signs for the upcoming Ringling Bros. circus protest in Sacramento.

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  • Aileen says:

    My husband and I have always adopted our furry friends from shelters. People have stopped me on the street and asked me about my Husky . I tell them about how my son and I adopted her from a shelter. They can’t believe it ! You never know who you might meet ! If you can’t adopt . . . Donate to your local shelter !

  • bob says:

    Look for your pedigree dogs at shelters. There are many there and you can play with them instead of having to bath and brush them every time a hair is out of place!

  • karen says:

    I think you need to remind the people that you are educating that about 1/3 of all the dogs in shelters are purebred, and for the ones who have their heart set on a purebred there are rescue groups for every breed. Those groups quite often get the dogs from the shelters which saves the rescue dog AND makes space for another in the shelter itself. I personally have a couple of favorite breeds. Though I always spay/neuter and never buy I do like my purebred dogs.

  • cath says:

    sometimes support comes from those you least expect; more times than i can count, i have been approached by people and expected another confrontation – but instead delightfully, what has occurred was just the opposite! I think public demonstrations, however dreadful they can sometimes be, make folks exposed to them think about their impact on animals. It may just plant a seed – if you are not already active and attending demos – try one – you might be very surprised.

  • Tina says:

    Yes, I have demonstrated in the past. On numerous occasions police officers have expressed their support of our various causes. On one occasion, during a vegan protest with a cow, chicken and pig costume, one of the police officers had his picture taken with the costumed animals. It was very inspiring.

  • Billy says:

    there needs to be demonstrations like this on many issues at many different venues (shopping malls, sporting events) – cheers for a great article, and most of all for taking time out of your life to help shelter animals – animal lovers unite!

  • Carol says:

    Thanks for inspiring me to get involved with some of these animal rights’ demonstrations! Also, I’m gratified to know I’m not the only one who finds it exhausting to try to continually educate family members and co-workers about animal cruelty issues and the benefits of vegetarianism. I’m now renewed to get the word out more than ever! Thank you

  • bonnie zarrillo says:

    I volunteer at a local animal shelter and the house is full, you go girl!

  • Niranjan says:

    This write up is so inspiring! I was the first one in India to organize a protest against dog breeders outside a Dog Show, I was happy PETA India gave all the support. I’ll help PETA to organize more just protests across the country.

  • Jeff says:

    Hey cool I was at the protest too! 🙂

  • corrina says:

    I completely understand this im the only vegetarian in my house hold my partner isnt either but I’ve tried to explain all the impacts from eating meat and all the other things I rant on about so times everything just gets so hard
    I’m laughed at by family members and moked by friends
    My partner understands why I do it he gets it he just doesn’t have the will power to stop eating meat and dairy
    But at those moments when I look into my gorgeous tabbys eyes I remember its all worth it just for her and my other cat Bartok they are my life

  • Christine says:

    I was so moved by your story! Standing tall and speaking up for the shelter dogs who need homes is a testament to your compassion. Thank you for bringing awareness to the overpopulation crisis and for changing hearts and minds.

  • Kalista says:

    Nancy, this is fantastic! I just love this story, especially the bit about the police officer. It truly warms my heart. Thank you for sharing your experience, and for being there to stand up for animals in shelters that day (and every day).

  • Myshkin says:

    Love this post!!

  • Suzie says:

    Thank you Nancy for taking the time to share why you joined this demonstration. I attended on Saturday and was feeling much the same as you were and I also felt better after being there and seeing that many people did adopt rather than buy. It is very difficult to face on an ongoing basis the truth of how animals are exploited and suffer and I appreciate you being their voice.

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