I'll admit it, I did not expect to open this book to see two alpacas standing in a gorgeous kitchen. My mind kept asking, "So, where is this alpaca rescue? Was there an alpaca hoarder near Peotone that I didn't hear about? Wait! How in the heck do you get two alpacas in an elevator?"
Let's just say, the people in this stunning, weighty tome aren't your average pet owners.
And I will admit, it took me a few pages to get into the book and past my presumption that it would feature rescue pets exclusively. It doesn't. In addition to a fair number of rescues, there are dogs carefully selected from breeders. There is even a pet owner who purchased her dog in a pet store along with a pet owner who was a serial re-homer of pets who did not perform adequately for her in the show ring until the 8th stole her heart and was retained as a personal pet.
And if that were ALL The Chicago Pet Project contained, I wouldn't be writing this post because the very, very last thing I would ever want to do is to take away from the efforts of an extremely worthy cause to raise sorely needed funds. I told my inner Rescue Snob to pipe down, took a deep breath, and opened up my initially confused and conflicted mind.
My staunch belief in the exceptional work of The Puppy Mill Project kept me flipping the pages and I am glad I did because it is as fascinating as it is beautiful. While the pet owners all share a certain higher level status among Chicagoans, they do represent an impressive cross section of pet owners; each presented elegantly, their glamorous images accompanied by their own words on what their pets mean to them. From those who will only accept champions of the highest pedigree to those who will adopt the ugliest dog in the shelter despite themselves (their entry had me laughing out loud) to those who, like Bryan and Amanda Bickell, have become real champions for animals in need...if you want to really understand our relationship with pets as a society, this book will give you plenty to think about.
And understanding the place of pets in our society IS the issue. The truth is, we DON'T all agree on these issues. Right now, pets have the status of property in our society. And yet, we have pet owners who hate the word 'owner'. Some even feel bad using the word 'dog'. We have no societal consensus on whether dogs and cats are companions, pets, property or...livestock. This last point is THE reason that puppy mills are able to exist. You can read a non-graphic, full explanation of that here. In fact, there is a very compelling, in depth article on the issues of animal rights and animal welfare law in general this Harvard Magazine article.
And it so happens the issue of animal welfare, specifically of puppy mill dogs, is only heating up in Chicago. On Feb. 26, Jim Sparks Sr., owner of Park Pet Shop, and Lane Boron, owner of Pocket Puppies Inc., filed a defamation complaint in Cook County Circuit Court against activist Cari Meyers and her organization, The Puppy Mill Project.
And THAT makes this a perfect time to buy The Chicago Pet Project. Saving puppy mill dogs is a very costly endeavor. Being forced to fight legal battles at the same time only makes the challenge greater.
All profits from the sale of this beautiful book go to Millie’s Mission, a fund created to pay for the veterinary costs of rescued mill dogs. If you prefer to support the cause without purchasing the book, by all means, donate.
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