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home : columnists and contributors : columnists and contributors July 23, 2016

7/30/2014 6:35:00 AM
Harbor Springs...Then and Now
Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh

I was mulling over what to write about this week, my husband said, "You need to write about the fact that the way a society treats its animals is indicative of its condition." I don't disagree with that but I take it beyond that; I definitely believe that that you can safely assess a person's character by the way they treat animals. Caution: some probably over the top preaching ahead.

One of the benefits or detriments, depending on how you look at it, of cell phones, social media and the Internet is that you are able to see so much that you wouldn't have been privy to ten, fifteen years ago. We could watch Animal Cops or Sarah McLachlan commercials on television, but as sad and disturbing as these images are, they are reasonably sanitized for television. What you can see on the Internet is often too brutal to be imagined.

Last week I saw a video of two teen girls dousing a turtle in lighter fluid, lighting him on fire and then standing there laughing. Thankfully, since they were idiots and they not only videotaped what they were doing, they shared it on line and they have since been arrested. Problem is, they'll get to court and some attorney will argue that they are young, it was youthful hijinks and their lives shouldn't be ruined as a result of one mistake. It's probably good that I'm not on the juries for these cases, because I look at it differently. I think if you have that kind of indifference for suffering of any kind, you have real evil within you. This turtle was trying so hard to get away from the fire, it was agonizing to watch, yet they giggled throughout.

The concept that there is a correlation between cruelty to animals and to humans is not a new one. Centuries ago, John Locke said, "The custom of tormenting and killing of beasts will, by degrees, harden their minds even towards men; and they who delight in the suffering and destruction of inferior creatures, will not be apt to be very compassionate or benign to those of their own kind." If someone had paid attention to what Jeffrey Dahmer was burying in his back yard, would the horror that he inflicted still have occurred?

I know this column is more serious that I generally get, but this is a subject near and dear to me. A boxer rescue that I follow in the Upper Peninsula recently received five new dogs from a puppy mill; they were the breeding dogs and held kept in tiny little cages with basically no contact with humans or other dogs except to breed. The emotional and physical damage that was done to these dogs is horrific, all so that someone could make a quick buck. Thankfully, they are now in the hands of a patient and caring women who is teaching them that contact with humans can be a positive thing.

Animals are a gift to us and for anyone to consider them throwaway commodities is despicable. I understand that there are some justifiable circumstances that would require someone to surrender a pet, but shelters are full of "inconvenient pets." They were cute when they were little, they are more work than you thought they would be, or, the worst reason of all, you want new puppy or kitten, excuse after excuse to dump them. Study after study have indicated that there is a correlation between animal and human abuse and I personally take this a step beyond physical abuse; if someone is cold enough to walk away from an animal that loved and depended on them, I sure don't want them in my life.

So if I have a point, it would be a plea to not only treat your animals well, but also teach your children to do the same. Boys (or girls) inserting firecrackers into frogs or even torturing insects (pulling the wings off flies or burning ants) is not harmless behavior. The concept that it is okay to play with a pet when they are little and cute and then tie them outside, or worse, abandon them when they are grown is not acceptable. What does that teach about commitment? I'm done lecturing now; I probably shouldn't be allowed to watch random videos, they get me too worked up.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that we lost two people this week who were as much a part of the tapestry that is Harbor Springs as anyone that I can imagine. Ray Kiogima passed away last week; he was a staple at sporting events, an Elder with the Odawa tribe and an all around nice man. He and Mary Jane were fixtures on their bench downtown; it was sadly empty last week. More recently we received the news that Myrna Kilborn left us this week. I personally remember how kind and helpful she always was in the office at Harbor Point; I'm sure many of you have many more poignant and personal memories of her. Our thoughts are with the extended families of both of these extraordinary people.

Before we get to the birthdays this week, let's send some Happy Anniversary wishes to Steffany and Kenny Young on August 3 and to John and Corina McGregor on August 4.

Thursday, July 31, we send birthday greetings to Jack Reilly, Meghan Baker and to my beautiful great niece, Grace Morse. Friday, August 1, we say Happy Birthday to Sharla Meyer, John Bester and Bonnie Johnston and on Sunday, August 3 to Joe Medicine, Cici Kelly, Cissy Humphrey, Paula Ingraham Lawrason and Tracy Lauer Keller. Tuesday, August 5, Happy Birthday to Kathy Mendoza and we end the week on Wednesday, August 6, sending birthday wishes to Fred Waybrant, Cheanne Chellis and Carla Kobierzynski.


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