Photo by Elizabeth Goolian

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Don't forget to watch!

Tonight, 8 PM Eastern, on HBO2. "Madonna of the Mills"--the documentary about a woman whose passion in life is saving puppy mill breeder dogs.

I'm taking bets on whether Adam Gopnik will be staring at the plasma box at the appointed hour. My guess? You guessed it.

Speaking of Adam Gopnik, on The New Yorker's "Ask the Author" Web site page, Gopnik was asked why he bought a puppy mill dog, and further, why he "would do anything to support this horrible industry."

No surprise, Gopnik went all adorable in answering the question, making light of his decision (or, more accurately, lack thereof) and tossing in a joking reference to Larry David. He said that he didn't know about puppy mills until after he'd bought the dog.

I can't label this an outright lie, because there's libel to think about. But I can tell you why I believe it's a lie, and here it is. The most important quality a writer has to have is curiosity. A writer who isn't curious about the world--and by "curious" I mean obsessively so--isn't a writer; s/he's a typist. Clearly, Adam Gopnik isn't a typist. Which means he possesses plenty of curiosity.

But we're supposed to believe that his daughter said she "could live with" a puppy mill dog, and he didn't respond in one of the following ways?
1. "Live with? What do you mean, live with? What would you have to live with?"
2. "A puppy mill dog? What's a puppy mill dog, and why is that a bad thing?"

I know. I need to get over Adam Gopnik. It just toasts me that all of us thousands of rescue volunteers work so hard for so long to get the word out about puppy mills and why it's so important never to buy anything in stores that sell puppies, and with one careless paragraph, he makes it all something that people can live with.

Maybe the HBO2 program will help make up for it a a little bit. Please watch.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Irresponsible Parenthood, Adam Gopnik Edition

Adam Gopnik is a New Yorker writer who has created a cottage industry writing about his adorable family. So much more adorable than yours! The sophisticated Gopniks used to live in Paris. Now they live in New York City. Where is it that you live again? In what sad little town? The Gopniks are so much more sophisticated than your family.

But as it turns out, when it comes to being a responsible parent, you are so much more responsible than Adam Gopnik. Whose adorable 10-year-old daughter wanted a dog. And not just any dog--a pedigreed Havanese. Adam Gopnik and his sophisticated wife didn't like dogs. In his latest interminable Personal History piece in The New Yorker, a piece titled "Dog Story," he uses words like "disgust" and "phobia" to describe their attitudes toward canines. So they kept putting her off.

Until one day, the adorable daughter announced that "she could live with a Manhattan pet-store 'puppy mill' dog." Love the quotation marks around "puppy mill." You can practically see Adam Gopnik making air quotes with his fingers as he tells this story. It's pretty amazing that a 10-year-old knows that any puppy she buys in a Manhattan pet store will have been bred in a puppy mill. Not so amazing that this kid--just dying for a dog--would decide that she could live with that.

What a wonderful opportunity for Adam Gopnik to teach his adorable child a big lesson about life. To teach her about making responsible decisions and not contributing to a cruel and vicious industry just because she wants something. Can you see Adam Gopnik escorting his daughter to the family computer? Can you see him helping her search for Havanese rescue groups and letting her know that adopting a homeless dog is more rewarding than funding the evils of the puppy mill industry? That's a lesson a 10-year-old--filled, as kids that age are, with empathy and love for little creatures--would pick up on in a flash. You're not as adorable or sophisticated as Adam Gopnik, but you can see that, can't you?

Well, that isn't what Adam Gopnik did. Instead, he bought his daughter a Havanese puppy from a Manhattan pet store--and by extension from a "puppy mill." Because that's how you teach children to make responsible decisions: You let them make uninformed choices and you give them exactly what they want when they want it.

And does he, anywhere in the seven pages of densely packed text that follows, express remorse over his decision? He does not. Instead, he talks about the evolution of dogs and about the feelings dogs have--feelings of "pain, fear, worry, need." Which just makes it worse. He knows that dogs feel pain and fear and worry and he buys a puppy mill dog anyway? Adam Gopnik is so much more dissociated than you!

I sent Adam Gopnik an e-mail, encouraging him to watch a program that will be broadcast on HBO2 at 8 PM (Eastern) on Wednesday, August 24--"Madonna of the Mills." It's about a New York woman who has saved some 2,000 puppy mill breeder dogs from the fates that await them when their breeding usefulness is over: Being buried alive. Being beaten to death with shovels. Being dumped on the side of a road or in a dense woods. I suggested that perhaps the breeder dog that had produced his Havenese puppy was one of the ones this woman had saved. Or perhaps not. I suggested he have his daughter watch the program too.

One of the dogs I adopted during my 14 years as a rescue volunteer was turned over to our rescue group at the age of 13 because, her family said, "She's not fun any more." The parents wanted to get rid of her and go buy a new puppy for their kids. I never thought of these people as very sophisticated, and certainly not adorable. But now that I think about it, they have a lot in common with Adam Gopnik. Isn't that adorable?