It would be nice if I could post nice thoughts.  Instead I have jumbles of words that run amuck in my thoughts like too-hungry mosquitoes searching for prey.  Prey.  Such a small word.  Such a necessary word in the world of the natural order of things.  But children are not meant to be the prey of grownups.  Neither are innocent animals.  I mention this because of the past 24-hours of my life that have been entangled with the misdeeds of one of my neighbors who is not really my neighbor at all.

A year and a half ago the family that once lived in the trailer two spots to the east of my house here along the Arizona-Mexico border wall disappeared with their seven children and five adults into Mexico.  I recently learned that the mother was deported.  Yet like several families in this small unincorporated town of 700 manage to do, rent is paid on their trailer as their ‘official’ address so their children now living in Mexico can walk across the border and attend American schools.

What they do with their life as adults only marginally bothers me.  There is nothing I can do so I ignore this situation.  (I must add here that I miss those children.  They were some of the sweetest, wisest, most intelligent and kind children I have ever met.)  Until last night.  Until this morning……

For some bad reason the adults in that family choose to keep a white pit bull on a chain heavy enough to pull a semi attached to a light pole beside a dog house beside their empty trailer.  One of those children (I imagine) walks over daily to water and feed the dog.  But not always and not now.  Not on this holiday weekend.

Other neighbors around here and I have spoken together about this dog who is known to bark for long periods of time when she is in desperate need.  We combine our efforts to make sure she has water and some kind of food to stave off her misery until someone who owns her shows up again to meet the basest of her needs.  We are all justifiably afraid of this dog and cannot go closer to her than the end of her chain.  We also all know if we call the Sheriff’s department to complain about this pitiful pit bull they will send animal control down here to shoot her.


I wasn’t going to write about this.  This isn’t ‘nice’, but it dawns on me that this is not a blog much about ‘nice’.  It’s about infant and child abuse and the intergenerational transfer of trauma through oppression, terrorism, torture and violence by adults who are NOT able to parent their children.  It’s a blog about all those on the outside with the power to intervene and do not.  It’s a blog about how to recognize abuse when it is happening to little ones, and about how to stop this abuse.

After barking all night, at daybreak this poor bit bull continued her nonstop barking.  I went to see her and found both her water bucket and food dish completely empty.  Her ribs are showing.  She has been so attacked by bugs she has scratched herself raw and bleeding.  I went home and then brought her the only food in my house I thought she would eat, two pounds of frozen hamburger – and turned on the neighbor’s hose to squirt her bucket full of water from a distance.  Then I FINALLY called the sheriff’s department and reported this heinous abuse (no water!? and our temps have been in the 90s +), knowing that on Tuesday when animal control officers return to work this dog will no doubt be put down.  Whatever her name is, she has NOT stopped her incessant barking.

The topic of cruelty to animals brings to mind that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a non-profit animal welfare organization originally founded in England in 1824 to pass laws protecting carriage horses from abuse.  The American Society branch was founded in New York in 1866.

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was founded in 1874 (and incorporated in 1875) as the world’s first child protective agency.  It is worth taking a look at the history of the formation of THIS society that came about when a church worker named Etta Wheeler approached the animal cruelty prevention organization regarding the mistreatment of a child called Mary Ellen McCormack, who was being beaten daily by her foster mother who cut her with scissors.  (see more history of the case HERE:  Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children )


Most of us know the difference between right and wrong. Most of us choose the right. This does not mean we are free of obligation on behalf of others to take action against evil wherever it shows its ugly head. Our human DISGUST reaction is our most immediate cue something is WRONG - it calls us to attention! And hopefully to rightful action.

As I slept my fitful sleep through the darkness last night with my doors and windows shut against the barking of the neighbor’s dog (shutting out the cool evening breeze always welcomed after a hot desert day), a gruesome scene appeared in my dreams in the passing of the hours:  Coyote.  Scruffy coat.  Dead on the graveled dirt beside the road.  Cut in half.  Torn and oil-blackened scrap of a tarp thrown over the head half of this poor creature.  I could see the end of its muzzle poking out.  I looked, sickened, disgusted and horrified.  I walked on.

Much later in dream-time I again approached this carcass.  The back half lay exactly where I had seen it the first time I walked past it.  But this time a paw reached out from under the tarp, gripped into the gravel in front of the head as this severed animal very slowly pulled itself forward.

I woke up.  Was my dream literally showing me the ‘half dead’ dog?  I went to help her.  She is still barking.


Some neuroscientific experts on human emotions name DISGUST among our primal emotions past our initial startle response along with emotions such as anger, fear, sadness and joy.  We have DISGUST for a reason!  Disgust is an immediate physiological reaction to danger to self and/or to others.  We must not allow a break between disgust and a positive reactions to threat and danger.

SEE notes and posts on this blog:





Other scientists disagree that disgust in an emotion, but I believe it is a human reactionary experience of great opportunity related deeply to our ability to survive by being able to ‘read’ other people’s facial expressions at nearly the speed of light.  If another person’s face communicates DISGUST when they eat something, we know instinctively that toxic poison and death are related to that expression.  If we happen to have that same food in our own mouth at the time we see that DISGUST on someone else’s face – we will SPIT our share out!

DISGUST is intimately tied with VOMITING!  Disgust is a baseline survival reaction that has kept our species alive on the physical level – and on the social-emotional level it is supposed to work the same way.  Disgust, in my thinking, is directly tied into our human body wiring connected to compassion and empathy, as well.  These are ALL connected to our stress response system – which has to be considered with ‘calm connection in a safe world’ on the one end and extreme danger on the other.

These are also some related posts on this blog:


*Keltner (2009) chapter on compassion


and these:








Photograph free compliments of this great site! Public Domain Photos



  1. I am so upset by this because that poor dog.I know where I live we have many rescue organiztions that would come and resue that dog! I am glad u did call animal control because dying a slow and painful death by means of starving is horrific.
    I could put u in touch with an organization that has contacts everywhere. I am sickened by this.
    Thank you so much for caring for him.

    • years ago when I was doing the chemo treatments my kids thought i needed a companion dog – we went looking in local pounds and they were full of pit bulls! Nobody wants to take them, not knowing their history. In Albuquerque, new mexico it is now against the law to own one

      It seems to me, too, that the Mexican culture is light years behind mainstream America in terms of care and love and protection and rights of animals. They are in the DARK AGES in that respect!

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