What We Can Learn From Stella, The Pit Bull Who Is Terrified Of Pineapples

stella pit bull scared pineapple

stella pit bull scared pineapple

So my dog is internet famous.

About a month ago I was driving to the store to pick up some chips and soda to take to a friend’s house. What I got instead was Stella. She’s a pit bull. At the time, she was a half-starved, terrified dog that was covered in fleas, worms, and cuts. Oh, and she also had conjunctivitis.

I can’t say exactly what her life was like before I came along, but I have a pretty good idea.

When I found her, she was skittering alongside the road trying to hide in a ditch. I slowly pulled the car over, took a few steps towards her, and beckoned. She promptly crouched down, started to shake in fear, and urinated.

But her tail was wagging ever so slightly.

She seemed caught between desperately wanting attention and fearing what might happen if she actually got it. After a little bit of time, and a lot bit of coaxing, she eventually approached me. We made friends for a bit, she sniffed around my shoes, I managed to get her into the car, and that, it would seem, was that.

Except, of course, the story doesn’t really end when the dog finds a happy home.

Stella, it seems, had never been inside a house before. Of course, I don’t know this for certain, but it seems rather likely, based on the way that she barked at herself in the TV, barked at herself in the mirror, barked at herself in the stove…yeah, she pretty much barked at anything shiny (and generally failed to interact with normal, everyday objects in a way that normal everyday dogs do).

But she was slowly starting to figure things out. Things were going great. Then the pineapple happened.

A few days ago, I returned home from the store with groceries in one hand and my laptop and car keys in the other. As if that wasn’t enough to try and maneuver, I had two super excited dogs bouncing about trying to get my attention.

And in case you aren’t already aware, trying to unpack groceries with a pit bull (Stella) glued to your side and a miniature pinscher (Guinness) wobbling about underfoot isn’t a terribly good life choice. So I sent the dogs to play outside while I took care of everything.

I let them back in once I was finished, and I settled in on the couch to get some work done. It wasn’t too long before I heard Stella barking, which is something that she never does unless she wants attention. I got up to see what she was barking at, only to discover her staring fixedly at the counter and barking at (seemingly) nothing. I thought that she might be barking at a fly, or maybe a treat. Anyways, it looked kind of funny. So I grabbed my camera and, well, you can see what happened from there…

Usually, when Stella is scared of something, I crouch down with whatever the item is and show it to her. She waddles over tentatively, gives it a sniff or two, and then goes on her merry way. For some reason, this didn’t work with the pineapple. Apparently, pineapples are all the horribleness.

Once it became apparent that she was going to bark until the pineapple met its demise, I turned off the camera so that I could help her deal with her utter (and totally absurd) terror. I had to call Guinness over and let him sniff the pineapple before Stella would even go near it. Guinness, if you are wondering, is 18 pounds. Stella is about 50.

I sat by the pineapple petting Guinness for a bit, and eventually Stella got jealous enough to overcome her fear.

Just like she did the first night that I met her, she tentatively approached, hoping that it was okay. And it was.

Afterwards, I watched the video and uploaded it on Youtube for my friends to see. From there,  Jezebel, Mashable,Daily Mail, Huffington Post, Metro, uproxx, distractify…pretty much everyone posted it.

Currently, it has more than 300,000 views on Youtube and another 360,000 on Yahoo. Now I know that this isn’t an unfathomable number of views, some wouldn’t even really call it viral. But I think it’s enough to say that my dog is internet famous.

And honestly, I am kind of surprised. I mean, yes, it’s amusing. But what I find most amusing is that, a month ago, she was wandering the streets, covered in cuts, uninating on herself when someone approached her. Now, she is quietly sleeping on the couch, snuggling her chew toy, completely oblivious to her fame. So this video resonates with me on a much deeper level.

Because the story doesn’t end when a dog finds a good home.

Ultimately, that night I found Stella, she wasn’t alone. Not really. There are a million more animals out there who still need someone. In fact, there’s more than a million. About 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs—about one every 11 seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year.

Please, take a moment to let that sink in. By the time you finish reading this sentence, another lonely animal will have passed from this world because she couldn’t find a home. Consider how many we lost in the time that it took you to read this article.

Now it’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States, but estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.

So I’d like to leave you with this simple point. If you liked this video, then please take some meaning from it. Because this matters. Get your pet spayed or neutered. Stop breeding. Hell, take that message from this even if you didn’t like the video.

*Please feel free to take this post and reuse it or share it on your own blogs/websites/social media.

Guinness and Stella

Guinness and Stella

Diamonds: A Modest Proposal

value of diamond

I left my camera in China, so I had to take a photo on my computer…my bad

About 15 years ago, I went to my dad and said that I wanted a diamond ring. No idea why I wanted one, but there we are. When I mentioned the ring, Dad responded by telling me that diamonds are very precious and expensive–that they are only given on very special occasions to very special people–that they are more than just a gift, they are a sign and a symbol of something very important (or something along those lines; I’m abbreviating…it was 15 years ago, after all),

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Sallie Mae or Welcome to Student Loan Slavery or Making Deals with the Devil or Sadness 101:

I wrote this because I think people need to know how Sallie Mae operates, and I wrote this because I want people to see that the system is broken. But mostly, I wrote this because, as much as I need … Continue reading

God, Religion, SB 2861, and LGBTQ Discrimination in Mississippi: An Open Letter to Rep. Joey Hood

“What we’re trying to do, gentlemen, is just protect the religious freedom of Mississippians.” 

Mississippi Rep. Joey Hood, as quoted in this article.

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Mr. Hood,* how can you say that your goal is to protect religious freedom as you pass a bill (SB 2681) which stipulates that “In God We trust” will be added to the state seal? You realize, of course, that this seriously undermines your statements about your desire to protect religious freedom for all of Mississippi’s citizens? After all, if you genuinely cared about religious freedom, then you would recognize that not all Mississippians believe in God (not the Christian God, not the Muslim God, not any God), and you would work to ensure that these individuals are represented by their state.

What I am getting at here, Mr. Hood, is that there are many atheists in your state.

I happen to be one of them, and I can tell you that this bill does nothing to protect my religious freedom. In fact, let me be honest with you, it makes me feel like an outsider in my own state. In God we trust? Who is this “we” that you speak of? It certainly isn’t me. But of course, you must have known that not everyone in Mississippi believes in religion. It’s 2014. Surely, you must have known.

And yet, you had the audacity to put such language in a bill that is meant to secure religious freedom? How do you justify such actions?

I realize that a majority of individuals in Mississippi may support such language being added into our seal, as a majority of people are religious; however, the majority’s demands do not always need to be met. Indeed, the United States is founded upon the ideal that all citizens will be free from persecution. To that extent, the government should ensure that the minority is not tyrannized by the majority or made to feel like “others” in their own culture. How do you think that this state sponsored endorsement of religion makes non-religious individuals feel?

I can tell you—it makes us painfully aware of the fact that we are the minority. Moreover, it cultivates an atmosphere of hostility. I have been told, time and time again, that I am immoral, that I am going to hell, that I am blind, indeed, that I am un-American, and all because I do not believe in God.

This bill is not going to make anything easier for me.

And of course, I have read the Constitution. I know that, “separation of church and state,” does not actually appear in this document. But I also know that a government that endorses religion is not truly concerned with equal representation for all its citizens; it is not truly concerned with an individual’s ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Such a government is, in fact, an unfit, broken travesty. It is a government that favors certain groups of individuals above others.

And Mr. Hood, we haven’t even gotten to the ways in which this bill endorses discrimination.

Let us be honest. We exist in a culture. And in culture, nothing occurs in a vacuum. In recent years, our country has moved towards granting full equality to individuals who are LGBTQ. Currently, 17 states recognize marriage between individuals who are the same gender. The United States Supreme Court recently ruled in Windsor v. United States that Section 3 of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that denies legally married same-sex couples over 1,100 protections and responsibilities of marriage, is unconstitutional.

That’s an awful lot of protections and responsibilities. So you can see that recognition of marriage is of the utmost importance for Mississippi residents (for things like power of attorney, health insurance, tax breaks, inheritance rights etc.).

In recent months, the news has been speckled with reports about Christians (or religious individuals, but let’s be honest, Christians) being attacked for refusing to do business with gay couples. In relation to one such case, Fox News asserted that, “in today’s America – gay rights trump religious rights.”

Yet, marriage between individuals of the same gender is banned in Mississippi. This is extremely concerning, as Mississippi uses marriage as the basis for determining a number of different benefits. Moreover, in Mississippi, same sex couples do not have hospital visitation rights. In Mississippi, landlords can discriminate against individuals based on gender and sexual orientation. In Mississippi, employers can discriminate against individuals based on gender and sexual orientation.

What’s more, in Mississippi, individuals of the same gender cannot adopt a child together. Considering that Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the Union, one would think that those in government would be concerned with ensuring that there are as many happy, healthy homes as possible. Sadly, this is not the case. Although there is no evidence that same sex relationships cause any harm to children (or to any one else in society), Mississippi still will not allow same sex couples to adopt. What possible justification is there for this besides bigotry, ignorance, and religious intolerance?

The aforementioned is not a rhetorical question, Mr. Hood. As a representative of the state of Mississippi, you should be able to justify the laws of your state, or you should be working to change them.

Given all of the aforementioned, it seems that gay rights do not, in fact, trump the rights of religious people. Religious people can marry. They can adopt. They cannot be fired because of their religion, but they can fire people for being LGBTQ. They cannot be denied housing because of their religion, but they can deny people housing because they are LGBTQ. Indeed, in Mississippi, the government openly acknowledges, “in God we trust.”

In short, Mr. Hood, Mississippi is a haven for the religious individual. It is, in many ways, hell on Earth for those who are LGBTQ.

However, in recent weeks, certain areas of Mississippi have been working against the discriminatory legislation in the state. I am proud to say that my own town, Hattiesburg, recently passed a referendum acknowledging the basic dignity and worth of all LGBTQ individuals.

And in the midst of this conversation, Mississippi passes a bill–not to secure rights for LGBTQ People–to secure rights for religious individuals.

Are we truly to suspect that this bill is not a direct response to the conversation currently taking place about LGBTQ people in our country and in our state? Are we truly to believe that this bill is about securing religious freedom when (as I have already clearly articulated) the freedoms of religious individuals are not at all infringed on in our state? Indeed, are we to believe that you were truly concerned about religious freedom and that your only goal was to secure their rights, despite the fact that LGBTQ people in Mississippi are denied access to a number of the most basic and fundamental protections?

Isn’t it far more likely that you are directly responding to the recent advancements in the freedoms and protections given to LGBTQ individuals in our nation, and trying to work against these advancements? In a state where LGBTQ people already have next to no security, where the government and its representatives have already boldly shown (though constitutional amendments aimed at denying LGBTQ individuals’ rights) that they are determined to keep LGBTQ people second class citizens, isn’t it more likely that this bill was really meant to ensure that religious individuals have the right to deny LGBTQ people service?

I fail to see how you could be so overwhelmingly concerned with protecting religious freedom and simultaneously care so very little (indeed, not care at all) about the LGBTQ and non-religious individuals in your state. Such a position reeks of bigotry and prejudice. Even giving you the benefit of the doubt (that this really isn’t just an attack on LGBTQ people, but a genuine effort to secure religious freedom), let me tell you this:

There are many individuals in our society who are underrepresented and denied access to employment, housing, education, and health care. Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and worst education systems in the U.S. The poverty level in Mississippi is nearly 10% higher than the national average. I suggest you focus on some of these issues instead. Because there are a lot of individuals who need your help, who need to know that you are going to bat for them.

You are in a unique and privileged position. Mr. Hood, you have the ability to enact real change. I hope you do better in the future.

*Joey Hood is not actually my representative; however, my representative, Toby Barker, voted against this bill. Hence, the letter to Mr. Hood. I encourage all individuals to contact Mr. Hood (and other Mississippi representatives who voted in favor of this bill) regarding this issue.

Telephone Pictionary Art: A Great Party Game (with or without drinking )

Telephone Pictionary combines two of the most fantastical games in existence–Telephone and Pictionary (obviously)–and it’s great to play this as a drinking game whilst consuming copious amounts of alcohol, or to play without alcohol. The rules are rather simple. Essentially, you pass a phrase or an image along a string of people and see how horribly mangled it is at the end of the line. I created this post after playing it with a few friends one night. If you’ve never played the game before, I’ll briefly go over the specifics to help you understand what you are seeing:

  1. Give everyone who is playing a stack of index cards equal to the number of players (if you have 6 players, everyone needs 6 index cards).
  2. Each person writes a word or a phrase on their index card (phrases generally work better, as they are much more amusing and fun to draw).
  3. Everyone passes their stack to the person sitting next to them.
  4. Players look at the phrase written by the person before them, then they move the index card with the phrase on it to the bottom of the stack and attempt to draw a picture of the phrase.
  5. Everyone passes their stack (with the drawing on top) to the person sitting next to them.
  6. Players look at the drawing created by the person before them, then they move the index card with the drawing on it to the bottom of the stack. Next, they interpret the image and write their interpretation on the index card.
  7. Repeat these steps (alternating between drawing and writing) until everyone has their own stack back.
  8. Everyone takes a turn sharing their stack. You all laugh at the terribly drawings/translations and have a merry old time.

Now, on to our Telephone Pictionary art:

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New York in Mississippi: LGBT, Silence, and the Campaign for Southern Equality

When I was little, I climbed New York trees. Growing up, I had a New York dog  and a New York cat as pets. I had a New York family. In the summer, I went to the New York beach with my New York friends and ate New York hot dogs. I got a New York education (I have a High School Diploma, Bachelor’s Degree, and Master’s degree from New York schools). I even went to a New York church.

What I am saying to you is that I was born and raised in New York—the liberal utopia of the United States.

But where we grow as children is not always where we live as adults. For the last two years, I have been living in Forrest County, Mississippi. Let me be clear: I don’t just reside here. I live here. I have a Mississippi dog and a Mississippi cat. I go to Mississippi beaches. I eat Mississippi hot dogs. From time to time, I even climb (and fall out of) Mississippi trees, and I teach at a Mississippi school.

same sex marriage support by stateEach semester, when my students inevitably discover my New York roots, I am greeted with a rapid succession of self-deprecating remarks. The most popular response is characterized by a look of utter horror and a shocked exclamation: “Are you crazy? Why would you ever leave New York for Mississippi? This place is backwards!”

And this response isn’t exclusive to students. It seems that a lot of Mississippians feel obligated to take a preemptive strike against their own state. This fact is depressing and troubling, but it isn’t terribly surprising. After all, people are just restating the “facts” that they have been spoon fed their entire lives: New York is a secular, pro-gay, pro-choice, anti-gun, liberal, loving paradise; while Mississippi is the fundamentalist, anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-poor, anti-woman, hateful heart of the Bible Belt.

It is an erroneous and sad little binary that we have all bought into.

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Fun times with Jenni’s Cake Carrier:

The cake and carrier

The cake and carrier

My friend Jenni made an awesome watermelon cake and brought it to my house the other day. When we didn’t finish all the cake, Jenni decided to leave the leftovers with me. She also left the ginormous cake carrier that she brought it in.

After everyone left, I went to bed. I didn’t remember that the cake was there for 5 days. I’m not really sure how I managed this, as the carrier is truly ginormous and sitting in the middle of my (rather tiny) counter. But I digress…

Now, let’s do some minor calculations: The cake was made July 4th. Today is July 13th. Thus, the cake sitting on my counter is just about a week and a half old. Of course, this means that I no longer have leftover cake sitting on my counter. No, what I have is a huge, inedible brick of sugary flour. Consequently, at this point, the cake carrier is no longer keeping the cake fresh. Rather, it is just keeping flies and maggots away from a brick of sugary flour on my counter.

It seemed more logical to just dispose of the cake-brick and find another use for the ginormous cake carrier. True, I am supposed to give the carrier back to Jenni. But I thought that if I discovered a really snazzy use for it, she might let me keep it. Here’s what I tried:

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First, I thought that Mr. Kitty might enjoy a nice new bed. So I got one of his favorite pillows and tried to make him a cozy home. However, he did not seem terribly impressed with my efforts.

He found a bit of cake that I didn’t clean off of the side and, after eating said cake, he sat there looking confused and skeptical of my life choices.

cute cat cake

eating cake that I missed

cat cake carrier

skeptical cat is skeptical

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