Tiny Speck, Big Windshield

After last year’s Mardi Paws fundraiser post, I received a nasty email from a nonprofit organization in another part of the country who, unbelievably, have trademarked the name “Mardi Paws.” I thought it was spam but it was no joke. Lots of small animal shelters across America have a Mardi Paws fundraiser in February, and for them to be hunted down and threatened with legal action if they continue to use the name astounds me.

Before the Internet they could never have done this. They would never have known. But because folks enjoy posting pictures of dogs in costumes, this organization is spending time and money surfing the Internet looking for all us criminals all over the US who dare to infringe on their “trademark.” How incredibly nonproductive, mean-spirited, and obviously since lawyers are involved, expensive. Isn’t it nice to know that the money you donate to a nonprofit may be wasted on some crack legal team bent on creating ill will?

We are a scrappy rescue group with no physical shelter. We beg for foster homes. Though most people here are violently against euthanasia, just try getting one of them to foster a companion animal. They have a million excuses why they can’t.

Yesterday was our Canine Costume Party and it was both funny and sad. Life being what it is, many beautiful items and services donated by generous local artists and merchants for the silent auction went unsold, including one of my own paintings. It was sad at the end to pack up lush animal-themed gift baskets, gift certificates, handmade clothing and jewelry, pottery, and other artwork. Volunteers had to solicit the merchants, and it’s a lot of work.

It seems there are more small dogs participating in the fashion show than large, I think it’s just because it’s easier to dress up a little dog. Our own big dogs are not comfortable in crowds—just like us I guess. They are wary of humans as well they should be. Instead we brought our tiny Maxi, ambassador to the fact that you CAN rescue and adopt small dogs, you don’t have to support puppy mills or any kind of unnecessary breeding. We had not planned on entering her in the fashion show but we were urged on. They rate the winner by the amount of cheering and clapping, and Maxi came in second! After that you couldn’t talk to her—she claims A-list status now.

As the world becomes more savage and primitive (no matter how fancy your cellphone) many volunteers believe that fifty or a hundred years from now there may be no one left to help stray dogs and cats. It depends on who’s running the world, and it’s clear it won’t be animal lovers. Companion animals may be shot, abandoned, used for food or sport, or outlawed. They already are in many places. An animal rescue colleague in Atlanta reports 80,000 animals euthanized last year. The pound there is packed with 400 dogs and cats right this minute. Conditions are so wretched that it’s hard to find volunteers who can stomach it. Roaches and rats in the cages, filth, neglect, incompetence, indifference. A few people are trying to help, but nobody, I mean nobody, wants to spend a dime on improving conditions in any city pound.

I once read in a PETA book that they would rather have NO pets than see one more animal suffer. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. I love my pack more than anything in the world, but the price in suffering that companion animals pay so we can have pets is almost too much to bear.

An American soldier with his dog.

This princess was helping folks get registered at the front door.

I love this dog's costume, very original.

Some costumes were elaborate, some simple. Some dogs ditched their costumes in their own special way.

Form a line everyone!

This gorgeous two-year-old male boxer mix is up for adoption. Housebroken, trained, and loving.

These little girls won third prize.

This gal made a serious effort with her and her dogs' costumes, and she won the well-deserved first prize.

SO cute. What a little bear.

Kids taught to respect animals are the best kids ever, IMO.

Uh-oh, this cutie has a lot of growing yet to do.

Gratuitous cleavage shot.

Choosing the winners with the "Applause Meter."

Important business to attend to!

A gathering of dog lovers on the porch.

Our Maxi waiting her turn to walk the runway.

Maxi walks the runway to loud applause!

26 responses to “Tiny Speck, Big Windshield

  1. lovely photos, tragic post. I wish more shelters were like the two closest to me, clean, disinfected, manned by dedicated volunteers, etc. some of my clients work there every day without pay as though they were salaried employees. I suppose much depends on the region. it’s sad that so many items were unsold at the Mardi Paws (oops, I hope the FBI doesnt come after me) but i think you can blame the economy. many people just cant spend on what they perceive as “frills,” even if the so-called frills are sold to benefit an important cause. As for the future, since we are doing everything in our power to destroy each other, my survival bet is on the animals of the world. and maybe it would be better that way.

    • It’s the economy and the culture. Let someone else deal with the animals, they’re not important. I have offered to help people in my neighborhood spay and neuter but they won’t do it. I have offered to help them get free doghouses for their outside dogs. No. I have begged and pleaded with people to take care of their pets. No. So that’s why I understand why PETA thinks there should be no more pets—because humans as a species can’t handle the responsibility. I dread spring—that’s when all the free puppies, free kittens signs go up. Border Animal Rescue takes all the animals they’re fostering to the Farmers’ Market every Saturday in hopes they’ll be adopted. They often end the day with more animals than they started with, because people come and dump off boxes of kittens or puppies. Since we have no actual shelter, it’s the same few people who take them in.

  2. I had been thinking about you guys yesterday Debra and this morning here you are.
    I enjoyed this post and was glad to see you had so many participants.

    The soldier shot is meaningful and the boxer ..oh boy he is sweet…I bet Pheebs would love him.
    Thank you Debra, for all you do to make a difference.


    • Hi Kelly, it looks like a lot of people but it really wasn’t. The donated snacks didn’t even get eaten. BAR is a small group with a few people who do all the work, and there were some very disappointed faces at the end of the day. Members often express their worry what will become of this group when these few people pass on, as they aren’t young and it’s hard to get people to volunteer.

      That boxer mix is such a nice dog. The owner’s daughter is allergic and now the dog has to live outside. I posted him on Petfinder and hope for the best.

  3. Great event Debra! Wish we had something like that ’round here, I’d gladly volunteer. But we have the British government, which is a 24/7 Circque de Soleil. Ya know, dress ’em up, walk ’em around. Some people actually like that. Cute little Maxi, well done! No prize for the gratuitous cleavage shot? We’ll see about that. When I lived in New Jersey, there was a Vet practice/Shelter/petting zoo thing which had large animals as well. Probably rescued from farms or owners that for whatever reason could not keep them. It was called PAWS too. I hope they’re not one of the profiteering complainers you mentioned. It was a good vet practice, and the kids liked the other bit too. Short school trips and such. The world should have more of these things, then maybe we would stop blowing each other up and engaging in similar unproductive pastimes. Animals are great! 🙂

    • Hi Dum Dum, most of the countries with huge populations, poverty, war, religious or tribal hatred, etc., will never care about animals. I don’t see life getting better for animals at all, ever. In the US, volunteers burn out and can’t take the stress, it happened to me at our local city pound. You get to a point where you’re crying ALL the time. Sometimes volunteers commit suicide. I can’t tell you how many times our horrible animal control officer here sent me home in tears, just because he could. It was like that back in CT too. They make up rules as they go along to wield their power. I’m certain that many city pounds employ officials who hate animals. Any improvement a volunteer asks for, no matter how small, is denied.

      No matter what we read about unemployment rates, etc., we’re pretty much f*cked. No government body has sympathy for animals when people are either out of work or screaming for their entitlements like they do here. Job creation? How are they gonna pull that off?

      Years ago I used to read that the Brits had solid animal protection laws and in general were kind to animals. But with all the problems over there now, I doubt it’s a priority. What’s your opinion?

      Miss Cleavage didn’t win a prize, but got lots of attention. When you see women walking around with their boobs on display, it’s kind of hard to look away, even for me. But I’m glad I live in a country where women can dress as they damn well please.

  4. It’s sad that so many “charities” are all about profit and image. Looks like your’s was at least a well-attended event, and sad to hear that the silent auction didn’t do well. I’m not very convinced that silent auctions are very effective, having been involved in many myself, though. Does anyone have the trademark on “Canine Costume Party,” or you just haven’t heard yet? You’re right, the Internet has made policing trademarks a whole lot easier.

    Off the subject a bit, but I remember a guy who built a purple barney head on his riding mower, cut some holes in barrels, put wheels on them, and hooked them all together in a “Barney Train” ride at the Tucson Outdoor Flea Market. He played the “Barney Song,” which I literally hate, on a boom box as he rode the youngsters in a figure eight. I thought the idea was ingenious. He charged a dollar a kid and had them lined up all around his two $11 spaces.

    A few weeks later I was at the flea market selling my crafts and I noticed that the “Barney Train” had become the “Big Purple Dinosaur Train” and a different song was playing. Think the big bad corporate execs got to him for using their “Barney” trademark and copyright at an outdoor flea market? I was happy to see that it wasn’t hurting his business one bit.

    Great photos!

    • What’s ridiculous is that many of the shelters who hold a Mardi Paws event each year have been doing it for much longer than the organization who had the money to trademark it. They didn’t invent it—it’s a rather banal play on words after all. Yeah maybe Barney Train guy was hunted down too. Hey people steal my artwork and photos all the time, I can tell by search engine hits “how to draw a quail” etc. I stopped caring because it’s a waste of time—if it helps someone learn something, let ’em have it.

      Here’s something interesting about trademarks from my own experience: when working on a dictionary you must be extremely careful about trademarks, even if the word is part of our language. Years ago we put “Stetson” in and got a letter from their lawyers. Wouldn’t you think they’d be flattered instead of pissy? Now with all the technology that is in everyday use, most of the words can’t go in because somebody owns the rights to that word.

  5. Good to see you posting again, Deb. I guess this is the dark side of what happens when our disposal-oriented consumer society runs amok. We not only get rid of our plastic junk but now living creatures as if they meant nothing.
    I fully expect that in the not-too-distant future we’ll see this attitude spread to children, too…people will just cut them loose because they were cute when they were little but now they are too much trouble and just not fun anymore!

    • Well Harry as they say, shit flows down, and animals are on the bottom. Many places in the world have been selling their daughters since the beginning of time—if people can do that then why on earth would they care about a dog.

      Oh how I loved that line in Starship Troopers “I want to be a mom and you have a better chance of getting a license if you serve.” Not that I want more laws, but that would be a good one.

  6. Next year use Marty Pause, let them google Mardi Paws and they will never find you. The dogs actually looked like they were having a good time. Entertainment for all.
    The animal shelters in this area are wonderful and are bringing in dogs regularly from Atlanta and South Carolina and finding them all good homes. So that’s good news.
    If the economy every improves it will help the homeless dog situation. I can’t imagine giving up your best friends because of money. And I don’t believe I would. The present situation regarding pets, nationally, is heart breaking for sure.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do for animals. The earth needs more people like you.
    Why don’t you put your painting online and auction it off to your readers? I’m sure it would sell.

    • Hi Bill, I can’t imagine giving them up either—which is why I can’t rent a house, and why I’m stuck here with a mortgage. More and more I read that it’s impossible to rent if you have pets. It’s one of the big reasons pets are abandoned. Thinking of former family pets behind bars makes me physically sick. Of course irresponsible pet owners have forced this issue—I had an apartment in CT once with neighbors who wouldn’t neuter their male cat and he walked up and down the halls spraying urine. After people complained about it, instead of requiring pets to be spayed and neutered, the management gave tenants the horrible choice of “getting rid of” their pets or moving out. Guess I don’t have to tell you what my choice was.

      It’s good to hear your area brings in dogs from the south. I had a two-hour conversation the other night with my friend in Atlanta and what she told me about the pound is spinning in my head in an endless loop. Her whole life is about animal rescue, and no amount of medication or meditation helps…she said “we were born to suffer because we can’t let it go.”

      Thanks for writing and for your positive thoughts, I don’t have any of those left but thank goodness people still do.

  7. Trademark law (in the UK, at least, and it may be similar in the US) says that you cannot trademark words that are in common usage, such as “Mardi” and “Paws”. It may not even be possible to trademark “Mardi Paws” because it is a pretty obvious play on commonly-used words. The only thing that can be trademarked is a logo or presentation style using the words “Mardi Paws”. But of course, the same legal principles apply in your country as in mine; “Ha ha, you can’t afford to take us to court”. Thus we see how justice is freely available to all.

    These people claim to be a charity. (Actually, if they describe themselves as a “not-for-profit”, that sometimes implies that there are a few people with nice little earners riding on the back of a lot of goodwill. Not to mention some slick lawyers who probably aren’t sending out threatening e-mails on a ‘pro bono’ basis.) Of course, they’re onto a winner whatever happens, because no-one can call for a boycott of them because that only hurts those they are set up to help.

    The only consolation I can offer was something my grandmother once said of someone who did her a wrong but who she couldn’t get back at. She said “He’s got a long, dark road to walk down some day.”

    • Hi Robert, we brought the offending letter to a lawyer here in town and he told us they can make trouble for us. The thought of a rich foundation suing some bedraggled rescue group is sickening. Their exact words in the letter were “this is your first friendly warning.” They actually underlined the word ‘friendly.’ Disgusting, isn’t it? They went on to say we couldn’t use Mardi Paws in any way even if we changed it around or added the name of our town. Kind of hard to believe they’re getting away with this, as you say this is in common usage all over the US. How can lawyers who perform this kind of harassment live with themselves? I wish them nightmares as bad as mine.

  8. Now if you had called the event “Mardi Gras Paws” , they couldn’t have said anything about it.
    Lots of great dogs and great costumes – nice photos.

    I had someone comment on a post today in a discussion of the horse slaughter issue. I believe she posted one of the more sensible statements I’ve heard in a long time.
    The statement: “No one really seems to care that much for animal rights and the environment these days… people think they do but nothing is ever done to make any changes”

    If everyone truly cared the way they say they do, we wouldn’t have part of the problem we have now.

    • Hi Cowboy, thanks. You’re right, many people say they care but do nothing. I can’t tell you how people I’ve tried to get to help out and they say “oh I could never go into a pound.” I guess it’s their sense of self-preservation, and I do understand, but there are many ancillary tasks that need to be done where you don’t have to set foot in a pound. Letter writing, fundraiser organizing, getting help when they see an animal being abused…tons of stuff.

  9. OK – first of all, how about “Mardi Pause – Take Time for Your Animals”.

    And, re: the comment above that the same attitudes may someday apply to children – the time has come. From the geniuses at Oxford: “Killing babies is no different from abortion,.. Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.”

    You can read the entire article here, if you can stand it.

    It may well be that part of the reason animals are so poorly treated is that respect for life of any sort simply is eroding away. Those who would kill animals without a thought and declare infants morally irrelevant might soon be at my doorstep, telling me my increasing dementia makes me morally irrelevant and my time has come.

    Can’t happen? I wonder.

    • Linda, that’s a great idea for a name. I’ll bring it up.

      That’s a very opinionated statement from the Telegraph to call them “abortion experts.” It has no meaning at all. I’m surprised that Oxford would want to be associated with them in any way. Yes I agree there is little respect for life, from humans down to butterflies, and the bigger the world’s population grows the less respect there will be. I am completely cynical about the future and don’t possibly see relief for our planet.

      When the time comes for me to go I have a plan. No way am I going to end up like my mother and grandmother.

  10. As a writer I’M A STRONG BELIEVER IN INTELLECTUAL PROPerty but not to the extent that charitable institutions are being threatened with legal action for using a name that some one else had used and thus ‘patented’ by a ‘first rights’ claim. It is so very petty.

    Apart from the animal cruelty or neglect issue that is a constant plague in society, legal pettiness is something we can well do without.

    • Right. People sue here for the most ridiculous reasons and get away with it. Do lawyers have to put on a crazy suit to go to work? Sometimes people sue ‘good Samaritans’ who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to help, and are then sued by the victim. Cases like these have far-reaching consequences—look what happened in China a couple months ago with the little girl being run over by the truck and no one did anything…some articles I read blamed fear of lawsuits, but who really knows.

      But yeah, if someone pulls another artist or writer’s work and calls it their own, or profits by it, that’s so obviously wrong. But how many people could afford to do anything about it.

  11. Tough post to comment on at first thought. A zillion thoughts—most swirling around anger and dismay and shock. The words failed to surface at first. A moment of time out required.

    To the animal rescue group who feels it necessary to defend a ONE DAY ONLY trademarked event. They need to give their self-absorbed heads a shake, step back and re-think their position. What the hell. Where does this come from Debra? It seems completely absurd. Is there now badge wearing brigades of phony altruistic animal rights people out there seeking fake power and prestige and giving their communities fake comfort. Do they do this to feed their own egos? It is as if, in their desire to succeed, they become numb to what really matters. Their failure to see that the small group which you are part is not a threat seriously calls to question their credibility. And perhaps there is a need for the people in their respective communities to wonder about the financial accountability. You just have suspect the motives—causes one to think financial gain is involved on their part. Something smells wrong.

    I sense your disappointment in the day that was meant to raise money, inform your community and in some way celebrate the coming together to improve conditions for animals. Am sorry, I won’t say ‘stay strong’ or ‘keep fighting’. No one can expect more from you or from those like you. With the passion you have; the crap, the indifference you face has to be wearing, I remember last year’s posting and pictures, hard to believe a year has passed – I wish for you and that small group of caring people in your town and surrounding area all my best. All I can offer is the acknowledgement that in the end you are doing the right and just thing; I truly believe …that said, Elvira has something to say, “Maxi you go!”, “wiggle it if you got it”…..”licks, sniffs and shtufffs”.

    • Hi Hudson, those are the same reflexes we felt, but in a way we’re so hardened it doesn’t surprise us. I just googled the phrase and found hundreds of shelters across the US holding the event each February, maybe more—there were a million hits. It seems an obvious and kind of commonplace play on words. In the end the group who lashes out with legal threats causes more damage than they know in lowered morale for all volunteers, many of whom have been involved in this event long before there was an Internet. What a completely frivolous waste of time. Should we try to see the good and be happy that a few US citizens are getting a paycheck and won’t be foreclosed on this month? Because as was mentioned in another comment, they aren’t doing this for free. Come to think of it, maybe they aren’t so slick after all—why write to me? I’m just a volunteer with a blog—I don’t make policy.

      Does Elvira wear a coat on winter walks? I can see her in something comfortable but smart.

  12. Cool to know of your work (giving back to the species that give so much to us humans), and of your perspective. Found you via Jack Matthews!
    I agree with your comments about the Mardi Paws person who is making such a big deal about having domain over the term. I wondered if you couldn’t just say Mardi Gras Paws instead … how does that seem to you?
    Will come back!
    -Cirrelda in Albuquerque

    • Hi C.C., I’ve seen your comments on Sage to Meadow for a long time now! I’m not sure what exactly they’ll decide on for a name, so thanks for suggestion. Life is definitely all about the creatures, and groups should help each other out.

  13. I’m just mad that somebody would threaten legal action because you are using Mardi Paws! For goodness sakes! You are helping the love and companionship of pets to humans and vice versa, and for some group to do that! Crapola. On a lighter note, Lassie likes the cleavage.

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