Monday, January 28, 2008

You gotta have Faith

One of the things I do is put out magazines for consumers to flip through while they wait impatiently in the checkout line at my über-healthy place of employment. As they exhale noisily, loudly emoting that the line is not moving fast enough, they zealously flip through the mags-- flip-flip-flip--looking for... what? Patience? A faster line? A different and superior lifestyle? Recipes? I have stopped wondering about it, since I now realize the ritual page-flipping of the checkout-line magazines is a BASIC RIGHT, an actual sacrament of American consumerism. People get upset if you don't rearrange them regularly, import fancy new ones and keep them primped. Then they can put them back in the wrong slots. Then I go back and straighten them up again, so they can start all over.

Some of the local fundamentalists don't like certain of the magazine covers, and earnestly flip them over to protect the eyes of children and (presumably) other impressionable people. For example, the cover of Psychology Today is one of the main offenders this month, featuring a scantily-clad couple. (Psychology is a pretty sexy business, in case you didn't know!) The all-time winner would be the Rolling Stone cover featuring Rosario Dawson and Rose McGowan, which caused some major hyperventilating. I finally put some cardboard over it, with just the title ROLLING STONE peeping out.

A recent controversy, here and elsewhere, is the matter of Faith, this month gracing the cover of Animal Wellness magazine. Faith was born without her front legs, and is known as the amazing Biped Dog. Of course, Oprah got there first, and now Faith is famous. She endorses dog collars and visits disabled veterans.

Not a dirty magazine cover, but to many folks, still plenty alarming. Some people have asked that the magazine be removed, so that "children won't be upset." Others love the cover, and become angry at the idea that anyone would remove it. It seems to be selling well. Nonetheless, a lot of people recoil from the cover: "Ewww!" The children observe the adults carefully, and most want to see what their parents will say; they hold up the magazine to their parents and wait for the reaction.

"Awww! Poor doggie!"

"See what a happy doggie? People have rescued her and taken care of her, isn't that nice?"

"Eww! Gross! What the hell is THAT?!?"

"I saw that dog on Oprah!"

"In the wild, that dog would die off. I think it sends the wrong message to the children."

"That's fucking disgusting!!!"

"What happened to the poor dog??!"

"Can the dog walk without help? Whoa, that's amazing!"

"I had a dog/cat with three legs once!"

"Is the dog friendly/happy/healthy/affectionate? Well, that's the important thing!"


Left: Faith as a puppy, from Faith the Dog.

I keep wondering how these sentiments translate to the way we encounter disability in humans. The comments sound similar, don't they? I think it's interesting that people will say right out loud how they feel about Faith, but have learned to keep their comments about, say, an armless person, to themselves. (Most of the time, anyway.) But what thoughts are roiling through their heads, that get acted out on people with disabilities?

If Faith upsets them, would a human with no arms upset them? I think that's a given.

Or is it somehow different when it's a dog? Why?

I am fascinated with the public reaction to Faith. Is Faith a poster-dog? For what, exactly? Faith's owner, Jude Stringfellow, is very open about her agenda. She believes Faith is all about faith. That's the reason for her name. She writes about how they wouldn't give up on little Faith; she became a family project. (And how many people born with disabilities can also identify with that?) She believes seeing the positive in everything is part of Faith's journey, and why she is with them today.

And how do you feel about Faith?


Daisy said...

I think Faith is beautiful. She is obviously a happy and well-loved dog.

Kay Olson said...

I keep wondering how these sentiments translate to the way we encounter disability in humans. The comments sound similar, don't they?

I think the sentiments translate very directly. People just have less of a filter on what they'll say about an animal.

Vanessa said...

"In the wild, that dog would die off. I think it sends the wrong message to the children."

What kind of fucked-up secret advocate of eugenics was that bastard?

Rootietoot said...

I think Faith has been anthropomorphised (did I spell that right) into this grand creature, who is actually, just a dog, with a good set of owners. I don't think she has done anything any other dog wouldn't have done in the same situation. It's a nice story, but I really think too much is being made of a dog, who found a way to cope.

I guess I'm heartless that way.

CrackerLilo said...

I barely noticed that Faith had anything missing! She looks happy. She's adapted. She's living and loving her life. I wish more humans could be like that. I wish more humans would *let* each other be like that.

And I really, really, really wish that the armless dude who killed a rival with a head-butt would come visit the jackass who talked about how the dog sent a bad message to children!

Rosa said...

Yes, I think she's a beautiful dog, too. I do find with myself that seeing an animal with a disability like this a bit more upsetting that seeing a human with the same disability. Humans have access to rehab, prosetic limbs, while an animal, some people would want to put the animal down in a situation like this.

--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Wow, Faith is one amazing biped dog. I guess I missed all the hype surrounding her story so this is my first time seeing her. Why would that knucklehead even suggest that she would send a bad message to children? This sounds even more ridiculous when you consider how humans can be born with clef palates or as conjoined twins or without spines....

Chris said...

Nothing can match the perpetual happiness of a dog....

David McDonald said...

I was way more plugged into the whacked comments from the customers than the pooch herself. She's just being Faith, and they're just being ignorant.

Peter van Geldern said...

that dog is the most beautifull thing i've ever seen. its gods masterpeice

Anonymous said...

This dog warms my heart.

I think animals like this should remind us all what is really important in life.

We have a dog here that's happy with life, has no worries, doesn't realise he's any different, doesn't understand people's harsh judgments, has learnt to simply find a different way to do things...

If it was a person, most people would feel insecure about how they look, worry about being judged, struggle with getting by doing day to day tasks and possibly feel sorry for themselves.

We can really learn a lot from our fury friends. We are alive, we are healthy, who care's if you get a huge pimple, who cares if you have to sit in traffic for an extra 10 mins. Love life.