Seeing My Wishes Come True this Holiday Season
The long, cold nights in Minnesota this time of year are perfect for deep reflection. This season, more than any other, I find my thoughts drawn to specific memory from twenty years ago. It occurred in 1999 and it changed my life forever.
In truth, I cannot point to one specific moment. There were likely several packed together during one very intense and emotional project I was working on: A friend was hosting a conference on the topic of "pet overpopulation" at the University of Minnesota and I had agreed to produce a short video for the opening. (See video below - warning: disturbing content)
I decided that I did not want to use words to convey my message. Instead, I wanted to use music and imagery. The music I chose was a beautiful and dramatic piece called On Earth as it is in Heaven which was used in the movie The Mission. To it, I added images and video, including actual footage of a dog being destroyed in a shelter, his body being dumped into the garbage and then of a rendering truck being filled with dead bodies. I made the video as a tribute to the 8 million dogs and cats that would be destroyed in animal shelters that year. The project was both technically and emotionally very challenging.
From a technical perspective, digital editing of video was a relatively new thing and it was brand new to me. I had never done anything like it before. Figuring out how to move the images and video in synchronization with the music to have maximum impact was hard work that required hours of detailed editing. Over the course of that week, I watched that footage and listened to that music countless times, the images playing over and over and over and became deeply embedded in my psyche. Something inside of me changed. When the video was done, I was a different person. During the making of that film I had come to realize that I would not be able to live the rest of my life if I did not do something to change what I was seeing in those images. I had found a calling, a purpose for my life and there was no going back.
Within a matter of months, I quit my comfortable, six-figure corporate job and went to work for a small animal shelter that I could use as a platform for bringing about the change I wanted to see. My goal was relatively straight-forward (or so I thought): Make the Minneapolis/St. Paul Twin Cities metro area a No Kill community.
At the time, animal shelters in this community were killing, on average, 20,000 healthy or treatable dogs and cats every year, and most of the people in the community had no idea that was even happening. Worse yet, the shelters themselves were mired in a dark and disturbing mythology that told them that killing animals was some sort of kindness because there were not enough caring people in the world to adopt them.
Confronting that darkness and attempting to bring it into the light was the single greatest challenge I have faced in my life. The depths, I would learn, to which people would sink in order to cling to the bleak world view that said killing animals was better than adopting them was simply breath-taking. The fight was long and hard and often painful. One simple truth kept my vision alive: the love of companion animals, and not just my love for them. People all over the nation and beyond love animals and they have risen up in a host of ways to bring voice and life to the No Kill movement. As a result, remarkable progress has been made.
For several years all of the shelters in my area except one have had save rates of over 90%. The last remaining holdout has been Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC). That changed in October of this year, when MACC achieved a save rate of more than 90% for the first time ever. That month they saved 93% of all of their animals. Then, in November, they did even better, achieving a Live Release Rate (LRR) of 96%.
This effectively means that for the last two months the Greater Twin Cities Metro area has been the largest No Kill community in the USA, serving a population of more than 3.2 million people. Until now, that position has been held by the City of Austin, Texas, which has a population of just 950,000 (as of 2017).
Seeing this dream coming true this holiday season means more to me than I can express in words. I am, therefore committing it to video, this time with no graphic content.
During the last year, I have been honored to have visited some of my favorite No Kill communities in the USA, working on my mini documentary series Boots on the Ground. Today I am officially announcing, with much pride and joy, that the next in the series will be Boots on the Ground: The Twin Cities No Kill Story. I have been working on the film for a while and plan to have it released in early 2020. An early trailer for the film is below.
I have set up a small GoFundMe campaign to help with the finishing of the film. If you feel inclined, I invite you to give a holiday gift to the campaign and join in the celebration.
To all of you who have followed my efforts over the years and who have supported me in various ways, I want to say a heart-felt thank you. Looking back at the last 20 years fills my heart more than you can possibly know. It is because of people like you that this success was possible. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And, happy holidays! Here is the trailer: