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Goodbye, Walter

Christmas Walter

This is a picture of Walter’s first Christmas with my family (yes, that’s my 5-year-old handwriting at the bottom).  We got his picture taken at the SPCA where we had adopted him earlier that year, a bouncy, loud but beloved mystery mutt.  This Christmas turned out to be his last one with us, and today we said goodbye.  Walter lived an incredible 20 years.

Sometimes it’s really hard for people to understand what it means to lose a pet.  We live in a society where animals are treated as commodities, exploited and neglected.  But anyone who has loved an animal knows their heart, their humor, and their undeniable ability to shape your family.  Walter was there from the time I was a little girl, long before I knew I wanted to be an actor, before I met any of the people who are my friends today.  He saw my family through 3 homes, me through 4 schools.  He was there when we left our home suddenly in the middle of the night when our house caught fire.  He was there when I cried for days over my first breakup.  He’s the reason why our backyard fence is 8 feet tall (in his day, he could jump high enough to look over the fence and bark at the trash collectors).  He’s the last of our motley crew of pets that we got on purpose – my mom said it was love at first sight when she saw him in the shelter, our mystery mutt.  Even a DNA test last Christmas failed to solve the mystery of what possible dog heritage could make a dog with black, wiry hair a curly tail, and those crooked ears.  Proud of our newest family member, we took him to get his photo taken with Santa.  Tonight, these photos sit on an empty bed.

I find comfort in the symmetry of celebration and sadness.  There aren’t always ways of making sense of how time passes, things come and go in our lives.  The life I had when Walter came into my family is so different from the life I have now.  So much joy, so much sadness passed since then.  Watching my mom care tirelessly for him in his old age.  Remembering his too-loud bark, his mysterious tail, remembering his other four-legged friends who left us first.  It hurts in all the beauty of remembering days gone by, of love that lasts.  What do you say when it’s time to part with one who gave you years of love, who was a part of almost two decades of your life?

Thank you, thank you.

I love you, I love you.

Goodbye.

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Towards a Humane Theatre

Animal welfare and rights have always been an important topic to me.  I grew up volunteering at the BC SPCA with my mom and have had many pets over the years.  I have always questioned our society’s relationship with animals – are they friends, or food? Are they a resource and commodity, or living creatures deserving of rights?  I feel strongly that our current way of doing things – our pracitices with pets, livestock, and animals raised for the meat industry is largely exploitative and deeply troubling.  That being said, these feelings come with built in hypocracy – I would never wear fur, but I do own leather shoes (mostly second hand).  I don’t eat meat of any kind but I’m not vegan.  I am concerned about the treatment of animals in our society but I struggle with breaking free from the consumer cycle that is the main reason animals suffer for our convenience.

I find with these kind of issues, like the ‘greenwash’ movement, people tend to sieze upon the uncomfortable dualities of these things.  There are those who don’t pay any attention to their consumer habits and scoff at those who do; there are animal rights groups that believe strongly that vegetarianism is not enough, and that folks like me who aren’t absolute in our practices aren’t doing enough.  It’s a tough discussion to face –  I for one believe that the all or nothing approach will leave people (like the aforementioned naysayers) unwilling to try at all.  I believe that if we begin to shift our habits bit by bit as a society we can make great change.  And we must.

I’ve been thinking about how to make my passion for animal welfare and theatre work together and was inspired to give my makeup kit a cruelty-free makeover.  I thought it would be hard, given that I am working on a limited budget, but I was surprised to see how many companies have made the switch to cruelty free production. There are also a wealth of resources available to help locate affordable cruelty free products – I signed up to receive a free Cruelty Free Shopping Guide from Peta.  Their website is fantastic and comprehensive, and it’s easy to look up your favorite brands and see if they make the cut.  Through Peta I found My Beauty Bunny, a website/blog dedicated to finding fabulous products of all kinds that haven’t been tested on animals. Skeptics should visit My Beauty Bunny for proof that cruelty free cosmetics don’t have to be all hemp chapstick and vegetable dyes!

So who did make the cut?  I was so relieved to find Cover FX on the list – I’ve sworn by their kick-ass water based high pigment foundation for years and will proudly keep buying their products.  Revlon and Wet ‘N Wild both make drugstore-price cosmetics in great colors for the stage, and both are certified by My Beauty Bunny as cruelty free.  M.A.C, Sephora and Stila have also made the switch (UPDATE MARCH 2012: It seems that M.A.C. has backslid on its commitments – please check for up to date info from M.A.C. before deciding).    It didn’t take a ton of money or even a special trip to a different store to make my products cruelty free – just a little research and a commitment to changing my consumer habits. While I’m not always on board with Peta’s tactics in other areas regarding animal rights, I applaud their resources on cruelty-free consumerism.  By shifting our habits and ways of thinking,  we can send a message to companies still using barbaric animal testing that we prefer to stand behind those that have left those practices behind.  I plan to put my money where my mouth is and keep my art cruelty free.