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Author of this essay:

Yin Cai Shakya
(October 26, 2009)

by Yin Cai Shakya

Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap.

-- AC/DC

What do Queen Elizabeth I, George Lindemann, Jr, and Michael Vick have in common?

All three of them were somewhat indifferent to the suffering of animals, especially animals that were used in the name of sport.

It's a little known fact that Good Queen Bess loved the blood sport of bear-baiting. Whether at home or traveling through her Kingdom, she never missed a chance to attend the spectacle of dogs being cast into a pit with a bear. The contests were bloody, painful, and gruesomely lethal; but she enjoyed the show so much that when Parliament banned the sport on Sundays, she forsook her motto of "Video et taceo" (I see, and say nothing) and overruled the legislation. She was the head of the Church of England and after Sunday morning services, there was nothing so gratifying as the sights and sounds of tormented animals. It was not until 1835 that Parliament enacted the Cruelty to Animals Act and bear-baiting became illegal.

It is also a little known fact that George Lindemann, Jr., the equestrian son of billionaire cellphone developer George Lindemann, was a graduate of Brown University and an Olympic show jumping hopeful. He purchased an overpriced horse named Charisma; and when Charisma didn't perform as expected, his lack of horse sense embarrassed him. He had the animal insured for $250,000.00. Dad was an entrepreneur and there Junior was, stuck with a bad deal. What to do? What to do? Obviously... blame the horse and condemn it to capital punishment. Lindemann hired a man named Tommy "The Sandman" Burns to kill Charisma so that he could redeem his reputation and collect the insurance money. Burns had developed a fool-proof method of "terminating" a horse. He would take an extension cord, split it lengthwise, attach one wire to the horse's nostril and the other to the animal's rectum and then he'd plug the cord in. The electrocution was not detectable and the cause of death was deemed "colic." In 1996 Lindemann was found guilty and sentenced to serve 33 months in federal prison. He also had to pay a $500,000 fine as well as the $250,000 restitution to the insurance company. He fought his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. Subsequently, the American Horse Shows Association refused to allow him to compete in any of their sanctioned events. His response? He filed a $100 million dollar antitrust suit against them.

It is a well known fact that Quarterback Michael Vick played football for Virginia Tech. Was he any good? Well, they didn't come much better. As a freshman he garnered the third highest vote for the Heisman Trophy. He left school at the end of his sophomore year and began to play for the Atlanta Falcons. The star player got involved with a dog fighting ring and from his considerable salary financed Bad Newz Kennels, which he and three associates operated. Evidence found during a search of the premises revealed that Vick was instrumental in organizing pit contests between fighting pit bull dogs; breeding them for the purpose of fighting; and the execution of dogs that failed to perform as expected. He was convicted of operating a multi-state dog-fighting ring and sentenced to 23 months in prison He was immediately dismissed by the Atlanta Falcons, a team he had led to several playoffs. His lucrative contract with the team was cancelled, he was forced to declare bankruptcy, and found himself catapulted into national disgrace. Upon his release from prison, he had to make an endless series of public appearances in which he apologized for his errors. Eventually the Philadelphia Eagles hired him. It remains to be seen if he can salvage his career.

Queen Elizabeth I's reign was long and brilliant, and royalty has its privileges. She can rest upon her achievements without any fear of being criticized for liking to watch animals kill each other. Especially since public executions and other torture spectaculars were common at the time, bear-baiting was probably considered no more vicious than today's boxing matches.

George Lindemann, Jr., donates moey and art to museums and luxuriates with high society in Palm Beach and elsewhere in Florida. He became a force in the Democrat Party and ascended in the ranks to being named a fund raising host until his conviction happened to be remembered by someone with a sense of public perception. Other than that he lives a good life, indeed.

Michael Vick, no better or worse - when it comes to relating to animals - than Her Majesty or His Billionaire, has paid dearly for his crime. We have little to do with royalty or rich equestrians and the good half of the double standard by which they are judged; but we wonder whether we can honestly maintain a "holier than thou" attitude towards Vick. Zen requires us to do a little self-analysis.

A case in point: several months ago, while coping with the loss of our pit bull Remmy, my wife and I decided to adopt a dog from a local rescue group. We wanted an English bull dog and as it happened, they had one four-year-old female available. The animal had a long history of neglect; yet when we saw her it was "love at first sight." And I naturally regarded the dog's problems as a challenge that my care and experience would overcome.

The first few weeks were heavenly. The dog was a great companion and my wife's depression over the loss of Remmy lifted. We had a dog again; and just as before, things felt normal in my house. And then one evening, our little bulldog attacked my wife. There was no warning, not a growl or a raised lip. One moment the dog was cuddled up next to my wife, wagging her tail while my wife gently petted her. And then in a split second, SNAP! My wife's lip and chin were bleeding. We were both stunned.

A few days later, with no provocation whatsoever, the dog attacked my wife again. Although my wife was more heartbroken than injured, I knew that I had to return the dog to the rescue group. I was feeling like a failure, my wife had grown so attached to the dog that losing it so soon after Remmy felt like losing a second child; and the dog had a confused, forlorn expression. She didn't understand and I knew she was not to blame for her uncontrollable outbursts. I also knew that the rescue group, despite their policy, would have no alternative but to destroy the animal. No one in good conscience could let the dog be adopted by someone else. The dog weighed sixty pounds at least and could easily kill a child.

We drove in frustrated silence to the rescue group. The dog was happy, looking out of the car window, her tail wagging. It was then that I heard on the radio that Michael Vick had been hired by the Philadelphia Eagles. Immediately I launched a tirade against him, the Eagles, the NFL, and its commissioner. For days, at every opportunity I vented my anger.

But as I've said, being in Zen puts a burden on a person. Emotion is a sign that we're dumping our own psychic contents upon someone else. Love or hate, it comes from inside you and needs to be identified and dismantled. I asked myself what it was, specifically, that Michael Vick had done to get me so angry? While he was playing football and earning the money that his three associates were spending on Bad Newz Kennels, dogs that did not perform as expected were killed. If not him, his associates and employees carried out the executions. The dogs were useless in the pit. They were trained to kill and could not be released for family adoption. There was a limited amount of space at the kennel and so the non-performing dogs were killed. The public outcry was directed against this man who "had everything" but still needed to feed his ego's craving for danger and destruction. He needed the challenge of producing an exemplary animal.

My dog also failed to live up to my expectations. I was not ignorant of dogs. I had expected that this Engish bull dog would be "true to type" and that she would be friendly, gentle, trustworthy, and very trainable. But that wasn't the case. No matter what I did, I couldn't train her her properly. I had been unable or perhaps unwilling to consider the animal's history. I felt fully qualified to rehabilitate a dog that had spent the four years of her life in a cage in a puppy mill. I regarded my capabilities, exaggerating them sufficiently to brush aside the odds against rehabilitating this psychologically damaged animal. Instead of a realistic evaluation, I yielded to my ego and my persona as a "dog person." I wanted a dog; and I wanted a challenge, a chance to show off my abilities.

When the dog reverted to anti-social aggression, my whole persona and egotism turned to shit. I was unprepared for the task and ignorant of the consequences. And before I came to realize this I had dumped all my guilt and frustration onto Michael Vick. And what had I done? I took an abused animal that I had tried and failed to develop into an admirable dog to a place where she would he executed. Maybe some other "dog man" could have succeeded where I had failed. But it was too late now. She had already bitten a human being twice. So, what else could I have done? Give the dog to a nice family? Keep her chained in my yard? No, I did what Michael Vick had done.

Zen's liberation brings with it the ability to see things as they are and "to let it be" as Grand Master Hsu Yun was fond of saying. No longer may we look at individuals who behave in morally reprehensible ways and ignore our own errors or worse, dump our own guilt upon them.

We feed our horse or train our dog because it is our duty to care for an animal that is in our charge. And when we are confronted by news of high profile individuals who have behaved reprehensibly, we can take notice of it, as long as we remind ourselves that we too, in one degree or another, have been down that same road innumerable times. We have no right to invoke a double standard and mentally exonerate the high born scion of a billionaire as we castigate an athlete whose social life is not so enviable.

We need to "let it be" and resume "tending our own gardens," knowing that in time all things change; and if we really are as good as we suppose we are, we can oppose the sin while leaving the sinner to heaven's judgment.

Humming Bird