9 June

New Etiquette Lessons: “Please Call The Vet…” – “Please Mind Your Own Business..”

by Jon Katz
Fighting For Life, For Boundaries
Fighting For Life, For Boundaries

When something like Jake’s sickness happens, I find myself fighting two battles – one is for the life of my animals, the other is the  unthinking intrusions from rude people whose parents did not teach them manners and who run amok on social media. I suppose many of our parents weren’t able to teach us the new etiquette of social media and blogs, so I will have to try.

For those many people who sent us prayers, good thoughts, support and encouragement, trust and good wishes, I thank you very much. You were helpful. This post is not for you, you already have good manners. For the many others who  were thoughtless enough to scold, second-guess and badger Maria and I in a time of trouble – a low thing to do –  this post is for you. I hope it is helpful.

“Please call the vet,” pleaded Donna. “This breaks my heart,” wrote Karen, “please call the vet..he is so special.” Why not call the vet, asks Barbara, “if the vet says there is nothing to be done, that’s fine, but if he can help save the lamb’s life, why not?” John agreed with Stephanie. “Why would you not take advantage of the ability to save a life. I truly do not understand.”

John, I hope this post will help you come to clearness.

It is important for people with pets to understand the lives of people who live with animals. I have both, I am on the fault lines, it is important to talk about this, we are struggling to determine whether animals can live in our world any longer.

So here are the Bedlam Farm Rules Of Real Animal Crises For Real Animals And Social Media Etiquette, things your parents forgot to teach some of you. Perhaps you can teach your kids what you do not know.

1. If It’s Not Your Money, Don’t Tell Other People How To Spend It

–First of all, you don’t just call a large animal vet to chat anymore than you “just” call a human doctor to get a diagnosis on the phone for free. “Just” is one of those special and alarming trip words that often signals the sender has no idea what they are talking about. That is patronizing, we are not all just follk up here sitting on our butts waiting for the phone to ring. Unlike people on Facebook, large animal vets are on the road, they are not sitting in their offices waiting for calls about my lambs. Unlike people  online they don’t make diagnoses or offer decisions over the phone or from looking at photos. If you want their advice, you call their offices and make an appointment, they don’t earn a living giving free phone chats.

If you call them for a lamb that is suddenly, ill, and want them to come quickly, then that it is an emergency call, they are awakened at  home or pulled off their scheduled visits. Expect to pay a lot, at least $150 for the emergency plus $45 for the visit, plus medicines, repeated visits, syringes, more if there are procedures or it  takes a lot of time. Everything a vet does or says is added to the bill.  Jake is already a $1,000 lamb, Maria gets $23 for a skein of yarn. It will be a year or two before she sells any of his. Last year we spent $1,700 to amputate a barn cats leg. Spending money on animals makes people on Facebook feel all happy and warm, it does not buy a ticket to heaven, mostly to credit card debt.

And I need to be honest, lambs are not the number one priority for vets around here. Horses fall and break their legs, cows die giving birth and catch awful diseases, farmer’s lives are often on the line. A sick lamb does not get sirens going.

2. Why Do You Think We Don’t Know What You Are Telling Us?

I’ve called vets perhaps a score of times for sick lambs in my time on my farms. On every single occasion, the vets say they can’t be sure, it might be something they ate, a fever, genetics. They can’t really know. They are quite honest and open about it, they carry no magical diagnostic tools in their trucks, and the illnesses afflicting animals like sheep are many and varied.You need to understand that in the real world of the pasture, it is most common for them not to know.

The leave syringes, bottles of penicillin, and suggest a shot a day. Sick lambs rarely live, they say, and then they leave. They are right, they rarely do live, there is little to be done for them.  Save your money next time, they say, try these things.  In the future, they say, give them a shot, offer them lamb’s milk, maybe a vitamin booster. I’ve done this a dozen times, I don’t need advice from remote people who like my animals. I’ve saved about eight of those lambs, lost four.

– Our vet bill for last month, the lambing period, was more than $1,000, and it is not yet complete. Some visits will come in next months bill. That’s a lot of money for four lambs that will not ever earn their keep.  I’m not sure how much money all of you certain advice-givers have, but we don’t have a lot of extra money to spend, nor do most people with animals on farms. Animals cost a lot of money – fences, brushhogging, hay, feed, salt blocks, electric fencing, water systems, shearing, trimming, illnesses. I don’t know how you run your lives – it is not my business – but I imagine most of you don’t do business in a way that guarantees enormous losses without limit.  You do not work for less money than you can live on. Neither do we.

I set a rule online once: people can tell me what to do if they will take charge of the animals and pay for all of the bills. It usually silences the critics and advice givers like a steel door slamming shut in a bank vault.

3. Just Because You Can Send A Message On Facebook Doesn’t Mean You Should.

I know Jake is cute, I take the photos. But being “cute” is not a reason for him to survive at all costs by any means. We have cute animals and animals that are not so cute, and we care for all of them in the best way possible. It is often too easy to send a message on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe take a few deep breaths before hitting the send button. Or better yet, don’t give me advice.

I understand that many of you think you are being “nice” and loving animals when you send thoughtless messages, but to me those comments above are both rude and insensitive. I don’t need to be encouraged to care for my animals. I make my own decisions, in this case in complete consultation with Maria and often with many others. Our decisions are not arguments for you to agree with or disagree with. I do not care what you think. You are, in fact, being intrusive.

I make my decisions based on years of experience, many conversations with vets, much research, the useful information of friends and fellow animal owners, and my two decades of observation. I do not make my decisions based on the pleas of people on Facebook.

4. Mind Your Own Business

A blog or Facebook page is not an invitation for you to presume to know better than me what I ought to do. The decisions we make are not your business to judge. I do not surrender my freedom to you or to the Internet, I do not owe you explanations for what I do, I do not take a poll before making the decisions I need to make. If you don’t like them, go elsewhere to read someone else’s blog and books, perhaps he or she will be happy for you to tell him what to do. I am not. Jake has, from the first, gotten the very best possible care, that is why he is alive during a difficult birth and days of struggle. It is why he is alive this afternoon and doing better. He might well be dead in the morning, I hope not.

5. Respect Boundaries, Maybe They Will Respect Yours. They Are Important

If you really love animals, here is some advice for you:  respect the boundaries and feelings of the people who own them, It is not your right or business to tell me or Maria what to do with our animals or our lives, how much money to spend, who to call for help. Do not give advice to people who have not asked for it, and do not want it. It’s a creepy thing to do, even if you don’t mean it that way.

Apart from animal welfare, boundaries are important for human beings. They respect dignity, privacy and identity. Don’t try and take those from me, it will not go well for you. It will not work.

6. Don’t Be A Low Form Of Life.

I’m sure the many people telling me what to do believe they mean well and are just trying to do well – so many atrocities are committed in the name of loving animals I can’t keep track of them. But I should be honest with you, I think it is a low form of liffe to harass, second-guess or judge someone who is struggling with a difficult problem or crisis. To try and make them feel bad when they are feeling bad and are worried. If you seek humane treatment of animals, offer the same to the people who own them. They often need it more. Good people of good faith try to offer encouragement and support, not criticism and second-guessing. Just think about it, if you don’t agree, then my blog is not the place for you, you can find a lot of happier homes on Facebook.

I share my life, I am not offering it to you for your approval, I do not seek your advice, heed it, or want it.  I am not running for office, I don’t live by the mob rule on the Internet. Today was difficult enough without this barrage of offensive and unthinking messages, bad advice, amateur diagnoses and emotional intrusions.

7. We Need A Wise And More Mystical Understanding Of Animals: They Fall Down, Stumble And Are Eaten

If the people who own pets do not come to understand the natural world and the true lives of animals, there will be no animals but pets. I share this so that others might learn from it and benefit from our experiences, not to be lectured by people without boundaries. All animals are not pets, they are not furbabies and child surrogates, some live in a different world, they are a different nation. They get sick, are eaten, they fall and die.

Farms are not rescue facilities, nursing homes or assisted care housing. There are boundaries and limits to what the person who lives with animals can do, if the people who live in cities and suburbs and the people who only live with pets do not come to understand this, then all of the domesticated animals in our world – think of the carriage horses – will live only on farms and in the preserves of the rich.

8. You Do Not Love My Animals More Than Me, You Do Not Know More About Them Than Me (Or Maria).

I have no apologies to make for not calling the vet today, and John, I hope this helps you understand. I am quite proud of the way we have treated our lamb Jake and our sheep. I know some of you think you love my animals more than I do, but you don’t. You don’t know more about them than I do, either.

Jake is doing well, I think he has a good chance of survival. We worked very hard today to save him. If he doesn’t make it, I feel nothing but good about our efforts to save him. It was intelligent, pre-planned, humane and in perspective. That’s  how I’ve managed to survive on farms for nearly 15 years.

9. Do The Best You Can For As Long As You Can.The standard for people who live with animals – for me – is not survival by all means at all costs, but this: I do the best I can for as long as I can.

10. If People  Do Not Ask For Advice, Do Not Give It. Just Look Away.

Unwanted advice is the scourge of social media and the Internet. It is rude to give advice to people that are not seeking it. I bet your parents did tell you that, mine did. Fools do not take advice, smart people can figure things out on their own. In the polarized world of the “left” and the “right” most Americans have stopped listening. If I need advice, I will tell you. I ask for help all of the time. But don’t hold your breath.

11. We Are Thinking Of You.

If you truly wish to be helpful, rather than self-serving and self-righteous, there is only one message to send someone struggling to help a sick or dying animal, and you can see it all over the comments on my Facebook pages: “Good luck, we are thinking of you and wish you well.”

We are working together to form new kinds of social communities, new boundaries, a new sense of etiquette. Manners matter, online and off.  I consider my online sites my living room on the Internet. I expect people to behave on Facebook the way they would behave in my home. Most of the time, they do. Boundaries are important. These are mine.

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