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Justin Pope
Animal advocate, computer geek, Registered Nurse, and happily married father to six children.
Animal advocate, computer geek, Registered Nurse, and happily married father to six children.

Justin's posts

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I have seen several social media posts over the last few months that scare me. One even caused a rift in my own family that has left us forever divided. But I am haunted by two posts in particular. 

One was made to look like a page from a book. It said, “If your religion requires you to hate somebody, then you need a new religion.” That’s really what it boils down. If you hate someone solely because a misinterpreted, outdated, and repeatedly re-translated book tells you to, then you need a new book. 

The other post was a tweet by a Libyan woman who wrote, “If you’re an American confusedly watching the darkest forces of [your] nation rally around a demagogue, maybe [you] can understand the Mideast now.” I won’t be one of those who rally around a fool who promotes hatred and bigotry and isolationism. And I certainly won’t sit idly by and watch those things boil over in my country. 

When I was a kid growing up in Tulsa, I remember the KKK marching in holiday parades in our area. I remember racially-fueled fights in my high school. I remember people, even my own parents, calling north Tulsa “n*gg*r town.” I remember feeling a fear that the elders of my family instilled in me anytime we drove through that area to see family in the next town over. I remember being madly in love with a beautiful young black woman named Kim, and I remember her smiling back at me. Worst of all, I remember never even having the nerve to ask her to go with me, because we both knew our parents wouldn’t have allowed it.

What is happening in the United States during this election cycle scares me. I am scared for my black friends. I worry about a black friend because he is married to a white woman. To make it worse, he works in an area of California where white men missing half of their teeth still wear denim vests with the confederate flag on them. I am scared for the son of other friends who is a teenage black man, and for that reason alone, will be targeted by the police when he gets his driver’s license next year. And I’m scared for the daughter of another friend who is an incredible young black girl who recently spent weeks raising over five-hundred dollars for the American Heart Association. I am scared for a Muslim friend’s family who recently went to Canada to visit a sick relative, and was subjected to unreasonable search and humiliation when they returned to the country they are citizens of. I am scared for the women in my family who could lose the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies. I am scared for my friends and acquaintances in the LGBT community, because their right to have a family is in jeopardy. I am scared for the young men around me, because they may be asked to fight in wars that will further alienate our nation from the rest of the world, and make us the target of other people filled with as much hatred as those who are raising their hands to pledge allegiance to a man. Not to our country. To a hate-filled man.

I am a middle-aged white man. I am probably the only demographic in America that is safe. But my safety is hollow if the people I care about and love are not as safe in our country as I am. I am not a warrior, and I am not a protester. But I do have a weapon. The written word is both my sword and shield, and if I do not use them to stand up to those who would harm my country, then I am not deserving of the safety I enjoy while those around me live nervously and in fear as we watch what is happening to the land of the free.

I don’t know all the answers and I won’t pretend to dabble in international politics. I will say that I know, with unequivocal certainty, that spouting hatred and taking rights away from people who have never raised their hand to our country, except to pledge allegiance to its flag, isn’t the way to protect our nation or our ways of life.

I do not know how I am going to use the written word over the next eight months, but I must use it. If only to be able to look at myself in the mirror. If you are one of those spout racism and are lining up to turn back the American clock on basic human rights, you are my enemy. For every word of hatred you spout, I will render two of tolerance. I do want to be able to look myself in the mirror, but more importantly, I want the people I love to know that I did everything I could to ensure their safety.

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Before you vote.

For the people, by the people, of the people.

These are the founding words upon which our government was founded, but have been lost over the past 200 plus years.

Another concept from the past that may or may not have been in our founding father's , and my paraphrasing might be way off...From each as he can and to each as he may need.

These two concepts every person on the planet should be able to agree on, would make life worth living for every person...everywhere.

We have 3 people currently running for the Highest Office in the World..while I think we should not be responsible for the course of freedom for the entire planet, it is a fact that where we lead others follow. Since the attacks on 11 September 2001, the place we have lead has been a dark and mistrusting place..Fear has owned us.

Since the later days of Carter and the early days of Reagan, those with money have been able to shape the course of our Government. Corporations becoming people being the latest and final evolution of that trend.

It was said by a great man that I hold little stock in that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

In November, we will be asked to make that same choice again, this time it will be the status quot,   fear, or something different. I really hope I do not need to explain which is which. 

I hope that we the people can stand up and say with one voice, we need to change...the world needs to change. That we can reject the paths of fear and greed, and embrace that we are one planet, one race, and one people.

Please, I know that my circle is small, but take a chance and lift your fellow man.

Peace, Love, and Jelly Doughnuts.

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Veaches <3

Senior deaf girl looking for a home.

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A friend and fellow rescuer wrote this today on her one year anniversary of fostering with In the Arms of Angels.

We all have our own reasons that drive us to rescue. It's really cool how so many different people can come together to make a difference, one life at a time.

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When is the right time to talk about gun violence and the second amendment? Now is the time. Last week was the time. Last month was the time. Last year was the time. The year before that, the decade before that. 224 years ago was the time. All of those are correct answers.

One of the quotes on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial that I saw when I was in DC reads, "with the change of circumstances, [laws and constitutions] must advance also to keep pace with the times." We no longer live in an era of muskets and bayonets. Municipalities can ban the sale of fireworks, but not semi-automatic handguns. We can require a license to operate a car because they are dangerous, but not guns. Even background checks before buying a sniper rifle is too much of a burden. And now we are starting to see guns you can 3d-print at home, and homemade drones that can carry and fire a handgun.

Nothing in the Constitution is sacred and unchanging. The framers knew it would need to evolve over time and gave us ways to change it. Otherwise, among other things, we would still have institutionalized slavery and only men would be allowed to vote.

It is past time to start over with this one. Gun violence is serious business and we have to take a long hard look inside ourselves to decide what is genuinely important to us and how we are going to tackle this problem. Not with 224 year old politics, but with relevance for the world we live in today.

Cartoon by Tom Toles, 8/5/2010.

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The story I posted on Facebook yesterday got picked up for a guest blog at No Kill Pima County. Just sharing here for a few people who don't follow me on FB. :)

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These six dogs at the county shelter in Tucson are scheduled to be put down at the close of business Wednesday, 5/6. That's in less than 8 hours. This album and details for each of these homeless dogs is on Facebook on the "PACC Pets Need You" page. We need adopters or fosters and time is running out.

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This is Odie.

Odie is dead.

Odie was killed by you and me. It wasn’t because someone didn’t go down to the shelter and adopt her. It wasn’t because someone didn’t sign up as a foster to rescue her from the “short term rescue” list. It isn’t because we didn’t like and share and network her enough.

No, she was never given any of those chances.

Odie was killed last week at the Pima Animal Care Center. I really want to say murdered, but that implies it was illegal, and by all indications the staff had the proper form signed by the proper number of people so that they could, by law, condemn this pet to death.

Odie was surrendered after her owner of six years passed away, and next of kin couldn’t care for her. She had a collar on with a tag that read, “I’m deaf,” and the volunteer who took this photo said she appeared to be blind as well. Not surprisingly, Odie was getting stressed out and barking loudly in the shelter - being thrown in a concrete cell with strangers and all the strange smells can’t be an easy situation for any animal, let alone one that cannot hear or see clearly. Can you imagine your own disorientation? With the simple touch of a few fingers through the wire gate, she stopped barking and calmed down. All she needed was companionship.

The evaluator who assessed Odie told the volunteer she was going off for alter surgery before becoming available for adoptions, so she posted this photo to start spreading the word.

Odie’s story was very personal to me because my most recent rescue litter included a deaf puppy. I was so worried about finding her an appropriate home, but wouldn’t you know it she was the first puppy adopted, taken home by a loving family that did their research and was committed to the challenges of a deaf dog. But bad things do happen, and Odie could easily have been my puppy, a couple years from now.

There are so many ways this story could end. There are rescues who specialize in special needs animals who are blind and or deaf. There are people who would drop everything to get this girl out of this miserable environment and into a safe home. I would have dropped everything if I knew my puppy was there. But you already know that isn’t how this story ends. Instead of going to be altered as the volunteer had been told, Odie was actually taken away to be euthanized.

The solution to the confusion caused by the strange shelter environment in this healthy girl who had been a loved family member for six years... was to kill her.

How is this our fault? Pima Animal Care Center is a public shelter, a government agency run by the Pima County Health Department. They are ultimately accountable to our elected county officials, and they ultimately represent us. PACC has made a lot of progress in the past few years, but only because of the pressure the rescue community has put on them, and it isn’t enough. We just gave them a $22 million check for a brand new facility, so there has never been a better time to change the culture. They will only continue to improve if there is continued public pressure to do so. 

Adopt. Rescue. Volunteer. Donate. But at the very least, spread the word, raise awareness, and make your voice heard. Do it now, before the next Odie comes into the shelter.

(Photo copyright Heather Dean Binnie -

Somebody jokingly asked me recently if I'm having a midlife crisis - I've changed a lot of health habits, I've lost 40 pounds, I cut and donated my long hair. Truth is, that's not what's really been changing in my life, and this is a crisis that's been going on for a long, long time.

For most of my childhood, everyone knew me as the computer nerd. That was my identity, all the way though high school and into college. My friends, my classmates, my family, and even I expected for me to become a programmer or build electronics or something along those lines. (It didn't really matter that I really wanted to be an author, because even in my dreams I couldn't imagine making a living off my amateurish writing.) However, when I went to college, I discovered that "fun cool hobby" does not directly translate into "fun easy classes" and I quickly dropped out, leaving a valuable, very selective scholarship and countless opportunities behind forever.

In the years that followed, everyone still knew me as the computer geek, even though it defined my life less and less. I was raising children and trying to figure out how to be all the great things I looked up to my parents for and avoid the things I wished they had done differently. One of the kids I was raising has a life-shortening chronic disease, which has both helped set priorities straight and also created a backdrop of continual struggle - financial, physical, mental - ever since. All of this was private, though, kept inside my home. Through it all, I was still looking for something I could be, something I could do, something I could make of myself of my own choosing, instead of this identity that other people had placed upon me.

Then it happened. Shortly after 9/11, watching helplessly as the rescue effort dragged on - not the first time I had seen it, just on a bigger scale, as the Murrah bombing in OKC was only a couple hours drive from my house - I wanted to jump in the car and drive to NYC as if there was anything I could possibly do that wasn't already being done. I decided to go to nursing school with Karen, so that maybe in the future when a disaster happened I actually could help. I graduated, got a job, and moved forward.

It did not take long to move on from that first job and take a desk job that merged my computer background with my nursing knowledge and experience. It was a perfect fit for me, though it took me further away from actually helping people, and essentially keeps me grounded here at home while I still watch helplessly to things happening across the globe. This path has been the right choice for my family and my finances for sure, though it has not been very satisfying to me.

Last year, I started a new journey of sorts. We rescued a pregnant dog from the county animal shelter, helped her have her litter of puppies, and adopted them out. We then got another, and another, and another... We have saved, sheltered, raised, and found homes for more than 40 dogs and cats since last July. But the problem that our county shelter faces is huge, and there is so much work to be done beyond the hundreds of extra foster homes we need. We all have to do more - I have to do more.

So, here's the thing. I'm still that computer geek. I'm still a nurse. I'm still that guy that friends and family can call when they need $20 for gas. But I'm also going to be "that crazy dog guy," because I can make a difference. Maybe enough of a difference that someday, this is the label people will think of first.

And I'll be okay with that.

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Hmmmm... This seems like a LOT more than standard, contact, and droplet precautions to me. I'm glad that when hospitals follow CDC Guidelines "pretty much to the letter" the protocols will now at least be correct. But CDC... Why wait so long to put into place protocols you already knew were needed and were using yourselves??? You really had to wait for healthcare workers to get sick first, and then continued to recommend to hospitals around the country to treat Ebola patients wearing nothing more than a gown, gloves, surgical mask, and goggles??? Tsk tsk.
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