Wednesday, July 12, 2017

If You See Something, Say Something!

One of my favorite quotes is, "If you're shocked by what I say, then you obviously haven't paid attention to who I am." I have a mouth. A voice. And I don't hesitate to make that apparent. For some, it has a tendency to shift their disposition towards me. Those who know me well aren't phased when I take a stand.

There was a time when I viewed this quality of mine as unfavorable. However, over a decade later, it's one I embrace. Maybe it comes with age. Or experience. I have fine tuned my approach. It's all about how I present something. My tone. Knowing when I need to wrap it up. Or, when to prepare for the battleground. Every situation is unique.

Regardless of boundaries I have set for myself, there are a few exceptions when I leap into my no holds barred zone. One of those is being the voice of the voiceless. By no means do I consider myself a crusader. I'm not pounding the pavement in my combat boots seeking strife. However, I am always on high alert. My eyes are peeled. If I see something, I stop. Observe. If the situation doesn't feel right, I'll make a phone call or two.

If you see something, say something.

I think back to many years ago. A neighbor down the street had a couple of dogs. His "collection" of dogs multiplied within a short period of time. Various breeds. All kept outside in crates and kennels in the backyard. Most days I walked several miles as part of my fitness routine and would pass by his house. I could hear the dogs barking over the loud music pounding my earbuds. As the weather became warmer, the stench from the yard 'bout near knocked me over. I became aware. Very aware. Something wasn't right.

The dog crates and kennels were filthy. Water buckets tipped over. Metal food bowls were buzzing with flies. Once in a while I would see this neighbor tending to the dogs, but it wasn't nearly enough. He'd eye me as I walked by. I think he knew I was onto him. By this time I had already placed a couple of calls to the authorities. Finally, the animal control officer took a full report and paid a lengthy visit to my neighbor.

Within a couple of days, the neighbor had put tarps all around his fence to keep wandering eyes out. His flimsy attempts to conceal what was going on wasn't enough. There were gaps between the tarps. I made more phone calls. The animal control vehicle became a frequent visitor at my house and his. I took photos and kept notes. Shortly after, the tarps came down. Most of the crates and kennels were empty and eventually removed. The yard had been cleaned. From what I observed, only four dogs remained. A couple of dog houses were built and the larger kennels were repaired.

If you see something, say something.

That's the "in a nutshell" version of the story. Although the situation was rectified, it didn't come without consequences. My neighbor retaliated. Threats. Damage to my yard. Rocks flying out of nowhere when I walked by. On occasion, words were exchanged. It was uncomfortable at times however, I kept reminding myself that the dogs he once housed were safe now. Eventually, things simmered down.

Since then, I've lost count how many times I've spoken up and didn't back down until the situation was remedied. I've become resilient when people partake in retaliatory efforts. I'd like to say their tactics don't bother or concern me, but I'd be lying. What I can say is that it doesn't deter me from speaking up. Even now. There have been several incidents over the past few years. I've said something. Done something. The repercussions have been less than favorable, but the situations have been corrected. That's what matters.

I can't stress enough how important it is to speak up. Too often, people hesitate or they don't want to be inconvenienced. Or, more so, they're afraid of the backlash. Last year, someone reached out to me with a concern. The situation appeared urgent. To them, they were willing to wait a few days. Maybe things would change. They didn't want to stir the shit pot or piss off their neighbor. I convinced them otherwise. Within 24 hours something was done.

If you see something, say something.

Animals can't speak up. If a dog is chained outside in someones backyard without food, water and protection from the elements, they're defenseless. Or, when the temperatures are in the single digits and you notice a dog left outside for an extensive period of time. When you see that, you become their voice. Everything aside, it's up to you to do something. Why wouldn't you? Imagine, for just a moment, if you were in a life or death situation and time was of the essence. Someone stopped. Stood there for a few minutes. Then, walked away and did nothing.

I'm not going to's not always the most comfortable thing to do. Who wants to make waves with the neighbors or risk being harassed? And, doing something takes more than a few minutes. At times, you need to be persistent and make more than one phone call. Or, take pictures and file a report. If you don't have time, make time. Your choice to do or not to do the right thing is the difference between life and death.

If you see something, say something. 

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