Monday, March 28, 2011

Poor Farm

            I had an awakening experience yesterday.  I do house calls for pets, and we had a request to check on a big dog that “couldn’t walk.”  When my receptionist was getting the information, she asked for directions.  The caller said they live across from the apartments on Midlothian Ave.  There are apartments everywhere on Midlothian.  We got the house number, but it was difficult to understand the caller.  We later discovered that she has no teeth.

            I took one of my employees with me, because I wasn’t sure if I would need help.  We found the house, a two-story wood framed home with a front porch.  Kids and the father-figure were waiting for me on the porch, along with the dog.  It was a Rottweiler cross, overweight at about 100 pounds, and he couldn’t get up.  There were full garbage bags on the front porch, and the home looked rather run-down. 

            I checked the dog over, and found that his left elbow joint was very sore, with limited range of motion.  The father said the dog fell down the stairs.  He also related that two years ago the dog was stung by a bee in that leg.  I suspected a soft tissue injury, but warned that this could also be the beginning of bone cancer.  While we were working with the dog, he emptied his overfull bladder, and there was blood in the urine.  He also has a bladder infection; probably from holding it too long because he couldn’t get down the front stairs to relieve himself.

            There were three or four children coming and going from the front porch, and two or more inside looking out the front window.  I asked about payment and the mother, who appeared on the porch (no teeth), said that Barbara (not her real name), who is her MYCAP helper (Mahoning Youngstown Community Action Partnership), had offered to pay for the bill.  She was able to write down Barbara’s phone number for me, but couldn’t call her herself because her “Tracfone minutes were used up.”  I said I would phone in an antibiotic for the dog that she could pick up the next day for the bladder infection.  When we returned to the office, we called Barbara and she said she would be in the next day to pay the bill, and would pick up the antibiotic.

            Barbara came in the next morning and told us that she is a social worker for MYCAP, and has worked with this family for seven years.  She is also a midwife, and has assisted with several of the mother’s birthings.  She said this family has nothing, that all but one of their seven children is mentally challenged, and likely will be in the same situation when they grow up.

            This whole story really had an effect on both myself and my employee who accompanied me to this house.  It wasn’t a positive effect.  It was just very disturbing.  We  both thought about this family and their situation for days.  What is our government (local, state, and federal) doing for people like this, and is it any better now than it was a century ago?  I remember when I was little and we would be traveling in the car in the country.  My mother once pointed out the “poor farm” and another time the “old folks’ home.”  We also had a tuberculosis sanitarium in our town.  Tuberculosis was (and is) a problem when people live in close confinement in unsanitary conditions with poor ventilation.  This was usually a poor person’s disease, and one way the county and state controlled its spread was to confine positive cases to the sanitarium, generally involuntarily.

            Now, as a veterinarian, I see an analogy here.  I have had many people over the past 30 years come to me with a cat overpopulation problem.   You see, they feed these stray cats, but do nothing to keep them from reproducing, i.e. spaying and neutering.  So, eventually, as the kittens mature they start to reproduce, and before you know it, three cats turn into thirty, and then you have a hundred or more to contend with.  They often then become sick and die from feline leukemia and other diseases, parasites, and predation.  Their quality of life declines because there are too many of them, and the cat feeders are going broke trying to keep up.  It gets out of hand.  The system breaks down.

            Getting back to the family with the lame dog.  I first thought, wouldn’t it be great if every morning a big bus drove around and picked up the able-bodied people and took them out to a farm to work for the day.  They could be weeding fields, picking fruit, or just about any other chore on a farm that simply requires manual labor.  Then I remembered the “poor farms” that were run by counties across America a century ago.  Weren’t those people better off (and perhaps healthier) than those living in inner city ghettoes, often in filthy conditions with poor nutrition and virtually no structure to their lives?  Do you know what effectively ended the county-run poor farms?  Social Security.

            The Social Security Act was established in 1935, and poor farms almost completely disappeared by 1950.  Instead of working on a farm, producing nearly all of the food that they needed, the poor and indigent, incompetent and unstable are now “taken care of” by our state and federal governments.  That means you and me via our taxes.  So now, in essence, you and I are working those farms, and the poor need do nothing.  Are they really better off?  Are they living useful, productive lives, or is our government just keeping them around so that they will continue to vote for the Democrat candidate of their choice?  You can at least teach them to recognize a D from an R on a ballot.  When you rob Peter to pay Paul, you’ll always have the support of Paul.

            I know some people will say that I’m for limiting children for poor and mentally challenged people, and that it’s their right to reproduce as much as they want.  Well, it is their “right” if they can pay for their children.  Otherwise, they’re infringing on my rights because now I have to take care of them with the money I earn, without my consent and taken from me by force and threat.  The rest of us use various forms of birth control, including a very “liberal” use of abortion.  Don’t even think about calling me “Hitler.”  If you should, then you might appropriately be called “Stalin.”


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