Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Our beloved Shadow

Our 18 year old Shadow passed away yesterday. We are devastated.

I use this blog as a bridge-builder and to show everyone that we all have more in common than not. If you have ever had an animal companion pass away, you know our grief. It doesn't matter if you are vegan or not, gay or straight, what your political or religious/spiritual beliefs are, or whether you're an animal rights activist or not. It just doesn't matter. The pain is the same.

We adopted Shadow when she was 14. I think it's called a "failed foster". We were fostering her and realized that no one was interested in adopting a 14 year old dog. What a miracle for us. I picked her up at a boarding place where she was in the cat area due to being quarantined while they checked her out. She was thrilled to see me and I will always remember her in the truck while on our way home coming over to me and giving me big kisses.

Shadow couldn't see well so when approached her typical reaction was to snap. I loved snuggling her face to face and letting her realize that it was me, and the snap would turn to kisses. She loved having her head rubbed and her neck scratched. She would allow us some time right next to her in the TV room but usually she would have enough of close time and give the signal that she was ready to go to the bedroom.

Her piercing bark was a great welcome after a day at work. All the other dogs would bark and she would chime in from wherever she was. Sometimes she wouldn't even get up, just bark from the bedroom.

Feeding time will be a lot quicker now as she definitely took her time while eating. The other dogs would finish in a couple of minutes and she would take about 20. Mike and I were laughing last night that Monty, one of our Yorkies, would lose his major food source, which was Shadow's bowl as he snuck in bites while she was eating.

I will miss cuddling with her in the mornings and at night, while reading before bed, sharing time with her and watching her shake her head after a scratch session and looking into her beautiful eyes. The same beautiful eyes I looked into yesterday when she left this world.

Mike and I will always remember Shadow. She was a huge part of our family, of our lives, and we will forever be grateful for the time we had with her.

I couldn't write about Shadow without reminding everyone reading that our shelters are filled with senior dogs and cats and all they want is love and a comfy place to sleep.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 27, 2012

One Day at a Time in activism

Making the world a better place for all living beings is what we are all about. As we know from our own experiences and those shared by friends and readers, life can quickly become filled and sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed.

In recovery circles, "One Day at a Time" is all about doing the best one can TODAY, and not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. This is equally powerful for activists.

What can I do today to help end the suffering of animals on factory farms?

What can I do today to support another activist?

What can I do today to promote veganism and a plant-based diet?

What can I do today to take care of myself?

Many days this is a pretty simple list: go to work, have dinner with my husband, love on the furries, write a blog post, promote veganism, pray and meditate.

Other days, well, you know!

Life gets crazy sometimes. If you are like us, you are inundated with information about these dogs about to be euthanized, this cat needing a home right now or she'll be killed, sign this petition, like this page, join this group, and etc!


My head is so much more clear when I stay in today. Sometimes just staying in the moment. This is part of taking care of myself and I always feel like I am a better husband, friend, activist, and voice for the voiceless when I am doing this. If I get consumed with what I did or didn't do yesterday and get freaked out about what I possibly can't get accomplished tomorrow, then today has a good chance of being a wasted day. And quite simply, there is too much at stake for that.

Past posts I have written have included simpler actions one can take when trying to make the world a better place for all living beings. Add this idea to that list.

Today I am trying to get a couple of dogs adopted. I signed a petition. I talked to a couple of people interested in animal rights about dead piles at feed lots. I loved on my husband even more for making me delish vegan oatmeal cookies.

What a day!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our first restaurant review(s)

We live in Lakewood, CO, a suburb of Denver. Most of the restaurants we go to are in the west metro area. We try to support places where we live.

We are ecstatic to share our experiences at two restaurants just west of downtown Denver (10 minutes from our home): Linger and Root Down. Owned by the same person, we tried them both last week and just had to share our thoughts with you. I realize that if you don't live in the Denver area this might be some sort of a tease, yet that just means you know you have great places to eat when you come to Denver!

Both restaurants are rather new in the Denver restaurant scene. If you have ever read any of our restaurant reviews on Yelp, you know that when we review restaurants we focus on two things: the availability of delicious vegan food and the presence of great service.

Both Linger and Root Down blow it out of the ballpark in both areas. As vegans, one of the great deals about their menus is that all vegans dishes or dishes that can be made vegan are clearly marked. No guessing. And the dishes we tried were so delicious that we totally took our time eating and savored each bite.

At Linger we enjoyed dishes that were centered around eggplant, butternut squash, and ethnic delights from Thailand and India. Yet the best was to come. If you are ever there for dinner and they have their vegan Peanut Butter & Jelly Cup on the menu, order it! Seriously, every bite was a little taste of heaven and each taste was more unbelievable than the previous one. We could not believe this dessert. After 16 years of vegan desserts, this was truly one of my all-time favorites. Maria was our server and made us feel incredibly welcome and that she was glad we were there. Also, as each dish was brought out, those helping Maria explained what we were eating and knew everything there was to know about the dish.

Our experience was very similar at Root Down. Again, all vegan (and gluten-free) items are marked so no guessing. Again, prefect service, thanks to Hillary and one of her peers whose name I cannot remember. We sat at the bar as there was no room in the restaurant, and we had a blast. Mike ordered the Risotto and I ordered a tofu dish, both incredibly delicious. We started with a vegan slider. Hillary recommended a cocktail for Mike (he loved it) and when I told her that I don't drink alcohol she made me a delish mocktail!

I could go on and on. We can't wait to go back. We highly recommend reservations as they fill up all the time and the bar fills up too. Both places make it easy to share, so order several dishes. For us, both restaurants are on the high end regarding cost yet 100% worth it. And during happy hour they have vegan items on the menu.

Check them out, and let us know what you think!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Building bridges

In 1993 a group of Baptist churches in southeast Virginia paid for a full-page add in the Virginian Pilot, the largest paper in southeast Virginia, to make it clear that they believed homosexuality was an abomination and that all practicing homosexuals were going to hell. They paid for this add because there had been some confusion as to whether all of their churches were on the same page regarding homosexuality based on an article the week prior in the same newspaper.

Gay, but not completely out of the closet, I joined several dozen protesters one Sunday morning in front of Norfolk Baptist Church to speak out against the ad and against spending so much money on an ad like that when the money could have been used to serve the less fortunate (or something like that). It was a bitter cold day and the church invited us in to get warm. The press interviewed me and that evening and all the next day I was all over the news with my comments.

Comments based on love in my heart for all people and a conversation I had just had with a family from the church. We chatted as they were leaving and the father said something that has stuck with me ever since: "We all have more in common than not".

How true, and part of our mission at The Gay Vegans and at Cruelty-Free World is to promote that idea. It is the opposite idea of trying to demonize someone with whom you disagree.

I came face to face with that idea with reaction to my recent blog about the rodeo.

Since starting this blog back in June I have received a lot of feedback. Many people disagree with what I write, whether it's animal rights activists saying I don't write strongly enough against non-vegans, people who have to clarify that they are not anti-gay because they believe I am going to hell (yet think I'm a great guy otherwise), or people who get mad for writing against something they have lived with their entire lives.

Take away their one or two opinions to which we disagree and then we can start the bigger list of things we can agree on, and in the even bigger picture, work together to make the world a better place for all living beings. And in the end, I believe most people support equality, condemn cruelty to animals, and are against discrimination in any form.

We all have more in common than not.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Mike and I were thrilled to be able to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee this past summer. The museum is located in the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. King was assassinated back in 1968. The time we spent there was eye-opening, educational, and it had a huge affect on us.

Today, in honor of Dr. King, thousands marched in the annual Marade here in Denver. I'm sure there were similar actions throughout the country.

One of Dr. King's quotes that has struck me hard ever since I heard it was the quote I added at the top of this post. A big part of our The Gay Vegans blog is to have a voice in discussions around things important to us. It's also an opportunity for us to speak up for the voiceless, whether the voiceless is a gay man in Iran about to be executed, a battered woman in the US afraid to leave her husband, or a tortured animal in the process of becoming someones dinner.

We want to be part of the discussion. We want people to know that we believe in full marriage equality, that we believe that we are all oppressed when any one of is us oppressed, and that we believe that it is up to us to speak out against every form of cruelty towards animals.

We are all about not being silent, and supporting all of those who want to be a voice for the voiceless.

It's not always easy. If you are an activist or speak up for any cause, you know this too. Yet we can't imagine a life, a life in which we have so much, that isn't filled with us doing what we can, when we can, to make the world a better place for ALL living beings.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You are a superstar

Into the second week of the new year and I have been in touch with readers who have been eating more and more vegan meals this year. As a new vegan, or as someone who is trying to be as vegan as they think they can be at this time, it can be overwhelming at times. It's easy to read vegan websites, magazines, and blogs and see all of these vegan superstars out there. The bigger of a star they seem in your head the smaller your "little" actions might look. Please don't buy into that bs.

I remember sitting with a friend of mine many years ago. She was devastated as a long term relationship was ending, work was beyond crazy, and she felt like she was the worst activist ever as she hadn't had time to do much besides work on her relationship and bust it at work. I told her that she was amazing and that sometimes in this crazy life, we vegan, animal rights activists have to be OK with just being vegan. That can be our big action for the time being. We cannot judge our insides with someone elses outsides, in that people we might look up to as superstar vegan are just as human as we are.

Simply put, in order to be of best service to the billions of animals that suffer every day, we have to take care of ourselves and our family first. I am no good to the voiceless if I have gotten so exhausted, cranky, and judgmental that folks look at me and say no thanks to veganism. What a tragedy that would be for the animals.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and would like ideas that are simple and not all that time consuming, check these out:

Find out who your city council member, state representative, state senator or US Congressman is and send them an email telling them that you're vegan and why. And that you vote.

Go walk a dog at the local shelter. I promote this a lot. As good as it is for the dog, if you're having rough times, it will be amazing for you.

Ask your favorite restaurant to create a Meatless Monday special.

If your local library has a display case, ask them if you can do a vegan display one month. We have done this and it doesn't take a long time yet reaches so many people.

Make a delish vegan dessert for your co-workers. Yum!

Buy a vegan message tshirt from Mercy For Animals, Vegan Outreach, PETA, or Farm Sanctuary and wear it on a walk or to the gym.

Check out one of the many vegan cooking blogs (you can connect from here) and make yourself (or you and a friend/mate) a delish vegan meal.

YOU are the superstar.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why I don't go to the rodeo

I'm sure the title of this post will not surprise you. As long as my memory is, I never remember thinking that a rodeo was someplace I would go or something I would support. My main reason in not supporting any rodeo (except a human rodeo and I'll get to that) is because of the inherent issue of animal cruelty.

For the life of me I cannot imagine how anyone would think calf roping is not cruel. A terrified calf running for what she may think is her life, being roped and thrown to the ground.

I know, I've heard it many times since moving to the west: "it's our culture". A culture I want nothing to do with.

The National Western Stock Show opened last weekend in Denver. It has been around for over 100 years I think. Tens of thousands will go pet goats and buy cowboy hats and then watch a rodeo. It's entertaining. It's fun. Not for the animals involved. It's always a period of time where I try to not watch local TV as much so I can skip the commercials and the local news stations "sponsorships" of the event. Most reporters in the area trip over each other to make the point that THEY are the biggest fan of the stock show.

As one who tries to look at the good in everything I see, I do see some positive parts of this. People get to meet their meat. They get to look in the eyes of another sentient being, a being that does not want to be tortured, terrorized, or killed. A being that will in most cases feel relief the day they are finally killed and the hell they have experienced will be over. I also think that perhaps a majority of folks who have booths at the stock show or finance the stock show are against the horrors of factory farming. We all have more in common than not.

I also have a tough time with the Stock Show because I don't think it's a very friendly place for a married gay couple. I know many of the folks who support the stock show also support anti-gay politicians, and when driving in cattle country during election season one sees a lot of signs for very anti-gay candidates. But who knows, maybe even folks at the stock show are coming around.

Another possible positive thing for folks attending, if they love animals, which most people do, they will get to see that animals used in a rodeo are not having fun. They are simply product used to create an entertainment form that I hope one day will be history. A true entertaining rodeo would be with humans only, some type of physical-testing weekend of events. How many guys can a guy carry across an arena? How about a muscled cowboy trying to rope another guy? I have seen those couples sporting events where the man carries his wife/girlfriend through a series of sports challenges. That is a great form of entertainment. And just like Cirque du Soleil has reaped crazy profits from a circus without animals, I'm sure one day someone will reap crazy profits from a rodeo without animals.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cooking at home

We know several people who have decided to explore veganism in 2012 and we want to support them as much as possible. One of the ways we promote veganism is by feeding people amazing vegan food. Many people who are not vegan yet are completely surprised by how delish "our" food is.

One doesn't need to be a chef to create a simple, scrumptious vegan meal. There are many, many vegan recipes out there, and to find some amazing ones just click onto one of the links we have here and check out some of the bloggers we adore who blog about cooking and post recipes. You'll go from WOW to YUM in a matter of minutes as you create their recipes.

I am a great example of one who thought cooking vegan would be tough, but love it. Mike does most of the cooking so me warming up leftovers from his creations is easy. Yet I am pretty good in the kitchen too. One of my favorites is cooking up some fresh kale or swiss chard. It is this easy: heat up a little olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Chop up the kale or swiss chard and add it to the heating olive oil. Add a tiny bit of salt and a nice amount of cayenne pepper and boom, there it is. This is more of a side dish but if you add your favorite bean and maybe some beets it can become a full meal.

We use the cast iron skillet a lot. It's a great tool for cooking.

Another easy dish is a simple scrambled tofu. Most vegan cookbooks have a recipe and they are simple. I love making this on a Sunday morning, just add toast with my favorite mango pepper jam! Scrambled tofu is just firm or extra firm tofu crumbled up in your perfect cast iron skillet with a little olive oil, some onions (I usually saute the onions first, then add the tofu), nutritional yeast, tumeric, some kale or swiss chard, a tiny bit of salt, some pepper and you are on your way. When I want to be decadent I add Daiya cheese. Mmmmm.

Cooking at home is so much fun. I love cooking with Mike. It adds to a perfect date night. And each time you make something you can change the recipe a bit and begin creating a whole new dish.

Try it out and let us know what you made. And we'd love to hear about your favorite vegan recipe. Finally, don't forget to check out some of the vegan cooking blogs linked from our site.

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ashton the (senior) dog needs a home

If you have been reading our blog you most likely have already read about Ashton. She is a nine year old cocker mix who was brought to a shelter with her "brother" after her family could not afford the two dogs any more. The brother was adopted. Ashton went into a deep depression (losing her brother, being in a cage in a noisy place)and the shelter called us asking if we would foster her just to get her out of the shelter. This was over two months ago.

And so goes the life for older dogs in shelters. Ashton has bad allergies and a chronic ear condition that requires daily cleaning. Add that to her age and her chances of finding a permanent home get even lower.

She is a love. A total love. When she looks at you she wags her tail, and just keeps wagging it. She loves to have her belly rubbed and loves to be right at your side.

Our home is filled with older dogs. We adopted Shadow when she was 14. At 18 she is plugging along and is such a huge part of our lives. Rock is 12 and Suga is 9.

Ashton needs a home. Older, senior dogs and cats just want a place to nap and a couple of good meals a day. And love. All really easy things to provide. They make wonderful companions and add so much to the home. In almost all cases they don't tear things up and are already trained to go to the bathroom outside. Yet shelters all over the country are filled with them. For many the cage at the shelter is their last stop.

If you live in the Denver area and would like to meet Ashton, just let us know. If you would like to help senior dogs or cats in your area, just swing by your local shelter and tell them you want to help. You will make their day and the animals' day. And you will be touched for sure!

Thanks for reading!