Anyone who’s been involved in animal rescue for at least five nanoseconds has probably figured out it’s likely easier to make rainbows out of a mud puddle than it is to please every Tom, Dick, and Fanny who’ve got fabulously bad intentions for how they’d like the rescue operation to fit into their agendas. Sometimes Tom, Dick, and Fanny have great ideas that serve the needs of our dogs’ adoptive processes; sometimes, though, Tom, Dick, and Fanny need a reality check. That happened this past week.
It all started when “Betty” (sorry, Betties of the world) wanted our group to send over twenty puppies for a “puppy bowl,” which was to take place in a large arena. Betty’s email rattled on AND ON about her expectations for her client. I mean, we hadn’t ever talked to this woman, and here she was delivering explicit details regarding what was to follow as if she was doing our rescue a huge favor we’d be nuts to refuse. She wanted breed-specific dogs, namely “at least two yellow Lab puppies.” She wanted to give points to dogs for defecating and urinating before spectators to her game. Why? Because that’s just so cute to freak out young dogs, who are already scared and nervous, so strangers can laugh and point fingers — to bet on their fear. Right. Making matters worse, Betty explained that “not all dogs would be adopted.” Well. Thanks for that hot news flash, ladycakes. I’ll cut to the chase: Betty paved a yellow brick road straight to Crazytown in her email, and we weren’t gonna let her take Toto down with her.
A short, yet polite decline was fired off immediately to Betty, but she wasn’t having it. She wanted a referral to another puppy “agency.” Without dragging it out further, it was decided to tell Betty why we wouldn’t help her humiliate our dogs or any other dogs. After thinking about it this week, I’d like to also stick the reply here for all to read because it pertains to everyone who doesn’t understand the line between abuse and otherwise. We are here to rescue animals, not to perpetuate and catapult the sick ideals of man.
No pussyfooting about it:
After considering your request carefully, I feel the need to fully explain why our rescue, as well as any reputable rescue that focuses on addressing animal welfare needs, will not participate.
When we bring dogs into our system, including puppies, it’s for the sole purpose of locating good homes. These animals have been dumped. They’ve been abandoned. They’ve been stuck on city streets without food, water, love, shelter, etc. Humans have not been kind to them, and because of that, these guys have no reason to trust us. Our goal is to treat them with dignity and respect — to give them what they deserve rather than to utilize them as puppets for what sounds an awful lot like a precursor for some sort of bizarre Roman Olympics opening act.
Our volunteers don’t receive compensation for assisting these dogs. They use their own gas, vehicles, homes, time, etc. When someone applies to adopt a dog, we want it to be because s/he loves that creature — not because the individual saw the poor dog scared and confused and “cute” in a gaming arena with 19 other puppies feeling the same way. We will not strain our volunteers’ resources to accommodate requests like yours when we could spend that time finding homes for their fosters at a legitimate adoption event. Read as: That’s a slap in the face to every rescuer who gives more than what can ever be received in return.
You’ve requested for your “client,” gag, to have in attendance a couple of breed-specific dogs. At least “two.” For crying in a bucket, I hope I don’t trip over all the breeders dumping yellow Lab puppies at the pound in my effort to nab the right actors for your production. You want a couple unicorns with that order? How ’bout some fries and a magical talking narwhal, too? The biggest part of what we do as rescue workers is to help the public understand we have a huge crisis that affects us all going on in city shelters. It’s about battling discrimination and irresponsible breeding. It’s about serving the needs of the animals who are left behind by people who want the fluffy lookers, about giving taxpayers a break from footing the bill for that sort of flippancy. All of our puppies are cute, damn it, even the ones that may be ugly ducklings to your “client.” What you’re asking is akin to calling an orphanage and suggesting it rush over twenty orphans for your Hunger Games mockery — a couple with blue eyes, some with golden hair, etc., for the viewing pleasure of someone who’s paying to see it, for someone who stands to make money off of our rescued dogs’ misfortunes. That’s disgusting and slimy, and we want no part of this trivialization.
As for the games themselves, your description involved something “similar” to what Animal Planet does for its puppy bowl. Animal Planet doesn’t throw puppies in the XXXXXXXXXX Ballroom in front of a bunch of strangers attending a XXXXXXXX. And just because AP does something, it doesn’t make it ethical. There’s nothing cute or kind about giving a puppy points for taking a dump in public.
This is not to suggest that our group is a stranger to mankind’s insistence upon demanding dogs and other animals play games for human enjoyment. Not at all. We’ve dealt with a lot of that. I’m attaching a photo as proof.
Allow me to describe what you’re seeing. This is Bubbles. I was nice and sent you the “after” shot. When we found her, we weren’t sure she’d make it, but she did. It wasn’t cheap. It wasn’t easy. There were a lot of tears and anger from a lot of people. Today she’s living with the most wonderful couple along with a pack of other dogs (none of them yellow Lab puppies, mind you). Bubbles wasn’t forced to attend a XXXXXXXXX puppy bowl, but she was possibly forced to bait other dogs into fighting as a source of amusement and financial gain for those who wanted to see it. I realize the analogy might run the gamut between comparisons here, but I want you to understand how very seriously we stand against animals being used in any capacity against their wills for gaming purposes of any shape, size, or color. If we were to allow our dogs to participate in ANY end of this spectrum, that would blur the line between what is acceptable and what is abuse. We label abuse as anything degrading to an animal, and your puppy bowl certainly falls into that category, even if only at an entry level. After everything that we’ve done to help Bubbles and many dogs just like her, we can’t look her in the eyes now and say, “Give us your puppies for people to laugh at…but only the cute ones. Thanks, girl.” Ain’t happening.
This email might seem a tad harsh, but I hope you’ll take a minute to truly examine why. There’s a reason we run one of the most successful dog adoption programs in north Texas. We’re fair. We’re honest. We are tough. We get it done. And now I’ve got to get back to the mission.
Thanks, but no thanks.
DFW Rescue Me and its 1300 adopted dogs not attending the puppy bowl
So there you have it, “Betty.”
And about this Thanksgiving bizwax? Well, I’m super grateful to volunteer for a rescue that isn’t afraid to tell Tom, Dick, and Fanny what time it is.
Disclaimer: I’ll add here in all fairness that there were no witnesses to Bubbles’ injuries. Therefore, it can’t be written with certainty that she was, without a doubt, used for fighting.
This year’s State Fair of Texas is cooked and done. Put three forks in it. We closed the DFW Rescue Me adoption tent for the last time Sunday evening, and I admit I already miss it more than ever.
When our rescue group assembles for its hardcore, yearly 24-day event, we know great things will follow. It’s never easy, but always a rewarding, memorable experience.
Toward the beginning of our journey, Dallas Police Department’s Sr. Corporal David Renfro stopped by on a break while I was hanging out with Violet, our Boxer/American Bulldog gal. “I just had to say hello and thank you all for what you’re doing with these dogs,” he said. Instinctively, Violet leaned into Renfro and planted a big kiss on his cheek. The cop pulled out his wallet and stuffed bills along the inside of her collar: “I can’t resist. Isn’t she sweet?”
What Officer Renfro probably didn’t realize was the importance of what he’d just done. Standing behind him were three little kids with a parent who was hesitant about allowing them to get within closer proximity to Violet. She’s a mixed bully breed. It happens. The media hasn’t always been kind when it comes to portraying dogs of Violet’s ilk, who are truly faithful companions with gracious souls. However, once Renfro stepped aside, the children were allowed to affectionately greet our good-natured sweetheart and, in turn, decorated her collar with donations — just like their role model in the uniform. The photo was shared and re-shared by social media as well as by our major, local news source.
Sr. Cpl. Renfro, thank you. You unwittingly led by kind example. I hope the Dallas Police Department understands how fortunate we are to have a guy like you around these parts. And Violet? Well, she’s finally in her new home as I type. Victory for all. (As a side note, this is not the first time Renfro has been responsible for cool, animal-related news. Love his heart.)
So much has changed since last year’s fair. The Justice trial is officially behind us. We’ve implemented Voices for Justice, a full-scale educational program for area youth, and have presented our anti-abuse-and-neglect message for nearly 4,000 kids. Fairgoers viewed the slideshow of our DFW Rescue Me Justice dogs’ before-and-after photos on the tent’s monitor — often through teary-eyed, blurry vision. Certainly, Justice was with us in spirit as always this year as we continued to honor his memory by moving toward a world sans the “it’s just a dog” philosophy.
As I was discussing our Justice dog program with a couple, who were interested in adopting one of our dogs, I inquired about the children in their home. The husband told me their daughter was adopted. They’d traveled to Russia seven years ago to help a special needs child who was living in a dilapidated orphanage. And now they wanted to show her there were also dogs with special needs who deserved a second chance as her companion. We exchanged email addresses, and later that night I received a YouTube link to the story of their child, Tatiana’s, road home. Beyond touching, such heroes. In animal rescue, we often see the darker side of mankind, but every so often we meet people who truly restore faith in humanity — people who work alongside our effort by teaching their children, our next generation of rescuers, that it takes the work of the village.
As in years past, the fair wasn’t without its challenges. It rained bucketloads three of the four weekends. Attendance was down. However, volunteers continued to fill shifts from early in the morning until late into the evening. There’s a lot of behind the scenes sort of stuff involved in a major adoption event: washing loads upon loads of “dog” laundry daily, transporting volunteers and dogs at least three times a day, feeding and walking our dogs staged in nearby boarding after the fair closes, conducting home visits, coordinating medical care, etc., and, of course, maintaining all the other responsibilities we perform the other eleven months of the year. At the end of the fair, we gathered in the tent to celebrate the new beginnings for each dog who found a home.
And there were many.
Amongst those were two dogs who’ve been in my heart for a long time — a couple of dudes who really needed special people to step forward, Ollie and Ajax. Their faces have graced our website and the sidebar of this blog for quite a while, but for one reason or another have been overlooked time and time again. A lot of us have said things like, “If we only can find homes for Ajax and Ollie, that alone would make the entire fair worth the effort.”
Every day, a traveling worker named Kamila from our fair neighbors at “Old Time Portraits” would stop in to visit with Ajax, who spent almost every single day of the event waiting patiently for someone to fall in love with him. She’d ask, “Has anyone adopted Ajax yet?” I always hated telling her no. Kamila knew he was a neat guy and would respond, “Someone will. I know it’s going to happen.” But weeks went by, and nothing.
On the final day of the fair within the last hour, Kamila appeared inside the tent. She looked inside each crate while I talked to fairgoers. I knew she was searching for Ajax.
“Where is Ajax?”
I smiled, “In his new home. Happened just a few hours ago.”
And her eyes welled up, “I knew it. I’m so happy.”
Never give up.
This is one of the things I love about the fair: You meet all kinds of caring people from all walks of life that you’d never know outside of the madness of the State Fair, even if it’s only for a minute within space and time.
The group walked dogs one last time on the fairgrounds. Gathered our personal belongings (naturally, I left both of my umbrellas, pfft). Turned off the lights. Made one final trip to our parking area. Then Jim announced, “We have one dog left in boarding. That’s it. Everybody else is with a foster or in a home.” Standing ovation. We kicked major ass this year.
When I got back to my house, my own quirky dog-and-cat pack greeted me at the door. Amongst them was Sweetie, who spent quite a few days herself at last year’s State Fair adoption event searching for her home before I realized she was already there. She sniffed my clothes for the other dogs I’d been cheating on her with all day, knew where I’d been, and gave a disapproving huff. I told her, “OK, it’s over. I’m yours again, you guys.” Then all seven of us sat on my blanket-encapsulated sofa to celebrate.
Wrapping things up like last year with another corny internet toast, here’s to New Big Tex, my reincarnated homeboy and guardian of the greatest fair in the world. Here’s to showing rainy weather who’s boss. Here’s to the almighty fried red velvet cupcake. Here’s to our awesome partners at Urban Paws and Toothacres. Here’s to our Rescue Mom, Fluffy, for keeping us in line. Here’s to no more 8 o’clock fireworks. Here’s to all the State Fair fashion fails. Here’s to the adopters, the second chances, the transporters, the walkers, the photographers, the Pinups for Pitbulls, Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, the donors, the fosters, the people who cleaned up puppy pee.
Here’s to Sr. Corporal David Renfro.
Here’s to Jim Wenger, our BBAM, and the greatest rescue family of volunteers at DFW Rescue Me a dog could ever hope to find.
And now…here’s to 2014.
I know it sounds corny, but for me the State Fair of Texas is where my heart can always be centered. It’s crowded. It’s crazy. The weather can be temperamental. Still, this is the place where I first fell in love with caramel apples, renewed my wedding vows atop the Texas Star, and showed my child the sort of arts and crafts I’d known growing up as a preacher’s kid in tiny towns across north Texas.
The fair is also where I accidentally discovered my place in the animal rescue world, hence the blog’s header up there. It’s safe to say my life has been changed forever at this point. The animals and people I’ve met have become an enormous, extended family. Through the efforts of many, I’ve witnessed the group morph from a handful of volunteers into a full scale network of almost twenty-thousand Facebook followers with almost 1,200 successful adoptions. We’ve worked together within the community to create educational presentations, spay and neuter days, low cost microchipping events, donation drives, and many, many other beneficial programs benefiting not only the animals, but also the people in the DFW area. That said, every day is a fair day in our world.
DFW Rescue Me is hosting its third annual month-long adoption drive at the State Fair of Texas, and I’m really excited to be a part of it yet again. The past two years, we’ve been fortunate to host the event alongside Dallas Animal Services. However, this year our group will be running the show on our own and will need all hands on deck in order to ensure our dogs are present and attended by as many caring folks as possible.
If you’ve been considering getting involved in animal rescue, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn a boatload about the work we do in a very short amount of time. I promise the experience will be one you’ll not forget, and you’ll be rewarded handsomely in ways that cannot be measured when you witness a dog you’ve grown to love go from near hopelessness to enjoying the new warmth and comfort of a great home.
We need transporters. We need people to walk dogs. We need people to sell merchandise. We need kissing booth attendants. We need people to reassure pups who are scared and uncertain of their environment. We need people who are willing to fill water bowls and distribute treats and remind fair-goers that our dogs aren’t part of a petting zoo. So, you see, there are a lot of ways you can get your feet wet in this shindig.
Reach out to fairvolunteer[at]dfwrescueme.org for more info and to schedule your time with us during this year’s event. The fair begins September 27th and runs through October 20th, so there are lots of times and dates available for you to assist.
This is officially *your* Six Days at the Fair (and more)!
(And now I probably need to give our coordinator my volunteer fair schedule, too, before she strangles me. Sorry, Mer.)
It’s been a year and four months since our community laid Justice to rest. A spring. A summer. A fall. A winter . . . another spring . . . another summer, and here we are today reeling from the aftermath of your shocking ruling. We’ve camped out a long while for this storm.
For you, this may be business as usual — another day, another case. That’s not how it is for me, though. I do not have the luxury of forgetting and moving on because I still have to visit Justice all the time. See, one of the hats I wear for our animal rescue is as his grave’s guardian.
I’m not alone, at least, and far from it; this is what I’d like to share with you.
I remember the week Jim collected Justice from Dallas Animal Services. The news traveled quickly amongst volunteers about the young dog who’d been strangled and lit ablaze. We didn’t want the publicity. We only wanted to save his life so Justice would know something more than misery. We wanted to find his perfect home. That’s the goal for every dog we meet.
It didn’t work out that way, and I’ll never forget holding my phone as I read the words: “We lost Justice.” At the time, we had no way of knowing exactly how much justice we’d lost that morning.
When our group buried him, the option to cremate his remains was on the table. However, it was decided Justice had been burned enough in life, and so he was put in the ground inside a tiny casket. I think about that every time I see his grave — about how even in death, he was protected symbolically from further pain and suffering. He’d been attacked using “flammable” or “ignitable” materials, to quote official court documents. For the humans who were left to pick up the pieces, that was too much fire.
It took hours upon hours for mourners to sign the guest book at his funeral. I watched from the sidelines as people slowly waited their turns in the heat of that day. If you’d been present, of course, it would have been impossible for you to have thought the public took his death slightly.
Shortly thereafter, we laid a beautiful headstone donated by caring individuals in a private ceremony. It reads: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” You can see for yourself, if you’d like. It’s still there. It’ll be there forever, Judge Mitchell, because we don’t plan on putting this tragedy out of memory.
What I never expected in a million years were all the incredible events I’d witness while walking rescue dogs near Justice’s site. I’ve seen cards and letters left there; one written by a young child wore my heart in half. People regularly place toys and bones on the memorial. There are always flowers. The grass around his grave is always greener for some reason. More than that, I’ve seen compassion unfold there like no other place I’ve known in my life.
One day while I was approaching the area, I noticed an elderly woman with her head buried in the crook of a man’s arm. Both were crying. I watched them for a moment before closing the gap and stood silently in front of the grave for a bit. The gentleman wiped his tears after a while and said to me, “We saw this story on the news. I didn’t know he was buried here.” They’d just laid to rest their own dog, but were there in front of Justice’s grave, caught up in the grief of his misfortune as well. The wife added, “Our girl had a good life, but this one never had a chance. It breaks my heart to know he’s not the only one who’s suffered.”
And that’s the point, Judge. He’s not the only one. That’s why we held a memorial and a funeral and created the Justice Fund and Voices for Justice. We wanted the world to know: He’s not the only one, so let’s fix things. The opportunity was yours to tell this woman and her husband and the rest of us that you recognize the problem, but you blew it. Instead, you delivered this case reportedly to the defense on a silver platter based on technicality.
Good thing the rest of us fighting for justice don’t live in a world based around your morals and ethics in the courtroom. We’d be a big lot of sniveling weasels that never accomplished anything resembling common decency.
People ask me frequently how the case is going. What do I tell them now? Do I tell them it’s largely over at this point because Judge Larry Mitchell doesn’t have the basic skills it would require to operate a thesaurus — that Judge Larry Mitchell had an issue with the terms “ignitable” and “flammable”? Please. This is not your first time dealing with communication issues. You of all people should take zero offense at such inconsequential discrepancy after all the damaging legal trouble you’ve faced, sir.
Just last summer, the Dallas Morning News reported you were given a suspension for misconduct. Within the same article, we learned that wasn’t your first time at that rodeo; it was “at least” your fourth. And now you’re a judge. Fantastic. You’re exactly the guy we needed to elect for the job you’re currently performing. (Pfft. Not.) I particularly cringed when I read: “The State Bar says Mitchell never filed writs of habeas corpus as his client wanted and did not communicate with [the client] and his family for more than three years between 2003 and 2006, according to testimony.”
Jaw officially slack. Where is the integrity? I hope there’s a sliver of that left on the other side of this case. People are waiting and hoping, counting on something more than this.
At the end of the day, what happened in your courtroom was about Darius Ewing’s plea. The public wasn’t trying him for crimes he didn’t commit or for vindication on behalf of every dog who’s ever suffered. Still, the message you have dangerously implied into the ether is: This was just a dog, folks.
Oddly, I take solace when guarding that burial site. The people who visit know there’s more than just a dog below that dirt. He was a creature capable of love, companionship, fear, reverence, loyalty — qualities we understand as humans. There’s deeply personal fellowship to be had at the place where “all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
In the succinctly sweet words of the child who left a card at Justice’s grave: “I am sad. I am sorry.”
Well, Judge Mitchell, I am certainly sad.
And, Justice, I am really sorry.
If you’d told me a year ago I’d be writing this post, I would’ve told you to check your head. Every rescue story I record here is special to me for one reason or another, but this one really changed the way I view the world in its entirety.
Sweetie is an old lady pit bull who was tragically abandoned at a boarding facility a year ago this spring. Riddled in pain from years of puppy-machining, neglect, and a life spent confined to a concrete dog run, the poor girl seemed as if she’d lost hope. When we met, Sweetie was covered in large callouses, flies that’d laid eggs in her fur, and grossly infected teats. She snarled. She snapped. She lunged, and I’ll be frank: I believed her quality of life was likely to only improve through the kindness of death. (I wrote about Sweetie’s long suffering here.)
While the boarders journeyed through the tedious process of gaining legal custody of Sweetie, we brought her bones and treats in an attempt to occupy her and earn her trust. None of it was easy; her health deteriorated further, but she began to approach us more and more — still growling, still hating on us, but with cautious desire to interact. Admittedly, I’d never dealt with an animal so full of aggression. We were flying by the seats of our pants, really — hoping she would understand we weren’t like the other humans she’d known, taking each step slowly by allowing her to lead the way.
After months of having only food and water slid to her through a chain-linked fence by workers and receiving whatever treats we had to offer, Sweetie finally stood close enough to the gate for us to touch her one day. She groaned a little, but switched sides allowing me to stroke her fur again through the fence. It was like touching cardboard. Broke my heart, numbed my brain. How could someone treat a creature so terribly? When my fingers connected with her fur that first time, her suffering was tangible, and I felt it in my soul. Can’t explain it, really, but I knew her spirit was still alive. She was trying.
The facility won custodianship by mid-summer, and I arrived to jailbreak Sweetie on behalf of DFW Rescue Me for her well-deserved trip to the vet. Later that day, I drove her to my home to recover, but had little faith I’d be able to safely foster her with my other animals. After all, I’m no dog trainer, and I’ve always told folks I’m a cat person at the end of the day. All the same, I considered Sweetie’s spirit and her progress. Maybe, just maybe things could work, I thought.
That first month we kept Sweetie in a room alone. She wanted to eat the cats and other dogs. The next month, she wanted to eat the cats and other dogs less. We took her on walks and supervised play time in the yard, and, remarkably, she decided to befriend our little Italian Greyhound foster guy. We moved Sweetie into a large crate by our patio door so she’d have a better view and also be able to spend more time observing the offending cats, whom she became slightly less dead set upon devouring. Slightly. By the end of the third month, she’d made friends with our cat Mr. Bob Dobalina, a grey tabby tom dude with titanium tolerance. Like a helicopter mom, I began leading Sweetie around the house on her leash so she could hang out in general population. I could tell she wanted to please us and was grateful; she just needed to take her time.
In the evenings, we sat in the hammock in the backyard and stared at the sky together. Sweetie would close her eyes, lean into me sighing and kissing my cheek. Her teats weren’t swollen anymore. Her fur felt like…fur. She was content. And beautiful now. Sometimes I’d gawk at her in complete disbelief that she was the raggedy old hag who used to spit and cuss at me just months earlier. I’d hold her and tell her everything was going to be ok, but I knew we still had a haul ahead of us.
Even though Sweetie was improving, her thyroid wonked out. Rats. Here I was with a pit bull burdened by a sordid past [strike] who was old [strike] with a condition that required medication twice a day for life [strike]. She wasn’t receiving boatloads of adoption applications, let me tell ya. I wished she could only get along with my little dog, Nova Party Pants, who was still pretty irritated Sweetie was crashing at her pad. Rock and a hard place, but with a little wiggle room for hope.
A couple months ago, Sweetie was snoring on the couch when Nova slumped up next to her. Burrowing into the fatty folds of Sweetie’s belly, Nova passed out. Everything really was going to be ok, I realized. Nova just needed time, too. There they were: Four cats and my beloved gal pal Nova…and Sweetie. Victory.
Because Sweetie’s progress was so significant, I began socializing her on Main Street. Then we started going around in the car more. Last week, I’m honored and proud to say she completed her fourth appearance as a Voices for Justice dog, which is an educational program our rescue presents to local elementary schools and children’s groups within our DFW communities. (She was even on the news because she’s a superstar like that.)
On Wednesday, like almost a thousand people before me, I completed an online application to adopt through our group. All of our dogs deserve the best homes possible, but certainly Sweetie’s was a lifetime coming. I closed my laptop after sending the app and told Sweetie, “So you’re staying. Forever.” Then, for the the first time ever, she tore apart my kitchen trash. Stinker. Pfft.
In the past year, I thought I was working on Sweetie, but, truly, she was working on me. I was the one with trust issues. I was the one who needed to believe the unimaginable was possible. I was the one who underestimated myself and my ability to let the world unfold instead of forcing that which only time often reveals. When those flies were laying eggs in her cardboard fur, she could’ve given up…but she didn’t. There was spunk buried inside her will to live. She chose to become a better dog when new people showed her a light, and because of that, I’d be a fool to not become a better person through her lessons.
As I type, Sweetie is snoring with her pokey out-y tongue hanging out and drooling on my bed. She’s shedding and smells like hell, but I don’t care. Like the rest of my clan, I love her without end.
And I’m humbled she calls this place “home.”
Welcome home, Sweetie. This is our sweet hereafter, old girl.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Toothacres, Jim Wenger, and the great volunteers at DFW Rescue Me who created a bridge for Sweetie’s recovery as well as an outlet for her to share her story to educate others. Most of all, thanks to Russell for saying “yes” over and over again, even when saying “no” would have often been easier. <3