Several months ago, I became aware of the 5th client of Kindred Spirits that was sent away to serve jail time.
All 5 people I knew were animal lovers, and I saw each of them in that capacity before hearing or reading in the paper that they had been convicted of a crime and were to be sent away.
In each case, I bet that their pets had no earthly clue what was going on.
I think that capacity for forgiveness is a human characteristic. Our pets love us unconditionally, and there are so many times that fact can be life-saving. Whether you have been convicted of a crime, gone through a divorce, lost a loved one, lost a job, had a big diagnosis, or experienced deep depression-the love of an animal and their lack of judgement can be healing.
Recently my mother was the victim of a crime. Fortunately, it was not a violent crime…someone stole her purse and used her credit cards. I was there as we met with the police to give a statement, and then received the call when the person gave back the purse. Apparently, when the perpetrator used her cards she was caught on 3 separate security cameras. The Bangor Police officer explained to me that when they look at security footage, they all try to identify the person. In this case, the officer said that the person (a woman in her 30’s) looked familiar, but he couldn’t quite identify her. As it turned out, 3 weeks later she came to the police station to recover things that were taken from her during a drug bust in her apartment, and when she did, the police officer recognized her and asked her if she had the purse.
She admitted to taking the purse and brought it back. Of course, the cards had already been used she had no money to pay back the $643 that she extracted from my mother’s accounts. Her case was sent to the DA, and a few weeks ago the victim advocate called to let us know that she was going to make a deal to pay it back and serve some (short) jail time and whether we thought that was adequate. My mom had an opportunity to speak at her sentencing.
I guess with all the talk we hear about the criminal justice system, and the TV shows we watch (including Dexter where he exacts his own justice when the system fails), I was happy to see it all work well.
I’m not sure whether the 30-something pocketbook stealer will learn from this or not, but that is really up to her.
People make mistakes. Some of them are big. What they choose to do with that is up to them.
Back to our Kindred Felons. Only one is still serving time, and I look forward to her returning with her sweet dog. I guess that when I thought of people in jail before, I thought of hardened criminals, like the ones we see on TV. I think that actually KNOWING some of the people in our jails was a humbling experience for me. Because I knew them before, and probably because I was not directly affected by their crimes, I see that value of incarceration and restitution as an opportunity to have a new start. I see them as humans who made mistakes, paid the price, and got an opportunity to move on.
Now, I say these things knowing that someone reading this may have been truly hurt by someone who committed a crime and may take exception to my cavalier description of felons. I am not saying that all people who have been convicted of a crime should have an easy go or an opportunity to start over. That is up to those involved directly in the crime. But I do think that because I have seen a few of their softer sides, and the crime in context of an otherwise sweet person…I feel like its a moment to recognize that a pet can be part of the rehabilitation…our pets seldom judge us like we judge each other.
I’m sure a few are also thinking….is Dr Hanks a felon?…is this why he is telling us?
As many of you who have known me might have guessed already, I am pretty “gangsta”
You will see when I tell you about one of my close brushes with the law…
I was the first member on either side of my family to go to college, so I got little in the way of advice before I went away to the University of Maryland, College Park. I lived in the dorms and enjoyed the freedom of the huge campus.
I knew early on in life that I wanted to be a veterinarian, so my college experience was colored by the fact that I had to maintain a high GPA in hopes of being admitted to veterinary school. I had a roommate who was very smart, but in the first few years was an undecided major and did not have as much grade pressure. We would occasionally go out (in 1982, the drinking age in Maryland was 18), but in most cases, I would beg out to study. I was also acutely aware that college was a stretch for my parents financially, and although I got a few scholarships, I also worked two jobs to make money to make it all work.
One day, my roommate told me there was a Smoke-In later in the day….and it was not the tobacco kind. A group was holding a Pro-Marijuana Rally on the lawn of the University (which was huge) and there would be a reggae band.
I told him it was unlikely I would go. First of all, I was fairly neutral on the subject, despite several of my dorm-mates impassioned stories about the value of Hemp and the medicinal value of marijuana. Secondly, I was not interested in starting a rap sheet.
So later that day, I was walking across the lawn when I saw the beginning of the festivities. The band was warming up and there were probably 100 students mulling around. When I saw a beautiful young girl with a basket of joints and a flower tiara, I decided to stop for a second and just listen to the band.
You know, I like reggae and all.
As the crowd grew to hundreds, I found myself in the middle of the university lawn, as a sophomore, on a gorgeous spring day with fluffy clouds in the sky, listening to “Jammin” .
I couldn’t believe how good the band was that day, and how warm the sun was. I had been there less than an hour when the Television crews arrived. I quizzically watched the girl with the flower tiara move toward them, wanting to be interviewed. She led the man with the huge video camera (remember, it was the 80’s) over and next thing I knew I was being asked how I felt about the legalization of marijuana.
Somewhere in the vaults of some TV station in Maryland is a news clip of a 19 year old veterinarian-to-be, just before he freaked out. Looking back, I bet the police just paid some guys to walk around with video cameras to disperse the crowd…”just go up to the kids that look paranoid and pretend to interview them”
As soon as they left, I got up abruptly and scurried back to my dorm room, with the quick movements of a squirrel, convinced I was going to be arrested.
I imagined what my cell would look like.
I decided that I would still study to be a veterinarian, albeit behind bars.
Generations of Hanks’s would be ashamed of the one that tried to go to college, but got mixed up with the wrong crowd.
I hoped my girlfriend would forgive me. She wouldn’t care about the rally, but there was that girl with the flowers in her hair….
My life was ruined.
I was surprised the next day when I had still not been arrested. I was also surprised to hear that no one saw me on TV. The story had gotten little press anywhere.
In fact, I might have gotten away with the perfect crime if I hadn’t told all of you.
Have a wonderful mother’s day and if you see my mother, don’t tell her about the Rally. She would definitely want to speak at my sentencing.