I had been an animal activist since childhood. It all started when I was only eight years old and saw an ad in the Los Angeles Times that showed hunters clubbing baby harp seals in
Canada. The photo was so graphic that I felt like I could hear the screams from the poor animals calling
out to me.
Dad was outside doing some yard work at the time. Shaking with anger over the plight of these poor animals, I grabbed the paper with the horrific scenes and took it out to him.
“We have to do something for these poor baby seals,” I told him in no uncertain terms.
“Susie, if we helped every animal that needed it, we would go broke,” was his reply.
“But Dad, look at this,” I said. “These are just babies and they’re clubbed and skinned alive right in front of their mother’s eyes. How can you stand there and let this happen?” He shrugged his shoulders and went back to work racking leaves.
I stormed off, tears running down my face, slamming the door to the house behind me. I felt helpless, like there was nothing I could do to stop these cruel hunters from killing baby seals for their fur coats. The only alternative I could think of was to send the organization a letter and ask if I could help in any other way besides sending money. I sat down in my room, door slammed shut, pen and paper in hand, and wrote a heart-felt letter to the Animal Protection Institute of America (API). Just as I had finished the letter, my father entered my room, check in hand.
“Here, let’s send this to help save the baby seals.” He had written a check for $20.00. From that day on, I started sending money to the API. I sent my baby-sitting money, cash I received for my birthday or Christmas, all to help in the fight against the seal slaughter. I also brought petitions from the organization to school and asked my friends to help me save the seals as well as the whales and other endangered species. Mom laughed when API sent me invitations to attend fund-raising cocktail parties. But I was very serious about doing everything I could to help.
Not long after I became a member of API, I noticed my Dad working in the front yard again. I was curious to find out what he was doing with a hose in the center of the yard. As I approached, I stepped over some small holes in the grass.
"What's the hose for?" I asked.
"Oh, there's a nasty gopher who's made his home in our lawn," he said. "I'm going to drown him out."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. My own father was going to kill a cute little creature right in front of me. That was not going to happen, if I had anything to say about it. In a fit of desperation, I actually sat on the gopher hole refusing to allow this defenseless creature's death come to pass at the hand of my own flesh and blood.
“I am a member of the Animal Protection Institute of America and you are not going to kill this gopher,” I said, hands crossed, sitting Indian style directly over the hole.
“Aw, come on Suzi,” he said. “You know how much damage a gopher can do to our lawn?”
“I don’t care,” I replied. “He is a living, breathing, being and you will not kill him.” Dad knew he wasn’t going to win this battle so he took the hose and just walked away, leaving me to sit on the gopher hole for as long as I wanted. Dad never again tried to kill any creatures found in our yard or house, or at least, he never did it so that I could see or find out.
So in my own way, I had something in common with Gretchen Wyler, my new client.