My Writings


Kathy Bauck’s attorney, Zenas Baer, said animal advocates demonstrated a “fundamental misunderstanding of what a dog is under Minnesota law,” arguing that a dog is personal property.  Bauck stood on trial for animal abuse and torture in her puppy mill in Minnesota.  The Minnesota legislature has been debating a dog and cat breeder bill for the last four years.  If this bill had ever been passed into law, Bauck would have lost her business. 

Puppy and kitten mill breeders are inhumane breeders.  They breed puppies and kittens for a profit, not considering the suffering of the animals under their care.  The dogs and cats reside in cramped cages filled with waste.  The animals don’t get proper veterinary care and little protection from extreme temperatures.   There exists little socialization with humans and no exercise outside the cages.  The mothers breed over and over until they outlive their usefulness, and are then euthanized or sold to other breeders.  Thus, the animals sold may have genetic diseases or behavioral issues. 

The United States Department of Agriculture stands as the only agency that regulates breeders through the Animal Care Program.  Pet stores and breeders, who sell direct to the public, remain exempt.  The Animal Care Program faced auditing four times in the last twenty-five years, and the Inspector General discovered that the USDA did not enforce standards or fine the breeders for failing inspections. 

Kathy Bauck has owned and managed Puppys on Wheels and Pick of the Litter for 20 years.  The Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) investigated Bauck’s business.  Not only was it a puppy mill, Bauck also practiced veterinary medicine without a license.  Bauck already faced conviction of this crime both in 2006 and 2008.  Her latest trial occurred May 2009, and she stood convicted of four out of nine counts of animal torture and cruelty.  All these crimes gave her a month in jail, a $1400 fine, eighty hours of community service, and three years of probation.

In 2011, the Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill was introduced.  This bill required that breeders with ten or more intact adult animals be licensed.  They must also comply with anti-cruelty statutes already in existence.  Other improvements included an animal care plan devised with a licensed veterinarian, and sufficient staff. 

Much opposition still exists to the breeder bill.  One opposition is the cost.  Nancy Minion, an animal advocate, stated that foundations would provide the start-up money, and fees would maintain the program.  The Board of Animal Health would enforce the law and perform inspections, which they already do for other animal agencies.

Other groups that oppose the bill include the National Rifle Association and the American Kennel Club.  An NRA brochure, “Freedom in Peril,” called such animal rights activists “terrorists.”  The AKC opposed the bill because they get registration fees for every puppy born in these mills.   

What can we do?  The first step is to research organizations that focus on animal advocacy.  Word of mouth serves as an amazing tool; many people don’t know about puppy and kitten mills, and animal laws.   

The final word on the breeder bill is what defines a dog or a cat.  Is it a piece of property used for economic gains?  Or is it a family member, a sentient being?  How we treat animals is connected to how we treat our fellow human beings.   If we allow ourselves to abuse and neglect animals, then the next step to human cruelty extends not far ahead.

Best Friends Animal Society:

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals:

Companion Animal Protection Society:

Humane Society of the United States:

Animal Humane Society (Minnesota and Upper Midwest):

Animal Folks Minnesota:


As a child, I felt like an alien from another planet.  I was born with Klippel-Feil syndrome (KFS), and I looked and moved differently than anyone else.  I was an alien in a sea of humans. 
Klippel-Feil syndrome occurs during the spinal development of the fetus.  Usually the spine segments, but in this case the cervical spine doesn’t and remains fused.  Telltale signs of Klippel-Feil syndrome consist of a short neck, low hairline in the back, and limited range of movement in the neck.  Associated conditions might involve spine disorders, heart and lung problems, and facial and organ deformities.  There is no cure for Klippel-Feil syndrome.  Instead, treatment consists of surgery of the spine, bracing of the spine, physical therapy, or chiropractic care.
 A few years ago I attended support groups for anxiety and depression.  Besides medication and counseling, the support group helped me the most.  As a child, I believed I was inherently defective and a burden on everyone.  The members in the support group felt just like me: alone and broken.  I knew they understood how I felt and I experienced  validation for the first time.   
Unfortunately, because Klippel-Feil syndrome is so rare, there existed no support groups in my area.  As a single adult, I still struggled with my disability, especially in a culture where women are judged by their appearance.  Not only that, I started to experience the aging effects of my syndrome because I couldn’t lift small children anymore.  As a child care provider I loved my job, but I became too weak to carry children safely.  So I decided to find an online support group for my KFS.
In my search for the support group, I only found groups for parents of children with the disorder.  In 2006, I saw an ad for that announced a new Internet site where I could create my own website.  The ad inspired me to create my own support group!  I used to create my website, then I used google for the group.
Going was slow at first.  It took about a year or so before I finally got regular members who would post.  After I listed the group on the National Organization of Rare Disorders’ database, other medical specialists would list my site on their websites.   
Now one hundred fifty members of all ages and from other countries belong.    We talk about how we cope with KFS and give advice to those new to this disorder. Others have also struggled with depression and anxiety as I have, and continue to do so.  We talk about out childhoods, and the different surgeries and therapies we have had for our associated conditions.  Our deepest thoughts and emotions are exposed, and we try to encourage and support each other. 
After meeting so many unique and courageous people like me, I no longer feel alone.  We are a family and friends for life.  Even though we live far apart, we feel each other’s burdens and share each other’s joys.  I’m no longer an alien, but human. 


The snow drifted softly through the pale sky, covering everything with a blank slate.  Patience sat in the passenger side of their black Ford Explorer with her husband, Grant, piloting the car.  As usual, he was stoically silent, listening to WCCO AM radio, the only station one could hear throughout the state of Minnesota.  Patience stared out the window at the desolate snow and the occasional dilapidated barn.  She marveled at how her husband could stay alert through this long, monotonous drive, especially when there was nothing to look at and nothing to hear.

At her mother’s funeral earlier that day, Patience sat, listening as people passed by the open casket. 

            “Oh, she looks so good.”

            “She seems so peaceful.”

            “She looks just like she did when she was alive.”

            She wanted to scream, “That’s not her!  She didn’t wear all that make-up or have such coiffed hair!”  But she sat quietly, clutching her hands together.

            The funeral itself was atrocious.  The requisite singer who sang at every funeral at the home had a horrible warble in her voice.  She screeched, “How Great Thou Art” and “Amazing Grace.”  These were Lily’s favorite songs being butchered. 

            At the reception, there was the usual Cheese Whiz on a bun, runny potato salad, with stale cake and weak coffee.  Patience could only imagine the comments her mother would have made: “This coffee is horrible; I have to pour in the cream and sugar!  The sandwiches are mushy, the salad too vinegary!”  Patience could just see her mother pumping her fist in the air with finality.

            After the funeral in the stifling hot building, the weary lot trudged on to the cemetery.  Lily was buried on the Lutheran side, while the Catholics were safely tucked away on the other side.  Patience knew how the small towns preferred to divide the dead this way.  She carefully laid a bouquet of her mother’s favorite flower, lily of the valley, on the casket before being lowered into the abyss.  Patience cried bitter tears, burying her face in Grant’s coat lapels. 

            Not much had changed at funerals since her dad, Chase, died forty years ago.  Everything was the same, even the bland food and horrendous singing.

            But everything else had changed since Chase passed on.  Her mom, who had never lived alone, found herself in her own apartment, with no one to share her life with.  Lily had to start working outside the home, since there was no assistance for widows in those days.  Through her sons, who worked at the Crystal Sugar factory, she got a job, cleaning the facility.  Lily was ill-equipped for this new independent life, and relied more and more on her own children to help her.



The last two years were a succession of road trips from Minneapolis to Moorhead, especially over the last two months.  Lily had a few strokes over that time, of which Patience was not surprised.  Lily had been obese for years, lavishing butter on everything she ate.  She could eat anything between two slices of bread, and regularly ate the fatty food at the greasy spoons.  Two months ago she had fallen in the night, breaking her leg.  Lily lay there for hours; her calls for help fruitless because her neighbors in the high rise were deaf.  Patience could only imagine the horror Lily went through.  She was amazed she survived even that.

In the hospital, she howled in agony, hallucinating about her childhood. 
            “James, we got to get the kids ready.”                                                          

“Where is she?  The house is burning.”

            Patience could only understand half of what her mother was saying.  Her brother James and Lily had to raise their siblings after their mother died of cancer.  Patience didn’t know about the burning house.  She assumed it was a childhood friend.  What she would have given to know her mother more.  Lily never wanted to talk about her childhood.  Now she would never have the chance.

            Hour after hour Patience watched her mother slowly losing her mind.  From time to time she would be lucid, complaining of being too cold or too thirsty.  Patience would make sure her blankets were tucked in and help her take sips of water.  Other times Lily would proclaim she saw a light, and call out a name of someone long gone. 

            After a couple of weeks in the hospital, Lily had to be transferred to the nursing home.  Patience was relieved when the hospital moved her to Eventide Lutheran Home.  The lobby looked like a Scandinavian village, with room entrances that looked like shops, an aviary, and tables for visitors.  Even though it was winter, Patience could see the garden outside, which had birdhouses, benches, and gazebos.  It was snack time, and residents were sitting in the community rooms, where they had cookies and coffee.  A piano was in the corner, where a spindly old lady was banging out some big band tunes.

            Patience sat in her mom’s room, where she had a roommate.  Her roommate, Gwen, moaned all day long.  It just about drove Patience crazy.  Lily didn’t care for it too much either, for she would periodically yell, “Shut up!” or “Be quiet!”  Lily continued in

her hallucinations and complaining of being too cold and thirsty.  From time to time one of Patience’s brothers Owen or Bill would storm in.

            “Why did you put her here?  She was fine at home!”

            “I had to.  I couldn’t count on you to take care of her.  Look at her!”

            “Oh, you think you are so high and mighty, living in the big city in your big house.”

            It was pointless to try to reason with her brothers, they had always been angry and jealous.  She hated that she had to be the one to make the tough choices, for she knew her brothers never would.  And she knew that they resented her for that.


            About ten years ago Patience had to move her mom to a high rise for the elderly.  Lily had difficulty getting around, and had to use a cane, although she fought it.  The high rise had a nurse on site 24-7, and all the residents had to put an “I’m OK” sign on the doorknob before they went to bed.  There was also an emergency cord in the bathroom for when people fell. 

            “I don’t want to go that place,” Lily whined.

            “I know you don’t.  But you can’t get up and down those stairs anymore.  What if you fell?  What if your apartment started on fire?  I worry about you, living so far away.  I just want you to be safe,” her daughter explained.

            “I am safe.  The kids can check up on me.”  Lily was a stubborn goat.

            Patience was just as stubborn.  “The kids are busy with their own kids.  Here there is a person who can check up on you.”

            They sat in the SUV in the parking lot at the high rise, looking at the building.  It was bright, sunny spring day, with buds on the rose bushes and leaves popping out on the oak trees. 

            “They have other people your age there too.  They can take you to the store.  You can play bingo and bridge there.  And they have a library.  Now you can read all the books you want.  And you love bridge.  Maybe you’ll make some friends.  You have been alone without dad for so long, with no one else your age to talk to.  Won’t that be nice?”

            Her mother had a scowl on her face and her hands clenched into fists.  Patience wondered when she became the mom instead of the child.  She didn’t like this role, but knew she couldn’t trust her brothers for their help.  She had to be the bad one, again.

            As time went on, Lily became used to her new home.  When Patience came to visit, Lily was usually in the lobby chatting with the other residents, having a good laugh.  On warm summer days Lily would be out in the backyard, where it met the Red River as it meandered through the valley. 

            “Hi, mom,” Patience said, as she gave her mother a hug.

            “Give me a kiss,” Patience gave her mom a peck on the cheek.

            “Are you watching the birds?” Patience asked.

            “Yeah, the chickadees are my favorite.”

            “I know.  I see my flowers are coming out.”  Patience had a beautiful garden at home, and enjoyed bringing transplants to the high rise for the residents. 

            “What have you been up to?” Patience asked as she sat down next to her mom on the bench.

            “Oh, I started helping Meals on Wheels, and at the library here.  I won five bucks on bingo the other day.”  Lily loved to win, even if just five bucks.

            “Are you using your cane?”  

            “Yeah, yeah.”  Lily cast a sideways glance at her daughter with distaste.  She did not like being told what to do.

            After a while they went into Lily’s apartment, where they had a snack and watched soap operas.  Lily’s favorites were “One Life to Live” and “General Hospital.” They sat and discussed the main characters at Port Charles and Vicki’s never-ending mental illness.


“I’ll get out and get the mail.”  Grant and Patience finally got home after their drive from Moorhead.  Patience woke up as Grant got the mail.  She didn’t realize she had dozed off.  The sky was dark but the stars.  She loved the peacefulness and silence of

the night sky.  It wrapped its arms around her like a warm cloak.  “Just a bunch of junk,” her husband said as he tossed the mail into the backseat.

            When they got into the house, the burglar alarm screeched, and Patience quickly unarmed the house.  Grant shuffled into the TV room, flipping on the tube to watch the nightly news.  Patience gathered some milk and cookies for their bedtime snacks. 

            Afterwards, they silently climbed the stairs to their bedroom, and started on their nightly ritual.

            After turning on the alarm, they went to bed.  Grant usually snored like steam engine, but since it took a while for him to fall asleep, Patience was thankful she could fall asleep anywhere, anytime.  Not that night though.  Patience lay on her side, thinking of her mom.


            The Greyhound bus was surprisingly full.  Since the interstates were built, more and more people drove their cars.  But Lily never learned to drive, so she took the bus to and from Moorhead and Minneapolis.  It was usually a seven hour trip since the bus stopped at every little town on Highway 10.  These used to be bustling tourist towns, but with the advent of the interstate, they more and more became ghost towns. 

            Lily had her hands firmly wrapped around the handle of her purse, for fear it would fall of her slippery lap, due to her polyester pants.  Her battered old Samsonite

suitcase was at her side on the next seat.  There were no exotic labels on it, just an old luggage tag with her name and address dutifully written.  She wore a familiar top, with bright and bold flowers on it.  She had on her Avon lipstick and perfume, and a cheerful countenance upon her face.  She was laughing, her body bumping along with the road.          She turned her head to look at Patience and said, “I’m OK.”



“Grant, Grant, wake up!”

It was morning, with the sunlight streaming through the curtains.  Patience was tapping her husband’s arm, trying to jostle him awake.

“What, are you OK?” Grant asked in alarm.

“I had a dream!” Patience exclaimed.  “My mom was riding the bus like she used to.  She told me she was OK!” 

For a moment there was silence, for Grant had an eerie look on his face. 

“What, what’s wrong?” Patience started to get concerned.

After a pause, Grant said, “I had the same dream.” 


I awoke to another hot day wishing we had air-conditioning in this stifling caldron.  I crawled out of bed in a pool of sweat and fear.
            “Come get your breakfast!” my mother, Jasmine, yelled from the kitchen. 
            “I just got up!”
            “Suri, get dressed and get down here.  We don’t have all day, you know.”
            I rolled my eyes in disgust and stumbled to the bathroom.
            Looking in the mirror, I sighed having to cover my hair with my hijab.  I considered my hair my best quality, with its long, dark waves and auburn streaks.  Instead, I had to make do with dark eyeliner and ruby lipstick. 
“Here, have some chai.  Do you want some naan and pomegranate jam?”  My mother never ceased to try to feed me.  “Eat, eat, you are too skinny!”
            “I’ll just have the chai; I’m thirstier than anything.”
            “Stop trying to be so thin.  You’re skin and bones.”  My mother had a tendency to exaggerate.
            “I’m fine.  I had a big dinner last night.  Besides, if I know you, we have a big lunch planned, don’t we?” I smiled.
            Jasmine nodded in affirmation.
            We took the subway from our home on Khomeini Square to the Martyr’s Cemetery.  As usual, it was crowded, with older women like my mother wearing black chadors from head to toe, and young women like me wearing the requisite black hijab.  As we sat in the subway car, I wondered where everyone was going.  Were they going to the cemetery to pay homage to the dead?  Or were they going to the protest later today, paying homage to the living? 
            At the Martyr’s Cemetery, there were many other grieving families having picnics on their loved ones’ graves.  We walked through a maze of whitewashed concrete tombs until we saw the familiar face of my father, Darius.  He looked ready for war in the
larger-than-life picture on his gravestone.  After straightening the Iranian flag on the ground, we laid out our provisions.
            “I miss your father, Suri.  We had a much nicer home in a quiet neighborhood.  Darius worked hard for us.  And now it is all gone.”
            I remained thoughtful, not remembering much about him, except for the muscular arms that would hold me, and the dry kisses that would graze my cheeks.
            “How is school?” my mother asked, disrupting my reverie.
            “It’s ok.  I hate having to be so separate from the men all the time.  How can I meet someone?  I can’t speak my mind at the lectures; I just have to keep quiet.  How can I learn?”
            “When it is time, we will get you a mate.  You know how it works!”
            “I don’t want an arranged marriage.   I want to fall in love!”
            “Oh, you have read too many Western novels.  As for university, it is for you to learn by listening and observing.  It is not a place for you to open your mouth.  You will get in trouble that way.  I have worked too hard and too long to get you there.  Don’t waste this opportunity, not everyone gets it.”
            Her lectures usually shut me up.  As usual, I felt guilty for not appreciating my mother’s sacrifices for me.  It had not been easy for her, being a single parent for so long, with no support or help from anyone. 
After the picnic, we again took the subway home.  We rode in silence.  I thought about the protest tonight, wondering when to broach the subject with Mother.  I knew she would not want me to go.  Every time she heard someone speak against the government, she would try to change the subject.  Jasmine lived in a constant state of fear.  She was an “obedient” Iranian woman, wearing her chador, no drinking, no parties, no reading underground newspapers or watching anti-government TV “propaganda.”  She preferred to make her traditional Persian foods, clean her old, rundown apartment, and visit her beloved’s grave every weekend.  She worked long hours during the week, cleaning others’ homes, and cooking others’ meals. 
            Mother disapproved of all this new technology: the cell phone, the internet; also the underground media.  Jasmine’s hands shook quite often from nerves, and she had a constant worry crease in her forehead.  I wondered if she would one day explode from all the tension within her. 
            At 4 o’clock, my friends and I met at the same subway station.  We all had something green on; I had a green hijab.  We held signs with “Where is my vote?” and “Death to the Dictator!”  On the subway ride, we chattered with each other, exclaiming our excitement.  Nevertheless, deep down I was terrified.  I thought about when I finally told my mother of the protest.
At the kitchen table as we were having our afternoon chai, I blurted out, “I’m going to the protest at the university.”
            My mother paused, looking at me with blank eyes.  After a few moments, recognition kicked in and she affirmed, “No, you’re not.”
            I was prepared.  “I am fighting for Iran.  Just like how dad did during the war.”
            “That’s different.  Darius was fighting with the government.  Here you are against the government.  How can you say it is the same thing?” 
            “I am fighting for the people of Iran, so we can be free.”
            Mother’s eyes began to moisten.  “Don’t you know what happens to these people?  They get arrested, beaten, and raped.  They are killed.  You are all I have!” my mother shouted as she banged her fist on the table.
            It broke my heart to hear her say that.  I knew it was true.  I also believed that it wasn’t enough.  I wanted more.   I wanted to be free; all of us to be free.  If my dad was willing to sacrifice his life for his people, I had to do the same.  I took my mother’s hand into mine.  “I’ll be careful.  I’ll be with friends.  I’ll come home right after.”
            With a solemn nod, she let me go.
            When we got off the subway at Tehran University the streets were already crowded with green-clad people.  I was pleased to see such a variety of ages, from the elderly to the child, men and women, all chanting “Allah Akbar!”  Students were on their cell phones, using twitter and facebook to communicate and take pictures.  I took some
too, hoping to later post them on YouTube.  There was such an air of community and purpose.  For the first time in my life, I felt powerful.  I threw off my hijab with a triumphant shout, while my mates followed suit.
            “Pop, pop!”
            The crowd scattered like ashes from a fire, blown this way and that, not knowing where to go or what to do.
            A small group of people hovered around a young woman lying on the ground.  Blood was pouring out of her mouth and nose, a man was pumping on her chest, yelling at her to “breathe, breathe!”   Some bystanders took hurried videos of the scene, while a posse of young men ran to find the shooter in the direction of the killing sound.
            I stood in silence, with my hand over my mouth, trying to stifle my sobs.  My friends were long gone, running to the sanctity of their homes.  I did not know this woman, but she could have been me.  She wore a green hijab like me that had fallen down around her.  She had long black way hair, with red lipstick, or maybe that was the blood on her lips. 
            “Go, go, and get out of here!” someone urged me.  With a push towards home, I took off.  I ran all the way, forgetting the subway.  I was only thinking of home, my promise to Mother that I would be all right.
“Suri, Suri, you are here!” my mother wailed as she wrapped her arms around me.  “The neighbors told me someone was shot.  I was so afraid.  I thought I’d never see you again.”
            I stumbled into the house, silent, lost in a sea of confusion.
            “Here, sit down here, let me make you some chai.”  My mother soothed as she sat me down at the kitchen table.  “I made rice and chicken for dinner.  I kept a plate warm for you.” 
            How could I eat?  I just witnessed a murder.  I had never seen one before.  On TV, yes, but not in real life. 
            Jasmine sat across from me.  “Are you OK?  Did you know this person?”
            “No,” I mumbled.
            Mother could see I was in shock, and scooted her chair next to mine to hold me in her arms.  I sobbed into her shoulder, my body racking with horror.
            We watched the news before going to bed that night, wanting to see what the media would say about the protest. 
            “A woman was shot by a university student at the protest.  The young men and women were waving guns in the air, looting stores, and throwing rocks at the police, who were there to keep the peace,” the announcer stated.
            “That’s not true,” I muttered, finally jolted awake from my silence.  “We didn’t do any of that, we were peaceful!  The woman was shot by the Basij.” 
My mother was calm at my pronouncement.  I didn’t know if she believed me or the TV, but I didn’t care.  I knew what happened, I knew the government lied, the media lied.  I knew the truth.
            Before I went to bed, I twittered my friends, relieved to know they were home safe.  They watched the news as well, and were as incensed as I was by the lies told.  We vowed to each other to keep up the fight.  But inwardly, I was petrified.  I could die.  I wondered if I should just be like my mother, give up and just function through the day, with no hope, no peace, or joy.  I shuddered at the thought.  I didn’t want a life like that. 
            During the night, I awoke to the sounds of weeping.  I opened my eyes to see my mother kneeling at the side of my bed, her head in her hands.  I reached over to cover her hands with mine.  When she looked up, I saw tears sliding from her eyes. 
            “I am so sorry.  You are right.  The government lies, the media lies.  I’ve known that all my life.”  Mother’s words came out in stutters between sobs, trying to keep her nose from dripping.  “I don’t want you to live like me.  Even if your life is short, it must be a life worth living.”
            After a few moments to catch her breath, she went on. “I was so afraid.  I lost your father when you were just a child.  I felt so alone in the world.  I held on so tight to you, not wanting to lose you too.  But now I know I have to let you go.....Your father would be so proud of you.  You are fighting for us, as he did so long ago.”
 I leaned onto my elbow to embrace my mother.  After a few breaths, her voice became even.  “Your courage gave me the strength to be honest with myself, and to you.  I thought I was afraid to die, but really I was afraid to live.”
I knew what a sacrifice she was making, and I saw her in a new light.  She fought too, in her own way, to keep me alive and safe all these years.  She sacrificed her life for me, in the hopes that my future would be better than hers.  She did have hope, I just never saw it.  How blind I was, how selfish.  I never considered what my actions might cost her. 
            Later that night, I saw my father in a dream.  He was a handsome young man, with a rakish grin and light in his eyes.  “Suri,” he called. 
            “Here I am,” I replied.
            “Take care of your mother.  She suffers for you.” he admonished. “Salaam, my child.”
            I wanted to touch him, feel his dry kisses again on my cheek, and feel his massive arms give me a squeeze.  Instead, he vanished as fast as he appeared. 

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