Voices of the Nation
Kimball Lewis is a famous animal welfare
writer, advocate and former humane administrator He writes publicly about some of
the events leading up to the murder of his beloved dog, Donner and its aftermath.
Being the gentleman he is, he is restrained and does not name names of people who
did wrong him. Donner's murder has never been officially solved. - ed.
How do you write something that makes any sense at all,
about an event that still makes no sense? This is the quandary I am faced with when
writing anything about the anniversary now at hand. Friday, April 12, 2002 marks
the second year since I came home to find my best friend and companion shot through
the head and hanging from a Juniper Tree. 24 months, 104 weeks, 730 days, 17,520
hours later and still empty disbelief. I have refused to speak about the murder for
most of that two years with the exception of some publicly expressed outrage briefly
after the murder via a couple of interviews. Nonetheless, I told M.G. Hudson I would
write something to memorialize this anniversary and so here it is, once and for all.
by Kimball Lewis
Kimball Lewis (left) and Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber (right) discuss horse protection
issues at Lewis home near Bend, Or. Far left is Lewis' quarter horse, Red.
There is no way to articulate the pain, confusion,
or disbelief I have experienced during these past two years. I have not returned
to public life in any sense of the word, nor will I ever. My revenge to that small
handful of people who sought my ruin is simple: I have autonomy. I work for myself.
I write and I push cows. I have taken every step to remove myself from any position
of responsibility where someone could spread ill will against me to an employer.
This is my survival mechanism. I am not alone. I have seen so many people involved
in public service who have been pigeonholed by the media. The media have become an
entertainment industry whose bottom line is the bottom line. Put something, anything
on the front page to sell more copy. Content be damned, sell papers or air time.
My initial arrival in Oregon was in protest. I had been quite content out of the
spotlight. People always think I loved the TV Camera but the truth is that TV was
nothing more than a tool to educate the public about our organization and our need
for funds. I was happy on the ranch. When Greenhill first called me offering the
position of Executive Director I flatly told them no way. Later, obviously, I accepted
the position. It's easy for people to armchair quarterback after you are gone. The
fact remains simple: During my tenure, Greenhill took in more animals, put less animals
to sleep and raised more money that at any time before or after my administration.
More important, we did something that was long overdue: We began helping people who
happened to own animals. When I first came to Greenhill there were some painfully
obvious problems. If you were an animal, you most likely received good care. If you
were a person looking to adopt, retrieve or find emergency care for a companion animal
you were, in most cases, out of luck. People were not a priority at Greenhill. To
the credit of the staff, animals were well cared for. I can verify that without exception.
Unfortunately, the staff were suffering burnout at the hands of the public who, on
a never-ending basis, surrendered disposable companion animals by the thousands upon
thousands. In fact, as a study we conducted later would confirm, we could fill every
seat in Autzen Stadium for every game during a regular season, for several seasons
with all of the dogs, cats, puppies and kittens dumped on our collective laps. The
staff was at the end of their rope. Burnout, depression and compassion fatigue were
obvious and rampant at Greenhill.
My mission was simple: Reduce staff burnout,
increase what had been a poor public image, increase donations, reduce euthanasia,
develop programs to help senior citizens, homeless pet owners and battered women,
increase hours of operation, develop an animal abuse prevention, education and investigation
program, revamp the Share a Little Love Campaign, develop a new policy statement,
raise money and build a new facility, develop an ERT or Emergency Response Team,
improve relations with the City Animal Control Agency, improve relations with City
and County Government, open dialogue with other animal welfare and protection agencies
within the state, revise the contract with the city and county, improve staff moral
and reduce out of control turn over, revamp and improve the volunteer program, (volunteers
were quitting as fast as they had been recruited ) and, sit at the table with a volunteer
board of directors monthly, meet with individual board members almost daily and demonstrate
how and when I was accomplishing the above.
If you were to call Susan Hilton, who was the President of the Board during the bulk
of my administration, or the other two board presidents, Doctor Doug Evans or Mary
Blackburn who served during my term, I am guessing they would all, without hesitation
or reservation, tell you that I accomplished in superb fashion, every one of the
goals and challenges detailed above. These people are among the finest I ever knew.
They loved people and animals and gave hundreds if not thousands of hours of their
time freely to make a small difference in a harsh world.
How ironic then, that after my departure,
and after the premeditated murder of Donner, a small group of vultures would initiate
a smear campaign that would rival the bitterest political assault. I observed that
most of my accusers who were tossing the stones were not without sin. I noticed that
one of my accusers ran off with a married man leaving his current wife and children
unattended. I noticed another of the loudest detractors sitting as a defendant in
drug court. Another was convicted of animal abuse. A fourth quit her job and moved
back to California. Another has since been accused of theft from an employer, and
the list goes on. Among the allegations I found most preposterous was one that had
been lodged by another animal group in town. The McKenzie River Cat Club alleged
that I deposited their donation checks to Greenhill in my own, personal account.
A thorough investigation by the Attorney
General, of course, found the checks all accounted for and properly deposited in
the humane society's bank account. Well, no matter now, what's done is done. Bad
news sells; good news is not what the reader wants.
Oh and for the record, I am not without sin. I have made plenty of mistakes. Perhaps
more than my share. I was a lousy husband. Always a workaholic, sometimes a drunk,
I occasionally overindulged in things of pleasure. I tried to make good decisions
and sometimes they were tough ones. I ignored my own needs and sometimes the needs
of family as I buried myself in a mission that was all consuming. I was an idealist
and sometimes cut corners. But by God, I cared about the animals and people I worked
for and anyone who says different is a liar.
No matter what has been said, rumored, speculated or concluded, nothing will bring
Donner back. Today is April 12, 2002. I miss my boy. He was my son, by my side 24
hours a day, we were never more than 10 feet apart. He comforted me when I needed
a friend. I recall one night coming home. It was Thanksgiving and I had spent the
day investigating a case where two people had broken into a woman's yard, stolen
her dog and tied it to the bumper of their car. They dragged, stabbed and then hung
the poor dog until death. I gathered video and physical evidence all that day long.
I walked the asphalt road scrapping tissue and blood samples. I came home that night
and opened a bottle and drank. I did this often and to myself and this was a shortcoming
of mine. There is no good to be found at the bottom of a bottle and I found no good
there on several occasions. But there sat Donner by my side and with his head on
my lap he would always, without hesitation give of himself and comfort me. I need
him now, today and I wish he were here but he is gone and so this is the end of an
era. There is no turning back the page. I have a horse and a saddle and the country
here is wide and open and this is all I need.
All I would say on this day is this:
Be good to other people and wait until you cast your stones. We are all so far from
perfect and as I know first hand, there is Karma and she will not discriminate when
she comes to call nor will she leave quickly once she has arrived.
© Copyright 2002 by Kimball Lewis