“LITTLE MAN ON THE COUCH”…On Soft Side & Knuckleheads

TP: Come in, Little Man. You seemed upset on the phone. Why the special session?

LM: Got a giant bug up my butt, doc. Thought I better talk it out before I tear somebody’s nose off.

TP: What’s up?

LM: They’re messin’ with mom, is what! You know, it’s one thing for me to mess with mom, give her a hard time, play hard to get, torment her with how I like dad best…you know, stuff like that. But heck, that’s all in good fun—it’s just what makes our relationship ours. You only kid the ones you love, right doc? And I love the lady. You know that!

TP: I do.

LM: Anybody else messes with her, though…that’s a whole other deal. And this particular situation has really got my whiskers flairin’.

TP: Is this about the animal thing? I saw something in the paper the other day.

LM: That’s it.

TP: Some of the people on the Mayor’s Animal Cruelty Commission resigned because of a bad report or something?

LM: There’s more to it than that, but yeh…here’s the skinny on that part. The chairperson of the Mayor’s group does an annual report on the Commission’s work. It was published last week…and the Mayor didn’t like it. Duh! Of course, she didn’t like it…’cause it said the Commission wasn’t doin’ diddly-squat. Mrs. Mayor especially didn’t like that the media got its paws on the report.

TP: What is this Commission anyway?

LM: It’s your typical gaggle of politicians, police, judges, lawyers, activists—all talkin’ the talk—along with some of the people who actually walk the walk in Baltimore’s overcrowded, underfunded animal shelters.

TP: Hmm.

LM: You know the kind of group, doc. The kind that loves a press conference announcing its good intentions, maybe puts a little extra effort behind the cause for the first few weeks, then goes back to business as usual, leaving the heavy lifting to the worker bees.

TP: Lip service specialists, in other words.

LM: No. Those are the words, doc.

TP: OK, but how’s this affect your mom? Her “Soft Side” campaign keeps getting high marks. The newspaper article even had some guy from the Mayor’s office citing it as an example of a positive action taken by the city.

LM: “Taken by the city.” Interesting choice of words! Let’s be clear. The city had nothing to do with creating the “Soft Side” campaign, and less to do with its implementation. I was there. I know.

TP: Tell me.

LM: I was literally having a lie-in in dad’s office one day, maybe three years ago, when mom came in loaded for bear. She’d just seen two teenaged boys walking out of court, laughing and smirking. They’d just been acquitted of dousing a one-year old pit bull with gasoline, setting her on fire, and watching as the dog howled in horrible pain. All kinds of people had seen them do it. A lady cop even got there in time to throw her jacket around the dog in a futile effort to save it. Anyway, mom was pissed when she saw these punks walking away scot-free. Never saw her like that before! She vowed to do something…and a couple days later, she was back in dad’s office showing him some roughs of what would become the “Soft Side” campaign.

TP: I love that campaign.

LM: Everyone does. Big tough guys loving their pets, against the message that “Only a punk would hurt a cat or dog.” Anyway, a friend suggested that mom show her idea to the chairperson of the Mayor’s Commission, who loved it and asked mom to share it with her commission. They loved it too and said, yes, we’d like to slap our name on that baby. Go get ‘em. And that’s about all they did…slap a commission logo on the campaign posters and offer lip service to mom’s totally pro bono efforts to raise the money and resources necessary to take the message about animal cruelty and its rapid growth among inner city teens to the public.

TP: So you’re upset that your mom doesn’t get credit for her work?

LM: No. It’s bigger than that. It pisses me off that the Mayor’s office acts like they created “Soft Side,” yes…but now they’re even saying that they own it! How can you own something you haven’t paid for? Does Good Housekeeping own products it didn’t create, just because it puts its “Seal of Approval” on them?

TP: Good point.

LM: Anyway, mom recently decided she should trademark the campaign to give her control over it as it goes beyond Baltimore. You know, doc, people from all over America, and from as far away as Brazil, have expressed interest in adapting it to their markets. Mom’s thrilled…because she’s proud of her work and wants to spread its message. But she doesn’t want anybody turning it into something it’s not. Hence, the trademark move.

TP: And the Mayor’s office took issue with that?

LM: Big time. They threatened to sue my mom if she didn’t withdraw her trademark application.

TP: I don’t get it. You mean the city’s now trying to kill the “Soft Side” campaign?

LM: Actually, they are. But they’re too dumb to realize it. Think about it. The campaign exists only because mom (and her partners—all of whom have given their time, energy and expertise pro bono, as have the celebrity “Softies”) breathed life into it. Now, mom is so distraught, even depressed, about the whole thing that she spends half her time wondering what the point is of all her work.

TP: If she walks away, the campaign dies.

LM: The campaign…and more dogs and cats. That’s what really sucks, doc. You know, mom had a pretty good career when she worked for paying customers—whether they were selling ketchup or lipstick. But some years back, she decided she would only work on causes she felt passionate about.  And nothing rises higher on that list than dogs and cats that are abused for kicks, rites of passage, or in the case of dog fighting, for profit.

TP: She’s doing a good thing.

LM: Yeh. And getting hassled for it!

TP: So, bottom line: the Mayor’s Commission’s been called out for failing to report and prosecute cases of animal abuse, despite its stated mission to redouble efforts to do so. The Commission members who arguably cared the most about that mission have resigned in the face of the city’s lack of commitment. And meanwhile, the city is so desperate to own something positive that it’s willing to sacrifice that positive on the altar of political self-interest.

LM: Well said, doc. Let’s hope it’s not too late to keep that last domino from tumbling that way.

TP: Tell your mom to hang in there, Little Man.

LM: Will do, doc. Will do.

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