New Blog Format… First Edition of Straight Fire

Straight Fire Logo

Welcome to my very first solo blog attempt. Lol!! I say solo because before this, I spent nine years writing a wrestling blog with three of my closest guy friends called the Fatal 4-Way. It was a fantastic nine years but just got to be too much at the time. Now I’m venturing out of my comfort zone and into an unknown. This blog will be about everything, and anything. It won’t be about wrestling, although I’m sure I will do some wrestling. But first let’s get to know me a bit.

My name is Sarah, I’m newly married, and have a 2 1/2-year-old little girl. She is my life. I’m a security guard at a condo and I could probably do a few blogs on just what I’ve seen in my 12 years here. I’m an animal rights activist, although I’m not a crazy one. I love wrestling, and some sports, I love dogs, I love humour. I want to share stories and jokes and commentary on things that either make me laugh, mad, or just questioning in general. I am a very creative person who, since having my daughter, has struggled to keep my creativity going, so I’m hoping I can refuel that with this type of creative outlet. I am very family oriented. Family comes first, always. I’m stubborn, funny, have issues, I’d like to think some wisdom, and a bit nutty.

I want this blog to be honest, fun, full of humour, and even crazy at times. I can be very opinionated and stubborn. You may not always like what I have to say, and that’s ok. I’m not a fan of stupid people, and I’m sure you will get a lot of posts about the people who live in the city where I live because it’s a horrible city full of stupid. I can make it humourous however. I have tons of ideas for this blog, but also welcome ideas and questions as well.

I’m not setting a schedule for my posts, but I’m sure they’ll start off quite frequently, lol. For now, this is my introduction. I plan on writing about various topics, wedding planning, marriage, motherhood, life with a toddler, work, favourite products, favourite places, animals, wrestling, other sports, family, holidays, dieting, etc.. So hopefully I can make people laugh and maybe even cry. I hope I can inspire people as well. I don’t want every blog to be too serious, but I’m sure some will be, as I plan on making this my safe place where I can express myself, whether it’ll be ups or downs. Some blogs maybe short, some might be long. Some will have photos and some won’t. So wish me luck as I embark on this epic journey of craziness.

See You Next Time; Don’t forget to just enjoy life!

IMG_7181.JPG

Pay-offs and Bullying Marineland Style!

Pay-offs and Bullying

Marineland Style!

On August 10th, 2017, Marineland was back in court once again for the 11 charges by the OSPCA for animal cruelty. Back in July, the pre-trial was closed to media and the public after asking for multiple adjournments since back in January. The case is closed. Sources who were present at the courthouse say that Marineland attorney and the Crown attorney went into a back room and then came out and POOF!!! All charges were dropped because the Crown felt they couldn’t get a conviction and that it wasn’t in the “interest of the public to pursue”. One; Who are they to say that the public isn’t interested in this being seen through? Because I know a ton of people who wanted to see this through. Two; The OSPCA wouldn’t have 11 charges of animal cruelty and brought their case to the court, unless they had signficant evidence. My thoughts? Well I’m fucking pissed off. I know some are feeling like this might make people say “why bother reporting animal cruelty when the OSPCA can’t do shit about it?” or stuff along those lines. Well no matter the case, always report animal cruelty.

20638781_10159239483045387_2968592728407644496_n

For years now Marineland has been in the forefront of their sub-standard care of their animals. The OSPCA has not laid any charges pertaining to their marine mammal collection, as it is in my opinion, that they do not have anyone on their staff who would know these animals enough to know what they’re looking for. The lack of experts in that area of the animal kingdom makes it difficult. That’s no excuse, the OSPCA received $5.5 million dollars for their “zoo task force” and yet nothing has been done to bring in any sort of experts to actually properly investigate these places.

20663867_10159239483040387_8733753848362981221_n

I’m not sure I can completely blame the OSPCA for today’s miscarriage of justice, that lands on the lap of the Crown attorney.

20638938_10159239483190387_8675099839299178608_n

What happened in the backroom? What deals or pay-off transpired? We will never know but I know we can speculate and from all the posts I’ve read from very angry people regarding the breaking news earlier yesterday, that we are all on the same page. Marineland bullied the Crowned into dropping the charges. One post I read was from someone who was in the court room at the time;

“Crown sided with Marineland’s promise that a lengthy, costly legal pursuit is not in the best interest of the public. Dropped charges. Bullied!”

Other comments I read were along the lines of:

“Makes you wonder who was paid off in this deal!”

“Who is paying these prosecutors? Are they blind? There are countless reasonable chances of conviction if they just opened their eyes and stopped being baited by money.”

“Disgusting and infuriating. What a complete failure of the justice system when facts and mass amounts of evidence are overlooked in interest of a corporation.”

If we are all thinking the same thing, then we all must be on to something, right? I truly believe that Marineland will do anything to get what they want. I bet they are well versed in the line, “How much do you want to make this go away?” Is it a mob-based mentality? Maybe! But money talks, and it talks a lot. It shouldn’t when it comes to the welfare of animals or humans, but the truth of the matter is, it does. If the Crown pursues this, then it will cost them and the public so much money because Marineland will make it a lengthy trial and yadda-yadda-yadda!! Probably a threat to sue the Crown, probably threatened to sue or will actually sue the OSPCA, because that’s what Marineland does. They are well-known for their bullying tactics. They don’t give a shit who you are, whether you’re a well-respected newspaper, or an 18-year old college student, they’ll sue you.

DSC_0525

I also feel like if they didn’t have the case heard in the Niagara Region, things may have turned out differently. I personally wish that they had taken it out of the Niagara Region and had presented it in Toronto. There is just too much corruption in Niagara Falls because the city revolves around money. If you listen to all the arguments at the senate hearings for Bill 80 or Bill S-203, every argument will always have something to do with the Niagara Falls economy being threatened if Marineland loses its animals and/or closes. They fear that the tourism industry will suffer greatly if anything happens to Marineland. Well I’m pretty sure that Niagara Falls has a lot more going for it than an out of date amusement park where the rides are far and few in between and usually broken down, and animals who are suffering and a bad reputation for their treatment of animals (charges or no charges), and an owner who is so far off his rocker with reality that he’s become a major joke. The empty parking lot week after week says a lot. Yet, I’m pretty sure Niagara Falls tourism is still booming. I know a lot of people who go there and don’t go to Marineland because there are other stuff to do. Closing Marineland will not hurt the tourism industry for fuck sakes!!

I think I’ve ping-ponged many times throughout this. I have so many random thoughts going through my head that they are just ending up here without rhyme or reason. I am just so fucking pissed off and disheartened and disgusted about the outcome today. I’ve read so much about what happened and I keep drawing the same conclusions over and over. The Crown was bullied. They were either bullied or paid off. End of story. Corruption and greed reign supreme!

It’s not fair that the Crown dropped the charges with the excuse that it’s not in the best interest of the public, because it isn’t about us. The public is very interested in this case and want to see justice be done. But it’s not about the best interest of us, the public. It’s about the best interest and welfare of the animals that are suffering in that place and in all zoos. So what can we do? Call and/or write the Crown attorney and flat-out tell them they were wrong and that these charges against Marineland should never been dropped. That we ARE interested in this case and that we are extremely disappointed and disgusted with their decision.

Crown Attorny meme

Do it! Call and write. We will not give up fighting for these animals until they are all in the safety of a sanctuary and that hell hole is closed.

Why? Why Kiska?

Why? Why Kiska?

By: Sarah

kiska

“For Man Cannot Give Wild Animals Freedom, They Can Only Take It Away.”
Jacques-Yves Cousteau

I’ve been trying to write this for a while. I have already done a blog on Kiska’s history and her story, but there was no passion, there was nothing from my heart. Her story is sad and horrifying, and I will never be able to get past her life. All I want for her is to get her happy ending. To be free from the concrete tank where she is merely existing.

Why does this single animal mean so much to me? Why does she mean so much to others? And, what does she mean to Canada?

Obviously I cannot answer for other people who love and fight for her, but I will take a guess that their reasoning isn’t that different from my own.

Kiska has been an inspiration. She’s a reason to never give up no matter how tough life gets. To never give up on her, and to never give up on myself. She has fought so hard to live, even if it’s just in that tank. She is still fighting the heartbreak from watching all five of her babies die before the age of six.The loneliness she feels. Watching tank mate after tank mate die or be taken away to another park. She’s had to fight for space against other orcas she didn’t get along with. Fight through losing the only person, her former trainer, who paid attention to her and genuinely loved her. She has not given up on herself, so why should we?

There are a lot of us who haven’t given up. We trudge on for her, to make things better. To do right by her. There are some amazing people right down in the trenches fighting for her in Canada’s Federal Government system, and those same people fought for her in the province in which she is trapped in. I am very lucky to call these incredible people my friends, and that is because of Kiska.

There are times that I feel that I haven’t been able to do more for her. I don’t have the means to up and leave and go to our nation’s capitol with my friends to stand before our Government. But I really wanted to be there. It killed me that I couldn’t. I’ve battered through depression because I feel that I’m not doing enough for Kiska, that she deserves more from me. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where she isn’t on my mind, or that I’m not racking my brain for some way to bring her story to a wider audience, or get someone who has a huge public following to come on board and be her voice along with us. There isn’t a time where I am laying in bed, not thinking about her. I’m always thinking of her, of what I can do for her. I’m always left with, it’s not enough. Kiska deserves so much from me.

Kiska has inspired passion. Passion that reignited my love for orcas. I’ve never stopped loving these amazing animals. I fell in love with orcas when I was seven years old. It’s funny how life just gets in the way and although you never stop loving them, you just don’t have the time to pay attention. But it was Kiska, and her former trainer, Christine, who were able to bring back my passion. Another former trainer, Phil, came forward in the summer of 2012, exposing Marineland in a newspaper, and that was the catalyst which brought me to the fight. Both who I need to give credit to. Both have put a lot on the line. I’ve known Phil for some time now, and I’m so proud of the work he’s done, for the risks he has taken. I just recently met Christine for the first time in January, after attending a court hearing with my amazing friends I mentioned above, and I was in such awe of her. I went back to being shy, and just couldn’t get over how in awe I was. I really wanted to talk to her to get to know her more, and hear stories of her life with Kiska. I got to see that she’s a beautiful, bright, caring, and funny person in the brief time that I got to sit down with her. I so do admire her and her courage. I am notorious for chickening out, in person, when it comes to sharing my feelings. Both Christine and Phil have had it rough, yet they’re still standing and fighting. Kiska and Christine are two very strong, and very courageous females.

Courage is Kiska. She shows that every single day that she’s stuck in that concrete prison. Her courage is all the tragedy that she has endured; being kidnapped away from her family in Iceland, watching all of her babies die, being alone with no tank mates for the past six years. Courage comes with dealing with the painful dental procedures every day. She has no teeth left from dealing with the stress of captivity, and now, what’s left of her teeth, need attention for health reasons. This one animal, is dealing with so much stress that wild orca do not have to endure. Kiska is still there, swimming endless counter-clockwise circles in her pool, everyday. With no shelter from the hot sun, nothing to stimulate her mind except the occasional rubber tire on bungee cords that a trainer may or may not put in for her to play with, she doesn’t vocalize, she doesn’t jump or do tricks. No family. Just a rotating door of trainers and strangers who gawk at her. How is this living? How heartless does one have to be, to think that this is OK? To just turn a blind eye to this amazing, beautiful and majestic animal? How can anyone look at her and not feel sadness, heartbreak, and anger? It baffles me. The excuses from certain people, sicken me.

What does Kiska mean to Canada? Everything.

She represents change. Change that has happened, change that is happening, and, hopefully, future change on a global scale.

In the spring of 2015, Ontario passed Provincial Bill-80, banning the importation, exploitation and breeding of Orcas in Ontario. A ban that was inspired by Kiska, but unfortunately did not include her. It’s not over for her yet. There are physical (non-Internet) petitions going around to have the Bill amended to include her.

It doesn’t stop there. Currently a Federal Bill, S-203, is being presented and read in the Senate to ban all whale and dolphin captivity in Canada. This Bill isn’t just about Kiska, but she is the main reason, and inspiration behind it. Because of her, all captive held dolphins, and countless beluga whales, and any other whales being held in the two main captive facilities in Canada, will all have a chance, and the end of the captive whale and dolphin industry will end. It’s still ongoing, and nothing is passed yet, but I am very hopeful.

What about the future? Kiska may not ever see complete freedom, but I am hopeful, yet cautiously optimistic, that she will see and feel the ocean one day. That she will get to live out her life feeling the tides change, the mysterious world below her, hear other whales and dolphins, feel the fresh air that isn’t tainted with chlorine. That she will, indeed, get her happy ending.

Kiska is an inspiration to keep fighting. To fight through the hard times, because there is hope. There are people fighting either for or along side you. To never give up yourself, or on others. To keep passion. To be courageous. To make, and force change. This is Why Kiska. This is why I need to keep on fighting for her.

“I Prefer Dangerous Freedom Over Peaceful Slavery”

-Thomas Jefferson

Kiska Facts

-Kiska was captured in 1979, at the age of approximately 3 years old, and sold to Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada in 1980.

-She has had 5 calves; *Her first calf, died just 2 months after he was born. *Kanuck, her second calf, died at the age of 4. *Nova, died at the age of 4 years and 9 months. *Hudson was her longest surviving calf who died at 6 years of age. *Athena, was her last calf, and only daughter, and she died in the spring of 2009 at the age of 4 and a half years old.

-Sea World loaned 4-year old Ikaika to Marineland in 2006 for breeding with Athena. However, out of concern for his mental and physical health, Sea World ordered to have Ikaika returned. Marineland refused to comply, so Sea World took them to court and won. Ikaika returned to Sea World San Diego in November 2011.

Kiska has not seen another orca since then. She has spent 6 years completely alone.

-Kiska is the ONLY orca to live 100% alone in the entire world. It is illegal, and considered cruel in most countries to keep an orca alone. Orcas are highly social animals, who live in complex social groupings. Only two other orcas, Lolita and Kshamenk, live without another orca, however both have dolphin companions living with them.

-Kiska has no teeth, as she has grounded them down from chewing on the sides of her pool. A common practice done by orcas in captivity due to high stress from living in an unnatural environment.

-Kiska is the ONLY orca held in captivity in all of Canada.

Grieving For My Grandfather

“There is a sacredness in tears.

They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.

They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.

They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

Washington Iriving

Someone recently told me the grieving process is said to be phases, not stages, because you back and forth. Those words have stayed in my mind because that’s exactly what I feel like is going on with me. One day I am fine, the next I’m sad, and then I’m angry, and then confused, and all of that gets mixed up, and I never know what the next day is going to bring.

I don’t feel like I was robbed of time with my Grandpa Earl, but I feel that I was robbed of my time to say good-bye and to tell him how I feel about him. I stood there next to him in the hospital, with the time to say it, but with the complete denial about what could possibly happen overtaking any of my rationalle. I could have told him I loved him, but I didn’t. I was scared.

I’m choosing to write because I find it’s an easier way for me to express myself. For me to get the words and feelings out in a private way, and then publically, as to not show my physical grief. My tears will flow during this writing, and I’m sure I’ll be sobbing as well. But I’m getting everything I can down on paper, so that I can share my grief with my closest friends and family. Then I truly believe, I will be ok. I know these things take time, and time will heal this heartache, but for now, I’m using this outlet in order to help me heal.

This is my Grandpa! Earl Garnet Martin, carpener, cabinet maker, creative genius, former navy dude (I honestly have no clue what you call them….Petty officers???). My Grandpa

Born to Merlin and Blanche Martin on March 31, 1929. Younger brother to Donald and older brother to Wayne.

brothers

(Wayne, Don, and Grandpa Earl)

He met my Grandma Joyce in 1946 while skating at a local rink in Grimsby. My Grandfather love my Grandmother so much. They married January 27, 1951, and stayed together for nearly 55 years, until my Grandmother’s passing in October of 2005.

wedding day

(Wedding Day January 27, 1951)

They would have two daughters together, Debra and Joy. They raised their girls to be strong independent women. My aunt Debra is currently an editor of a newspaper in Comox Valley in British Columbia, and my mom is enjoying retirement and being an amazing Grandmother to my daughter, River.

family photo

(My mom, Grandma, Grandpa & Aunt Deb)

Christmas 1999

(Christmas 1999, Aunt Deb, Grandma, Mom, and Grandpa)

For as long as I can remember, my Grandfather has always been a huge part of my life. I was born just two days before his 51st birthday in 1980.

me and grandpa

(Grandpa Earl and I, a week after I was born, 1980)

Since then we have shared a total of 36 birthday’s together. I remember my mom apologizing to me a few years ago about never really celebrating my birthday on it’s own, but to be honest, I loved sharing my birthday with my grandfather. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

me and grandpa 02

(Me age 5, Grandpa Earl age 56…hence just the 5 & 6 on the cake)

I loved that it wasn’t just me on my birthday because I didn’t always like being the centre of attention as I got older. I actually preferred to just sit back, and let my Grandpa shine. He did. Because he’s the brightest man I know.

He always had such a funny way of doing things with me. I have so many amazing memories that I will obviously cherish, but it was Grandpa Earl who introduced me to cold canned pasta, like Alphaghetti and Zoodles. My Grandmother would go to get her hair done and do some shopping downtown, we would drop her off and go back to the house where Grandpa would have to feed me lunch. Well he wasn’t exactly a kitchen guru, so it was either him opening up a can of Zoodles, and sticking them in a bowl and giving it to me, or we would have brown sugar sandwiches. I still eat my canned pasta cold. I refuse to heat it up. YUCK!! As for the brown sugar sandwiches, I’ll pass. I don’t think I could bring myself to eat that. For those times when we waited for Grandma, I would climb into the front seat of the giant brown station wagon (aka the Bat Mobile), and sit on the middle arm rest next to Grandpa Earl and we would play “I Spy With My Little Eye…”. I think he cheated a few times. Lol!! Taking his dentures out and chasing me when I was really little, and being the only person who I would let put eye drops in my eyes whenever I had eye infections. He taught me how to spit watermelon seeds. Most of the time we’d spit in the sink, but there were those odd times, Grandma would walk behind us, and we’d turn and let her have it. She used to get so mad.

I spent a lot of time at their house. Overnights on some weekends, when mom and dad would go away for a week, New Years Eves, we spent countless Christmas eve’s and days in that house. Birthday’s, and my weekly visits to see Grandpa. My Grandmother died in that house surrounded by us. Clogging with Grandma in the spare room (aka my room, then became Grandpa’s room), playing in the barn with Grandpa, helping plant snap dragons, and when Grandpa would be working in his workshop downstairs in the basement, I’d sit on the steps until he was done with a machine, and then I would take the little brush and clean the saw dust away from his ban saw or lathe. To this day, the smell of saw dust, wood chips, all that, reminds me of Grandpa Earl. He was a very hard worker. He would do work for other people all day, five days a week, and then come home, have dinner, and then work on their house, so that my Grandmother could have that log cabin, early American looks she always wanted. I would spend Saturday nights there, and would watch hockey with Grandpa, and then run and watch The Carol Burnett show reruns, or Benny Hill (yeah not really appropriate for 5/6 year old, lol). Their house, was my home for 35 years until Grandpa sold it in 2015.

The House

He did all that work. The floors, the ceiling, installed the woodstove, tables and armours, wainscotting, the cabinets in the kitchen, the two front bay windows, the board and batton siding, the shudders. Everything. The people who moved in, tore it all out. Breaks my heart completely. I wish we could have kept the house in our family. It’s ruined now.

Grandpa Earl’s talent exceeded anyones. He was talented and creative and could make literally anything. Stairs, floors, vanities, ducks, bears, Mounties, beds, dressers, bookcases, floors, walls, coopalas, you name it, he probably made it. In 1993, he gave me one of two of my most cherished possessions; my Orca. And in the mid 2000’s (the year escapes me at this moment), he and my dad made me a four poster bed, that matched theirs, because I loved their bed so much.

Grandpas Creattions

(My Orca whale, and yes he’s wearing a Santa hat, it was Christmas, My bed,

Grandpa & Cousin Jimmy with the bear he made, Canada Goose, and the Mountie that is

now at my Brother and Brother-in-law’s trailer)

What I miss the most about Grandpa Earl was his goofiness. His way of making me laugh and smile, even when I was having a bad day. His love for my Grandmother. I’ve never seen a love like that. Reminds me of a movie because to me it was perfect. They were both so good together. They bickered, and nagged and teased each other, but their love never changed. Seeing my grandfather heartbroken after Grandma died was probably the hardest for me to see. He spent nearly ten and a half years missing her, but still loving her. That’s true love right there.

Grandpa Earl was the first person I told about being pregnant. He said he knew already, that he had suspected it. He was excited for the arrival of his first and only Great-Grandchild. I would go over there and he would ask me how I was feeling, and try and feed me chocolate, or anything really. He would get excited to see the sonogram pictures because they didn’t have that when he had children or even grandchildren. It was all knew to him. I never asked him whether or not he thought he was going to have a great-granddaughter or great-grandson. I don’t think it mattered to him. When River Joyce (named after my Grandma Joyce) was born, I hadn’t seen him that happy since before my Grandmother got sick and passed away. I was able to give her her first 14 months of life and his last 14 months of life time together. Giving him memories and stories to take with him when he left us to tell my Grandmother when they finally were together again. Those are the memories I cherish most. That I was able to make him so happy once again. He loved River so much. He would make her laugh and smile, and he would get down on the floor with her when she was in her excersaucer and play with her. Two days before he died, he was dancing to The Wiggles in my parents livingroom with River. I loved seeing his smile back, and I will miss that immensely. My Grandpa Earl, became River’s Grandpa-Great! Because he was great!!

Grandpa Great and River

Maybe those 14 months is what he was waiting for. He wanted to have a great-grandchild before letting go. I know it’s unlikely River will remember him on her own, but that’s where it becomes my job to keep these photos for her, and tell her just how much she meant to him, and how much he loved her.

Grieving is a hard process, and a timely one. One I feel maybe I haven’t allowed myself to do. I’m so tired. Tired of not sleeping well, tired of feeling guilty for not grieving the same way I did for my Grandma Joyce, confused as to why I’m not. Tired of sadness hitting me at the most inappropriate times, tired of being locked up in my mind because I don’t want to upset or scare River. Tired of the anger, and depression. Tired of the fears. Worst part is, I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of. My bestie, Colleen, came over to help me with River one afternoon, just after Grandpa died, and while I was fixing River her dinner, everything was just going wrong and I was getting so frustrated and dropping things and spilling things. I eventually got so angry, that I whipped the bowl and spoon filled with mushy sweet potatoes into the sink and got it all up the wall, all over me, and River saw that. She was scared of me. She was scared of that anger. Colleen stepped in and took over while I took off to the front porch to just give myself a time-out. It had nothing to do with River, or the food, it was just everything hitting me all at once. Losing my focus, and losing my cool. I was so glad Colleen was there to catch me when I fell by just taking over with River. I think seeing her afraid of me like that, is a major reason as to why I haven’t allowed myself to let this grief out.

Grandpa Earl wasn’t a man who used the words “I Love You,” but I never questioned it. I always knew he loved me and yeah sometimes I wished he had said it but he never needed to. I still think he needed to hear me say those words to him. So many times I tried. I’d leave a visit and think, “say it, just tell him you love him.” Instead I would chicken out. I missed that last opportunity, and I will regret that. I regret not telling him that I loved him, that worshipped him, that I admired him. This is my way of getting it out in the open. That my grandfather, was silly, strong, stubborn, comforting, funny, accepting, carefree, free-spirited, laid back, daring, creative, talented, artistic, loyal, a caretaker, a rock, a storyteller. He loved Christmas. He enjoyed being around his family. He and my Grandma Joyce were my heroes. They were amazing Grandparents to both my brother and I.

moms wedding day

I take solace in knowing that he is with my Grandmother again.

Going through photos for this tribute to him, I realized that 2015’s Christmas was the Last Christmas we shared with him. I’m so glad that we took that family photo that year with the additions of Mathew, River and my brother-in-law, Rob. I hope that last Christmas for him was as good and fun as all the ones before it.

Last Christmas 2015

The last picture that was taken of Grandpa Earl, is also the first picture of him holding River. He never picked her up or held her until our last birthday and Easter together, just a few weeks before he died. Grandpa was afraid he might drop her or hurt her. I never had those fears but I trusted him to know what his limits were. I turned around and there he was, holding River, and I quickly snapped pictures. They’re a bit blurry, but I don’t care. I have those three photos, and those are treasured.

first and last

“It’ll all be okay in the end.

If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

John Lennon

No matter what, losing him will not make me forget him, and his life. It will not make me forget the thirty-six birthday’s we shared together. It will not make me forget the love he had for my daughter, his great-granddaughter. It will never make me forget his support, his love, his advice, his jokes, his laugh, his smile. It will never take those thirty-six years away from me. Grandpa Earl was the best Grandfather I could ever have asked for. Thank-you Grandpa Earl Garnet Martin for being the Best Grandfather ever. I’ll always love and miss you.

March 31, 1929 to April 16, 2016

Grieving For My Grandfather

“There is a sacredness in tears.

They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.

They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.

They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

Washington Iriving

Someone recently told me the grieving process is said to be phases, not stages, because you back and forth. Those words have stayed in my mind because that’s exactly what I feel like is going on with me. One day I am fine, the next I’m sad, and then I’m angry, and then confused, and all of that gets mixed up, and I never know what the next day is going to bring.

I don’t feel like I was robbed of time with my Grandpa Earl, but I feel that I was robbed of my time to say good-bye and to tell him how I feel about him. I stood there next to him in the hospital, with the time to say it, but with the complete denial about what could possibly happen overtaking any of my rationalle. I could have told him I loved him, but I didn’t. I was scared.

I’m choosing to write because I find it’s an easier way for me to express myself. For me to get the words and feelings out in a private way, and then publically, as to not show my physical grief. My tears will flow during this writing, and I’m sure I’ll be sobbing as well. But I’m getting everything I can down on paper, so that I can share my grief with my closest friends and family. Then I truly believe, I will be ok. I know these things take time, and time will heal this heartache, but for now, I’m using this outlet in order to help me heal.

This is my Grandpa! Earl Garnet Martin, carpener, cabinet maker, creative genius, former navy dude (I honestly have no clue what you call them….Petty officers???). My Grandpa

Born to Merlin and Blanche Martin on March 31, 1929. Younger brother to Donald and older brother to Wayne.

brothers

(Wayne, Don, and Grandpa Earl)

He met my Grandma Joyce in 1946 while skating at a local rink in Grimsby. My Grandfather love my Grandmother so much. They married January 27, 1951, and stayed together for nearly 55 years, until my Grandmother’s passing in October of 2005.

wedding day

(Wedding Day January 27, 1951)

They would have two daughters together, Debra and Joy. They raised their girls to be strong independent women. My aunt Debra is currently an editor of a newspaper in Comox Valley in British Columbia, and my mom is enjoying retirement and being an amazing Grandmother to my daughter, River.

family photo

(My mom, Grandma, Grandpa & Aunt Deb)

Christmas 1999

(Christmas 1999, Aunt Deb, Grandma, Mom, and Grandpa)

For as long as I can remember, my Grandfather has always been a huge part of my life. I was born just two days before his 51st birthday in 1980.

me and grandpa

(Grandpa Earl and I, a week after I was born, 1980)

Since then we have shared a total of 36 birthday’s together. I remember my mom apologizing to me a few years ago about never really celebrating my birthday on it’s own, but to be honest, I loved sharing my birthday with my grandfather. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

me and grandpa 02

(Me age 5, Grandpa Earl age 56…hence just the 5 & 6 on the cake)

I loved that it wasn’t just me on my birthday because I didn’t always like being the centre of attention as I got older. I actually preferred to just sit back, and let my Grandpa shine. He did. Because he’s the brightest man I know.

He always had such a funny way of doing things with me. I have so many amazing memories that I will obviously cherish, but it was Grandpa Earl who introduced me to cold canned pasta, like Alphaghetti and Zoodles. My Grandmother would go to get her hair done and do some shopping downtown, we would drop her off and go back to the house where Grandpa would have to feed me lunch. Well he wasn’t exactly a kitchen guru, so it was either him opening up a can of Zoodles, and sticking them in a bowl and giving it to me, or we would have brown sugar sandwiches. I still eat my canned pasta cold. I refuse to heat it up. YUCK!! As for the brown sugar sandwiches, I’ll pass. I don’t think I could bring myself to eat that. For those times when we waited for Grandma, I would climb into the front seat of the giant brown station wagon (aka the Bat Mobile), and sit on the middle arm rest next to Grandpa Earl and we would play “I Spy With My Little Eye…”. I think he cheated a few times. Lol!! Taking his dentures out and chasing me when I was really little, and being the only person who I would let put eye drops in my eyes whenever I had eye infections. He taught me how to spit watermelon seeds. Most of the time we’d spit in the sink, but there were those odd times, Grandma would walk behind us, and we’d turn and let her have it. She used to get so mad.

I spent a lot of time at their house. Overnights on some weekends, when mom and dad would go away for a week, New Years Eves, we spent countless Christmas eve’s and days in that house. Birthday’s, and my weekly visits to see Grandpa. My Grandmother died in that house surrounded by us. Clogging with Grandma in the spare room (aka my room, then became Grandpa’s room), playing in the barn with Grandpa, helping plant snap dragons, and when Grandpa would be working in his workshop downstairs in the basement, I’d sit on the steps until he was done with a machine, and then I would take the little brush and clean the saw dust away from his ban saw or lathe. To this day, the smell of saw dust, wood chips, all that, reminds me of Grandpa Earl. He was a very hard worker. He would do work for other people all day, five days a week, and then come home, have dinner, and then work on their house, so that my Grandmother could have that log cabin, early American looks she always wanted. I would spend Saturday nights there, and would watch hockey with Grandpa, and then run and watch The Carol Burnett show reruns, or Benny Hill (yeah not really appropriate for 5/6 year old, lol). Their house, was my home for 35 years until Grandpa sold it in 2015.

The House

He did all that work. The floors, the ceiling, installed the woodstove, tables and armours, wainscotting, the cabinets in the kitchen, the two front bay windows, the board and batton siding, the shudders. Everything. The people who moved in, tore it all out. Breaks my heart completely. I wish we could have kept the house in our family. It’s ruined now.

Grandpa Earl’s talent exceeded anyones. He was talented and creative and could make literally anything. Stairs, floors, vanities, ducks, bears, Mounties, beds, dressers, bookcases, floors, walls, coopalas, you name it, he probably made it. In 1993, he gave me one of two of my most cherished possessions; my Orca. And in the mid 2000’s (the year escapes me at this moment), he and my dad made me a four poster bed, that matched theirs, because I loved their bed so much.

Grandpas Creattions

(My Orca whale, and yes he’s wearing a Santa hat, it was Christmas, My bed,

Grandpa & Cousin Jimmy with the bear he made, Canada Goose, and the Mountie that is

now at my Brother and Brother-in-law’s trailer)

What I miss the most about Grandpa Earl was his goofiness. His way of making me laugh and smile, even when I was having a bad day. His love for my Grandmother. I’ve never seen a love like that. Reminds me of a movie because to me it was perfect. They were both so good together. They bickered, and nagged and teased each other, but their love never changed. Seeing my grandfather heartbroken after Grandma died was probably the hardest for me to see. He spent nearly ten and a half years missing her, but still loving her. That’s true love right there.

Grandpa Earl was the first person I told about being pregnant. He said he knew already, that he had suspected it. He was excited for the arrival of his first and only Great-Grandchild. I would go over there and he would ask me how I was feeling, and try and feed me chocolate, or anything really. He would get excited to see the sonogram pictures because they didn’t have that when he had children or even grandchildren. It was all knew to him. I never asked him whether or not he thought he was going to have a great-granddaughter or great-grandson. I don’t think it mattered to him. When River Joyce (named after my Grandma Joyce) was born, I hadn’t seen him that happy since before my Grandmother got sick and passed away. I was able to give her her first 14 months of life and his last 14 months of life time together. Giving him memories and stories to take with him when he left us to tell my Grandmother when they finally were together again. Those are the memories I cherish most. That I was able to make him so happy once again. He loved River so much. He would make her laugh and smile, and he would get down on the floor with her when she was in her excersaucer and play with her. Two days before he died, he was dancing to The Wiggles in my parents livingroom with River. I loved seeing his smile back, and I will miss that immensely. My Grandpa Earl, became River’s Grandpa-Great! Because he was great!!

Grandpa Great and River

Maybe those 14 months is what he was waiting for. He wanted to have a great-grandchild before letting go. I know it’s unlikely River will remember him on her own, but that’s where it becomes my job to keep these photos for her, and tell her just how much she meant to him, and how much he loved her.

Grieving is a hard process, and a timely one. One I feel maybe I haven’t allowed myself to do. I’m so tired. Tired of not sleeping well, tired of feeling guilty for not grieving the same way I did for my Grandma Joyce, confused as to why I’m not. Tired of sadness hitting me at the most inappropriate times, tired of being locked up in my mind because I don’t want to upset or scare River. Tired of the anger, and depression. Tired of the fears. Worst part is, I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of. My bestie, Colleen, came over to help me with River one afternoon, just after Grandpa died, and while I was fixing River her dinner, everything was just going wrong and I was getting so frustrated and dropping things and spilling things. I eventually got so angry, that I whipped the bowl and spoon filled with mushy sweet potatoes into the sink and got it all up the wall, all over me, and River saw that. She was scared of me. She was scared of that anger. Colleen stepped in and took over while I took off to the front porch to just give myself a time-out. It had nothing to do with River, or the food, it was just everything hitting me all at once. Losing my focus, and losing my cool. I was so glad Colleen was there to catch me when I fell by just taking over with River. I think seeing her afraid of me like that, is a major reason as to why I haven’t allowed myself to let this grief out.

Grandpa Earl wasn’t a man who used the words “I Love You,” but I never questioned it. I always knew he loved me and yeah sometimes I wished he had said it but he never needed to. I still think he needed to hear me say those words to him. So many times I tried. I’d leave a visit and think, “say it, just tell him you love him.” Instead I would chicken out. I missed that last opportunity, and I will regret that. I regret not telling him that I loved him, that worshipped him, that I admired him. This is my way of getting it out in the open. That my grandfather, was silly, strong, stubborn, comforting, funny, accepting, carefree, free-spirited, laid back, daring, creative, talented, artistic, loyal, a caretaker, a rock, a storyteller. He loved Christmas. He enjoyed being around his family. He and my Grandma Joyce were my heroes. They were amazing Grandparents to both my brother and I.

moms wedding day

I take solace in knowing that he is with my Grandmother again.

Going through photos for this tribute to him, I realized that 2015’s Christmas was the Last Christmas we shared with him. I’m so glad that we took that family photo that year with the additions of Mathew, River and my brother-in-law, Rob. I hope that last Christmas for him was as good and fun as all the ones before it.

Last Christmas 2015

The last picture that was taken of Grandpa Earl, is also the first picture of him holding River. He never picked her up or held her until our last birthday and Easter together, just a few weeks before he died. Grandpa was afraid he might drop her or hurt her. I never had those fears but I trusted him to know what his limits were. I turned around and there he was, holding River, and I quickly snapped pictures. They’re a bit blurry, but I don’t care. I have those three photos, and those are treasured.

first and last

“It’ll all be okay in the end.

If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

John Lennon

No matter what, losing him will not make me forget him, and his life. It will not make me forget the thirty-six birthday’s we shared together. It will not make me forget the love he had for my daughter, his great-granddaughter. It will never make me forget his support, his love, his advice, his jokes, his laugh, his smile. It will never take those thirty-six years away from me. Grandpa Earl was the best Grandfather I could ever have asked for. Thank-you Grandpa Earl Garnet Martin for being the Best Grandfather ever. I’ll always love and miss you.

March 31, 1929 to April 16, 2016

Taking A Look At the Damages in Captivity

January 11, 2017

Taking a Look at the Damage

I wanted to post some thoughts that have been running through my mind as of late. This is more of a blog than an article, as I am far from a professional writer, or marine biologist. Instead I’m just someone who fell in love with whales about thirty years ago. Fell so in love with them that I set out to get to know them and try to teach myself everything I could possibly learn. For the longest time, I was content with what I had learned because nothing new was really coming up. However, in the past five years I have managed to learn so much more about orcas than I could ever possibly imagine. I love it. I love learning about the animal who has brought me so much joy over the past thirty years.

One of those the things I’ve learned is just how cruel captivity is. For the longest time, I’ve always known that the Ontario park, Marineland, was not a good place. When I was younger I had a dream that I wanted to become a killer whale trainer, but I never wanted to do that job at Marineland. I aimed for Sea World. At the time, I fully believed that Sea World was far better than Marineland. In some ways it still is. The situation for their animals, is the same as it is at Marineland. I know that now. That curtain was lifted years ago. For once, I’m happy I didn’t attain my dream. For once, I’m happy I didn’t have the guts to go after it. I will never tell my daughter to not go after her dreams, but I will tell her to be sure about them. Not to be sure that she can attain that dream, but to be sure that is the dream she wants, and if she does….go after it balls to the wall.

But what validated my misgivings about Marineland? Actually it wasn’t a what, it was a who. Former Marineland trainer of 12-years, had had enough of what he was seeing happen in the park. To neglect, to poor water quality that was effecting the animals health, and stories that would knock your socks off. His name is Phil Demers, and his story was told through the Toronto Star in August of 2012 (https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2012/08/15/marineland_animals_suffering_former_staffers_say.html). I remember sitting and reading it at my desk at work and bawling my eyes out. I wasn’t so much in shock, but my heart broke for those animals, for Phil who had to walk away from Smooshi, a beautiful female walrus who had attached herself to him. He did it for her. For all those animals, in order to break the silence on what is really going on at that place. I know it couldn’t have been easy for him, as if I had followed that dream, it wouldn’t have been easy for me either. Phil walking away and taking such a huge chance at exposing the truth, is one of the most heroic and selfless acts anyone could have done. He’s now facing a massive lawsuit from Marineland (http://www.savesmooshi.org/). Strangely, not really related to the article and the backlash that has come forth since the release of the Toronto Star expose, but for erroneous accusations that I cannot believe are still being fought to this day. Charges of plotting to steal a walrus, (that would be Smooshi), and so many other messed up crap. He isn’t the only one to break their silence. Christine Santos, and Jim Hammond also came forward of stories about the place, and are also facing lawsuits. Theirs have yet to see inside of a courtroom.

Since 2012, so much has transpired at that park. Activists are getting hit with lawsuits, film student, writers, newspapers, and warnings to anti-cruelty groups to not trespass on their property have all gone out. Demonstrations outside of Marineland still take place, fundraising efforts, and symposiums to help educate the public on the dangers of captivity. These are the things that have Marineland shaking in their boots.

Before I continue on, I want to tell you how I got into going out to the demonstrations. When everything came to the surface, I really wanted to go, but being in a public service job I had concerns. For one, if things got out of hand, and arrests were going to be made, I would lose my job. I am also an introvert, and have trouble being around strangers and crowds. I didn’t really know anybody there, other than Phil Demers, and another activist, Mike Garrett. I technically didn’t know them. I had only talked to them on Facebook and Twitter. I’m much more comfortable being behind the computer. I didn’t get out until May of 2014 for the opening day demo at Marineland. I was shy and a bit nervous. I had worked hard on my signs, and just wanted to get involved more. What got me to that point…Oddly enough two people did. John Lennon and my grade 7 & 8 teacher, Mrs. B.. Yes, I’m aware of what a strange combination that is but wait for it. I was driving a few days before the event, and at that time I still wasn’t sure if I could get the balls to go, then “Give Peace A Chance” by John Lennon came on the radio. Obviously it’s not about animal activism, but it is about having your say and asking for peace and even protesting. It made me think. I wanted peace for these animals, for the people who were being sued for speaking out for these animals, and to do that, I had to go. During that drive, I remembered back in grade 8, when we were having career day coming up. My teacher had us think about where we wanted to go that would best suit our aspirations of a future career. Of course at that time, I wanted to be a killer whale trainer. I loved how behind me she was on this because it was a strange career to go after. Something most kids probably didn’t think about. So we wrote a letter to Marineland, asking if they could talk and show us what it took to become a trainer. Like what degree I would need, what sort of physical training, etc.. They never wrote back. If I’m not mistaken, we even called, and the answer we got was “we don’t do that.” They weren’t willing to help a young teenage girl to aspire a dream to work with animals that they proclaimed to love? It was that moment that if it wasn’t for Mrs. B and her help, that I realized, things happen for a reason. I remember her support and I drew from that even though it didn’t have that much to do with going to a demo. But I got the balls, I went, and then I went again a week later to my first ever “Free Kiska” demo. A year later at the opening demo, I had my three-month old daughter with me. She’s been to three demonstrations so far and she’s not even two yet. In that time, I’ve met wonderful people, whom I have come to care for and have the privilege to call my friends. I’ve learned from them, and I admire them. I’ve become inspired by them. This fight, I’ve engaged in, is because of them. I saw the importance of using my voice and my self-taught knowledge to help these animals. I doubt I would have stayed so vocal without them. I hope if they are reading this, you know who you are.

In that time, captivity has claimed many lives, from Sea lions, to dolphins, belugas and orca. There are health issues that plague captive cetaceans that wouldn’t necessarily plague them in the wild. Captive cetaceans spend more time at the surface because the pool that they are living in, is too shallow and far from what they are accustomed to in the wild. In one case, Kandu, a male transient orca who resided at Sea World in Florida died of encephalitis from a mosquitoes. His death was painful and tragic (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trekA7p3hs8). Gudrun, a female orca, was often used as Sea World’s photogenic whale. She had the perfect dorsal fin and markings and would prefer to use her as their mascot whale. Even posing with children for photo ops. She’d haul out and strike a perfect pose, even while pregnant. Posing for long periods of time would put a lot of weight on her body and that of her unborn calf. Her undoing would be because of this and would result in the death of not only her third unborn calf but eventually her own. The calf was still-born, so the staff had to remove the dead calf from Gudrun, and in doing so she ended up hemorrhaging internally resulting in her death. Problem was, that she was being bred right after giving birth, with no time to allow for her body to heal properly. In the wild, orcas breed at least four years after giving birth. Marineland currently only has one orca, named Kiska. Kiska has been at Marineland since around 1980, and was captured in Icelandic waters, and then sold to Marineland. While at Marineland, Kiska had given birth to five calves, all male, except her last calf, Athena, who was her only daughter. Her first calf died just two months after his birth. Kanuck, Kiska’s second calf, was 4 years old and died of traumatic shock in 1998. He was separated from his mother and kept indoors in what is referred to as the barn. An indoor warehouse with small holding tanks. Her third calf, Nova, was about 4 1/2 years old when he died. Hudson, her fourth calf, lived the longest of all five, making it to just 6-years old. Athena was about 4 1/2 as well at the time of death. Marineland has a record of 17 orca deaths, and 3 miscarriages. In the wild, a female orca’s average life span is 60-80 years, some have made it longer than 80. Male orca’s life spans are that of 50-60 years, sometimes longer. The captive industry is hard pressed to tell you those averages, as the averages in captivity are significantly lower, about 18-25 years, with some exceptions. Falsifying information that has been scientifically proven by renowned and respected marine biologist from around the world, is just part of the smoke and mirrors of the captive industry to make it seem their animals are in a better environment. They’re not.

So why do we continue to believe that these animals thrive in captivity? That’s a great question. I don’t go. I will not buy a ticket to a zoo or an aquarium. I simply refuse to support these places and my child as well will not support these places too. With the release of the film “Blackfish” which Chronicles the life of captive orca, Tilikum, and what lead to the death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau, questions have been answered regarding the captive industry. The stress these highly intelligent animals face, from having their teeth painfully drilled and flushed out daily, to painful endoscopy procedures, nevermind the lack of mental stimulation that orcas would have no trouble finding out in the wild. Instead they are in these boring tanks, that are too small for them, in makeshift-unnatural pods, living with food deprivation so they will perform their tricks for the paying patrons. Some lash out at each other, and even lash out at their trainers. These animals know. They know when another whale is upset, or a trainer is getting frustrated with them. They know when the food bucket is getting low on fish, they know when they’re in trouble for not following instructions properly. They just know. They are sentient beings, with emotions like our own. Maybe even more complex. Animals like this, do not belong in captivity. From all the trainers who spoke in the documentary “Blackfish,” said the same thing, Tilikum loved to work, he liked to please his trainers, and was actually a great whale to work with. But he snapped. Tilikum had caused three deaths in his time in captivity. Something completely unheard of in the wild. There is not one documented case of an orca harming or killing a human being in the wild. Not one. The first death took place in Victoria, British Columbia at Sealand of the Pacific, a small facility where Tilikum was housed with two older females, who used to attack him at night while locked in a small tin floating box. A trainer, Keltie Byrne, slipped into the orca pool, and was then dragged in by one of the orcas, and had drowned because the three orcas would not let her go. Some are clear that it was Tilikum who pulled in Keltie, and others say it was the two females, and that Tilikum just participated. I suppose we will never truly know for sure. After the death of Keltie, the owner sold off the three whales and close Sealand down for good. As former Sealand director, Steve Huxter, said in the movie, “the magic was gone.” All three were bought by Sea World, with the understanding that Tilikum was going to be used for mostly breeding and not performance. Well he was used for both. He was their cash whale. Siring up to around 14 calves through Artificial Insemination. In the late 90’s he struck again. A drifter named Daniel Dukes, managed to climb the fences at Sea World, and hid until after the park closed. He decided to go for a swim in Tilikum’s pool, and was found the next day, naked and draped over Tilikum’s back. Parts of Duke were mutilated and was not just a simple drowning. The final death, which would be the one to change the captive industry, was Dawn’s. During a Dine with Shamu show, Dawn was having a great show with Tilikum, until a certain point. He did a perfect perimeter peck wave, where he swims with his pectoral flipper out waving to the people. She had used her whistle to signal that he was done but he kept going. He then got disciplined by not receiving his fish right away. He could also tell that his bucket was near empty. During a session on the shallow slide-out, Tilikum took his revenge. This wasn’t play, this was anger. He grabbed Dawn by the arm and pulled her in. She was brutally killed.

I cannot blame Tilikum for all these incidents, I cannot blame Keltie or Dawn either. I can however, blame his situation. Being in captivity, is similar to being in prison. You don’t have your freedom. You can’t just leave and go home whenever you’re done there. You’re stuck. Pacing you jail cell, or swimming in circles. After 33 years in captivity, Tilikum found his freedom on January 6, 2017, when he passed away. It’s so sad that there wasn’t a way to get him to the ocean and into a sea pen before his death, as all captive orcas deserve to feel the natural water and rhythm of the ocean before they die. It breaks my heart that he couldn’t feel that.

With that said, Sea World is closer to ending their captive orca program than before Blackfish came out. The orcas who are currently imprisoned at the three Sea World parks, will be the last. They have taken note that times have changed and that the people no longer want to see these animals in these places anymore.

As for Marineland, well…we aren’t that lucky. Unlike the publicly owned company that Sea World is, Marineland is privately owned. Owned by one man, John Holer. The man behind the lawsuits, the man behind the controversy. He’s there sitting in his truck, at every demonstration, watching to see if the protesters disobey court orders given to Mike Garrett, so that he can sue more people, or ban Mike from every having future demos. It’s rather complicated to be honest (Mike Garrett’s situation can be found on http://www.marinelandindepth.com/). When it comes time to fight, Holer hides behind his lawyers. Instead of understanding that Canada’s only captive orca, Kiska, is not in a good situation, and help us help her, he instead throws lawsuits around like he’s giving out candy on Halloween.

Kiska will indeed be the last orca to be held in Ontario. Bill-80 was passed in 2015 prohibiting orcas from being imported, exported, kept and bred in the province of Ontario. However, Kiska was not included in this Bill, which is ridiculous, as this is was all for her. To get her moved either to a sea pen to live in the ocean, or at least to another park where she could be with other orcas. Anything was better than staying at Marineland. The fight continues for her. That isn’t something myself and my friends are willing to just give up on. Two possibilities are on the horizon. A federal bill S-203, and a petition going around for legislature in Ontario to amend Bill-80 to include Kiska in the orca ban. Why is this important to get her included? Because there is a chance she will see the ocean again. There is a chance that she will feel the tide changing. There’s a chance. The Whale Sanctuary Project is in the works and moving quickly with the intention of creating sea pens for captive orcas to retire in the ocean where they belong (http://www.whalesanctuaryproject.org/). This is why it is important for us to keep fighting for Kiska. We don’t want time to be up for her, the way it was up for Tilikum.

I only spoke briefly about Kiska so far. I spoke about her calves, and even where she was captured, but not her recent life. Kiska is about 42-43 years old, and in the past four or five years has been retired from performing at Marineland. When Athena, her only daughter died in early 2009, Kiska was left with Ikaika (Ike) from Sea World who was there on a loan. Ike and Kiska had to be separated as they didn’t get along. Concerned for Ike’s mental and physical health, Sea World demanded that he be returned to their park. Marineland refused. Sea World took Marineland to court, and won. Ike then returned to Sea World in 2011. That was the last orca Kiska has seen. She is the ONLY orca who lives in 100% complete solitude. Some will argue that she is not the only orca living alone, but she is the only one who is 100% alone. Kshamenk and Lolita are two other orca’s who live at two different parks, without other orca companions. The difference between Kshamenk, Lolita and Kiska is simple. Kshamenk and Lolita have dolphin companions with them in their tanks. Kiska has nothing. Kiska’s life right now is swimming around in a counter clock-wise pattern until her next feeding. She has no shade from the summer sun, nothing to really stimulate her mentally. Just the odd belly rubs, and maybe a tire on a thick rope at the odd time. She has NOTHING!!! It breaks my heart. I have been in to see her and check out her situation, and I have to tell you this is the one whale that has managed to really get to me. They all get to me, but Kiska is here. She’s forty-minutes away, and in a tank with nothing. Alone. How can that be good for her? How can people see her and think, “aw she’s pretty. She must be enjoying retirement.” That’s not it. These animals are not meant to be alone, they don’t retire in the wild. They keep swimming and jumping and hunting. Guiding the next generation of their family to carry on their traditions. Kiska has no family. She doesn’t do a damn thing. It’s heartbreaking. She breaks my heart. She inspires my mind. She inspires me to keep fighting for her. To fight for what she deserves. Her freedom.

kiska

(Kiska; Photo courtesy of google images)

Marineland is also home to over 50 beluga whales. For starters, who needs 50 beluga whales? They’re all crammed in three different places around Marineland because the “home” (I use that term extremely loosely), that was built for them, got to be too small. So there are two in the show pool (which is ridiculously small), and about 10-20 in Friendship Cove, which is where Kiska is located (they are not visible to each other, as there are four separate pools with a massive “rock” wall dividing them). The rest are jammed in Arctic Cove, which was built for the Beluga display. They also have 5 bottlenosed dolphins, also located in the small show pool up at the front of the park. The five dolphins are kept in there with the two beluga whales. There are two very small round side pools attached to the slightly larger show pool on each side. The two belugas barely fit in the one, and the five dolphins are crammed into the other. One dolphin, Echo, in particular is covered in rake marks. Raking is something whales and dolphins do during times of aggression. It’s raking their teeth across the flesh of another. This happens a lot in captivity out of frustration, and for the targeted whale or dolphin, there is no place to go to avoid this. Marineland also has 6 seals, kept in a small indoor tank with no natural air, or natural light. They are retired as well. You will often see them swimming with their eyes tightly closed, and you shouldn’t have to ask yourself why while standing there watching them, because you smell the stench of chlorine. This goes back to the part of the water quality problems that Phil Demers mentioned in the Toronto Star investigation. The sea lions, and walruses, are not on public display, but instead come out during the show in the show pool. They have five walruses, two males and three females, and they might bring out one or two at the end of the show they put on. Sometimes not at all. More on the walruses in a few.

Marineland also houses, deer, elk, bears, various bird species, bison, fish, and a partridge in a pear tree. Ok maybe not the partridge. It is with the land animals, that 11 counts of animal cruelty charges have been laid by the OSPCA. Charges for two types of deer, elk, peacocks, guinea hens, and the bears. The first five counts came this past November (2016), regarding a peacock, guinea hens and the bears which include the following: – One Count of permitting a peacock bird to be in distress; -One count for failing to comply with the prescribed Standards of Care for a Peacock bird; – Two counts for failing to comply with the prescribed Standards of Care for Guinea Hens’ and -One count for failing to comply with the prescribed Standards of Care including failing to provide adequate and appropriate food and water for approximately 35 black bears. The current six charges stemming from January 9, 2017 news release are as follows: -One count of permitting elk to be in distress; -One count of failing to provide prescribed standards of care for elk; -One count of permitting red deer to be in distress; -One count of failing to prescribed standards of care for red deer.; -One count of permitting fallow deer to be in distress; -One count of failing to provide prescribed standards of care for fallow deer.

No mention of the marine mammals. Interesting. Now don’t get me wrong, this is great news for these animals. If found guilty of these charges, Marineland will face a life-time ban on owning ANY animal. This is a huge step in the right direction to get this place shut down. I just wish there was more charges which surrounds the marine mammals. It’s not like there hasn’t been complaints made with photographic evidence to back up those complaints to the OSPCA. There has been. Many, many times. Each time, not just myself, but anyone else I know who have made complaints, have all gotten the runaround. The same excuses. It’s horrendous, that these complaints go unanswered.

In the past two years, one walrus has stood out. Zeus. In the wild, male walruses are huge, robust and strong powerful animals. Males can weight over 4, 000 pounds. We’ve seen Zeus get smaller and smaller in the past few years. He is emaciated. The evidence has been given to the OSPCA, yet nothing has been done regarding this animals health and well-being.

(Zeus May 2016; Photo source: Screen capture posted on YouTube)

So you can see why we are concerned that no charges have been laid regarding Zeus, as well as Kiska. Can you honestly look at these pictures of Zeus, and think that there is nothing wrong with this animal? His estimated weight in these photos is maybe 1,000 pounds. It’s incredibly frustrating to know that nothing has been done about the marine mammals who are stuck in Marineland. Is it because the OSPCA have no clue what to do about them? They don’t have a marine mammal expert in their office to oversee these animals. All they can do is guess. Is it because if they have to seize one of these animals, they have nowhere to place them? I’m sure something can be done as a sort of compromise in regards to that issue. I personally feel that the problem is more they know nothing about these animals and have no idea what to look for. However, clearly looking at Zeus, it should be obvious that something is clearly wrong with him. They don’t really have any excuse when it comes to Zeus, they’ve just done nothing.

I hope that the OSPCA will have more charges coming forth to add to the current 11 that are awaiting to be read in court at the end of this month. I hope any more charges that do come, will have something to do with the marine mammals in some way.

I just want to make something clear here. I don’t want to see Marineland close. What I would like for them to do, is stop keeping animals in captivity. To phase out all their animals, or retire them, perhaps to a sea pen coming near you. The profit just isn’t there anymore for this industry, and Marineland would be much better off, spending the time to repair the rides that they currently have and update them and add new ones. How about being the first North American former aquarium to add an indoor Holographic show that not only teaches true and researched facts about whales, dolphins, sea lions, seals and walrus, but sharks, and manta rays, and eels, and immortal jelly fish. Teach and show what humpback whales, blue whales, fin whales, and all sort of whales that cannot be found in captivity are like. Holograms can go so far now that technology is where it’s at and improving all the time. There is just so much that this place can do with the land that it has that can improve their profits, Niagara Falls profits, and not harm or even worry about the care of their animals, if only they just stopped keeping animals. Concentrate on less of zoo/aquarium type atmosphere and focus more on a theme park with tons of rides, and other attractions. The profit will be there, if not the same, then more so than it is now.

It’s time to evolve. We do not need to see these animals to care about them. Children have grown up loving dinosaurs, and yet never seen one before. We can do the same with cetaceans and pinnipeds, and other animals like elephants, rhinoceroses, and lions, tigers, and….yeah I’m not saying what you thought I was, and hippos. It’s time to respect the animals who inhabited this planet before we came along. Fix the damages that we have created. Return what is not ours.

Kiska; The World’s LONELIEST Orca in Captivity…

IMG_1792

Meet Kiska. She resides in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in Canada. A very unusual place to find an ocean mammal. However, since 1979, Kiska has been stuck in captivity. Right now, she desperately needs your help. I guess you might need a bit of background on this poor girl. Well, I can give that to you.

Kiska was captured from the Arctic Ocean around Iceland back in 1979, around the same time infamous orca, Keiko, was. There is even speculation that Kiska and Keiko could be related somehow. No proof is available however.  Both were taken to Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Kiska has remained there, but Keiko was sold to a theme park in Mexico, where he would later capture the hearts of children and people all over the globe as the whale who played Willy in Free Willy. Keiko was successfully released and got to live out his days in the ocean, Kiska will never be able to feel that.

She has had 5 calves in the 31 years she’s been imprisoned in captivity. None of them making past the age of 4 1/2, except one. Her first calf was a male, never named died at 2 months old of unknown causes. Her second calf, another male, named Kanuck was 4 1/2 years old and died of Traumatic shock. Nova, another male, was 4 years and 8 months and died of starvation and pneumonia. Hudson, he lasted the longest out of all of Kiska’s calves. He died of meningitis at 6 years, 1 month and 5 days old. Kiska’s only daughter, Athena was 4 1/2 when she died of unknown causes.

At the time of Athena’s death, it was just Kiska and Sea World’s Ikaia, who was on loan for a breeding program. They had hoped that he and Athena would breed when Ike reached maturity, that didn’t happen. The two of them were nothing more than tank mates. So the focus turned to Kiska and Ike. However, no time was given when Sea World came up to check on their bull orca, and had grave concerns for his mental and physical health. They began a lengthy battle with Marineland over their orca. They wanted Ike back to protect him and his well-being. In 2011, Ike would be returned to Sea World in San Diego, and Kiska would be alone.

10913559_10152968662485540_882391164_n

She has not seen another orca in over 4 years. She hasn’t seen another species of any kind in 4 years. She is 100% alone. People have argued with us that Lolita and Kshamenk are alone too. However, that isn’t the case. Yes, they are without another orca to keep them company, but both live with dolphins in their tanks. They at least have companionship. Kiska, has nothing and no one.

You might be wondering why is she alone? Why isn’t the Canadian government doing anything? Problem is, we have no federal or provincial rules for zoos and aquariums. The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, is privately run. CAZA claim there is nothing wrong with Marineland, and keep issuing the run-down park with license to run. The OSPCA has guidelines and rules that are not being enforced, and Kiska is being ignored.

OSPCA STANDARDS OF CARE
2. (2)- Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate medical attention (Kiska has no teeth and her dorsal fin will soon be non existent if not removed. How long must she endure these health issues until she receives adequate and appropriate care?)

3- Every animal must be provided with the care necessary for its general welfare (keeping a female orca in a tank, alone is simply criminal)
6- Every animal must be provided with adequate and appropriate

(a) space to allow the animal to move naturally and to exercise (orcas naturally swim 100’s of miles per day…..Kiska however swims in repeated circles rimming the edge of a concrete tank. Hardly “natural”)

(b) sanitary conditions (on several occasions we have noticed plastic floating in her tank, filthy bottoms, murky dirty water)

STANDARDS OF CARE FOR CAPTIVE WILDLIFE

2- Wildlife kept in captivity must be provided with a daily routine that facilitates and stimulates natural movement and behaviour. (again, sadly not the case for Kiska)

3- Wildlife kept in captivity MUST BE KEPT IN COMPATIBLE SOCIAL GROUPS to ensure the general welfare of the individual animals and of the group and to ensure that each animal in the group is not at risk of injury or undue stress from dominant animals of the same or a different species.

Kiska’s health is on the decline. She doesn’t have a whole lot of time. Unlike Keiko, Kiska cannot be released back into the wild and sea pens simply do not exists unless you have a millionaire willing to put the money up to build one. Then it takes hundreds-of-thousands of dollars a year to maintain the pen, feed the animal, keep a staff around. It’s just an impossible dream. Kiska doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for a dream to come true for she wouldn’t get to leave that pen. Her teeth are so bad, that she wouldn’t be able to properly hunt or defend herself. Also, we have no idea where her family would be. She is simply stuck.

02 Blog photo

I am not a supporter of captivity by any means, but the more I’ve seen and learned from experts, I have come to the sad realization that some orcas, cannot achieve freedom. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and take a breath and say, “not every place is horrible.” It’s like eating crow.

Right now, we have no access to Kiska until May when Marineland opens. It’s killing us who are fighting hard for her. We do it because we love her and we want the best for her. Marineland isn’t what’s best for her. She barely gets any social interactions. People would walk up to see her at Friendship Cove, see that she was just lethargically swimming in a circle over and over, or just floating at the surface, and walk away after five minutes. The staff would feed her, and give her a quick rub down, then be done with her. Occasionally, she would get a dirty old tire with some rope and bungee cords wrapped around it to play with. That was it.

10388077_10152978935085540_6450468411298391305_n

Talking to Marine Mammologist, Dr.Naomi Rose, this past summer about Kiska’s health, and she didn’t have anything good to say. There simply wasn’t anything good about Kiska’s health. Kiska is clearly suffering from weight loss, which is clear by the depression just behind her blow-hole. A condition called “peanut head”. Marineland claims that she’s “lazy”. Lazy whales put on extra weight from not doing anything. Kiska is losing it from not doing anything. What is wrong with that picture??

03 Blog photo

Her dorsal fin, looks mutilated. Like she has had some issues with possible gangrene. There was definite concern over the state of her dorsal fin.

01 Blog photo

These concerns are very real. When the pictures were exposed to local news station, CHCH in Hamilton, they brushed it off. Taking Marineland’s word over expert opinion and photographic evidence. The one trainer, even admitted on the air, that Marineland doesn’t own a scale to weigh Kiska. Yes he says her weight is just fine. How would he know this? He referred to her as “lazy”. Orca’s are far from lazy animals. Kiska is approximately 40 years old, nearly 10 years younger than Miami Seaquarium’s Lolita. Kiska no longer does shows or even splash sessions, but Lolita who is closing in on 50 years of age, is still performing 2 shows a day. If there is a problem with Kiska being “lazy”, it’s not her it’s the trainers and the way they are handling her.

Orcas are not lazy animals. One of the oldest orcas on record is 103 years old and still swims and leads her family up and down the west coast.

We continue to fight for Kiska, and we will not stop. It is our job to tell her story and hope that anyone who takes the time to listen or read it, passes it on as well. I’ve mentioned a few times that she cannot be released to a sea pen. So what can we do? We need to press the Canadian and Ontario government to take possession of Kiska, and move her to a more appropriate facility. One where she will not be alone anymore, and one where she will receive proper medical care.

Right now, We are seeking 6,966 more signatures on a petition so that we can have it presented to Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynn. So please take the time to sign the petition and share it with all your family and friends. No animal should suffer.

https://www.change.org/p/kathleen-wynne-release-canada-s-only-captive-orca-kiska-to-an-appropriate-facility

1379531_10153005552198545_6068818591022252786_n

Thank-you so much!

Faithful Team Kiska member!

Quick piece about Deers at Marineland & Petting Zoo’s…

So my problem with the deer pavilion at Marineland and now other places where kids can interact with deer is this (and keep in mind, children are touching deer and who knows what else, and have a tendency to put their hands in their mouths before you have a chance to wash them). Problem is, that at Marineland you are surrounded by deer, their urine and poop. And what I learned about them this past weekend, sometimes their blood. Their blood can spray or drop on you from their antlers while shedding their velvet. Personally, when a deer is in the process of shedding their velvet, they should be out of the public view. As their blood, can be as dangerous to humans as their urine and poop. I don’t want my child around that.  http://youtu.be/BI9ezjPwIzM

DSCF2174 DSCF2175

 

TOP 10 DISEASE PEOPLE CAN GET FROM DEER:

1. E. coli O157:H7 – from the feces
2. Leptospirosis – from the urine – can be transmitted through cuts including hang nails – Vaccination produces serological responses, but its effectiveness in protecting against disease, and prevention or reduction of shedding in urine, has not yet been confirmed in deer (2007)

DSCF2176 DSCF2177


3. Lyme disease via ticks – an increasing concern – unless the deer are getting tick preventives there is no way this is not a risk – ticks fall off birds so it is a constant concern.
4. human babesiosis – from deer tick
5. human granulocytic ehrlichiosis – from deer tick
6. Mycobacterium bovis (tuberculosis) infection can occur from direct contact with a wound on an animal or by inhaling the bacteria in air exhaled by animals infected with M. bovis
7. Tularemia (Francisella tularensis bacteria) – potentially fatal – spread to people from deer by deerflies and other insects (incl ticks and fleas) or exposure of skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth) with deer blood or inhaling dust from contaminated soil

DSCF2180 DSCF2182


8. Deer Parapoxvirus – causes scabby, crusty lesions on the muzzle, lips, face, ears, neck and antlers of affected deer – There have been two confirmed cases of deer parapoxvirus infection in humans in the U.S.. Both patients had nicked their fingers while dressing the deer carcasses and later developed pox lesions (scabby crusts) on their hands – Both reported that the deer had not shown any signs of illness at the time they were dressed.
9. Cryptosporidia from ingesting deer feces
10. Giardia from ingesting deer feces.

 

Next time you go to a petting zoo, or Marineland (even though I strongly advise against either), keep a close eye on yourself and especially your children and remember what type of health risks there are.

Worst Experience of My Life- Marineland, Canada Investigation: Part Two

The last blog I covered the first half of my first investigation of one of the world’s worst aquariums. Actually a list was recently released and Marineland was number 2, behind Miami Seaquarium. I personally think it should be number 1, but I have never been to Miami Seaquarium. I know it’s a horrible place as well. Look up Lolita and her story. It’s as heartbreaking as Kiska’s. It’s time to move on and take a look at the remainder of my time at Marineland.

After we left the deer pavilion, we were still in shock for a long time about what we witnessed. It’s not every day you dodge deer blood flying around because they are doing something akin to self-mutilation. We headed to the bears. Now my memories of the bears were always horrible. Bears are suppose to be these big scary, aggressive predators, but at Marineland they are demoralized and weak. They sit in filthy water, their paddock reaking of feces, and they beg people for stale ice cream cones, which they can purchase at a little hut at the entrance to the bear area. Looking down at the bears sitting at the water’s edge or in the water, looking up at the people, begging for food, was pathetic. Sad and pathetic.

01 Blog 2 Photo

It wasn’t until I got home and looked at my photos that I saw the sadness in the bears eyes. I have teddy bears from when I was a baby with eyes less sad looking.

02 Blog 2 photo

As an animal lover, I have an unexplained passion for orcas and know the most about them. It doesn’t mean that I don’t look at the pictures of the deer and the bears and feel less. I don’t. I look at these pictures of these bears and my heart is in pain for them. This is no way to treat an animal.

03 Blog 2 photo

04 Blog 2 photo

This one photo that my friend took, says it all. Such a very powerful photo, and I wanted to make sure I shared it.

05 Blog 2 photo

After we left the bears, we headed over to Arctic Cove. This is where the Beluga whales are suppose to be housed. Instead, they are actually stashed all over the park because there are way too many. At Friendship Cove they were really active, but I accounted approximately eight in the one pool. Give or take. As we approached Arctic Cove, it was public feeding time. This when guest, usually children, pay extra to get up close and personal with a beluga whale by feeding him or her and getting to rub their melons.

06 Blog 2 photo

I decided to start counting. I got to twenty beluga whales and decided that number had to be wrong, so I played dumb with the one worker and flat out asked her, and sure enough, she said there were twenty beluga whales in this ONE pool. I managed to keep calm and said, “Oh, that’s what I thought but it looked like more.” Or something stupid. It’s really hard to play dumb with people who are clearly not as intelligent as you are.

My friend and I looked over and saw a man with another beluga whale, and we turned to look but the worker I had asked the dumb question to, asked if we would wait until he was finished feeding that particular beluga whale, as apparently the whale gets nervous. We obliged. Plus we didn’t want to look too eager to see this “nervous” beluga whale. We didn’t get a picture or even a chance to assess this whale. It may have been a missed opportunity, but one necessary for us to keep our cover.

We continued to observe the public feeding of the beluga’s. It’s great to see children smile and see these animals up close, I only wish it was in a different type of environment. I by no means, recommend anyone to partake in this type of interaction. There are just so many things that can go wrong. Beluga’s may not necessarily be aggressive by nature, but a trainer in the show pool was bit and attacked last year. Dolphins at Sea World, have been known to bite park visitors while doing a similar activity. It’s just not safe for your children to be this close.

07 Blog 2 Photo

08 Blog 2 Photo

My friend also noticed, that they were using Kiska’s pail to feed the one Beluga. As you can see in the above photo.

We then headed to the underground viewing area. Again, there was a lot of leaks and pooling of water. Plus evidence of mold.

09 Blog 2 Photo

Also present, was filthy water, with dirt and fecal matter, both in the main tank where there were 20 beluga’s, and then in the other tank that was being used as a nursery (and much much smaller than the first tank).

10 Blog 2 Photo

In the viewing area, which was being used as the nursery, they had crammed in 5 females, and 4 babies. One female was pregnant. My concern was the dirt and fecal matter at the bottom of the tank, as well as the fact that they were all just crammed into a rather small tank.

11 Blog 2 Photo

I actually found this rather sad. There wasn’t really any place for a mother and her calf to get away from the others. And it was my friend who managed to get the better pictures of a calf who was banged up. We both noticed it, but couldn’t say a thing to each other as an employee was working observation right next to us.

12 Blog 2 Photo

It was unbelievable the amount of Beluga whales were stashed throughout this park. God knows if any were packed inside the infamous Barn. The barn is a dank, and indoor space where the animals are kept that aren’t being used, or where they go in the off season. There is no natural light, and often are subjected to fumes from diesel run equipment. It’s a concrete hell. Whether or not there were beluga’s inside the Barn, I counted approximately 40 Beluga whales inside Marineland. They just keep breeding these whales. Chances are some might even be inbred. Recently I spotted a beluga whale in one of my friend’s photos and was concerned about the shape of it’s melon. I have sent off inquiries about it but as of this time, have yet to hear back from any beluga researchers. We have our suspicions that it might likely be inbreeding, if anything at all. When you have 40 beluga whales, it’s going to be impossible to prevent inbreeding.

13 Blog 2 photo

It’s just ridiculous that there are so many of one species in one place. My theory is, ever since the Toronto Star article came out two summers ago, that Marineland’s reputation is mud now. They can’t sell their beluga’s. Instead, they are overloaded.

In that number of 40, two of them were in living in the show pool, in King Waldorf’s Stadium.

14 Blog 2 photo

Two belugas, live in the right hand side pool. Five bottlenosed dolphins live in the small left hand side pool.

15 Blog 2 Photo

The so-called show wasn’t much of a show. The MC at the beginning basically mocked the wild animals by talking about the ocean in which they were from. Playing their vocals, to “educate” the public. Granted, the vocalizations of the animals, were the only thing educating about this entire 25 minute show. The California sea lions came out and did the usual comedy routine. The dolphins then came out to do some of the high spots. Earlier, I had spotted the one dolphin who I wasn’t sure if there was skin irritations on or not. We were on an angle and up a bit too high and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get a decent photo. At first glance, it looked like a pox virus, but I can’t be sure at all. It very well could have just been the angle and glares of the dolphin’s wet skin. I hope it was nothing. However what we cannot deny are the massive rake marks on Echo’s body.

16 Blog 2 Photo

17 Blog 2 photo

Marineland’s one universal criticism is that the park is highly dated. Nothing says more high-tech then using a store regulated, yellow-braided rope to open and close your rusty gates…

18 Blog 2 photo

There really wasn’t much value in the show. We really only had one reason to be there. The walrus. The end of the show finale, done by one of the park’s five walrus. My friend had already seen three out of the five; Apollo, Sonja and Buttercup. We were hoping for Smooshi or Zeus. Smooshi is quite famous. She’s a central part of former trainer and whistle-blower, Phil Demers. He had a special relationship with Smooshi who had a series of problems. He’s constantly asking for people to send him photos if they see her in shows. Sadly, she’s rarely used. It might be because of Phil, and it might be because she isn’t well. Whatever the reason is, we are all really worried about her. We would still have to wait to see either Smooshi or Zeus. We were treated to Apollo. He’s a big boy. I’m concerned about the redness in his eyes. It’s a suggestion that water quality is to be called into question.

19 Blog 2 photo

It’s a mystery to us as to why the Sea Lions and Walrus’, as well as dolphins are not on public display in between shows.

Speaking of sketchy water conditions. I wasn’t prepared for the last and final spot on our tour. An indoor aquarium, where Marineland uses a former smaller show pool to house their seals. The moment you approached the door to this indoor facility, you are assaulted by the chlorine smell. It was then that I remember smelling it outside of the park, standing on the other side of the Aquarium wall, while I was waiting for my friend to arrive. It’s no wonder, because that place was over-chlorinated. Nothing was more explanatory than seeing the animals who were forced to live in the pool. All of them, had their eyes shut as tight as possible.

20 Blog 2 photo

Even when they did open them above the water, some closed them immediately. Aside from seeing Kiska, this was probably one of the most heartbreaking places I had to endure. Inside the aquarium, there was no natural light. There was nothing to enrich the seals or keep them occupied. Just an empty over-chlorinated pool of water.

21 Blog 2 photo

Also that caught my attention was the barred-door left open, I couldn’t help but bend down to quickly snap a photo of what was inside. Dry dock. it looked like a small platform for the seals to get on when they were tired of swimming. I’m not really sure, to be honest. It looked just as dingy as the rest of the place we were standing in. Not to mention the rusty concrete walls (to your right).

22 Blog 2 photo

One would think with the amount of chlorine we were ingesting, you would expect the water to be clear. Well, you would be wrong. Not only was it not clear, it was disgusting.

23 Blog 2 photo

The photo was of the same area, as the top one that my friend took. Actually both are her photos. My other concern was the filter at the bottom of the pool. One I really couldn’t get a decent photo of because of how dirty the water was. I could tell that there was enough room through the grate that could cause harm to a seal. I had once read that a sea lion died when it got its flipper caught in the filter because there wasn’t a small enough grate to prevent it. I’m a bit concerned over that.

24 Blog 2 photo

That is the end of this experience. One that I would deem as one of the worst experiences of my life. On an investigators stand-point, it was sadly successful, as we were able to obtain evidence. However, it was bitter sweet. You never go to investigate a place in hopes of finding problems, you go hoping that you don’t. For the animals sake.

Marineland needs to be shut down. The problem isn’t that it’s still running after decades, the problem is the government. Ontario and Canadian government has nothing to do with zoo and aquarium regulations. There is nothing to protect captive animals, and even less rights to captive cetaceans (whales & dolphins) and pinnipeds (seals, sea lions & walrus). One of the things we can do, it spread the word about how awful places like (and especially) Marineland is. The day is getting closer when aquariums and sea prisons, like Marineland, are not needed. People will stop going because people like myself has spread awareness. We’ve put a lot of our beliefs aside, to go in to gather this information for you.

I did not for one moment, enjoy my time at Marineland. I did NOT go in to the park for enjoyment. I went in there, to get information and visual proof of how horrific this place really is. I am getting criticized for going, but sometimes you have to enter the den of the devil in order to bring him down. I do NOT recommend that every anti-captivity person, or pro-captivity person or indifferent captivity person to visit or do their own investigation. It sucked to be there. I will carry that guilt with me, but I did raise awareness to this place. I’m asking and begging you all, not to go and buy a ticket to Marineland, or any other place alike.

As a protester, anti-captivity advocate, and someone who loves orcas so much, it made me physically sick to be inside this place. I did it for Kiska. My friend, does this for Kiska. If someone doesn’t keep an eye on her, or didn’t go in to investigate, then those photos at the beginning of my blog, of her teeth and blow-hole, would never have made it on to the News. Because of those photos that my friend from Ontario Captive Animal Watch managed to take, Kiska’s story is making a global splash. We are Team Kiska, and that means we want her released to a sea pen to live out her remaining days in the ocean where she was kidnapped, or we would even settle for her to be moved to Sea World. She hasn’t used her vocals in nearly three years. She hasn’t even heard another orca in three years. She has given up. She is a shell of herself now. Living out her days, waiting for the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4Y5WHbPxu4#

This October, Marineland will close for the next seven months before re-opening in May of 2015. For Team Kiska, it will be a long seven months, not knowing if she’s alright. If she’s alive or dead. We won’t know anything until opening day. Not knowing whether she’s alive or not, is going to be one of the most painful things we will ever have to endure. Doesn’t mean we will be silent for her. It’s actually time to push forward.

Check out Ontario Captive Animal Watch (OCAW) on Facebook, and learn about what they’re all about. Also check out Fins and Flukes. If you want to help spread the word about Kiska, you have 11-days to help raise money for Mike Garrett’s legal campaign against Marineland, by purchasing a “Free Kiska” t-shirt, http://teespring.com/FreeKiska . Check out his campaign at For donations via GoFundMe please visit: www.mikegarrett.ca or through pay-pal: mikegarrettdefensefund@gmail.com. Also check out http://www.marinelandindepth.com/ for more information. To help former trainer and Marineland whistle-blower, Phil Demers, you can check out savesmooshi.org.

Without people like Mike Garrett, Phil Demers, the wonderful people from Ontario Captive Animal Watch, Fins & Fluke, and Orca United, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We are so close to getting the world aware of the problems with whale and dolphin captivity. So a huge THANK-YOU to them.

Worst Experience of My Life– Marineland, Canada Investigation: Part One

This past weekend, I joined a friend of mine on one of her investigations of Marineland, in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I acted as her second set of eyes, investigating right along side her. Catching things that she may have missed, and also helping her blend in a bit more to the unknowing people who think these places are fun to visit.

Usually I’m on the other side of the fence, protesting against this place. This time, I went on the patron side. It was a strange feeling. One of foreboding and lack of comfort. There was nothing comforting about this place. Not for me, and certainly not for the animals. The last time I was at Marineland was about 7-years ago. I’ve never really liked the place. It started when I was little. I had aspirations of becoming a killer whale trainer, and I had only ever been to Marineland at this point, but even then I wasn’t just going to be any killer whale trainer, I was going to be a Sea World killer whale trainer. Before all the anti-caps freak out, I was under the age of 16 and didn’t know better. It’s a dream that I never full-filled. I had mentioned this to former Sea World trainer, who was featured in the documentary, “Blackfish”, Jeffery Ventre on Twitter and he told me he was glad I never lived my dream. He’s right. I would never been able to handle seeing the truth behind the fantasy that these places provide. I’ve been to Sea World Orlando twice in my life. From first glance, it’s still ten-times the facility that Marineland is. But it’s still a bad place. All captive aquatic facilities are bad places. No matter what, you cannot recreate the space, the depth, or the water in the world’s oceans. For animals as intelligent as killer whales, or Orcas, who travel in their families their entire life time, these places are hell.

From the moment we walked in, I felt betrayal to the animals that I love and respect, but I was there for a reason. I had a purpose. To tell their story. This isn’t my story, and this isn’t about me. Truth be told, I’m someone who believes in freedom. I am an anti-cap. This was the first and last time, I will be going to Marineland, or any place like it, since I took the pledge to “Not Buy A Ticket”. This was strictly business.

We didn’t look at the rides, or think about going on the rides. We put no money into the park that we didn’t have to. We didn’t eat or drink anything sold in the park, we didn’t buy souvenirs. We quickly looked in the one gift shop to see how much educational items were for sale. Sadly, not many. A few books, both in English and in French. That was all that I saw.

Our first stop was to see Canada’s only captive orca. Kiska. Kiska breaks both my friend’s heart and mine. She holds a special place in our hearts that we feel the need to be with her to make sure she knows that she has a lot of people in her corner fighting for her. Us being there, was for her. Kiska has been imprisoned at Marineland since the early 1980’s. She was captured from Iceland at the young age of just 3 years old. She’s now approximately 38 years of age and has spent the last 35 years in captivity. Away from her natural family. Away from her mother. In 1992, Kiska gave birth to her first of five babies. Or calves as baby orcas are called. He was a male, with no name. He died of unknown causes at only 2-months of age. Her second calf, Kanuck, was male. Born August 28th, 1994 and died four and a half years later of Traumatic shock. Nova, another male, died of Pneumonia and starvation at 4-years and 8-months old. Marineland denied his death for months after. Hudson was Kiska’s longest surviving calf. He died at age 6 of meningitis. Her only daughter, Athena, was her last calf. She was sick for two days, and then died. She was age 4 and a half years and died of unknown causes in May of 2009.

Sea World had loaned a male orca named, Ikaika, or Ike, to Marineland for breeding in 2006. Although he and Kiska got along well, they never mated. Sea World had grown concerns over Ike’s mental and physical well-being and began a long custody battle against Marineland, which Sea World won. In 2011, Ike was moved back to Sea World, and Kiska has been alone for the past 3 years.

Today, Kiska floats at the surface of her pool. Slowly swimming the perimeter of her tank. Marineland claims that she’s old and is slowing down. The photos provide a different story. Photos my friend took a few weeks ago showed her dorsal fin in horrible shape. When I messaged Marine Mammologist, Dr. Naomi Rose, pictures of Kiska’s dorsal fin, she said;

This isn’t normal at all (and I don’t think her fin looked like this when I last saw her)- it looks like she’s had some kind of infection that has eaten away at the flesh (some sort of gangrene or leprosy-something that caused necrosis of the tissue, so it actually rotted and come away). And this kind of condition could cause additional collapse of the fin as well…”

01 Blog photo

My friend also managed to get disturbing photos of Kiska’s teeth. Because of the conditions of her teeth, Kiska ineligible to be released back into the wild with her family. Her only hope is to be released to a sea pen back in Icelandic waters, to live out the rest of her days with the natural rhythm of the ocean and real ocean water. If it ever gets to that. Her teeth are so bad, and because they drilled the pulp out, she has to go through the painful procedure of flushing. They spray into each tooth, flushing out any fish that may be stuck or lodged in, which can cause infection.

02 Blog photo

Even more damaging and concerning photos of Kiska came from these first few trips that my friend, an investigator for Ontario Captive Animal Watch, came away with. This one of Kiska’s blow-hole. Just behind her blow-hole, was a deep depression, which was noted by Dr. Rose last September when she visited Kiska. I sent the photos to Dr. Rose, who said that the depression was worse than it was when she saw Kiska.

She is definitely developing ‘peanut head’, which is the depression behind her blow-hole and is a sign of weight loss. She is not in good shape….The situation is just grim.”

03 Blog photo

I hesitated at “Friendship Cove”, stopping by the first pool which was loaded with Beluga whales. Clamoring and acting up for the people laughing and smiling at them. Clearly clueless. We made our way over to Kiska. My friend had warned me that the photos were nothing compared to seeing her in person. She was right. With my camera in front of my face, I held in tears and my shock at the horrendous site I saw. Right away, I saw her dorsal fin.

04 Blog photo

05 Blog Photo

She stayed at the surface, moving slowly around her tank. I decided to play an audio clip I had found of Ike’s vocals, which were taken at Marineland during his stay. It took both my friend and I a bit to realize that after we played the vocals, Kiska would move faster around her tank and splash around in the one end. She was agitated by it. A sign that she recognized his vocals. The most active she was the entire time we were there. We spent a long time with Kiska. It was just too hard to leave her. My friend took this picture of Kiska, and the look in her eye is defeat. She’s given up.

06 Blog Photo

We heard they were planning on feeding her just as soon as they finished feeding the beluga’s on the other side. They were taking a long time, and we could tell Kiska was hungry. They finished feeding the beluga’s and started hovering around my friend and I as we waited for her feeding to begin.

Recently, pictures I showed earlier of Kiska’s teeth and her blow-hole made it to local news and out pouring of support for Kiska came out. Marineland was obviously being cautious about who they fed her around. We were pretty sure we were made. They were waiting for us to leave to feed their orca. We decided that we should leave and see if that was exactly what they were waiting for.

We took off for the underground viewing. Stopping first to check out the Beluga whales. One of the first things we noticed was the bird poop, on the inside of the glass. At least we’re assuming it’s bird poop. We just aren’t sure how it got in there. It’s inside and under water.

07 Blog photo

The second thing we noticed was the water and the fecal matter at the bottom of the beluga tank.

08 Blog photo

09 Blog photo

Everything was just disgusting. Also, there was a sign attached to the tank about the leaks.

10 Blog photo

I’m not an expert on leaks, but I’m pretty sure leaks just don’t seal themselves. Unless you’re counting on the mold and mildew to seal the leak for you. The leaks were clearly visible, as was the mold and god knows what else.

11 Blog Photo

We then walked over to Kiska’s side of the underwater viewing, and watched her swim around her tank. My friend commented on how cloudy and dirty it was. You couldn’t see the other side of the tank. Kiska swam around, in dirty, murky water.

12 Blog photo

Like the Beluga’s side of the tanks, was a pile of fecal matter and dirt. Chunks of stuff was floating in the water as well.13 Blog photo

Five minutes after we stood and watched Kiska, we noticed her going to the side of the pool where she gets fed and we watched her feed from the under water viewing. After eating she got a belly rub and pectoral fin rub down. See how cloudy and dirty the water was.

14 Blog photo

During that time, I could see a leak that was actually active.

15 Blog Photo

After her rub down, she continued to swim slow laps around her tank. I noticed her tail. It didn’t have the smooth look that other orca’s tail flukes had. Not sure if this is something to look into, or if it’s a normal thing. I will be looking into it that’s for sure.

16 Blog Photo

There seems to be a lot of nicks, and scratches on her flukes. It makes me wonder if there is a necrosis there as well.

I was overwhelmed by seeing Kiska. I had never seen a captive orca in a sadder state than Kiska. She’s been on my mind so much lately. It breaks my heart to see such a beautiful, intelligent, animal in such a sorry state. I’m sadden by this. She shouldn’t be alone, and she shouldn’t be stuck in this stupid, filthy, dirty bath tub.

After seeing Kiska and her sorry state, we ventured over to the deer pavilion. It’s a place where people with their children can come and go, and interact with Fallow Deer. There’s a little hutch in the middle where you can purchase food for these animals and feed them. First thing I noticed was there was no shade of any kind. It was concrete and sandy-like dirt, and no trees. Second thing I noticed was a small child pulling on the antlers of a poor deer while her father encouraged her to do so, just to take a selfie picture of the three of them. No respect for these animals at all. Third, I noticed there was no visible staff. Just in the hutch selling food. The most disturbing, was the blood splatter we saw all over the ground. It was all dried up but still very noticeable.

17 Blog Photo

We had so much freedom to take as many photos of the blood soaked ground as we wanted. No one noticed us, because no one was around. At first we couldn’t figure out why there was so much blood everywhere. No effort was made to hose it off. Then we noticed it. Both my friend and I admittedly do not know much about deer and their natural behaviours, so the site we saw was horrific. A deer was rubbing the velvet off of his antlers across the cement. Blood was dripping everywhere, and the smears of blood we had seen just seconds before this event now made sense. The deer was violently and roughly scrapping his antlers across the pavement, banging and scrapping. Blood sprayed out at the force, some landing on my friend’s shoe while she video taped the event. I had never seen anything like this.

18 Blog photo

We were ready to call the OSPCA right then and there. She instead posted some photos to her social media page and one of the whistle-blowers who was a former trainer at Marineland, Phil Demers, told her that it was actually normal that the deer do this. We held off on calling the OSPCA, but it didn’t make what we saw any less disturbing. What baffled us, was that no one said a damn thing. No one was shocked by seeing this event happen. We are animal people, and we didn’t know that this was normal, you can’t possibly tell me that everyone in the deer pavilion KNEW that this was normal. Most people who visit these places have the IQ of a turd. I’m sorry, that’s harsh, but true. If you think seeing animals stuck behind bars or in small tanks is happy and wonderful, then you’re an idiot.

I looked into it, and Phil was right. This behaviour of shedding their velvet from their antlers is quite normal. With Fallow deers, they bleed during this process. Shedding of the velvet can occur at any time of the year, but usually it’s done on trees and logs. One thing I fail to understand is the sanitary issues. Is there any disease in fresh deer blood? I personally wouldn’t want my child walking through that and petting deers while they’re in the process. My co-worker agreed with me when I showed him the photos. He didn’t understand why Marineland didn’t segregate the ones who were in their shedding process. Personally, I don’t understand it either.

I wasn’t intending for my blog to be so long, but background and the section on Kiska took up a lot more room than I thought it might. So I’ve decided to make this a two parter. Things don’t get any better at the marine-park from hell. If you decide not to check out part 2, then I’ll say this. Don’t buy a ticket to these places. Especially Marineland. It’s an awful place. I don’t have anything against the staff there, as they are just making money to live on. I don’t believe they have any ill-wishes towards the animals they care for and spend time with. I would love to see a massive walk-out, and leaving John Holer, the owner, high and dry. I fear for the animals in this place. I fear for Kiska. She’s giving up, and she’s not in good shape. Between the park’s closed season, October to May, we won’t know what’s going on with her. If she will even make it through the winter. Those seven months, will be so hard to make it through. We will be holding our breaths come opening day of 2015.

Check out Ontario Captive Animal Watch (OCAW) on Facebook, and learn about what they’re all about. Also check out Fins and Flukes. If you want to help spread the word about Kiska, you have 14-days to help raise money for Mike Garrett’s legal campaign against Marineland, by purchasing a “Free Kiska” t-shirt, http://teespring.com/FreeKiska . Check out his campaign at For donations via GoFundMe please visit: www.mikegarrett.ca or through pay-pal: mikegarrettdefensefund@gmail.com. Also check out http://www.marinelandindepth.com/ for more information. To help former trainer and Marineland whistleblower, Phil Demers, you can check out savesmooshi.org.

Also you can sign this petition to help Kiska:  https://www.change.org/p/ospca-executive-offices-release-canada-s-only-captive-orca-kiska-to-a-sea-pen-or-a-more-appropriate-facility

Thank-you and hopefully you’ll check out part 2.