Chris Murphy, an Orlando author shares his colorful experiences on how he joined the animal rights movement, became a vegan, bared his own skin to protest fur and published a series of comedic books describing his childhood and family members as “arrogant, tribal, bloodthirsty and sweet.”
Denise: When did you become an animal activist and what incident/incidents caused you to go in this direction?
Chris: For years I saw animal rights activists demonstrating against the circus outside the Amway Arena and against puppy mills outside The Puppy Spot and other locations in Orlando. I always wanted to join them but didn’t have the nerve to pull over. Then, in ’08, someone forwarded me an e-mail about a Petland protest in Altamonte Springs. I showed up and was greeted warmly by two dozen other protesters. Since then I go to every animal rights demonstration I can.
Denise: What do you think are the most challenging issues facing animals today?
Chris: Most people are unaware of how badly they suffer. I didn’t know that pigs spent their lives in crates so small they can’t turn around until I was in my thirties, approximately ten years ago. Industries that make money from animals do their best to keep consumers ignorant of their suffering. That’s changing thanks to activism, social media and communications technology that let a person see videos of animal abuse in the agriculture and entertainment industries on their laptops and even their phones.
Denise: What are some things you have done as an animal activist and do you feel these actions make an impact?
Chris: I volunteer primarily with Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (arff.org), though I have attended demonstrations coordinated by Dogs Deserve Better (twice chaining myself to a dog house for eight hours), PETA (three times going naked, but for a flesh colored brief) and Mercy for Animals (standing in front of a ten-foot inflatable crated pig outside Wal-Marts in Gainesville and Orlando).
Denise: You also act as a transporter for rescue dogs. How long have you been doing this?
Chris:Since 2005, first in my PT Cruiser, until it died at 150K miles, and now in my Miata. Though my current car is small, most transports I do are for one or two dogs at most. I have done rabbits and a rooster. I do one or two transports a week, generally no more than four hours round-trip. Orlando to Second Chance Rescue in Bunnell (Flagler County) is a frequent route for me. Ditto Orlando to Port St. Lucie, Gainesville, Palm Bay, Clermont…
Denise: Describe some of your transport stories, either good or bad.
Chris: I once volunteered to pick up two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in Fort Walton Beach without realizing how far away it was. Once committed, I couldn’t back out, so I gassed up my PT Cruiser, rented a book-on-tape, and hit the road early once Saturday morning in ’07. It was a long ride, and it rained quite a bit, but the doggies were good boys who cuddled with each other on the front seat of my car and it turned out to be a good time.
Denise: Why is it important for people to volunteer their time as transporters?
Chris: Many rescues are breed specific, like Dalmatian Rescue of South Florida, operated by Pati Dane. She rescues Dals from all over the south east and places them as far away as New York State. Because of that, it’s important to have a vast and reliable network of transporters that can get her dogs to and from shelters, foster homes and permanent homes. Debi at Second Chance Rescue is fond of Pomeranians and chows. Whenever she finds either breed at Orange County Animal Services in Orlando, she asks me to transport the dog(s) for her.
Denise: How is this significant to the rescue dog or cat going to its newfound home?
Chris: So many adoptions are done online now, thanks to petfinder.com and breed-specific rescues that have their own sites. I once placed a mutt named Lily I was fostering in Orlando to a retired widow in upstate New York. I contacted a rescue in her community and had one of their volunteers do a home visit for me. Then, after she was approved, I arranged a bunch of volunteers, including a high school friend living in suburban New York City, to drive the dog from Florida to New York. It took an entire weekend, with an overnight in New Jersey, but Lily made it, and she loves the snow!
Chris: You are also a published author. When did you start writing and what was your first published book.
I began writing as a senior at Boston College, a family story for a creative writing assignment. It was a fun anecdote about my siblings and me that was well received by my class. After graduating and moving to Orlando, I continued to write about my brothers, sisters and parents, though I altered so much of this or that adventure that I wound up changing everyone’s name and calling it fiction. I combined all of my work into a novel I called “A Sea of White Impatiens” and sent query letters about it to literary agents and publishers. I had no luck with either and finally self-published it in 2000. That effort included actually laying it out using a desktop publishing program and engaging a local printer. I had to get an ISBN number and bar code…it was very complicated.
Denise: You recently completed a series of books based on your own life experiences. Tell us a little bit about the series.
Chris: My friends who read and enjoyed “A Sea of White Impatiens” encouraged me to continue writing about the family and, specifically, the first person narrator, “Christian Gallagher.” He, of course, is a fictional version of me. In ten years I’ve written fifteen sequels, all featuring Christian and his family and friends. Eight of them have been self-published by Robertson Publishing and can be found at: www.rp-author.com/murphy
Denise: How did you feel sharing your life experiences with readers, people you have never met?
Chris: That’s a good question. I write because I enjoy it. That people enjoy my work is awesome. I understand that people will get this or that impression of me based on what “Christian” says or does, but it doesn’t bother me. I have to be careful, though, about basing characters on people I know, revealing or even suggesting things about them they might not appreciate readers knowing. In the first edition of “A Sea of White Impatiens” I wrote about a high school friend and really hurt her feelings. I eliminated the anecdote that featured her in the second edition, published by Robertson, but the damage was done. I regret it and always will.
Denise: You also take in rescue dogs. When did you start rescuing dogs?
Chris: I grew up in a large family with no pets. I delivered newspapers in my hometown to neighbors who had dogs, many of which scared me. I spent the first half of my life not liking animals and being scared of them. Then I bought a duplex with a friend in 1994. He wanted a dog and I agreed to go with him to Orange County Animal Services to get one. He adopted Eolis, a black mutt puppy. By the time we got him home I was in love. We got Eolis a friend shortly thereafter and then I adopted one of my own, an adult white Shepherd mix named Calisto. She is gone now but she was and will always be the love of my life. A couple of years later I adopted two beagle puppies some low-life bred to sell but found he couldn’t. Then I bought my friend’s half of the duplex and, when it was all mine, began fostering dogs for a local rescue.
Denise: How many dogs have you saved and how many were death row dogs/hardship cases?
Chris: Oh gosh, I don’t know. I really don’t. But for the beagle puppies, all were hard cases. I’ve had dogs that are feral, aggressive, chronically ill, incontinent…you name it. I’m all about the hard cases. Indeed, one of my dogs, Buster, gets so worked up whenever he sees me he tries to bite my hand or arm with joy. I have had him eight years and he still does it. I’ve broken up half a dozen fights between this and that dog in the nearly ten years I’ve been fostering, and have gone to the hospital more than once. I’ve never returned a dog to a rescue or to a county shelter because of it, though. I’ve just become more vigilant about keeping dogs that don’t get along with each other separate. Having a duplex makes it easier. I divide my time at home between the two halves of my house, giving every one of the nine I currently have an equal amount of time.
Denise: Describe the health benefits of a vegan diet.
Chris: I went vegan after seeing videos of how animals raised for human consumption suffer. That the diet has improved my health is nice benefits but, again, not the primary reason. The biggest change I’ve seen in my body since going vegan is a drop in my blood pressure. When I was eating meat, and then, as a vegetarian, eggs and dairy, my blood pressure was high, though not enough to require medicine. When I went vegan my doctor checked my blood pressure during a routine exam and it was so low I didn’t believe him. I asked him to do it again and he did. Then, on my way home I went to the supermarket and did it again. It was normal. I was forty when I gave up all animal products and suddenly I was as healthy as a twenty year old.
I should add, and I’ll put this as delicately as I can, being vegan has also given me the libido of a young man. Indeed, at forty-seven I find I’m as…well, you know, as I was at seventeen (!).
Denise: If some people are hesitant to start a vegan diet or need guidance on where to start what would you tell them?
Chris: Lots of places. Wow, too many to list. Just google it. Google it baby, and join me on the dark side.
Thank you Chris for all of your hard work to save animals and inspire people to live a compassionate lifestyle. Good luck with all of your books.
To purchase the “A Sea of White Impatiens” series by Chris Murphy, visit www.amazon.com.