Thursday, December 6, 2007

Someone Let the Dogs Out; They'll Show You Where the Truth Is

The old man’s got a set of wrinkles on his face from living a life most of us will never expose ourselves to: one spent largely outdoors, coaxing subsistence from a patch of land along the river that’s been in his family over 300 years. A two-pack-a-day life spent worrying, figuring, calculating, gauging – everything from the weather to a neighbor’s intent. It all has weight. He doesn't know from SPF, from lung cancer, from the health benefits of green tea or the cholesterol-fighting properties of red wine. So he most certainly isn’t going to know why this spay/neuter business is so important.

But he’s brought his dog in anyway. A six month old Shepherd mix wrapped in an over sized towel that he carries in his arms like a baby.

“Is it gonna hurt him?” he asks me, nodding down at the bundle in his arms. The dog blinks its big brown eyes at me but otherwise keeps still in his owner’s arms. “He’s a good dog, you know? I’d hate to lose him.”

I understand how he feels. I spent part of my childhood on a ranch we rented from a local cattle baron. When my father was on break from teaching high school science, he helped our landlord with the herd – everything from castrating the bulls to branding, birthing, and herding. So I know just how valuable a good dog can be.

But that was a long time ago. Today, I’m just a middle class white chick trying to explain to someone from another universe about why we need to stem the flow of unwanted animals into our city’s shelters.

Once upon a time, I didn’t know from spay or neuter. Growing up, we pretty much let our animals do their thing. When our dogs had pups, what the coyotes and hawks didn’t get, we kept or gave away. There was always need for a good dog – to herd, to guard, to hunt, to retrieve. They didn’t go to waste.

But what of dogs today? Many people are indifferent to them. Many purport to love them. But in my experience, few understand them. That many of them languish, woefully unused and misunderstood, crosses all socio-economic barriers, from the short-chained backyard barrio pit bull to the over nurtured poodle whose upper crust owner invests it with a bus load of unmet needs but who has never taken it on a hike, thrown it a ball, run it on an agility course.

Witness the call I received early this year from a woman desperate to figure out why her pit bull/Labrador retriever cross was tearing up her home when she was gone. She told me she'd consulted a pet psychic who said her dog was "stuck" emotionally. Refraining from calling her a complete nut job, I instead firmly suggested she try some hard physical exercise. You know, give the dog something to do. The woman was a distance runner but for some bizarre reason had never thought of taking her dog with her. Duh!

You know there's a big disconnect between how we feel about our pets and how we truly meet their needs when even Wayne Pacelle, president of the world’s biggest so-called animal welfare organization, the Humane Society of the United States, admits he has no real understanding of or connection to animals.

In Ted Kerasote’s marvelous book Bloodties Pacelle admits: "I don't have a hands-on fondness for animals. To this day, I don't feel bonded to any particular nonhuman animal. I like them and I pet them and I'm kind to them, but there's no special bond between me and other animals. . . . It's more of an intellectual/philosophical motivation than it is hands-on."


Remember those words, the next time you’re tempted to donate to the Humane Society. It’s an organization that, along with the domestic terrorist group PETA, operates not one single animal shelter anywhere in the world. Yet these are organizations that control bank accounts totaling over $100 million each. Where does all that money go? Certainly NOT to the frightened animal toughing it out on a cold concrete floor at your local pound.


The fact remains that in this country alone, we slaughter between 6 and 8 million cats and dogs, puppies and kittens in municipal animal shelters each year. Your tax dollars pay for that slaughter, Party People. Even worse, think of the terrible, sickening waste. Of creatures we plucked from the wild and domesticated to work side-by-side with us – to hunt our food, keep our pests at bay, protect our children, offer us companionship during and after a hard day’s work. Think of the awful betrayal of that contract.

Turning my attention back to the old man, I assure him his dog is going to be just fine. All he has to do is limit its activity for about a week. Oh, and bring him in these next couple nights. It’s critical the dog remain warm and dry.

For the first time, the old man relaxes his face and smiles. “Oh, that’s no problem. He sleeps on the bed anyway.”


Doris Rose said...

makes me cwy.
Beautifully written- hope you submit this piece-it's factual, succinct and moving.

h said...

Brilliant post. You write very well for a white chick. Dogs are simple critters with drives that need to addressed by their owners.

Why is that difficult for educated people to understand?

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Moi. Doris Rose and artfulsub beat me to all the good words.

ThursdayNext said...

I love your descriptions and how this ended...this is great writing. My dream dog is a Bulldog, but I refuse to ever pay money for any pooch...the shelter always.

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

You are so passionate about dogs, and you respect them. It's a unique and special thing - not everybody gets that.

sparringK9 said...

what a great post. *sniff* it should be required reading. i adopted Trout from "second chance" rescue a bunch of everyday people who pick up dogs and foster them and take them to a grocery store parking lot every weekend for adoption. the fee is $75 which keeps them floating but i give everytime i stop by just to visit with the foster dogs.

trout had been thrown out into the cohutta wilderness. when i met her, she layed there and barely bothered to look at me. she had that look of "nobodys gonna choose me" and indeed her brother, with a much flashier coat, was hopping and reaching. but my eyes kept going back to Trout....then called "maple syrup" her coat was a perfect even brown with feminine eye paint in black...she was subtle, elegant. i took her.

i had written on my blog about some of the struggles....about 6 months to a tail wag, many escapes...but whe was excellent at the cabin where she makes sense. one year and a half later she is a happy playful loving dog. i almost gave up because my husband was fed up with the fence climbing..and the running away...dear god that dog is fast....and though she would always come home we lived in terror we wouldnt recover her before some latte swilling cell phone yakking hummer driver would run her over grrrherhaha

(now she gets that at the cabin she can run free but in the city she must stay in the yard)

as you said the key to good behavior is something to do! trouts jobs are watching over the hens, climbing trees, patrolling the perimeter for small game, running her ass off at the cabin, playing in the river, taking me for a walk...many miles a day....and to be adored, photographed, painted...well, you know.

sorry for the long comment but your post is so good i couldnt stop writing. love to you moi!

moi said...

Thanks, all. Yeah, I'm a little nutty for dogs, to say the least.

Thursday: thanks for dropping in! And Google bulldog rescues in your area. You're sure to find a great dog that way, too.

She: I have major Trout envy! What a gorgeous dog. Love to YOU for recognizing her splendid spirit and for providing her with such an awesome doggy lifestyle!

Wicked Thistle said...

I love that story. I think, particularly (but not exclusively) for men, that people allow themselves to love a little more generously with animals than they can or do with humans. It's one of the many gifts we receive from our fur friends. Your story about the wrinkled old man illustrated it beautifully. Thanks for being such an excellent advocate of and friend to the dogs, not to mention educator to the blog-reading masses. And I'm with Doris Rose--this is submission-worthy!