Thursday, August 17, 2006

The dogs are having their day

Some actions are considered indisputably abhorrent: abusing babies, swindling the elderly. Reactions to others vary depending on personally held views: allowing gays to marry, voting Republican. But if local news coverage is an accurate barometer, there is one deed that will get a person vilified as evil incarnate even more thoroughly than if they were to unleash an anti-Semite tirade touring a traffic stop. That crime – bringing harm to a pet.

Last week’s SJ-R included yet another account of a crime against caninity (sic). An unhinged elderly gentleman in possession of an arsenal of rifles shot dead a puppy that apparently wasn’t involved in a dog/man confrontation that allegedly occurred the previous day.

I don’t question the newsworthiness of this story, but I do expect a disproportionate amount of public outcry on behalf of the slain dog. It seems that these days there is a lot more concern about the Lassies of the world than there is for the Timmys.

A couple of weeks ago, State’s Attorney John Schmidt said that his office received more letters concerning an abused dog than they ever had for any case involving a human. Any time the newspaper runs a story on animal abuse or neglect, they follow-up with the many letters from readers who condemn the accused.

Animal lovers defend their spirited indignation by saying that everyone is outraged when a person is the victim of violence, so it is their mission to speak on behalf of those further down the food chain. This may be true, but the balance of concern seems to be shifting away from us bipeds and towards the quadrupeds.

During the Katrina saga, I followed a report of a young boy who wasn’t allowed to bring his dog on the bus that was evacuating people from the storm-ravaged city. Much of the reaction that followed wasn’t commiseration for the boy who was being separated from his best friend, but anger that the dog wasn’t being treated as an equal to his human counterpart. No one, to my knowledge, suggested having the boy give up his seat on the bus for the dog, although it seemed that some would have considered it a reasonable solution.

I’m at a loss to explain why some people become publicly impassioned upon news that a dog has suffered at human hands. Why Caleb the mortally neglected pit bull strikes at their sense of injustice so deeply? Why, when a dog attacks a child, they are as quick to defend the dog as they are to register their de rigueur concern with the child’s well-being? And why those so in love with their mutts let them ride in their laps Mr. Bigglesworth-style when a front-end accident would surely send them through the car’s windshield?

Lest I seem cold to the animal kingdom, let me assure you I mean them no harm. In fact, my heart too bears compassion for our furry friends.

I once had my heart temporarily broken by a cat that met with an unfortunate demise. But such was our relationship that we celebrated Gus’s brief life by using his makeshift grave as first base in our backyard baseball games. Sometimes I would be standing on his final resting place, berating myself for not stretching my single into a double (Jon-Jon never had the strongest arm), and I’d wonder what ole laidback Gus would say to a young boy being too hard on himself. Then I’d remember that he was just a cat and make a break for second.


Monkey Boy said...

Poeple iz dum.

Dave H said...

C'mon Dan...."The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated" -- Mohandas Gandhi

Jon Jon's arm was bad but boy he sure could play some Intellivision Baseball

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Dave. I'm all for treating animals well. But a little perspective, please. And the reason that I hate video games to this day is because Jon Jon toyed with me so mercilessly at Intellivision.

Monkey Boy. Well said.

Thanks for commenting,