Monday, April 15, 2013

Dog Stories: Good and Evil

Perhaps it is appropriate to discuss this right after Kate George's post about the deaths of animals in fiction--but the stories I'm discussing are true, and one of them will infuriate you.

Last night I finally watched MARLEY AND ME.  I had avoided this movie for a long time because I didn't want to watch the ending, which I knew simply from the movie buzz was going to be sad.  My husband and I enjoyed the movie, though, and the irresistible cuteness of all of the Labradors who played Marley over the years.  By the end, even my fairly stoic husband was in tears, to the point that he had to remove his glasses and sop up the moisture with several tissues.  Why?  Because all people love dogs, right?  And this movie (along with the book by John Grogan, detailing the life he shared with his real dog, Marley) highlights the bonds people form with their animals.

While we watched, our gaze occasionally strayed to our Beagle, who slept in his basket next to the television.  He occasionally let out a huge sigh, sometimes sliding his snout over the side of his bed until he resembled a crocodile.  Aside from some aging front legs that cause him to limp now and then, he's a pretty happy pup.  It was a very dog-friendly evening.

I woke today to see the headline that 30 dogs have gone missing since November in the region of Twin Falls, Idaho, and five dogs have been found brutally murdered in the same area.  I fear for the missing dogs, and worry over what may have befallen them.  I wondered at the sort of person that could perpetuate this sort of sadism.  If the person (or people) are caught, I wondered, would they face felony charges for such venal crimes--perhaps a multitude of them?

Probably not. I was distressed to learn that Idaho makes animal killing a felony only if someone has two prior  offenses.  So even the murder of many dogs--what seems to be a cruel and ritualistic murder perpetrated by at least one twisted mind--would not necessarily send the killer to jail.  Might the killer be aware of this?  Or does someone who commits acts like these really not contemplate potential consequences at all?

I hope that Twin Falls is using significant resources to find and prosecute this murderer, and that they will look at this case as justification for more extreme laws against animal cruelty.

Why is it so important for us to know these dog stories, good and bad? Dogs are fun to read about in fiction, but it's even more pleasant, perhaps, to read about real dogs who have good lives. So, rather than leave you with the sad story above, I'll reference a third non-fiction account of dogs, written by one of the best animal tale writers of all time: James Herriott.

In his compilation of stories called Dog Stories, Herriott reflected on dogs he knew over a lifetime in private practice. Herriott understood, as a Dalesman and a veterinarian, that if animals are put here for our pleasure, then we have the obligation to be loving and compassionate caretakers.

If only everyone could embrace that philosophy.

If you wrote a book about a dog, who would be the star of your story?


Sandra Parshall said...

People who abuse and kill animals are dangerous, not just to animals but to other people. Abuse of animals is one of the childhood markers of a future serial killer. Any parent whose child is torturng and killing animals should be very afraid. Their little monster's first human victims just might be mom and dad. Penalties should be severe for this kind of crime. Instead, the punishment is usually a slap on the wrist.

When dogs or cats start disappearing in large numbers from an area, it usually means they are either being used in some sort of ritualistic killing, or they're being sold to medical laboratories. Yes, some labs do acquire animals illegally. And a horrifying number of labs acquire test subjects from publicly supported animal "shelters" that provide a steady supply of unwanted pets. If you think I'm making this up, ask the ASPCA or the Humane Society of the US.

Julia Buckley said...

No, I fear that you are acknowledging a reality, but it is still shocking to be confronted with it in numbers like these.

Do you think the police will look at it in the same light--that this is a potential murderer of people? I hope they are not putting it on the back burner of investigations because these are "only animals."

LD Masterson said...

Some people have furry family members. Some people have pets. Some people just "own" a dog (cat, etc.) The first group are horrified and sickened by animal abuse. The second are disturbed but not deeply troubled. The third group see it as vandalism or perhaps theft of property. Unfortunately, our laws are just as disparate.

Julia Buckley said...

Good point, L.D. I suppose it's one of those things we'll have to labor for decades in order to get majority acknowledgement of the fact that animal rights are a mandate of humanity.

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