Sympathy For The Devil

Tierce in a suit

“I’ve never been anthropomorphized in my life.”

In the wake of the sentencing of Emma Paulsen – Surrey’s notorious dog walker who left 6 dogs to die in her truck one May afternoon – an opinion has been rocking the BC Ferry. Adrian MacNair, in an op-ed entitled: Sympathy for the dog killer Paulsen, stated:

I felt sympathy because Paulsen is going to lose her right to freedom over the death of six animals who, at the end of the day, are essentially inconsequential to this world.

At this point, The Now’s Facebook page is roiling with animal lovers who most emphatically disagree with his opinion and the newspaper’s choice to print it. While I don’t agree with the manner that some people expressed their disagreement, I sympathize with their feelings.

MacNair’s editorial sparked a visceral reaction from me akin to that I experience when people belittle others for the love they have for their pets. “It’s just a dog!” is the kind of thing that someone says to make someone else feel bad. I have yet to hear that sentiment expressed in any fashion other than a petty, cruel desire to infer that someone’s feelings have no merit.

I am well aware that any love I feel for Tierce may not be reciprocated, either in depth or in kind. He is a dog. We’re still figuring out how they tick. They are pretty obviously not in our league when it comes to making decisions to prolong the quality or quantity of their lives – anyone who reads up on the challenges some pet owners have to deal with has ample evidence of that fact. They can be expensive to care for. They can be difficult to deal with and some you can’t deal with at all.

Of course you could say the same about toddlers. And poor people. And the mentally challenged. The physically challenged. That annoying fucker in the next cubicle who keeps cracking his knuckles. And, considering we have over seven billion people in the world, one could argue that our taxes would be better spent elsewhere rather than to make these peoples’ lives better.

Dogs may live less than a decade, but so will many children with severe disabilities. We could just as well argue that the penalties for hurting them or causing them undue suffering are too extreme. After all, they’ll be dead in a decade anyway. And the mentally challenged – well, many of them are ‘essentially inconsequential to this world’ – they will never cure a disease or write a respected book or even be able to hold down a job to pay their own way. Some of them may never be able to return the affection or care that a family member or caregiver lavishes on them. If their significance to this world is minimal, who cares if they suffer?

To imply that suffering and the infliction of it does not matter because of the species of animal disturbs me. MacNair himself notes that people anthropomorphize their pets. He fails to mark the significance of the fact that we largely cannot help attributing human qualities to animals and even objects that carry a significant emotional weight with us.

Perhaps he has not considered the role that animal abuse plays in the development of serial killers, in domestic abuse, and as a weapon of terror. The ability to empathize plays a huge role in our ability to recognize pain and avoid inflicting it on others. Lacking this aspect of personality means that a person has no reason to avoid hurting others. If MacNair favours people who judge the value of another on a specific set of criteria exclusive of whether they can feel pain and distress, then he certainly can find them in any number of maximum-security prisons.

In his conclusion, MacNair urges his readers to think about humans before animals, yet he hardly seems to consider the feelings of the people who shared their lives with these dogs or the people who empathize with the suffering these dogs went through. His message essentially appears to be, “We should be worrying about and caring for our fellow human beings unless they value animals as companions.” He certainly doesn’t seem to recognize that our caring for animals is an extension of our ability to care in general.

Yes, as far as humans are concerned, dogs only have the value that we give them. That we give them value, that we care for them and worry about them and work with them and spend money on them – that’s a sign that we have a great measure of the ability to not only bond with our pets, but with our fellow human beings.

Nurturing that ability, not stifling it, is a mark of caring. Caring is not telling them that their feelings have no value, that their grief has no meaning, that their ability to care is useless unless focused on a subject that one personally believes has merit.

MacNair doesn’t have to care about dogs the way I care about them. He doesn’t have to even like them. However, if he feels that nurturing other human beings is important, perhaps he should remember that their feelings have merit, even if he doesn’t value their focus.

Man who put ‘labradoodles’ on the map regrets it.

Labradoodle Pioneed Regrets Fashioning ‘Designer Dogs’

Wally Conran first crossed a poodle with a Labrador in 1988 to create a seeing eye dog for a blind woman with allergies.  Why he didn’t just obtain a poodle to train for this purpose, I have no clue (a lot of reputable breeders probably would have just donated a puppy for this type of purpose, even).

The puppies were supposed to have the best traits of both dogs: the affable, controllable nature of the labrador, and the curly, non-shedding coat of the poodle.

Um, poodles are plenty affable and controllable just by their own bad selves.  However, I digress.

“But now when people ask me, ‘Did you breed the first one’, I have to say, ‘Yes, I did, but it’s not something I’m proud of’,” Conran said.

“I wish I could turn the clock back.”

The labradoodle is now recognized as the first of the so-called “designer dogs,” selling for more than AU$1000 (US$927) a puppy. In essence, it is a mutt, or mongrel, yet it has raced ahead of pedigrees in terms of price and desirability.

Some pet shops report mongrels outselling pure-breeds three to one, despite the high price of both.

As a result, labradoodles and their cutely named cousins — spoodles, schnoodles, cavoodles, moodles, groodles and roodles — are being pumped out across the nation, to meet demand

“I’m not at all proud of my involvement in it,” Conran said. “But the genie’s out of the bottle, and you can’t put it back.”

What I find fascinating that people who wouldn’t buy a purebred will pay top dollar for a crossbred with no genetic testing and no record of dedicated breeding.  At my dog park, I have repeatedly heard of the designer dog’s superiority to ‘purebreds’, even though the people extolling the virtues of their crossbred dogs fail to mention any research into the health of the dog’s ancestry, what purpose the dogs’ parents were bred for, why the breeder was breeding dogs to begin with.

While people have associated owning purebred dogs with snobbery for time out of mind, there is a different kind of pretentiousness associated with owning a designer dog.  It seems to be somehow connected with the rejection of the values and status symbols of the wealthy.  Purebreds are like the inbred members of European royalty – pedigreed, to be sure, but without strength or character.  Mongrels are genetic unknowns, a crap shoot.  But the deliberately bred designer dog is a proud symbol of the bourgeois lifestyle.  We can afford to pay purebred prices, but we want a dog that’s MORE than a purebred dog.  Something bigger!  Better!

What’s funny is that these people just bought into the same kind of thinking that causes purebreds to be popular.  They bought into the idea of a recognizable type of dog deliberately bred for specific characteristics.  They paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for it.  They may even have “papers” from some online “kennel club” for it.

They just have the dubious distinction of owning a dog that isn’t purebred.  The owners of ‘SPCA specials’ can claim the same, only they’ve paid quite a bit less and gotten spaying and neutering thrown in for free.

Do I think that crossbred dogs are necessarily a bad thing?  No, but that’s a post for next time.  Stay tuned…

Allergies in dogs blooming

Pet allergies bloom with spring

It’s spring and Cody, a 6-year-old Shiba Inu, incessantly licks his hind paws.

“He eats his paws raw,” said owner Mary Dolce, a Lombard resident. “It’s definitely seasonal,” she said. “There is just something outside that he is allergic to.”


Dolce says that she wipes Cody’s paws whenever he comes in from playing outside. When Cody’s allergies get bad enough, she gives him non-prescription Benedryl and applies Genesis, a prescribed topical spray to control itching.

I’ve never given Tierce Benadryl because I was not sure how it would interact with the Atopica.  If things got bad and I didn’t have any Atopica with me, I’d consider it, but so far the Atopica seems to be controlling his symptoms.

In Memory of Kody

A dog’s life cut short

Thursday, April 22, 2010:  The 9 year old red Shiba Inu was tied to a tree outside his owner’s home when the two dogs next door escaped through the front door.  The dogs, who had previously been involved in aggression towards another neighbour dog on March 9, went straight for Kody and attacked.  The larger one “broke the chain holding Kody and dragged his limp body two houses down.”

I don’t know what I would do if this happened to me.  When our friends’ dog “Buddy” attacked Tierce, I was frozen and luckily, my friends were able to control him.  That was also a case of owner error – Buddy had been attacked before and I should never have let Tierce just rush up to him, even on leash.  Both dogs were on leash and were easier to control – which you can tell was not that easy if you read that post.

But in this case, when the dogs were just allowed to rush out the door after being at large previously and showing aggression?  I’m pretty sure they would have to restrain me from going after the fucker who owned them.  When I read Kody’s story, I really wanted to take a trip to Woodbridge to beat her until she lived the rest of her life in pain.

Extreme?  Yeah, to a person who isn’t as bonded to their pets as I am, it might seem extreme.  However, despite all of these people bleating about vicious dogs and oh, what do we do, the population at large – in Canada OR the States is not rising up as a whole and demanding that people be held responsible for their dogs’ actions.  Note that this waste of skin was claiming that this was ‘the first time her dogs had done something like this’ when another resident of the area tried to testify that the dogs were running loose before and behaved aggressively towards her dogs.

When are we going to stop whining about this breed and that breed and hold people like Kari Baker responsible for setting them up so that they are in the position to harm others?

You might note that I didn’t make mention of the breed of dog that attacked.  That’s because the breed shouldn’t matter.  When we go of on tangents of “oh, this breed is evil!”, we ignore the fact that a human CHOSE to own this dog, a human CHOSE not to socialize and/or train it, a human CHOSE not to confine it properly.

I am so tired of the concept that people are somehow incapable of comprehending that their dog could cause trouble when allowed to run uncontrolled.  I am sick of the idea that people are allowed to drive cars and have children, but can’t be expected to know dog behaviour or the potential of their dog to hurt someone.  I am absolutely sick that someone can allow their dog to run loose habitually and not be at risk of anything more than a minor fine and a waggled forefinger.

You want things like this not to happen? Educate people in the schools.  Teach children how to deal with dogs as part of their curriculum.  Make the laws for uncontrolled dogs harsher.  Make the laws for uncontrolled aggressive dogs on the level with manslaughter.  Make irresponsible dog ownership so unpleasant that people avoid it because they don’t want to lose their homes, their livelihood and all their assets.

Webcam spotlights a nasty dog walker

Check this out:  Lifehacker features one of the many uses of webcams: to catch a deadbeat dogwalker.

I am eternally grateful that my ex-boyfriend was available throughout Tierce’s growing years.  He made it possible for us to housebreak Tierce and not leave him too long during the day.  Now that he’s back from his sojourn in Ontario, Wolfie sporadically takes on walking Tierce and caring for him when we’re not there.  I trust him implicitly, but as you can see from the link, not everyone is that lucky.

If someone did that to me, I would probably plaster their name all over the Internet, warning about their neglect (abuse is more like it) of their charges.  What’s she going to say?  “I’m suing for defamation of character because someone caught me not performing the tasks I am being paid for!”  She’s probably doing this to a bunch of dogs. One of my fantasies involving this chick involves a crate, a lock and a 10 hour timer and see how she likes not being able to just go to the bathroom when she needs to.

What pisses me off more than just not walking the dog is that this walker left the dog in the crate when she knew that the dog was likely to be there for 9-10 hours or however long the owners were at work for.  That’s just not okay. She could even have taken the dog out for a quick pee and returned it to the crate in less time than it took for her to rifle through her employers’ belongings.

Now, Tierce can go for 12 hours without having to pee (he sleeps on our bed and we sleep in on the weekends we’re not gallivanting around the Island – he has stayed in bed at least that long several times without asking to go out), but when we’re not home and he has no way of getting outside, that’s putting an inordinate amount of stress on him and I would not do that to him if there is any other way.  Paying Wolfie 10 bucks a walk is more than worth it to me and at least I know it’s getting done.

Lost Shiba post

Bella is still at large: here’s her new website

A lost Shiba named “Mochi” is the cause of a furor over ‘Lost Dog’ signs. A Pittsburgh Shiba owner was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines by an unnamed Pittsburgh Department of Public Works employee. She had put up approximately 1000 fliers in the Pittsburgh area and said that the search for Mochi was hindered by the amount of time she and friends took to take them down.

We here at TMS appreciate the efforts of people who take down fliers if a lost dog is found or a search is called off, but to force an owner to take down the only link she may have to hundreds to thousands of people who might have seen her dog is moronic.