Saturday, August 25, 2007


Men and dogs have a relationship that likely goes back tens of thousands of years. Man (yep including women) has such a close relationship with dogs that we think those who fear dogs are abnormal.

I like dogs. Every dog that has been a part of any household I've known has been loved, cared for and considered a member of the family. Some have stayed outdoors with suitable shelter because that is where they have room to live and or it is most suitable for them due to their work and/or temperament/habits. I've never had friends who beat, starved, or denied their dogs water. I've never known a friend to ignore his/her dogs medical needs regardless of cost.

For certain, standards have changed over the years. People really dote on their dogs now. Most people don't let their dogs run loose any more than they let their kids run through the neighborhood without a watchful eye. Animal rights groups have changed how we use leads and collars. Where a choke collar was once very common it is much less so now. Many dogs are in harnesses to lessen the chance that a collar can damage their throats. Food specifically for dogs is probably better and more easily accessed than at any time in my life. Few people feed their dogs table scraps although there are some who get the dog his/her own burger when they go out. Veterinary medicine has made huge advances in dog care and people pay for surgeries that can significantly lengthen a dog's life and improve the quality of life. Tail docking and ear cropping are increasingly seen as unnecessary and unfortunate (at best) acts.

Yet, part of man's partnership with dogs is that the dog has to give something back. Aside from simple companionship, many dogs actually work. They use their inbred talents to sniff out explosives, drugs, cancer, and escapees/fugitives. They find and chase animals for hunters. They herd and guard sheep. They watch over property. They help the blind and deaf and those whose physical movement is limited.

There has recently been some news about a celebrity or two and their dogs. Because of all this attention to the subject and because hunters are sometimes thought to have conflicting feelings on the issue, I wanted to set forth my thoughts on the subject.

Let's be blunt, it is wrong to torture any living thing. Yes, I hunt and in hunting I kill animals. I make every effort to do so quickly and to cause as little pain as possible. Unlike some wild predators, I don't ever toy with my game. I always, circumstances permitting, consume what I shoot. I like dogs and am able to own a dog. I don't see hunting and caring for dogs as mutually exclusive. I don't see it has forcing me to abandon decent treatment of dogs.

The first of these two people was raising pit bulls as fighting dogs. Those that didn't perform adequately were removed from the kennel. In this case they didn't try to adopt out these virtually unadoptable dogs, they killed them. But they couldn't just put the dogs down. Neither drugs nor a carefully applied bullet were used. These dogs were hung, choked to death, or drowned. There could only have done this because they enjoyed hurting these dogs. That really points to this individual's lack of character.

The full story is not out on the other fellow. Apparently, this fellow has been away from home and somebody else was charged with caring for his home and animals and he might not be responsible for the immediate situation. Photos show that these were also pit bulls. What happened here is that the dogs weren't adequately fed or watered (in Arizona in the summer!) and were chained outside. How would you feel if you couldn't get water for even a day in the Arizona summer heat?

This whole thing has disgusted me. I know it disgusts a lot many most hunters. I've seen men cry about a lost dog and forswear ever having another dog in their home after having a beloved companion die in their arms. I've seen men come to work bleary eyed after a sleepless weekend sitting up with a sick dog. An I-lost-my-dog thread in any Internet forum will garner the most reads and responses in that forum. Stories of old friends and their passing will be repeated endlessly and with a feeling that the event only just occurred although it may have happened 30, 40 or 50 years earlier. One of the last topics I discussed with my father the last time we spoke was about his English Springer Spaniel Donna who passed while Dad was in Italy in 1946. 1946 and Dad still missed that dog and Donna was among his last thoughts on this earth. I myself think of the dogs we had in our home, Duchess and Belle, and never fail to smile even though Duchess went to live with somebody else in 1963 and Belle died in the 1970s while I was in Korea.

Ummm, I had one vision of what I'd write when I began, and now I have another. It must seem disjointed, even illogical. I don't know that we can be logical about our friends. Can we? Should we?

After some reflection I'm moved to add that any person who could betray the trust of a companion animal deserves the worst we can legally give him. That they are celebrities is of no concern.

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