The Dog Days of Summer

I’m an unabashed and unrepentant dog lover. I’ve been one all my life, even when you consider that my first experience with a dog was something less than ideal. My parents had a peke when I was little, I’m not sure if the peke was part of the family before I came or after, but that dog hated me. It would growl and snap at me if I came anywhere near it.

Which is different from the way the rest of my life has been with dogs. Since that time, I have never met a dog that didn’t take to me. I remember passing this guard dog at a gas station on the way home from high school. Everyone avoided that dog. It was a mean, old, slightly overweight shepherd dog and would growl and bark if we came near it.

One day I decided to pet that dog. He was lying in his usual spot as we came along and I boldly walked right up to it, talking soothingly, and started petting it. I don’t know if it was shocked that I did that or what, but all it did was raise its head and let me pet it.

I turned to my friend who was standing just out of chain reach and said, “C’mon. See? He’s a nice dog.”

So my friend took a step within the chain limit and the dog rushed at him snarling and barking and snapping. If my friend hadn’t jumped back that dog would have latched onto his crotch. The dog’s reaction scared me and I never tried that again, but the point is he allowed me to come into his territory and pet him.

I also remember a dog that was on the way to grade school. It was a big beautiful red Irish Setter and the people kept him in a kennel run outside. I’d stop on my way to and from school to play with him. I’d either arrive at school or at home with dog slobber all up and down my arms. I think I was tardy more than once and had to write, “I will not be late for school” 100 times on the blackboard several times.

To this day I still think Irish Setters are beautiful, friendly dogs and rarely arrive late for anything.

I’ve owned several dogs at various points in my life, including a rambunctious beagle named Rebel that was so destructive my parents kept him chained in the kitchen when no one was home. He still managed to tear all the curtains within reach to shreds. And he always had worms. We’d deworm him and he’d go right outside, eat his own sh it, and get worms again. The only thing I really remember about that dog was my brother and I would play chase with him. We’d run around the furniture, he’d chase us, then rip a big hole in our pajamas. We had a blast, but I think my mom got upset with always sewing. We finally ended up giving him to some people who owned a farm. I’ve since learned that you can’t blame a dog for acting like a dog if you haven’t made any effort to train it.

My favorite dog of all time was a keeshond named Thor. I had him during my formative teen years and he was my best friend, always content to listen to how crappy my day was. He was the smartest dog I’ve ever owned, easily trainable, and always had that puppy personality. Of all the animals I’ve owned I miss him the most.

I had a dobe named Ninja that was the runt of the litter and probably inbred, but he was faithful and loving, if a little dense. He had a habit of wanting to be with the family while he was eating. He’d go to his food dish, bring one kernel of food into the living room, then proceed to toss it up, bark at it, pounce on it, before finally eating it. He did this for each and every kernel of food until the bowl was empty. He also would sit with his butt on the couch and his front legs on the ground. When my soon-to-be-my-wife came over and we’d sit together on the couch, Ninja would always push himself in-between us.

I even had a dog, for a short time, while in the Navy. It was while stationed at Grindavik Transmitter Site in Iceland and Huxley was more the site’s mascot than my personal dog, but he had taken to me and I cared for him, feeding him and leaving my window open in all sorts of weather so he could come and go as he pleased. He’d often go down to the village and roll in fish guts on the piers or something horrendous and I’d have to bathe him. But he was a good dog, if somewhat stupid.

Now we have a Dalmatian/Lab mix we rescued from Dal-Savers named Cobie. He’s a very beautiful dog who likes to lay across the back of the couch, like Snoopy did on his doghouse, and look out the picture window in the front room. He’s very energetic, yet still very gentle with the kids. We let him sleep with us on our bed, and I don’t know how it started but his favorite spot has become lying on top of the covers between my legs. It is not very comfortable having 60 pounds of dog there, but we’ve both grown accustomed to it.

And this Saturday we’re going to be looking at another dog to rescue, a Jack Russell named Sam, from Brew City Rescue. Yes, I’m a glutton for high-energy dogs.

So it was with all this emotional history with dogs that I came upon the story that Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks is defending Michael Vick, asking what is the difference between dog fighting and hunting?

To be precise, he said: “We don’t say anything about people who shoot deers and shoot other animals. You know what I mean? From what I hear, dog fighting it’s a sport. You know, it’s just behind closed doors and I think it’s tough that, you know, we build Michael Vick up and then we break him down. And I think he’s one of the superb athletes and he’s a good human being. I just think that he fell into a bad situation.”

What? When I heard this, my first reaction was to spew a long string of swear words peppered with terms like moron, idiot, and jackass. My second reaction was stronger and that’s to punch him in the nose and ask him what’s the difference between that and asking his autograph.

I’ve calmed down somewhat, but I’m still having trouble coming up with a rational, unemotional argument to such an idiotic statement. But I’ll try.

First, dog fighting is illegal. Hunting isn’t. This means that somewhere in our history society determined that making animals fight was brutal and something civilized people wouldn’t condone

Second, hunting serves a useful purpose as it tends to reduce overpopulation of deer that otherwise would be causing traffic accidents and deaths and damaging crops, property, etc. As odd as it sounds, many hunters are conservationists, concerned with nature and the welfare of animals in the wild.

Third, hunting, when done properly, is intended to be swift and painless whereas dog fighting by its very nature as brutal entertainment maims and mutilates two animals, creates pain and suffering for our amusement, until one dog is either killed or so crippled that it is eventually put to death. And let’s not forget the cruel deaths by electrocution or beating or what have you that were inflicted upon the dogs that didn’t want to fight.

Dog fighting isn’t a sport so much as it is organized animal cruelty, just as ancient Roman gladiator fighting was nothing more than organized murder.

And Stephon? Putting something behind closed doors doesn’t make it legal or right or acceptable. Child predators do their business behind closed doors, too. You don’t find that acceptable, do you?

I can understand animal lovers who hold a stance against both activities. Many animal activists view hunting as a barbaric and unnecessary activity because Man no longer needs to hunt to survive. I’m not sure that I don’t disagree. However, what I don’t understand is how any sane person can rationalize that dog fighting should be allowed because we allow hunting.

In the United States we’ve come to love dogs, cats, and horses as companion animals, and we almost hold these animals as sacred. To many of us they are more than mere pets, they are special; they are our friends and our furbabies and when you harm them we come down on you like a ton of kibble.

By the way, Stephon, we didn’t build up Vick and then break him down. He broke himself down by becoming involved in a cruel and illegal activity. And he didn’t just fall into the situation. One can fall into alcoholism or drug addiction, but running an underground dog-fighting ring? That takes planning, forethought, and many active choices. No falling is involved whatsoever. And now because of these choices, he’s going to pay the consequences. Many of us hope that means jail time and an end to his football career.

As far as Vick being a good human being, I have my doubts. Good human beings don’t torture and kill helpless animals. They certainly don’t turn that torture into a sport for profit. Good human beings treat animals with kindness and respect.

No, Vick is a despicable and loathsome human being in my book. And anyone who defends him is just as lousy a human being as he is.

So, no, I don’t know what you mean, Stephon.

Oh, one more thing, the plural of deer is deer, not deers. I only bring it up because we were talking about pets and bad grammar is a pet peeve of mine.

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3 thoughts on “The Dog Days of Summer

  1. Irish Setters are da bomb! That was my childhood pet, my mother’s Irish Setter. She was a dog lover, my dad a cat person, so our house had the best of both worlds.

    Then I went in to the Veterinary profession, but that was a million years ago.

    As for Vick – Yeah, I read that NBA star’s opinion yesterday and just started spitting bullets. Now my sister tells me she saw an article claiming the NAACP is behind Vick and suggesting all this anti-dog fighting stuff is opressing his cultural rights as an African American.

    Puleeze!

    I haven’t see that article, so I can’t quote anything or provide a link – but if it’s true, it’s more than pathetic.

    Animal cruelty aside, the simple fact is: Dog fights are illegal.

    Period.

    End of story, for the simple folk out there who Just. Don’t. Get. It.

  2. Hello Ed–

    I stumbled across your blog when I was trying to Google up a photo of the transmitter site in Grindavik for an entry on my website. Saw your brief note about Huxley. Ah, the land of memories. Hope all is well with you.

    –jeff weise

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