So Dallas will solve its loose dog problem by killing more dogs. Good. I could hope for only one more thing. I wish they would film the killing of the dogs every week and put the video online.
With that video, I wish the city also would post the names, addresses and photos of anybody convicted that week of violating the city’s dog ordinances. I guess the libel laws wouldn’t allow a caption saying, “These are the people you can thank for this week’s extermination tally.” So just put the pictures up with no comment. We’ll figure it out.
Oh, relax, will you? Obviously I know they’re not going to post videos of dog exterminations. I’m like a lot of people, probably like you. I know this killing has to be done, but the fact that it has to be done makes me crazy angry.
I don’t want the dog extermination to be hidden, mechanized, sanitized and deodorized until we forget it’s being done. Seriously, truly, sincerely, I believe that a regular tally of the dogs being put down every week should be published on a timely basis.
And the thing about publishing the names and faces of people who break the dog laws is absolutely sincere. I wish we could bring back medieval stocks — you know, those wooden headlock things like an ox yoke — and lock up convicted dog-law-breakers in them out in front of City Hall for a hot afternoon or so.
We need to keep our heads on straight about who’s killing the dogs. Not the city employees who get the dirty job of doing it. The people killing the dogs are the sloppy bastards who take ownership of an animal without taking responsibility for it.
Last May I wrote here that police in Dallas should be authorized to shoot and kill stray dogs when there is no other practicable way to bring them under control. The immediate occasion for those words was the horrific death of Antoinette Brown, a homeless lady eaten alive by loose dogs that belonged to people near the abandoned house where Brown was sheltering.
And given those circumstances again, where an undefended human being had to face down a pack of quasi-feral dogs, I would urge the same thing — shoot the dogs, save the lady. Does that make me human-centric? OK, guilty as charged.
But it does not mean that I and people like me are callous to the crime against life that occurs when dogs or any other animals are put into this same situation by human beings. Dogs that could have been loving, loyal companions are turned into lethal weapons because some human being was too stupid and too uncaring to take responsibility for them. Yes, in the Antoinette Brown moment, the dogs should be shot. But the Antoinette Brown moment is not the dogs’ fault.
In all the appropriate self-examination we endure on issues of climate change and environmental depredation, we may lose sight of some of the exciting progress we are making in our ability to fully comprehend other lifeforms. One of the best places I have found for keeping up with all of that — the bad and the wonderful together — is a web site called “Dispatches from the Vanishing World,” curated by author and naturalist Alex Shoumatoff.
Shoumatoff steered me recently to a really good short piece called, “Do only humans have souls, or do animals possess them too?” by Michael Jawer on the website Aeon, with examples like this: “Ethologist Adriaan Kortlandt once observed a wild chimp in the Congo ‘gaze at a particularly beautiful sunset for a full 15 minutes, watching the changing colors,’ forsaking his evening meal in the process.”
But I don’t need a lot of selling. Right now I’m reading The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben, a German forester. I’m halfway through and halfway sold already on the idea that plants may have souls or some kind of soul-like whatevers, so you can imagine what I must believe about dogs.
At the very least, any human being looking at the warmth and love in the eye of a good dog ought to be able to perceive the same potential in any dog. I don’t think we have to be geniuses to figure dogs out – just pay attention.
It strikes me as more than coincidental that Dallas has turned over its animal control division to a career policeman, Dallas Deputy Chief Rob Sherwin, while the state of Texas has turned over its disgraced and disgraceful Department of Family and Protective Services to the former chief of the Texas Rangers, the state’s legendary special police agency.
It fits a certain pattern, does it not? Whatever we can’t handle as persons, whatever we can’t manage as families or communities, oh, that’s easy, just give it to the cops. A federal judge rules that the Texas foster care system is a house of horrors, so we turn it over to a cop. Loose dogs are eating people alive in South Dallas, so we turn it over to a cop.
And I’m not necessarily opposed to turning things over to cops when the situation calls for it. It just worries me that the situation seems to call for it so much. Didn’t people used to be able to take care of their kids and their dogs on their own, without the cops?
Oh, maybe not. Maybe I’m remembering things that never happened. Maybe people used to have the cops come in and do their laundry for them, and I just didn’t know about it because I was deprived or something.
Whatever. Here is my point. Even if we have the best cop on earth to take care of our loose dog problem and even if he does a wonderful job of it, we must always know why the problem exists and why dogs are being exterminated. And that answer is not cops. Not city employees. Not dogs.
It’s citizens, always citizens. They betray their duty to their fellow citizens, and they desecrate the wonder and dignity of life itself.
Yes, we have to kill the dogs if that’s the only way to keep the homeless lady from being eaten alive by the dogs. But we have a sacred duty to the dogs, as well, beginning with making certain they are never in that situation in the first place.
As I said, I’m human-centric. I believe the lady’s life comes first, before the lives of the dogs always. But our duty to human life doesn’t absolve us of our duty to all life. We just have to do better, and that can’t always mean dumping the problem on a cop.
I say, put those dog extermination numbers online, and put the human mug shots up there with them. Let’s keep our eyes on the real problem.