I handed her over to a death panel today. Society deems her, and far too many, as unworthy of life: too much of a burden. They are put to death like one might squash a mosquito or step on a spider; only mostly hidden so we don’t have to consider our own callous nature.
She was wandering aimlessly down a road near my house, confused, unable to say anything: especially about what happened to her. She was disheveled and… dare I ask? No I couldn’t ask. If only I could have asked… It was as if some bastard had cut her and then pushed her out of the car when it hadn’t quite stopped moving. I asked if she needed a ride. She did. I could tell she was hungry so I promised I’d go get her something to eat. Despite her pain… did I see a smile? She was so upset. I knew she wouldn’t be able to tell me what had happened.
Later I did check with a neighbor who lived by the road. Had she seen what happened? The neighbor said she hadn’t seen anything and didn’t know who the stranger was.
But the stranger seemed friendly enough. I gave her something to eat and went in to make a few more calls. When I came back she started to threaten me. No matter what I said, or how nice I was, all she did was threatened me even more.
I told her I was going to go back inside and make some more calls and see if I could find her some help. Still, no one knew who she was. When I came back out she acted as if I was her best friend and savior again.
Now I knew I was in trouble. I had someone very unstable in my truck who could be friendly at one moment and then, for no apparent reason, turn on me. This happened to me once before, but I had had better luck. I picked up a hitchhiker in the 80s outside of Crossville, Tennessee and a few minutes after she got in she started asking for money. I didn’t have any; all I had was a check from my client. So she started pounding on the dash and screaming about her lot in life. I had better luck that time. I got off at an exit I said was mine and she willingly got out.
This time it would be harder. I knew she was determined to hurt me, or herself, if I asked her to leave. So I very calmly: friendly, said I had to go somewhere. She, happy again, sat next to me when I got in the truck and took her to the other side of the city.
She never saw those who work for the local death panel coming. She seemed sad: betrayed, as they took her off to a very short future; shortened by one of the thousands of death panels we have had across the country since… well, long before Obama, either Bush or Reagan.
I’m guessing by now, she’s dead.
Am I a bad person?
I know that there are no “death panels” in what the President is proposing. I also know that corporate bureaucrats who work for insurance companies may be the closest thing we have to “death panels” when they decide that you, I, or the real Norma Rae, might be better off dead than cutting into profit margins. I know that “death panels” for all its phony politicization of an outright lie, is “at least about humans:” since speciesism is still considered political correct by much of the religiously insane, and admittedly less than insane, elements in society.
Yet, despite the conundrum: the seemingly mundane fact that we treat our pets both less humane and more humane than we treat each other… it still rips a hole in my heart when I consider how dogs and cats are considered disposable chattel and less worthy of life than humans. They are like the dinner on our dishes we were too full to finish: scrapped into some waste disposal unit and ground into God knows what. As humans we only have one consistent saving grace when it comes to cats and dogs: when it comes to end of life issues we are generally more humane to them…. when there is no hope: when all there is, is pain… than we are to our own mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and lovers.
But we also use them to satisfy our most sadistic fantasies. Hence Michael Vick.
I heard an interview on NPR the other day with a former breeder of the kind of dogs used in dog fights. He claimed dog fighters love their dogs. If they do then how can they stand to see them ripped apart in a fight? Do they feel nothing when the other dog is ripped apart, or has to be put down, other than the pleasure of winning? Even the mother of a boxer would scream foul if her son’s opponent was allowed to do what dogs are expected to do to each other in such fights.
If this is “love,” then do they pit their all too human lovers against each other in the same way? I’m afraid to hear the answer, because I suspect a good portion of those who fight dogs also beat their wives and their kids: sometimes to death.
What does all this say about us?
When I returned to my truck an hour later the pit who that had turned on me so quickly was suddenly all tail wags and licks again; back to shivering in fear. I hoped I had a chance, a window here to resolve the face off. So I chucked all my plans to wrap her in a blanket, put a box over her or prod her out with poles into a portable dog kennel. Any of those actions might have made her turn on me again. Last time I was just politely asking her to get out on my property so I could give her some water and food. What would forcing her into a kennel or attempting to cover her do?
I took a chance. I could have tried to find a no kill shelter, or at least go to the Humane Society’s shelter; but that meant getting in and out of a truck, perhaps several times, with an animal that had already turned on me once. So I slid into the truck and drove straight to the pound about 20 miles away, hoping the canine coin wouldn’t flip back to mean and angry again. Driving with a dog that might suddenly become eager to bite is not my idea of a good time.
I excuse my own visit to the death panel today by admitting that this pit bull was unstable and my have hurt my dogs, my wife. Distemper? Rabies? I didn’t know for sure. I was told by the pound that no one else would take her in. Why?
“She’s a pit bull.”
Yes: a creature we have classified like we classified runaway slaves not too long ago. Or like some faiths classify children: something that we have “been given dominion over,” or as twisted it is defined by some: to vent our own unstable natures on. Some may beat them, but at least children are not supposed to be “disposable,” though a few of the most fundamental faiths point to their interpretation of certain passages in the Bible to underline their claim that any interference by the State is wrong… even when a child is beaten half to death, or tied to bed with duct tape to “make them behave.”
Much like a short chain, consecutive beatings all with the intent to make a dog that will kill or be killed in brutal ways.
What the hell is wrong with us?
I am not guiltless. I know I took her some place that, many years ago, was caught killing off our all too disposable pets by stuffing as many of any size into a single drawer and then sucking the air out. Only sometimes that didn’t kill them all, so they repeated the procedure. They seem to have come a long ways from the days when the dog pound/animal control was ironically next to the dump.
How oddly appropriate. If only I could find it amusing, but I can’t.
I know that some, like perhaps my stray, are very, very dangerous. But I don’t blame her or dogs in general for all this. I blame us. I am so damn amazed at how they continue to love us, often without reservation, and feel ashamed that the pit bull I met today trusted me most of our time together: up until the very last moment. It makes me remember a quote. To paraphrase…
“For what you do to the least amongst you, you do unto me.”
Why, 2000 years later, do we continue to drive nails into those we love, whether they be each other or our pets?
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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