Demonstrating our humanity

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February
8

How we treat other living creatures speaks to our humanity, and in some cases, lack of.

A couple of years ago, much to my chagrin, my husband and I watched a post apocalyptic movie. I don’t recall much about the story, except that in their desperation to survive many had become cannibals. The movie left a boy orphaned, and at the end he met a family, with a dog. This was meant to be a very powerful statement, as it spoke to their humanity. In a world devastated by destruction, disease and desperation, this family kept for and cared for their dog.

Yesterday, sensible citizens across the province were outraged by an article published by The Now, a community paper for Surrey, BC. The person who penned this piece outlined, in the most callous way, why he felt sorry for dog walker Emma Paulsen, recently sentenced to six months in jail for leaving six dogs in the back of her truck to die and obstructing justice by lying to the authorities that the dogs had been stolen. Only later, after been pushed did she tell the truth and led the police to the ditch where she threw the dead dogs in.

With no regard for the six families who lost their pets that day, he writes “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” And as if that is not enough to make any compassionate person (dog lover or not) cringe, he goes on to talk about how easily dogs can be replaced and states that “[m]ost people who live with dogs can be expected to go through a dozen before, they too meet the grim reaper“. The article is so poorly written, that there are not even paragraphs, only individual sentences stating a myriad of reasons why dogs don’t matter and reinforcing his opinion that the rest of us are idiots for caring about them. In fact, it is so poorly written, it is challenging to formulate a cohesive response. Rebuttals generally respond on point to an argument or arguments, but in this case, if I were to do that, I would be better off to respond in bullet form.

This piece raises many issues, but the two that are most prominent for me are the shocking callousness of the views expressed and the fact that this poorly written “column” got past the Editor for publication. Are there no general standards in journalism?

The article ends with the following statement, “But much like this former dog owner came to realize, the dogs don’t make a difference in this world one way or another” Oh but sir, they do.

He cites fatherhood as the reason for his change of perspective on the “animal-human hierarchy” as he calls it. I wonder what he would think of this amazing story of Caleb, a young boy who suffered a traumatic brain injury and was virtually non-responsive until he begun therapy with a Golden Retriever named Colonel? Surely, as a father, he would be touched by the powerful impact this dog has had on this child. If this were his child, would he still think dogs do not matter? Dogs matter. Dogs save lives, they enhance lives and they protect life. But beyond all of that, the mere fact that so many people find comfort, companionship, safety, purpose and love in their relationship with dogs means they matter. The mere fact that they are a living creature means they matter. He does not have to like them, but he cannot be so arrogant as to deny the value of a living creature on this earth. There is one institution that agrees with him however. The Criminal Justice System. Because in this country, you can shoot 100 sled dogs and receive no jail time, beat a dog and leave it to die in a dumpster and receive two months, beat a puppy to death in a hotel room and receive six months, and leave six dogs in the back of your truck on a hot summer’s day for 45 minutes where they will ultimately die and spend only six months in prison.

I became a mother quite late in life. At 43, I have the privilege of being a mother to cheeky two year old. I love this little girl with every single cell in my body. I often lay next to her while she is sleeping and I feel like my heart is going to absolutely explode. I love her fiercely. I would do anything to protect her and keep her safe and I will spend my life letting her know how special she is. Do I love our animals less? Absolutely not. They are an integral part of our family, and their happiness and health remain a priority. In fact, our decision to foster (and adopt) our cat Cinnibar was largely in part because of how she was with our daughter and the desire to teach our daughter empathy for animals. And we encourage and foster opportunities for her to be around our pets and learn how to care for and treat them in a kind and compassionate way. Through these experiences, she will grow up to be a kind and compassionate person. That, I am sure of.

Maya taking Chili for a walk.  (yes, that is a flexi-leash)

Maya taking Chili for a walk. (yes, that is a flexi-leash)

Maya and Chili

Maya and Chili

Maya checking out the kennel

Maya checking out the kennel

Maya participating in our Pets Are Not Products demonstration

Maya participating in our Pets Are Not Products demonstration

I do feel sorry for his child(ren). They will not grow up knowing the richness of that relationship one can have with an animal, and the comfort and solace it can bring.

Today, the Editor of The Now published a very brief apology. But it it boggles the mind that it took hundreds of people calling and writing in to complain for there to be an acknowledgement that while everyone has the right to their own opinion, opinions should not be expressed in a community newspaper in such a callous and insensitive way. But perhaps they knew that all along, and we just all fell victim to what has been coined ‘clickbait’. Clickbait is an attention-grabbing, emotion-inciting piece of content that helps to drive traffic to a particular web page, aimed to drive online advertising revenue and our friends at HugABull Advocacy and Rescue Society wrote an excellent post on what this is, how and why it is used and most importantly, what we should do in response. Ignore it.

And we agree. This is why we have not provided links to the “column” or the apology, nor have we named the original writer. They have received enough attention. And next time, let’s only click, comment and share when we read thoughtful and well-written pieces (even if you don’t agree).

Let’s click and share things that make us smile. Like Peanut, our 16 year toothless Chihuahua who we adopted two months ago after he was left in an apartment when his person moved. That is what happens when you think animals are inconsequential.

Kathy Powelson
Executive Director

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