Alive In An Angry World: Better Off Dead?

This happened in a city quite near me.  It’s the capitol of our state, and it’s where my nephew lives, the one who got the awesome summer course grade I wrote about here a few days ago.  And the criminal in this news story is just about the same age as my nephew, so I felt I could envision the guy.

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Police-Man-swung-puppy-by-its-leash-1741057.php#photo-1

News items like this one are very common lately.  I can’t tell if they’re appearing more often than they used to because things like this are happening more, or because media folks now judge them to be more newsworthy, so we’re hearing more about them.  I’ve wondered that before, here, and I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it, because it seems to me to be an important question.

When someone posts a news item about pet cruelty on Facebook, people are very quick to write things like, ‘How could he/she have done that?  Only a monster would do that!’, and, ‘I wish I could swing him by a rope and drop him on the pavement on his head!’  (Things like the latter comment I find incomprehensible.  You want to do the same thing to him that he did to the dog, and it’s OK for you, but not for him?)  In my mind, I think of this as apparently necessary (for some people, anyway) but useless venting, and I try to keep my Facebook utterances free of it, not because I think venting is always a bad thing, but because I’m afraid that venting might make someone think he or she has done something, taken an action, making him or her less inclined to make an actual difference.  I have to go and look up a quote…

Here it is; unfortunately, it wasn’t attributed to anyone in particular.  I’d have liked to give credit for it, since it’s something I remind myself of almost daily, and try hard to live by. 

“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.”

Wow, it came out in such a big font.  Someone else must think it’s very important, too.  🙂

I need to get outside and scoop poop, so I’m going to rush through this.  And I just realized that the unusual sense of urgency I feel about scooping poop is because of the quote!  It’s fine for me to sit here writing down my thoughts, but, compared to scooping, these words are mere intentions, and scooping is a good deed.

So here’s what I was thinking, briefly.  What if that kid is not what you’d call a ‘monster’, but merely someone who has very poor anger management skills?  What if there are more people nowadays like him?  What if gigantic stressors like 9/11 and the war and the poor economy have changed people in some fundamental way, at least temporarily?

Sociologists can look back and give labels to eras and decades.  In fact, I should have researched it before writing this, because I won’t be surprised if I find that they’ve already labeled this time period.  This ain’t no 1950s we’re living in–times are tough.

And what if, in addition to having lots of tense, angry people walking around, our lifestyles have changed so that they are not at all conducive to helping a dog be happy and content?  What if we spend so much of our time sitting in front of screens of one kind or another that we’ve become a sedentary, physically unfit group, spending so little time outdoors exercising that we need a campaign to address the problem?  Do you think that could be true?  Duh, we know it’s true!  Do most dogs enjoy spending hours each day just sitting and staring?  Do we see a lot of obese feral dogs?  Uh, no. 

What if we’ve become a group of people who think that living with a dog, possibly the most good-souled animal most of us will ever get to know, is an inconvenience?  Who’s got time to walk outside?  I have a treadmill.  Training classes?  Are you kidding?  I’d have to go.  I’ll just send the dog off to that lady who trains ’em using a remote shock device.  She says the dog will come back all different, and I won’t have to do a thing except pay the bill.  And so on and so on…

I’ll finish this later.  I’ve got a lot more to write about this, but I want to scoop.  Let me just say that I’m not defending the kid in the article in the least.  I’ve lost my temper with a dog on a much smaller level, and I don’t defend myself, either.  Losing one’s temper is a pretty loserish thing to do.  You might as well just admit that you’ve failed.  Losing your temper with a lousy, dangerous driver might be one thing.  Losing your temper with a dog is always an epic fail, as they say now.

Part of what I hate about dominance theory training is that, in the hands of the general public, it walks a very fine line, and I have a feeling that many angry and/or naturally controlling people feel ‘enabled’ by it to lose their tempers with their dogs, while remaining ostensibly guilt-free (‘Cesar says I’m supposed to pin him down, to show him I’m alpha.’)  I cringe to think that long ago, for a period of weeks, I believed a colleague at work who, sincerely feeling it was right, was feeding me this stuff, giving me advice about training a dog with issues who had been passed around from home to home until he didn’t know up from down.  Thank God I figured out quickly, by trying very hard to get inside his brain even though I really didn’t know what I was doing, that the dominance junk was not at all what he needed–I feel it’s harmful in general, but it would have been particularly awful for him.  

Back to the guy in the news story.  He may really be a ‘monster’, a sociopath.  Or he might be a ‘normal’ man who totally lost it.  While no thinking person could defend what he did, either way, I think it would be very good to find out why an average person, not a monster, might do something like that.  It seems important for those of us trying to adopt out dogs to know such things.  If this really is a time in history when people’s psyches are disturbed and our general approach to daily life isn’t at all suitable to dogs, it might be a ‘perfect storm’, an unusually lousy time to find good homes for dogs.  

The people who were surrendering Burberry, at the age of only seven weeks, were having trouble controlling their anger with her; at least, the woman of the couple was, she who was Burberry’s primary caretaker.  She was so angry, in fact, that she displayed her anger in public, at my vet’s office, and that’s what prompted me to give her my phone number, in case she felt she needed some help.  It’s a complicated subject for me, because Burberry is the dog who pushed my own anger buttons, and I’ll write more about it.  I think the dogs would be better served by our honesty about this subject.  When my friend said that Jemma was pushing her anger buttons, that was all I needed to hear.  If more people were honest about their inability to manage some of their emotions, there might be fewer incidents of cruelty to animals and to people.

I am very concerned that part of the reason our ‘shelters’ are filling up with dogs is that people are finding themselves overwhelmed by too much lately, from the global situation to the chaos and rage in their own souls.  I cannot stand the idea that many people might be so psychologically unfit to have a dog that a dog might be better off dead than living with them.  Please, say it isn’t so.  Surely we can find a solution.  We must.  The universe can’t stand the waste of life and love that is happening every day in our ‘shelters’.

I’d love to know what you think about this.  Also, here’s a reminder note to myself: 

I want to write about a time when I happened to be on the spot when something similar to what’s in the news story was occurring, when I believe my intervention made a real difference.  And there was another time when there’s at least a chance I helped.

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