Oh no, Not THE DOG!

May 8, 2009 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment

Every time I hear about some harrowing event involving humans and animals, I immediately ask if the animals made it. If the animals are OK, I’m fine. If the animals were killed or hurt, I’m a mess for the rest of the week.

It’s not that I hate humanity, or wish death and suffering upon humans, (except for a few people who know who you are and why I feel this way) it’s just that my tragedy emoto-meter is permanently set to “animal.”

It reminds me of this code word I came up with when my friends and I call each other to talk about some soul-wrenching experience that needs urgent attention. We used to start with a few minutes of small talk, no matter how pained we were, because we wanted to be polite. Now we tell the aggrieved party to “cut to the pain.” It works. In that same way, when someone begins to tell me about a flood, blizzard, mudslide, wildfire or similar event with possible cataclysmic consequences, I order them to “cut to the animals.'”

So of course when I read an article about two dozen sled dogs, their owner and his girlfriend, who were rescued from a flood in the northern reaches of Alaska, I was elated. The dogs were OK! Nice that the people weren’t killed, but their survival honestly didn’t move me.

The story read like a Jack London novel. “House sized” ice was starting to break up on the Yukon River, and the water was rising so rapidly that it began flooding a couples’ cabin. So the people went outside and began untying their two dozen sled dogs, who probably never saw the inside of a house in their lives. I don’t buy that crap that sled dogs like to sleep in the snow. They just keep their mouths shut so they won’t be out of a job in this economy.

At this point, I was reminded of the worst movie I’ve ever tried to sit though called “Snow Dogs.” I can’t even tell you the plot without crying hysterically, but this “children’s movie” involves dog abandonment and death. How many kids threw up their Happy Meals after seeing it, and will end up in therapy as adults?

Anyway, the dogs were put in boats, pallets of plywood, whatever the people could find. Then all of a sudden, the water rushed over its banks. One of the boats full of dogs broke apart, but the dogs swam to high ice and safety. I was elated at this point. The dogs were going to be OK!

Then the people blah, blah, blah, people VHS radio help, blah, blah blah, people chop down trees for copter to land, blah, blah, blah, rescue helicopter comes, blah, blah, blah, and then they supported the dogs by their stomachs, lifted them by their collars, (which ordinarily would upset me, but it was an emergency) put them in the helicopters, and harnessed them in.

That story made my month. I was going to email it all of my animal-loving friends so we could gush over the survival of these amazing dogs, when I came to a certain line about ten paragraphs further down.

“But Skipper, a one-year-old who looked like a malamute, didn’t make it. (The man’s) voice caught as he said (Skipper’s) name.
We didn’t even know he was dead until the water dropped out.”

My god, is there no justice in this world, no beauty, nothing to live for? The thought of Skipper dead ruined the rescue of the other dogs for me. And they had to use the poor guys’ name. I kept thinking, If only Skipper made it-then life would be good.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the people in the story are kindred spirits and love their dogs as much as I do. “That’s our kids,” said the woman, Kate, who now deserves to be named.

But poor Skipper. Known forever to me and all dog lovers as the dog who didn’t make it. He joins the annals of other dogs, both famous and unknown, who never made it, like Snowball, who was violently taken away from the little boy he loved during the evacuation after the New Orleans flood.

Skipper. Snowball. Millions of others. Some taken by mother nature, some taken by force, some taken because there wasn’t enough room in the pound. Think of me what you will, call me the Oprah of dogs, but when one dog goes down, we all go down.

So to paraphrase Stephen Stills, “If you can’t be with the dog you love, love the dog you’re with.”

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Roberta Gale

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