Monday, June 14, 2010

From the outside, looking in

A couple of weeks ago this blog entry was floating around the blogosphere:

The writer concluded that someone could object to a dog show on humane grounds if he/she had never attended one. As much as I wish that were true, I'm afraid I can't share her conclusion.

So let's play make believe: Imagine you have never been to a dog show in your life, have never met a hobby breeder, have never watched dog related shows, etc. Suppose your entire experience of dogs is your uncle's family pet, Scruffy McPooch. Scruffy is of no discernible breed. He spends his days running errands with your aunt and uncle, getting cookies from the drive-thru teller at the bank; he has his share of french fries from McDonalds, and rides with your uncle when he takes the trash to the dump every Saturday morning, getting half of your uncle's donut during the outing.

Scruffy's exercise is limited to a few trips to the backyard to potty each day, with an occasional tennis ball thrown to break up the monotony. He is doted on by your aunt and uncle, to the point where he is 30 pounds overweight from how much they "love" him. His coat is a little dry and he smells a little bit "doggy" because of course it's bad to bathe your dog too much. His toenails are so long he can barely walk anymore because cutting them "is just too upsetting for him." He has active gum disease and the attendant horrible breath because he's scarfing down a steady diet of Ole Roy kibble, donuts, Doritos, ice cream, potato chips, all the steak scraps etc., but Auntie and Uncle don't care when he crawls in their laps and pants that breath into their faces, because that's just Scruffy and they love and adore him.

Your uncle's couch has a worn afghan on one end so Scruffy can lie there, assuming he can get his fat, stinky, itchy self up there in the first place. Once he's up there, perhaps assisted in getting there, he gets tummy rubs and ear scratching and half the bowl of buttered popcorn. You've seen this all your life in one form or another, and to you, THIS is how dogs live, is what having a beloved family dog is all about.

And then, one day, you walk into a dog show.

Dogs!! They're everywhere!! Big ones; small ones; long, graceful ones; short, stocky ones... there are so many dogs all in one place. And they're in cages. Long lines of cages, some with the water spilled so the dog has to lie in it, because no one left him a crate pad. In some spots there are so many crates that they have to be stacked, little dogs on top of big dogs. Many of those dogs are barking -- well, wouldn't YOU if someone threw you in jail and took off? And don't they ever get fed? They're so skinny, they must be malnourished.

Not all of the dogs are in cages, though: some are standing on tables with nooses around their necks. The dogs are forced to stand there while their owners rub stuff on them, point high-speed dryers at them, making them sneeze when the gunk they just put all of over the dog gets blown up his nose. Some are being combed to within an inch of their lives, while others have simply been abandoned on the table, forced to stay there lest they hang themselves in jumping off.

There are some dogs on the floor, too. These are being led around on short leashes, unless the "handler" deems it more efficient to pull a dog along by it's wrapped ear to keep a collar from marring the coat they just spent hours building. These dogs are hauled around inside a ring, while a man or woman in the middle cranks their mouths open to look at their teeth, runs hands all over their bodies, and feels for testicles on the boy dogs. Some are put up on the accursed table again to suffer this indignity. When they come out of the ring, back they go to jail, except maybe for the one who came out of the ring with a purple and gold ribbon; he gets a brief furlough to get a mugshot before he has to go back to the cage.

And the people!! They're all totally indifferent to the suffering going on around them. They talk away at each other, about each other, ignoring all of the barking dogs as though they don't exist. They talk about "this bitch" and "that bitch" and gripe that the people in the rings wouldn't even know a good dog if one bit them.

You gape around in appalled amazement, and think about Scruffy, lying on the couch with his head in your uncle's lap, watching the game and sharing a bag of Cheetos. Then you high-tail it out of there with a horror story to tell all of your friends about "those crazy people and those poor, poor dogs."

Think I'm exaggerating? I've heard pretty much this exact reaction, from the owner of a Scruffy McPooch. And there are a LOT of Scruffy McPooch's out there.

Do you and I know that these "poor, caged dogs" are living like royalty at home? Sure. At least many, many, many of them are. Do we realize the consequences of feeding a poor quality food, of allowing our dogs to become obese, of too little exercise and too little grooming? You bet. Heck, we read articles and blog posts ad nauseum about it. Do we blithely stand by and watch dogs suffer? Of course not. But the horrified niece of Scruffy McPooch's owner doesn't know that. She just looks around at what she sees.

And what she sees -- what so many people like her see -- is not a pretty picture.

No comments:

Post a Comment