Photo of Chi by Kara Taylor
A week ago, my heart broke when my son called to tell me that someone had shot and killed his dog. The pain bubbles up as I write this now. Chi was such a sweet, loving little dog, the canine counterpart of my son. They were the perfect match. Chi might have been the very best present I ever gave my son.
As the story unfolds of how this happened, I have struggled to make sense of it all.
Chi ran off after his canine friend who got away from his (new) person. My son and his friends went looking for the dogs. This was an accidental thing, the dogs were off leash, but the resulting walk-about was an accident.
The dogs were shot while in a yard near some chickens. Conflicting reports have the dogs chasing, worrying, killing, in or simply near the chicken pen.
I am a farmer. I keep chickens. I keep sheep. I gain income from my sheep, and from eggs from the chickens. I gain pleasure from keeping chickens and sheep. I have had chickens and guineas killed by dogs. I have had sheep killed by dogs. Never have I thought the solution was to kill the dog.
I want to be fair. A farmer has the absolute right to shoot an animal that is trying to kill his stock. I am glad farmers have that right. Truely. In the event that an animal (or animals) so fierce was killing my stock, and I was unable to get that animal off of my stock, I would shoot it. That is if I had a gun, of course.
That said, my first course of action would be to yell. And run at the dogs waving my arms. Did you know that works for nearly every two or four legger? The pressure created by running, yelling, and waving arms almost always will work to have the animal disengage and move off.
If that didn’t work (I once had a dog killing sheep, and that didn’t work) I would grab the nearest long handled implement and I would beat at the attacker (that DID work with the sheep killing dog, who was near frenzied).
If I had a gun, and the other things didn’t work, I would get the gun, and I would shoot up in the air. The sound is so loud and scary that would work. Of course, if it didn’t, then shooting at the attacker would be my last resort.
I have spoken to many, many people over the past week about this incident. Some pet owners. Some not. Some farmers. Some farmers and pet owners. Many could empathize with my son. One could not (she is a farmer who does not keep pets, and honestly, I felt from talking with her, she didn’t like people much at all). A few thought they knew how they would handle a dog attack, until they heard the story behind Chi’s death, and they changed their mind.
The resounding commonality with the folks who would shoot first, is that they did not consider the humanity involved. They were only thinking of themselves, and how they felt. Only about their stock, and not the other’s involved; the boy and his beloved dog.
Obviously, since Chi is part of my family, this has affected me in a huge way. I loved him, so I am biased. (I freely admit to my bias, so judge me if you must). I know I would not, and could not, kill an animal for doing something that is instinctive.
A gentleman commented on the piece Katrina wrote on Chi ( http://www.mvtimes.com/2012/11/14/judgment-too-hasty-13353/#disqus_thread ) that this week 34 people were killed in Gaza and a dog was killed on the Vineyard. That comment resonated for me. I know he was trying to drive home the point of priority of life, but what it did for me was amplify that we are losing our humanity.
In this world, we are paying less attention to the caring and concerns for our fellow humans and the results of our actions, and entirely too much attention on what is OURS. What is MINE. All that matters is ME. And what I want. What affects ME.
When we forget about our fellow humans and what life and love means to them, we lose not just our humanity but ourselves.
Killing as a first resort takes away our human-ness. It makes us the same as animal predators who fight and kill for food, and territory, and sometimes just for the gratification. It takes away the part of us that makes us human.
My hope and prayer for this heartbreak is that something good comes of this. Think about alternatives before picking up that gun. Think about your neighbors and fellow humans and think of a positive solution before taking a life, even if it is ‘just a dog’. To someone, that dog is not ‘just a dog’, it is his heart.