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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dog Law

Dog Law

The Maryland House is currently debating a law that would make it illegal to keep dogs outside; whether tethered for too long on chains or chained without food and water. They are also looking at not leaving dogs out in the cold or overnight. Wow! Imagine that, an actual law about mistreating your dog by leaving it outside –chained- so it won’t attack anyone.. Because you see, in Zambia –where I’m from- dogs are left outside in all kinds of weather. In fact they belong outside. Their sole responsibility is to protect the owner of the home by providing ample warning of intruders by barking or vicious attacks – at which the owner will be woken up by some form of yelling. This position in the domicile gives them a special status as protectors of the domiciles treasures. Maybe it’s this LAW thing that I’m not getting.

Dogs are cared for by feeding them the leftovers of the family meal. Nothing goes down the disposal or into the trash. They are given a special place as everything the owner eats; the dog gets to eat too. Albeit after; the owner has had their fill. It is a symbiotic relationship, one in which each party benefits. The well fed dog provides an alarm system for food. These dogs know the danger of venturing too far into the domicile, these forays can be met with swift kicks, launched shoes, shouts of “futsek”, and mad scrambling to escape follow. There is no confusion between the master and his dog about who sleeps where and which spot is his on the bed. A recent viewing of a “Wife Swap” episode showed a man relegated to sleeping in another room because his wife and the family dog had commandeered his bed. In, Zambia; this would be a divorced wife and a dead dog.

I hear all the animal rights people screaming right now, “Thank God we’re not in Zambia or any of those other third world nations.” But alas, I say, we from the so called Third World also scream the same thing about Westerners. We have sat on our verandah’s and watched as the dog made meticulous work of dislodging something from his rectum and then watched as you allow the same dog to kiss you or lick you on the mouth. We have watched dogs that regurgitate and then eat their vomit be allowed to lick the new born baby. What more the behavior of French people and their dogs as they seem to think that bringing a flea attraction into a restaurant promotes appetite. Let alone that slow lick of the privates after the appetizer.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a dog lover. Love them dearly. However, I am also quite cognizant of their natural order in the animal kingdom. They are one of the few animals that have been domesticated –did you know that no new animals have been domesticated in 4,000 years? That means that we have had a long history of using dogs in some form or the other, even as food. I would never eat dog, but if it came down to my survival or Lassie? It would be dog filet for dinner. I grew up much attached to two dogs at various stages of my youth. The first was the mother of the dog that would be synonymous with me. Her son became my best-friend. Where I was, there he was too. He loved me like a hero. He would smile at me when I tickled his belly and was my constant companion as I walked the streets. However, he slept outside like all the other dogs. I washed him outside, not in the family bathroom or the kitchen sink. He didn’t eat “Kibbles n’ bits”. He ate what we ate and would wait eagerly for the morsels he would receive after we had finished our meal. As I collected the scraps and mixed them up into what I deemed an unpalatable looking mixture, he would sop this up as if I had fed a hungry soldier filet mignon.

I understand that in a country where you have sadists chain a dog tightly around the collar and sit at a window to watch it choke or rub its skin raw, the law might be necessary. I also know that because of the seasonal changes temperatures can dip drastically and dogs left outside could die. This doesn’t make the law any less absurd when weighed against the laws that haven’t been written. Why not make it illegal to walk past a homeless person who is outside in the cold without offering them help? Why not pass a law that states that every person above a certain income level must build a shelter in their backyard that specifically will house underprivileged humans in bad weather. That certain income classes must go to the store and buy groceries for homeless families and poor people at least once a month. Failure to do so would result in a fine or jail time. Now that would be something wouldn’t it? Why not make it a felony not to show up with blankets at shelters when the temperature falls below freezing? Imagine the gnashing of teeth.

Of course absurd laws deserve equally absurd hypothesis and conjectures, but as you can see, I’m enjoying this. Peace and goodwill to man aside we really must check the pulse of our nation and how it views its citizens. Are we better than dogs? When Barbaro the horse gets millions of dollars worth of medical help –just because he could possibly sire a future derby winner- and there are millions who cannot afford healthcare. I am left but to ponder where we are as a nation. When politicians who should be debating crime, healthcare, poverty and education take time to discuss the comfort levels of dogs above all else, I am left to wonder. The law means well, but it is absurd. It is another veiled form of legislature gone crazy. Put it right beside the one they will soon try to pass that makes a dog a family member and not property. After all, if the property argument was used in the legal cases to free slaves; why not dogs?

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