From: megan headley
Sent: Thursday, October 26, 2006 4:56 PM
Subject: Re: Wednesday October 25
speaking of dogs, i have noticed here that social class extends from people to domesticated animals. Maggie and Bruno, the two basset hounds that live here, are about as spoiled as they come. they get love and affection every day, vitamins, expensive surgeries, trips to the vet, walks and whatnot, they sleep in beds with people (not me!), they eat people food (too much) as well as dog food, they get toys, and get to meet other dogs of the same social class to play with.
you see the poor dogs on the street. there is one that tends to show up at the front gate of the apartment building where i live. he should be about the same size as my old dog Sugar, except that he is so skinny you can see his skeleton. there are patches where he has no fur, just red skin. the fur he does have is colorless, sort of greyish brownish. one eye pops out of his head, bigger than the other. he doesnt move or bark or make any noise, but his eyes follow you wherever you go. he is the saddest dog i have ever seen.
today at the bus stop there was a dog a little bit bigger than Maude and the same color, but also skeleton-skinny. the tip of one ear had been bitten off, and he didn’t have a tail – it also looked like it had been torn off, and there were strange black splotches on his tail-end. he was standing exactly where i usually stand to wait for the bus… i was a tad scared of him, so i stood a few meters away and then walked all the way out into the street to wave the bus when it came.
let’s face it – i am the bruno and maggie of people. plenty of food, healthcare, outlets for travel and leisure. how would they [bruno and maggie] react if they met the busstop dog or the doorstep dog? how do i react when i meet people who look like the busstop dog? do i step out of the way as if pretending they don’t exist? am i a little bit scared o fthem? do i prefer to forget that they exist and go about my merry way?
i find it very sad that these dogs are in this state. when i was in ecuador, my friend l____ went to visit me. i lived in a very poor neighborhood, and there were lots of stray dogs running around. some of them could be in pretty pathetic states. l____ was very sad that these dogs were not taken care of. i said, you are surrounded by PEOPLE who aren’t taken care of, why are you feeling sad about the dogs? she said, i don’t know how to respond to that.
anyway, here i feel like i am nestled away from any signs of poor people, other than their houses in the distance… but the poor dogs are all around.
On 10/27/06, alison headley wrote:
the dogs in ecuador made me sad, too. there was one who lived across the street, remember, megan? i asked junior about it and he said it was “salvaje.” i never thought i’d learn the spanish word for savage, but there it is. the dogs didn’t make me as sad as the people did, but they did make me sad.
yesterday i read an article on npr about a cocker spaniel who liked to lick all these toads at a pond near the house where she lived. they were toxic toads that secreted a hallucinogenic substance, and the dog became addicted. i thought the article was kind of funny until i got to the part where they said the dog had become a glassy-eyed and lethargic shadow of her former self — in short, a junkie. then it made me really sad.
these days americans treat dogs like furry children. this isn’t always a bad thing: dogs make great companion animals, and most of them seem pretty happy that way. we like dogs because they possess and display emotions, but with a sweetness and innocence absent in the human adult — in other words, like children.
and this is why these things make us sad: to see a homeless or sick dog is sad because their child-like innocence means they didn’t do anything to deserve it. the dog’s not homeless because he became an alcoholic and lost his job, or cheated on his wife and got kicked out, or just finished serving a lengthy prison sentence, as is occasionally the case with homeless humans. none of the dog’s actions led to his current situation, so there’s no possible way he could deserve it.
in the case of the toad-licking cocker spaniel, it ruins the innocence thing altogether because the dog’s self-medication and addiction are a little TOO human.
(for my part, i get sad because i hear about bad things that happen to dogs and immediately picture them happening to maude, my own furry child. i don’t want her to be a toad junkie!)
this outlook is mostly an american thing; in other cultures they’d say, “well, it’s just a dog,” and they’d be right. we americans have so many resources to spare that we can take care of ourselves, our children, and a boatload of domesticated animals to boot, while other countries are filled with people who lack the resources even for themselves. megan’s right; that’s the saddest thing of all.
how’s THAT for depressing?