Monday, September 9, 2013

It's a dog's life

A few days ago – as all of you have probably read in the media – a four year old child has been killed by the stray dogs somewhere close to Parcul Tei. The problem of the stray dogs is an ongoing never ending discussion. Or so the authorities want to make us believe. This is no discussion. It’s a game where these animals are the ball being thrown from one’s court yard of responsibility to another’s.

A few remarks on the event:

The first thing the city hall had to say was that the child was not killed in the park, which is their public playground. It was killed on a private property – namely, someone else’s playground! So the parents shouldn’t be looking for a culprit with them, but with whoever owns that piece of land and didn’t secure the place to prevent any dog from entering their property. I was stunt, as in stunt, pissed, I’m gonna grab something and hit someone with it kind of angry! That is all you have to say?

Who cares where the boy died? He died and he’s not coming back! What if it had happened in the park, then what? This is not the issue. And no, the grandmother watching over the baby is not the issue either. This is not a case of negligence people! If it had been you, you’d be pleading for mercy and understanding from the like of those who would be accusing you of it, like they do with her now! It can happen to anyone to turn around and the child goes missing. Especially with elderly people. If it’s not the death of her grandson that has buried her alive by now, then surely we’re doing a good job at it by blaming her for something she will have to live with anyway. Twenty some years ago my grandmother, while giving me a piggy back ride, stumbled and fell face down on the pavement. I broke a few teeth and got a good scare at the time. The guilt in her voice still sounds strong after all this time. Can you imagine this old lady, unless she’s a vicious uncaring grandma, how she already feels and how much she blames herself for this tragedy? She doesn’t need our help. So again, I go back to our perfect nature, and how judging others comes with the package of our stainless attitude and moral. STOP IT!

So the city hall is not to be blamed, we are surely not to be blamed, the grandma could definitely be guilty but we’re still deciding over her fate as the celestial gods we are. Who else is there to blame?

The dogs, of course. It’s the dogs’ fault that we have no veterinary police, legislation, prevention regulations etc in place. It’s the dogs’ fault again that we use all available funds in paying for highways that are never finished or to repair streets that don’t need repairing (just to name a few!) instead of building shelters for these animals (and of course the list could continue…). Build them, collect the dogs off the streets, neuter them, and then those who can be adopted go for adoption, those who are aggressive are put to sleep. But - we cannot! Because it takes time, effort, patience and a good human nature. Plus, it’s the dogs’ fault that they are born and breed in the first place. Not ours that we neuter them and then release them back on the streets. What is exactly the dog supposed to do? Jump of a bridge and drown right after he’s born, or let himself be run over by a car to make things easier for us?

Or perhaps ask the vet to be killed while still in captivity?

“Please, sir, kill me now or I’ll go back there and I’ll do what I’m born to do. Be aggressive and territorial, scavenge for food in your garbage and spread it all over so you have something to complain about. Maybe I’ll find one of those car owners who will feed me to get my loyalty – ‘cause you know I’m loyal! – and then I’ll sleep under his car to defend his property and bite whomever passes that car by. No, please don’t blame the human for being stupid, blame me for appreciating the hand that feeds me! Or even better, I’ll find a crazy lady that will feed me and my tramps and so we will gather in a pack of 16 to 20 in front of a block and when someone passes us by we will surround them to defend our new found home. Food is hard to get these days and most of us are emaciated and carrying diseases ‘cause we have to fight the rats in the garbage. So free food is always welcome and it’s hard for us to let go. But the other people in the block will try to make us let go; they will swear at us, and chase us, and beat us. And I will be hungry and enraged again and yes; I will do what I am born to do. Attack, feed, breed. So please don’t let me go back there sir. You’re the smarter one between us. You have the bigger brain, the tools and the knowledge to make both our lives better. But please don’t blame yourself for not using them to your advantage. Blame me for killing a defenseless being who probably was even less knowledgeable than I am. A being I would have otherwise loved and protected if I hadn’t already been protecting something else: a piece of land, some food I found or simply my life.

Just let me say before you kill me: I blame you for not giving me something better to protect.”

Well, I’ve been bitten by dogs twice. Once when I was about ten, by our own dog Calu, a no breed, no name race whom I loved dearly as a child and who died at the age of sixteen. Calu went out into the garden one time and ran into some other dogs crossing into his territory. They fought and when he got back home he was literally half scalped. The skin was hanging down his eye and I could see the muscle and bone on the top of his head. Grandma put some home brewed alcohol on it and salt with a mixture of ashes (Romanians know what I’m talking about) and I remember him sticking his claws in her thick winter coat with tears coming down his face but he didn’t even flinch. The pain must’ve been excruciating. As a kid I loved animals. I grew up with them in the country side. So I decided I needed to feed him so he can get better fast. Instead he was so enraged with the pain that he bit me off my face. I still have the scar on my right cheek where his fang went in. The markings were actually all the way up to my temple but they faded away in time. That dog did not eat or drink water for almost two weeks, hiding under the shed because he felt guilty for biting me. We were friends until the end of his days and I continued watching over him when our good-hearted neighbors poisoned him several times. Eventually, when nothing worked, they threw an ax at him severing his left back leg which caused him a lot of pain in his old age despite surgery and our efforts to help. And let me just say that dog never attacked or bit anyone else and was one of the kindest animals I've ever known. And no, my family and I are not those kind of irrational animal lovers. They too were scared with the possibility of Calu possibly blinding me when he bit me, but what could have they done? I went into his dog house and provoked him, with good intentions, but still!.. And guess what? I was home alone with just my grandparents to watch over me. 

Many years later, we had a Carpathian Sheppard that we loved a lot, ever since we had him as a puppy. Unfortunately he was not the kind of personality to get along with very well, extremely territorial and dominant, unlike all the German Sheppards we had in time. And he got into coflict many times with my grandfather. Eventually when he grew up he bit my grandpa three times until he could not go out in the yard on his own anymore. He bit mom once trying to get to my grandfather. We decided to put him to sleep because the vet adviced no other owner could handle him in this violent state. And we couldn't even do that because he had turned into such a monster that no one could approach him to give him the shot so a hunter came in and shot him. It was beyond words to describe my grandparents' grief who would rather buy food and medications for their animals than for themselves. Who have carried puppies and kittens in their pockets in winter so they don't get cold. Who had done surgery on so many animals, have bandaged, saved from poisoning and treated anything from chicks to piglets to wild rabbits. Ursu is now buried in our garden and we remember him dearly in the many pictures we still have of him. 

So that's a dog's life right there.

This year, in spring I was bitten by a stray dog in Bucharest in the parking lot at the Penny store in Titan. It was raining and I was going to the post office, terribly annoyed I couldn’t find the address. There was no one around, no humans, no dogs. But I was wrong. As I walked out of the parking lot I felt someone pinching the back of my knee so hard I turned around the slap the idiot who thought that was funny. There was no one there. When I looked down, there he was, a medium sized dog, a half breed of a German Sheppard most likely, grinning at me as if he was about to show me what he can do! I was so taken aback to see a dog there when I did not expect one that I just stared at him for a moment and then literally yelled at him “What the heck are you doing?!?” And he was so friggin’ confused. He probably expected me to chase him away and yell and throw things at him, something he probably was used to. But my non-violent approach confused him. Like it would confuse us. And he didn’t know what to do anymore. If he had been one of those dogs who simply want to get you, he would have gotten me. But as there are ruthless and beautiful humans, there are ruthless and beautiful dogs. He backed off, looking at me trying to decide what to do. So there we were, in the rain, with his drool all over my pants and a nice big bruise on the inside of my knee, staring at each other. Eventually he decided I was not a dynamic enough pray. I did not offer him the excitement and thrill other humans do when they give him the reason to turn into a predator and attack. So he was like “Fine. Whatever. Not interesting human.” He turned around and left without another bark. I don’t think he ever barked.

I make these stories sound so light hearted, like a daily adventure in the big city. But in truth, I would be out of my mind if I lost a child to a situation like this. I cannot describe it and I cannot even come close to what the boy’s parents are going through right now. And I am sure that against my good judgment and love for animals, I’d feel like taking a riffle and clear the streets of these four legged pests. But I would like to trust my good nature and as I’ve seen in many cases, if we don’t let ourselves be overcome with grief, we do realize it is not the animals’ fault. They are what they are and we cannot expect them to react humanly when even we cannot.

All those documentaries on people bitten by sharks, stabbed by buffalo, trampled over by elephants, attacked by lions, almost drowned by hippos… They all speak about the trauma and the loss and the tragedy behind it. But they all admit to having intruded their territory, becoming willingly, the threat. Dogs are no different. If us humans, want our territory/streets back we have to claim it back. And killing the dogs is not the solution. That is beneath us, the superior beings. This is not Darwin’s survival of the fittest contest. We have the means to take care of this problem decently, but we just don’t care. Right about the time when something like this happens, then we care. But we only care about blaming each other and when things calm down, we go back to not caring. What's even worse is that I've seen people comment on how the NGOs supporting the idea of having shelters to prevent breeding, violence and disease spreading because of the dogs being released back into the streets, should be prosecuted for supporting such nonesense. 

So I guess we’ll be discussing this again as soon as someone else gets bitten or God forbidden killed by a dog. Plenty of dogs out there to blame for it so we might as well just make a list of culprits now.


“Man is the cruelest animal.” 

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