August 4, 2010 | By: Tracy

Don't Kill the Dog!

I was planning to post my “Twitter Don’ts” list today, but that will have to wait until tomorrow, because this morning I read something in the paper that got me so riled up I’ve been in a tizzy all day!

Last night, in the very county I live in, an off-duty federal police officer shot and killed a dog at one of the local dog parks. Allegedly the husky (named Bear-Bear) and the officer’s german shepherd got into a fight. The officer then shot Bear-Bear before the owner had a chance to do anything. For this officer, his first line of thinking was to shoot the dog. Never mind that they were in a confined area, the dog wasn’t a direct threat to him or any other person, it’s not clear the dogs were actually FIGHTING, or there were adults and children all over the rest of the park and surrounding homes. (Here’s the story for those interested in reading)

Originally I was incensed, because the police weren’t even going to investigate the officer. Thankfully, a city official has come forward to voice his concern that there needs to be a full investigation. So at least that has calmed me a little.

As an animal lover and dog owner, who’s been to the “puppy park” – as we call it in my household – I was sick over the very idea. By all reports Bear-Bear was non-aggressive… and anyone who has dogs knows that sometimes even the best behaved ones can have skirmishes with one another. It’s a risk you take in going to a dog park that not everyone is going to get along, but there are plenty of ways to break things up that don’t involve guns. And don’t even get me started on my concerns over a man who is PAID to carry a gun who reacts in such an extreme manner!

But I digress.

The point of my post (well, sort of) is this … I once read advice somewhere -- wish I could recall the article/post -- where an editor said you can do many vile and despicable things in your story. You can kill adults left and right, and in lesser situations your story can even survive the death of a child. But if you kill the dog you’ve killed the story. As readers, we often can’t get past the outrage over a senseless death to a pet.

At the time I thought that statement was a little over dramatic, but after the reaction I had to the story about Bear-Bear , I realize this editor may have been right on the mark. When I read that after he was shot Bear-Bear didn’t whine or bark, he quietly lay down and bled heavily -- my heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces for him and his owner. Granted this was a true story, but I’m pretty sure if it had been a scene in a book I would have been too raw to want to keep reading. It would likely be a scene I wouldn’t be able to get beyond.

3 witty remarks:

Shelley Sly said...

Oh no! How did I miss this in the news? I read the article that you linked, and I feel the same way. I couldn't kill an animal in my stories because I have trouble dealing with animal deaths in real life.

Terry Towery said...

I just cannot see how anyone could kill a pet like that. It seriously boggles my mind.

However, I really like the saying about killing the dog, killing the story. I hadn't heard that before, but it makes sense.

Of course, it also reminds me of the most hilarious (and truly sick) magazine cover ever. Back in the mid-1970s, Mad Magazine put out an issue featuring a cute puppy with a gun to its head and a headline reading, "Buy this magazine or we shoot this puppy!"

Needless to say, it pissed off a lot of people. Sold a lot of magazines, too, as I recall. I'm pretty sure no puppies were harmed in the making of the magazine cover. ;)

Guinevere said...

That is a crazy story! Poor Bear-Bear (and his owner). I'm glad they're investigating that officer - I don't want a cop who lightly discharges his weapon in our community!

And I agree with you about killing the dog, killing the story... I do use animal abuse specifically in my story (it's something that my MC fights) and animals die as well as being rescued, but I've felt it had to be very carefully handled. Strangely, those scenes are the hardest for me to write - I was bawling in Starbucks working on mine.

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