By: Robert H. McKowen  Date: 01/9/2012 Category: | Canine Issues |

A long-time friend of mine now living in the Atlanta area has been a bachelor all of his life, not necessarily by choice, but that's another story. His soul companion for the past decade has been a little dog who is blind. My friend Charlie retired a few years ago from United Press International where I first met him. He does typing work in his home to augment his income.

Outside of normal exchanges on the weather with his neighbors, Charlie's basic companionship is with his little dog who rides around with him at times and is home to greet him when he returns from other trips when he can't take her. She is a comfort when he is sitting in the yard in the evenings and inside when he is doing work or watching television.

Charlie lives in a little house at the back of a lot, and there was a vacant fenced-in property behind him. It was quiet and peaceful there for years until someone bought the vacant lot and began to build a house. They didn't build the house near the front street but in the back right up against Charlie's property with a small yard in between. Charlie was cordial with the neighbors - a husband and wife and a young lady whom he had never met.

One day as Charlie and his dog were sitting in the house watching television, their tranquility was interrupted by what sounded like the Hound of the Baskervilles. The next day, he saw what had to be the biggest dog he had ever seen in his life running around the neighbor's back yard. It was barking incessantly with the noise bouncing off the buildings and into the stratosphere. Charlie wanted to be a good neighbor and decided not to say anything when he saw the dog's owners. The next day, early in the morning, the silence was broken by great booming barks louder than the day before, and Charlie discovered that there were now two great dogs in the neighbor's yard. Day after day and night after night, his home was rattled by the reverberations of the incessant barking.

When his nerves were shot and he could not take it any more, Charlie asked his neighbors to keep the dogs quiet or keep them inside the house. The neighbors apologized and said they would try to keep them quiet. That night, it was peaceful and Charlie slept the sleep of the damned. Alas, he was jolted out of bed at dawn by the deep barking of the beasts next door. With patience and nerves worn raw, he finally went to the dog warden, who promised he would help, but nothing happened. Charlie called the police and was told his neighbors weren't breaking any law. And while the dogs didn't get up as early as before, they were still barking during the day.

Charlie was sitting in his yard one evening with his little dog lying at his feet when the phone rang. He went to answer it and forgot about the dog. It was getting dark when he returned to his front yard, but his dog was gone. The little blind dog had wandered off into the night. Charlie was frantic. He went all over the neighborhood, and called the radio station and the police. He even contacted his neighbors with the noisy dogs. After a sleepless night, he was up at dawn and driving around the area looking for the dog, but she was nowhere in sight.

Several days passed and he was about to give up hope when he returned home in the afternoon to find an attractive young lady standing in his front yard holding his little dog. She said she lived with his neighbors and when she walked into their front yard earlier, she found the little dog standing there. They figured out that the little dog had wandered for several days until she heard the dogs barking and realized they were her neighbors. She came directly to the sound and wound up in their front yard.

What could Charlie say? Shortly thereafter, his neighbors moved with the big dogs and he never saw them again.

His faithful little dog is with him still, but his neighbors are gone and Charlie is sorry for the way he treated them. Perhaps with a little more patience, things could have been worked out, but those noisy big dogs saved his dog's life and returned her to him.

Sometimes a nuisance serves a useful purpose as it did in this case, but people who do not act responsibly make it difficult for their own dogs as well as other people who suffer under laws passed to curb abuse. Frequently, people overreact and pass laws that are unduly restrictive and make it practically impossible to own a dog.

Breed-specific laws are especially onerous. A pit bull attacks someone because it has been trained that way to protect illegal drugs, and suddenly laws are passed to either ban all dogs that look like pit bulls or to require such high insurance policies that people cannot afford to own the dog. The American Staffordshire Terrier looks like a pit bull, and laws are passed to ban them as well as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and other breeds.

If a Rottweiler bites a child in California, it will make the front page of the New York Times, so sensitive is the nation to dog bite cases. Consider the number of Rottweiler bites in relation to the hundreds of thousands of Rottweilers in the US and the incidence is almost nil. Seldom are we given the reasons for the attack, and there could be many. No one condones dogs that bite, but the responsibility lies with the owner, not with every dog that resembles the culprit.

As people continue to push suburbs into the country and the mountains, especially in California and other western states, they encroach on the natural habitat of wild animals, including mountain lions and bears. A friend owns a home next to a state forest in California where there are frequent reports of coyotes entering yards, killing cats and dogs, and threatening children. My friend owns an American Staffordshire Terrier. The dog was in the yard one day when the coyotes came calling; he killed one and sent the rest running - they never came back.

As the mountain lions become increasingly emboldened by the humans who have moved into their habitat, they come into the neighborhoods and attack humans and domestic animals. When such attacks happen, people seek out some of the very dogs they sought to ban to track down or kill the dangerous wild animals. Most of these brave tracking dogs that are ferocious on the job are docile with people and want nothing so much as a little pat on the head.

Where will these dogs come from if people don't train them to hunt? A man was running a pack of hounds in a western state when the dogs followed the quarry into a federal preserve where hunting lions was forbidden. Of course, the dogs didn't know they had crossed a line. As they were baying at the base of a large tree where the lion was cornered, a ranger shot two of the dogs and left a third dying in agony as the owner arrived. The courts found the ranger guilty of breaking the law since the dogs were not at fault, but such cases do not always turn out this way.

Dogs are the most precious gift God has given man. They are faithful companions who will give up their lives to protect the master and his family. They comfort man in times of trial and work for him in many ways.

Yet the sins of the few are passed on to the many by too many unknowledgeable people who rush to judgment at the slightest whim. It behooves animal lovers to be responsible and not give the anti-animal groups cause to pursue more laws and line their pockets with contributions. But genuine animal lovers need to understand and help each other because the dark side is organized and all too willing to act without conscience. Dogs have been holding up their end of the bargain for more than 10 thousand years; we humans have to hold up our end or we will lose our faithful companions.

Every breed of dog was developed for a purpose. Many of them continue to perform these functions - herding, pointing, retrieving, pulling, guarding, and guiding in actual working conditions. Organizations have created competitions and exercises to enable dogs to continue performing when they do not have actual working jobs. But not the least of their jobs is companionship, just loving someone, keeping him from feeling lonely, helping him feel good.

The good guys have far greater numbers but they fail to organize effectively, and the dark side splits us into factions. Hunters and non-hunters love dogs and appreciate them, but some of this group are against hunting and they wind up on the side of the antis without realizing it. Some of them support a move to prevent field trials from being held in certain traditional grounds in Illinois because the horses ridden by handlers and judges are supposedly destroying native grasses. So some people who love dogs but oppose hunting wind up on the side of the very people who will destroy their own dogs or their right to own them.

In truth, for hundreds of years, thousands of buffalo have trampled these lands in great herds, and the grasses continued to grow. An experiment was recently conducted over several years. A plot of land was fenced off and grazed by cattle and a neighboring plot of land was fenced was kept free of animals. After several years, the plot with the cattle had more healthy grass than the untrampled plot.

People must realize that for the common good we have to work together and put aside our differences or we are doomed to play perpetual catch-up. If you don't support hunting, next time around it will be your dog facing the firing squad. And if hunters don't support non-hunters, we're playing into the hands of the enemy who comes at night in sheep's clothing while the herding dog is sleeping. So, my friend Charlie is sitting in his yard with his little blind dog at his feet, a little more tolerant of barking dogs. And while owners of barking dogs have no right to jeopardize our rights to own dogs, we all need to work together for responsible legislation that protects our dogs rather than falling prey to the dark side. We need to be constantly vigilant and pro-active to counter the animal rightists and the naïve movie stars and heiresses who support their causes without understanding the harm they are doing.

About The Author

Robert H. McKowen's photo
Robert H. McKowen -

Member/Volunteer/Partner/Article Writer of the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Robert H. McKowen |
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