It shouldn’t happen to a dog

I’ve never been one of those fawning pet owners, the kind who dress up their animals in funny clothes and won’t let them be dogs. I guess I can understand some of the extremes when they substitute for children and human companionship, and I have rarely found many humans as loyal as a dog once it decides to latch on to you.

I must confess one of the worst days in my life was when I took Bridget to the veterinarian, knowing she would not return. For 18 years the combination poodle and cocker spaniel had been a beloved member of the family, a sister and companion to all four children. There was a time when the middle kid, Sean, wouldn’t kiss anyone but Bridget.

She hated cars and despite her near-blindness, incontinence and the mental impairment of advanced age, that fear still gripped her. But I held her trembling on my lap, driving with one hand to the vet’s office, tears streaming down my face. The veterinarian concurred that what was left of her life would only be painful and that it was time for a dignified ending. She was, after all, ancient in dog years.

As I waited to take her home for burial on the hillside in the yard she loved to roam, I thought of all the fun times we had with her — smuggling her into a hotel that prohibited pets by tying Lisa’s little bonnet on her head and wrapping her in a doll blanket with the oldest, Scot, cradling her in his arms as we bustled by the front desk to the elevators.

I remembered her sitting patiently every day in front of the mail slot, having been advised by some inner clock that it was time for the postman. She never was more than a few minutes off. She would spring into action the second the slot was opened, yanking the mail and slinging it about all the while growling ferociously. On the other side of the door, the mail deliverer would die laughing. He loved the game as much as she. For years every piece of mail had bite marks in it.

While all this took place years ago, the memories came flooding back with the news that Michael Vick, the very rich and talented quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, had agreed to plead guilty to charges in connection with a dog fighting enterprise in Virginia. It was not just the fact that dogs were encouraged to rip up each other in sick and sadistic high stakes events but also that animals that failed to perform were drowned, shot and even hanged that made me furious. We are now being told that these violations of every humane instinct occur rather regularly, particularly in the South. Vick’s arrest has brought a public awareness of this tragic behavior that may help curtail it.

One can only hope that this is true, but it will not change the fact that a young man with athletic abilities only a relatively few people possess also apparently is utterly devoid of the qualities that separate the civilized from the uncivilized. More frightening is the fact that he certainly is not alone in his disregard for the laws of man and nature.

Vick is expected to pay with a loss of freedom and privileges and a great deal of money. The National Football League is taking its time deciding whether he has any future with it. That should be a simple decision. The NFL needs to send a message to every current and aspiring player that it considers this transgression or anything similar to it an automatic disqualification forever — that the very repugnance of the act has been made more so by the fact that it was carried out without apparent remorse.

What may never be answered clearly in this case is why someone who has signed a multi-year contract for more than $100 million, plus a bonus of more than $20 million for agreeing to do so, would imperil that with an endeavor so clearly abhorrent. The only answer would seem to be a combination of arrogance and a stunning lack of morality.

But then as one who cried while digging a hole to bury the furry, little body of a longtime friend, I guess my opinion is prejudiced.

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)


  1. bryan mcclellan

    Revel in your loving kindness Dan,theres too little of it in todays world….Signed, fellow animal lover…

  2. Hexalectris

    I buried my best friend too. I’ve tried to express it many times, but 19 years later it still hurts too much. Thanks.

  3. lexiedogmom

    Lexie Homewood
    I’ve shared my adult life with dogs for the past 34 years. I just lost, on Wednesday, the finest, bravest, smartest and most loyal of the bunch. She was, as dog lovers say, my Heart Dog. I’ll be grieving her loss for some time to come.

    I have been appalled by the occasional parties coming forth to defend Michael Vick, saying that when he pays his “debt to society” all should be forgiven. This man not only did inhuman and inhumane evil, but that very fact shows that he has a fatal flaw, a character deficit that I believe nothing can rehabilitate. I hope when he gets out of jail he cannot find anyone who is willing to hire him for anything.

  4. allan hirsh

    mr. hirsh:
    A sports columnist from the Seattle P-I has already worked out the future redemption of Vick as only he and his fellow sportswriters can make us feel it. O. J. Simpson would not have been freed if it weren’t for
    his audience. It’s the same audience that MSNBC catered to when it was outside Paris Hilton’s house waiting for her to go back to jail. Jesus, thank God for Netflix. I don’t have to take it anymore, either. But the medium works; let’s face it! As far as going the other way with pets, that is, humanizing them, my Yorkie has a purple sweater and her meals are made out of human food recipes, thanks to China. She’s over fifteen years old and out to set a record, just like my mother-in-law.

  5. JoyfulC

    I’m not sure what all the fuss is about “humanizing” pets. We have four dogs, two goldfish and a cat. We’d never dare to try to humanize them — even the goldfish are our spiritual superiors, we realize. To humanize them would be to debase them.

    We strive only to serve and please them. 😉

  6. LurkingFromTheLeft

    Another one…

    …that SOOO gets it! –

    …as did the wise man in the NPR story I heard heading home to my furkid – he said, with all Vicks money there was no reason the dogs needed PTS – he should be made to keep them comfortable until –

    …my mom got an email this week that summed up our love for pets – talked about having to let a dog cross to The Rainbow Bridge – and a youngster took in stride – he expressed while he wasn’t ‘sad’ –

    “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The four-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

    …excuse me while I go rub my Sibe’s tummy! –


  7. SEAL

    I’m surprised at this being posted here on CHB but, since it has been, I will add my 2 cents. As one who grew up on a working cow ranch and is fully tuned into the understanding of the laws of nature on this planet, I suspect that I have a much more realistic attitude towards the life, purpose, and death of animals than the rest of you. I’ve birthed, nursed, fed, killed, slaughtered, dressed out, cut up, and ate just about every mamal, fowl, etc. that would be fit for human consumption. Also, I’ve had animals with which I have had an amazingly close bond akin to love. Especially, a horse and a dog and a cat. Each was very special.

    The main thing my background provides me with is a respect for all living things. I have seen many a dog fight but none that I (and anyone else present) did not put an end to asap. Bull fighting and dog fighting are two of the worst forms of animal abuse. No animal should ever be subjected to anything for which nature did not intend. In our need to produce food for people we have subjected many animals to terrible abuse. Forunately, animal rights groups have corrected most of that.

    Like most of you I consider those who would seek to excuse Michael Vick and allow him to return to influence the youth of america as a star football player to be the most selfish people on earth. They don’t care what he has done, they just want to have their thrill by watching him do things on a football field no one else can do and then they can brag about eyewitnessing it later in life. Michael Vick is a cruel and depraved human being. He should be shunned by all of society and prevented from ever being allowed in a position where he can be held in esteem for anything other than campaigning, and advocating for animal rights. That should be his sentence. At least 20 years of it! He doesn’t have to actually feel that way but he should be forced to perform that way in order to pay his debt to animals > NOT SOCIETY <> animals!!!