Saturday, February 5, 2011

No Bad Dogs

I have a friend who keeps sheep on 100 acres in Olympia.  Hers is a peaceful place where ducks, geese and the occasional swan settle on ponds.  Brilliantly stripped garter snakes hide in the bushes and moles do their job of turning and aerating the soil.  The sheep are the main attraction.  In their daily rhythm they move from the barn, through the sort yard, along the ditch and down “ewe lane” to their pasture.  In the evening they retrace their steps.  My friend works her sheep with dogs -  Kelpies and Border Collies.  To my eyes, newly focused by my recent retirement, this place is almost heaven.

The peace was shattered last week by brutality.  Two dogs from the neighborhood rampaged the sheep.  Two died from their horrible gaping wounds.  One lamb lived on to be discovered by my friend. Her face was torn off.  She had been partially eaten alive.  My friend’s only choice was to slit the lambs’ throat to end her misery.  Coyotes occasionally get into the fields.  My friend loses one or two sheep to coyotes each year.  But she loses more to dogs.  It is easy to tell the difference.  Coyotes strike at the throat and kill quickly.  Dogs are not practiced killers.  A dog confronting a 400 pound ewe can easily make contact but does not dispense a swift and fatal blow.  My friend’s experience with dogs run wild is a terrible, but not unusual demonstration of one of the challenges of our relationship with man’s first friend – the domesticated dog. 

Owning a dog is a responsibility – a responsibility to society and to the dog.  Without care, a dog can become a criminal.  Well known dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse wrote that there are no bad dogs, just inexperienced owners.  Her words are often paraphrased: no bad dogs, just bad owners.  All dogs can bark, run reckless and wild, steal food, dig and bite.  Those who do not are the lucky ones – they have been properly cared for.  They have been trained.  Their diet is nutritious, they are given regular exercise and attention, their bed is clean and secure.  The unconditional love they offer is returned with daily attention to their needs.

Every day in the news there is an account of harm caused by a dog who is not properly cared for.  Sometimes it is really awful.  Dogs have strong jaws. A big strong dog can exert more than 225 pounds of force in a bite.  Who is to blame when such force is unleashed in a neighborhood?  If you have a dog be grateful for her innate instinct to love and protect you.  But be a responsible owner.  Train your dog.  Her transgressions are yours.

No comments:

Post a Comment