Dogs de­serve so much bet­ter

The Beacon (Gander) - - Editorial - Bob Wake­ham LET­TER TO THE ED­I­TOR Bob Wake­ham has spent more than 40 years as a jour­nal­ist in New­found­land and Labrador. He can be reached by email at bwake­ham@nl.rogers.com

When provin­cial court Judge James Walsh told John Michael Cor­co­ran last week that he had bet­ter pack a tooth­brush when he is sen­tenced April 26 for his shock­ing, stom­ach-churn­ing abuse of a dog named Di­a­mond, I have no doubt there was a loud cho­rus of cheers through­out much of the prov­ince.

Walsh was ba­si­cally in­form­ing Cor­co­ran in un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally but de­light­fully im­po­lite court lan­guage that he wouldn’t be get­ting away with one of those mad­den­ing slaps on the wrist — a con­di­tional dis­charge ac­com­pa­nied by the im­po­tent or­der to go and sin no more. And that, in­stead, he’d be brush­ing his pearly whites in a pri­son cell for a while (quite a while, we can only hope) as a re­sult of a case of an­i­mal cru­elty so ter­ri­ble it pro­voked tears from New­found­land’s chief vet­eri­nary of­fi­cer, Dr. Laura Rogers, while shar­ing her graphic de­scrip­tion of what Di­a­mond was forced to en­dure.

Now, to be sure, the ap­plause for Walsh, as well as for Rogers, wasn’t heard in every sin­gle home in the prov­ince, given that there are still, un­for­tu­nately and em­bar­rass­ingly, a fair num­ber of New­found­lan­ders who treat dogs, and do­mes­tic an­i­mals gen­er­ally, with, at best, a so­cio­pathic de­tach­ment, or, at worse, a sav­age cru­elty.

As well, there are also more than a few peo­ple who don’t own pets, have never owned pets, will never own pets, who seem mys­ti­fied that so much at­ten­tion is ac­corded the is­sue of an­i­mal abuse, and view with dis­dain and mock­ery the jour­nal­is­tic cov­er­age it at­tracts (this col­umn, for in­stance).

The lat­ter are to be pitied, if I can in­dulge here in a dog lover’s ser­mon, for they have never, will

So, NAPE is boy­cotting busi­nesses that don’t sup­port their takeover of the prov­ince’s trea­sury and Paul An­tle is ad­vo­cat­ing that the St. John’s Board of Trade tone down its rhetoric against the govern­ment’s re­cent labour agree­ment with its union­ized em­ploy­ees.

Mr. An­tle’s sug­ges­tion might carry some weight if he was not a prom­i­nent Lib­eral party mem­ber with po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions. Of course, he sup­ports their ab­di­ca­tion of govern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity to the or­di­nary tax­pay­ers of this prov­ince. He has to if he wants to be nom­i­nated to run in the next elec­tion.

Some­one on the govern­ment side has to step up to de­fend the agree­ment. So far, their ar­gu­ments in its favour has been weak, in­ef­fec­tual and un­con­vinc­ing. I look for­ward to read­ing that Mr. An­tle has agreed to no lay­off clauses in all the labour con­tracts he ne­go­ti­ates for his busi­nesses in the fu­ture.

NAPE, on the other hand, has been em­bold­ened by its coup over a govern­ment that, by any mea­sure, can only be de­scribed as asleep at the wheel dur­ing labour ne­go­ti­a­tions. Hav­ing suc­cess­fully taken over the provin­cial trea­sury, they are now try­ing to take over the econ­omy.

Twit­ter is abuzz with a re­cent restau­rant can­cel­la­tion at an es­tab­lish­ment that al­legedly re­fused to dis­play a NAPE win­dow sign crow­ing about the union’s vic­tory over the govern­ment. At 30,000 strong, NAPE clearly feels that they can pick win­ners and losers in the busi­ness world and they are set­ting out to prove that they can. This at­tempt at sti­fling free­dom of thought by in­sist­ing on a phys­i­cal dis­play of sup­port, with a win­dow sign, is an over­reach of the most egre­gious kind.

How­ever, I am still wait­ing with bated breath for some politi­cian, any politi­cian, to tell me, an or­di­nary tax­payer, ex­actly how this re­moval of govern­ment’s abil­ity to man­age the prov­ince’s bu­reau­cracy ben­e­fits me and the thou­sands of peo­ple like me who make this prov­ince their home. For now…

Barry Imhoff St. John’s never, en­joy the kind of mu­tual com­fort and af­fec­tion that can ex­ist be­tween owner and pet.

(A friend of mine at the CBC once re­flected on the value of a dog in a way I’ve never for­got­ten: some­times, he said, when I come home af­ter a par­tic­u­larly rough day, and the wife has no pa­tience with my com­plaints, and the kids don’t give a shit about what sort of ex­as­per­a­tion I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced at work, but the dog — ah, the glo­ri­ous, warm-hearted dog — will al­ways jump up to greet me and try to wash away with sloppy licks the frus­tra­tion of eight or nine mis­er­able hours at the of­fice).

But it is the for­mer, the John Michael Cor­co­rans of the world, who de­serve our con­tempt and the harsh­ness of time be­hind the walls of that flea-bag ho­tel down by Quidi Vidi Lake.

There’s an ex­pres­sion, ironic in this case, that we some­times use when de­scrib­ing the hell that a hu­man be­ing has been forced to tol­er­ate: you wouldn’t treat a dog that way.

But, as we dis­cover time and again, there are many mis­er­able s.o.b.s, count­less bul­lies, who ac­tu­ally do treat dogs “that way.”

Cor­co­ran’s abuse of Di­a­mond, though, has raised the bar of in­de­cent ne­glect (the dog starved to death over a pe­riod of months) to a level rarely reached; Walsh, Rogers and Crown pros­e­cu­tor Robin Sin­gle­ton seemed to strug­gle to ar­rive at the most ap­pro­pri­ate lan­guage to de­fine the abuse.

Ul­ti­mately, though, Rogers con­cluded it was the worst case of ema­ci­a­tion she had ever seen in her 20 years on the job, Walsh equated the mis­treat­ment of Di­a­mond to a “form of tor­ture,” and Sin­gle­ton de­scribed the cir­cum­stances of the dog’s death as “hor­rific.”

And I found it dif­fi­cult to read the cov­er­age, to be quite hon­est, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing a time when my wife and I are still griev­ing the death at 13 years of age of our beloved dog Tandy, a house pet and hunt­ing bea­gle. Be­lieve me, bea­gles can be both; they don’t have to be treated as a mere ap­pendage to the hunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

When his plea­sur­able work­day was over, Tandy came home to a con­sid­er­able grub job (not that he wouldn’t have had some of my egg salad sand­wich or a Vienna sausage dur­ing an ear­lier lunch break), a warm and cosy spot in front of the wood stove dur­ing the evening, and then a val­ued po­si­tion at the bot­tom of our bed to dream of the joy­ous pur­suit of bun­nies.

As a mat­ter of fact, this present hunt­ing sea­son has not been the same for me with­out Tandy at my side, scoot­ing through the alders, the bells around his neck sound­ing his lo­ca­tion, his tail wag­ging with vig­or­ous plea­sure when pick­ing up scent, and then howl­ing to the sky when he re­al­ized a rab­bit was close by.

I can’t de­scribe how badly it hurt when we were forced to bring him to the vet in the spring, and to feel his body go limp and his mighty heart cease to beat as the in­jected poi­son brought an end to his ill­ness, and his life.

We wrapped him in his favourite blan­ket, I dug a grave in the yard, and we buried him near the other dogs we have loved and whose com­pany we have cher­ished through­out the years.

Di­a­mond should have been for­tu­nate enough to have en­joyed life the way they did.

As should all dogs.

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