Dogs deserve so much better
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.