Animal Cruelty

Animal Cruelty

'¦the other side of the story.

Leaving your dog outdoors all day in 100-degree heat with no water is animal cruelty.

Putting your cat in the microwave is animal cruelty. Not feeding your pet cockatoo {or feeding your cockatoo to your cat} definitely falls within the bounds of animal cruelty.

But here's a dirty little secret: There's another kind of animal cruelty. It's probably happening somewhere in your town right now, yet you won't read about it in your newspaper or see the talking heads on TV jabbering about it. I'm talking about those times when animals are cruel to people.

Take my Labrador, Kudzu, for example. I named Kudzu when she was a pup because, like the southern vine, she was all over everything. In addition to the $500 I paid for Kudzu, which I know is a reasonable price to pay for a good Lab pup, I've spent some $2000 on training (don't tell my wife; she thinks I've spent around 75 bucks), plus dog food, treats, and lots of squeaky toys that I always manage to step on when I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

And don't forget medical bills. Not Kudzu's. Ours. People are beginning to give me dirty looks because they think my wife is a battered woman. She has big ugly bruises all over her arms and legs from Kudzu leaping on her from halfway across the room. She has cuts on her hands where Kudzu has tried to retrieve her. Throw in my dog-related psychiatric bills and we're talking real money, all because of animal cruelty.

I haven't even mentioned home repairs. The soiled carpets, lacerated screen doors, chewed furniture and curtains. And don't even ask about shoes. Kudzu could reduce Imelda Marcos' 300 pairs of shoes to a couple dozen in one giant chew-a-thon.Kudzu knows she shouldn't cause these problems. She's been scolded and swatted with rolled up newspapers, yet it happens anyway. I ask you, is this not animal cruelty at its worst?

Is Kudzu at all interested in carrying on the traditions of excellence set by her long pedigree of ancestral field trial champions and highly proficient working retrievers?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. When she wants, she can be a retrieving dynamo, firing out on command and snatching up a thrown training dummy like a major league shortstop fielding a tough grounder, or swimming after a wing-clipped pigeon like a canine Johnny Weissmuller. But sometimes when I throw a dummy, she turns and looks at me as if to say, "Why did you throw it out there if you wanted it back here?"

After all the money I've spent on her you'd think the inconsiderate canine would at least mind me consistently. When we go duck hunting she often wanders off in the dark while we're on our way to the blind. Have you ever tried to find a black dog in the dark? I've spent some of the best early morning hours blowing my whistle and looking for Kudzu when I should have been in the blind watching early flights of mallards drop into my decoys.

A baseball manager's worst nightmare is the player who makes unbelievable plays on seemingly impossible balls, yet screws up the routine ones. That's Kudzu. In heavy cover she has found wounded ducks that undoubtedly would have been lost without her. Yet when a bird falls dead in the decoys she will often turn and look at me and tell me with her eyes and drooping ears, "You get this one. I'm saving myself for the interesting jobs."

Such inconsistency has often made me the laughing stock of our hunting group. Yet another example of animal cruelty.

When I want to take a nap, Kudzu watches intently until I've removed my shoes and am comfortably stretched out on the couch. Then she goes to the door and wants out. She has the upper hand in these confrontations because I never know if she wants out for legitimate biological reasons or if she just wants to chase squirrels, dig holes in the yard and chew up the flowers. And if I guess wrong and refuse to get up, you-know-who has to clean up the mess.

I once read a book by an animal psychologist who said a simple heart-to-heart talk will often bring positive results. He said your dog really wants to do whatever you want, and its failures were usually the result of mis-communication on your part. So I sat Kudzu down in front of me on the living room rug. I held her face gently between my palms, looked directly into her big brown eyes, and explained in detail everything I expected of her. I told her that even though she may have been the alpha bitch in her litter, she was living in my house now and had to go by my rules. When I was finished she yawned and peed on my foot.

They say abused women often keep marrying bullies over and over again. I certainly hope that doesn't apply to dog owners as well. I would like to think that someday I'll be owned by a dog who'll treat me like a good man deserves to be treated.

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