Thursday, January 13, 2011

These guys

I work in the rural backwater of Western North Carolina.  And this is generally a good thing, except for days when I find two dogs on the side of Highway 74 on my way to work on my FIRST DAY OF CLASS FOR THE SEMESTER (in single digit weather, in the snow, dogs without tags, without microchips, without any discernible way for me to tell from whence they came, most likely because they were dumped -- maybe dumped in the hope that someone like me would pick them up and take them in).

Freaking ruined my first day back, by the way.  I'm just glad that I have good friends who let me stow said dogs in their basement while I taught (and I'm so glad that I have tenure. Otherwise, my performance in my class, compromised by the fact that my mind was on the displaced dogs, might have profound implications for my career).  Now the dogs are in my home office, 40 miles or so from where I found them (I work 50 miles from my house, and my journey takes me through the mountain wilds of North Carolina.  It's a beautiful drive, except on days like today, when the drive is tainted...and this isn't the first time I've picked up animals along this route).

I'm one of those people who finds dogs and cats, which is to say that I am one of the ones who stops when I see them.  I'm one of the ones who takes them in, one of the ones who keeps them and finds homes for them.  I'm not chosen; I'm not someone special, and I'm certainly not someone who believes that it's my destiny to find stray and abandoned animals.  But I am someone who notices them.  And while many people might see them as they wind along the highway, most people don't stop to take them in.  So in this sense, I'm special.  Or whatever.  But I shouldn't be.

Dogs constitute one component of our minion biota, a species that we, homo sapiens, continue to perpetuate, even as we decimate numerous other species by virtue of our environmentally destructive, overly consumptive excesses.  Dogs are in the company of our other minion biota, cats, for example, as well the species that we consume: pigs, chickens, and cows.  These species survive because we allow them to survive, because we need them in some way -- either as consumable objects or companions.  But in both contexts, they exist at our whim; dogs and cats are still "other," creatures that we can abandon if we need or even want, if they get sick, if housing them is inconvenient.  Cows, chickens, and pigs are food, manufactured for consumption, not to live a life during which they might experience happiness, comfort, or even companionship.

I have these abandoned dogs, now, and I'll find a place for them, as I've done for many others.  And my feelings for them are not sentimental.  These dogs (chickens, pigs, cows) should have the same right to a life without suffering that I have.  So I'll do whatever I can to ensure that they get it.


  1. My friend at an animal shelter in Athens, GA said that in December and May (end of semester, you'll notice), Athens would be flooded with abandoned pets. People leave their lamps by the curb and just let out their animals... and go home. It's infuriating.

  2. I notice the not-seeing phenomenon most with roadkill. You go along, and maybe it's been a bad day for the skunks emerging from their dens (my bet on this week this year is for March 27, if anyone wants to bet.) And you say to the person driving with you, "Boy, that's three road-killed skunks and a raccoon in eight miles--you can really see the soil's warming up." And what you get in return is the blank stare: they literally didn't even see the corpses. Maybe the people who hit them didn't see them, either. I think it's very true that we don't see what we aren't educated, one way or another, to see.

    But what is sentiment? Is it an inherently bad thing? Because my feeling for my commensal animals is pretty sentimental.