(Warning: There are no computers in this post)
I was up in Nanaimo over the long weekend visiting family (the family’s doing great, by the way – thanks for asking). While I was there, I had the opportunity to participate in a vigil for the Whistler 100 – the sled dogs that met their unfortunate end in Whistler last year. As gatherings go, it rode the line between heart-wrenching and heart-warming. There was the grim reminder of the event that prompted the gathering – the hundred sled dogs that were killed because of the post-Olympic slump. But there were also tales of hope. One man recounted tales of his small-town childhood home becoming a sort of unofficial SPCA. He estimated more than a hundred dogs passed through the doors on the way to permanent homes. It didn’t stop there though – every dog at the event was a success story. There were happy, healthy pups rescued from dire situations all around the world. The sweetest and cheeriest was a little champ named Super-Chick that didn’t even have her hind legs (she lost them as a puppy after she got hit by a car in Taiwan). She was amazingly mobile, and quite a sight running around on her front legs with a goofy grin. It was obvious she thought all the head scratches and chin rubs more than made up for a couple of missing legs.
The whole thing got me thinking though. The major focus of the vigil was animal cruelty law reform through improved public awareness (our animal cruelty laws are essentially unchanged in the last hundred years or so, and haven’t kept up with the times). And while I’m all for the laws aligning with our ideals as a society, it seems to me that it would be better to focus on prevention and support than punishment. On making it easier to make good choices, rather than punishing for bad ones.
In the case of the Whistler 100, for example, how differently would things have turned out if the company involved had been aware of other alternatives? If the man ordered to kill the dogs had been given another option, I’m sure he would’ve jumped at it. I imagine he’d prefer almost anything to the panic attacks and nightmares he’s experienced since the event.
In addition to the SPCA, there are a lot of independent rescue organizations that would’ve been glad to help find homes for the dogs. But the sled dog company either didn’t care, or didn’t know. And now one man will carry the visceral memories of the Whistler 100’s last moments for the rest of his life. With more government and public support for rescue programs, maybe things would’ve been different. Maybe a hundred sled dogs wouldn’t be dead. Maybe one man would still be able to sleep soundly at night.
So what am I saying? To be honest, I’m not sure. Step carefully, maybe. Or, be sure to learn your options before you do something that could change everything. Or maybe: Just because you’ve lost your legs, doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate a nice pat on the head.