Dogs On Chains

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Photo courtesy of Wallscover

Sometimes, we all see dogs living their lives at the end of chains. Ever wonder why it is that we never say “Dogs in chains” but “Dogs on chains?”

Human slavery is now mostly illegal. It is now mostly hidden from society — like a ‘bad dog’ would be hidden from a dinner party. We don’t think of dogs in chains the same way we view human slavery. Perhaps it sparks something in the head to hear the phrase “people in chains.” There is more degradation, more sympathy, more to relate to, whereas the words, “Dogs on chains,” just suggest something about the norm.

These days, most of us rage against the norm. We have so much to rage against, don’t we? There are human rights violations, harassment, bigotry, racism, sexism, obscene war profits, money polluting politics, and politics polluting our biosphere. Oh. And yeah, millions upon millions of animals are dying off. According to an October 2016 article in the Guardian, one of many among the klaxon calls of recent years:

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.

Dogs are animals, but not in danger of extinction. Which is to say, although their numbers of species are high, they themselves are only in danger on a one to one basis. I believe the suffering they live is due to the same apathy that is destroying all other biodiversity. It’s our human failing.

This is a topic I cannot stop thinking about. Perhaps that is because in our neighborhood, just out of sight from where we live, I hear the dogs on chains. They bark when the feeder shows up. The high fence that blocks out their faces and individuality does not disguise sound.

It does not hide the howling, the crying and whimpering. I wonder are they young? Old? How many? Do they ever get a walk? A snuggle? A tummy rub? Ever? I don’t know. It’s complicated, our relationships with these particular neighbors, is not exactly safe, one might say.

These are hunting dogs. They are tools for the people who rather than be their guardians, have chosen to be their owners. You can own tools. And these dogs, for use in the trailing and capture of pigs, sheep and wild goats — I’ve never been too clear on why people hunt goats, ummm, maybe to feed the dogs? — — are created and live their lives for the use by hunters.

As an ecologist, I have no issue with hunting. I think it would be far better for all of us to be in much more direct contact with those whom we eat. And with external nature.

I hear and understand the logic and especially the heartfelt humanity of vegans and vegetarians everywhere. What a healthier planet we would share if food, especially real food that is the flesh of a fellow creature, came from real sources and didn’t just show up shrink wrapped in sanitized grocery counters or as mysteriously materializing in presidential suites.

But I do understand that there are many reasons where and why people eat meat, and that is a whole other article, isn’t it? This piece is about those howling dogs that keep us awake at night, even from several houses away.

Late at night, when they are far away, I still hear of their existence. I find that I wordlessly curse the neighbors who make them live on chains. I wonder about where they came from as puppies, whether they are good boys and good girls. (I’m sure they are, but I just hear those words silently in my brain and I wonder why.) I wonder how old they are, what their people feel, whether they are cold, or sick, or injured, or hot, or hungry, or not?

I wonder, what is that smell? Is there a smell at all? Am I imagining it? It can’t be the dogs, they’re too far away.

I find I despair at the world being so messed up we exploit and over-consume everything that swims, flies, gallops, wriggles, or runs through it. So, then I turn my brain to other things, because a psychologist must above all other things remain optimistic, or we will allow the world to defeat and be defeated.

I imagine that there are times when these dogs are happy. When they are doing their jobs, smiling and running, and just burbling over with excitement when the trucks show up to take them out to catch the scent of boar on the wind. The dogs are free then, some of the time, and they are born and bred to do this job. To bring home the bacon.

How much bacon do they get to eat, I wonder?

In the small, dark part of the night, when I can’t sleep, many questions pour from the unintentionally opened thought ‘dog house’ that is that part of the human mind that we try to chain up, and put outside, but it just keeps barking.

What about hunters? Why are most hunters’ male? Why are guns favored more by males than females in the first place? One might think logically given rape and murder statistics that it is women who should be more obsessed with guns. Great, so now my yapping mind has moved on to the messy mud dog run that is gender politics, social issues and dog-gone tired doggerel.

Okay, back to why we say humans live their lives in chains, and dogs are merely “chained.” Perhaps we do a good job convincing ourselves that dogs are merely tools chained to trees or stakes for their own good. Let’s look at all the positives. They won’t run away. They can’t get lost. They can’t get free and follow their natural instinct — which is of course — to give chase to anything that moves. They have powerful jaws after all. Chickens, turkeys, cats and other dogs, to say nothing of the many other life forms — mostly invasive — that our island offers, have much to fear in terms of being unintentionally snatched up, torn apart, and digested by escaped dogs.

One of our own cats was ripped quite a bit one time by a dog that got loose. Fortunately, our cat came home with enough parts, fur, and skin for the vet to sew him all back together. Nevertheless, I still see the results of lame turkeys, mutt mutilated chickens, and an occasional battle-scarred stray cat. Injury will surely result if these dogs are not chained.

Still, I cannot help but think of their suffering. Science grows ever closer to knowing through brain imagining and behavioral trials what animals feel. And, day by day, science and technology are convincing even the most stubborn of us, that we are animals, too, and our animals cousins are worthy of our protection and admiration.

I guess over all, that is why as disconcerted that I am, I still am grateful that dogs, like Nature herself, are forgiving and resilient. We bred them to be.

If not, what kind of monsters would we have to admit ourselves to be?


Thank you for your read, share your thoughts, please! Christyl Rivers, Phd

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