Monday, April 23, 2012

Must love dogs 2

Many a difficult morning it is a struggle to get out of bed, my alarm clock however, is persistent. A nudge, sigh, another nudge, when that fails, roll over. Escalation, a cold nose intrudes, blowing heavily and on those mornings when I really can't get up, a hundred and twenty pound rott /shepherd mix digs me out of the bedclothes and whines until I am up. Meet woman's best friend. My dog does not think I am fat, care whether my outfit is cute or whether I am wearing makeup. When I have been out all day he greets me at the dog, tail wagging, pleased. As I have frequently avowed here and elsewhere, my dog is the love of my life, my best friend who unlike my human friends will not judge me, but loves me unconditionally. 

In 2000, after a spate of dog attacks, the then elected Government, in the usual third world knee jerk reaction, to appease the population cringing behind locked doors, declared that something must be done. The something consisted of a piece of legislation "borrowed" almost wholesale from the English. Nothing really new in the colonies. Except the legislation in question had been written specifically to deal with a situation in England in the 1990's, by 2000, it was already somewhat out of date and in any case, was ancillary to existing animal protection laws. In the Trinidad version, it singled out three breeds, the pitbulls and two others that weren't even present here. As per usual, instead of addressing the issues, we sought to put the usual band-aid on a festering sore. 

My family has always had dogs, ranging from little pothounds to large german shepherds and a whole lot in-between. The great love of my life was a Doberman Pinscher who slept at the foot of the bed, went everywhere with me and would be content to rest his head on my shoulder when I lay reading on the couch. In my worst state of depression Gator could get me up and out, when he died my heart broke worse than it did when I got divorced.  Dogs have consistently sacrificed their lives to protect their owners. We constantly attribute human characteristics to them when in actuality, they have their own code of behaviour and hierarchy that is less subjective than ours. As Cesar Millan, aka the Dog Whisperer will tell you, there are no bad dogs, only bad owners. 

Pitbull terriers are a cross breed between terriers and bulldogs, bred for their tenacity and later, for their fighting ability. Man made dogs if you will. In truth, pitbulls, like humans, are products of their environment. If you condition any dog to be aggressive, whether a daschund or a russian wolfhound, that's what you'll get. And that's the point really. In Trinidad and Tobago, sixty percent of instances dogs are not much loved family pets, they are acquired with the intention of keeping other people out of yards and houses. The constant crime situation of home invasions, rapes, praedial larceny and petty theft have left a population with one thing on it's mind. To give themselves a sense of security, no burglar alarm or security patrol works as fast as Fido barking at the gate. So with very little training, or often comfort, dogs are our first line of defense. 

Dog lovers in this country do not oppose legislation for the sake of opposition. In fact we would welcome any legislation that would get people to behave more responsibly towards their animals. Legislation that allows for the equitable humane treatment of the animal ensuring that they are properly secured, have access to shade and water during the long hot days, that they are micro-chipped and registered so that they can be traced to their owners when they are lost or worse, they attack someone. Instead, we have a craven piece of legislation being brought back from the legislation graveyard that singles out breeds and that is essentially punitive. 

But then, should I be surprised? Judging from the amount of protest activities on issues ranging from sexual abuse of children to the preservation of our historical patrimony this weekend, perhaps not.  Interestingly enough, in a country where almost every other house has a resident dog their owners seem only to care that it is not theirs that is being targeted. Human nature I guess. At a rally yesterday, in the hot midday sun all without the added lure of food, drink, and loud music, hundreds of people turned out in support of revoking and reconstructing the legislation. And though hundreds came out, in a country where the average carnival band boasts 3000 plus people, what it comes down to is this, we appear to be  fine with we paying someone money to put on a costume, gyrate in the streets for two days in the thousands, drink ourselves silly and have a good time. We are happy to click like on Facebook, sign on-line petitions,some of us will even turn up for the march, so we can say that we did. And there is nothing wrong with that. But when it counts, whether for dogs, or children, or historic buildings and green spaces we are content to let a few do the work. 

But perhaps we should also understand that real change, real development takes place when we the people hold ourselves to higher standards. When we the people demand of our leaders that they think and act with integrity, that they practice governance by reason as opposed to photo op. That they construct rational legislation, they support equitable enforcement across the board. That everyone is responsible for making our country a better place. Instead of reducing every issue, every situation to drama and bacchanal that we educate ourselves on them and then encourage our leaders, businessmen and each other to take note and act responsibly. Perhaps like Don Quixote I am tilting my hat a windmills, but be that as it may, we must get to that point otherwise our country will continue its slide. Ian Alleyne's often vulgar, always self serving antics cannot be our only voice or form of action. 

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