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Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Work of Fiction

Despite what the opening sentence, below, may suggest, the following is a work of fiction... a fabrication... a flight of fancy... made up out of whole cloth.  And the events described in this made-up story take place far in the past (i.e. 'Once upon a time...'). 

I offer this odd preamble to this post because, if this story were actually true, the events described in it would be actionable on several, not-so-pleasant levels.  Clear enough?  Good.

I killed a dog this morning.

No, I didn't hit it. But somebody sure did.

At around 6:15 I was riding my Vespa through an empty stretch of rolling desert landscape on my way to work when I came upon a big yellow dog writhing in agony near the center line of the road. As a life-long dog owner who was raised by a family of dog lovers, I guess I know a thing or two about dogs... and this one was in impossible agony.

The dog was either feral, or had been a stray for so long that it didn't have any sign of having ever been groomed or otherwise cared for. It was rail skinny, and had healed scars all over its nose and head.

But the real horror was its back end. Something big had run the dog over, crushing its hind quarters and dragging it a few yards... partially eviscerating the poor animal in the process. It had apparently happened during the night since the trail of blood that reached the shoulder was already starting to dry.

I couldn't imagine why this dog hadn't succumbed to its injuries or been finished off by another vehicle in the dark. There isn't much traffic at night, but even if nobody else had come along to issue a vehicular coup de grâce, there are enough predators and scavengers in the area (other feral dogs, jackals, foxes, etc.), that this animal should have been out of its misery hours ago.

Yet there was this horribly wounded dog... scrabbling on the pavement with its front paws and craning its head, and trying futilely to reach its mutilated hind quarters.

I parked my scooter on the shoulder and called the nearest big town's police department to ask about sending an animal control officer, but a recorded voice said nobody would be in until 8 AM. A call to the nearest army base put me in touch with a sympathetic female soldier, but she gently explained that this was completely outside the IDF's area of responsibility.

I made one last attempt by calling our vet in Jerusalem (I have his cell phone number for emergencies), and told him where I was and what I was looking at. He explained that nobody was going to take responsibility for an injured feral dog out in the middle of nowhere. He was clearly upset by my description, but said that even if he got in his car right away, chances are the dog would be dead before he arrived.

He suggested I put the dog down myself by running over its head. I explained that I wasn't in my car... I had taken my scooter to work.

About 15 seconds of silence passed on the phone line during which I'm sure he could clearly hear the dog's whining and occasional yelps. Finally, he said... do whatever you have to do. You have to stop its suffering. You know what to do.

And I did. I put the phone back in my pocket... looked in all directions to make sure nobody was coming...took out my pistol ... and put a single round into the dog's head. The silence after the loud report had died away was complete. The poor animal was finally out of its misery.

As I rode to work, I couldn't figure out why I was so upset. Was it because this kind of senseless suffering is apparently so commonplace in the world... or because I've lived my entire life blissfully unaware of it?

I was hoping that by writing this down I'd gain some clarity... but I still don't know.

Afterthought: Some of you reading this might be asking yourselves (in theory, of course... this is all fiction, right???!!!), why shooting the dog wasn't my first thought / course of action.  The answer is simple.  In my country (as in most, I'm sure), there are laws and ordinances restricting the discharging of firearms in all but an extremely narrow set of clearly defined circumstances.

In a well organized society, there are people and organizations such as police, vets, animal control officers, etc., who are authorized to deal with such problems (although woe to an animal that comes to grief in the gray areas between the jurisdictions of those people and organizations).

And in the civilized parts of our world, one doesn't simply take out a gun and put 'old yeller' down. In fact, feeling free to do so is about the surest way to tell if you are outside the boundaries of organized society.

Posted by David Bogner on December 13, 2012 | Permalink


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In this purely fictional scenario, you absolutely did the right thing.

But don't you have to account for all your bullets at some point? I mean, in theory, if this were true.

Posted by: sarah bronson | Dec 13, 2012 1:45:11 PM

sarah bronson... Theoretically, of course, a licensed gun owner in Israel is allowed to purchase a finite number of bullets each year. However, he/she may use them at the gun range or save them as he/she sees fit. Nobody checks to account for every bullet.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Dec 13, 2012 4:15:40 PM

Even in a completely fictional scenario, it's possible to be in a situation where the established procedures and authorities are not available, options are limited, and time is of the essence. I think most of us know the right thing to do... but we are fortunate enough to not have to make these decisions in the course of normal daily life.

Kol ha-kavod to Fictional Trep, who did the right thing.

Posted by: Elisson | Dec 13, 2012 7:25:15 PM

Glad your fictional hero used common sense

Posted by: rickismom | Dec 13, 2012 8:55:48 PM

By your standards, Texas is not civilized. Nobody counts your bullets, and nobody cares if you safely discharge a firearm on your own property.

I grew up on a ranch. A rifle was just another tool. I have put down so many animals I lost count. (Oddly, never a dog.) I learned to live with death. But you know what? I still remember many of them. Doesn't keep me from functioning day to day.

Are you bothered by this mercy killing? May I suggest Ecclesiastes 3:3: A time to kill, a time to heal. This was both.

Get over it, City Boy. Move on.

Posted by: antares | Dec 13, 2012 11:47:56 PM

Antares, don't be a jackass. You're looking to be offended.

David, any man that doesn't feel something when he puts down an animal isn't civilized. You'd have to work in a slaughter house to be numb to it. I've done it many times, but I always felt something afterward and I'm no city boy.

Posted by: Karl | Dec 14, 2012 12:32:07 PM

On the other hand, what if he had no cell phone or the battery on it was dead?

Leave the animal suffering while he drives off to make sure that everything is AOK'd by local bureaucrats?

Exhibiting just simple common sense and putting down suffering animal shouldn't make anyone gun-toting anarchist, notwithstanding the missing red tape.

Posted by: finngoy | Dec 14, 2012 7:18:48 PM

You did the right thing. Kudos.

Posted by: At The Back of the Hill | Dec 15, 2012 12:16:24 AM

When I was sixteen, in a galaxy far, far away, we moved to a farm. Among other animals, we raised rabbits. I was alone on the farm. The mama rabbit had been seriously injured -- I no longer remember how -- and was clearly in a lot of pain. I knew I had to put her down somehow... but I couldn't do it. That poor rabbit suffered until my parents returned.

I will carry that lack of decision my whole life.

If any of the upset you were feeling is due to taking a life, absolve yourself.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Dec 16, 2012 7:27:43 AM

That you put the animal out of its misery speaks well of you.

And that you felt bad about it speaks well of you.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

You're a good guy.

Posted by: psachya | Dec 16, 2012 8:34:23 PM

to me... this seems pretty similar to the decisions we made about our dog...and our cat.
they were suffering.
the only difference is someone else pulled the trigger. and the trigger was a syringe.
in the end its the same. its a thought out act of kindness.

Posted by: weese | Dec 17, 2012 5:19:51 PM


I apologize for my previous comment in this thread. I was wrong.

This was your first kill. I still remember my first kill. A kitten fell into a fan. The fan ripped open its abdomen and mangled its guts. I had to put it out of its misery.

I was eight years old.

I still feel sick to remember that. I understand how you felt.

Forgive me my ill-considered words earlier.


Posted by: antares | Dec 18, 2012 12:27:48 AM

Sometimes it does NOT feel good to do what is right. And what you did is right.

Posted by: BT | Jan 22, 2013 3:19:22 AM

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