- Twelfth Night, or What You Will, Act II, Scene V.
In considering the different lives dogs lead, I immediately thought of this quotation, but quickly rejected it. It’s near sacrilege to apply it to dogs; greatness, as in of character, is a term which should be used only for men. It is merely the conditions under which some dogs show their mettle that was relevant to my connection. Because Shakespeare did not actually specify “men” in this memorable one-liner, I trust you will indulge my use of it here to add to, rather than counter, my point.
It is the sheer differentiation between the man-chosen aspects of appearance, temperament, and behavior of purebred dogs that draws me to the dog show – these dogs are born to show their carefully bred characteristics. It is the long-term symbiotic relationship between man and dog that draws me to the species in general – we feed them, they work for us. It is the silly antics, early warning system, and perfect domestication of the animal that draws me to be a dog owner – they are a valuable addition to our lives and homes.
I began to think of all this is because I saw the book Oogy among the other dog books in a local store two days ago. The warped dog face on the cover intrigued me a little and the title is a word I like to use when I’m feeling not quite right. I looked up the book online and watched the video (linked above to upon them) and thought alternately, What an unexpected triumph, and What kind of twisted bastard would find joy in dumping a dog into a cage to get torn apart, and What a great story, let alone Who ever thought there’d be such a term as a bait dog? I left it with a bittersweet feeling.
Yesterday, I showed the little video to my husband and daughter. It was one thing for me to think, Those bastards, and That poor gentle dog! It was another thing entirely to expose my daughter to the physical effects of that kind of brutality and my husband to that kind of indomitable canine spirit. (We have a Pug; the greatest hardship it endures is having to go outside to pee in the snow.) Apparently, the combination of the possible loss of innocence with the impossibly artless canine’s wonderful recovery despite its cruel treatment was too much for me to bear this time.
I couldn’t speak.
Okay, I teared up a little. Okay, I had to leave the room.
But even with this story of sadistic savagery and the glaring difference between this animal’s seeming strength of character and those men of decidedly corrupt character, it is nonetheless true that a dog is not a man. It does not choose how it lives; It knows no alternative but to live.
Man, according to his nature, must be free to choose how he lives for himself. He doesn’t have huge teeth, sharp claws, or powerful jaws – his method of survival is his ability to think. So long as he does not interfere with another man’s ability to do the same, he must be free to act as he determines best. To force him to live otherwise is destroy his humanity wholesale. This is the savage nature of “animal rights”: extending the man-made institution of government protection of rights to animals over men.
Lest you think I would not punish the vicious men who would purposely cause such destruction to a life so in concert with our own, you should know that no animal abuser shall ever earn the pleasure of my company or commerce. That is not a joke. I trust that all reasonable men would do the same in abiding by the abuser’s self-selected pariah status among the enlightened by shunning him completely.
Alas, the reason why dog fighting has existed since ancient Rome is because some men still enjoy watching this blood sport. Why this is so, I can only guess, but my revulsion with the cruel activity and the deficient men who promote it, either through organizing or watching, is the only appropriate response. Such men who seek, enjoy, or crave this blood sport should not be detained by the state, but be indicted by other men who also see the use and destruction of man’s best friend in this manner for the heinous act it is.
Dogs have long been known as man’s best friend; we breed them to hunt for us, pull for us, herd for us, protect us, cuddle up with us, entertain us. When that entertainment takes the form of watching them kill each other, the man who owns the dogs, has the right to provide it – no matter how much his behavior stretches the very definition of a man. He is still the only animal that requires the focused activity of his mind to live; he is the only animal that can actually achieve greatness.
Instead of speciously attributing rights to animals, we should concentrate on preventing man’s inhumanity to man: the constant drive to forcefully subordinate the rights of the individual to the whims of the state, tribe, or group. No matter the depth of our righteous indignation at those who would abuse animals, granting animals legal rights is among those whims.