Thursday, July 29, 1999

Can we learn anything from Dog No. 109?

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was hot, and he was in a cage. But this isn't the worst thing that has ever happened to Dog No. 109. Not even close.

        He was picked up — rescued, actually — on June 1 in Amberley Village's French Park. Fred Yaekle was walking his own dog when “a brown head, moving, caught my attention.” As he got closer, Fred could see that the brown head belonged to a dog that had been “injured real bad.”

        Fred called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals on his cell phone. “The dog's chest was all bloody,” he said, “and you could see the bone underneath.” It was a gunshot wound.

        One of my favorite things about dogs is that they don't talk your ear off, but I sure wish I could find out what happened to this one. It's not as if he could have been accidentally shot by a hunter. Cincinnati Park Board is not ambiguous about this: “No person shall carry or discharge firearms, slings, bows, rockets, missiles, projectile, explosives, volatile liquids, nor other devices by which person, animals or birds may be injured or frightened.”

Up to no good
        So, I think we can assume that the person who did this was up to no good. And, it's not just about cruelty to animals, although that's bad enough. The American Humane Association has been collecting data suggesting that violence of one kind predicts violence of another. In fact, humane officers here are trained to look for other signs of abuse when they are sent to a home to investigate cruelty to an animal, says Andy Mahlman, SPCA office manager and resident expert on Dog No. 109.

        A boxer mix, this dog is an adolescent right now, about 7 months old. He's kind of gangly. His feet are big, and he's a little clumsy. According to Andy, he is “somewhat fearful of people.” As well he might be.

        Physically, he's as good as new. His tail works fine, I noticed. And once he knows you, he's very friendly. But he's big — about 17 inches tall right now, and he weighs 40 pounds. I wonder what happened. When he stopped being a puppy, did somebody just decide he wasn't cute enough to live anymore? Did he become a nuisance?

Help for amateurs
        Signs posted on the kennels filled with dogs brought in to the SPCA tell a little about the occupants. And probably as much about the people who put them there.

        Bryson is a black lab-golden retriever mix. “Chews. Not housebroken.” It makes you wonder what people were expecting. Dogs are not Beanie Babies. They are living creatures. The downside is they have personalities and alimentary canals. The upside is that they can make you feel as though the sun, the moon and all the stars revolve around you.

        The SPCA offers pet owners help if they need it. Free consultation with behavior experts, even free cat and dog food for people who are down on their luck. They do this, by the way, without spending tax money. They are subsidized by donations from animal lovers.

        Even if you qualify as an animal lover, Dog No. 109 might not be for you. He would probably need some room to stretch his legs. “He has been through an ordeal,” Andy says, “and he needs special attention.” He would advise against putting this dog in a home with small children.

        Here is what I know about this dog. He was shot and left to die by somebody. Then he was scooped up and sewed up and put in a cage. And yet he let me pet him. He's still willing to give us a chance.

        And I know this is just one dog. But here is what Harold Dates, the SPCA's manager, says about that: “If we can nurture respect for all life, our community will prosper.”

        In other words, just like violence, kindness can become a habit.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at or call 768-8393. Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears regularly on WVXU radio, NPR's Morning Edition and InterMedia's Northern Kentucky Magazine.

        Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at