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Man's Best Friend

Dogs Often Care for Humans Better than Humans Care for Dogs
By Joel Freedman, Citizen Columnist

October 11, 2003 -- During bitter cold weather, the humane society in my community received complaints about an old, gentle dog, chained outdoors day and night, who was trying desperately and unsuccessfully to burrow into the frozen ground to escape the brutal wind chill. The dog cried in anguish and frustration. His paws were bloodied from his efforts. His only "shelter" was a small plastic pet carrier, the floor of which was covered by ice.

The Humane Society intervened, but this is no isolated situation. I have received expressions of concern for the many dogs in Henderson County that are forced to spend much or all their lives outdoors, in all kinds of weather, chained to a pole or to a doghouse that may provide inadequate shelter. Even if the shelter is adequate, the life of a chained or otherwise isolated dog is lonely, unhappy and spirit-breaking.

The Vietnam Dog Handlers Association says that during the Vietnam War, dogs, hundreds of whom were killed in action, prevented an estimated 10,000 American casualties. At the National Infantry Museum of Fort Benning, Ga., a monument depicts a combat-attired soldier with a dog at his side. An inscription reads, "They protected us on the field of battle. They watch over out eternal rest. We are grateful."

Dogs saved some human lives at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and later worked themselves to exhaustion, despite smoke and dust inhalation, in recovery efforts there. Dogs are currently assisting American military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. In my locality this summer, a dog adopted from an animal shelter helped save her human from a fire that destroyed their home. Zoey, a 4-year-old Akita, alerted the family to the fire and dragged the family's disabled daughter out of the burning house.

People in Henderson County who chain and isolate their dogs deprive themselves of the love dogs offer. Eight years ago, I adopted a frisky, black Labrador retriever puppy from an animal shelter. Athena is a sweet dog who loves being petted and hugged. She greets me with her tail wagging, her eyes all devotion. Athena enjoys running with me and fetching baseballs I toss. And when I have a bad day, Athena snuggles up to me and comforts me.

Dogs, are indeed "man's best friend," deserving of a place in our hearts and INSIDE our homes.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Freedman chairs the public education committee of Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York.