Sarah Palin, The Animal Gene, and Some New Year’s Inspiration

Trig on dog

Gandhi famously said that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I’m not sure that’s true, but it certainly is true that respect for the lives and welfare of animals is a useful symptom to diagnose sound ethical values, and the tendency toward animal cruelty is signature significance for a human being that I would not turn my back to in the dark.

The issue is complicated by the divergence of humans into “animal people” and “non-animal people,” with the latter claiming, with some justification, that they are not cruel or callous toward animals, just willing to recognize that they are, well, animals. These are the people who cannot understand someone wanting to take a sick day to mourn the passing of a cat. On the other hand, they are also clear-eyed about those animal lovers who dress their parrots in elaborate costumes and who hold birthday parties for their dogs. Those who live in the country or on farms are an interesting case: they are not prone to sentimentalize of anthropomorphize animals like city folk. Dogs and cats sleep outdoors unless there’s a freeze on, and they have jobs to do. My wife’s sister sold the family horse to a dog food company, and the two didn’t speak for months.

Sarah Palin blundered into this divide this week when she posted pictures (above) of her son Trig standing on the family dog in an inspirational post about overcoming obstacles. Now she’s being attacked for promoting cruelty to animals. Some points on this:

1. Many are always looking for justification to vilify Palin. This time, she gave them legitimate ammunition.

2. The sequence looks staged to me: otherwise, why was anyone taking photos of this?

3. If so, then this just wasn’t an innocent but mistaken choice by a special needs child, but the directive of someone who should know better.

4. Of course one doesn’t ever sit or stand on a dog, or allow or encourage a child to do so, unless we’re talking about a very small child.

5. We don’t know that Palin didn’t admonish Trig after the fact, while saluting his ingenuity.

6. It was still an irresponsible choice for the point she was making.

7. Assuming the dog isn’t ill, drugged of dead, however, he doesn’t seem in distress. One thing about dogs: if you are hurting or ignoring them, they aren’t shy about letting you know.

8. Trig is developmentally disabled. Animals, particularly dogs, have incredible tolerance and intuitive kindness in such situations. That was the real lesson of the photos.

Now, to wipe those images out of your mind, here are a group of photos showing normal, non-celebrity, non-Palin, human beings here and elsewhere demonstrating the kind of kindness and compassion for animals that we all should aspire to.

Here, to get you sniffling,  is the famous photo from 2013 of an old Massachusetts police dog being saluted as he makes his final journey to the vet:

Animal rescues 15

This is two boys rescuing a stray dog:

Animal rescues 1

And another similar rescue:

Animal rescues 2

At a rhino preserve, a man comforts three orphan rhino calves by sleeping with them:

Animal rescues 18

A man who rescued a wounded fox that was too hurt to be released into the wild continues to care for it:

Animal rescues 14

Firefighters going the extra mile to assist imperiled cats and kittens:

Animal rescues 17

Animal rescues 16

Animal rescues 5

A marine who rescued a group of baby rabbits feeds one with an eye-dropper:

Animal rescues 8

Animals being rescued during an Asian flood:

Animal rescues 9

Animal rescues 3

Animal rescues 4

Animal rescues 12

A tiny piglet, born with useless legs, given a means of locomotion using K’Nex, a child’s construction toy:

Animal rescues 6

And my personal favorite, the aftermath of a rescue by Chinese animal lovers, who paid $800 dollars for a truckload of dogs destined to be slaughtered:

Animal rescues 13

Happy New Year!


Sources: Yahoo, Daily Mail, Awesomely Cute

Graphics: Awesomely Cute

20 thoughts on “Sarah Palin, The Animal Gene, and Some New Year’s Inspiration

  1. Well done, Jack.

    I have this sort of half baked (half assed?) philosophy along the lines that animals are born innocent and stay innocent until the day they die, while humans are born innocent but one or two years after birth their innocence begins to ebb, many (many!) times alarmingly so.

    Call me crazy (I do!) but I subscribe to Walt Whitman’s attitude as expressed in his poem, I Think I Could Turn And Live With Animals…

    “I think I could turn and live with the animals, they are so placid and self contained;
    I stand and look at them long and long.
    They do not sweat and whine about their condition;
    They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins;
    They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God;
    Not one is dissatisfied-not one is demented with the mania of owning things;
    Not one kneels to another, nor his kind that lived thousands of years ago;
    Not one is responsible or industrious over the whole earth.”

          • Important distinction here…children stepping on dogs.
            Especially very young children. Children and dogs play together. It’s not that different from another dog stepping on a dog in terms of injury to either of of them. It could just as easily be the dog stepping on the child. In either case if the stepped on one objects he/she simply gets away from the situation.
            I agree that it looks staged, maybe it’s a recreation of an actual event. In any case there is nothing ethically wrong with the child standing on the dog.

            • And at what point would it be unethical? Trig is 7. When he’s 10? 15? 37? Should be be required to weigh in, and then decide? Or should we wait til the dog has had enough abuse and bites him thus sealing the doom…of the dog?

              I think the “dogs are not footstools” rule is a handy dandy ethics “Don’t”.

              That said, I did like Sarah’s cheeky reply to PETA: “At least Trig didn’t eat him.” But it was still Rationalization #22.

              • I think that innocent play by a child that doesn’t know better nor does it hurt the dog is not unethical. Dogs by nature love rough house and ritual fighting and pack physical contract, and to the dog, this behavior may very well fall in those categories. The deciding factor on this one is not the current conduct…but what the conduct may become out of habit.

                The child should be stopped, because there WILL be a point that the child WILL hurt the dog or COULD hurt the dog without there being anything achieved by it. It additionally teaches the child to use creatures for convenience when there are better options available. We use draft horses to plow because we HAVE to… but as soon as we can afford a tractor, we get a tractor. We don’t have to stand on a dog to reach something on the counter, because ideally we have a stool available, OR PARENTS.

  2. Great animal pictures:

    2 observations, however-

    1) Of the guy who rescued to fox… I’ve never rescued a fully grown wild animal from some entanglement, injury or other malady that didn’t immediately reward me through a series of pecks, bites, claw scratches or other attempted injury. So he must have gotten that fox very very young.

    2) To the Marine working on the baby rabbits. He was very lucky or VERY skilled. We found a 4 day old baby cotton-tail that nearly had the same fate as the grass I was mowing. Interestingly, all the expert advice we read said to just to give up, that Cotton-tails, away from the mothers during “infancy”, unlike other nurture-able animals typically have about a 2-4% survival rate. Well, we tried anyway. It died 2 days later, despite following all the instructions the experts gave.

    One website amusingly after every paragraph or two, reminded the good Samaritans to just give up, even expertly followed, sans mother, the baby rabbit would probably die anyway.

  3. This reminded me of when I was younger and my sister and I would collaborate in order to steal cookies off the kitchen counter, although I would invariably end up as the footstool… which was wholly unnecessary come to think of it, because we had chairs. Call it a team building exercise.

    I was also reminded of my childhood in the line: “My wife’s sister sold the family horse to a dog food company, and the two didn’t speak for months.” One of the more popular threats with the most ornery of animals was “Behave! Or we’ll send you to Dr. Ballard’s!” I don’t think they understood. It didn’t really help. But it amused us in the dark humor I find common among my rural neighbors.

    I think that the line would be when the child was heavy enough to hurt the dog, or was doing it to be malicious. I mean…. From the perspective of “standing or sitting on a dog is wrong, period.” it’s really hard to justify horseback riding for pleasure. And while that’s the most obvious parallel, there are a lot of ways that we exploit animals in a way that does them no real harm, but might be seen as demeaning if done to a person. I just can’t call that unethical per se without context.

    That said…. This was an odd political move. It puts Palin on the defensive, as so many things do, because there are so many people lying in wait for her to do anything that isn’t perfect. And this in particular was an easy target, it almost staggers belief that she wouldn’t see this coming…. I don’t think she’s that stupid, I feel like I’m missing something.

    • That’s the point: she DID see it coming, and had a trap ready. They can’t attack her and still give Ellen a pass. I think this was the purpose from the beginning. Palin has her own scores to settle.

      • This is the second or third time I’ve read posts in order and commented, only to find that the conversations had grown somewhere else. Next time: Read everything first. On the other hand: I feel vindicated.

    • I have to disagree with the dog/horse analogy. As long as the proportions (size of the horse vs size of the human), horseback riding isn’t painful to the horse. In fact, it’s an excellent way for the horse to get exercise. I don’t think “standing” on a dog is ever justified. That’s not to say that young children “lying” on a dog (proportions, again) shouldn’t be allowed. We had an English mastiff when both of my children were born. Up until the time they were toddlers, my children would lie on/with him on occasion. I would never allow them to stand on him, and he was a considerably large dog (200 pounds). Why? Because dogs aren’t meant to be stood upon. I’m not sure why anyone would think it’s OK.

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