Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics

Well this story is calculated to make any dog-lover teary. Having lost my beloved Rugby last yearand not yet been able to consider a successor, I read it while having to constantly adjust my “don’t be an idiot” controls.

Eddie the pitbull, in the care of Mikey’s Chance Canine Rescue in Benton County, Washington, has an inoperable brain tumor. He’s been given six months to live, and the staff  decided to make his final days as much fun for him as possible by creating various “bucket list” experiences.  One recent example was giving Eddie  “his dream” of being a crime dog, and and as soon as local police heard about Eddie, they pitched in.

The officers gave Eddie his own police jacket, then set him down in a pool filled with toys. Then Eddie accompanied the police in the front of a squad car as they toured the town requesting donations for the rescue shelter.

On their Facebook page, the Pasco Police wrote: “We have finished our amazing day with K9 Eddie and we are overwhelmed with the amount of support the community has shown him. Eddie was welcomed everywhere he went and shown nothing but love and affection all day. Finally, we want to wish Eddie all the best with his bucket list and future endeavors.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of Day is…

What’s going on here?

I defaulted to the Ethics Alarms threshold ethical analysis question because I’m complete confused, flummoxed, bewitched, bothered and bewildered.

Isn’t this exploitation? Does anyone think Eddie really has a “bucket list”? Do the police, rescue staff, or saps writing the linked article or the citizens of Benton County believe for a second that Eddie is any happier being subjected to jackets, police car rides and photo sessions than he would be just having some attentive humans, ideally kids, sitting with him and rubbing his tummy?

Sure, it’s nice exploitation. But isn’t Eddie really being used as a fundraising device for the shelter and PR stunt for the police? I shudder to think what his other contrived bucket list activities will be. Has he always wanted to see an opera? Have dinner at a 5 star restaurant? Meet Joe Biden? Kendall Jenner? Greta Thunberg?

Or does it matter? Eddie doesn’t know he’s being exploited, He’ll just enjoy the attention.

Something here is pinging my ethics alarms, but I can’t quite identify it…


This is the link to use for posting on Facebook:

18 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: Dying Dog Ethics

  1. I suppose the question of ethics depends on the motivation. Was the idea of the bucket list or the dog’s condition a means to promote the rescue organization or was the noteriety a byproduct of trying to make the dog’s last days as fulfilling as possible. If the former I would say unethical but not harmful. If the latter, perfectly ethical

  2. I admit there’s a bit of an “ick” factor here, but I think it’s still a net positive for the dog, at least as long he’s not overwhelmed or stressed. If he’s a typical pit bull, then he likes going new places and meeting new people that shower him with love. I just hope they leave extreme sports off his bucket list.

  3. It’s not really about Eddie but just one of those stories that has deeper resonance and requires an emotional outlet. It is just a human responce, one of appreciation of life, of happiness and sorrow. It is a good sign and strengthens community.

    We lost both our old dogs this year, shortly apart. One was a 16 year old German shepherd and the other a 19 year old blue heeler. We rescued anouther German shepherd last year hoping the two old ones would ease her into a stable home and it worked well. We just got a blue heeler puppy and this pair really help fill the void. The adventures they will have…..

  4. So these folks can read the dog’s dreams and come away with his desires, even a bucket list. Awesome.
    My thoughts go to how the dog became a resident at the shelter. I don’t think I’m off base to think that an owner saw he wasn’t “right” and took him to the vet and got the bad news… maybe mention of an expensive attempt at a fix. “No thanks”, they say, and its off to the shelter with some cock-and-bull story about him being a stray. (My volunteer work at the shelter in my neighborhood is my “appeal to authority” in this matter.)

    Maybe this animal mind reading talent could help find out if the race horses are volunteer, or if the military’s dogs know the risks and sacrifices of their jobs.

    For the record, I have had a number of dogs over my 75 years and none were truly enthralled with being put in a jacket, no matter what adornments it had, and a couple were downright hostile about the idea.
    Yes, its exploitation. He should be allowed a good meal and allowed to be assisted off to the big play yard in the sky.

    • I do think the jacket has something to do with the pinging. Dickens, our first (feisty, brilliant, diabolical, hilarious, loving) Jack Russell, hated jackets so much he’d end up rolling on the floor trying to rip them off.

      • Jackets may depend on the dog or breed. Our dachshund burrows into blankets. tunnels at every opportunity. He’s happy as a clam in a sweater or costume and mopes if one is removed. That breed was developed to chase after voles etc underground and doesn’t seen to get hemmed in, so he whines if he loses his blankie. (we should have renamed him, Linus) It’s a common trait for the breed. Not sure about bulldogs, but there’s always an oddball in every group.

        The bucket list is more for the grieving owners and friends, a way to feel they get to give him every opportunity and share as many experiences before they have to say goodbye. The dog is just happy to be with people and have fun, it will reflect their sadness without understanding why, That may be a blessing.

  5. This is complex, but I think your confusion, flumoxxation, etc., is the result of over-anthropomorphization on all fronts.

    Is the dog being used? Sure. The dog is being anthropomorphized. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

    Kant said that it was bad to abuse animals, not because of the harm that we did them, but because our abuse of them harmed us by (essentially) desensitizing us to abuse.

    The flip side would seem to hold true. Being kind to animals is good, not because they are deserving of kindness, but because it makes us more kind.

    As for the dog, it is good because what dog would not want such attention. Take away the stupid bucket-list and the dog does not care. The only thing on a dog’s bucket list is attention. Give that to the dog, any dog (mostly), even Rugby (18 hour walks, games of fetch, and messing with you answering the door), and that dog will be happy.

    But, we need the anthropomophization too. A columnist, I think it was Ellen Goodman, wrote an article about putting a dog to sleep. The takeaway was that the greatest gift that pets give us is that they teach us to deal with death, hopefully how to deal with the death of our parents.

    I remember Rusty’s death, and Fred’s, Tabby’s, Spike’s, Sabrina’s, Hobo’s, Paddington’s, Ashley’s, Lexi’s, Claire’s, Felisity’s, and Schrodinger’s. My parents are still alive, but I have learned to grieve. My children have Ginger, Pepper, and Xena to prepare them. They still vaguely remember Claire and Schrodinger, but their deaths will not affect them.

    So, I don’t fault the humans here either. “Be kind to dumb animals.” That is a good thing. It makes us better.

    So, your alarms are ringing because people are treating things (animals) in ways they should not be treated. But, the dog is happier, and the people are better for it (even if there is a PR element to it). All in all, it makes people better (much like Christmas), even if it will not last..

    So, shut off the alarms and enjoy the way animals make us better people, so that we make animals happier in their own way.


  6. If he’s a typical pit bull, then he likes going new places and meeting new people that shower him with love.

    I went to a sporting event years ago. I remember nothing of the game, but I do remember two bulldogs who were so excited to meet me that one accidentally did a backflip.

  7. Last year I lost my two best friends, Skipper the MinPin and Yoda the Pom (they were both 19), and have just Holly the Corman Shepherd left. In Skip’s and Yoda’s last months, I did my best to make them comfortable and happy. But it never occurred to me to create a bucket list, much less to let the world in on their decline. Even family members didn’t know (until afterwards) because I didn’t want the boys to lose their self-respect (it wouldn’t seem silly if you knew them) or become objects of pity.

    As I read this story yesterday (gosh, I felt like an idiot, as I reached for the Kleenex), I was of two minds. I found myself loathing the exploiters and thinking Eddie the luckiest dog in the world. Yeah, he didn’t want to be a K9 or go to a 5🌟 restaurant, or even understand it, but he understood attention and belly rubs and being in the limelight.

    So, he was happy, and maybe that’s all that really matters. But I also hope that among those using his last moments for their own benefit there are a few who are better people for having known Eddie. I admit to being a dunce about many things, but I do know that dogs make the unendurable endurable, that dogs are better than most people I know, and that how we treat dogs can make us better people.

    Excuse me, I need to go get a box of Kleenex.

  8. This is probably over(out?)thinking the subtle goodwill of the police but my first thought – given the photo – was that they wanted to show the public that a pit bull was just as sweet and gentle, up close and pettable (did they allow that?), as any other cutesiepoo puppy of a popular breed they could have brought along. As for the treatment of Eddie, considering it was a one-time day out and as there doesn’t seem to have been any bad feedback such as his trying to bite some child’s hand off, I would think he’d enjoy it. The attention (the main part, as Jut Gory noted) would have distracted from the jacket … though the jacket would have prevented any of those nice back or belly rubs … and the only problem would be his stamina and/or unshown pain.

  9. We adopted a pitbull (bull/mastiff mix her paperwork from the shelter says- maybe, but she looks allll pitty) last September. She ADORES people. She’s even kinda ok with a sweater (depending), but everything else in that day would have been cool with her. If Eddie showed he really didn’t want the jacket, it seems the folks around would have known and fixed it. I mean, Eddie is large enough to make his needs/wants known, it looks like. I hope lots of other dogs are helped by the money they raised, because people fail dogs like him a lot. I get the hinky moment it makes arise, but in the end, looks like Eddie got a good day. What a good boy.

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