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February 2008 - Nr. 2

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by Dave McKague


My Dog Teaches …
About Living Under a Cloud of Guilt

Hunny: "Throw the ball and I love you forever!"Except for any saints who might be living among us, we have all done things for which we feel guilty. Unless we can find a way to atone for these failings, the cloud of guilt, which thereafter follows us, can then be very oppressive indeed. And we can never be sure that at any moment we won’t be found out and have to face retribution.

So it is with Hunny and me. Every day, we have to live under this cloud of guilt, never sure if the next person we see is going to turn us in. And we have had some close calls.

Two years ago, Hunny and I were playing fetch in a park (it was completely empty except for us – after all, it was a cold day in January) when an animal control officer appeared in his truck. After being warned, I got in my car with Hunny and drove off. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed the officer writing down my license plate number. I spent several anxious weeks wondering if I was going to receive a fine, or worse, whether someone was going to try to take Hunny away from me.

In the summer, we were playing ball in a remote industrial area – not a soul around. Another animal control officer stopped as she drove by. She seemed to be trying her best to be particularly nasty, and actually threatened to take Hunny away and have her put down. Again, Hunny escaped with her life.

In November, Hunny and I were playing fetch in some hydro fields by the side of a country road – again, there was no one around except us, other than a few cars driving by. Unfortunately, one of them happened to be, you guessed it, an animal control officer. And Hunny and I were subjected to the usual checking for dog license and again given a warning.

Then there was the time early in the morning I let Hunny out to go to the washroom on the front lawn. I stood half-dressed at the door, keeping an eye on her and ready to call her back if anyone happened to walk by. After I had let her back into the house, someone knocked on the door. A woman inspector with the garbage collection services and who must have been in one of the cars parked on the street, told me she would have to report what she saw to the authorities. Again, several very anxious weeks ensued with the threat.

Last month, about 11:00 on a Saturday night, two policemen showed up at my door, a rather disconcerting experience for anyone. I guess somebody had seen Hunny and me at a local leash-free dog park and reported us. After a few nervous minutes, they left, leaving behind that ominous cloud of guilt.

Then just a few days ago, I was driving away from the dog park when two squad cars coming in the opposite direction motioned vigorously for me to pull over. After being questioned by the officers for several minutes, Hunny and I were allowed to go. I was not arrested and Hunny escaped with her life.

Despite that fact that Hunny is a favorite at the dog park (because she is so very friendly and will play fetch with anyone) and is known and liked by hundreds of people, the real danger is clear. In these days of cell phones, all it takes is one person to make that one phone call that could end my dog’s life.

So what heinous crime have Hunny and I committed that we are under such a cloud of guilt? Why, I’m afraid it is just playing ball. The Ontario government has made it illegal for Hunny to be anywhere other than inside my own home without being muzzled and on a leash. And when I say anywhere, I do mean anywhere. Not in vacant parks or industrial lands. Not in leash-free dog parks.

For our guilt is not for anything we have done. In the four years we have been together, Hunny has never hurt another dog or shown anything but complete affection to any person she meets. We are being forced to feel guilty for the shape of my dog. Forced to feel guilty for playing so that she gets the exercise she needs. Forced to feel guilty for the bond of affection we have developed. Forced to feel guilty for living in Ontario.

Now that the architect of the draconian Dog Owners’ Liability Act, Michael Bryant, has been removed from the Attorney General post, maybe the Ontario government will now do the right thing and remove this dark chapter in its history.

And lift this heavy burden of guilt from my and other shoulders.

Editor’s note: I would like to encourage dog lovers everywhere to start a PETITION to have this law thrown out or revised to such a form where justice prevails. SFR.

Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:



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