As you may have gathered from my column two weeks ago, I'm a dog lover. In fact, I'm a passionate, dedicated and slightly crazed dog lover. My spouse and I share our home with two rescue dogs. We're not as brave as our pals Dylan and Beth Clements-Mosley, who joyfully host six dogs in their home, including five pit bulls. We do what we can to save animals from abandonment or death, and support others in such efforts.
Dog owners understand other dog owners. They understand the love and happiness that dogs bring. They understand that the death of a beloved dog is devastating, in many ways akin to the death of a human family member.
Dog owners aren't perfect. We can't understand why not everyone would love our pooches, so some of us unleash them on trails and in parks. Others fail to clean up after their mutts, leaving piles of feces for someone else to deal with.
Most dogs are innocent, friendly beasts. Pit bulls, Rottweilers and Belgian Malinois may seem scary and dangerous, but they're not intrinsically aggressive — they have to be trained. Even large dogs such as St. Bernards and Great Danes are normally placid and playful.
In their own territory or when feeling threatened, dogs can be protectively aggressive. Dog people, postmen, delivery people and process servers have no problem — but others do. Those folks look upon dogs as dirty, smelly, and potentially vicious. They don't see loving companions, but snarling curs ready to fight other dogs or bite innocent bystanders. They're exasperated by the perceived irrationality of dog owners, and particularly irritated by unleashed and/or barking dogs.
Clashes between dog lovers and dog avoiders aren't new, but such disagreements have been reasonably civil in the past. My neighbors don't like to be kept awake by barking dogs, so Dudley and Daisy are kept inside between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. We clean up their messes, keep them on the leash (mostly!) and avoid confrontations when walking them.
But things have changed. Three weeks ago, an off-leash dog was shot to death in a southeast-side park ("That's a lot of guns," City Sage, Jan. 14). After squeezing off four shots into Sydney, a small, friendly Australian shepherd mix, the shooter fled. A week later, someone conforming to the description of Sydney's murderer fired a shot at an elderly bulldog on Shooks Run Trail. And just a few days ago, a dog (pictured) now belonging to a Colorado Springs Business Journal colleague was shot on the west side.
Robbie, a sweet-tempered mixed breed, used to be a neighborhood dog. He'd wander from house to house, apparently homeless but welcome in a half-dozen homes. My colleague took him in, but Robbie wouldn't stay. He left to visit his other friends.
Last Thursday evening Robbie came back, bleeding and scared. Judging from the size and shape of the wound, both my colleague and his veterinarian believe the dog had been shot in the neck with a small-caliber handgun. Amazingly, he's OK — and this time he's staying home.
Three dog shootings in less than three weeks? It doesn't feel coincidental. Is there an off-leash vigilante out there, stalking dogs and sentencing them to death? A man bold enough to gun down Sydney in broad daylight might just as easily target the owner of an unleashed dog — or might be targeted himself by an armed dogwalker. Both are scary prospects.
Longtime local Realtor and dog lover Terry Shattuck has taken the lead, offering a $1,500 reward to anyone giving police information that would identify Sydney's murderer. That's a start, but you can't expect the cops to devote much time to a dog shooting.
Meanwhile, it's up to us. As Rodney King famously remarked, "Can we all just get along?" I'll try to avoid giving offense to non-dog owners, and hope that dog avoiders will cut us a little slack. Sorry, but we love our dogs.
As Shattuck wrote Monday on Facebook, "I have spent the entire day lazing around with my animals. I can't think of a better thing to do. Oh, you have no animals??? You don't have any idea what you are missing."