The Toe-Eating Terrier
Sometimes my email inbox seems booby-trapped. A couple of weeks ago, I got a press release with this subject line:
Cautionary Tale for People with Diabetes: Dog Consumed Part of a Sleeping Patient’s Toe, Leading to Amputation
Among the details that followed:
In a case study that illustrates the need for people with diabetes to be cautious of foot injuries and to protect themselves from pets, a woman with numbness in her feet caused by diabetic neuropathy slept through a traumatic episode in which her Jack Russell terrier chewed off part of her slightly infected big toe, according to an article published in this month’s issue of the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association.
The press release goes on to say that the patient’s wound required surgery, ultimately leading to the amputation of her leg, leaving her a double amputee. It concludes:
This case illustrates the perils of pet ownership in diabetic patients who have numbness in their hands or feet caused by neuropathy.
Seriously? The perils of pet ownership for diabetics? How many more diabetics are helped by the exercise of dog walking than have their toes chewed off by their pups? And what about the first leg that was amputated, with no Jack Russell involvement?
This is part of the spate of recent stories about the dangers of sleeping with your pet — a vague, totally meaningless concept because we don’t have comparative data for the number of people who are made ill by sleeping with other people. I’m not the only one who noticed this. As Sarah Blakemore pointed out in an article at PetsAdvisor.com, humans can transmit everything from the mono to the plague to their bed mates.
And that’s not even counting sexually transmitted diseases.
In short, the toe-eating terrier is pure sensationalism to the end of publicizing the hospital that did the study — which I therefore refuse to mention.
Which brings me to…
The Tortured Kitten
I still get comments on my Open Letter to Nathan Winograd, in part because journalist Mike Stark linked to it at Huffington Post. That letter was never intended to cast doubt on the sincerity of Nathan Winograd — this stuff gets nutty; he’s been accused of ties to puppy millers — or on the goals of the no-kill movement. No one I know wants to destroy animals.
The only question I have is the best way to achieve that goal, and here’s where Winograd and I part ways. He clearly thinks that dissing various animal welfare organizations is the way to get there. I don’t.
I understand that, if you have a limited amount of money — or even if you have a lot — you would want to avoid giving it to organizations that don’t spend it as effectively as others, and donating to local shelters is always a good idea. But screeds like the following, in Winograd’s latest newsletter, are like the toe eating terrier: Sensationalist for no reason.
In light of the tragedy surrounding the cruel death of a suffering kitten; it was tempting to believe New York City’s pound system could not get any worse. It has. Where is David Duffield and Maddie’s Fund which claim NYC is a model of compassionate care while NYC descends into chaos and animals are neglected? Nowhere to be found.
News we Can Use
What would I prefer to see? Well, an example I came across around the same time as the toe press release and the kitten newsletter was a post by Mary Haight on Dancing Dog Blog, about the trashing of air-conditioning units at the Animal Welfare League. Full disclosure: Mary is my friend and the founder of Animal Cafe, where I am a co-host. But there’s a reason I like to hang out with her, virtually speaking.
Among the features of the story that are hallmarks of solid citizen journalism:
Context: The story notes that this was not an act of random vandalism but, likely, a recession-related theft that was part of a national trend.
Dispassionate presentation of the facts and their implications: The impact of the destruction of the air conditioning system on the animals is offered in detail but without overblown rhetoric or unnecessary drama.
Call to action. Rather than just presenting bad news, this post gave specifics about where donations might be sent to help alleviate the problem.
There was also a follow up post, which made me smile. Rather than just leaving the story without an ending, which would have been easy enough to do, Mary followed up with the tale of how a radio host raised so much money that the Animal Welfare League got a new air-conditioning system — AND a security system to help protect it.
There’s enough bad news in the world. I’m no Pollyanna, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, but I think that we can be — need to be — inspired without being hopelessly naive about human nature.
Mary is on the board of a no-kill shelter, Lake Shore Animal Shelter, by the way. Presenting useful, upbeat information and supporting no-kill are not mutually exclusive.
Have you voted for me for Funniest (sometimes in a black humorous way) Blogger on DogTimes Petties site yet — or yet today? Why not? The dogs and cats of the Southern Arizona Humane Society, to whom I will donate the $1000 if I win, are depending on you. (Yes, you’ve stepped outside the boundaries of the guilt-free zone here.)