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All Dogs Go To Heaven: Why We Cannot Stomach the Suffering of Dogs in Our Fiction

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | June 20, 2012 | Comments ()


sad dog.jpg

When I was about ten, I read Where the Red Fern Grows, the first novel I ever read and the first story I ever heard, in which the dog died. Heartbroken does not begin to describe my response. There were tears to be sure, but there was also the engineering of hindsight, working out ways to change the ending. That's the measure of a truly effective tragedy. Your subconscious just can't seem to accept that it happened, that there must have been a different way for the story to turn out, a way in which the agony is avoided.

One of the ways in which people rationalize the fact that bad things happen is the fallacy of the just world. It's a notion that twists karma into a pretzel, preferring the belief that bad things happen because people justly deserve the pain, to the belief that the world is really just that capricious. Something like that is at work when we read stories. Even if we don't believe that the world is just, our gut likes to think that stories at least should be. Tragedy is the departure from that belief in justice.

But even once we accept tragedy in our fiction, it's often because of a similar rationalization. We reason that the tragedy was necessary in some way, or deserved on some level. Spock has to die to save the rest of the crew. Trinity dies to free Neo to do what he has to do. William Wallace needs to die to rally the troops. Trace it back to Shakespeare and the Greeks if you must, but tragedy nearly always at least plays a narrative purpose. Pure tragedy, that serves no purpose, that is simply nihilism, is exceedingly rare. And when it does exist, when we do see pain for the sake of pain, agony that serves no narrative purpose other than holding it up to the light, we tend to be disgusted. That's the core criticism of torture porn and its ilk.

We can rationalize nearly any horror to any number of human beings in the name of drama so long as it serves narrative purpose, but the same logic does not apply to dogs.

It's a very common occurrence in comment threads and blog posts to see that precise chain of thought. A horror film's trailer shows a dog and the response is that nothing better happen to that dog, that any amount of gore or imaginative torture to human characters is preferable to a single cruel kick in passing that yields a pained yelp.

Even the rationalization of narrative necessity does not hold with dogs. The mother in Where the Red Fern Grows tries to explain to her son, that it was a good thing in a way for the dogs to have died. She argues that now the family was free to move to the city, give more opportunity for education and such to the children. Oh how I hated that mother. Nothing in my mind could give a silver lining to those deaths.

We're willing to rationalize the fates of people, because they have some rationality of their own. No matter how small, how young, people have moral agency. People are malevolent in an infinite number of ways and so if a person suffers in a story, we deliver a neutral and balanced response. We expect the story to demonstrate that the person either does or does not deserve the suffering. But we know instinctively that dogs do not deserve it. We feel sick guilt that when a dog suffers in a story, we have dragged them unfairly into our narrative games. They are true innocents, in a way not even the youngest of children can manage in stories. Call it original sin maybe, that suspicion that a human can deserve hell, even if only for narrative reasons, because the seed of evil is already there.

But there is more to innocence than a simple lack of moral complexity, lest the most innocent things in the world would be inanimate. We do not tend to treat the suffering of all animals in stories equally. Part of it is familiarity. Those of us who have not spent a life with horses do not react so viscerally to a cruelty to them in a story as we do to cruelty to a dog. But innocence is also conflated with a certain goodness, a set of attributes that we associate with dogs and saints. The difference is that we require a story to prove sainthood in people, but confer it automatically to any canine unless proven otherwise.

Some affect a disgust at the sensitivity people demonstrate towards dogs in this way, arguing that it is a moral blind spot of sorts. That it is disgusting to empathize more with mere animals than with human beings. But I think that there is more than empathy at work here. It is guilt.

We know that our dogs would die to protect us, that they have a selfless loyalty burned into their bone and pounding in their veins. They have the moral code of Arthurian knights, steel sheathed in velvet kindness. This is the way of the pack, and when dogs accept us as their pack, it is in a sense the most horrific lie that humanity has ever told. We accept the mantle of pack leader without shouldering the responsibility. How many of you would throw yourself in front of a bear to protect your dog? How many of you would lay down on your dog's grave to die?

Is it any wonder then that we cannot bear their suffering in a story? It isn't because we feel more for dogs than we do for men, but because we cannot bear the reminder of our own betrayal.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • David

    I would lie down in traffic for my dogs.

  • ossicle

    This is more low-brow than this eloquent essay deserves, but in a slightly more pop culture fun way, the supernatural killer Jason from the Friday the 13th movies won't hurt dogs. From the (surprisingly interesting) analysis of his character on Wikipedia, this: "Whatever his motivations, Kane Hodder [the main stuntman who played Jason] believes there is a limit to what he will do. According to Hodder, Jason might violently murder any person he comes across, but when Jason Takes Manhattan called for Hodder to kick the lead character's dog, Hodder refused, stating that, while Jason has no qualms against killing humans, he is not bad enough to hurt animals. Likewise, director Tom McLoughlin chose not to have Jason harm any of the children he encounters in Jason Lives, stating that Jason would not kill a child, out of a sympathy for the plight of children generated by his own death as a child."
    (Included that last part about kids just for the heck of it.)

  • Matunos

    I don't buy the explanation. I'm a cat owner (I love dogs too, but I'm not home enough to give them the attention they require), and I'm just as squeamish about the thought of my cats being hurt. I can barely watch any scenes of fictionalized pet injury, much less abuse. The worst is when an animal is harmed either directly by humans or simply by being misplaced in a human world (such as road kill). Scenes of animal-on-animal violence, such as on nature shows, is less traumatic.

    I think it has less to do with an animal's loyalty to us (though animal that dies protecting someone is especially poignant)- cats only offer a fraction of the loyalty that dogs do- and more to do with the sense that we ought to be the caretakers of our domestic pets, and for the misplaced wild pets, that they are in a world for which evolution has not prepared them and which they cannot understand. Most animals are incapable of maliciousness as we understand it, and so their deaths, especially when untimely, are like the deaths of children. Even the cougar who stalks and mauls a hiker is understood as just being a cougar; the human who does the same is thought of little less kindly.

  • Strtwise

    Thank you Steven, that was a very well written and concise piece. Some of comments actually managed to squeeze out a tear or two (I'm looking at you Dalia6 & MrsBognar).

  • MrsBognar

    A dear friend passed away suddenly and tragically just shy of five years ago. Rita lived on a small farm where she cared for her mother and a host of dogs, cats, goats, and chickens. As her farm was in the middle of nowhere and she came to the city for work and play, those of us in her very tight group of friends got to know her animals through pictures and stories. Her strong Jersey accent was so out of place in rural Virginia that I can still hear her distinct voice bitching about the goats or joking that she practically lived at the vet's office. Most of all, I remember stories about Lasher, her beloved German Shepherd. He was far and above her favorite dog. Her vanity plate simply read "LASHER".
    I was devastated when Rita died. It was too sudden for my 21 year old brain to process and I had to do something, anything, to hang on to her. I decided the best memorial to her life was to care for Lash. Her mom was too ill to maintain the farm, so my offer to take him was welcomed. That was one of the most difficult phone calls of my life. How do you console a mother just days after the death of her only daughter? In between sobs she told me she didn't think Lasher would recover from Rita's death. He was too attached to her and had spent the past week crying, refusing to eat or get off of Rita's bed.
    I got to the farm and four dogs met me in the yard but there was no sign of Lash. Rita's mom led me upstairs to the bedroom where the biggest German Shepherd I've ever seen was splayed across the bed. It was then that I found out he was half wolf, a detail I still can't believe Rita failed to mention. We gathered his toys, leash, bowls, and favorite blanket and loaded him into my car.
    German Shepherds are very much a one person dog, and for 8 years Rita had been his person. Somehow he realized I was his new mom on day one. There was no confusion. He instantly became fiercely protective of me, yet only had a passing interest in my roommates. He was far from recovered, though, and literally cried himself to sleep every night for a couple weeks. I've never heard a dog cry the way he did.
    We bonded immediately and became inseparable. Five years later Lasher's still my giant shadow and follows me from room to room. I work from home and he lays at my feet all day while I sit at the computer. If a dog can have an old soul, Lash has one. Two years ago my husband and I moved from the city to our own farm and my three dogs now have acres to roam and play. Perhaps most importantly, whenever I look at Lasher I remember Rita's laugh and compassion for all animals. Caring for this exceptional dog has been the privilege of my life, and I have to believe Rita is thrilled about it.

  • If you guys want a dog tearjerker, I thoroughly recommend A Dog's Purpose. I haven't cried so hard at something since Snape died in DH2 (and yes, I cried like the burden of all the world's sins were on my shoulders that midnight premiere).

    Also, it's widely accepted that you can show an Internet-goer anything -- anything for these soulless heathens -- but the moment you show an animal being injured in any way, don't expect to come out of that thread unscathed.

    And, as a last edit (bless these edits, so I don't do my infamous two-to-three posts per article, my mom still hasn't forgiven me for recommending to her A Day No Pigs Would Die.

  • rio

    I lived on a porn actor's couch for the first 6 months I lived in LA cause it's all i could afford and he was often at his boyfriend so cheap ass studio all for me. Anyway he had a fat dog who wouldn't bark, or move, or do anything, he wouldn't even take him out and would just live him alone for days before I moved in. the dog was clearly abused by his previous owners and neglected by the p.a. Though i never had a dog and was in no place to take care on one I simply started taking him out and caring for him, forward three months and the asshole wants to take him to the pound (where he would inevitably be killed since he was limping and his knees were all out of place in addition to be basically only a breathing stuffed animal). So I asked him to let me keep and be free of any responsibility. Knowing that my work and school schedule wouldn't let me care for him like he deserved I started frequenting an awesome volunteer group in LA, called Molly's Mutts and Meows who helped me out by paying for his doctor appointment, neutering and extra vaccination I started taking care of. Little by little he lost weight, become somehow responsive, though still super fucking lazy and somehow tried to adopt him last summer. It didn't work out but I cried til I made myself sick and passed out the day I though he was gone for good. When I went to visit my parents last Christmas I brought him there in the hope that they could keep him until I had my shit figure out. My mother just informed me yesterday that she no longer needs a grandchild since she already has one. My dad lies on the floor and the pretend-attack each others and mooch on his others' ears. They changed each other's lives completely and I don't recognize any of them, my parents and my (oh well, their). I even posted on Pajiva love last year to get him adopted. well he's living the life in Italy and I dreamed about him every single night. Sorry for the long as, badly written story. But I can't explain how unexpected this turns of event has been for me or my family.

    When I think of jack and rescue dog in general I think of that quote from the Little Prince:

    The little prince went away, to look again at the roses. "You're not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You're like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made a friend, and now he's unique in all the world." And the roses were very much embarrassed. "You're beautiful, but you're empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you –the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she's more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is for her that I've killed the caterpillars (except the two or three we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing.Because she is MY rose.

    it goes very easily both ways

  • kdm

    Has anyone here ever read the graphic novels "The Boys"? Specifically, "the Big Ride"? If you have, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

    In an insanely violent series, nothing got to me until that one panel...

  • emmelemm

    Thanks for this piece, SLW! Had to work too much today and so I'm late to the party.

    But yes, I am one of those people who will watch any manner of suffering visited (fictionally) on a human, but so much as kick a dog, and I am done. And it bugs me when people say "You're a horrible person, you value a dog more than a human." But it doesn't change the fact that I will never abide cruelty to an animal, real OR fictional. I yam what I yam.

    As a side note, I used to be a bit more indifferent to the suffering of horses on film, as there tends to be a lot of it, in battle scenes and such, but in the past few years I find I get reflexively upset, and have to remind myself that they have trained horses and filming techniques that mean they can show a horse going down and no actual horse has been harmed.

    Also, fuck Where The Red Fern Grows. Seriously. What kind of monster writes a book like that for CHILDREN?

  • Guest

    I really appreciate your guilt argument. I am definitely one of those people who get creeped out and sometimes antagonistic when people have really strong reactions about the suffering of a dog or other animal but are blase, or sometimes even gleeful about human suffering--and i am not simply referring to stories. many people are the same way when reading the news.

    while i don't really get the callousness toward people, guilt makes a lot of sense for the animal response.

    interesting essay

  • Jim

    Saying it's because people have moral agency or
    consciousness and dogs don't is too easy -- this is the heart of the argument
    above and a glance through the comments thus far seems to show little mention
    of that, and a whole lot of emotionalism (and I speak as someone who wept
    harder than I ever have at almost anything when our family dog -- a Scottie --
    had to be put to sleep when he was 18). What about the argument? Too easy. (I
    should add I'm biased a little, because I've always associated this argument
    with hard-right conservatism; I'm the only liberal in my immediate family and
    my far right sister made this same argument about dogs in the context of the
    death penalty once. Perhaps guilt by association.)

    Anyway, the argument seems to say "moral agency" is something people
    have and dogs don't -- an actual thing. I don't know enough philosophy to get
    into how this would work exactly, but I’d like to note that there is an
    undifferentiated “we” throughout the piece. I assume by “we” the author means
    modern Americans, because there are many cultures today that have nothing
    resembling this emotional connection to this particular domesticated species.
    It’s also fairly recent to western cultures. All of which is to say, this
    veneration is not just because of a perceived moral position. It’s much more
    complex than that, I think – it’s a cultural thing. We’ve somehow (I don’t
    begin to know how) developed over decades this particular, and very powerful,
    set of symbols and meanings associated with domesticated dogs. This set, and
    not another set. I wonder how?

  • Guest

    i know some cultures are afraid of dogs, and others think of them the way we do pigs so i see your point.

    But i have also read more than once about (and maybe this is mystical gewgaw, i don't know) a connection we have with dogs because they have been with us for 40 000 years. they are the first animal we domesticated and we relied on them for their senses. In essence, the argument goes our two species have been in sympatico, or even metaphorically symbiotic for a hell of a long time and so there is a almost preconscious bond.

    of course, if you buy that, then it seems odd that we often don't give a shit about each other. but it always sounded good to me.

  • Pookie

    Oh god the dogs! Please let the dogs run free without threat of being hit by cars, starved, or put down. Fuck homeless shelters, I’m going to run my ass down to the dog shelter and save a goddamn dog as one asshole commenter wrote. And hopefully when I get that dog home, he will show its appreciation by licking my face, but only after it has sufficiently licked its ass and balls.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Okay, this thread should come with a bottle of Xanax, a box of Kleenex and a crate of Rescue Remedy. Are ya'll seriously trying to make me cry?!?!

    And vodka....I am going to need some vodka now... This beer is not going to do it.

  • Clancys_Daddy

    Three beagles and counting. When I die I will be buried where they are..

  • lowercase_ryan

    I've been thinking a lot about dogs recently, namely cause mine is officially middle aged now and that terrifies me. I can't even think about the implications of that. But in support of them being equals and whatnot, isn't amazing that an animal with almost no vocal tools whatsoever and no clutching mechanism outside of their mouth can communicate as well as they do? my dog has the most expressive facial features I've ever seen on a dog. of course this means she can and will pout like a fucking child sometimes, but it never ceases to amaze me.

  • Further proof. The most heartbreaking episode of television ever? Jurassic Bark. I still can't watch the end of that episode.

  • I just tried to describe the ending of that ep to my gf (who hasn't seen it) and welled up. Fucking futurama! Making me feel feelings.

  • Nicole

    Seymore's devotion reminded me of Hachiko and I teared up too

  • Gore Motel

    There's a segment in American Psycho (the book), one of the first actual murder sequences that is actually fully revealed, wherein Patrick Bateman kills a homeless man and his dog. The kills are pretty graphic, but I was nonplussed until he turned the knife on the dog I was like "WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT DID THE FUCKING DOG DO TO YOU?!" I won't say anything to the effect of that being the most disturbing or extreme kill in the book, because god DAMN is that book chock full of completely out there, Cannibal Corpse-lyric worthy murders, but that kill and my reaction to it definitely stuck out.

  • Oh Where the Red Fern Grows . . . you awful book
    A teacher read it over a week to my 4th grade class. By the end, 30 nine-year-olds were weeping and sobbing all over the place, just inconsolable. I had already read it and it still messed me up. It's been 23 years and I don't ever intend to read it again.
    I'm still new to owning dogs, and god knows my 10-month-old puppy makes me insane but this post has made it quite necessary that I go and hug him. Right now.

  • PerpetualIntern

    I work in dog rescue and I'm loving all the stories on here about adopting dogs. This article echoes my sentiments exactly. Now I need to go home and pet my puppy.

  • Yay for dog (and animal) rescue! Every animal I've had has been a rescue or a stray I found. Our current dog was from Austin pets alive, his mother was taken in and a woman fostered our dog and 11! of his siblings when they were born. Our little man was the runt, half the size of the rest of the litter and the last one left. We met him and even amidst warnings of possible partial blindness, deafness, and brain damage (he was smushed, has cranial misshaping, and the tip of one ear was bitten off) we fell in love. 9 pounds when we got him, he's now 55 pounds, strapping, and smart as hell. I was also glad to know that our adoption fee is immediately used to get another dog off the kill list, like within 24 hours,
    And anyway I like his skewed face, makes him...interesting.

  • Psychicdog

    For one of my recent songs, I wrote about a criminal psychopath who took orders from his dog, Buddy. And near the end, Buddy tells the guy he's dying and the man needs to continue the work that they have started, including the altar and sacrifices to reawaken the Elder Gods. And if that wasn't enough, the man needed to put Buddy out of his misery -- and with tears in his eyes, he finally did it with one bullet to Buddy's brain.
    I was deathly afraid of shooting that dog in front of a live audience. But I received no complaints.

  • damnitjanet

    I read A Dog of Flanders when I was about 8 or 10. That book upset me so much that I literally hid it and forgot where I put it. When we were moving off of our farm when I was 16, I finally found it again. And promptly hid it in a box of moving stuff, and haven't seen it since. AND....I don't miss it.

  • dahlia6

    Growing up country, we have a tendency to bring strays home. Of any kind, but dogs are definitely our favorites. We had a cocker spaniel and a beagle, both rescues, and they grew up with me like family. I had the cocker for 15 years, the beagle for 17, and when she died, I nearly died too. It was like losing a sister. I'd grown up with her, loved her, and she loved me. I swore I'd never have another one.

    Then dad brought home Sable, and that changed everything. She was the first puppy I'd ever had, that I could remember (there was another beagle when I was a baby, but I don' t remember her). The other dogs were at least a year old when we got them. She became my surrogate baby because I can't have kids of my own, and I'd die for her. That simple.

    Long way around to the point of the story, last year, I ended up bringing bringing home a stray border collie/Australian shepherd/donkey mix we named Millie but affectionately call Monster. She hung out at the construction place I worked at, and I thought she belonged to someone who lived nearby. After a month, she was still roaming free, playing in traffic, and I asked the bitch I worked with about her. You'll find out why I called her that soon enough. She said the dog belonged to no one, and she couldn't wait until it got hit by a car because it left messes and peed on her tires and other stupid shit like that. She actually yelled at me when I went outside to feed it, because it was starving. I watched her try to get across a busy highway, and I finally said "I'm leaving, I'm taking her home." Bitch snarked that I was stupid enough to lose my job over a dog (this a good christian woman, btw), but I told her to hang it in her homesick ass and lured the dog to me with poptarts, Nabs crackers, and whatever else I could scavenge. When I brought her home, she weighed 10 pounds. The vet said she wouldn't have made it another 3 days. I've had her over a year, she'd destroyed both my house and my yard, shit in the house multiple times, and loves me like I'm Jesus to her.

    People bred dogs for certain traits, and one of those traits is for them to be dependent on us. We took wolves and made them into puppies. For that, we're obligated to take care of them, because we bred out of them most of the instincts that helped them take care of themselves. My house is always open to strays. I only wish I could help more.

  • ELOQUENT ELOQUENCE OF THE YEAR CONTENDER, PAJIBA. COME ON.

  • lowercase_ryan

    you are now one of my favorite people ever and I don't say that facetiously.

  • dahlia6

    Wow, thanks!

  • nosio

    We aren't exactly sure just how old our pup is - we adopted her right after Hurricane Katrina as a rescue - but we've had her for almost seven years now and she came to us fully grown, so she has to be at least 8 or 9. Whatever though, her age is irrelevant since she's going to live forever.

  • twig

    Shadow:
    But it's my responsibility. I had a responsibility to Sassy - to love
    her and protect her - the same as I have to you... and to Peter. And the
    same as you have to Jamie.

    Chance:
    But we didn't ask for this job.

    Shadow:
    We didn't have to. It's built in. Has been ever since the dawn of
    time... when a few wild dogs took it upon themselves to watch over man,
    to bark when he's in danger, to run and play with him when he's happy,
    to nuzzle him when he's lonely. That's why they call us man's best
    friend.

  • omg, stop it. ;-;

  • My husband saw a picture of a Ridgeback on the shelter's website and called me immediately. "We can't leave him there. If someone takes him who doesn't understand the breed, he'll have an awful life. And he's been punted from shelter to shelter, so he's already had a pretty bad time. He needs a pack. Our pack." Which is (a) yet another reason to love my husband and (b) how I ended up with a giant, golden-tan baby who thinks he can sleep on my lap - or at least try. Even the thought of that dog being abused was enough to motivate us. I can't save them all, but I want to.

  • Puddin

    Nothing is sexier than a man who loves dogs. Which is why I always join my husband on our walks in the park with the little guy. I don't trust those hussies.

  • alwaysanswerb

    We lost our family dog a year ago (a year ago!) and I still get unnaturally weepy with this stuff. A book I read recently had an unexpected dog death in the middle, and I very nearly put down the rest of the book forever in protest.

  • pissant

    I've been thinking a lot about dogs lately. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that they are our equals. Then I start to wonder if all life is equal...then I swat a fly. Then I eat a burger. So, are there different "levels of worthiness" when it comes to life? Cows and chickens and the like don't seem to be capable of experiencing joy. If none of the dogs I've had through the years experienced joy they were all the most talented actors on the planet. Not that the ability to experience joy denotes anything special...

    Anyway, I guess we care so much about dogs because we know they are better than us. I'm sure they experience fleeting moments of something like jealousy when one dog has a bowl of food and they don't, but it is nothing like the way we feel it and other petty emotions like that. And yet, they look up to us. I don't think most people consciously think about it, but it's humbling, I think.

  • marya

    I don't mean to come across as militant or anything (goodness knows I enjoy cowboy boots and the occasional bacon), but dogs don't experience any more joy than other mammals. It's just that they are better at communicating it in a way that humans understand. We have bred them to be responsive to us, and we love that about them.

    We can't define "joy" for animals in the same way we do for humans. I believe animals might experience a form of delight or satisfaction in the fulfillment of their urges (to run, to catch a frisbee, to roll in that deer urine). But by that definition, any chicken, cow, or gerbil can experience the same joy in fulfilling their natural urges - dogs are not special in their interior life, only in their unique relationship to us.

    For the record, I am a dog owner, and I love my big ol' mutt dearly. And I sobbed so loudly at Dances with Wolves that my friend got embarrassed and asked me to keep it down.

  • PaddyDog

    The official definition of joy (look it up in the OED, I'll wait) is my dog finding a virgin patch of deer urine to roll around in. He radiates sheer bliss while he writhes around coating himself in it.

  • Xvi

    I read Watchmen at a pretty young age and, having has a dog myself, was really mortified in the scene with Rorschach and the dogs.

    This short webcomic though, written from the dog's perspective, reminded me of that original hurt, magnified and intensified it, and utterly destroyed me.

    http://scans-daily.dreamwidth....

  • PaddyDog

    I'm willing to accept that there's a certain hypocrisy in not tolerating animal death or torture (especially dogs) in fiction/film, etc. while tolerating the same thing happening to humans, but I'm not willing to change the fact that it's who I am. I have never been able to take the torture of an animal, even before I had pets.
    To this day, there are parts of Black Beauty I have never read (or seen on film) because I know I would find them too upsetting.
    I can't take anything where dogs are hurt. It ruined a current should-have-been-well-loved-whimisical-movie for me.
    I used to be able to take child cruelty in print fiction or film but I find that I have changed a lot in the past five years or so and now find that off-limits too.
    I am fine with adult cruelty in print fiction or film. Call me a hypocrite if you will. It's just the way I was built.

  • John W

    George Carlin said it best when he said it's because they have eyebrows.

  • emmelemm

    Agreed.

  • fpkillkill

    Yeah, I can't even. If there is even a hint that an animal is going to be hurt I just won't go there. Even if I'm already well into the movie or book, I'll just quit. I am too sensitive and it is not worth the pain. I can watch any other sad movie and cry and will be over it pretty quickly but not that animal stuff though. That shit lingers.

    BTW, I have this theory that elementary/middle school teachers show little kids movies like "Where the Red Fern Grows," "Old Yeller," fucking "Bambi," and "Dumbo" (The moms! Come on!) not as a "Yay! Summer starts tomorrow!" treat but as a punishment for the kids being little shits all school year. "Watch me make these little fuckers cry. 'specially that Timmy. What an asshole."

  • Before I grew up, my mom used to take me out of the bath, wrap me in a towel like Dumbo's mom did, and rock me back and forth singing the song. I, of course, requested "Do Dumbo," but it wasn't until I grew older that I realized the actual meaning. ;-;

  • fpkillkill

    Aww, it is too early for me to be crying but that is a sweet story.

  • mitremlap

    Now that was a well-written piece. Thanks.

  • Fredo

    My favorite example of this occurred to me during playing Fable 2. In the story, you're the traditional hero who is trying to overthrow a tyrant. So you play through the game with a faithful dog companion by your side -- you pick its breed and name it and even play with it while it guides you to buried treasure.

    So you get to the climax. The villain traps you into another realm and says that he has just butchered your wife and child. And just as he's shooting you, your dog jumps in the way and takes the bullet for you, dying immediately.

    My instant reaction: "MOTHERFUCKER JUST KILLED MY DOG! HE MUST DIE!!"

    Not, the virtual wife or kid. Barely spent time with them. But mess with the pooch and shit was on!

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Ah, Peter Molyneux. Making people think he's a god since 1989, and then pulling the cheapest of tricks.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    Eerie timing. I've been talking with my sister, who just had to put down her 17 year old dog. My niece is inconsolable.

  • Leikans

    I don't like most of Jennifer Aniston's films, but Marley and Me broke my heart. I was crying uncontrollably just thinking of how inconsolable I would be if I ever have to go through that with my own aging dog. I don't even want to think about it really. These are the most loyal companions, they stick with you through thick and thin, and they do not betray you like humans and cats do. I recommend Nova's Dogs Decoded documentary, it explains very well the basis of humans and canine connection.

  • Leigh

    I loved Marley and Me (the book). It made me laugh because my dog was similarly crazy. But once I got to the point where Marley started having trouble going up and down stairs, etc... I stopped reading. Just closed the book and put it back on the bookshelf. I didn't want to traumatize myself. I like it better that way!!

  • Laura

    I mistakenly watched that (Marley and Me) not long after we had to put one of our dogs to sleep. I cried so hard I nearly lost consciousness because I couldn't breath. My husband and I aren't planning on having children, and my pets are my kids. I can seriously say that yes, I would jump in front of a moving car to save my dog. To me it is not fair that dogs have such shorter life spans than humans, they are such better beings than we are.

  • Katylalala

    I don't consider my dog my child, but not having a child of 'my own' aside from a step-son, I can understand your sentiment.

    And I may not call my pup my child, but he is my best friend, my buddy, my guy, and most of my happiness. I would absolutely jump in front of a moving car to save his life. There isn't anything I can think of that I wouldn't do to save him. I would die protecting him, absolutely. He is that important to me.

  • erich

    Even in New Vegas, I felt bad having to kill coyotes and nightstalkers.

  • Leigh

    Or what about Wolfenstein? Killing Nazis, no problem. But I always felt bad about shooting the dogs.

  • apsutter

    OMG YES!!! When I stumble upon coyotes and they attack and I have no choice I feel sooooo bad!!! Especially if there are coyote pups! Gah!

  • I had to read Where the Red Fern Grows in elementary school the week after we put down the family dog. I think I traumatized the teacher with my response to the ending.

  • John G.
  • Strtwise
  • QueeferSutherland

    I wonder what would be considered more revolting: a movie in which a child is shot point blank, or one where a villain graphically murders a dog? I really think the latter would cause more controversy.

  • Guest

    It's true. I watched Perrier's Bounty with an audience. Several murders and assaults of people (on screen), no reaction. Dog is shot (off screen), immediate response.

  • Guest

    Oh, and no dog lover better watch the Tibetan movie Old Dog.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I can't even look at the header pic. must adopt them all.

  • laylaness

    Do you hear Sarah McLachlan too?

  • lowercase_ryan

    I was looking for the number for my local ASPCA as I scrolled

  • laylaness

    brb, going to save all the dogs...

  • Cree83

    Seriously, that dog's face is killing me. Killing me, Smalls!

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