Saturday, April 19, 2014

Repaying Royalty

Dogs have long held the title of a man's best friend. Tracing its roots from the wolves of Europe, dogs have evolved rapidly from their canine ancestors. They are considered the most loyal to all animals, they openly show affection, are relatively hygienic, intelligent and protective.

Who has not heard of the exploits of dogs rescuing their masters from a fire, or having stayed with them to the grim end? Perhaps the greatest exploits of the dog specie as a group to humans is commemorated by a memorial at the March Air Reserve Base in California.

The War Dog Memorial serves as a testament to the 4,000 dogs that served during the Vietnam War, guiding their human masters on patrol, hunting for enemies, explosives as well as traps and in many documents cases saved many soldiers in the great battle against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army.

So great was the service of K-9 teams they have been credited to have saved 10,000 people from becoming statistics – casualties, fatalities in the bloody war. The Viet Cong was so threatened with the dogs, they reportedly placed a reward for anyone who can capture or kill a war dog.

Despite their service, only 200 dogs returned to the United States. Many were left behind in the frantic days of American evacuation of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Many more dogs were euthanized. Indeed, a sorry and sad ending to their heroic service to the soldiers and the country.

Dogs that served in the Vietnam War were mostly German shepherds, one of the remaining pure breeds of dogs to have survived to these days. So great is the affection of humans on dogs, man has started to alter with the natural evolution of the animal cross-breeding varieties to come up with the perfect most aesthetically-pleasing dogs.

And so dogs with long bodies, short legs and super big ears are considered cute, although they do not fit in the natural evolution of the specie nor has a practical function for the animal. Ears are often cut, even tails.

Man is also starting to alter the dogs’ behavior. Dogs are often caged and kept in isolation against the natural tendencies of dogs to socialize with their specie. They have become a display, an accessory of celebrities that find it amusing and socially-acceptable to accessorize, and keep animals in signature bags.

Dogs are just a representation of how man has neglected its care for animals, even those considered as domesticated. More cruel things happen to cats, birds and even ornamental fishes, which are plucked from their natural habitat to spend the rest of their lives in glass boxes.

However, progress is being made. Organizations like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) and others continue to fight for welfare of animals, even rescuing them from abusive owners. Many organizations also give sanctuaries to fray dogs and sick dogs. The Netherlands, for instance, has a law regulating cross-breeding and alteration of the looks of dogs. The United States also has a new law establishing a dog adoption program for dogs discharged after their service with the Armed Forces.

These laws are a good start but there should be more. This is the least that we can give in return for the loyalty of dogs to our species for centuries.

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