First Posted: 5/7/2011
“You ain’t never caught a rabbit and you ain’t no friend of mine … “
My sometimes foggy, always cluttered mind got a jolt this week from an unlikely source: Pristina, the capital city of Kosovo, half a world away.
Dogs are being literally and legally hunted down and shot to death.
Authorities say nearly 200 street dogs have been shot and killed in the first three weeks of a culling campaign that has been harshly criticized by animal lovers.
Wounded dogs yelped in pain as they tried to escape the hunters gunning them down, the story said.
Urban areas throughout the small country have been plagued by packs of dogs that pose a threat to the people living there. An infant died last year after being bitten by several dogs, which sparked a cry for authorities to do something, but their solution is brutal and grim.
In Pristina, the local council was forced to undertake “an inhumane approach” and hire a hunter’s group to kill the strays after no animal rights groups bid for a government project to shelter the dogs, Pristina spokesman Muhamet Gashi said Wednesday.
In response, an animal rights group presented a petition signed by more than 2,000 residents urging a stop to the slaughter. “It’s not humane and it’s not always a quick kill. Often it’s a slow agonizing death,” said Dennis Capstick, a spokesman for Animal Friends of Kosovo.
Hunters hired to do the shooting have refused to talk to journalists or allow them on their nightly killing sprees since harrowing images of the shootings appeared on television, AP reported.
The shootings are supervised by Kosovo’s police, and the dead dogs are disposed of at a site outside of the city. Town officials say the program will go on until the problem is solved.
The slow death of any living creature that is hurt or injured is hard to stomach for all but the sick and jaded. And to see a dog pant frantically as it bleeds out is a sickening and numbing experience.
I know. I was witness to such a scene when I was a young boy, when I still had freckles and hope.
My gravel-road country existence was enhanced when I was about 10 by a new family, with plenty of kids, that moved into the neighborhood. The Pratts had three boys, the oldest just one year younger than myself.
Our parents became quick friends and I suddenly had someone my age to hang out with. Football games in the yard became a routine.
One cool spring afternoon, the Pratts were down at the house. Mom and Dad were in another heated game of Aggravation with Ed and Goldie inside our small white house.
Allen, Bryan, Ronnie and I were tearing up the side yard and our blue jeans with another rough and tumble game of football. The Pratts had recently adopted a stray dog, a black and brown mongrel with the sweetest disposition, always bumping her head against you and handing out lots of dog kisses.
We were having lots of fun that day — everything seemed right with the world. And it all changed in an instant.
The dog had wandered into our other neighbor’s yard. We’d never had any bad relations with them, as they pretty much kept to themselves. The family had older children at the time, in their late teens.
One of the older boys, Mike, had spotted the dog and decided it was time to try out his new rifle.
Mike stalked the dog as it playfully sniffed and explored from tree to tree, and then he took a shot … and another, and another.
At least one bullet caught the dog in its belly and it yelped and ran — straight toward us. By this time, the boys and I had noticed the commotion and had started moving toward the property line, near a slight drop off of land that sloped downward into the neighbor’s yard.
It may have been simple topography that saved us that day, but none of us got hit.
In a stupid moment of irresponsibility and bravado, this teenager with a gun took a life and put our lives at risk.
He also seemed to have no remorse for his actions, but then again, he went back into his house and didn’t have to face the consequences of what he’d done.
We faced it, up close and personal, four young boys experiencing death for the first time.
To watch that poor dog suffer until it drew its last breath was an ache I’d never felt before and never wanted to again, a deep and empty feeling of helplessness.
That is all.
— Managing Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at (910) 272-6122 or [email protected]