Monday, 28 April 2008

How Much Is That Rabid Doggie in the Window?


For many years the English have been ridiculously proud of being rabies-free. The country might have its problems but snarling, foaming Cujos are not among them. That's one of the benefits of being an island. It's simple really: Keep the rabid mammals out, drive out the poisonous snakes, fix it so the dinosaurs can't reproduce, and you'll be just fine.

Except when you're not. Last week three Londoners who work with animals started receiving rabies shots after they'd been nipped by a rabid puppy. Wait a minute. If there's no rabies in England, how can someone in London be bitten by a rabid dog? By importing a rabid dog from another country, of course. The puppy in question was one of 13 brought from Sri Lanka by a charity group that rescues street dogs from that island (!) nation. As if England doesn't have enough abandoned animals, these people are airlifting rabid dogs into London. Maybe they could just let the Sri Lankan street dogs fend for themselves on the mean streets of Sri Lanka?

Fortunately for the staff at Chingford Quarantine Kennels, the current treatment for rabies isn't the one we all grew up fearing: a series of painful injections right into the stomach. I know this because My Lovely Wife was treated for rabies. Strictly a precautionary measure, of course. When she was in college her family's dumb, lovable Weimaraner, Max, got in a tussle with a raccoon which may have been rabid. (In America, we assume that all raccoons out and about after 5 a.m. or so are rabid. It's tough being a raccoon.) Ruth cleaned Max's injuries, potentially exposing herself to the nasty virus. She was treated the modern way, with one shot of gamma globulin in her buttocks and a single injection of vaccine in her arm. She kept the empty ampule of vaccine in her medicine cabinet for many years. The first thing a nosy person opening her medicine cabinet would see was a little brown bottle marked "RABIES VACCINE." One tended to tread carefully near her after that.

The world's largest animal charity, the RSPCA, announced this week that last year it rescued some 150,000 animals in Britain. No one can be so cynical as to find humor in abandoned pets, but some of the reasons owners gave to the RSPCA for giving up their animal companions are a bit... well, "funny" isn't the right word. They do show how idiotic humans can be:

"My cat doesn't match my new carpet."
"My dog doesn't match the new sofa."
"I thought chinchillas only lived for two years - I don't want a pet that lives for 20."
"I've got a new puppy that is too boisterous for our old dog - can you take the old dog away?"
"Our kitten isn't playful enough with our children."
"We don't want our three rabbits because they don't come out to greet us."
"I've got two elderly terriers and I don't want them to get the new carpet dirty."
"I'm going on holiday."
"My dog keeps hiding my shoes."
"Our cats sleep on the stairs. I don't want my daughter to trip over them when she comes to stay."
"She hurts my legs when she wags her tail."
"My dog barks a lot."
"I've just bought a new leather sofa and I don't want the cat to scratch it."
"Our dog gets jealous when we sit together."
"My cat goes on the Internet and orders jewelry I can't afford."

Okay, I made that last one up.

Despite the 150,000 abandoned critters, the British love their animals. It was reported last week that a Devon sanctuary for donkeys received 20 million pounds in donations in 2006, 3 million pounds more than was given to a charity for battered women. There have been complaints that such a discrepancy is out of whack, but, really, isn't a donkey cuter than a battered woman?

As one donor told the Guardian: "People always ask me, why donkeys? I can only say it's just a deep passionate love, really. It's not something you grow out of. When you fall in love with a donkey, you've had it really. You're hooked."

Passionate donkey love. I don't even want to think what sort of Google searches that will get me.

Bowling With Brooker
Great column today by the Guardian's peerless Charlie Brooker on the ridiculous way American TV is covering Obama and Clinton's every burp and fart, as if something can be gleaned by the way Obama eats a burrito or goes bowling. An excerpt: "The focus on conjecture and analysis has reached such an insane degree that pundits are chasing some kind of meaning in the way a presidential candidate scratches his face. This is what lunatics do when they think people on television are sending them personalised messages.... Except the lunatics have an excuse: they're lunatics. Lunacy is what they do. It's in their job description."

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not to defend journalists, I think Mr. Brooker has missed the bigger problem. The candidates have not put forth anything of substance to report upon. What can one say of a vacuum? Where are the answers to our country's internal and external problems? Journalists must produce something to account for time, effort, and expenses. Ergo, we get sneezes, farts, and scratches for "coverage". That's all the candidates are giving us.

I would run for office, but am afraid I could not keep a straight face for this long.

DLD

mark from alexandria said...

I agree with anonymous, to some degree. But, I really put the blame on the American public for not complaining long and loud about this. When the Presidential contest is turned into "American Idol," I have to quote "Pogo" and say that I have seen the enemy and he is us." The media elites went along with the "Barak is the cute Beatle" craze and did all that it could to try to take down Clinton. When Clinton proved to be too stubborn (or to have staying power, depending on your perception), then the media got confused. I do believe that at the end of the day, the prolonged primary season may well end up with our getting past the fluff and boogers and to the substance of the campaign.

Sarah Laurence Blog said...

John, is that poor Charlie in the photo? Maybe I should call the RSPCA. Author Pierre Daninos observed in 1957 that "there's only a National Society for the protection of the young [children], whereas there's a Royal Society for the protection of animals. The difference is significant." (Major Thompson And I)

John Kelly said...

Yes, that is Charlie. But no dogs were harmed in the making of this blog. Charlie was a willing participant and he got a treat when we were done. If I could have made him snarl without putting my fingers in his doggy mouth, I would have.

Perhaps the media doesn't have much to work with, but it doesn't try THAT hard to get to the root issues. They're oddly deferential, if you can call pondering middle fingers deferential. The British press really goes in for the kill. If a politician doesn't answer a question, they keep asking it and they're forward enough to say, "You're not answering my question." They don't necessarily pry out any more useful information or insight than an American reporter, but I'd like to see our guys try.

Henry said...

I agree with John that US pols would probably have more substantive things to say if they were ever put on the spot by some Jeremy Paxman-like interviewer, but there just don't seem to be any in America - at least, not on prime time. Clinton, Obama and McCain have substantive differences on healthcare, for instance, but when was the last time their positions were seriously examined on network news?
As for the "media elites" trying to take down Clinton at the expense of Obama, who are we talking about? Not Fox or the New York Times at least. But I agree wholeheartedly that the public is largely to blame for the junk they get given.

mark from alexandria said...

This comment may never be seen as we approach the end of the day in the US and the day is gone in the UK. When I say "the media elites," I do include people at Fox and the Times. Today, with Clinton taking a lead over McCain in a national poll, for instance, was the first time I saw substantive discussion (in the NY Times) of the fact that Obama had won primarily in caucus states and the Clinton had won in primary states. What is the difference? In my opinion, caucuses are elitist and appeal to the those who have the luxury of time and insider know how to participate and succeed. They are a much smaller sample of voters and a more skewed one. Leaving that aside, nobody has had the courage to say that Dean and the Democratic establishment continue to insist upon punishing the voters of Florida and Michigan. It wasn't the voters who chose the dates for those primaries, it was the local Democratic leadership. Why not strip any party leader and elected official and recognize the delegations?

At the end of the day, I am not particularly enamored of either Democratic candidate, but I do believe that history has shown that when left to the party insiders, the Dems go down in flames every time. It will be interesting to see what happens here.

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

I thought England imposed a quarantine on all "incoming" dogs in order to prevent rabies from entering the island. Has that changed?

I don't blame the American public for the lousy campaign coverage. No one wants to listen to all that garbage. I blame the journalists. They have the power to ask the right questions and to analyze the answers; they just don't use it.

And, yes, the Democratic leadership does have a unique talent for fumbling the ball, as it were. If the Democrats can't manage to take back the presidency after what has happened over the last 8 years, then they don't deserve to.

Joyce said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/hampshire/content/image_galleries/poitou_donkey_gallery.shtml?13
Hmm, sorry for that unwieldy link. It goes to a great BBC piece on Poitou donkeys, a rare type of giant furry donkey with bunny ears that an English farm is trying to breed back from the brink of extinction. They were popular in France for field work, but became useless after the introduction of the tractor and so...the French started to eat them! What better nicey English thing to do than to save weird animals from the barbaric French.
I saw one when I was in Normandy. It looked scared.

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