Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another take on the Congo furor

A narrow alley separated our two houses, and for years our neighbors kept a dog in their back yard. It was a cross between a beagle and a rottweiler, a 70-lb., black-and-white spotted creature that rushed to the chain link fence and barked and snarled whenever anybody in our family went into our backyard, our garden. The dog, Tyler, took the barking and snarling to an even more threatening level whenever school kids passed through the alley between our two properties. The only thing separating Tyler from what can only be imagined as an attack was the sturdy fence.

In the dog's defense, it was a happy, tail-wagging joy to our neighbors; they adored the dog. I suspect they greatly appreciated the security it provided them and their property.

Even so, and without apologies, we were happy when the neighbors, too elderly to take care of Tyler and unable to place it with their grown sons or daughter, got rid of the dog. We do not know what happened to it, but we suspect it was given to the local human society and eventually euthanized. That's not what we wanted for the dog; we would have preferred one of the children take the dog and keep it — somewhere away from us.

Our years suffering with Tyler's threatening behavior (It never subsided.) admittedly colors my opinion regarding the curious case of Congo the German shepard condemned to death for mauling a landscape worker last summer near Princeton, NJ. The injuries sustained by the worker were horrendous. Even so the outpouring of sympathy for Congo has been incredible.

Columnist Paul Mulshine, writing on, dares to wonder how the public would have reacted to Congo's death sentence had he attacked a 12-year-old Girl Scout stepping onto the property instead of a 42-year-old landscape worker, one that's since apparently been outed as being an "illegal" worker. (By the way, the worker reportedly received an insurance settlement of about $200,00 along with his medical bills.)

Not unexpectedly, daring to question the ability (and responsibility) of the owners of the dog to control Congo as it chewed up the landscape worker, drew a firestorm of controversy.

Only in America, in the land where capital punishment is legal (the victims almost always being the poor and uneducated), does a dog on death row generate such a flood of sympathy and publicity.

Click on the headline to read the column that Mulshine wrote and the resulting reader response. — Ron Hall

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