OF THE OUTDOORS?
Dogs and their walkers get no respect
Thirteen-year-old Jayme Closs has been found - alive - three months after her parents were murdered in their Wisconsin home. And her alleged kidnapper, 21-year-old Jake Patterson, has been arrested and jailed.
As I was saying to Cat, I’m pretty sure that one prominent detail was viewed, but immediately forgotten, by most people following the story: the part about who was the first person Jayme asked for help when she got free - a woman walking her dog.
According to early news reports, after somehow escaping the cabin where Patterson held her captive, Jayme ran out into the freezing cold – wearing oversized shoes and with her hair matted – and called out to Jeanne Nutter, who was nearby with her dog.
The girl gabbed onto Nutter, then told her who she was. Nutter, a social worker specializing in child protection, took Jayme to the safety of a neighbor’s house and helped calm her while police were called.
“Okay, Phoebe, we know all of this and your point is?”
“It's this," I said," Ms. Nutter was available to help the desperate teenager because she was out with her dog."
“You think the important character is the DOG?” Cat said, his voice turning into a dangerous hiss.
“One of the important participants,” I said. “It’s the dog-and-walker pair, the familiar but special team, that so often plays a key role in such stories.
"All over America, all over the Planet, the dog-walker pairs are right there, on the spot, when nobody else is ‘out.’ Dog-walker pairs are making the outdoors less lonely and more friendly. They're there in rain or shine; in the hot and the cold; night and day. They are conducting rescues, picking up fast food wrappers and other litter, and they're even helping to solve crimes.”
“Despite all of this," I said, "they get no credit, no respect."
“Phoebe, you are such an idiot," Cat yelled. “Do you remember what we are here for? Does the name Donald J. Trump ring a bell? We're supposed to be tracking Trump, and you are writing about dogs and their walkers! The shame!”
Cat was beside himself: “You understand, don’t you, that Individual 1 is about to 'exercise' his emergency powers to get his stupid border wall built, setting disastrous legal precedents that could undermine democracy?”
I assured him that, indeed, Trump’s latest expected abuse of office undoubtedly will become Count XXVIII in the coming impeachment process.
"But there are things of importance beyond Trump," I said, "matters that shouldn't be ignored, that will outlive the monster currently lurking in the White House."
Cat, however, continued his tirade.
“Even if you think Jayme's escape is more relevant than the Trump blog, than Trump himself, how does the dog figure in her story?” Cat snarled. “Ms. Nutter is the one who did all the work. The girl didn’t grab the dog. It was Ms. Nutter who took her to safety and used her social work skills to comfort her.”
I swatted down that argument with an ironclad rebuttal:
“Ms. Nutter wouldn’t have been in the right place, at the right time, to help Jayme if her dog didn’t have to – putting this in politest possible terms – if her dog didn't have to ‘go out.' "
"What's more," I said, "there are hundreds, thousands of examples, where dog-and-walker teams do similar work."
"How about just one example," he said. "And keep it short."
“There was a horrible triple murder in 1991, right here in Rhode Island,” I said.
“A man killed an entire family who lived in a wealthy suburb: fired three arrows into the father, strangled the mother and drugged their 8-year-old daughter. But while the cops arrested the murderer because of circumstantial evidence, they couldn't find the bodies.”
“So what happened?” Cat said.
“A neighbor, walking her dog, discovered the graves the killer had dug in a wooded area near the family’s home – a spot police had searched twice before during the last seven weeks,” I said. “It was the walker’s DOG who sniffed out the graves.”
Cat shivered at the gruesome details. But he still was in an argumentative mood. Maybe it's a cat thing, not wanting dogs to win any praise.
“You’re wrong in one aspect - that dogs and their walkers don't get credit,” Cat said. “In the Jayme story, the dog and the walker were in the headlines and in the first or second paragraph of lots of stories."
“JUST TAKE A WALK with me and our Grouchy Human," I said. "Everywhere we go, like beaches and parks where we are most effective, there are obvious signs that we’re not wanted."
"At Fort Adams State Park in Newport," I said, "a sign doesn't say 'Keep Out,' but it doesn't exactly say, 'We're So Glad You're Here. Thank You For All You Do.' "
By now, Cat realized that he was talking to a crazed special interest creature, and he changed the subject, again.
“That Rhode Island story was just one example,” he said. “Purely anecdotal. Proves nothing."
“There's a modern way to settle this,” I said. “Why don’t you Google these four words: dog, walking, found, body."
To his credit, Cat marched (waddled is more accurate) over to the laptop we share, and within .44 seconds, the computer screen showed what Google calculated were 511-million “results.”
Here’s a sampling:
- July 24, 2016 - A dog-walker found a 35-year-old woman dead in the bushes in a Brooklyn ....
- May 10, 2018 - Flint police are investigating the discovery of a body found by a man walking his dog.
- July 28, 2018 - A resident walking a dog came across the dumped body at a sporting field in Shellharbour, south of Wollongong, at about 9.45am Saturday.
- Dec. 28, 2018 - Two people walking their dogs in a wooded area on Christmas Eve found the body of a Norfolk man who had been reported missing earlier this ....
“But there’s also some happy examples,” I said. "Let's continue:"
- Nov. 2, 2018 - A man out walking his dog rescued an unconscious woman from a ... He found a 63-year-old woman who had been knocked unconscious.
- Nov. 25, 2018 - A dog walker has made a hero of himself by performing CPR on a man who he found on a beach after being talked through the process by a ...
- Feb. 19, 2018 - A 67-year-old man fell to his death while walking his dog at Thornton Beach in Daly City on Monday morning.
- June 9, 2018 - She was walking her dogs along the lake when a 12-foot gator grabbed ... her body has been found, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation ...
- Oct 17, 2018 - A man was shot while taking his dog on a daily walk in Houston Heights Tuesday, police said. Gunfire erupted after an unknown person pulled ...
“Here’s an idea,” he said. “While Trump is planning to assume dictatorial powers and cause terrible legal and Constitutional headaches, why don’t you, Phoebe, and Grouchy take another hike. This time without me."
“And, by the way, be careful!" Cat called. "Stay away from high places, alligators and gunfights... or don't."