I don’t expect every person to conform on all philosophies and beliefs. I would be even more naive, and ambitious, to think I can impact everyone I come into contact with in a way that enables the same type of transformations I went through. I don’t believe I’m right in every argument in every debate I willingly include myself in. Hindsight has proven that much to me. I am fairly passive about many things in life, with the exception of a few delicate triggers – my family, my girlfriend (when I have one), and my dogs. If you want to rile me up, you now have the ammunition to know which nerve(s) to hit. I am committed to those things, almost to a fault, and firmly believe true families stick together, until death do us part.
Several months ago I was listening to the local sports talk radio here in Cleveland. A question was posed to their listeners asking which crime is worse, what Michael Vick did to dogs or Tiger Woods cheating on his wife that subsequently broke up their family? I of course didn’t hesitate to call in and express my opinion on the subject. Because of my answer, one of the hosts followed up by asking me directly “If my father was run over and killed, or my dog was run over and killed, who would I have a greater sense of loss over?” Barely enough time to blink, I replied, “I would grieve the same for both, and couldn’t imagine more tears escaping with the loss of either one or the other.” Choosing between the two would be like choosing the better way to die – burning alive or drowning alive.
There is a common belief that dogs are dogs, and people are people, and you shouldn’t place a dog’s life on the same pedestal that you would a human. And our laws help reinforce this ideology. Is this a view that is passed down from generation to generation, by parents to children, to their children, and so on and so forth? Or does one obtain this way of thinking over time and through other life experiences? Is it a combination of both? There are usually questions proposed about whether or not a dog (or animal) can feel the same basic emotions as a human, which is the reason for some of the skepticism. But, recent research and observations contradict this, revealing dogs do possess a similar state of consciousness. Still, people only see what they allow themselves to see.
I am fortunate to have two parents growing up, each instilling a set of ethics I would take with me on my journey from adolescence into adulthood. I was brought up in a household like many others in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It wasn’t an abusive environment, but discipline was enforced and rules were not meant to be broken. It’s what made me the man I am today. Both of my parents worked, and my sister and I were responsible for weekly chores spaced throughout the week. My father was an entrepreneur, who started businesses and was gone for long durations during the work week. At times it felt I rarely saw him, but I know it was for the pursuit of a better lifestyle. We were a typical family, not perfect by any means, but show me a family that is and I’ll probably call you a liar. We fought like a typical family, laughed like a typical family, and loved like a typical family. And we always had dogs in the house, which were a big part of what made the family complete.
I looked up to my father quite a bit growing up. Professionally, he was my idol, and I wanted to be just like him when I became a grown man in the career field I choose. He was brought up on a farm in a family that didn’t encourage expressing yourself, or showing any emotions. I remember as a little kid watching my father at his father’s funeral, standing over the casket with a blank stare on his face. He’s not a bad man for not physically displaying hurt, he was taught early on not to. It was something he wanted to ingrain in us, and I’m sure it was meant to help protect us from all life’s obstacles thrown in your way. Later in my childhood, he told me stories about when he was young working with the animals on the farm, and how they were his pets one day, dinner the next. This had to be traumatizing at such a young age to deal with, and is likely the reason for desensitizing himself in the years to come. But even though he hid his inner-self, he still took joy in dogs, and taught us to respect their lives and their importance to the family. I admired that. I’m sure my love for dogs intensified because of my father’s influence.
One week ago was Father’s Day – a day to recognize the important father figure in your life, and all that is good about him. I made a promotional collage for my film, “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent,” with pictures of me and my dogs, wishing all the fathers of 2 and 4 legged kids a happy one. This was met by some scrutiny by a couple of people who were “insulted” that I dared to make the comparison between human children and pets in this photo. I’m a single male, almost 36 years old, with no long term prospect of a girlfriend in sight. Having human children of my own remains a distant thought, and a possibility unlikely to occur. In my home, I have three dogs (Preston, Era and Fergie), who I love as if I personally played a role in creating them. And, in a way, I have. I show them what’s right and what’s wrong. The proper way to behave or act. Protect and comfort them in their times of need. These are all things fathers should do. Any man can have sexual relations and create a baby. It takes a responsible man to be given the title of father. My love for these dogs can’t be measured with any tool or gauge, in the same way I can’t measure my love for family or past girlfriends. Whether that child has two or four legs (or sometimes three, one or none), is irrelevant. They are my dependents for their entire life. And the same basic principles would apply if they were human. A true insult is when you tell someone they cannot love something, or limit the amount of love you can provide to them. I don’t expect everyone to value their dog(s) the same way I do, but it’s not hurting anybody by me doing so. In other words, I don’t see why we can’t love both.
I actually feel bad for those who believe the love you feel for a dog can’t rival the love you feel for a child. I invest a great deal into my dogs, and get a lot back. I’ve written about my dogs on more occasions than I can remember, or would like to admit. It was difficult at first to express myself about them openly in a public forum, because it leaves you vulnerable and subject to opinion. I used to think being tough meant holding everything in, keeping any feeling to yourself. But let me tell you, it takes courage and a greater inner strength to stand firm and express yourself and your true love. My father taught me that.