As I write this, protestors are assembling five blocks from my ghetto apartment to protest the “dog labs” at the nearby University of Colorado medical school. I was on my way to Starbucks to purchase coffee and oppress third-world children when I noticed all the commotion. It turns out that the medical school has live dog labs where live dogs are numbed up and dissected in order to tech medical students how to save the lives of badly damaged human beings that occasionally show up at the hospital. The protestors want to put a stop to this.
As I sipped my Sumatran coffee, I surveyed the crowd. Had I not seen it for myself, I still could have easily predicted that all the protestors would have three things in common: they’re all white, stylish, and have plenty of leisure time.
(Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that ordinary working people don’t have a lot of time to wave signs about dissected dogs.) There were also plenty of Labrador retrievers sitting around looking dumb while their owners, clad in khakis and fleece vests, looked even dumber. They stood around with lit candles and one of them said, “The candles help us with the darkness that exists in the lives of those dogs.” I said, “Damn, this coffee is good.”
As I gazed into the sea of white faces framed by fifty-dollar haircuts I couldn’t help but wonder where all the locals were. I knew those people weren’t locals because they were the wrong color. I guess the locals have real jobs to go to and real children to kiss good-night while these other people are out shrieking about making nice with Rover. Of course, I didn’t point any of this out to them. They might have made me spill my coffee.
Had I not been so pleased with my cup o’ joe, however, I might have asked them a couple of questions. First I would have asked one of them if his child were ever dying, would he prefer a doctor who had practiced surgery on various living things, or one who had only used computer simulators? I would venture to predict a preference for the former. Second, I would ask if his immense concern for living things would extend to unborn human beings. I suspect that it would not. Respect for life only extends to those fortunate few whom these people deem as “wanted.”
Shifting my gaze from the dogs to the owners and then back again, I began to think that these people really do have something in common with dogs. Actually, one very specific dog: Pavlov’s dog. All you need to do is trumpet some feel-good social cause and all these people come running. (If there were any homeless children in the way of the mad rush for do-goodism, they’d probably get trampled.) No one even knew about these dog labs until last week when a local interest group ran a huge ad in the University of Colorado’s own newspaper. The ad must have worked well, because the next thing you know every self-righteous, co-habiting couple in Denver is hopping in their Saabs with Dakota (hopefully the name of the dog and not the kid) and heading down to the protest. The bell rings, these people salivate. You know the routine.
Some of the love that these people have for dogs must spring from some of their own human infertility. So many of them lead sterile, childless lives. Once upon a time, Catholic families built big homes in these parts to house their numerous children. Now, the houses are still there, but they’re owned by childless couples with two or three golden retrievers. Knowing the parenting philosophies of some of these people, though, their barrenness may be all for the best. I think few children would do so well with people like this. They hate to be inconvenienced. Cut them off on the freeway, spill some orange juice, or make them wait one second longer to buy groceries, and they’re likely to run you over in the parking lot. They’d never hurt a puppy, though. No sir-ree.
Well, I reckon that by now they’re all racing home to watch themselves on the 10 o’clock news and sip microbrews. That ought to keep them going until another canine calamity comes their way. If your puppy ever falls down a well and needs hip-replacement surgery, don’t delay. You know who to call.
March 12, 2001
Ryan McMaken lives in Denver, Colorado. He edits the Western Mercury.