Let slip the dogs of war

My mother, Linda, woke up last week to the sight of blood – on her bedroom floor, in the hallways of her house in Pittsburgh and on the stairs. Her two year-old Havanese, Sasha, was nowhere to be found.

Following the trail of blood to my stepfather’s study, she found Sasha, still bleeding, the result of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, an acute disorder that plagues small and toy breeds like the
Havanese. He survived after several days of treatment in a veterinary hospital and is home resting comfortably, I am pleased to report.

Stress, anxiety, and hyperactivity are believed to be contributing factors in many cases of canine hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, I have since learned.

But Sasha, stressed and anxious? How could this be? Sasha is possibly the most loved and pampered pooch on the planet. He has his own life vest for swimming, sleeps in the cushy center of my mother and stepfather’s bed and owns more toys than my brother or I did as children – combined. Nevertheless, it would appear that Sasha is stressed out about something (the new neighbors and their dogs?).

Before Sasha joined my family, I did not realize that dogs experienced emotions, especially ones as characteristically human as anxiety. But it is impossible now for me to think of him as a merely instinctual being, a creature of raw intelligence. I have seen him be surprised, curious, grateful, loving, suspicious, mischievous, manipulative and even jealous.

I do not believe I am imagining all this, or suffering from what biologists call “vertebrate bias.” Indeed, a new study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, just published in the
online peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, found that dogs displayed jealous behavior when their owners paid attention to an animatronic stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail. Sasha does the same thing when any one of us gets too cozy with the lifelike, stuffed dog we bought for him.

Given what I now believe I know about animals, I am appalled by the Palestinians’ use of donkeys as unwitting suicide bombers in their terrorist campaign against Israel, a fact we reported in WJW back on July 23 (“Hamas terror donkey draws PETA attack”). On July 18, Israel Defense Forces in the Rafah area noticed a donkey approaching, and opened fire, causing the explosives to detonate.

“They used this donkey as a human shield, or an animal shield, if you like,” Major Arye Shalicar, an army spokesman, told London’s The Telegraph. “Anything, an animal or an international building, that can help make use of innocent people or international [citizens], they will use it. We see it time and again.”

This wasn’t the first time the Palestinians abused animals this way. During the Second Intifada in 2003, a Palestinian terrorist strapped a bomb to a donkey and then exploded it remotely near Gush Etzion.

As we go to press tonight, a cease-fire agreement has been reached between
Israel and Hamas. I hope that it holds. But if Hamas once again strikes up its terror campaign, I pray that no innocent lives are lost – human, equine, canine or otherwise.

If I possess a soul, I am quite certain that Sasha, and other animals, do, too.

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