With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
I have a sixteen year old dog. Every night, in the dead-middle of the night, she needs to go outside. As a “good dad”, I let her out and faithfully wait at the door for her to come back in. Each night I listen carefully for any signs of trouble. I live on the edge of open space, and it’s not uncommon for 20 elk to bed on our yard. If those elk are there, it’s likely the pack of coyotes are occasionally close too. It’s also likely the mountain lions are out there. Given this year activity, it’s even likely a bear has wandered through. Yet, I still let her out and listen for any signs of trouble (like I would actually probably hear a thing). I’m just plain stupid — and not just for the likely time she’ll not come back… but for the entire set of repercussions that will follow.
I was reminded of that fact yesterday when reading “Mountain lion killed after attacking Utah family’s dogs.” It seems a women in Summit Park let her dogs out at night and they didn’t come back. One of her dogs was luckily found alive with puncture wounds. The other dog was not so lucky. It’s neck had been snapped by a mountain lion looking for food. When the blood trail was tracked, they found the cougar lying on top of the dead dog.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources killed the mountain lion with a shotgun.
Every way one looks at this story, it’s horrible: The loss of a family member, Maizy, the Australian Shepherd… the killing of the mountain lion … the reminder of the conflict that happens when humans encroach on wildlife.
Since I heard the story, so many thoughts have run through my mind. I first blamed the woman for letting her dogs out at night. “How could she be so foolish as to let her dog out in the middle of the night!,” I exclaimed. Then I realized I do the same stupid thing (every night). Then I blamed the Division of Wildlife resources for killing the cougar, but it seems that if wildlife kills a domesticated animal, they will then kill that wildlife. It’s their policy for a number of reasons.
The only thing I can come up with is that with great power comes great responsibility. When I let my dog out at night, I may not realize it, but I hold great power. I hold the life of not only my dog, but any wildlife that my dog comes into contact with, in my hands. In addition, wildlife is part of what makes the Park City area such a great place to live. If my actions then eventually cause that wildlife to be harmed, I’m not only taking the soul from that animal but a little bit of the soul of our community.
I feel absolutely horrible for the woman from Summit Park, her dogs, and the cougar. If it’s any consolation to her, at least her loss has caused my behavior to change – and hopefully others’ too. I will not let my dog go out alone at night. It’s just not worth the potential outcome and everything that will follow. Its unfortunate that it took this terrible incident to drive the point home.
Our thoughts are with the woman from Summit Park for her loss.
After hearing a story, some people predictably fall prey to the habit of damning others. They might even relish the opportunity to don false tiaras and crowns, point their sceptres outward, and cry for justice as they would have it. However, every one of us in our own routine activities could be seen, under deep scrutiny and in public view, as unfit to live in our skin.
Get those gallows ready people, because I assert that many a pet owner in this very town has done the same thing that Susan did the other night (or something like it). Cats are left out to roam, dogs get loose and go wandering, and hey, we even have open spaces where dogs are allowed (by law) to run off-leash within fences that aren’t tall enough to contain them (let alone a mountain lion).
Let’s not get all ‘Hatfields vs. McCoys’ about it. Harsh judgement always has a way of turning that scepter around on its owner somehow. Call it Karma.
Back on the farm where I grew up, domestic and wild animals had no real boundaries. When I was five, our beloved dog was hit and killed by a car on our rural road. Instead of calling for the head of the driver, we buried our dog in the backyard with sadness and little ceremony. We received not one phone call from neighbors telling my parents it was their own damned fault. However, a few brought food over to ease the pain of loss. Our chicken coop, enclosed completely with chicken wire, was constantly breached by something (fox and dogs, mostly). There was no avoiding it, it seemed. Once, a few neighbor dogs got out of their yards, hooked up, and killed one of our goats. Nope, we didn’t go after the neighbors. It was part of the fabric growing up in a rural town. A beautiful and sometimes terrifying landscape.
Living in Utah means we share the environment with wildlife. Learn how to avoid conflicts at: wildawareutah.org
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