Today, I’d like to depart from my usual deep dive into state policy, and instead write a word or two about our dogs!
We found Walter at an SPCA of Texas event in the parking lot of a Bass Pro Shops back in 2013. While Chrystal and the kids were off meeting some cats, I walked by an enclosure where a shaggy guy was desperate to get my attention. According to the volunteers that’d been watching him, he’d been morosely lying on the pavement, indifferent to the crowds, until the moment I walked past. It’s like he picked me. He’s a hairy dog, like a smallish english sheepdog, about 25 pounds, most of that in fur. Chrystal and the kids are convinced he’s a Tibetan Terrier because he looks just like one, and he can leap up on a table from a sitting position. We call him Walter the Mostly Good Dog because he desperately wants to be good, but if he’s left alone in the house and there’s packaged food on a table, he knows he can just leap up there. When we get back home he feels such acute guilt even before we discover his transgression that he tiptoes to his safe spot. His favorite thing in the world is to jump up in Chrystal’s lap while she’s sitting in a chair and get hugs. He’s a very smart dog: when he sees our suitcases come out, he lies down with his chin on the floor and sighs heavily, because even though he loves spending a week at Grandma’s house, he hates being apart from us when we go on vacation.
We found Maggie on a rescue Facebook page a few months ago. I think she should be called a LockigSchaefer (German for “curly shepherd”) because the name of her actual sorta-breed is a smidge too cutesy for me. She’s still a puppy, needs to play constantly. We call her “the big galoot” because she’s big and kinda clumsy, but so cheerful and eager to please. She doesn’t run so much as galumph in a forward direction. She’s very jealous of anyone getting affection, so if she sees Walter getting pets, she’ll run up to get her fair share. If she wants you to go somewhere else than where you are, she’ll gently close her mouth on your hand and start walking in the direction she needs you to go.
The reason I tell you this is to highlight something that any of you that have companion animals would already know. Dr. Jane Goodall said it better than I ever could, when she said, “You cannot share your life with a dog or a cat and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.” My dogs certainly do, and I’m sure you could tell me, just by looking at them, what your pets are thinking about right now.
They are beings, not things. And that’s why I categorically deny the position that some take that they’re nothing more than “property,” and that it’s our right to do anything we wish with our property. I think this belief fits in with a very “I Me Mine” view of the world where the general ethos is that we should have every liberty provided by society but we should be free from any responsibility to others - human or animal.
Speaking for the Riddells, Maggie and Walter are not our property any more than our children are our property. They are members of our family.
We have designed dogs over the course of the past ten thousand years to live for primarily one thing: our attention and our affection. To deprive them of that by chaining them outside is therefore the worst kind of abuse, because it deprives them of the one thing we’ve designed them to need the most desperately. I know it’s wrong. And that’s even before I’ve seen the photos of dogs chained for so long that the skin of their necks has grown into the links of their chains.
As an elected representative, I intend to carry forward the ongoing efforts in the Texas Legislature to add penalties to the statutes that prohibit chaining dogs outside without adequate access to water or shade. Police departments have begged for it, organizations have fought for it. Animals have suffered for too long in this state. This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, this is a humanity issue.
As Dr. Goodall said, we know they have personalities and minds and feelings. What they don’t have is a voice. They count on us for that.