Of Measles and Dog Leads

14 02 2015

If you live outside of the Americas you may have missed the news that tens of folk have recently contracted the potentially serious measles virus, and it has spread even to BC. Erroneously dismissed as a minor childhood illness, it can in fact be deadly.  In the late 1950s and early 1960s, nearly twice as many children died from measles as from polio, according to Wikipedia.

Anyway, the vaccine was developed in 1963 and is not only highly effective but very safe. Despite the fact that in areas where it is routinely administered the virus is totally eradicated, some people insist on not having their children immunised. I guess the logic goes that if it’s already eradicated, why bother vaccinating. The potentially distressing sight of seeing little Johnny cry after the nasty nurse pricks his arm is nothing compared to the distress when little Johnny and potentially some of his school pals are buried because they didn’t have the vaccine.

Though there are a very few legitimate scenarios where non administration is defensible, by and large this is a reckless decision, endangering both those who are already vulnerable and not able to have the vaccine, as well as those too young to have it administered yet (babies less than 9-12 months).

Modern behaviours, such as large groups of people flocking to tourist traps such as oh, I don’t know, maybe Disneyland, make the passing of viruses highly probably amongst populations not immunised.

Guardian: Measles

Now, in fairness, not all vaccines are created equal, and though these more venerable vaccines have been around quite some time, and have plenty of research to prove their safety and effectiveness, there is a lot more unease about some of the more recently introduced vaccines. The HPV vaccine for example is being cited as having some potentially serious side effects, and the natural concerns around this are unfortunately casting a shadow over all vaccination programmes. It is sad that the medical profession has been tainted by the evil “big pharma” dollar, and we can no longer trust what we hear from government research unreservedly.

Which brings me to dog leads.

Several years ago, we adopted a dog from the SPCA. Of unknown history, she has always been a bit defensive (read “barky”) around other dogs, though very quiet and friendly with people. For this reason she is never off-lead in public and has the run of an entirely fenced back garden when at home. A couple of days after rescuing her we took her to the local off-leash beach, which is a fenced area dogs can run around together and not interfere with other beach users. The idea was that we’d try and socialise her with other local mutts and introduce her into her new locale. Well, not 60 seconds after closing the gate behind us to the beach, she was set upon by two small yappy dogs. I am a dog-lover by instinct, but confess with no joy that one of the offending beasts flew quite aerodynamically with the aid of my toe-end. Their owner made no attempt to recall her charges, but suggested that my (still leashed) dog was the instigator of the incident.

Fast forward a couple of years and it’s Thanksgiving 2009. In the interests of domestic cordiality, I opted to take the dog for a walk rather than interfere/help with proceedings in the kitchen. As we crossed the road, an elderly guy with two pitbulls was approaching from the opposite direction. We angled away and crossed the road diagonally to increase the gap. My dog though made lots of noise. She remained well controlled on a short lead and was never in any danger of approaching the pitbulls or the elderly guy. The same could not be said for the pitbulls. They became excitable and pulled away from their walker. Suffice it to say that the day ended in a large vet bill, a near-dead dog and several hours in the ER for myself getting puncture wounds dressed. Despite a trip to small claims court, the bloke denied any wrong-doing, that it was entirely the fault of my dog (who remained on a lead at all times) and that his dogs were provoked. He even denied in front of a judge that he had lost control despite letting go of both leads. Bear in mind that each dog weighed almost as much as him… and he had two!

Surrey and White Rock – the area we live – both have city by-laws requiring dogs to be on a lead at all times except in the specific off-leash parks for the purpose. Today, I took Spiketta the devil-dog (as she is known locally) for a long walk through the woods. As we were returning up the trail, I spotted an off-leash pup. I stopped and wedged her head against the wall to avoid the inevitable clash, as the four adults and boisterous dog continued to approach. I called clearly that she wasn’t very sociable with other dogs, but the off-leash pup was not recalled, and naturally approached, tail wagging. Though physically restrained by both lead and neck-lock, Spiketta growled and barked, which could easily have ended in a fight with the larger, younger dog. One of the women then excused their dog’s exuberance as “puppy training”. The dog was faultless – it was the humans who needed training. Perhaps starting with the ability to read signs requiring dogs to be leashed. The bloke finally called his dog and put it on a lead so we could move on, but one of the other women stage whispered “oh – that dog is always aggressive.”

So here we have it. Some people have the arrogance to think that by not following the rules and not leashing their dog, that if it then attacks a leashed and restrained dog, somehow the restrained dog is at fault, despite it being rendered almost defenceless against the attacker. A bit like measles. Don’t follow the expectation. Don’t get immunised. Then fail to see your complicity when you are the cause of pain and suffering to others.

Yes – it’s a choice. Yes, we live in a free society. There are responsibilities for that privilege, as well as rights.

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