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What Would You Do?

What would you do?

Have you ever seen the ABC TV show by the above title? That show has actually made me cry.

It’s similar to the old Candid Camera show of the 1960s, in which people were filmed having a prank pulled on them. Only in this updated show, the set-ups aren’t funny. They usually involve injustice or unethical behavior portrayed by actors, and the unwitting participants’ reactions to it are filmed.

In the latest episode, they had actors portray customers who were verbally abusive to a store employee with Down syndrome and, in another scenario, a server in a restaurant who refused to wait on a gay couple with children.

But the episode that brought me to tears was one in which an actor portrayed a homeless man lying unconscious on a busy city sidewalk. The hidden cameras rolled as hundreds of pedestrians simply walked on by, ignoring the man. The only person who stopped was a disabled homeless woman, and she began to plead with passersby to use their cell phones to call 911, but still no one would stop and help.

It was both heartbreaking and appalling – even shocking. Why don’t people do something? The most common excuse offered by people who didn’t intervene and were interviewed afterward was “I didn’t want to get involved.”

What happened to the empathy that each of these people was born with, and what frightens them so much about getting involved? I wish they would just put themselves in the shoes of the victim and think, “How would I feel if that were me? Wouldn’t I want someone to stick up for me?” Of course, this phenomenon reminds me of situations in which dogs are abused or neglected and no one says a word.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if you spoke up in defense of a dog or tried to intervene in a dog-abuse situation? I’ve been making a concerted effort to be bold and not shrink from such situations for years, and the worst thing that has ever happened to me is that a woman twice my size got in my face and yelled, “Shut up! Shut up!” over and over again. It was actually pretty comical, though I didn’t dare laugh.

No, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be if you were unsuccessful in your intervention and thus unable to improve the life of the dog. Once you decide that you’re going to be brave and stand up for mistreated animals, the opportunities to do so begin to present themselves, like magic, especially in the case of dogs.

I can’t go to the dog park, the beach, or the vet without one of these opportunities popping up. And it’s not always easy to rise to the occasion, but I try to keep in mind that if I don’t speak up, who will? Probably no one, if What Would You Do? is any indication. I might be this dog’s only chance for better treatment.

Here is small sampling of real-life situations that I have encountered over the last few years in which dogs were not being treated fairly. In each situation, I intervened, though with varying degrees of success. What would you do if you encountered these situations?

• The water bowl of the sheltie who lives in the yard across the street is often bone dry, even during the hot summer months, and his coat is matted and filthy.

• An older dog in the vet’s reception area has extremely long nails that are affecting her gait.

• One of the women you frequently see at the beach makes her poodle wear a shock collar.

• It’s 35 degrees outside, and you encounter a man walking a shivering short-haired Chihuahua.

• At agility class, one of the participants refuses to let his Dalmatian drink any water; he says that the Dalmatian “drinks too much.”

• While driving down the street, you see a young boy yelling at and hitting his leashed dog.

• It’s December, and one of your neighbors has a “backyard dog” whose doghouse only has three wall, the front is completely open.

• While waiting for a vet appointment, the woman next to you keeps jerking on her German shepherd’s prong collar both when he gets fidgety and when he is calm; she does nothing to reward his calmness.

• Driving through a residential neighborhood, you spy a chained dog who is completely tangled up in junk so that he can’t move more than a couple of inches in any direction.

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  • Hannah says:

    All of those stories were so sad. :( all three of the dogs( and one cat) that i have were all rescues who had been abused. My first dog who was a beagle german shepherd mix who was soooo kind. When the aspca found him he had been left in a closet for days without food or water and had horrible burns all over his body from the previous owners. The second dog we rescued was a siberian huskey/ malamute mix. He had been left outside tied to a stake all summer with little food and no water. He was so hot he pulled out his own fur. The third dog that we got just this year was and still is a puppy. He is a german shepherd border collie mix and is adorable. When he was a puppy he was beaten and abused and also left in a small dark closet. The saddest story though would have to be how we got my cat. When my cat was only a week old the owners took the other kittens and my cat and drove with them going about 60 mph. they then began to throw the cats out the window to get rid of them. My cat was thrown at my house and barely missed my mailbox only to get stuck in a tree and have horrible wounds. We nursed the cat and took care of it and now she is almost nine years old. It pains me so much to hear stories about the abuse of dogs. I dont see how the people who do this to poor animals sleep at night. It makes me soooo sad.. :(

  • Amitava says:

    Who is animal; dog or man?

  • mamie says:

    My dog was threaten on Father’s day by a neighbor. She screamed to my dog to shut up because she was barking. She never bother to look to see the reason why she was barking. She was only letting me know that their was a stranger present. I ask her what was her problem she stated if you don’t keep the dog quiet I will. I am very concern for my dog safety. She is all I have and I keep her as safe as I can. I have seen how animals are treated and it sadden me that they are helpless and cannot defend themselves against people that only think of themselves may if she could have spoken in English to alert the neighbors there is a stranger present her life would not have been threaten. Hopefully one day humans will have a better understanding that all pets require is to be loved.

  • Deanna Durkee says:

    I said “what is wrong with you??…your dog could’ve died!!” He’s been in there an hour! It’s gotta be a hundred degrees!!” She says “Shut up” I was yelling…I said “I’D LIKE TO SEE YOU SIT IN THERE FOR AN HOUR WITH NO AIR!”
    She said “you obviously did”…
    …”Yeah with my door open or AC on! You don’t deserve to have a dog.”
    …at this point people are looking and I left frustrated but, glad the dog will be ok this time.

  • Deanna Durkee says:

    ok! here is a “What Would You Do?” for everyone! I go to Home Depot Sun. at 12:27, park next to black jeep SUV with CT plates, with beautiful big yellow lab panting in it. IT’S 88 DEGREES and no breeze! I check the time. run in to the store and out in 8 minutes. Dog still panting…wait and wait and wait. Call Animal Control, Mailbox full, Cant’ leave a msg. check on dog, laying down but breathing…I’m roasting with my door open, start my car for AC. still NOBODY it’s 1:14, go get a dish for water…but the windows are only open 2-3 inches…finally she strolls over!!!…what would you do?

  • Tam says:

    I shout out for defensless animals….I used to just shrink and not say anything and always wonder…Now I don’t have to wonder anymore about animals because my voice and actions will always be loud to defend those who can’t speak!

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