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Thursday, September 09, 2004  

Commentary: Good dog, bad dog

In the newspaper business, different tags are applied to types of stories. 'Shorts' are filler, used mainly to fill small areas, preventing excess white space. A 'bright' is a short piece meant to make readers smile. News of the weird usually involves someone doing something unusual. You know, the man who bites a dog. Speaking of canines, I'm not sure how to categorize this furry critter story. You decide.

A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver's trigger.

Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was charged with felony animal cruelty, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday. He was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist.

Bradford said he decided to shoot the 3-month-old shepherd-mix dogs in the head because he couldn't find them a home, according to the sheriff's office.

On Monday, Bradford was holding two puppies -- one in his arms and another in his left hand -- when the dog in his hand wiggled and put its paw on the trigger of the .38-caliber revolver. The gun then discharged, the sheriff's report said.

Three puppies that had been shot to death were found buried on Bradford's property. Apparently, he believes in 'cleaning as you go.' There is no mention of the Floridian being a parent. Something can be said for his genes not being passed on.

I suppose the story is a bright because the remaining puppies were rescued, and, will likely find homes as a result of the publicity.

But, then, being shot by a dog is a kind of man bites dog tale, too. Weird.

I'm been thinking about dogs lately because people are, to put it bluntly, going too far in regard to them. Within the last two weeks, I've had to complain about persons bringing canines into three inappropriate places. Two were Kinko's copy centers. One was a Starbucks. The woman in Starbucks became quite peeved when I, and two other customers, suggested that plopping her plump Pug on the counter where people are served -- where it promptly urinated -- was not a good idea. She was even more put out when she was told the dog should not have been in the cafe in the first place. I don't know whether these folks mistakenly believe the law that allows handicapped people to bring their assistance dogs into public buildings applies to them, or, are just presumptuous.

The first episode in Kinko's involved a wandering, but friendly, German Shepherd. The second was more troubling and highlights why there are laws excluding dogs from public buildings. Like other people entering the Kinko's, I encountered a growling, turf protecting Rottweiler. After he turned his attention to the person behind me, I approached the counter and asked the clerk what the dog was doing there. He said it belonged to a customer. I said that unless it was an authorized assistance dog that did not matter. The fellow looked uncomfortable. The dog continued to guard the door, his behavior escalating to barking and leaping at people entering. After several complaints, the timid clerk finally got up the nerve to ask the dog's owner, a pony-tailed, granola eating man in his 30s, to take the dog outside. The customer, typing away on his laptop, pointedly ignored the clerk, who looked like he was going to cry. I intervened. I once worked on a civil suit in which a Rottweiler had literally ripped a man's neck open, leaving him partly paralyzed. I told that anecdote. Afterward, I noted that if the next person to enter was of small stature, a child or someone with a baby, the situation was going to go from bad to worse. It was our responsibility not to allow that to happen. Either Granola Guy was going to take the dog outside or the police were going to be called. We finally got results. Though the man never acknowledged our existence, he took the Rottweiler outside. Visitors to the Kinko's still had to find their way around a dangerous dog, but at least it was not inside the building.

The situation ended well, considering the utter lack of interest in the welfare of other people the owner of the dog expressed. I don't have any friends or acquaintances who are so self-centered they refuse to consider that dogs who are lovable companions to them are nuisances, or even dangers, to others, that I know of. If I discover I know someone who has been imposing his pet on other people in public buildings, I will give him a good talking to. I hope you will do the same.

11:45 PM