This was not the piece I had planned on writing for my first blog of 2019. Although the subject of animal rescue is one I hold near and dear to my heart. This is anything but a happy ‘beginning’ with an animal adopted into a forever home. The complete story of the event can be found on the CBS website, the following is my opinion of the event and outcome of the trial.
This is not the story of a deranged individual betting on dog fighting (or any type of animal fighting for that matter), puppy mills, or the neglect that is unfortunately in every state in America. This piece is to shed light on a man who a jury ruled was not guilty of animal abuse, but who, in my opinion, I believe is. And what is beyond upsetting is this man is a teacher. Who I assumed is educated with at least a BA, hopefully, a master, but apparently nothing else. Who in my opinion irreversibly and irresponsibly caused damage. Yet tragically, is completely unaware or simply does not care if he has caused any harm at all to his students. Which makes him, in my opinion even more dangerous.
I’m referring to a piece on CBS that reported the verdict of a teacher who fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of his class.
It is my understanding this so-called teacher felt it was the humane thing to do. That he claimed the puppy was sick, so why not consciously take something he had no Veterinarian medical degree or experience in, to diagnosis and cause horrible pain and suffering to a baby animal. The puppy was alive when he put it in the water. The students who witnessed this said the puppy tried to paddle before the turtle lunged for it, tearing it apart as it drowned. Where is the humanity in that?
I can only speak for myself, but we have rescued puppies in our family who were terribly ill. One could barely lift her head while she vomited and defecated. It never once occurred to me to feed her to another animal to ease her suffering. We chose to bring her to a Veterinarian. She is now eight years old, happy and healthy. We’ve also rescued a seven-year-old hound that someone threw away. He was skin and bones when he came to live with us, had numerous health issues and will be on medication for the rest of his life. Now he is thirteen-years-old, 90 lbs and loves everyone he meets.
What damage has this man caused his students? Does he care? Does this so-called teacher have any expertise in PTSD and ALL that can be the cause of it? Not just war, not just physical abuse, not just surviving a rape or fire or domestic violence, etc. Did he even stop for a moment and ask any common sense he might have had to say, “Wait, I know that serial killers begin by torturing and killing animals. Maybe, just maybe “I” need help, maybe, just maybe there is a student watching this that will push him/her over the edge and gives permission to cause harm because my teacher did it, so it must be okay?” Probably not.
When people take part in dog fighting and witness over and over one of the most horrific acts of torture and mauling, they are psychologically changed. Dog fighting is a lose-lose event. It is witnessing a gory death and becoming numb to it. When someone as irresponsible and I really must question the mental state of this individual, given the responsibility of educating children to do something this heartless, I for one would not want my children anywhere near him.
If a teacher is teaching a lesson about snapping-turtles, I am certain there are numerous ways of demonstrating the feeding, which does not kill another living thing. If this teacher honestly feels it was the humane thing to do, then I’m guessing he would have no problem throwing a patient who is riddled with cancer into a shark tank to ease their pain and suffering.
I do not profess to be a psychologist, although I do encourage everyone to be open-minded about mental health. Their own as well as their family. We are interdependent components of skeletal, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, reproductive organs guided by the brain. All of which need care. Perhaps if our past physicians had themselves truly understood how humans think, what causes them to act and react one way or another. They may have encouraged and respected the exploration into the psychology of humans. Unfortunately, we are still very far behind in admitting this and providing care to everyone without any stigma’s attached. The medical industry needs to work together. Unfortunately, in some respects, it still appears to have egos, attitudes, and cliques. And don’t get me started on health insurance.
As an example of just how disconnected mental wellness is to physical wellness, let me share a personal story. For about two years I served patients meals in a local hospital. This job sometimes required us to wear protective clothing when going into a restricted patients room. If they had a contagious disease or unknown ailment, they still deserved to be treated with respect, kindness and offered a meal.
For a few days, I put on a bright yellow gown, mask, hairnet, and gloves to serve a man who was admitted while having tests run. He felt awful, he looked awful, but he always, always smiled when I knocked on his door. We would have conversations, discuss current topics, share stories about our kids. No one in my department was allowed to ask why he was there, or anything to do with his medical treatment, which was fine. Everyone had a role to play in his care, or so I thought.
One morning I watched a doctor walk into this man’s’ room. What stood out to me was that he did not stop to put on any of the yellow clothing, not even a pair of gloves. In less than a minute the doctor hurried from the room and disappeared down the hall. Any signs of quarantine were torn down as he passed. Slowly I peeked into the open doors and saw the patient sitting on the side of the bed. Sobbing. Grabbing a tissue box I went to him. He looked at me, no color in his cheeks, eyes red and said through his gasps that the doctor told him he was sorry, but he was going to die and there was nothing that could be done. He should go home and get his things in order. Then without another word, the doctor turned and left!
What is that oath doctors are supposed to vow? Do no harm. How was this not harmful? But what really shook me was that no psychological help of any kind was offered and I learned that unless a patient asks for it, it will not be provided. Seriously?!
Later I was talking to a friend that worked in the emergency department. He told me that there is a psychologist on call, but 99.9% of the time it is for the patients who have tried or would threaten suicide. It was for the drug addicts and inebriated people pulled from their cars after an accident. But to this individuals recollection, after working in this hospital for years, he never, ever heard of a psychologist being called to help patients in any other department. How can that be?
Now return to this person feeding a live puppy to a hungry turtle in front of his students. How does this not cause psychological harm? How many adults could have watched that unmoved? How many nightmares will his now confused (with what they witnessed, horrified, as well as learning the verdict) and distressed students have? And how many of the students who thought it was cool to watch, will now torture an animal and ultimately a person? This man whether consciously or unconsciously, in my opinion, taught animal abuse to a class in a school in America just a few months ago. I sincerely hope he and the students get professional psychiatric help from a licensed doctor.
So what do I hope happens from writing this piece? Hopefully, three things:
One, it allows me to put all my emotions in one place to try and cope with my own tortured thoughts. In my mind, I keep seeing a puppy in pain, being pulled under the water, being torn apart by a reptile. Just as people on the west coast reacted to the horror of 9/11 on the east coast, when someone is told of a horrific event, because we are human, we are affected by the act. Yet because we are human, we have the capacity to seek help and find ways to cope. Writing allows me to work through what I’ve read. Second, it also permits me to have a conversation with the reader. Expressing myself and my thoughts and asking if you agree, or agree to disagree with what I’ve shared. Lastly, the third is to consider having a conversation with your own children or a child you care about. It has been reported on the news, how do you want your child, student, niece or nephew to hear about this? What is really upsetting is that this teacher is probably going to teach again.
Which makes me ask – What and how do you teach your child to react, when they may see a teacher (or any trusted adult for that matter) doing something wrong? Immoral? Unethical? Makes you afraid? Of course, depending on the age you may not want to share the gruesome details of what this teacher did. I do not want to instill fear or cause more nightmares, but I do want to shine a spotlight on more than a verdict. This is so much more complicated than a guilty or not guilty verdict. Any of us who have been on a jury understand there is a lot more than most realize. That being said, I cannot help but feel that judgment was, in this case, wrong.
My hope is we give a voice to those who have none, and give permission and support to our children to never be afraid to use their voice and speak out against cruelty abuse. I applaud the students in this man’s class who spoke up. It wasn’t easy I’m sure but was the right thing, a brave thing to do no matter what.
Note: According to CBS the turtle was euthanized. State officials said it was a non-native species that requires a permit.