I love dogs — Toni will tell you I don’t need a wife by my side, I just need a Weimaraner — and every year, my favorite column to write is a canine diary from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race or the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
However, I will never pen either of those columns again and apologize to readers — particularly Iditarod-wise — for my poor judgment.
The thing is, I get along with dogs better than with people; they are more dependable and less deceitful. And in writing a weekly humor column — well, in theory it’s a humor column — I always have relished the annual opportunity to look for laughs from a dog’s perspective.
But in searching for the funny, I lost sight of the facts:
Sled dog racing is cruel, unusual and unacceptable punishment for the animals.
The Iditarod is a rugged 1,000-mile trek over nine days. Only about 50 percent of the dogs reach the finish line, and since its inception in 1973, at least 150 dogs have died in the race.
Short of perishing, Iditarod dogs suffer horrifically along the trail — diarrhea, bleeding ulcers, lung damage, pneumonia, ruptured discs, viral diseases, broken bones, torn muscles and frostbite.
For a better sense of all these horrors, I would suggest a viewing of the new documentary “Sled Dogs” from Toronto filmmaker Fern Levitt or going to the Sled Dog Action Coalition’s website at helpsleddogs.org.
Beyond the brutal training and care of sled dogs, we also treat so many other creatures in unspeakable fashion.
When I was a kid, I delighted in watching bullfighting on TV on Sunday mornings — yes, Sunday mornings; apparently, it is our day of rest and their day of reckoning. Then I went to my first bullfight in Spain as a college student and, well, aside from the fact that it really didn’t seem like a fair fight, I was struck by the savage, barbaric nature of the exercise.
Yet so many civilizations worldwide, near and far, engage in stuff like this.
Bullfighting. Dogfighting. Cockfighting.
Frankly, any animal activity that involves the suffix “fighting” is unquestionably inhumane. At least when humans partake in fighting — boxing or MMA — the participants choose to do so. On the other hand, I don’t think a rooster wakes up at the crack of dawn thinking, “I’d love to bloody another rooster to death after dinner.”
But this is where our culture rests:
Sticking a moose head over the fireplace mantle.
Standing on a boat showing off a 125-pound tuna.
My goodness, rodeo — rodeo! — is the official state sport of South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming, though I’m not quite sure the horses and other livestock consider it a sport.
Then there are professional bass fishing competitions.
The Bassmaster Classic — to determine the world champion of bass fishing — is a three-day spectacle on ESPN2.
(At least in poker, we never kill the fish; we just take their money.)
Anyway, I used to fish myself and used to bet on horses; can’t do either anymore.
What they do to horses in horse racing and greyhounds in greyhound racing so that we can place wagers on them is unfathomable and unbearable. Google “greyhound dog abuse” and you will get as many results as “Kim Kardashian shopping.”
Even the circus is abusive to animals, unless you believe the Ringling Brothers polled local elephants to see whether they enjoy balancing on a stool while a woman dances on the back of their head
(I guess we have evolved a bit — at least there is no longer pigeon shooting at the Olympics. Yes, at the 1900 Summer Games in Paris, there was pigeon shooting. Live birds were held and released as “athletes” took aim. The object: Shoot as many pigeons as possible. Nearly 400 birds were killed.)
It’s really pretty simple:
Animals should not be subjected to our whims, in any way, shape or form, for the sake of our sporting-and-entertainment needs.
We probably should stop eating them, too.
Q: If Knicks President Phil Jackson is dozing off while watching a draft prospect’s workout, isn’t it time for him to take his naps off the team’s payroll? (Chris Franks; Albany, N.Y.)
A: I fall asleep all the time watching golf on TV, and I still get paid.
Q: After years of showing nude photos of athletes in the ESPN the Magazine Body Issue, is it time to also include sportswriters, and if so, is The Slouch ready to bare all for the Fourth Estate? (Jeff Dent; South Charleston, W.Va.)
A: I didn’t even undress on any of my honeymoon nights.
Q: How come not a peep out of you on the America’s Cup? (David Hall; Portland, Ore.)
A: If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times: Replay is killing the America’s Cup.
Q: Will Jerry Jones’s Pro Football Hall of Fame bust get frequent facelifts? (Mark Cohen; Gibsonia, Pa.)
A: Pay the man, Shirley.
Q: Is it true that you are considering not re-signing Shirley to clear cap space for LeBron? (Grady Chism; Indianapolis)
A: She’s 86’d.