« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

Nothing to lose but your leash

 

On a gorgeous sunny morning at a cross-country ski area on the California-Nevada border, the parking lot was full. So why was I the only one skiing while marveling at the deep blue waters of Lake Tahoe? The hut at the end of the trail sat lonely in the sun, waiting for skiers. Had everyone disappeared into a vortex?  Were they all in the lodge eating chocolate chip cookies?

Eventually I uncovered the sad truth: The cars in the parking lot were not driven by independent, free people, but by slaves to their dogs. Since the blue and special green trails were the only trails where the dog masters allow their slaves to ski with them, the dog slaves were tethered to their masters, skiing around and around on just these two short trails until the dogs had had enough.

To further humiliate their slaves, the dog masters were defecating freely on the trail, yet always expecting the slave to pick it up, put it in a plastic bag, and carry it around with them for several more hours while they skied. Watching these poor souls is almost more than one can bear.

Kowtowing to the needs of their masters on a clear, sunny day was difficult enough, but imagine the horrors the slaves face on a rainy day with lots of thunder and lightning. While more considerate bosses might give their workers the day off, the cruelest dog masters require their slaves to take them out for a run no matter how nasty the weather conditions. Often you will see the slaves, huddled in the rain and soaked to the bone, assuring you as they pass that they're doing it "for the dog."

The cruelty of slavery is not just a winter phenomena. I have a dog-slave friend who, before she was captured into servitude, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail as well as the Tahoe Rim Trail. Then she moved to Las Vegas, Nev., and tears welled up in her eyes when I told her about the great hiking in nearby Death Valley. She said she knew it would be wonderful to hike the quiet canyons of red, brown and gold, or walk barefoot on sand dunes, but since Sage, her master, wasn't allowed in the national park, she couldn't go.

In addition to picking up poop, dog bosses require their slaves to feed them expensive food, keep them warm on special beds and pay for any medical expenses that come their way. Slaves have also come to expect to visit special stores that provide for any whim their masters may come up with -- bones that clean teeth, pull toys that squeak, doggie candy of red and green -- all manner of costly treats. Dog slaves have even been forced to give up vacations for which they have saved money for years, because they must spend thousands of dollars instead to provide their doggie master with surgery for whatever body part fails them.

Feeling compassion for the desperate situation of the dog slaves, I began to wonder why no nonprofit organization had been created for their release. Since there are efforts to help earthquake victims in Asia or flood victims in Europe, surely someone ought to help the millions of dog slaves right here in America.

But in yet another demonstration of how amazingly cunning the dog masters are, many have brainwashed their slaves into believing that they are the ones in control. They have come to believe that they enjoy being dragged out of their warm homes on cold mornings to take the dog for walks, and of course, pick up their poop. They just shake their head and smile when they have to open and close the back door 50 times a day to let the masters in and out. The slaves even post pictures on Facebook of their dog bosses frolicking in the snow or retrieving balls, while all the other dog slaves leave comments about how cute they look.

In an attempt to help these people escape the ruthless mind control of their masters, I have taken the plunge, organizing the Freedom Initiative for Dog Owners (FIDO). I know there are relatively few among us who have not succumbed to a punitive dog relationship; that is why I'm asking for your support. With your help, FIDO will organize interventions to free these poor slaves, so that they might finally return to a life free of canine worship.

Tim Hauserman is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He lives and writes and does not own a dog in Tahoe City, California. He also teaches skiing at the Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area.