I recently lost one of my best friends, Wally, a black lab who had been a member of our family for over ten years. I originally found Wally while I was traveling in April of 2005 for events connected to World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week, abbreviated WLALW – hence his name WALLY.
When I came upon Wally, he was wandering down the edge of a deserted section of highway, as it was beginning to get dark. Here he was a black dog, wandering down an unlit highway, as darkness was falling, a clear recipe for disaster.
So, I stopped. When I got out of the car and called him, Wally circled over to me, crossing both lanes of the highway in the process.
Fortunately, there wasn't a car in sight. I felt as though I really had no choice, because leaving Wally to his own devices would likely have been a death warrant. I loaded him up in the passenger seat of the car and proceeded on my way.
I still had three stops scheduled in Raleigh (NC), Atlanta (GA), and Birmingham (AL) for news conferences associated with WLALW. I had arranged to stay with activists in all three cities. However, I had not planned on bringing a medium-sized dog with me. He seemed to be friendly, so I hoped it wouldn't be a problem.
One of the great things about working within the animal rights movement is that you meet some truly generous and caring people. Not only did every activist with whom I was staying over the next few days react well (they basically said bring him along, the more the merrier) the first activist with whom I was staying had purchased a leash, collar, food bowl, and small bag of dog food for Wally. To this day, I am still overwhelmed with everyone's generosity.
I have so many other wonderful memories of Wally that I can't recount all of them here. When he was very young, he was very bad for chewing on things. He actually chewed on the wooden handles of our wheelbarrow, permanently autographing it. I think the main thing that really characterizes Wally is that he seemed to always be happy. Wally loved people, too. More than any other dog I have known, Wally truly enjoyed life. He was always thrilled to see us, literally jumping for joy! I will always remember seeing him, a 65 pound dog, jumping probably 3 - 4 feet in the air, just because he was happy we had come home.
Wally with Karen Budkie
Wally with Michael Budkie
But now, as I think of Wally, often with tears, I know that he is in a better place. Whatever pain he felt before his death is gone. I look forward to re-uniting with him after my own passing.
Wally had a good life. He virtually always had both human and canine companions. He was well fed, sometimes he was a bit too well fed, we had to watch his food intake because Wally had a tendency to be a bit chunky even though he had a large yard to play in. He even had his own baby pool because he loved to take a dip on a hot day or after a walk.
But far too many dogs are nowhere near as lucky as Wally. Many have no home, wandering the streets until they meet their end, bleeding to death after being hit by car – their only crime was to not be born into the right home. The next time you see a dog wandering down the road, stop – he or she could end up being your own Wally.
But more than this, our society victimizes many, many other dogs. Laboratories report imprisoning roughly 65,000 dogs in the U.S. alone. I have seen firsthand what their lives are like. Their existence is spent on concrete floors, possibly with one other dog. Their primary interaction with humans is when someone comes by to hose down the run, or fill their food bin, or worse yet, for a research protocol. There is no loving home, no warm bed, no one to play with. Recent changes to the Animal Welfare Act require some exercise, but that is likely a short respite from otherwise endless boredom.
Mainly, what these dogs do is die. Whether they are used to demonstrate surgical techniques or in some vain attempt to mimic a human disease, they die. They often begin their lives in breeding colonies at animal dealer sites, and they usually die having been assigned nothing more than a number. The animal experimentation system sees them as nothing more than commodities, part of the laboratory apparatus to be used and thrown away.
Larger dogs like Wally are sometimes used in experiments that involve surgery because they have large chest cavities which allow the procedures to be performed easily. While Wally's death is something that will bring me sorrow for years to come, the concept that he could have ended up as a victim of experimentation literally fills me with horror.
Dogs are abused in labs every day. In December of 2012, Washington University (MO) reported an incident in which one staff person observed another "striking a conscious dog in the head with a closed fist. . . " In another incident, a USDA inspection report cited the University of Florida for a serious violation which directly killed a puppy because staff failed to insure that a newborn puppy who had been rejected by the mother received sufficient food. The puppy, who had already lost substantial weight, was not provided with sustenance for a period of 10 1/2 hours. As a result, the young animal continued to decline and then had to be euthanized.
Look at it this way. Wally died 65,000 times in U.S. labs during 2014. 65,000 – or about seven every hour. So, at the end of your lunch hour – that means seven more dogs are dead. At the end of your favorite hour-long TV show – seven more are dead. On and on, endlessly, UNLESS WE STOP IT.
It is up to YOU and I to make sure this death toll and similar tolls for all other animals in labs, END. Get involved – pick up your pen or your picket sign – and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
Otherwise, look Wally and his 65,000 friends in the eye and explain why you didn't.
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