I really don't know what I do for a living. I sit at a computer and punch in numbers. I did the samI really don't know what I do for a living. I sit at a computer and punch in numbers. I did the same thing at my last job. The numbers, I think, were about money. I wanted to do something with more human contact and went to a firm that deals with people. The numbers I punch in now are, I think, about people. I'm not sure.
One rainy day, the local newspaper had an article about greyhounds that are "put down" after their racing days are over. I was moved by the sorry plight of these dogs. So I called the local dog track to ask if they had any tired greyhounds that might make good pets. They told me to come out the next morning and view a dog that was nearing the end of its racing days.
At the track the dog's owners said I could have the dog for $200 if they could run him that day. In the evening, armed with a box of dog biscuits, I waited just behind the finish line with a biscuit in my hand. My new dog was laboring in fourth or fifth place and was visibly tired as the pack neared the finish line. When he saw the biscuit in my hand, however, he accelerated, panting, chest heaving, mouth open, nostrils flared, won the race, passed the rabbit and leaped for the biscuit! I gave it to him, but not before his teeth removed some skin from my right index finger.
The former owners now wanted to enter him in another race, sharing the potential winnings with me. They suggested that the betting odds would be more favorable if his name were changed. Since he was now my dog I had the honor of naming him. What better name than "Dogbiscuit"? The next night I once again stood behind the finish line with a biscuit in my hand and, once again, Dogbiscuit responded with a surge that left the other dogs far behind. Once again he leaped for the biscuit and, once again, sunk his teeth into a finger.
The next few evenings of racing were the stuff of a gambler's dreams. Dogbiscuit won four races and placed second in another! But he was increasingly tired after each race: His pulse took longer to slow to normal, he was stiff and slept most of the day. Still, the sight of the biscuit at the finish line motivated him to performances that any dog would be proud of. The track vet suggested giving him more time off between races but I knew this would be his last season. I wanted Dogbiscuit to enjoy the financial success that was coming our-his-way
After nine races nine of my ten fingers had been nipped by Dogbiscuit as he took his personal prize from my hand at the end of each race. I have had to quit my day job because it is difficult to keyboard data with nine fingers bandaged. I don't resent this, but it troubles me.
As you have no doubt noticed, there is a major ethical problem, a crucial dilemma, at the heart of this story. I would like to share it with you. I invite your thoughtful comments. Here, as I see it, is the dilemma: Is it ethical for this dog, or any dog so conceived and so dedicated, to bite the hand that feeds him?
I. B. Pooche is a retired human resources data entry manipulator. For the academic year 2006-7 he will be apprenticed to the X.S. DeTaille turf accountancy firm.
The above article was published in Media Ethics, Fall 2006 (18:1), pp.12.