How Much Risk Should We Expose Our Dogs To?
Posted at 08:25AM - Comments: (12)
A colleague sent me this link to a video of famed BASE jumper Dean Potter flying off a cliff wearing a “wingsuit” with his dog, Whisper.
I had seen the video before. In fact, when I first saw it, I was tempted to write a blog post about it – but I got caught up in something else and forgot about it. At least, until the news broke that Potter and one of his best friends – but not his dog – had died in the middle of a similar wingsuit jump. Authorities aren’t certain exactly what happened, but some sort of miscalculation or errant current of air blew the adventurers into unforgiving rock. My colleague was unaware that the guy in the video had died, but when I sent her a link with a news story about his death, she was sort of horrified. “How could he risk his dog’s life like that?”
I was horrified, too – because I’m aware that the sport has a high fatality rate, a fact that no dog could ever be aware of. It begs the question: If the dog understood the concept of death, and what a risk they were taking, would she choose to go with her owner, whom she clearly adores?
Maybe. Just maybe.
As just two examples: There are bomb-sniffing dogs who accompany members of the military, and who have witnessed the horrible sight of people (and perhaps their canine compatriots) blown up before, who still choose to go out each day with their handlers. There are police dogs who have been shot by bad guys and have returned to duty with just as much vigor and enthusiasm as before.
One could argue that we risk our dogs’ lives every time we put them into a car (seat belt or no seat belt), or put them in the cargo hold of a plane, or even just walk them on leash on our city streets! (I’ll never forget this story, or get it out of my head . . . it makes me run across streets rather than walking when I’m with my dog, always.
Is it different, risking a dog’s life for mundane activities, than in the pursuit of something unique and dangerous? Is it more noble to risk a dog’s life when he’s a partner in the service of an activity that may save other human lives?
I guess we all have to decide for ourselves. What do you think?