Please Keep Talking

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Would you want to read a magazine that contained only information that you already knew and agreed with? Would it be worth the price of the subscription? For me, the answer is no – and, yes, I really do subscribe to and buy a number of magazines that publish articles or display an editorial slant with which I frequently strongly differ. (For that matter, the editorials in my own hometown newspaper frequently make me mad enough to spit!) But some people, it seems, have no tolerance for exposure to information or opinions with which they disagree.

I’ve been thinking about this since the publication of our last issue, which contained an article about a controversial topic: cosmetic surgery for dogs.

I’m being purposely provocative for using the phrase “cosmetic surgery” as a catchall phrase for the topics discussed in the article: tail docking, ear cropping, and dewclaw removal. (The author of the article, Shannon Wilkinson, was also deliberately provocative by referring to these practices as “amputations.” At the risk of starting a dictionary war, let me say that we understand that some define that word as “the removal of a limb or portion of a limb,” but others define it as “the removal of part or all of a body part that is enclosed in skin.” So its use was accurate, if startling.)

The word “amputation” is dramatic; people usually think of amputations as being un-planned and shocking, which, of course, crop-ping and docking surgeries are generally not. But the purpose of its use in our article was not to pass judgement on those who dock or crop; we did not once describe the practices as “cruel” or anything equally inflammatory. We did, however, want to get our readers’ atten-tion, to cause them to look at some common dog-care practices in a new light, and perhaps get them to reconsider the importance of those practices, or at a minimum, weigh them against their potential – some would call them “alleged” – adverse effects.

So, while I admit I knew the topic was controversial, and it was our stated goal to be thought-provoking, I was (as I always am in these situations) surprised when I received several calls and letters from people who wanted to cancel their subscriptions to WDJ to express their dissent with the article.

We have never purported to hold an exclusive contract on what’s “right.” But our stated goal – expressed in the mission statement that appears below – is to offer useful, dog-friendly information that helps owners help their dogs. Our unstated mission (one that should be apparent due to our intentional lack of advertising) is to provide reliable information on topics you can’t find in mainstream publications, where, in consideration of conventional, commercial interests (which contribute the vast majority of advertising dollars), hardly anything appears that runs counter to conventional practice.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that at least a few people saw fit to extend, rather than cut off, a “conversation” with us about cosmetic surgeries. Some of their letters will appear in the next issue.

-Nancy Kerns

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