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It's Nelly's World

Too Much

alec vanderboom

The camera has caught his eyes so that he looks out through empty white rounds. It is just a phenomenon, of course, of rods and cones reacting to a flash of light, but it gives his stare an accusing aspect. As well it might: this dog has no home, except a prison of sorts. And it is a place that is slowly driving him mad, the depression of a pack animal left alone, the neurosis of the individual in solitary confinement.
Week after week after week, the picture of "Brody" runs in the paper with all the other Pets for Adoption from the local SPCA. The roster of other animals changes all around him, but Brody is forever, it seems. He is described as "big," and "brave & smart," and that alone could break your heart.

Better he should be dead, I think. I am in a minority on this point, because people who truly care about dogs, who even--I admit it--identify with their silent sufferings as if they were our own, strangely, are supposed to support the idea of no-kill shelters. Life at any cost. Certainly, it has to be better than the gas chamber, every three days loaded up with people's cast-off pets. (You can visit one of these in Vittorio de Sica's Umberto D., where the sight of the crammed cages of beautiful shining individuals going to their executions, pushed on a cart by indifferent city workers, will make the bile rise in your throat and a searing hatred of humans grip your insides. I hope. De Sica was criticized for the mountainous sentiment that rises from scenes like this in his movie: not realistic, too contrived, they said. I wish, I say.)

A woman named Sue Sternberg is an expert on what shelter animals experience during long-term incarceration. Her belief is that dogs with behavioral difficulties that will make them hard to adopt should be euthanized to make room for more adoptable animals, and spare them the cruelty of the madness that ensues from being held in solitary. For this she has been labeled a Nazi, deciding who lives and who dies. But someone must, or the world will, with no concern for its accidents.

Better a quick death than the one that comes only after months of unhappiness. Which would you pick? Death, or four walls that prevent you from living?

The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave currently has more people behind bars than any other nation in the world. This is our response to everything: lock 'em up. Oh, B. F. Skinner, where are you now that we need you most? The United States has less than five percent of the world's population, but a quarter of the world's prisoners. (Where is the country that will invade us to halt this unconscionable act of dictatorship?) More than China! More than Russia! More than Iraq ever did.

The elephant in the room. There is a rhinoceros there, too. (Where? I can't see it . . . )

As Earth Day is celebrated, towns all over the country will hold fairs at which one can learn all about reducing our so-called carbon footprint, and then buy a pack of compact fluorescents and a cutely packaged earthworm composter, and then feel very fine indeed. We put our many children in the car and call it a day.

Why won't anyone say it? Just about every single problem--and they're pretty dire these days, you know--that faces us would practically vanish if we stopped having so many children. Talk about reducing the carbon footprint. If we adopted a one-child-only policy (this is not about eugenics, but about survival) we can take care of oil prices, food shortages, pollution, sprawl, and killing in the Left Bank, to name a few, without doing much else. Why don't we? Life at any cost?

So we talk about everything but the fact that it's simply human population run amok. We talk about trying to do the impossible, rather than talk about the truth. Who in their right mind thinks that nine billion is a supportable number? We read it, then go on. So much life will, of course, be our death.

I am just about ready to go spring Brody. But then I might just have to bring "Simon" home, too. An eight-year-old dog brought to the shelter because he "got too old" for his family.

What is to become of us?