Dogs & Cats in the News
Looking for current resources to use in your Mutt-i-grees lessons? Dogs & Cats in the News provides a compilation of news stories featuring dogs and cats that may inspire students to put empathy into action.
Photographs by Adam Ferguson
As an additional resource for the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum, we would like to recommend that teachers read the cover story of National Geographic Magazine’s June 2014 edition. Writer Michael Paterniti and Photographer Adam Gerguson spent time with dog handlers from various branches of the United States Armed Forces, and focus on the story of Marine Corporal Jose Armenta and his partner, Zenit, a German Shepherd.
This moving story of the bond that is formed between the combat dogs and the GIs that partner with them is a great fit to coincide with Lesson 2.5 from the Grade 9-12 binder, titled Emotional Energy. Within this lesson, students are asked, “Do you think military working dogs should be honored for their service?” This question would be fitting for before and after the article is read, paired with, “How do you think Corporal Jose Armenta would answer that question?”
The National Geographic website features the full-length article, in addition to a video of Layka, the Belgian Malinois (Mal-in-Wah) who was shot four times at point-blank range by enemy forces in Afghanistan. According to the NG Website, “Despite her injuries, she attacked and subdued the shooter, protecting her handler, Staff Sargent Julian McDonald, and other members of the team.” http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/06/war-dogs/paterniti-text
As a companion to the Dog Dialog lesson Nose First, Then Eyes, Then Ears, the print magazine also features an infographic titled, “How the Nose Knows” illustrating how a trained military dog uses its sense of smell to detect improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Paterniti writes, “This age-old bond between man and dog is the essence of our fascination with these teams: The human reliance on superior animal senses—dogs are up to 100,000 times more alert to smells than humans are. The seriousness of the serviceman’s endeavor, in contrast to the dog’s heedless joy at being on the hunt or at play. The selflessness and loyalty of handler and dog in putting themselves in harm’s way—one wittingly and one unwittingly—to save lives.”
If teachers wish, a second debate can be initiated around the fate of the military working dogs who were a part of the U.S. Military operation in Vietnam. Thousands of “war dogs” were abandoned or euthanized after the operations came to an end. The National Geographic website features a video of the soldiers reflecting on the bond they had with their canine companions, and the pain of never seeing them again.
To learn more about Marine Corporal Jose Armena, teachers can listen to an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air: http://www.npr.org/2014/05/22/314885278/civilian-life-taught-this-military-dog-some-new-tricks
At first glance, they draw us in with their fluffy hide and a spine-twisting wag that signals the playful sense of mischief already stamped on their furry disposition has been fully activated. With only a brief glimpse into their soulful eyes, man’s best friend effectively seals the deal on what will become a lifelong relationship built on a foundation of unwavering loyalty, unconditional love, and boundless enthusiasm. Of all the domesticated critters that might wander across the threshold of our hearts, it is the dog that wiggles into that muscle with imperceptible determination and stealth.
Our modest dwelling has been host to a variety of woolly beasts across the years, and despite an unbridled love for all creatures great and small, it’s been our dogs that have left the biggest footprint on our consciousness. There appears to be but one goal in a canine’s too short life: to please their humans until days’ end. There is no chore too mundane and, unlike their human counterparts, a dog seldom grows bored with the task at hand. They literally quiver in excited anticipation of their favorite command, and willfully carry out instruction in exchange for a modest return—the simple acknowledgement of a job well done.
The common dog holds their humans in perfect, unfaltering esteem and they forgive us a multitude of shortcomings without hesitation. A dog always has time for their owner, even though we often struggle to make time enough for them. They possess an uncanny sense of knowing our precise need long before we recognize it for ourselves—they bring order to chaos, balance to a world off-kilter. Our most complex worries can be quickly eradicated by a timely, insistent hug from a bottomless heart. They are hardwired to give—they bear no grudges, driven only to serve.
A dog’s focus may be narrow, but the lessons they impart, vast. They live in the moment—yesterday has already faded from memory, tomorrow doesn’t exist yet. For a dog, the only relevant moment in time is now; eliminating the unnecessary uncertainty spent pondering countless "what ifs." These devoted beasts are four-legged reminders of all that is truly important in the cosmos—everything else reduced to a frenzied chase after an elusive ball we have little hope of ever catching.
Despite our inability to ignore the extraneous distractions that add only clutter, the ceaseless devotion of a dog brings us back to center. We need only look as far as their faithful and forgiving eyes to find acceptance for all our flawed eccentricities. They bring both meaning and purpose to our lives, delivered on just four paws and conveniently bundled in fur.
I’m certain there is a Heaven, but I doubt it was ever intended for us. I suspect the Gods had this reward in mind for their best work: the dog.
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