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A cut too close for comfort

In these days of terrorist alerts and fear, it is nice have the protection of low-cost, lightweight armor. Wore my least-ratty straw hat to the County Fair last week and found it an effective shield against that old eco-terrorist, the sun. Yes, I believe in a strong millinery, especially when potentially lethal rays are being hurled at my sensitive scalp.

Skipped the barnyard tour, however; the fairgrounds livestock always depresses me. Well cared for, manicured and pampered, headed for the auction block and “processing.” I compare the animal auction ritual to pouring one’s soul into building the perfect house from the ground up, sparing no expense on fixtures and fittings. Then selling it only to find the new owner immediately tore the whole thing down, salvaged a few parts and threw the rest of it away.

Almost as frustrating as contemplating politics. As a board member for a local humane group, I get e-mail alerts when the state legislature is considering bills that deal with the inhumane treatment of animals.



SB 1548 covered several topics, but included a paragraph making it a misdemeanor to “crop” a dog’s ears. The Great Dane, Doberman, Boxer and Schnauzer “breeds,” among others, routinely have most of their ear sliced off as pups. What is left is molded into the upright shape favored by the “breed standards” of the American Kennel Club (AKC).

The surgery is often botched or the ears don’t heal correctly and show dogs are “ruined.” Compulsory plastic surgery for pets. Only a boob would ask for that job.




At one time, the ears of these dogs may have become shredded and torn during the course of their “work,” and cropping would be a preventative measure. But few (and I’ll bet none) of the dogs who compete at the top levels at AKC dog shows are working at anything other than prize-winning. The AKC’s counterpart in England has barred dogs with cropped ears from its shows for more than a hundred years. Unfortunately, AKC breeder/lobbyists pressured the assemblywoman into removing the anti-cropping paragraphs from the bill.

The AKC also includes “docked” tails in the breed standards description of at least a dozen dog breeds. “Docked” means “lopped off,” for no reason other than an outmoded AKC idea of aesthetics. The dogs just don’t “look right” with the tail God gave them.

Out here at Clear Creek Ranch there is always time to brood about things that don’t look right. I asked myself, “Is there a human equivalent to the unnecessary modification of these dogs’ bodies?”

Well, how about circumcision?

There is evidence that this dramatic and rather bizarre practice predates the “venerable” Abraham. And while it is beyond the scope of this column to comment on ritualized genital mutilation for religious purposes, it is worth noting the false science of the late 1800s that popularized this practice among the English-speaking countries.

Mr. Will Kellogg, the cornflake king, advocated universal circumcision as a way to prevent young boys from acting like randy monkeys in a zoo. If it had any dampening effect, other than immediately after surgery, things must have been really wild in the Victorian era.

And as for religious initiation rituals, I lean toward a less permanent alteration of the human body. Tonsure perhaps – like those classic monks, with that artificial bald spot shaved in their hair. More visible in polite society than your average circumcision, certainly less painful, and as fully reversible as a bad haircut given enough time, or as I’ve mentioned earlier, the presence of a strong millinery.

ooo

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at miked@theunion.com.

His column appears every other Tuesday, alternating with Gina Gippner’s column, “Just Mom.”


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