Best Use of the Phrase “Mouth-to-Snout”

Kudos to Wausau, Wisconsin firefighter Jamie Giese and teammates on the Wausau Fire Department, for saving the life of 7-year old Labrador retriever Koda.

After rescuing the unconscious dog from a burning house, Giese gave Koda “mouth-to-snout” resuscitation.

I’ve heard it argued more than once that there’s something shameful or unnatural in valuing an animal in the same way we value our fellow humans. I like to think that view is somewhat less popular than it once was, but I have no doubt it’s still out there. The accusation is that some of us love animals MORE than we love humans, or even that we love animals because we actually hate humans.

As I suggested in Grizzly’s Gamble, to  me it’s a matter of being the best human you can be. Considering the massively unequal power relationship between humans and animals, it’s our responsibility to take care of them anytime they fall under our hand.

In the same way we’d care for a lost 5-year-old or an injured person at the scene of an accident — not because we expect to be rewarded for it, but because the act itself is its own reward — we care for critters because it makes us better people.

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I can’t help but juxtapose this story with the recent one out of Zanesville, Ohio, where close to 50 wild animals — including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon — were gunned down by cops.

Yes, yes, yes, I accept that the safety of the public is important, and that large carnivores were wandering loose after being released by their owner. And yes, it’s easy to get diverted into a debate about whether or not people should be “allowed” to own wild animals, or how crazy that one particular guy was.

On the other hand, nothing good happened there. I am not proud of the police officers who killed all those animals, or of what appears to be the general public reaction, that it was totally, totally justified, in the name of public safety.

I don’t think any of us are any better people, after those animals — which were completely defenseless against us — were shot. I think we are, all of us, shamefully worse off.

And next time, if there is a next time … I would like something completely different to happen.

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  • cgilder

    In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a vegan, but I feel the same way about the situation in Ohio. Big cats running lose in suburbs is always bad, but systematically hunting & shooting 50 animals because they can’t stop for 30 minutes & call the zoo for help is shameful. If for no other reason than that tigers are endangered! Never mind the fact that at least some of those doing the shooting were surely enjoying their first “safari”.

    On a happier note, Austin has a couple different sizes of animal oxygen masks on every fire engine. It’s heartening when some good can come out of a devastating fire. That pet may be the only thing the person has left.

    The only quibble I have is that the argument you put forth for protecting animals is laid out almost Identically in the book Dominion by Matthew Scully (speechwriter for Bush). He argues for veganism based on the biblical argument that humans were given dominion in the bible, and therefore are responsible for their wellbeing. Obviously that’s not your starting point, but when you use your example of a 5y/o child, do you really think they should be protected only because they are helpless, or because they have inherent worth as a human?

    For me, every life has worth completely separate from humanity’s reference point. That’s how I ended up a vegan, at least.

    • Hank Fox

      “He argues for veganism based on the biblical argument that humans were given dominion in the bible, and therefore are responsible for their wellbeing. Obviously that’s not your starting point, but when you use your example of a 5y/o child, do you really think they should be protected only because they are helpless, or because they have inherent worth as a human?”

      Ouch. Yes, I argue for protection PARTLY (not only) because they’re helpless compared to us — along the lines of Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben quote “With great power comes great responsibility,” — but my stand on that has less than zero to do with any religious/biblical reasoning.

      Largely, I agree “every life has worth completely separate from humanity’s reference point,” but I also recognize that few of us are able to think in that separate way.

      For those of us who can’t, I’m trying to make the speciologically self-involved point that taking care of animals, or 5-year-olds, is in our own best interest.

      That sort of compassion and action makes us better people.

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