ROGUE ELEMENT 128

Rogue Element #128: Don’t Shoot the Dog!

By Avril Brown

Being an animal shelter employee for a decade means I’m a bit of a raw nerve when it comes to the mistreatment of animals. When you’re in this biz for any length of time, you find yourself either numb to emotional responses related to the four-legged clan (if this is the case, get out, get out NOW) or able to cope but still rather sensitive regarding our furry friends. You cannot work with companion animals and not care, but you also cannot care too much lest you suffer from ‘compassion fatigue,’ which drains you of any energy to care for yourself, amongst other troubling symptoms.

Another side effect of shelter work is (ideally) witnessing and accepting that not everything is black and white. Some things are, but surrendering your animal to a shelter is not one of them. Unfortunately there are some shelter workers who become more and more sensitive to the needs of the animals and less so to the humans who relinquish them to an unknown fate. Yes, there are people who just suck and decide to drop their pet off at a shelter because the cat peed once outside the litterbox, or the puppy who wasn’t taught anything is simply ‘untrainable.’ Yet there are some folk out there who’ve found themselves in a horrible situation, one way or another. My beloved sister-in-law, the kind of person you almost want to dislike ‘cause she’s so amazing (beautiful, intelligent, successful, kind, loving, the list goes on) went through an agonizing period with her previous dog. Being the excited ‘doggie auntie to be’ I helped her and her now husband find a dog through my shelter, and for a while things seemed to be perfect. Not the case. Annie, the dog in question, suffered from a level of separation anxiety: eliminating in the home, chewing the couch, howling (anyone with a Hound knows they can vocalize like Adele on a bullhorn, only less dulcet). They made the incredibly painful decision to bring her back to the shelter, which, ultimately, was the absolutely best thing that could have happened for everyone.

Annie was diagnosed with heartworm, an expensive and dangerous condition to treat. Another rescue group sponsored her treatment, insured she got the proper supervision during her care and eventually found the perfect family for this high-energy, can’t-be-alone Hound dog. My sis and her hubby couldn’t deal with a dog who suffered from separation anxiety. You know who can? About five percent of the population. A three word summation of treating separation anxiety: 1) Slowly 2) Expensively 3) Fingers-crossedly. It sure as shit ain’t easy, and I will never judge someone who realizes they cannot deal.

Point being, animals are important to animal people, and we feel all the feels regarding their care. I disconnect in many ways, some more healthily than others, but one of my go-tos is, shockingly, fantasy. When I come home from work, I want to see my husband’s goofy grin, a tasty meal, maybe a cold brew or two, and perhaps a gander at one of my favorite ongoing escapes from reality. However, there is always the chance that a beloved fancy into fiction crosses that Line into that which hits too closely to home.

iZombie

I have a myriad of emotions relating to this show, most of which are overwhelming positive, but it also guts me. This is a show about zombies (duh), one in particular who works in a morgue and uses her ability to see flashes of the previous lives of the brains she’s consuming to help the police to solve their murders. iZombie is clever as hell and more often than not pee in your pants hilarious. Rife with pop culture references and new material (Liv, the morgue zombie, takes on the personality of whomever’s gray matter she’s masticating, from frat boys to horny pansexual artists), there is so much win in this show it’s addictive. However, there is also a boatload of pain based on the general theme that bad shit can happen to anyone, but it’s the choices we make that can invite more bad shit to your door.

Last season was all about Liv having a bad thing happen to her but making bad choices which compounded her general unhappiness. This season (thus far) appears to be about other people making poor decisions, with an unfortunate creature getting caught in the middle. The second episode involved the murder of a man who was well disliked amongst everyone who knew him; he was a racist, sexist, anything-ist asshole. As it turns out his ‘killer’ was one of his neighbors, a man whose dog was repeatedly threatened by said asshole. When dog went missing, neighbor went a little nuts and in a fit of anger kicked the jack, causing the car asshole was working on to drop on top of his face. Bad choice, yeah, but his tearful goodbye to his beloved dog (who, as it turns out, was simply stashed in the basement), saying that Daddy was going to go away forever, made you wish for house arrest for this poor bastard.

Then, they had to go and do it again! Major, ex-fiancé of zombie Liv and former good guy (seriously, he was a legit boy scout and youth center helper) is now on drugs, fucking evil corporation bitches and killing zombies. Thus far on his kill list: a father of two loving, devoted children, and a guy who runs/ran with his basset hound. The later begged not only for his life while stuffed in the trunk of Major’s car, he begged his unknown assailant not to hurt his dog. I don’t fucking care if this dude eats brains; for one, if he has a dog he loves he’s probably nice enough to eat already-dead brains, so where’s the real harm? Secondly, hearing the voice of a man who knows he’s probably going to die, and has no idea why, BEGGING for his murderer to spare his dog, is like nails on a chalkboard to my SOUL. Major ends up taking the dog in just as he decided to take the jogging zombie dude out, but it was still quite horrible to watch. iZombie, I heart you, but take a fucking beat.

AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

This show has seen its ups and downs, but the first real solid ‘up’ it experienced was the end of the first season when the storyline merged with the fallout from ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’ (aka one of, if not the, best superhero movie EVER). When the Hydra infiltration was discovered in the general Marvel movie universe, it reverberated within the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV ‘verse as well in a game-changing way. Agent Ward, the hard-ass love interest of one of the ‘rookie’ agents, turns out to be a Hydra agent. Despite the murdering of many innocent people and the whole lying thing, I was really pulling for this dude. I have a real ‘bad guy turns good for love’ thing, and Ward seemed to fit the bill, emotionally and physically. Dude was abused by his family, manipulated by his mentor (who supposedly ‘saved’ him from his family, and prison) and generally taught to follow orders and let the chips fall where they may.

By the end of season one Ward does a lot of horrible things, but it wasn’t until the flashback episode where we see some of his time with his ‘savior’ who dumped him in the woods with a dog, that we see the side of Ward we cannot unsee. After being abandoned in the woods by a man who absconded with him from prison with whispers of ‘I know you,’ and ‘I can give you a better life,’ Ward has nothing save a small knife, his intelligence and a dog. They live and hunt together for months until pseudo Daddy dearest shows up all, ‘Well done, kind of, now shoot the dog and let’s boogie.’

NO. GALLONS OF NO. Dog sits in front of him, all trusting and shit, and Ward give him the signal to go flush. Me and my hopeful self are like, ‘Puppy’s gonna be so sad when he comes back and there’s no Ward, but at least Ward didn’t shoo-OHMYGODWARDWHATTHEFUCK?’ I didn’t ditch SHIELD right then and there, however sorely I was tempted, but I did dump Ward and any hope of redemption.

The Leftovers

I’ve spoken of the one and done phenomenon and by gods was this one of them. I was wicked excited to see this show: hair-raising trailer and cool premise (one third of the population just up and disappears); I was on board. Until I wasn’t. In the first ep they had a teenage orgy (ok, kinda get that given the mass vanishing act; totally plays on the general teenage emo thing), a helluva lot depressed people (get that too) and a smoker’s cult. Like they smoke an ungodly amount of cigarettes. Now, I’m all for celebrating vices, particularly in the face of the apocalypse, but I would prefer to spread out my funds amongst booze, weed, etc. before fulling cashing in my ticket. Even when I was a smoker I couldn’t stand an overabundance of smoke, and yet these people use a stifling amount of nicotine and silence (they don’t speak) to deal with their issues? Call a fucking shrink like normal people you cancer-loving weirdos. The unforgivable was hinted in the middle but came into fruition towards the end: the dogs who witnessed the ‘vanishing’ went bad; feral, in essence. The dude who appeared to, on some level, keep it together, ended up shooting a pack of dogs who were feasting on a deer corpse. While he was crying and clearly conflicted over the whole event, STILL. With all the fucked up shit that happened in this world, did they really have to throw in the bipolar canines?

There are Lines, and to each their own. I once met up with someone from high school, an individual whom I couldn’t STAND by the way, but time had matured him and he’d become an international war reporter; he’d spent time, and was going to spend more, overseas in hostile territory. This guy was so mean to me in grade school, yet when I told him I worked in an animal shelter his eyes softened and I could swear I saw his heart break just a little. “I could never do what you do,” he said. I thought of bombs exploding and people screaming, men and women rushing into danger to save others, and I said with all honesty, “I could never do what YOU do.”

We all have our limits, our Lines, and most of us would do anything to keep from crossing them. Almost anything regarding companion animals gets me right here, and I’d prefer my fantasy world to treat them with a loving respect you don’t always see in the real one. Hell, even Blacklist saved the dog, with the assistance of Pee Wee Herman for fucks sake. I get it; all stories need to push boundaries and make you bleed, otherwise they either become stagnant or boring. So do what you gotta do, story weavers, but for the love of Pete, don’t shoot the dog.

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