Like many of you, my wife and I were constantly monitoring the news this weekend as hurricane Irma marched menacingly towards Florida. It wasn’t long ago we were doing exactly the same thing as hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas. Despite being safe and sound in Southern California (for the time being anyway - you never know when brush fires and earthquakes become unwanted house guests), having a brother in Houston and best friends near Tampa Bay brought these two weather events much closer to home.
Nothing upset me more than seeing images of dogs left behind to die in Texas, sometimes still leashed or chained up with no chance of escape. Luckily, some amazing dog rescue groups were in full force, finding and rescuing every dog they possibly could. But what would you do if you had to make that decision? How much would you risk for your dog?
During a dinner out with two other dog loving couples (we all own Labradors) the night before the storm hit Florida, this very topic came up. The question was, if you had to be airlifted off your roof during a flood and the rescue crew ordered you to leave your dog behind, what would you do? It didn’t take me longer then a tiny fraction of a millisecond to blurt out, “There’s no way in hell I’d ever leave my dog behind, not in a million years. If they refuse to take my dog, then if necessary I die with my dog - period.”
The husband of one couple, Rich - quickly piped in, “No way. The dog has to stay behind. It would be tough but you have to do what you have to do.” His wife in the meantime signaled quietly that there was no way she’d leave the dog behind to die a horrible, lonely death.
Then Bob, husband of the other couple immediately piped in, “Are you kidding me? My dog has been loyal to me for 8 years. I could never in good conscience let him drown while I’m airlifted to safety. Can you imagine watching your dog’s face fade into the ether as you disappear safely into the sky? It would haunt me the rest of my life. I just couldn’t abandon my best friend. If I had to, I’d be right by his side.”
Like me, both of these couples are huge dog lovers, but it’s interesting to note the difference in opinion. Bob and I (and our wives) are in the latter chapters of our lives, ranging in age from 60 to 70 and our dogs are literally our kids. Our real kids are long gone and thriving on their own. Rich and his wife are in their 30’s, with a six week old newborn and a two-and-a-half year old. There’s no doubt Rich was thinking of his wife and kids and their safety as priority one, his own survival right behind that, and his dog a distant third. So at least in this case, it’s pretty obvious that when kids are involved - the beloved dog is of secondary importance when it comes to survival - though Rich’s wife felt otherwise. Perhaps this is because she has been home full-time for the last three months taking care of the kids and the dog while her husband has been traveling extensively for business over this same span of time.
So the questions, “How far would you go? How much would you risk for your dog?” are deeply personal ones, the answer of which depends on many different personal factors. But the long and short of it is - for more than a few people, a dog is no different than any other family member. The thought of leaving them behind to fend for themselves is unthinkable. For others, it’s a horrible choice they hope never to be faced with - but when it comes to life and death decisions - the dog is just “a dog.”
Molly Dog Films produces documentary and narrative films that focus on the emotional connections we share with our dogs and social issues that bring humans and dogs together.