The Fido Solution

The ultimate answer to too many strays, cash-strapped budgets, animal shelter abuses and starving people

So BARC is going to get a whole new set of written procedures to cover its operations. Why not be a little pro-active? Why wait for the problem to come to your door, or to get a call from some citizen?

Roving SWAT teams might do the trick. With strict guidelines, of course. Strays will be aggressively targeted, but there's no reason to stop there.

Pets that should be very careful, if they know what's good for them:

Bring out the dead at the city pound.
Mark Dean
Bring out the dead at the city pound.
BARC workers show a stray who's boss.
Mark Dean
BARC workers show a stray who's boss.

1) Any dog carried in a purse.

2) Any dog that takes a dump on the sidewalk or jogging path.

3) Any dog feeling the need to bark all night long.

4) Any cat.

The SWAT teams would be highly trained. "Excuse me, ma'am, is that a glittery neckerchief on that dog?" they'd ask, instead of just immediately taking the pet away. "I'm sorry, miss, but our equipment detected the smell of cat urine from a distance of 11 feet from your front door, indicating both too many cats and too many Lifetime movies." "Sir, it appears you've exhaled weed into your dog's face. He'll have to go in."

These guardians of humanity would be cold-hearted if necessary. "Sir, the dog's 16 years old, blind in one eye and lame. And he also, it must be said, is not human. Put him down, for crissake."

Sure, the SWAT teams might run into a little hostility from too-sensitive pet owners, but it can't be any worse than what tow drivers are putting up with on Houston highways these days.

And what is to become of all these animals? Simple: Food.

They have meat on their bones, the same as pigs and cows and lambs. Just because you think they have a personality doesn't mean somebody out there might not like to eat 'em.

Author Anthony Bourdain is a "food adventurer" who's traveled the globe for his book A Cook's Tour and a television documentary.

He's eaten live cobra heart in Vietnam, poisonous blowfish in Japan, and in Glasgow he ate haggis, a Scottish dish made from only the most repellent parts of a lamb.

One thing he didn't eat: dog.

"I saw several dog restaurants in Vietnam, but I made a point of never raising the subject, so I wouldn't be offered it," says Bourdain, who is always wary of offending hosts in foreign lands by being disgusted at their food. "I'd like to think that if I was at someone's home, or being hosted in a restaurant and the host comes beaming out of the kitchen with a platter of dog, and I had the option of offending a deeply proud host or dealing with my dilemma over whether something is a food or pet, that I couldn't offend my host. But I'm glad I wasn't put in that position."

Why not eat dog? "The thought is deeply painful and offensive and even horrible to me, the thought of a dog being killed for food," he says. "Dogs love you unconditionally. I grew up on Old Yeller and cute-dog movies. That's still one of the most profound betrayals of my life: I'm still mad at Disney that Old Yeller died at the end."

He doesn't say it's logical. "It's a completely arbitrary line," he says. "The spectrum of what people eat and what is cruelty to animals can be tough to understand when you're coming at it from a Western point of view."

Why is some meat fine and other meat disgusting? Short answer, no one knows. At least that's what attorney Edward Torpoco decided when he wrote a Harvard Law School paper on government regulation of food.

"The tremendous diversity of human food preferences the world over," he wrote, "and the prevalence of powerful taboos against the consumption of certain foods -- taboos which, at least to foreigners, oftentimes appear to be foolish, capricious and uneconomical -- pose a seemingly unresolvable intellectual dilemma for anthropologists."

Take horse. Americans generally won't touch something that reminds them of Mr. Ed or Smarty Jones, but folks in Italy and Belgium love the stuff. And the French, of course, revel in cheval.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture actually promoted the use of horse meat in a 1997 report entitled "Food Safety of Goat and Horse," blaming the distaste for the food on Pope Gregory III. In 732 A.D., he launched a campaign against what he saw as the pagan ritual of eating horse and the custom of avoiding horsemeat stuck in many areas.

"Retail cuts of horse," the USDA said, "are similar to those of beef. The meat is leaner, slightly sweeter in taste, with a flavor somewhat between that of beef and venison."

(Venison? Eating an innocent little deer? How disgusting!)

But cultures that eagerly eat a horse tend to balk at dog. Korea and other Asian countries, of course, are known for having men eat dog for its aphrodisiacal qualities, although they tend to be a little sensitive on the subject.

As professor Frank Wu wrote in a Gastronomica magazine article entitled "The Best 'Chink' Food -- Dog Eating and the Dilemma of Diversity," dog meat doesn't get much love.

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