He was a tall, gangly,
flea-bitten shepherd mix. One ear stood up, shepherd style, and the
other flopped over and bounced against his head like a rag doll when
he ran. His head and feet were too big for his thin but muscular
body. A stale, musty odor accompanied him from flea-infested skin
and neglected ears. Altogether, he wasn't much to look at - one of
thousands of dogs facing the world without the luxury of an owner.
I was in my third year of
veterinary school, and he
came from the local dog pound. For the next quarter, four of
us students would practice surgery training. He was always happy to
see us - tail thumping widely against the walls of his small steel
hadn't much of a life, so a pat on the butt and a little walk around
the college complex made his day.
first thing we did was neuter him, a seemingly benign project,
except it took us an hour to complete the usual 20-minute procedure,
and an anesthetic overdose kept him out for 36 hours. Afterward, he
recovered his strength quickly and felt good.
weeks later, we did an abdominal exploratory, opening his abdomen,
checking his organ inventory, and closing him again.
was the first major surgery for any of us, and, with inadequate
supervision, we did not close him properly. By the next morning, his
incision had opened and he was sitting on his small intestine.
Hastily, we sewed him up again, and he survived. But it was a week
or more before he could resume walks he had come to eagerly
He would still wag his tail when
we arrived and greet us with as much enthusiasm as he could muster.
The following week, again when
he was under anesthesia, we broke his leg and repaired it with a
steel pin. After this, Rodney seemed in almost constant pain, his
temperature rose, and he didn't rebound as he had in the past. His
resiliency gone, despite antibiotic treatment, he never recovered completely.
He could no longer manage his
walks, and our visits generated only a weak thump of his
shine was gone from his brown eyes. His operated leg remained stiff
The quarter was ending, and
Rodney's days were numbered. One afternoon we put him to sleep. As
the life drained from his body and his eyes lost their focus, my
attitude toward animal research began to change.
I am a scientist weaned on the
scientific method. ... But after 15 years in the veterinary
profession, I now believe there are moral and ethical considerations
that outweigh benefits.
Because we happen to be the most
powerful species on Earth, we humans have the ability - but not the
right - to abuse the so-called lower animals. The ends do not
justify the means.