If you saw the photo of the dead dog on the front page of today's paper and you've held on to the paper long enough to get to my column, I'm pleased and relieved.
My fear is that the photo or the story will so upset some people they will throw down the paper in anger and never understand why we did it. I hope I'm wrong.
So why would we run a photo that's sure to make people angry or sad? The same reason we run stories that people label "bad news." Our readers expect us to show them the world as it really is, not as we wish it were.
I wish we lived in a world where people didn't shoot each other, where no one broke the law and where our county government didn't have to kill more than 10,000 animals a year. (It jumps to more than 13,000 when you include Columbia County.) But those bad things do happen, and it's the job of your newspaper to tell you about them so you can decide if you want to do anything about that.
Sometimes people misunderstand our motives when we write stories. They think we're trying to "get" someone, or to prove some kind of point. All we're trying to do is show you some things we think are important about your world. Each of our readers has to decide if those things are good or bad, or even if they matter.
If all we did was write about things that don't matter much in your life, you would stop reading the newspaper. So, maybe in that sense, we are trying to provoke you a little. We would like you to care about the things we cover, probably even care enough to take some action to fix the problems you read about.
In the case of the animal control shelters, I wouldn't be presumptuous enough to try to assess blame for this sad situation. Certainly it is not the fault of the shelters or the workers that dogs and cats have to be killed. But the fact that they have to be killed is an abomination.
We could pretend that doesn't happen. Or we could hide the story in the back of the paper, or run cute, cuddly animal photos that wouldn't upset people. But in the real world, dozens of animals have to be killed every day, and we believe this is something you ought to be concerned about.
Some people who know me think I don't like animals because I don't treat them like they're people. I don't think you ought to dress them up, talk cute to them or pretend they have human characteristics. But I love animals, especially dogs, and it hurts me to think about all those poor animals who are killed every day because we're too busy or too insensitive to take care of them before they become problems.
It was difficult for me to look at our photos and read our stories, and I hope they make you uncomfortable. You should have seen the photos we decided not to publish. They really would have ripped your heart out. This is real life, but sometimes real life is too graphic for a family newspaper.
I hope the stories and photos bother you enough to do something about this situation. If you have a dog or a cat, get it spayed or neutered. Don't let it run around freely. Don't abandon it when you get tired of taking care of it.
This is another of those problems that don't have a government solution. It is up to each of us to take personal responsibility for our pets so they or their offspring don't end up in the shelter. Don't turn away from the situation because it is unsettling. Do something about it.