12 April 2011

and then they killed the dog . . .

It began many years ago when my sixth grade teacher spent the half hour after lunch reading to us the novel Where the Red Fern Grows. I remember listening to a captivating story about a young boy and his two redbone coonhound hunting dogs, growing up in the Ozark mountains. Although I could not tell you what the average girl in our class thought of the book it was, for the boys, a great experience.

What happens at the end of Wilson Rawls' novel is that the two dogs die. Big Dan suffers too many injuries after protecting the boy from a mountain lion, and Little Ann dies a few days later from heartbreak.

And it was hard not to cry. At least, among my classmates. Inside the air was sucked out.

It was the same feeling I had when they shot Old Yeller. Look, I understand that he had gone rabid and it was the right decision. But it was hard for Travis to do and it was hard for me to watch. Coming of age moments or not, it's hard.

This is the way the world works, I suppose. The male mind is often an odd place, and I'm not sure why this is the case. It seems that we can watch movies of war and murder without much thought given to the loss of human life. But kill off the dog, then we're somewhere between devastated and defiant. What's going on with this?

In I Am Legend Robert Neville is left with an empty New York (aside from a whole bunch of people-turned-vampire-bat-thingies) with his only companion being a German Shepherd. The fact that the world is devoid of humans is interesting, the mutant vampire bat thingies are creepy and cool, and the death they have brought makes the story. But the moment Sam dies it is tragic. Not until then, but from that point forward.

Signs was a great movie, and I wanted to see what the aliens were going to do to this family. Until I heard the screech of the dog they forgot to bring inside the house. Then it became sad.

Even Sweet Home Alabama was funny enough until they were sitting in the local coon dog cemetery, simply talking about how she was gone when the dog died. In fact, it was more emotional (in the context of the film) that Melanie walked out on Bear (the dog) than that of her walking out on Jake (the husband). And the dog died.

On and on we could go. I don't know what the reason(s) for this behavior might be, but it is an observance that I've run across. Send Rambo in and guys will cheer in the face of carnage; let the dog die and the tears will come. Of course, movies are so often used as an escape from reality, and other times they are artistic attempts at capturing reality. Since it is human nature to desire dominance and winning, we can accept certain levels of violence. But when it comes to our innocent faithful canine companions . . . back off, dude.

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