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Letter to the editor, Express-News: Who was that pit bull?

Letter to the editor
Express-News, P.O. Box 2171
San Antonio TX 78297

Who was that pit bull?

The question in the title above should offend your language sensibilities—if it does not offend, please stop reading and go in search of other postings by people who are poorly versed in the intricacies of our English language. I formed that title question in my mind when I read the pit bull story in today’s Express-News on Page 9B of the Metro Section, an article written by Maria Anglin. The article included a file photo of a pit bull, and the caption below the photo stated that The shooting of a pit bull who was attacking a passerby brings up the issue of responsible pet owners—bolding of the word who is mine.

Who was that pit bull, you ask? That pit bull was not a who—that pit bull was the pit bull that attacked a passerby on Wednesday, January 9, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas. It was the pit bull that was shot in the leg by a witness to the attack, a witness that happened to have a gun and the license to carry a concealed weapon. It was the pit bull that limped away and was ultimately captured and destroyed by the city’s Animal Care Services.

This post was not prompted by the pit bull’s attack on the elderly woman, nor by the fact that the dog had no tags on its collar, nor is it my intent to discuss the pros and cons of dogs illegally roaming the streets, or whether our Texas gun laws are good or bad for our society.

Nope, none of the above—this post was prompted by the fact that a dog is not a who. The word dog may be followed by that or which, but never who. A dog can be a that, an it, an is or a which, but never who. A dog may also be referred to as a he or as a she, but no dog—no, not even Lassie of movie fame– should ever be referred to as a who, and those persons employed in the newspaper business—journalists, copy writers and copy editors should know that. A human being is correctly referred to as the person who, or as the person that, depending on the writer’s preference—dogs do not have that privilege—they are not human—they are dogs.

Kudos to Maria Anglin, the author of the pit bull story. Maria danced around the term and used the words which, that and it. I would suppose that the photo and the caption were added after her copy was submitted—otherwise she would have corrected the flaw.

Back in the days when I was gainfully employed, I worked with a lady for whom English was a second language, and she often pronounced the letter eye as an e—she repeatedly labeled people as nit pickers, but the sound came out as neet peekers. Readers of this post may consider me to be a neet peeker, but they should remember and adhere to the proverbial rhyme below. It demonstrates that small actions can result in large consequences.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,

For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a nail.

A final note: In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor, nor will I submit it. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wiser audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on WordPress.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by WordPress.

Nineteen months have passed since I vowed that I would never submit another letter to the editor of the Express-News for consideration, and I have kept my vow. I have posted several letters to the editor on Word Press during that period—yes, there have been others I did not send to the Express-News editor. I was burned—read insulted—once by that worthy, and I refuse to be insulted again. I will continue to nurse my pride and do my whining in other venues—so there!

Postscript: There is an animal rescue organization in our city that publishes and send out to it members a periodic newsletter detailing its work over a specific period of time. Without exception, the species of the animals and birds are capitalized in the literature—Dog, Cat, Rat, Bird, Snake, Roach, etc., etc., and every species is referred to as a who—DooDoo, the Dog who, and Rastus, the rat who, and Polly, the Parrot who, etc., etc. I admire their work immensely, but I abhor their writing intensely. Perhaps it is done out of respect for the various species of animals but perhaps they don’t know any better, similar to the staffer at the Express-News who captioned the subject of this posting.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in dogs, pit bulls, Uncategorized

 

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Two pets for Christmas presents . . .

For a brief period of several months I lived with my family—mother, stepfather and youngest sister—in a one room kitchenette in a small motel on East US Highway 82 in Columbus, Mississippi. This was in the latter years of World War II—although the term motel had been around since 1925, our establishment called itself the Columbus Tourist Court, the word court suggesting a more comfortable kind of accommodation—it was actually a stand-alone cabin in a line of other stand-alone cabins backed by an ages-old cemetery that historically was limited to black burials but was no longer in use.

Just as an aside, our stepfather frequently told people that the owner of the Columbus Tourist Court was a close personal and business friend of many years standing, and that if one mentioned his name—my stepfather’s name—the owner would cut some slack on the price of the accommodations. I tried that some years later and got nothing but a blank stare from the owner—he opined that he was not familiar with the gentleman—so much for slack, right?

The cemetery was in total disrepair, with tombstones missing, broken and fallen, graves sadly sunken and the ground strewn with remnants of urns and flower vases and leaves and rubbish, even a cast-off mattress or two. My sister and I roamed that cemetery picking up bits of colored glass and retrieving unbroken receptacles for flowers, some almost buried in the ground. This was the equivalent of a nature park for us, a place to linger in the evening after school and on weekends. It was also a place that prompted us to make up ghost stories, sometimes so scary that we scared ourselves.

But I digress—this story is not about cemeteries—it’s about the two pets, dogs, that our stepfather promised one day near Christmas as he and our mother headed for town in his four-door black 1939 Plymouth sedan. I mention the auto because it was never, not even once, not even on days of rain or snow or heat or cold, used to transport me and my sister to school. Had our tourist court been on a numbered thoroughfare, it would have been somewhere around Twenty-fifth Street. Our high school was located at Seventh Street and Third Avenue North—city blocks usually run 12 to the mile, so our walk to school covered some 21 blocks, almost two miles, and we walked it barefoot regardless of rain or snow or heat or cold, and it was uphill in both directions. Okay, I’m stretching it a bit, but the fact remains that we walked the distance five days a week while we lived at the Columbus Tourist Court—bummer!

When our mother and our stepfather returned that day shortly before Christmas, our stepfather gave me and my sister separate packages that we hurriedly unwrapped. My sister’s package contained a beautiful Collie, colored identically as Lassie of the movies. My package yielded a gorgeous Pekingese with the cutest face ever seen on a dog.

These were the two dogs he promised us for Christmas, and he had followed through with his promise. However, there was a hitch—my sister’s Collie was mounted on the side of a large tabletop ashtray and my Pekingese was a lead-weighted plaster dog intended to be used as a doorstop. We expected pets, of course, but we were given functional replicas of dogs instead. Mental torture? Child abuse? Of course, but in those days there was no Child Protective Service or any other service to accept complaints, even if we had been endowed with the courage and the willingness to complain.

Merry Christmas!

We were between trips to the atom bomb project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where our stepfather worked. He was laid off for awhile and we had left a government trailer village in Gamble Valley, Tennessee to return to Columbus, and we were now returning to that area to another trailer village called Happy Valley, Tennessee—both locations are subjects for future postings. Stay tuned!

A funny thing happened to us when we were loading the car for the return trip to Tennessee. I had an armful of funny books—they were actually comic books but nobody called them comic books in those days. They were funny books, even the ones picturing the most violent mayhem, and the comic strips in newspapers were also referred to as the funnies.

Our stepfather told me I could not take my funny books because the car was already overloaded. My sister promptly spoke up and told him, in a completely serious tone, that she would carry them in her lap. That was one of the very few times that our little family laughed together—for a brief shining moment we were a happy family, albeit caused by friction. The moment was brief—the stack of comics was consigned to the trash, we climbed into the car and were off on another great adventure.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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