Both inspiring and by turns horrifying, this story involves a unique service animal whose behavior decimates the pathetic argument from extremist vegans that “animals are not ours to use.”
Yes they are, and this story demonstrates why that’s a good thing.
The account was published this week in The Herald newspaper in Everett, Wash., and it is eye-opening. Here’s how it began:
“Last fall an 11-year-old girl sat in a Snohomish County courtroom recounting how she repeatedly was whipped with electrical cords, burned with lit cigarettes and starved for days. It took the child two hours to detail all the abuse she suffered at the hands of the woman who was supposed to care for her.”
But the girl didn’t have to testify all by herself on the witness stand. She had a friend with her.
Her friend was an 80-pound black Lab named Stilson, who lay at her feet during her testimony.
“For two hours, Stilson held command, not moving or making a sound,” the story continued. “He didn’t even stir when the defense attorney accidentally knocked over a cup of water on the witness stand.He was there to offer a brave girl some comfort, to remind her that she wasn’t alone and to reassure her that she was safe.”
Other than the awful circumstances surrounding the child’s testimony—and she was only one of many over the years that Stilson’s been on duty—it all feels so warm and fuzzy. A dog befriends young children and helps them through a crisis. What could be more heartwarming?
But there’s more to the story.
As the article related, Stilson is retiring today after several years of service. His handler and owner, Heidi Potter, who is Snohomish County’s lead victim-witness advocate, is leaving the prosecutor's office and moving to California. And where she goes, Stilson goes.
That’s probably a good thing, because his duties, valuable as they may be, took a real toll.
“He's burned out,” Potter said. “He’s almost 9 years old, and he’s worked with hundreds of children. He’s had hundreds of kids crying on him and climbing on him. It’s time for him just to be a dog. It’s time for him not to always be on his best behavior.”
Hard work and toil
Isn’t that the argument anti-livestock crusaders typically roll out? That any existence for animals, other than some fairy-tale life of freedom and frolic in a Disney-esque woodland or meadow, is exploitation.