A Dog Lover’s Thoughts on The Walking Dead
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
Right now I am catching up on the television series The Walking Dead. I say “catching up” because it’s not so much “binge watching” as “having a second helping”, if we are going to use a food metaphor. Or maybe a second helping and then some desert…and coffee…and a mint.
Ok, it’s a bunch of episodes each night after dinner. Every night. There, my secret is out. I do have a blog to write, after all, so I can’t just sit around and watch all day long, but there is considerable viewing time every evening.
I am not a person who likes gory or disgusting things, in fact I am a complete Nervous Nellie when it comes to horror movies and shows. But when I found that one of my favorite actors from a different show had joined the cast as the latest despicable villain, I stayed in the room a few times during Season 7 when my husband and middle teen were watching. After a few episodes I saw that the story line is about the humans and not so much the walkers, and I learned when to look away from some of the bloody stuff. Fortunately those zombies are a noisy bunch and the sound effect of a blade being unsheathed is always helpful, too! As a result, I’ve gone from pilot to season to Season 7, Episode 3 in a few weeks.
As I’ve watched, I’ve noticed the complete lack of dogs. I keep wondering, where did all of the dogs go? Were they smart enough to run away? Did they all perish? Where on earth are they? I mean, the ASPCA estimates that 44% of homes have a dog, so where are they? Are they all in some dog sanctuary with nice secure walls? If so, I want to go there now!
Part of me is ok with not having too many dogs in the show because the horses in it have not fared very well nor did the few dogs that I have seen, and I am most definitely someone who cries when an animal dies on-screen.
But seriously, where ARE all of the dogs?
Several times I’ve turned to my husband and said, “If society were to go to hell, you know we are not leaving without the dogs. I am not leaving them behind, I am not eating them, nobody else is eating them, we can forage for supplies for them while we forage for our own supplies, they go with us anywhere and everywhere!” He is of course in agreement, as I made sure of his shared love of dogs before we got married, or else he would just be another ex-boyfriend and not my beloved husband.
Now, I don’t think we are going to be plunged into a world of flesh-eating zombies, don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind. However, keeping your dog safe and by your side applies to natural disasters or other emergency situations.
Like I wrote about earlier this week in the blog Sharing the Love of Dogs with the Non-Dog Lovers in Your Life, I cannot and will not feel in my heart like my dogs deserve less care than we do. How could I ever look at their sweet faces, their trusting eyes, and leave them behind for an uncertain future? How could I deny them medical care, love, protection, nourishment, and live with myself for even a second, knowing that they are sentient, feeling creatures who put their trust in me on a daily basis.
Now, I’m not going to lie. I have thought through what would be the best way to be a dog owner if we were suddenly thrust into the world of Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon and dead humans chasing us to eat us. It brings up a lot of what-ifs and wondering what the best option would be. For example:
Leashed or unleashed: I have a runner’s leash here at the house for each dog with a belt that goes around my waist that I attach a special leash to, giving me a hands free option. I bought this to try it out and haven’t used it since (that’s a whole other blog topic), but if you were fighting off walkers, you could keep your dog close and make sure that he or she did not run off in fear. On the other hand, your dog is probably faster than you are, so would they be better off loose, able to be more agile? Would having your dog attached to you mean that you were tripping over the leash and would be less able to defend both of you? A rock sold reliable recall would mean that they could be off leash, outrun walkers on their own, and come to you when called.
Barking: If gunshots attract walkers, and a crying baby is a risk, what about a barking dog? Would you muzzle your dog periodically if they went on a barking spree? I mean, barking is an instinct but if you were hiding quietly you might have to squelch that instinct in a way we wouldn’t do in our normal civilized world. But what if you muzzled them briefly and then they ran off, they would be unable to defend themselves or drink or eat.
A dog’s senses: Since our dogs can hear and smell things better than we can and see better at night, wouldn’t they be helpful in detecting when walkers, other humans and other threats were near?
People-loving domesticated dogs: I know Jackson and Tinkerbell would probably run right up to a walker looking for tummy rubs and ear scratches. Would they be able to eventually figure out that some people were “different” from others, aka dead and trying to eat them?
I know I’ve read that SAR dogs and cadaver dogs can differentiate between the scent of someone alive versus deceased. Would the walkers have a unique scent? Would dogs in a zombie apocalypse train themselves to stay away from that smell the same way my dogs have trained themselves to come running for peanut butter and run the opposite way when they smell ear cleaner?
It seems to me that at the end of the day, dogs would be a helpful companion more than a burden. After all, the world of The Walking Dead has gone back to a dangerous uncivilized world that is more similar to what the world was like when humans first befriended the wolf. Well, there weren’t infected dead people wandering around, but people had to rely on hunting and gathering, whether or not to trust other humans and whether other groups were going to be allies or enemies, and somewhere in the middle of that we befriended the wolf (or the wolf befriended us) so that we could be companions, hunting partners, and help defend each other.
One conversation that my husband and I had about The Walking Dead is that it definitely makes you think about how you might have to act in the event a catastrophe and how you could prepare for such a thing. As a neurotic worrier and planner, I am 100% on board with planning for emergencies, so in the next two blogs we will talk about how you can include your dog in emergency preparation plans for a world not inhabited by walkers but still afflicted by a natural disaster or other emergency situation.