Blind World Magazine

Child's cruel act to a Guide Dog is a tragedy.

September 28, 2005.
News Register, Oregon

McMinnville, Oregon - I cannot tell you how profoundly troubled I was after reading the story of the cruel, perhaps fatal, trick played by a child on Farrell, a guide dog who was the great-hearted companion of Carl Belnap ("Cruelty to animals can result in tragedy," Readers' Forum, Sept. 17).

Perhaps the impact was especially hard because I know Mr. Belnap. He is a good and generous man, willing to take the time to talk to children about the difference having a guide dog has made in his life, about the value that animals bring to all of our lives.

Maybe I was so disturbed because the cruel incident - a sharp stick driven into Farrell's mouth while his sightless master sat next to his canine friend, unable to protect him - because the child could have been one of my students.

The city park in Dayton is truly an old-fashioned town square. It is where we gather for our community celebrations, where our children can play on such wonderful, now almost extinct, playground relics as merry-go-rounds and teeter-totters. Is the boy who did such a mean thing to a trusting animal a child I have or had influence over? Could I have done or said something to have warmed that cold part of his heart that drove him to such a cruel act?

Or maybe it's that the news of the world these past long weeks feels like a heavy burden on all of our hearts. There has been so much loss, so much devastation. Hope, which I normally have plenty of at my beck and call, has been hard to find.

Whatever the cause for the sorrow I felt reading this story, I will try to keep Mr. Belnap's and Farrell's exhortation close to my heart and mind. I will take even more seriously the charge I have to teach children to always choose compassion over cruelty, to know that it is incumbent on all of us to show humanity to all lives over which God has given us dominion.

And although there have been far too many worthy causes to donate to these past weeks, I will donate the fee I receive from this article and the next to Guide Dogs for the Blind in Farrell's memory. If you would like to make a contribution to this marvelous cause, send a donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind, P.O. Box 151200, San Rafael, CA 94915.

A friend and colleague with whom I have had the honor to teach all these years has a white board clearly visible as one enters her classroom, each day with a different thought about life. I came into her room to talk with her last week and read a quote by the Dalai Lama. "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

I wish healing for Carl Belnap and his family after the loss of their loving companion, Farrell. I wish for myself the ability to forgive even the most cruel acts, and the faith to know that the miracle of redemption is always a possibility for even the most cold of hearts.

And I pray that, somehow, in some way, you and I can live our lives in ways that show our children the value of all life, at all times.

Nancy Carlson uses her two therapy dogs, Menehune and Fezziwig, in her grade-school counseling program. She has an enduring interest in the bond between humans and animals.


Cruelty to animals can result in tragedy.

To the Editor:

My name is Farrell. I was a Labrador guide dog. I lived with my family in Dayton.

In May, my family took me to Dayton City Park for a celebration. I was sitting with my master on a bench with people all around us.

A little boy came up to my master and me. My master couldn't see him and I love little children so everything was all right. I have always been taught to love children and even if they hurt me, I was not to bite or growl at them. Sometimes this was very, very hard.

I thought the boy had food in his hand and I let him come up to me, but it was a sharp stick. He put it into my mouth and jammed it hard into my throat. It really hurt, but because of my strict training, I took it.

My mistress came and yelled at the little boy who ran away. My throat hurt after that.

Soon afterwards, I developed a large lump in my throat. The vet diagnosed me with throat cancer. I died on Aug. 3.

I plead with everyone to teach your children to be kind to animals and to be extra kind to service animals. Always ask the master if you can pet the animal before running up to it.

I don't know if that poke in the throat loosened some dormant cancer cells or what, but I'm not guiding my beloved master any more.

To learn more about guide dogs, or if you would like to raise one of my puppy cousins, call Guide Dogs for the Blind at 1-800-295-4050 or their Oregon campus at 1-503-668-2100.

Farrell, through Carl Belnap
900A Ash St., Dayton

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