31 March 2006

Pit bulls suffer woof justice at hands of Trevors

Daily Ireland

Robin Livingstone

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDogs have played a big part in my life. Not pit bulls, needless to say. I leave the pit bulls, the mastiffs and the various you-looking-at-me-mate mutts to the baseball cap brigade who seem to favour psycho-chic these days.
Sixteen shots the Trevors fired at the two pit bulls that killed Boomer, the collie pup that had the misfortune to appear on the scene just as Rocky and Tyson decided that they were a little peckish. Sixteen shots. That seems excessive, even for west Belfast. It suggests that Trevors who fired the shots weren’t up close, otherwise they’d have been able to dispatch the pit bulls in the blink of an eye, given that the top of that fearsome breed’s head is the width of a coffee table.
If I was Boomer’s distraught owner I’d request an independent autopsy. Two Trevors firing 16 shots at three dogs rolling around on the ground? I’m betting it wasn’t just the perps who got shot. And I’d get Nuala O’Loan on the job – I know her, she’d do the right thing in the blink of an eye.
“Trevor, I want your gun and your badge, you’re finished in this town. The lab report says Boomer took one of your slugs in the gut.”
Might get a public inquiry out of it as well.
What is it with the Trevors and animals anyway? I’ve written before about Phoebe the chimp up at Belfast Zoo who nipped out for a cup of tea and a smoke one morning without a permission slip. Zoo staff tried and failed to return her to the monkey house and in desperation called in the PSNI. At Dublin Zoo they’d have called the Fire Service, but this is Belfast and it’s our experience that high-calibre weaponry is an excellent means of getting your way. So the Trevors fired a burst from a Heckler & Koch over poor Phoebe’s head. And sure enough, she’s now safely back in her cage. Fair enough, she’s on 80 Marlboros a day instead of five, addicted to Prozac and Diazepam, has two counselling sessions a day and curls up in a ball when she sees men in uniform, but that was still a result as far as the Trevors are concerned.
Then there was Buttercup who was being led down the ramp from a death truck at an abattoir in Coleraine when she made an inspiring but ultimately futile dash for freedom. Cornered in a supermarket car park, a PSNI marksman was called in and as an exhausted Buttercup stood breathing heavily among the trolleys, pondering her next move, she was dispatched with a standard Nato 7.62 between those big brown eyes.
And now the pit bulls. Granted, fighting dogs with teeth like a great white and a bite like a saltwater crocodile aren’t as endearing as a chimp in a sailor’s outfit or a dairy cow with big eyelashes. But somebody, somewhere loved Rocky and Tyson. Somebody took time to feed live cats to them every day and inject them with steroids. Somebody took time to stitch and disinfect their wounds after dog fights up the country. And somebody put the harnesses on and took them out for a walk every day. I’m sorry, I think I’m going to cry...
The family Livingstone only ever owned one dog – Hector, a shambling, shedding black-and-white collie-labrador cross who disappeared one day and never came back.
Somebody told us later that he’d been shot by a farmer on the Black Mountain for worrying sheep. Being just a boy and unschooled in the ways of the country at that stage, I thought that meant he’d been telling them that their feed ration had been cut. But no, his sheepdog instincts had kicked in enough for him to know that he was supposed to run in the direction of sheep, but not enough to know that he was supposed to do it in a non-threatening way.
Not that you ever actually needed your own dog in Lenadoon. 6.30am of a bright summer morning and half a dozen of us would make our way through the estate in the direction of the Belfast hills to spend the day chasing rabbits and tickling trout, and a rag-tag band of mongrels and half-breeds would excitedly follow us, not barking, but whimpering with excitement and anticipation. If I close my eyes I can see those dogs still, and I can even put a name to all the faces. In our estate back then there wasn’t a Rover or Lady or Rex or Shep or Trixie to be found because even the pooches were conscripted in the war against the Brits. In our street alone lived Saoirse, Rebel, Oglach, Kesh, Provo, Fian and Sticky (there was always one). And the Brits prosecuted the war against those dogs every bit as ruthlessly as they fought the Ra.
The trouble was that blokes from Manchester and Liverpool used to take the barking and snarling personally, whereas postmen and insurance men viewed it as an occupational hazard. And so in the dark of night, with faces blackened and lampposts shot out, the soldiers would return to lob mercury sausages into the gardens of the fiercest dogs, which would die a slow and painful death. At least old Hector went quickly.
No volleys were fired over those martyred mutts’ coffins, no inspirational words were spoken at their gravesides. Instead, they were wrapped in a blanket and buried without fuss on the banks of the Half Moon Lake. War graves, I think it’s fair to call them, except none of them was ever marked.
And when next the foot patrols would pass, the street would be that little bit quieter and the smirk on the face of the patrol leader would be that little bit broader. Dark days indeed.
Maybe it’s time we started demanding a little bit of, ah, woof and justice.

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