Marolt: Speaking for the animals | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Speaking for the animals

I like Dan MacEachen, and I like dogs. I don't know what goes on daily at Dan's dogsled operation out in Snowmass Village, but I've seen it plenty of times, have had a few dinners at Krabloonik restaurant, and have gone on a couple of sled rides with the man and his beasts.

This doesn't make me an expert on dogsled operations, but over the course of a couple of decades of occasional contact, you form impressions. Often you see more when you're not looking for something.

I know that we are not supposed to personify animals' feelings, but since we all do, I'll tell you what I imagine about being a dog at Krabloonik. I have thought about this a lot, and not just during this round of what I believe must be about the sixth biannual dog-pile of Krabloonik letters to the editor.

It's nothing against me and the way I treat my dog (I pamper my pets beyond reason), but I truly think that if I were a dog, I would rather live at Krabloonik than in my house. I am assuming I would be the kind of dog that was raised to make it out there. The average house pet isn't. That's not a knock on house pets or their owners. It's just that after getting used to naps on a living-room sofa and chasing tennis balls in the park 10 minutes a day for exercise, I think life at a place like Krabloonik wouldn't be suitable for every dog.

So, why do I think I would be happier as a dog living the Krabloonik lifestyle than one cared for in more "normal" circumstances? I guess it's because Krabloonik appears more like the life I choose to live as a human being. Let me give you the synopsis. Many will be able to relate.

I like being active. Toward that end, I've pushed myself beyond limits that were healthy. I've been dedicated, deprived and sacrificed. I've been yelled at by coaches when I made mistakes or when they thought I wasn't working hard enough. I've been punished with calisthenics and wind sprints until I vomited. I've done the same to myself in training. I've worked to the point where my muscles were sore for days.

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I've gone into the elements and ended up hungry, dehydrated and cold over extended periods of time. I've been scared and lonely. I've gotten really sick eating tainted food and drinking foul water on adventures. I've been bored out of my mind. I spent a solid week inside a tiny tent during a blizzard so fierce that we couldn't even leave to relieve ourselves.

I've been broken down in the process, too. There have been three back surgeries, one on the knee, both feet and another on a thumb. I broke a collarbone, a vertebra and my hand. I've dislocated my shoulder had three severe concussions, frostbite, uncountable bruises, contusions, sprains, strains and a bunch of stitches, but still fewer than I really needed. It sounds barbaric, but that's a fairly typical active Aspenite's medical record. Let's say the rewards are intangible and leave it at that.

I am not suggesting that any defenseless animal ever be subjected to this degree of abuse. I don't believe any of the Krabloonik dogs are or ever have been subject to this kind of suffering. I only wanted to create context for the discussion. Life in Aspen could sound really bad if you knew only selected things about it.

I had choices. Domesticated dogs, on the other hand, don't. I get that, too. I know it is our responsibility to look out for them; kind of like parents looking out for their kids, like mine looking after me. But think about this: If dogs somehow could make choices as to how they live, isn't it possible that more than a few might choose to live like so many of us do here in healthy, active, dangerous Aspen?

If we are going to personify animals completely, then we cannot do them justice without answering this question affirmatively. If, on the other hand, we choose not to personify them at all, then they are mere objects that we may do whatever we please with. True fairness lies somewhere between. We possess the higher intellect and thus have the responsibility to take care of them as God's gifts to us. At the same time, we must respect their nature. A dog that is raised in a home should be treated like a member of the family. A dog that is raised outdoors to work needs to rely more on its DNA. They are very different ways to raise animals, but one is not inherently crueler than the other.

Roger Marolt hopes to die lying in the sun on a sofa, but only after climbing a nearby peak, pushed mercilessly all the way by his friends. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.