The second common feature of the stories is that dogs tend to reflect the humans they are closest too, for better or worse. This is really a function of dogs' learning ability, but it's more of an empathetic learning ability than a cognitive one. Again, this will come as no surprise to any dog person. For Rico and Peet, this is probably a good thing, since it results in a pet who is able to match our moods and modify his temperament to live among humans. For the dogs at Abu Ghraib, this is a bad thing. Unfortunately for the dogs, the humans there working as intelligence officers and MPs acted in an extremely immoral, sadistic and disgusting way towards the prisoners they held in captivity. The dogs couldn't help but sponge up some of this behavior too, learning from their masters how to attack and hate the Iraqi prisoners. And so, we have an unfortunate example of dogs using their learning capabilities for evil conduct.
This latest news from the prison is quite unfortunate, in my opinion. Setting aside the impact on the dogs, it may lessen support within the military for the continued use of military working dogs generally. That would be a shame. I worked with MWDs extensively in Korea, where their keen sense of smell was a great help on the perimeter when trying to detect opposing forces during training or South Korean "slicky boys" trying to steal American equipment. They also have great utility in the area of drug and bomb detection. The bottom line is that dogs work well when humans work well. If we train the people to act in moral and decent ways, then I think we can expect the dogs to follow.
Saturday, June 12, 2004
Cruelty To Animals
Phil Carter has some thoughts about the corruption of dogs at Abu Ghraib: