My cousin went to jail and now he sits on command!

The foster dog lady came to visit me today, to view my dungeons and generally see if I was a fit person to have the care of a needy dog. Anyway she left a heap of interesting information about dog fostering and in it I read that:

“How lovely it is to watch an abused or troubled dog blossom through loving care and attention into the dog we always knew it could be!”

Which is a beautiful sentiment.  But brings me to my point:

Is there an essential difference here between dogs and people, in this context? 

I mean, the assumption here is that in most cases – perhaps not quite all – if you lavish care and love and targeted training on an emotionally damaged dog, it will become a lovable pet.  Such a dog might have grown up in circumstances where it was abused, neglected, hit, starved or taught to be aggressive.  But usually, it can be re-trained.

Now humans – can WE be re-trained? Supposing we grow up to become snarling, cringing, emotionally stunted and troubled adults, will enough love, care and training turn us into reasonably functional members of the human race?  Or are some of us born ‘pit bulls’ (not to insult pit bulls, many of whom are delightful).  Is it sometimes too late, in any case?

And if we CAN be re-trained, why aren’t we? Why aren’t prisons filled with experts in people-training, who can provide all the elements necessary to turn out well-behaved and loving humans? Are we just too complex?


Sometimes, even the foster dog people give up.  Some dogs are too dangerous to be re-trained and re-homed, apparently.  those dogs, as they euphemistically put it, are ‘given their wings’.  I hate to say it, but I wonder if it would be kinder to give some humans their wings too, recognising that some people, for whatever reason, can never be safely re-homed.


  1. Hi Rose, I’m one of those ‘dogs’ myself. I don’t think all of us who have been abused end up bad/savage. Thank goodness for that. But some become it, and yes, some are born it, what to do? I think mostly we can be – early intervention, compassion, kindness, patience, tolerance etc make a huge difference.
    There are people who can never ever be ‘retrained’ though. Never come good. Mostly because they are 1. too broken 2. too evil and/or 3. don’t WANT to change. In that case, yes, probably best if they were given their wings, especially in the case of the ones who are hurting others here on earth. You are very right about the cycle of abuse.
    But also, i think those human beings who aren’t so bad, aren’t hurting others, but are simply too broken, hurt, traumatised – some of us never recover from what we have been through, and yet we are legally not allowed to have our wings at all. I think we should have that option – with huge safety measures to make sure it’s OUR choice and we are SURE and RATIONAL. Because it’s further abuse to force someone to live if their life is hell on earth. I believe we all have a right to life. I also believe we all have a right to die if that’s what is best for us.
    Sorry about this being rather morose. I have been in that position. Thank fully I feel better now, but for years, my life was in and out of hospital being forced back to life when inside I was pretty much dead and in indescribable pain, had fought with all I had but not been able to beat what ailed me, and was now so, so tired – my pleas for them to just let me go and stop flogging the dead horse never were taken into account. At what point does keeping someone alive against their will become cruel and just as abusive as whatever else they have already been through?

    1. I totally agree with you. I think most people who do bad things, do them out of pain as much as anything – somebody here said it’s because they haven’t received and given love as children, and that could be. But sometimes you just can’t fix it. I also agree with you that ultimately your life is your own, not your family’s, not society’s, not the government’s, not your friends, and that if you don’t want it, you have a right to end it. But I think also that most people benefit from a good long period of consideration about this – after all death can’t be reversed – and that people considering the option should receive a lot of hugs, support and help – and then make the choice they want to make. Making suicide illegal is the dumbest thing I ever heard – what’s the penalty? Death?

      1. Yes so true about needing a long period of consideration. It’s not something you can easily change your mind on!
        I agree that many/maybe most people who hurt others do it out of their own brokenness/pain – but it’s not enough for me to excuse their actions. Because if so many of us are able to not use our own hurts to hurt others, there isn’t any excuse for them to.
        I know it’s probably not that easy though.
        There ARE people, sadly, who enjoy hurting others and that’s not because they have been hurt, it’s the way they are.
        I heard that in some countries, people who attempted suicide were CHARGED for it!!!!!!! And fined!! Talk about adding to whatever they were already going through 😦

    1. It’s a controversial subject. I think if we ever do give some people their ‘wings’ it should be in a spirit of compassion and sadness – because people who are irrepairably damaged have often suffered greatly as children, just as savage dogs are usually maltreated puppies.

      1. some people hurt others because they have been hurt, some people love others more because they have been hurt. human beings are really strange creatures, some push themselves up from the mud and bloom like lotuses and others surrender to the mud and become part of it… the very thing they hated so much.

    1. Yes, well, I’m still chasing that hate mail. To tell the truth, I sometimes get nervous because I’m afraid that nice people like you won’t like me any more if I say the wrong thing. But I also believe ideas are just ideas and have to be mulled, not denied.

      1. I hope I never make you nervous! (I feel nervous about some of the posts I publish) I truly think everyone has the right to their own opinion and we are all so different and unique…I always enjoy reading what you write.

    1. Thank you very much. It’s a tricky subject because it appears to advocate the death penalty, which is not very karmic. But really the other side of the coin is, if we aren’t going to kill people, we really SHOULD be aiming at re-training, seriously.

  2. I think it is a yes/no situation. it also depends on how much you are able to discount free will in any persons actions. Some folks do recover remarkably from bad circumstances, some can’t and some walk the fine line between the ability to go forward and the desire to exploit other peoples perception of their circumstances.

    Sadly, here in the US, we have still have 33 states who are dedicated to giving human beings “their wings”, sometimes on the flimsiest of circumstances. Not a path any civilized country wants to go down.

    1. Well, yes and no. I don’t exactly approve of the death penalty, but on the other hand, I think there are times when death is better than life. I think our society (as opposed to, say, warrior societies like the vikings, or societies such as ancient Greece, Rome and pre-modern Japan) puts life in a pre-eminent position, as automatically and without question superior to death, and the inalienable right of anyone who happens to have it. Why is it kinder to allow someone to die over a lingering period of suffering, rather than provide them with the means of a quick and painless death? Why is it ‘better’ to keep a person who is incapable of living in society, permanently in a cell for the rest of their life, than to provide them with a quick, painless death? I suppose the basic question is, is life always better than death, and who decides? And a secondary question is, why do we spend so much effort on punishment and so little on rehabilitation? If you wanted to retrain an animal, you wouldn’t ‘punish’ it into better behaviour, it simply wouldn’t work.

  3. I think we share the same sense of humor. Do you think there’s hope I can be fixed? Dogs are easy! Big hearts … So easy to repair. xo

    1. When I go to jail, I’m going to read all those books I didn’t get round to. And meet sexy fellow criminals of course, with the added benefit that I’m INSIDE the bars instead of just visiting, like the normal smitten do-gooder.

  4. In junior high I completed a report I believe 100% to this day. When we are each born, despite the “abnormalities” we have been labeled with from older, imperfect persons, we were innocent — a blank piece of paper. Clean and free from the grime of experience that concerned prejudicism, economy, and sometimes even aptitude.

    As we grew, we were mentally injected by parents, teachers, friends, and others who had experience and felt it necessary to parallel that with what happened to us. This prompted us to feel like if we tried it, our end result would be the same, whether positive or negative. We were “groomed” accordingly.

    My parents dissuaded education, not only did they not talk about university and college, but outwardly laughed when I brought it up. In high school I took college prep classes my junior year and exceeded most other students’ GPA, despite the fact that we relocated every two years, which had a negative social impact. At 45, I have no friends, because I do not know how to properly socialize. (This is not to say people do not greet and speak to me in a cordial way, or that my Facebook platform is empty.)

    The fact is that no matter what we initially desire or want for ourselves, the impact of growth forms us, or scribbles on “our paper.” Sometimes the scribbles are less pervasive pencil scratches, that can be erased, almost to nonexistence, and other times (rape, physical abuse, etc.) the marks are that of a permanent marker. These marks not only scar the piece of paper, but take up room so that other beautiful marks are colored over or cannot be seen despite their “happy intentions.”

    1. It sounds as if you feel you had very controlling parents. My father was a bit controlling too, in the way that he laid down the path he thought we should follow – I must say though, that when I didn’t follow it, he loved me dearly anyway. You must feel quite bitter about your childhood and that you didn’t get the opportunity to shine as you should have, given your abilities. I also had a very difficult childhood in some ways, because I was ‘half blind’ and got ostracised at school because of it (and I guess because of the way I dealt with it, to be honest, and the kind of person I was – shy and aloof). I reached adulthood, like you, not knowing how to form friendships or socialise, really. But I tried very hard to learn, and now I consider myself pretty good at it, though quiet and maybe a little odd. I found I could take confident, social people as models and to some extent ‘copy’ their attributes. Also pretending to be confident took me a long way towards being it. My point is, I feel a lot of empathy with you because (although my family were loving) I also have been a misfit most of my life. But if you decide you’re going to change a little, and think about the skills you want to have as a person, you can actually move towards fixing that childhood damage. If necessary, you could maybe think about cognitive behaviour therapy or something like that – or join a bookclub or an interest group, and just watch people. Listening also is a good skill to have, if you’re shy, because it’s appreciated by most people, and quite easy to learn. Having said all that, like you, I still have deep scars from that unjustified hatred that was directed my way. I still feel ‘why’? – why were you so cruel to me when I was just a quiet, gentle little girl? But -what can one do. There are very few people without scars, when you come to know them deeply. I really hope your life improves – and thanks for being so open.

    1. Do you? It does seem harsh, but..I do think though, that much more effort should be put into helping people repair the damage. If we think a life is worth so very much, why don’t we try as hard as we can to give people back their full capability of living, rather than stick them in cells and forget about them.

  5. Maybe it’s about Adam & Eve, about us being inherantly evil unless redemed whereas animals are seen as innocent, only made evil by us. Try telling that to timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend eaten by a grizzly in Grizly man. don’t think that one could be retrained.

    1. I think that’s right. Animals are not supposed to know that they have done wrong, or in fact to know what ‘wrong’ is. But I think in fact any social animal, including man, knows what ‘wrong’ is and when they’re doing it, because wrong is that which harms the group. It’s only the complexity of the moral system which differs from species to species. In any case, in most social species, group members who are a consistent danger to group survival or even just a pain in the arse, get left for predators or killed by colleagues. Or that’s my theory – maybe a naturalist would contradict me.

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