January, 2012 email

Our dog Sarah gets snared by a steel-leg hold trap in Nevada. Thankfully, this sad tale has a happy ending.
by Helen McCloskey on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 2:54pm

It’s amazing how a day can go from being a heavenly day to hell in one instant. Today was such a day.

Pete and I were wending our way back to CA, but going slowly, taking obscure roads through remote areas of the west. We stopped to spend a wonderful night with Pete’s oldest daughter Nancy in Las Vegas, then the next day stopped to visit the Navy Corpsman whose life Pete saved in Korea, and whose life the Corpsman saved. That was a beautiful visit.

Today we saw a dirt road on public land in Nevada that went up to a remote peak, with very beautiful rocks. A perfect place to let the dogs run free, something we do three times a day on these road trips. It was a spot so beautiful we found it reminiscent of the gorgeous “Garden of the Gods” in New Mexico. We found a cattle watering spot (our dogs are fine around cattle, and there were none present) up near the peak and parked the van, all of us pouring out to enjoy the beauty, stretch our legs, get a drink.

After we got out, the dogs ran about here and there happily for several minutes and we started to explore the peak. All of a sudden I hear Sarah, our young dog, (half McNab, half mystery dog) literally scream in pain. I feared a squirmish with coyotes but knew we had troop numbers on our side. I rushed to where I heard her; saw her under a mountain juniper, looking frantically at me, writhing in pain. I knew in that instant what I would find- I’ve seen it dozens of time in books and videos. The horror of the steel leg-hold trap, set for “predators” by lazy, stupid men. My heart sank to the bottom of the world as I screamed for Pete, my Marine husband, to get over to where I was. My beautiful young athletic dog’s paw was held pinned between the jaws of steel, which had been baited with a scented scrap of material, and attached to a long chain wrapped around the tree trunk. Sarah’s young body wracked with pain, she gnashed her teeth and implored me to free her.

I rushed to her side, Pete making his way up to us as fast as he could. I was despondent- how do these ******* sadistic immoral things work? This steel-leg hold trap design must date from 100 years ago, though this one was made in Korea, ironically enough, since Pete is a Marine veteran of the Korean war. I could not see how to release it without further crushing Sarah’s foot. I told Pete to hold her so she would not pull against the four foot chain in her pain, further damaging her slender paw. I ran down the hill to the car, searching for ANY tool that would free her. I grabbed Pete’s M-1 carbine, my .22 sniper rifle, my Gerber multi-tool and ran back up the hill. I tried to use the barrel of each gun to pry the god-damned evil contraption open, but it resisted my attempts and Sarah was in agony. She tried to bite her own foot, and I put a canvas holster in her mouth to bite rather than me or Pete or herself. My rage mounted exponentially every minute that ticked by. In the meantime, Anwar, Jamie, Louploup and Ta’a sought the refuge of the car in the face of the calamity. Mickey stayed with us.

Looking along the length of the rusty chain, I found where the trap itself attached to the chain around the tree, and on the third attempt, at least got the trap with its one foot of chain off of the longer, three foot length, getting her free from the tree. Pete held her writhing body and I studied the wretched trap. Pete said, “Forget it, let’s just get her in the car and get to a vet!” But the sad fact was we had just passed a sign that said “Next gas 100 miles.” and that next town was too small to have a vet- as was the next, and the next. Pete held her tight, and the effort took all his strength. My mind raced, and I thought, “No- If some unfeeling idiot with an IQ lower than the lower half of my speedometer can work this hideous thing, I must be able to figure it out!” I FINALLY saw how it worked, (not complicated, actually) and with effort was able to release the hold of the vicious device, in whose grip animals in their agony and desperation will eat their own foot to get free. Sarah lept out of its terrible grip, and in spite of her pain, did a dance of exhilaration that had to be seen. I hugged her, crying, she threw herself at us, crying. We got her to the car.

All the dogs were upset, but I was beside myself with rage. The land was public, not posted- we had every right to be there. I rummaged through the car and found three red lipsticks and wrote in huge writing on the watering tank x-rated words of outrage. It wasn’t enough. I wrote another note- not very literary, I have to admit, and left it for him. I eyed the old windmill and the wind vane powering the watering hole and wanted more than anything to shoot the crap out of it, but I controlled my anger, as I had no desire to harm the cattle and the wildlife that might use the precious resource. My words would have to suffice, if the sorry bastard could even read. I ran back to the car and stuffed two 50 mg Tramadol into Sarah to ease her pain. Thank God I never travel with animals without serious pain killers for unexpected bad events. She came up to the front, licked me over and over, and then sank into a deep, pain-free narcotic sleep. We are all finally in a small motel, warm and safe, and tomorrow we will find a vet, but she is doing remarkably well, and will not lose her foot.

I will end with this: May the man who set the trap think of every animal he tortured to death as he goes to meet his Maker. Anyone from the prevalent Christian tradition who thinks that having dominion over the earth and its inhabitants, means “anything goes” is a spiritual cripple, a heartless moron, and I can assure such people that the God who knows when a single sparrow fall to earth, will hold accountable the evil bastards who showed no respect for “the least of these.”

And thank you, Creative Intelligence of the Universe, for a husband who helped, thank You for the light of understanding in my head of how that ******* steel device worked. Thank You that the man who set the trap did not show up while we were there, and thank you for giving me a lawyer-husband in case he had. Thank You that my beautiful, brave dog will not lose her foot. Thank You for a happy ending.

Trappers in many U.S. states and Canadian provinces do not have to check their traps for days on end; and in Alaska, Michigan, North Dakota and Montana, there is NO time limit for trap-checking. The trapped animal suffers extreme pain, trauma, infection, hunger and thirst. There are cases of trappers failing to return to check traps until the snow cover melts, revealing animals that had taken weeks to die. Gangrene and fatal infections result from injuries received in these traps to animals, including pets, that had been trapped for long periods. Thousands of non-target animals, many of these endangered species, are caught in leghold traps every year. These devices are indiscriminate and barbaric.
89 countries have banned them but not the US. Only 8 states have banned their use.

Since publication of Helen’s story, the number of countries banning these heinous traps has grown dramatically.
From Wikipedia: Pete McCloskey is a retired US Congressman. Paul Norton “Pete” McCloskey Jr. (born September 29, 1927). . . served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1967 to 1983. He and Helen testified before the Nevada Legislature for passage of SB213 and I am forever grateful to them.