The Potentially Lucrative Nature of the Well-trained Dog in Apocalyptic Scenarios
(OR- Sic Fido on the zombies!)
A lot of us have pets. We absolutely adore our Snuggles, our Milly-bird, our Judge the 3rd, and our Patches, the nearly wild, calico cat who often lurks in the shadows hunting the elusive vole. Animals are lovely family members and I can’t remember a time when I haven’t shared my home with a pet of some type. Those who are pet people understand how a furry baby can truly become like a child. We love them, we support them, and… we plan for them. Whether it is the matter of yearly vaccinations, well-researched boarding facilities, or the unpredictable ‘what-ifs’ of life, we plan for them. Because they’re important.
But my question is, now that I’ve spent one third of my life caring and enjoying the company of pets, what pet out there would be an asset rather than a liability during a dangerous, life-threatening scenario? Obviously it is man’s (or woman’s) best friend the dog; I mean, dogs are loyal, loving, and they’re good at protecting their families. Of course, the communicable nature of a Z infection to nonhuman animals is impossible to predict (seeing as we haven’t yet been plunged into a Z-poc) and a Z-poc could very well begin with some Zoonotic illness (a special class of dog-to-human communicable diseases) given to us from our friendly, neighborhood stray (mutated Rabies, anyone?). But for the purposes of this paper, let’s rule out Zombies by Zoonotic Illness and we just won’t worry about our furry buddies contracting the Z virus. So, it’s really not ridiculous to believe that, sometimes, a well-trained dog might just be the answer to your survival.
As Marilyn Monroe said “Dogs never bite me. Just Humans.”
Trust your four-legged friend!
Personally, I gravitate toward giant breed dogs. My family had a large black Dane named Hannibal when I was quite young, he was protective and intense-looking. Then my husband and I fostered a duo of Danes- Blu and Izzy. They were also large and intense-looking, but they were the biggest, most useless (and loving) babies on the planet. And the thing about Danes is they’ve been overbreed to the point that congenital defects often prevent them from experiencing the full length of, their already short, life span. This is quite prevalent in many large breed dogs. Our Saint Bernard, the most lovely creature on the planet, developed aggressive lymphoma at four years old and died shortly thereafter. Bernards were working-class dogs once upon a time, scaling mountains and putting in an honest day’s work. Great animals, but where during the big Z disaster are you going to find a vet to address the many issues that this breed can experience? Overbreeding. Another issue with large breed dogs? -Their nutritional needs. A giant or large breed eats WAY more than a smaller breed dog. That’s just a fact. You’re more likely to support the needs of a 10 pound furball than a 150 pound beast. However a ten pound Pug, cute as he might be, is more like luggage than a helpful co-pilot, so a middle of the road has to be found between the giant dogs I adore and the tiny teacup classes that are all but useless- unless zombies can die from ankle biting, that is.
While writing our book, Z Children: Awakening, my coauthor and I talked extensively about animals at the end of the world- dogs specifically. We spoke of how they’d be everywhere, running amok, forgotten by owners, etc. And then we spoke of how the correct breed of dog, well-trained and attached to a person or family, could contribute to survival.
My coauthor, with his extensive experience in the Military/Government and training with Special Operations personnel, has been privy to the training of service dogs- specifically German Shepherds (used almost exclusively in the beginning) and now, Belgian Malinois, which are used commonly for their compact size- an advantage over their brethren the Shepard. Size is so important because these dogs are trained to jump into combat with their handlers, get in and out of combat vehicles, and live out of their handler’s pack. The smaller the dog, the easier the transport, maintain and move with and the trade-off from Shepherd to Malinois presents very little difference in capability and size. Both are highly trainable, highly response to commands, and highly efficient in a fight.
A Belgian Malinois grows anywhere from 56 to 70 cm and 25-34 kg (the females being slighter with a narrower, more feminine build). Sure, you could find a smaller dog that eats less and is trainable, but Malinois and Shepherds (as written above) have been proven, field tested and are reliable (and honestly, they’re food consumption would be manageable and they’re intelligent enough to forage when necessary). Many breeds in the herding family share qualities with the Malinoi/Shepherds, but, in my opinion, if you’re choosing a reliable gun, you go with something that has been trusted and proven in the field- like B.V. Barr talks about in his paper on gear during the apocalypse. If I have to trust my life to an animal- I’m going to go for the dog that the military and service branches trust without reservation.
So, how will having a well-trained dog better your chances of survival? Let’s step through this logically:
Animals, on the whole, sense things differently than we do. If you have a dog in your family, I bet you’ve seen his or hers hair stand on end, jump to attention on the back of their necks. This is a warning system- something is nearby that your dog doesn’t care for. You’d be wise to heed that warning. The worse mistake a handler or owner of a working dog can make is to think they are smarter than their animal. Listen to your friend! On the matter of sensing things- dogs have been used for many, many years for search and rescue. More than likely, you’ll stumble upon more than one person who needs a helping hand (if you’re willing to provide that helping hand and have not taken on an ‘every man for himself’ mentality).
The right dog breed, trained and attached to a person or family, will have one, and only one, instinct when they’re person (or family) faces danger (not to say that there aren’t dogs who are just inherently scaredy-cats). They will go on the defensive, putting their bodies between owner/handler and the threat. They very well might be the thing that stops a zombie from advancing, keeping that threat from getting close enough to you to warrant a resort to close-combat weapons- especially when you need to be quiet and a gun is an impractical and possibly dangerous choice. Close combat increases risks, especially for those untested.
A dog will also- and not to sound silly- provide companionship, emotionally and physically. At the end of the world, maybe that end coming in the form of a zombie apocalypse, sometimes people will find themselves isolated from loved ones and unable to maintain social contact. Isolation can wreak havoc on a person’s psyche, especially a person who has not gone through training to combat the effects of isolation. If your emotional climate is compromised, your ability to recognize and respond to danger will also be compromised.
With how important we feel a dog could be during a crisis, it makes sense that my coauthor and I designed a dog and a handler to fit into the storyline.
Ranger, a Belgian Malinois of course, will become a very central character in the Z Children world. His relationship with the Drifter (JW) is symbiotic; they feed off of one another intuitively, to the point where commands are unnecessary to direct Ranger to do what he’s trained to do, what is necessary. The Drifter, for his part, thinks of Ranger as a part of himself. They’re both scarred physically from an IED, both medically discharged from service, and, in many ways, Ranger is the reason why the Drifter can keep his PTSD in check- well, Ranger & a dose of Ativan here and there.
So, next time you find yourself on the fence about adopting that Shepherd mutt, that Malonois mix, or maybe even that loyal, tough Rottie at the back of the pound, think about how that animal can help you when shit hits the fan- after you’ve helped him or her secure a loving, forever home with lots of motivational treats for training.
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