Dan Murphy: World’s Worst Slogan: ‘Leave Animals Alone.'

Service dogs have become an integral part of modern life for many. ( ShareAmerica.Gov )

The shameless partisans at PETA have made a living claiming that we must avoid all contact with animals — especially food animals. Here’s Exhibit No. 275 why that message is all wrong.

If there is one position associated with our pals that PETA that I truly loathe and detest, it’s their ridiculous mantra of, “Just leave animals alone.”

As if that’s even an option.

Not only is such a sentiment wildly implausible, it’s fraudulently used under the guise of compassion for other creatures as cover for the group’s atrocious public positions and ill-advised campaigns, allegedly in service to some broadly defined vegan lifestyle they want the entire world to adopt wholesale.

Look, I get the whole don’t-wear-fur/don’t-eat meat/don’t-club-seals messaging that’s fueled PETA’s admittedly successful fund-raising efforts, the fruits of which are then directed at initiatives aimed at demonizing farmers and producers who raise livestock and retail and foodservice operators who commit the unpardonable sin of marketing animals foods.

What I can neither abide nor excuse, however, is PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk’s insistence that her core group of city-dwelling Caucasian females — nothing against any of that, but let’s not pretend that isn’t PETA’s base demographic — has standing to argue that humanity in the 21st century can simply turn its back on the animal kingdom, and all will be well.

Meet a four-legged rebuttal to that nonsense.

One caring canine

Her name is Harper Lea, and she’s an 8-year-old Labrador retriever who’s has been instrumental in helping with grief counseling programs throughout Snohomish County in Western Washington.

A feature story in The Herald newspaper noted that Harper has spent much of her life at Dawson Place, where staff from various agencies care for children who’ve been sexually or physically abused or who have witnessed a violent crime.

Harper’s job is to sit with children as they recount abuse, according to her handler, Gina Coslett, a child interview specialist at Dawson Place. “She made children laugh during painful conversations,” Coslett said, “and seems to do things at the right moment for a kid.”

The dog is my definition of a hero, as this excerpt from the article detailed:

“After the Oso (Washington) landslide, where 43 people were killed, Harper went to the site while search teams were looking for the missing. Coslett and Harper planted themselves in the room where crews went to rest. The dogs would be laying down and rescuers would go lay on the dogs for comfort.

“Months later, a teenager opened fire on classmates at Marysville Pilchuck High School, killing four before turning the gun on himself. Officials cancelled school for about a week. When kids returned, they found Harper waiting.

“At first, [she] stayed in the library, where groups of students could sit around her for comfort as they talked with therapists.

“Her main job when kids went back to class was to sit at the desk of one of the girls who was killed, so as they went to each class her desk wasn’t empty. Students would gather around to pet her as they grieved.”

If that doesn’t stir your emotions, please check immediately to see if your breath is still able to fog up a mirror.

Back in June, a veterinarian determined that Harper was sick, and the dog is now officially retired from her work. However, she still goes to the office with her handler and Coslett noted that for the last few weeks, children who have met Harper in the past have asked to say goodbye.

For anyone who loves dogs, I don’t need to make the case that their unconditional loyalty and affection are powerful palliatives for the pain and loneliness that can accompany tragedy.

In fact, should a PETA person find herself in a similar emotional state to that experienced by survivors of a school shooting or natural disaster, I’m guessing even she’d be willing to set aside the group’s self-serving directive to “just leave animal alone.”

The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, an award-winning journalist and commentator.

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