Friday, 18 June 2010

A dog's life

The news on the radio this morning about the execution by firing-squad of convicted murder Ronnie Lee Gardner in Utah, USA, somehow put me in mind of little Chico (above) - so you can tell from the outset that this is not going to be a heartwarming story, though it starts off warmly enough.

Ronnie Lee Gardner had - we have just found out, now that they have pulled the triggers - an appalling childhood which involved abandonment from the age of 2, sexual abuse thereafter and an early introduction to the horrors of solvent abuse aged around 9, to which he became addicted. In short, he had just the type of 'upbringing' that produces the sort of person who will never fit into 'society' without care and repair from a system which is embedded in the heart of the rotten society it is trying to cure. Kill or cure.

Little Chico was found on the roadside in the mountains near Malaga, Spain, by the sister of a friend of mine, having been dumped there by his original owner and left to fend for himself. The reason why he was abandoned is because he had an uncontrollable lust for attacking chickens, and this is how he got his name.

My friend's sister - after a period of looking after Chico - decided that she could no longer tolerate him, because he kept attacking her chickens. So she gave Chico to her sister - my friend - who lives in the glorious region shown in the top photo. What you can see is Chico's back yard - what a backyard. My friend keeps chickens.

When we stayed with her last year, I spent much of the time sitting in that yard, with Chico sitting on me, making contented grunting and purring noises as I drank wine and smoked cigarettes. There are also two other large dogs at this house, and Chico would often sit on top of one of them, making the same noises. A very funny sight.

After collecting eggs one day (I have never eaten so many eggs in one week as then) someone left the coupe gate half open and a chicken got out, wandering into the jaws of Chico, who badly mauled it. This was not an unusual event. Sometimes a chicken would flap over the fence and receive the same treatment. The cockerel they have is THE biggest I have ever seen, and more than a match for Chico. This cock has been known to see off wild boar.

I heard from my friend's mother (who lives in Bath) a couple of months ago, that Chico had killed one chicken too many, and rather than strengthen the defences around the chicken coupe, they just killed Chico instead.

I have been so depressed and angry about this, that I have tried not to think about it until now, but the Utah story has brought it back to me.

It is a sort of paradise up there in the mountains, but an extremely hostile paradise if you don't fit in.


  1. They used to recommend tying the dead chicken to the dog's collar, and leaving it there until it rotted. Whether this put them off doing it again, I've never heard.

    I didn't know they shot their baddies in the US. A wee bit extreme, n'est pas?

  2. So...the moral of the story (for me)...a rescue pup, it has to be!
    (sorry...didn't mean to make that rhyme).

    Bad enough to think about Chico, I'm trying desperately hard not to think about Gardner.

  3. I question Capital Punishment for this man and for Chico. This is humanity?

  4. Poor Chico, poor Ronnie.
    I used to have a lurcher who left cleanly killed chickens on the back doorstep for me. She really thought she was doing the righht thing. I tried the chicken around the neck thing. I tried beating her with dead chickens. (strangely satisfying) In the end, I got rid of the chickens.

  5. I wonder if it would have worked if they had tied a dead lawyer around the neck of Gardner for a few weeks?

    I put this post up so people would think about Gardner and Chico, despite the fact they have met neither.

    You have added another dimension to your fascination, now that you have admitted to finding beatings with dead chickens strangely satisfying, Sarah. It's not doing much for my sea-legs.

  6. Tom - I read this post through twice and feel the same compassion you obviously feel about Chico and Ronnie Lee Gardener. Little Chico was such a gorgeous little dog. Why couldn't they have have let someone else love him and care for him! Our cats will catch and kill birds with half an opportunity, that's why the bird table is way up. But they don't know they're doing anything wrong and that's what they do! As for Ronnie Lee Gardener until any of us have walked in someone else's shoes, how can we judge? Thanks for putting that post up.

  7. I agree with all you say Molly. Chico ran out of luck. She actually asked me to take him back to England, but I thought she was joking. I didn't realise he was so ill thought of.

  8. Nothing intelligent to bring to the table as always, just disappointment at some peoples behaviour....walks away blubbing with chicos face etched in the mind.

  9. Just to say that I meant 'I've' nothing to bring apart from disappointment! Rather reads like I meant you, how rude would that be! I wasn't concentrating, it was all that disappointment! x

  10. I had (rather arrogantly) assumed that, Sarah!

    I have just seen a photo of the back of the chair in which Mr Gardner was shot - some rather tastefully painted, tongue and groove black boards, which - no doubt - had half a ton of sand behind them. The grouping of 3 of the four rounds is very tight, but one of the State Troopers was such a bad shot, that he missed the white target pinned to Gardner's chest by about 3 inches. That's three inches, with a sighted, .30 calibre rifle from a distance of 25 feet... Not that it makes much difference, as one round through the heart would have been enough.

    The procedure went as follows: The assembled press and witnesses knew that the execution was about to take place, because the music changed from 'The Eagles' and 'SuperTramp' to a more fitting and sombre, 'Debussy'. How thoughtful of the wardens to turn off their iPods for a couple of minutes.

    Gardner was strapped to the chair, then hooded. 5 troopers were issued with identical, .30 calibre, Winchester rifles (deadly from about 1 mile and John Wayne's favourite weapon), but only 4 were loaded with live rounds, the 5th had a blank, in case one of the troopers wanted to deny responsibility.

    If you have ever fired any sort of firearm, you will know that - from the recoil etc. - you will always know if you fired a blank, so issuing one blank round is just plain bollocks.

    They then poked their weapons through a slot in the wall and fired, leaving the press watching the left arm of Gardner moving for a while, his fist clenching and unclenching.

    They even supplied a small tray to catch the unsightly blood - how thoughtful.

  11. Tom, you've just brought up something interesting with the blanks and thanks mollygolver for encapsulating the perspective on man and dog.
    Every rifleman knows, yes, when they've shot a blank. But that is not the point. It's not about the abdication of responsibility but the sharing of it.
    It's funny, i knew nothing about Ronnie until I read your post and then the next morning I was in a petrol station buying a coffee and one of those odd conversations (that happen early in the day with people who are still waking and trying to cope with a new day in this world)happened and it was all about this man.
    The woman who made my coffee said that he had asked to be shot. Is this correct?

  12. Yes, as I understand it, he had asked to be shot, because when they convicted him over 25 years ago, execution by firing squad was legal in the state, and they could not refuse his request. They still kept the poor fucker in isolation, on death row for 25 YEARS before doing it though.

    You have a good point about abdication of responsibility Sarah, but I think that if you volunteer to shoot someone, the intent is there, and - if you cannot take it as an individual - then you should not volunteer in the first place. If the state takes full responsibility, then surely, if you are pointing one of 5 guns, the shared is taken for granted?