A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Prince William’s Guard Dogs

Shows: Belgian Shepherd Brus. TWO military dogs used to protect Prince William at his RAF base were put down days after he left. Belgian Shepherd Brus and a German Shepherd named Blade were part of a unit which guarded Wills, 31, at RAF Valley in North Wales. Source: http://www.raf.mod.uk/gallery/RAFP2010AnnualDog%20Trials.cfm?start=13&viewmedia=17#pageContentIt’s hard to know what to make of Britain’s Prince William and his relationship to animals.

  • One day he’s out hunting them. (The whole family loves going out to shoot birds).
  • Another day, like for the last few weeks, he’s been giving long interviews about his passion in life to save the wildlife of Africa – in particular the rhinos.
  • And today we hear that the two guard dogs who looked after him in the military until he retired just before the birth of his son, George, were also both retired … and immediately destroyed.

The British press are, of course, all over the story. The Sun headlines with “Rexecuted!” and tells how Brus, a Belgian shepherd, and Blade, a German shepherd, had the exclusive mission of protecting William at the Air Force station in Wales where he was a helicopter pilot.

“They patrolled the station to protect military personnel, equipment and facilities. But once the prince left the unit was closed.”

William left the air base on a Tuesday. And on Friday, rather than being retired to good homes, the two dogs were simply killed.

The Ministry of Defense explained that Brus, aged seven and a half, “had come to the end of his work life” and that Blade, nine and a half, had “a record of veterinary and behavioral issues.” A spokesman said:

“The department’s policy is to re-home all military working dogs at the end of their  service life wherever practicable. Regrettably, however, there are occasions when they have to be put down.

Seriously? Just three days after they’re on patrol, they have no quality of life?

“This action is only ever taken as a last resort. Unfortunately in this case the dogs were unsuitable for re-homing or alternative  duties and so sadly, for the animals’ welfare, they had to be put down.

An air force official added that the dogs were “security patrol dogs, not sole protection for Prince William” and that the timing of their demise was “purely coincidental.”

“These dogs had played an invaluable role offering security to our personnel over many years and were much loved by their handlers, who had an extremely strong bond with them.”

All the more reason not to kill them. Instead, just a “No comment” from the prince’s PR handlers.

In a special report upcoming on CNN, William, who is the patron of the conservation charity Tusk, says he has deep feeling for the animals of Africa, and that he was left close to tears after being shown footage of a rhino who was attacked by poachers and left bleeding to death.

“The wildlife is incredibly vulnerable and I feel a real protective instinct, more so now that I am a father, which is why I get emotional about it… you want to stand up for what is very vulnerable and needs protecting. Elephants, rhinos and many other animals that are persecuted don’t have a voice.”

He credits his mother, Princess Diana, for inspiring him to champion the cause of animals:

“My mother would come back [from Africa] with all these stories, full of excitement and passion for what she had been doing and I used to sit there, quite a surprised little boy, taking it all in – and the infectious enthusiasm and energy she had rubbed off on me.”

lupo-william-kate-091813Diana tried (but failed) to keep her sons from being drawn into the family’s hunting culture and going on their shooting expeditions in the British countryside.

William says in the CNN documentary that he keeps photos of wildlife on his smartphone and stops to look at them whenever he needs a few moments  to relax and relieve the stress of his job. He and Kate have decorated their new baby’s nursery with pictures of animals – mostly from Africa. And the couple recently acquired a puppy, Lupo.

So, how does all this fit together?

The same question might, of course, be asked about any of us who love dogs and cats … and eat pigs and chickens. We compartmentalize. We make some animals part of our social “in-group”, and leave others as the “out-group.” We all do it, one way or the other, and we just live with the inconsistencies and anomalies of the human condition. They would have been well looked after and could have had a few years of happy retirement.

All the same, though, what happened to the two dogs, Brus and Blade, could easily have been avoided. Sure, many dogs in the military are not suited to life in a typical family home. And at least one of these dogs is reported to have had some of the physical problems typical of older shepherd dogs – maybe hip dysplasia.

But that’s no reason to kill them three days after they’re taken off the job.

Maybe William didn’t know – hence the “No comment” if he doesn’t want to criticize the people who were ensuring his safety.

Still, it would have been eminently possible to retire these dogs to homes where they would have been well looked after and could have had a few years of happy retirement.

It’s all just another case of how the nonhuman animals with whom we share this world are treated as commodities who exist for no purpose beyond our own convenience.