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Chapman: Cherish our furry friends

By Staff | Feb 14, 2014

“No way!” I shouted as my car inched along through the first part of the Sullys Hill National Game Preserve on a blustery May morning in 2012.

“Whoa, Tim! Don’t get too close,” my girlfriend, Mariel, said.

Literally, just feet away from the driver side of my stable Sable was a massive bison. Behind it was a whole herd of the relaxed behemoths. Some rested, others tended to the adolescents. The sheer size of the beasts was breathtaking. I had seen bison on farms and at fairs, but never on a refuge, where they’re almost entirely free.

I snapped away with my camera as I lowered the window. We could have sat in that spot all day, marveling at these giants of the prairie.

This day was one of many exploration dates in my first warm season in North Dakota. My new home state has more National Wildlife Refuges than any other state and I wanted to discover the flora and fauna of a land I knew nothing about.

Moving to North Dakota excited what I think was a dormant love for animals. A remarkable stillness and freedom is felt around the wild – whether I’m catching a shot of a yellow-bellied sapsucker in Minot’s Oak Park, trying to follow the prairie dog labyrinth at Sullys Hill or gawking at the rhythmic take off of a pelican at J. Clark Salyer Refuge.

All animals, wild or domestic, have something to offer our world or they wouldn’t still be here.

I know it pained many readers to learn of some neighbors having to see their poor dog die of a gunshot. Then news spread around the world of Russian officials moving to kill thousands of stray dogs – because they happened to be an annoyance – near the Olympic Village in Sochi. Luckily, a billionaire and activists are offering refuge to the animals and hopefully many of the K-9s will find happy homes.

People who struggle to respect animals often struggle to respect humans. Sadly, killing animals comes too easy to a large portion of society. (And I’m not writing about hunters, who value the importance of meat that animals have provided their families for generations, and the lessons hunting teaches children and adults.)

It was a bit disturbing to see a dead rabbit thrown on the ice at the Bottineau Community Arena earlier this season. The Braves were hosting the Minot Magicians, and I later learned that schools across the state have made it a tradition to toss the animals on the ice when playing MHS. One hockey fanatic told me 27 rabbits were thrown on the ice in Bismarck in 2007 and that some were still maimed and alive.

A heated football rivalry in my hometown saw fans of one school use its colors to paint the other school’s bulldog statue. The instigating school, nicknamed the Wildcats, had cats hanged from trees on its campus, in response.

Teens tend to do foolish things (it’s part of growing up), but using animals in this way is disgusting. Unfortunately, many people cheered the recent incident in Bottineau. It proves that communities need to do more to discourage behavior that disregards the importance of valuing all lifeforms.

Animals mean so much to so many people and the environment. Our actions toward other creatures can have wide-ranging effects. Do your part and embrace the happiness animals provide.

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