The mind of a dog is a mystery, and that’s not a bad thing. Mysteries contain nuggets of knowledge, and all you need is a key to unlock them. Puzzle over one for a while, and you’ll find the truth that lies below. That’s what makes a walk with Charlie such an adventure. You never know where you’ll go while you go around the block.
We hadn’t gone very far last Sunday when I mentioned that it was the 26th anniversary of the day on which a man went into an engineering school in Montreal and killed 14 women.
“Why did he do that?” Charlie asked.
“It was because they were women,” I answered. “But not just any women. They weren’t subservient types. They weren’t the shrinking violets who would do whatever they were told while giving the spotlight to whoever it was who told them what to do. He said they were feminists, and he didn’t like feminism.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” said Charlie. “If he didn’t like feminists, why didn’t he just stay away from them?”
“I wish he had,” I replied. “They had promising futures. Their average age was 24. This year, they would have been 50. Most would have been getting ready for Christmas with their husbands. They would have been looking forward to their adult children coming home for the holiday. Or they might have been taking a trip to theirs. Many would have young grandchildren anxiously waiting to see what lay in store under the tree.”
Charlie was still puzzling over his last question. When people talk about persistence, they often talk about it being like a dog with a bone. Charlie’s like that. “It sounds to me,” he said, “that he hated successful women, independent women who could make their own choices in life. Is that what feminists are?”
“I think you’re onto something,” I said. We walked on in silence for a bit while he explored the scents left behind on trees and hydro poles and in the grass. Then suddenly he stopped and looked at me. “So the man who shot them,” he asked, “was he a terrorist?”
“Well,” I answered, “he wasn’t called that. They said he was sick, and deranged, and murderous.”
Charlie planted his feet on the ground and refused to move. “But down in California last week,” he said, “a man and woman shot 14 people dead. They’re being called terrorists.”
Oh jeez, I thought. Here he goes, acting like a dog with a bone. Chewing on it a while, spitting it out, rolling it around with his front paws, and picking it up again and chewing on it some more. I tugged on his leash and we walked about half a block in silence. Then Charlie stopped by a hydro pole and lifted his leg while he looked me in the eye.
“That’s piss,” he said. “Fourteen killed in Montreal and it’s a murderous rampage. Fourteen killed in California and it’s a terrorist attack. Why the difference?”
“Well,” I said, then I stopped. Hmmm, I thought, he’s got me there. But there has to be an explanation. I tugged his leash. “Come on,” I said, “Let’s keep walking.” As we walked, I chewed on the bone he had passed to me.
“Aha,” I said. “There were two shooters in California and only one in Montreal. A group of attackers is terrorism. One attacker is murder.”
Charlie’s tail began to wag so hard it shook his whole rear end. He had a look on his face like he’d just caught a squirrel. “Then what about that thing in Ottawa on Parliament Hill last year?” he asked. “There was only one attacker, and only one victim. It was still said to be terrorism.”
Oh jeez, I thought. He’s got me again. “Come on,” I said, “let’s keep walking.” As we kept walking, I kept thinking. It can’t be the number of victims. There’s been more than a thousand aboriginal women murdered out west and the terrorist word never gets used. We have a rough idea of the number of victims, but no idea of the number of killers or the number of incidents. It must be something else.
“That’s it.” I said as I pulled on his leash and stopped in the middle of the street. “It’s all about politics, and motives. Those two in California were mad at their government. The one in Montreal wasn’t. He was mad at women” Before I could go on, I saw that Charlie had laid down in the middle of the street. His head was cocked to one side and his eyes bored right through me.
“You don’t see it, do you?” he said. “When San Bernardino first happened, everyone thought it was a run of the mill mass shooting in a workplace lunchroom. The guy worked there, for heaven’s sake. He wasn’t mad at his government. It was about something that happened at work.”
“OK,” I said, “so what are you saying?”
“Think about it,” said Charlie. “One day it was a run of the mill garden variety mass shooting that happens every day down there. Then some reporter noticed that the killers had Muslim sounding names and the woman was wearing a hijab. Then the story changed.”
“OK,” I said again, “so what are you saying?”
Charlie stood up and wagged his tail. “Don’t you see?” he said. “The difference between a deranged mass murderer and a terrorist is not who gets killed, or who does the killing. It’s what use the government can make of it all.”
“I think you’re right,” I said. “Come on. We’re almost home.”