A week ago last night, Louisiana Tech’s English bulldog mascot, Tech XX, was reported “missing or stolen” from Sexton Animal Health Center in Ruston, Louisiana (where he lived). By Wednesday AM, however, the sad truth had come to light. Tech XX had died of heat stroke and his caretaker at the time had tried to cover it up.
Everyone who’s ever owned a bulldog knows: Bulldogs are especially sensitive to the heat. That’s because bulldogs can’t breathe like normal dogs. And since normal dogs regulate their body temperature to a large degree through their respiration, it makes sense that bulldogs would succumb to heat stroke at much higher rates than other breeds.
So why can’t they breathe? Brachycephalic airway syndrome is the cause of their respiratory compromise. It’s what happens when dogs are bred for shortened heads and smushed faces; the short snouts, scrunched-up airways, redundant folds and tiny tracheas physically obstruct normal breathing. Which means that, by design, every single bulldog is affected.
Add that to their tendency towards obesity and it’s plain that bulldogs can handle almost NO heat –– much less the 108-degree variety Tech XX reportedly endured.
The news of Tech’s passing –– especially given his exalted status, traumatic end, and cover-up scandal –– hit his local community hardest, occasioning a hailstorm of outrage aimed most pointedly at the kennel worker involved.
Ignorance, irresponsibility, idiocy, negligence, abuse …
You can imagine the outcry against this kid. The calls for his head on a plate –– or more vituperatively, that he meet a similar end … But here’s where I have to ask: Does this clueless college kid really deserve to be the whipping boy of overheated bulldogs everywhere?
I think not.
For starters, I’m going to go out on a limb and offer that the veterinary facility where Tech XX lived –– and in this case the veterinarian owner charged with caring for the dog –– should share in the blame.
After all, if your dog died due to the negligence of your veterinarian’s employee, you’d be holding your veterinarian legally and morally responsible. I mean, how dare they employ such lax workers? And it’s a proven fact; patient death can be dramatically mitigated by well-articulated policies and procedures.
Consider: When a South California veterinarian left a dog in a locked car in 80-degrees of Cali heat last week, he was arrested for animal abuse. And when I asked you in a Facebook post just yesterday whether you believed those who left dogs in hot cars should be prosecuted, many of you offered that veterinarians should be held to even higher standards in cases like these.
Which kind of makes sense. But accidents do happen. Even attended dogs drown. Puppies fall from arms. Cats run outside and get hit by cars. And people who only occasionally take their infants to daycare sometimes drive to work and forget to drop them off, leaving them to stifle in the sweltering heat, instead. It happens.
But this case is somewhat different from my point of view. Because the lion’s share of the blame for what happened here has much less to do with how one ignorant and/or lazy [and definitely stupid] kid did and whether or not his vet boss should be held liable for the loss of Louisiana Tech’s mascot.
Instead, I’ll argue what I believe should be obvious and yet I’ve not heard discussed in all the debate: Tech XX’s bulldogged breeding did him in.
No he wouldn’t have died if it weren’t for irresponsible employees, poor policies, and poorer practices, but the truth is also that he wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t been a bulldog.
So who’s to blame? Seeing as any non-brachycephalic dog would’ve survived the reported conditions –– albeit with some discomfort –– it stands to reason that being born as a bulldog had significantly more to do with his death than the actions of those presumably (and I qualify this) following standard canine protocols.
Perhaps if we started to breed for less extreme features and began to accept that our breeding practices were killing pets with three-minute heat strokes, we’d have a lot less Tech XX’s succumbing to this summer’s extremes. But then, it’s always easiest to pin the thing on a lying patsy –– that is, if you happen to have one handy like Dr. Sexton and Louisiana Tech did.
Title pic: Tech XX, courtesy of Louisiana Tech Sportspix