Katja Puschnik might not be a name you're familiar with. If it's not a name you've heard of, consider yourself very lucky. If you're sensitive, you might want to skip the next paragraph or two.
You see, Ms Puschnik appears on The Sun's website today, in a video that I can't bring myself to watch (the pictures and the description were enough to bring me to tears). In the 44 second clip, she's seen reaching into a basket of squirming black and white puppies and, as they yelp and wriggle helplessly, she throws each one into a fast-flowing river, smiling and cheering as each small animal drowns.
As with Mary Bale, the woman now infamous for dropping a cat into a wheelie bin, sections of the internet community have (somewhat understandably) already made Puschnik a figure of hate. Her name and contact details have been put online and death threats have been posted in blogs and on the pages of animal rights websites. I'm not suggesting that I agree with quite that level of outcry, but I'll gladly say that I hope the bitch is prosecuted for such sickening behaviour.
A little too strongly worded? I don't think so.
What Puschnik has done is not simply murder (again, I don't really think that's too strong a word) innocent animals. She has deprived several potential owners of the many, varied joys that a pet can bring. Why not advertise the puppies for sale and make a little bit of cash? What about leaving the basket outside a vetinary surgery, knowing the puppies within would be checked over and hopefully rehomed without her having to pay a penny or deal with the fuss of unwanted dogs? Of course, these are all moot points. Unfortunately, the deed is done. And as a dog lover and the owner of a much-loved cocker spaniel, it breaks my heart to know that those lives were snuffed out in such a cruel way.
Dogs are often referred to as "man's best friend." It's not just a random cliche, either. Cal, my now slightly doddery 15 year old spaniel has provided me with loyalty and companionship of a kind I've not experienced from some of my human aquaintances. A philosopher (I forget which) once said: "If you give love, it'll come right back to you." That seems almost doubly true with a dog. And amazingly (almost unfortunately), even when a dog is mistreated by its owner, it will remain loyal.
Those of you who aren't animal lovers, or who prefer cats may not understand a word of what I'm jibbering on about, but believe me: A dog will enrich your life in ways you would never have thought.
Often, when something bad has happened in my life - a rejection from someone I've fallen for, or a failed job interview - I've returned home with tears in my eyes and immediately, Cal will sense that something is wrong. He'll see me, sitting at the kitchen table and trot over to press his head into my lap, whilst staring at me with those big, brown eyes. And he won't budge. For as long as the tears fall, he'll be there, patiently and silently waiting for a smile to return to my face as I run my fingers through his fur.
He's never anything less than pleased to see me. He doesn't get annoyed over silly little things and in spite of the fact that he's a male, I never worry that he's not actually as keen on me as he seems, or that he's going to go off with someone else. He has an amazing sense of humour, too. And yes, I know that sounds a bit of an odd thing to say about a dog, but it's true. He has an incredibly expressive face and even at the ripe old age of 15, he'll still sometimes chase a ball around the garden and, when you finally stop and decide to go back into the house, he'll still stare at you as though he's thinking: "OI! I was enjoying that!"
Yes he's a bit greedy and yes, now that he's old he can never make up his mind as to whether he wants to go into the garden or stay in his bed. But when he gives you his paw and sits, open-mouthed, tongue-lolling out, tail wagging merrily... None of that matters.
It's all of that affection, all of that love that Katja Puschnik has deprived someone of. It's more than just the lives of the puppies that she has stolen, it's the chance to make memories. It's the silly photos of the dog wearing sunglasses or a funny hat that you still chuckle over years later. It's the mutual trust between dog and owner - the bond that stands strong over the years, no matter where you go or what happens in your life. I find it heartbreaking that anyone could take the life of a defenceless animal and I'm sure any other right-thinking person does too.
I think I shall end this here, before I get too upset. Besides, it's almost time for walkies...