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Note to Kristi Noem: Americans love their dogs

If there’s one thing that America will probably never be divided on, it’s that everyone cries at the end of Old Yeller.

For those who may not have seen the movie, given that it is nearly 70 years old, it’s the lovable story about a family living on the frontier in the 19th century who takes in a stray dog named Yeller (a Southern dialect pronunciation of the word “yellow,” which was the color of the dog’s coat). The dog becomes the family’s beloved, trusted canine, defender, and protector. Yeller defends the family from wild animal attacks, including bears, boars, and a wolf. While protecting the family from the wolf, Yeller contracts rabies, and the family ultimately has to shoot him because of the disease.

It’s arguably one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinematic history.

Has Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) never watched Old Yeller? If she did, she might have known that shooting and killing one’s dog, or at the very least telling the entire country about it, was a bad idea.

Americans love their dogs. This is true whether one is a Republican or Democrat. The love and appreciation for canines have no political allegiances. The animals are known as “man’s best friend” for a reason. Through all the political strife, turmoil, confrontations, and domestic hostilities, every normal, rational, and sane person would agree that the idea of having to shoot and kill a lovable canine is gut-wrenching. 

Everyone seems to have known this except the governor of South Dakota. 

Given that this is common knowledge and not at all complex, it was utterly baffling to read that, for some reason, Noem decided to include a story about shooting her dog in her new book, No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward.

When I first heard about this story, all I could think of was the climactic scene of the 1957 Disney film. It’s hard not to do so. It’s saddening just having to think about it. Yet, inexplicably, Noem thought including this anecdote in her novel would illustrate her prowess when it comes to making difficult decisions. 

It accomplished the exact opposite. 

To make matters worse, Noem allegedly claimed to “hate the dog” and considered it “less than worthless,” all because of an incident in which the dog mistakenly attacked a local family’s chickens while on a hunting trip. As punishment, Noem said she took the dog to a gravel pit and shot it. I am a dog owner. I can’t say I ever lived on a farm or had my dog attack and kill chickens. However, there are unquestionably countless other options that Noem should have used here. Nearly all of them would not have made her appear like a sociopath.  

She could have included any other example in her life in which she had to make a tough decision, but for some reason, she chose to include the one of shooting her dog. In addition to being illegal, cruel, and immoral, it was also politically dumb. The fact that she did not have enough common sense to realize that most people would find her actions heartless and associate her with killing puppies shows a horrible deficiency of sound judgment. 

Has anyone ever killed their political career so quickly? She went from a relatively beloved governor to a social pariah in a day. 

It was just an awful decision by Noem, who was touted as a possible vice presidential candidate for presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. Suffice it to say that unless Trump has the worst political strategists in the history of human civilization, any chance of Noem being Trump’s running mate is shot— pun intended. 

It should also probably kill — pun intended — the rest of her political ambitions. At this point, all any political opponent of hers would have to do is just bring up that she is the kind of person who shoots puppies.

It’s impossible to comprehend why Noem thought this story was a good idea. It’s also hard to explain how the editors of her book read that part and thought it was a good idea. It was a systemic failure of common sense all the way around.

Some things are better left unsaid. Admitting that you hated your dog and shot it in the head in a gravel pit is one of those things.

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