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"stolpestad" by William Lychack

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On "Stolpestad" by William Lychack

The story is about a law enforcement officer who responds to an unusual call toward the end of his shift. He is called to the home of a boy whose dog appears to have been mortally wounded (the story does not go into specific detail as to how the dog is injured), and at the request of the boy's mother, the officer ends up putting the dog. The boy is not there to watch, though the officer keeps hoping that the boy will come running and ask him to stop. Out of courtesy for the boy, the officer shoots the dog in the neck, just under the collar where the wound will not be seen instead of shooting her behind the ear to guarantee a quick and sure death.

The story brings into question how a person should respond to a situation like this. The officer shoots the dog, but it is later on in the story when we learn that the dog was still alive when the boy and his father went to bury her. When the boy and his father are speaking with the officer, the father explains how they found the dog and how they called a vet to examine the dog before the vet showed them the proper way to put down an injured animal. "Helluva thing to teach a kid, don't you think?" the boy's father asks the officer.

I believe that the story reflects on how we learn about death and the conveys the ethical challenge people face when they are making a decision such as the one the officer made to shoot the dog in the neck. His intention seemed good and justified--he did not want the boy to see what he had done--but in the end it prolonged the animal's suffering and the boy learned a lesson that children his age may not be prepared to absorb.



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