Bedtime Tale or Nightmare?

I recently came across a disturbing set of images that made me sick. A children's book titled 'The Unfaithful Dog' encouraged violence and vengeance over kindness and empathy! Here’s my opinion

A few months ago, I received four images from a friend on WhatsApp. As I waited for the images to download, the blurry went from clear and my mind oscillated from sheer anger to fear, touching many different emotions along the way.

The first picture looked like a regular children’s storybook cover. As I scrolled further down, I noticed that the other two pictures basically contained prose and I briefly glanced at the book's title, The Unfaithful Dog. Then, to my absolute horror, I arrived at the last image: an animated dog being strangled by a noose, hung to death. I looked again, almost in disbelief because this was meant to be a children’s storybook.

Then I started reading the prose. The pages told the story of a shepherd, his herd and his dog. In a nutshell, the dog had attacked and eaten the sheep he was meant to protect and for this he paid with his life at the shepherd’s hand. Obviously, there was no mention of the fact that the dog was probably hungry, a responsibility that lies with the shepherd.

The dog was beaten until he was half dead, after which the shepherd tied a rope around his neck and hung him from the branch of a tree. Even when the dog begged for forgiveness, the shepherd accused him of being unfaithful and strangled him to death.

Moral of the story: The dog got the punishment he deserved for his disloyalty

Behind the book, while covering the synopsis, the publisher has proudly stated that these stories have stellar morals and lessons that add to the values of the child reading them!

I re-read everything twice. It took me some time to digest what was in front of my eyes. As someone who works with animals, dogs especially, day in and day out, I was angry.

As a parent, I was mortified.

My first thought? I have to protect my child from ridiculous books like this.

Besides hideously crossing all lines when it comes to animal rights, the book wholly perpetuated violence. It blatantly allowed children to think that revenge is the right way to live. It made the act of killing something so casual. It undermined forgiveness completely. It made a mockery of the relationship that shepherds and their dogs share.

To add to it all, it graphically represented the actions as well and humorized it too. Since when has it been okay to have anyone being strangled to death?

My second thought: how many children are going to read this and think this is absolutely okay to do?!

In my opinion, this book is completely unacceptable. I have been a crusader for children’s safety around animals for many years. Moreover, along with safety, I have also been someone who firmly believes that children must be taught empathy from a very young age if our planet is to stand a chance to survive. Whether that is towards each other, animals, or towards nature -- empathy is key.

A book like this is shameful. This book should be recalled, and the publishing house must offer a public apology for their gross inability to ascertain child-appropriate stories. In fact, this is inappropriate irrespective of who reads it, whether child or adult!

The book is available as a part of a series and costs about Rs. 60. After reading this story and having seen the illustrations that accompany it, I shudder to think what nightmarish tales form a part of this series of books. The shudder deepens when I wonder how many children have already had this story read to them since it has been published by a well-reputed publishing house that caters mainly to children’s books. 

At the time that I first wrote this article, the photos went viral on the internet and the publishers received a lot of online backlash, after which they issued a formal statement assuring the public that they would look into the matter. While it is commendable that they took some form of action, there is still a palpable lack of accountability in light of the damage that has already been done -- this time, in the form of impressionable young minds.

In a country where culturally so many animals are respected and even worshipped, if these are the stories our children read, we are very far away from home.

This article was originally published on the RESQ Charitable Trust website: https://www.resqct.org/resq-updates/Bedtime-Tale-Turned-Nightmare

Tanya Kane

Tanya Kane

Jeevoka member since Jul 2019

Ever since I can remember, I have always loved dogs! What started as a learning journey during my teenage years moulded into a full-time job in adulthood. 12 years ago, I shunned my Master’s degree to set up The Pawsh and RESQ Charitable Trust and have since then never looked back. A trained Canine Behaviourist and Hydrotherapist, I am very passionate about inculcating responsible pet ownership and working on dogs that need a second chance at the RESQ Rehoming Centre. When I am not working with animals, you will find me championing the sustainable life — another cause very close to my heart!