Greg Sarber: Kristi Noem did something urban Americans just don’t understand

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By GREG SARBER

The news that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem shot a vicious dog that she owned when she was younger was greeted with outrage by animal lovers and has supposedly torpedoed her chances of being Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate.  

The majority of people in this country live in urban areas, and killing a dog is hard for them to understand.  Critics claim that this was an act of cruelty on Noem’s part, and it would have been kinder to rehome the animal. Urban Americans are far enough removed from the realities of life in rural America that they can’t understand Noem’s actions.

While critics call her out, those who live in farm country, on a ranch, or in rural Alaska are wondering what the big deal is. This kind of thing happens occasionally, and to them, the main issue isn’t animal cruelty, it is accountability. It is easy to avoid responsibility when you live in urban America. If you see someone speeding on the highway, just stay out of the way and call the cops. If you see a homeless person begging as you walk down the street, pretend you didn’t hear anything and keep walking. If you have a vicious dog, well, just take it to an animal shelter, and it will become someone else’s problem. 

In urban America, it is easy to shift your burdens onto someone else and avoid responsibility. That is the way things often happen in big cities, and it is easy to be judgmental of others who behave differently. 

There was a time when all Americans, both urban and rural were people of character. If they saw a problem, they owned it and had the obligation to try to make it right.  It is still that way in much of the country outside of the big cities. In the case of Kristi Noem’s dog, she says that the dog was untrainable and vicious.  It escaped from her and killed some neighbor’s chickens. In rural America, chickens have value. They produce eggs and can be used for food. When a dog kills them in a fit of brutality, the chickens suffer, there is a financial loss, and the dog becomes a liability to its owner.  

In a city, it would be easy and convenient to give a dog like this away to someone else, or perhaps take it to the local no-kill animal shelter that will promise to rehome the dog with some other unsuspecting owner.  Most urban Americans would happily do this, and then forget about the dog as they drive away from the animal shelter in the belief that they did the right thing.

They should ask themselves who is responsible if that dog should still attack again and kill more chickens, or perhaps a cat or maybe a small child. In this situation who is the responsible party?  Is it the unsuspecting new owner trying to do the right thing when they adopt the dog from the shelter, or is it the original person who knew the dog was a brute, but turned it into the shelter to avoid taking responsibility for its actions and to salve their guilty conscience? After all, they didn’t kill the dog, it was someone else’s problem as soon as they drove away from the shelter.

In rural America, people are not like that. They often lack the luxuries of life that are enjoyed in the big cities. There aren’t any no-kill animal shelters for many people. In rural America, the owner of the vicious dog is responsible if it should hurt more animals or people. In the case of her dog, Noem did what she thought was right. She took it to a remote location and euthanized it as compassionately as possible to prevent it from doing additional harm to others.   

Alaska is a bit like rural South Dakota, and sometimes people here are put in situations where they have to do the right thing, even if it is hard. This issue reminds me of something that happened when I was a kid.  This was 60 years ago, and Alaska was a very different place at that time. The incident involved a friend of my grandfather’s, an old Norwegian fisherman and it happened when he was out longline fishing for halibut.  This type of fishery requires baited hooks to be attached with metal clips to a long length of rope that is played out behind the vessel. 

Unfortunately, the seas were rough, and the injured individual lost his balance. When he fell, one of the large J hooks got jammed into the middle of the palm of his hand. I am sure it was very painful. The hook was baited with herring, and everyone on the vessel knew that the injured hand would probably get infected. In today’s world, the vessel might have immediately headed for port to get him medical attention, or perhaps called for a Coast Guard helicopter to take the injured party to the hospital.  

Back then things weren’t done that way. Everyone on the vessel was from the same extended family and the trip to port would have had a financial cost for the captain and crew on the fishing vessel. The captain would have to spend more money on fuel and the crew would have lost out on their crew share for the lost catch.  

Calling for the Coast Guard would have left the boat shorthanded and put extra work on his crewmates.  Either of these options would have shifted the burden for the injured party’s mistake onto other members of his family, which wasn’t done in that culture. So, the injured individual made the tough decision to deal with the problem on the boat so that they could keep fishing.  

He shoved the hook completely through his hand, cut off the barb, and then pulled the remaining shaft of the hook backward out of his palm. I am sure that it was very painful and was a hard story to hear when it was retold to me. It was probably worse than it sounds when I write about it. The crew then disinfected and bandaged up the injured man’s hand as best they could and went back to work, with everybody including the injured party still doing their job until the trip was completed.  

When they reached port, the injured individual got medical treatment and eventually recovered. Out on the fishing grounds, they did what they thought was right, even though it was painful for the injured man.  This is how things get done in rural America.  Strong men and women do what must be done in the face of adversity.  

I could tell many more stories of people performing similar acts when put in difficult situations with no one around to help them.  There are times when bad things happen and there is nobody to turn to.  In Bush Alaska, if you get into a situation like this you deal with it as best you can.  

I believe that is the situation Kristi Noem was in.  As I understand the story as she tells it, her dog was a vicious brute and a hazard to other animals and potentially other humans.  Noem could have probably passed the dog off to somebody else, but for a truly vicious dog that was not the right thing do to.  She didn’t shirk from her responsibility and did what was needed.  I am not advocating being cruel to animals, but at the same time, if they are a hazard to others, they need to be put down. 

This incident has likely ended any chance of Kristi Noem being picked to run as Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate. It may have also ended her political career. There are a lot of dog lovers in South Dakota and Noem will have a hard time explaining her actions to them in future elections. 

Before this incident, I was not a Kristi Noem supporter, and still am not, but I do have a newfound respect for her. She didn’t shirk from a challenge; she owned the problem and did what she thought was needed.  Now that the story is out, and she is being attacked by critics, Noem hasn’t tried to hide from it, demonstrating courage in the face of adversity.  

I can think of no better behavior from a politician.  

Greg Sarber is a board member of Alaska Gold Communications, parent company to Must Read Alaska.

39 COMMENTS

  1. I just told my kids a story from my childhood in the Midwest, when we had to put our dogs down (my brother shot them in the woods) after we discovered they were running wild with local dogs at night, killing others’ sheep and chickens. They eventually attacked our own sheep, and we knew that once they get the taste of blood, there’s no way to prevent them from running with a pack again if they happen to get out at night.

    Having grown up on a farm in the country, I’m still taken aback here in Anchorage when people walking their dogs carry on conversations with them as they walk, introduce their dogs to me when I encounter them, and invite me into their conversations with their dogs.

    I would wager that some of the same dog lovers agitated by the Noem story would never deny “a woman’s right to choose” to kill the child in her womb.

    There are one of two primary distinctions between animals and humans, and we would do well to remember them.

  2. Excellent analysis. We have been going from a rural population to an urban one since the early 1900’s and even as late as 1960 we still had 30% living in rural areas. Today, depending on whose figures you use, only around 15% live in what are defined as rural areas and probably even fewer hold the personal values that Saber referenced of responsibility and courage to do the right thing and not apologize for it.

    One thing Saber did not address is that any politician with these personal values that looks like a challenge in any way to the power of the current extreme left in today’s world is going to be attacked and made to look like a monster regardless of anything else positive in their lives. Those currently in power are extreme believers in “The End Justifies The Means” mantra as we are seeing everywhere.

  3. Doing what is necessary, even when it is hard, is a mark of character.
    “Noem hasn’t tried to hide from it, demonstrating courage in the face of adversity.”
    Well said, Greg.

  4. Aggressive dogs are dangerous! Now days people treat their pets like children, dressing them up like humans, calling themselves dog mom’s and dad’s. Yet have such disregard for human life. Society has lost its moral compass.

    • Aggressive people are not dangerous?
      What is the moral compass and who is the right men to say what is right and what is wrong?
      This woman made up the story about dog. How do I know? Because she is committed pheasants hunter and she loves to kill innocent animals.
      That’s the real face of Kristi

  5. It’s not about the dog. Never has been.

    It’s about someone who is willing to sell her soul to become VP being so profoundly stupid she didn’t see the downside of putting this in print. At least half of America, many of them are voters Trump may need, object to a woman shooting Rover.

    And she’s been caught doing a Biden in other parts of her book. Either flat out lying or being wildly delusional.

    It’s political stupidity on an epic scale. If this is her cognitive process, she shouldn’t work a prison lunchroom. Much less be VP.

    The one good thing is she probably killed her political career when she killed the dog. So there is that bright side.

  6. Rule 1 of shooting your dog, don’t talk about shooting your dog. She’s a moron, not because she shot her dog, because she was stupid enough to put it in her book. But you know MAGA has never been accused of being smart.

    • I’d say if you have to put your dog down, you might discuss it with some humility instead of bragging about it. This is always a hard choice and tougher action for most folks–killing your dog is a far different decision than slaughtering a chicken or taking a moose. Never mind the fact is she essentially killed a dog for bad behavior that she hadn’t bothered to train properly. Would she beat her kid for not following a rule she hadn’t taught them? The idea that this is a rural versus urban issue is complete farce–most country folks aren’t giddy about having to put any animal down, let alone using it to “own the libs”.

  7. Oh my goodness, what a horrible disgusting act by an elected official.
    She could have been a lot more sympathetic to the vicious attacks on chickens and just released the dog out on the streets where children play like a lot of liberal judges do on a daily basis when career criminals come before them for sentencing for vicious attacks on other innocent human victims.

    There is certainly no place in the white house for her….Kamala Harris’s position is way over Kristy’s capabilities. She doesnt hold a candle to Kamala. She should take lessons from the vice president who encouraged the black rioters in 2020 to keep up the pressure until they become the superior race.
    After all black lives are far superior according to her.

  8. I had the same thoughts, but these are written better than I could ever express. At this moment I struggle with putting down my son’s dog, as son has gone off to college and the dog becomes aggressive with younger kids. I will not pass my problem onto others, nor pay the vet to do the dirty work. As Heinlein wrote in ‘Time Enough For Love:’ ‘When the need arises – and it does – you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don’t farm it out, that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse.’
    Yesterday I saw a squirrel carrying a dead baby rabbit, killed by a bite to the base of the skull (yes, this happens). Nature is cruel and we are a part of nature. People in cities think themselves superior to natural law, every day separating themselves further from reality, but one day it will surely return to shock them.

  9. That’s a lot of words to defend animal cruelty.

    Apparently for Noem and MAGA, cruelty is the point. Noem wanted to appear tough, able to make tough decisions. In addition to suffering from toxic ambition, she has the same TDS (Truth Denial Sickness) that most Republicans, including Sarber, claim as a virtue.

  10. That’s a lot of words to defend animal cruelty.

    Apparently for Noem and MAGA, cruelty is the point. Noem wanted to appear tough, able to make tough decisions. In addition to suffering from toxic ambition, she has the same TDS (Truth Denial Sickness) that most Republicans, including Sarber, claim as a virtue.

  11. What’s the big deal?? I have and would continue, telling folks with dogs that are trouble, or are of a breed that potential issues could or would develop, as I come across them and the dog takes an interest in me. “Watch your dog, I am not a dog lover, and will not tolerate being placed in danger.”
    The point I am making to them, is a warning. Yes, I am prepared to follow through were that the case.
    The article is clear and articulate as to the reasoning this lady acted as she did. Thumbs up for her honesty and guts to stand by that decision.

  12. “There was a time when all Americans, both urban and rural were people of character.”

    There was a time.

  13. Bragging about killing an animal to curry favor with a narcissist is pathetic. Almost as pathetic as trying to conflate rural Americans with a cruel act

    • Frank, meanwhile ” Dog Shooting Day” still exists in many Bush Villages, participants are paid 20 bucks per pup.
      Just saying…

  14. Mushers in Alaska also take out their own dogs if they are lazy or don’t want to perform. But why write about it? This was her stupidity.

    • Agreed.

      The problem isn’t doing what needs to be done. The problem is not having the awareness of current media culture and her audience.

      Not unlike SSS. The last “S” is the most important one.

  15. Noem didn’t try to hide from it?
    In what universe?

    She did a couple really pathetic interviews where she dug a deeper hole, then someone finally got her to shut up and stop talking.

  16. LOL, what suburban moms don’t understand is her tone deaf retelling of a story that was sure to end her political career. That’s what happens when you surround yourself with people that are too craven to disagree with you.

  17. What an ignorant headline. Urban residents understand killing. They do it everyday. Probably for the same reasons Noem gave for killing her dog. I think MA’s opinion is on point.

  18. I think Governor Noem was being proactive. The shooting of the dog is a historical fact, something that happened. Would it have been better to wait until questioned about it in a press conference or when a microphone was thrust in front of her? Some people are picturing the dog as a cute little cocker spaniel others as a pitbull. It doesn’t matter. Her dog was her property. Her dog, her decision as to whether the dog was a threat to humans or other animals.

  19. If a dog attacks you put your hand out and when the dog tries to bite your hand grab the lower jaw with both hands and twist as hard as you can. Most dogs also have a very thin section of skull centered slightly above their eyes that is easily crushed with a blunt object. Just sayin.

  20. Blah, blah, blah……she said she wanted to be authentic…….did I miss the part where she talked about her affair with Lewendowsky that broke up her family? Or the part where you called her out for lying about meeting Kim Jung Un and Macron?……so, if she lied about these meetings how do we know she didn’t lie about the dog story…..we don’t and more importantly YOU don’t………

  21. In order to empathize with governor Noem, one has to accept her characterization of the dog as “viscious”. I have trouble believing that a wirehaired pointer is viscious. As a breed they’re reputed to be even tempered and good with people. They are bred to hunt uplandand game, of course an untrained young dog will attack chickens. In her book, Noem originally claimed that the dog nipped at her when she grabbed its collar, but did not bite. After the pushback her story morphed to the point where she now claims the dog bit her and other people. I would like to know how many other people she claims the dog bit and when? Who were the people the dog bit? She offers no specifics-just her naked claims. She bears the burden of proof in my view.

  22. True Story: I grew up 65 miles from New York City. I played baseball, ran track, played a lot of sandlot football, but never had an interest in hunting, trapping, or killing animals in general. So, when I got married into rural Wisconsin, I was in for some culture shock.
    One cold winter evening, my father-in-law, Chuck, and I were feeding his cattle. Chuck ran the auger for the silage, I broke bales of hay. At one point, Chuck grabbed an arm full of silage and brought it over to this one young steer. I couldn’t help but see the steer hobble over to be fed.
    “What’s wrong with that steer?” I asked Chuck.
    “His hoof froze off a few weeks ago and it’s hard for him to compete with the bigger cattle at feeding time,” replied Chuck. “I call him, Three-Toes.”
    Jump ahead about six months, on a beautiful sunny Sunday in July. We sat down for dinner and had one of the most tender steaks I ever had.
    Yes, it was old Three-Toes.
    Farmers love their animals and take good care of them. This is their living. However, they are not absorbed into an andromorphic relationship with them. Their livestock is meant to be a product, not family members. There are certain animals that are welcomed into the house, like the dog and cat, but if the dog became part of a pack of strays attacking deer or the neighbor’s cattle or the cat became rabid, they would treat them differently than if their son became a troublemaker or their daughter a diabetic. They don’t take them out in the back forty and shoot them.
    Being kind to animals is expected. The level of that kindness is subjective. How a musher treats his sled dogs will differ from how the movie actress cares for Fluffy. When you are out on the farm, animals have a more pragmatic existence. Your care for your family trumps the care for your pets and livestock.
    I don’t know of all the issues that Governor Noem was dealing with when she shot her dog, but I do know that how I would have handled the situation would probably not be effective in her environment. This is the perfect application for walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and on someone else’s road.

  23. True Story: I grew up 65 miles from New York City. I played baseball, ran track, played a lot of sandlot football, but never had an interest in hunting, trapping, or killing animals in general. So, when I got married into rural Wisconsin, I was in for some culture shock.
    One cold winter evening, my father-in-law, Chuck, and I were feeding his cattle. Chuck ran the auger for the silage, I broke bales of hay. At one point, Chuck grabbed an arm full of silage and brought it over to this one young steer. I couldn’t help but see the steer hobble over to be fed.
    “What’s wrong with that steer?” I asked Chuck.
    “His hoof froze off a few weeks ago and it’s hard for him to compete with the bigger cattle at feeding time,” replied Chuck. “I call him, Three-Toes.”
    Jump ahead about six months, on a beautiful sunny Sunday in July. We sat down for dinner and had one of the most tender steaks I ever had.
    Yes, it was old Three-Toes.
    Farmers love their animals and take good care of them. This is their living. However, they are not absorbed into an anthrpomorphic relationship with them. Their livestock is meant to be a product, not family members. There are certain animals that are welcomed into the house, like the dog and cat, but if the dog became part of a pack of strays attacking deer or the neighbor’s cattle or the cat became rabid, they would treat them differently than if their son became a troublemaker or their daughter a diabetic. They don’t take them out in the back forty and shoot them.
    Being kind to animals is expected. The level of that kindness is subjective. How a musher treats his sled dogs will differ from how the movie actress cares for Fluffy. When you are out on the farm, animals have a more pragmatic existence. Your care for your family trumps the care for your pets and livestock.
    I don’t know of all the issues that Governor Noem was dealing with when she shot her dog, but I do know that how I would have handled the situation would probably not be effective in her environment. This is the perfect application for walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and on someone else’s road.

  24. Let’s just say that Noem’s actions are completely justified. It shows a lot of political savvy to think that bragging about shotting your dog would be a political win. Why would she think that most people would not recoil at her bragging about it? And make no mistake that she was using it as a bragging point. Someone who will make such a bad miscalculation is dangerous to put on as your VP. It is noise you do not need. A run of the mill politician would not put it in their book- especially bragging about it. If it comes up you would say something along the line of “I am sad that had to be done, but the dog had killed our neighbors farm animals, was untrainable and had shown vicious tendency toward people. I believed the dog needed to be put down and being the dog owner, I thought that I should be the one to do that.” Had she said that there would be no controversy of note.

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