How One German Shepherd Dog ignited a Class Warfare Debate

On Saturday, June 11, The New York Times ran a story, “For the Executive with Everything, a $230,000 Guard Dog to Protect It”.  As the owner of four pups, I naturally read everything dog, so I couldn’t pass this one up.  Imagine my delight when it turned out the guard dog was a German Shepherd Dog (bias update:  I own two).  The article described the owner, his business, why he purchased the dog, and what made the dog so expensive.  It made further mention that many wealthy people and celebrities were preferring guard dogs over bodyguards, with price tags averaging $40-$50,000 for these highly trained dogs.  Obviously, the canine protection business is becoming quite lucrative.

Julia (Allen Brisson-Smith for NYT)

Other than concluding that $230k for a dog was a bit over the top even for a pedigreed, titled Schutzhund champion, I didn’t think any more of the article until this past Monday, when the article was mentioned in a blog.  The moment I read the blog title, “The Rich Get Guard Dogs and the Poor Get Food Stamp Cuts“, I knew this had to be about THE dog.

I always enjoy reading Care2cause blogs because the point of view expressed by various writers is so 180 degrees opposite of mine. However, I must admit I was unprepared for some of the vitriolic comments about the story from the readers.

The blogger set up the story in this fashion:

“Need a further understanding of how bad the economic gap is between the rich and the poor?  Meet Julia, the $230,000 “executive protection dog” of Minnesota businessman John Johnson.  In perhaps one of the most disgusting signs of our “supply and demand” economy, the prices for guard dogs in the world is skyrocketing because the wealthy have that much more in assets to protect.

The amount that the debt collector business owner spent on one of his guard dogs (Johnson says he has six), is the equivalent of what at least 157 Minnesotans will receive in food stamps for one year.

That is, if those benefits don’t get cut.”

And then debate squared off.  On one side, were advocates of freedom of choice, i.e., it’s his money, he earned it, he can do with it as he pleases, even if we don’t agree with the decision.  These commenters were definitely in the minority.

So wealthy people should feel guilty or be penalized for working hard. I don’t get it.

I don’t think this is right, but do any of us have the right to tell someone how to spend his money?

I fail to see the relevance of a person who clearly places a high value on a product, a trained dog, and the state’s decision to cut food stamps. They are unrelated. One pertains to the decision made by a private citizens to spend his money the way he sees fit. The other pertains to the state cutting benefits to the apparently truly needy.

for every rich person that you can show me that didn’t work for his money, I will show you at least 2 that did. So, do we judge them all the same? I don’t think so. I have seen some of what you are so upset about, but I also see that you can’t generalize, either. There are many self-made wealthy people and they are not, by in large, ogres as you paint them. And do you know what, they aren’t all sitting around laughing at me or you or anyone else.

On the other side, were the advocates of “fairness”, which led to arguments about tax breaks for the wealthy, the role of the Tea-Baggers, and the big corporations need to pay their fair share.

No wonder the tea party has so many members.  MY tax dollars and YOURS is what helped this person get a $230,000.00 dog with the Bush Tax CUTS! My GOD there are some really stupid people out there. No one has to give up ANY salary, JUST STOP THE BUSH TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHIEST AMERICANS!!!

when that person’s money is partly due to tax breaks given on the backs of the poor (supposedly to create jobs) then yes we do have the right to tell them how to spend it, or at least criticize the way they do. we might even storm the gates some night to see just how well those guard dogs have been trained.

And seriously, the rich worked for their money?  Many of them got their money scamming people like you, who are too naive to actually know what’s happening in the world, and many of them inherited it.

There will never be complete equality in this country until the rich and corporations start paying their fair share.

an imperial society is doomed to fail wait for the food riots and all the gaurd dogs in the world won’t keep the robber barons safe.

For all the vociferous back and forth, there were a couple of comments made, and who said them, that I found interesting and refreshing:

“yes i did get the point she’s wealthy and most of you arent hell im not . shes a debt collector whos making alot of money if you were in her shoes you would spend the money the way you wanted to . quit crying about what other people have and what you dont . this is what seperate me and you you whine and cry about rich people i dont me and my wife work with what we have and deal with it while you and others cry about the rich not paying there fair share . its life some people have it some people dont its what you do with what you have in your life and what you do with it that only matters .”

“And, just for the record, I live on $628 a month, I challenge you all to try this (no food stamps, no welfare). Do I blame those with money, no. In this Country there is no reason whatsoever for someone to be poor except for their decision to be such. Anyone that wants to put for the effort to work can better their financial position and further, to Rev. Elizabeth, if Churches were doing their job there would be no homeless or people without medical care or food; it is the job of we the people to take care of these things for our fellow human beings, not that of the Government.   So, maybe our time would be better served getting off our behinds and getting  out there and doing what we can to help ourselves and then others in need  rather than sitting her complaining about the wealthy.”

There always has been, and probably always will be, class warfare in America.  But what I’m sensing in this article and others that I read, is that growing sense of entitlement among people, otherwise known as wealth redistribution, or as others may call it, socialism.  The underlying tone of “it’s not fair” was prevalent through so many of the comments, plus the fact that many of these people could benefit from a lesson in economics.

Well, since I’m an-opinionated woman, here’s my opinion:  no one’s entitled to enjoy the benefits of someone else’s hard work.  What we need more of in America today can be summed up in the ‘old Chinese proverb’:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

However you define your “American Dream”, it’s up to each one of us to ensure that future generations will still be able to achieve their Dream.  Right now, I’m not so sure.

Cross-published in my sister blog,

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