Die Like a Dog

I know a story this week will raise eyebrows, so I’m posting it here so there’s a place to explore it a bit in the comments. Let’s start with the story, from the 9 October 2016 issue:

Risk-Taking, Florida Style

Steven Brown, 24, was home in Port Richey, Fla., when the place caught fire. Brown “and other accomplices,” says the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, were making butane hash oil — extracting the oleoresin of marijuana using butane gas — when it exploded and set the house on fire. Brown had limited time to get out, and had to choose what to save. One of his accomplices grabbed a 1-year-old child, but Brown chose his drugs, which meant he left his two dogs behind — who were in a cage. “I heard them burn up alive,” said neighbor Harold Cope. “They cried and then they stopped. It was sickening.” (RC/WTSP St. Petersburg) …And so are Brown’s priorities.

Yes, it’s a bit horrifying, but I think it’s important to bring such stories to light from time to time, and clearly express outrage or disgust over them — which I think the story does well. Yet one of the volunteer editors objected to the “really, really graphic description of those poor dogs dying,” and another agreed it was over the top. Both suggested I pull it. Before that, I made it a point to listen to my wife’s reaction when I read the story to her. As I expected, she reacted strongly to it — but didn’t express any reservation about publishing it.

Context Matters

Indeed the mental picture you get is unsettling, and it has to be: that’s the entire point. Make no mistake: the story isn’t really about things Floridians do, it’s about what people do, especially when their moral compass is overwhelmed by their choice to alter their own minds. When I get an amazing example, I’m not going to hold back on showing the repercussions of their terrible decisions.

Though I disagree that the description is “graphic” — it’s even left unclear (because the source story was unclear) whether the dogs died by being burned or asphyxiated.

True has always had a mix of comedy and tragedy, and this one isn’t even in the Top 10 of tragic. Indeed, one thing I was sure to do in this issue is to also include a murder story. In fact, let’s bring it in on the discussion:

One for the Books

Adrian Greenwood was an author and historian in Oxford, England, but a prosecutor says it was his wealth and his dealings in rare books that led to his murder: Michael Danaher, they say, was particularly interested in Greenwood’s 50,000 pound (US$62,000), first-edition copy of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s book, Wind in the Willows. Danaher claims self-defense, and an ex-girlfriend said Greenwood had attacked a postman and held a washing-machine installer hostage. But a prosecutor said Danaher had a list of targets whose assets he was after, which the prosecutor said exuded resentment. “It is almost as if these are people who, because of their wealth, and his lack of it, deserved to be subjected to what he has planned.” Greenwood was stabbed 33 times. (AC/BBC, Oxford Mail, London Independent) …Sounds like they both needed more time with the right books.

So we have dogs left to die, and a guy trying to claim it was “self defense” to stab someone else …33 times! (Oh, and by the way, to steal something from him in the process.)

It was a clue that I positioned it immediately after the dog story. The mental picture of a brutal stabbing is much more horrifying to me, yet there was no objection to that story (though my wife gasped at that when I read it, which I had hoped she would). Color me silly, but a human slowly murdered seems a lot worse — and a lot more horrific — than dogs being killed. But hey, it happens every day, so we’re numb to it: Yawn! just another murderer with a lame excuse!

So much so that there is almost never an objection to a story in True about a human being murdered.

You’re horrified by the dogs? Good: you aren’t as jaded as you might be.


The original source story was headlined, “Man Arrested after Drug-Manufacturing Explosion Kills 2 Dogs”. Yet the story itself says that “Deputies attempted to arrest Brown on multiple warrants related to this incident later during a traffic stop,” but “He was able to elude authorities and is currently at large.” So much for the headline.

Steven Brown's mug shotThe dozen warrants they referred to are: possession of a place for purposes of manufacturing a controlled substance, first degree arson, felony possession of a firearm, cocaine possession, suboxone possession, oxycodone possession, tampering with physical evidence, manufacturing marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, and — yes — two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.

Brown turned himself in 10 days later. Updates noted he left the baby behind, and were unclear about who rescued it. I do note, though, that the charges don’t include child neglect/endangerment.

31 Comments on “Die Like a Dog

  1. Yes, it may be a bit over the top, but considering how numb we are to news events that’s likely a good thing. Your comparison of the dogs death to murder is relevant to me. As a member of an animal rescue it hits home very hard. Animals, especially those in cages, tied, or chained have zero opportunity to flee or defend themselves. Jaded yes, but that doesn’t mean we stop feeling totally, I hope we all continue to hope/pray/work for change. It’s right to publish it, at least in my opinion.

  2. Horrifying. And you were right to include it. Not all thought-provocation is pretty, or funny. And it is indeed telling that I flinched at that story and, sadly, read through the following one with little beyond numb recognition. I don’t like having gotten so used to that sort of thing, but I guess I am more desensitized to it than I realized. Stop making me think!

    Nope! 🙂 -rc

  3. Talk about numb: a later article this issue was ‘The Fast Lane’ where a perp was pulled over and then fled at high speeds, only to crash (his mom’s) car. I read this twice, looking for the clue why something so ‘ordinary’ made it into Randy’s column, maybe save for begging a great tag line?

    <rant>With recent policy to break off chases, the message to perps is ‘run: you won’t be chased’, and maybe they’re smart enough now to realize that. As that is an aggressive move dangerous to society, I for one am in favor of more extreme responses to such rejection of authority. <end rant>

    I was amused at his choice to turn a burned out lightbulb into a felony. -rc

  4. I thought there was something wrong with me, honestly, because I wasn’t horrified by the description of the dogs dying…or at least, not any more horrified than I was by the murder story, or the sheer number of heroin-related stories in this issue, or the fact that the police didn’t charge a guy who made drugs in a house with a one-year-old inside and set it on fire with child endangerment. Maybe I am jaded. Or maybe I just don’t see that as worse than the other stuff.

    Incidentally, I found out recently why there are so many obliviots in Florida, or at least why it seems that way. I work in the legal mail room, and I happened to notice an article on the front page of the Florida Bar Examiner last month that mentioned that Florida has much broader privacy laws than most other states. The media has a lot more freedom to print things, and fewer things are kept back or hidden, simply because there’s greater freedom of information. So it’s not so much that there are more obliviots in Florida than there are in the rest of the country/world — it’s just that they can’t keep the media from blabbing their mistakes to the general public.

  5. First time for going to your blog, for “Updates”.

    Never Stop publishing this kind of story, However, a Point Missed, is that no one complained that Zero Child Neglect charges were filed.

    For me, That portion of this story is the Worst aspect, Dead Dogs, I love my pets, and between the “Product” and the Dogs, The dude is a Low Life Loser, Misusing Good peoples Oxygen Supply . . .

    But no charges filed about Child Endangerment, because, WHAT, someone Else had a thought of Humanity ???

    The “alleged” should face Fifteen to Life, For that crime, in a Medium Security Prison, the guards are not so “Close” as in a Maximum Prison Facility…. the Alleged would meet his real punishment by his fellow inmates.

    I did make a point to comment on the lack of child endangerment charges. -rc

  6. I’ll admit that reading about adult humans getting killed is less disturbing to me than reading about animals or children being killed. In my mind children and animals have an innocence that adults no longer have. Not that we deserve to die, I just think it’s (usually) less of a tragedy. If that makes ma jaded, I can live with that.

  7. Posting stories of uncomfortable and/or unsettling events for those of us who choose to open ourselves up to the world and its vagaries is a good thing.

    Two factors support this:

    1. The recent stories of college students getting the vapors over being exposed to symbols, words, ideas and thoughts that are different than what is in their alleged minds does not bode well for their futures. The students that can think, interpret, analyze and reason have a chance at succeeding and gaining employment in the real world. Facing reality is required for, among other things, effective problem solving, living in a civilized society, making good decisions and, of course, independent survival.

    2. The US has been involved, for years, in undeclared wars involving armed combat in areas of the world most people could not easily find on a globe. These armed skirmishes are perpetuated by leaders who fail to define the (realistically achievable) status or event that equates to “winning” and seemingly have neither the desire to win, in a clear and decisive manner, nor have any planning, strategic or logistical skills that would support any effort toward “winning”. All of this has been going on with no meaningful reporting by the Main Stream Media showing the public what our troops are doing or experiencing. Compare to the Viet Nam activity wherein constant and brutally honest portrayal in the evening news resulted in awareness, questioning and, eventually, an end to a classic example of fighting for no recognizable, achievable goal.

  8. Nope, run it. The world is ugly.

    FWIW: it’s not all that unusual for people to react more viscerally to ‘murders’ of pets than those of humans — I always assume this is because it’s less likely the pet ‘had it coming’.

  9. I find often locally that outrage is displayed more quickly and loudly over pets or animals than children or human beings.

    I’m not sure what this phenomenon is. It disturbs me though.

  10. And this week, we have a career thug who was arrested for pressure-washing a Chihuahua at a self-serve car wash. He held the nozzle a foot from the dog’s face, blasting it with McDonald’s-coffee-hot water, even after cops told him to stop. Dog was in a cage in his pickup’s bed. His explanation: “I just moved here from California, didn’t know any better.” He’d been in town for two years, cops learned.

    And I’m pretty sure that would be a crime in California, too. -rc

  11. What? No trigger warning? A phrase posted at the beginning of various posts, articles, or blogs. Its purpose is to warn weak minded people who are easily offended that they might find what is being posted offensive in some way due to its content, causing them to overreact or otherwise start acting like a dipshit.

    I’ve had it. Step back. I’m heading for my safe space. :p

  12. It is a sign of the times that so many people are not shocked by the actions of others (including me) and are only outraged by mistreatment of animals. They forget about the baby in that environment being in danger from before the fire.

  13. Is it horrible that those animals dies? Yes, it surely is.

    What I can’t wrap my head around is that sometimes it seems that people care more about animals than they do about humans.

    One example was a while back in my home town. A bunch of idiot teens threw a cat into a lake and watched it drown and thought it was really funny. The comments on facebook about the incident included throwing the kids in as well and watch them drown, burn them, club them to death.

    I mean, really? What is a human life worth nowadays? Are we really willing go go back to THAT? And so much to an “enlightened society”.

    It seems that oh so many are not that many steps away from the cavemen period.

  14. The world, at large, does not need a ‘safe room’ or sanitized news, that filters out all of the icky stuff. As the farmer says, compost happens. There is no fairy tale land, where you are exempt from hearing about the horrific potential of human cruelty and depravity. Rather than competing on who can be the most outraged, get off of your sanctimonious a$$ and think about how to address and resolve the issue.

  15. Just as phobias are not rational (I am terrified of heights, but am perfectly piloting a small plane), so too are things we react strongly to. My wife and I have been involved with a dog rescue organization for a number of years and currently own a number of dogs. They are part of our family in a very real sense. When I retired and we were looking for a place to spend our ‘golden years’, the number one item on our ‘absolutely must have’ list was a neighborhood that was dog friendly. Our pets depend on us for everything, even more than children. They can’t get a drink of water, make a sandwich, go buy food, call the doctor for an appointment. In return they provide unconditional love and absolute trust in return.

    While I absolutely support your right to publish the story, I must say that it is my absolute least favorite story I have read in True. Just one readers opinion.

    Understandable — but you still understood the point. -rc

  16. I was also horrified by the story about the dogs, and yes, more so than the murder. I really thought about what you said, and it comes down to the fact that when a human is planning on committing murder, it is already a despicable act. But when an innocent life is lost as a result of a person’s callousness and screwed up priorities, it almost seems worse.

    Honestly, I believe that if he saved the drugs or the dogs and left the baby, many more people would be outraged. While many cannot prevent their own murders, it is a more heinous crime in most peoples eyes to attack something that is innocent and completely defenseless.

  17. On the “book murder”, I don’t see why you say “slowly murder”. The 33 stabbings took some time, sure, but which particular knife stroke killed the decedent isn’t clear from the story. It may have been the very first stroke, for all the story covers.

    Of course, maybe there was something in the source article which just didn’t make it into your story.

    Even if the first stab wound was enough to be fatal, one doesn’t die instantly from bleeding to death. The victim still feels subsequent incisions as he also feels his life slowly fading. It’s a horrible way to die. -rc

  18. This is the first time I’ve found myself needing to pause reading an issue of true and I’ve been a subscriber via various emails since the mid/late 90s. I can’t say I’ve liked every story that’s been written or every opinion that’s been expressed but I don’t expect to like and agree everything published in any publication unless I wrote it (and even then I reserve the right to change my mind).

    I think the difference between killing humans and leaving an animal in a cage to die in a fire is humans often have free will and may put themselves in harms way, where the animals depended on that person for safety. It would be no different than if a person left a child locked in a room or a baby behind. They are helpless and unable to do anything about their situation, someone else put them into harms way.

    Now if the animal or child had wandered into the house fire of their own free will or refused to leave it would be unfortunate but not the same. I don’t hold animals lives higher than humans but I don’t hold them lesser either, lives are lives regardless if they’re plant or animal and do we have to put humans in a separate category from animals because we lay waste to our world around us better than anything else?

    And before we go off on a tangent about what we eat being alive, I am thankful to everything that I eat for giving its life up so that I can continue living, it’s the circle of life but you don’t have to be inhumane about it.

  19. What a vile waste of human flesh…and let’s not miss a chance to say “Wow, these fuckwits actually had their CHILDREN at a lab?”

    I am horrified from every angle and hope all involved reap the correct results.

  20. Interesting. So some would prefer to not know that there are people like that out there. I think what he did was disgusting, but if it had not been for This is True, I would not have known about it. In some respects I would prefer to not know, but just the same, it is reality.

    I am really glad that you did not pull the story. You did the right thing to let people know.

  21. Unfortunately, some of the public prefer to pretend things like this do not happen. Another reason for policing meth makers and users. It seems to wash away all the basic humanity of the persons using it.

  22. Many people who are what i term ‘fake optimists’ are able to hold their world view together by suppressing way too much of reality ~ like what this human did. Tell us about ’em, Randy ~ keep us real!!

  23. Can’t agree with this posting. I can’t remember the last time Randy said his own judgement was wrong, but I’m going to say it was anyway. Most of the stories that have bad things happening to people, the action was caused by the people themselves. If someone else gets hurt or killed, generally, with exceptions, the affected party used poor judgement of their own to be near this bad situation. I see True as a wry, smarmy, we’re better than you and here’s our proof set of stories, and reading about dogs being burned alive is not what I need to read in this sort of blog. Agree that not all stories are, or should be, knee-slappingly funny, but those dogs did nothing wrong but belong to a dirtbag. My humble opinion, of course.

    You’re not quite grasping TRUE if you think it’s about “we’re better than you and here’s our proof.” What I have said again and again is, we’re all stupid sometimes, and we recognize ourselves in the stories (plus, if we choose to, we can learn from that realization). The difference: arrogance vs humility, and I’m a bit shocked that a multi-year reader would even for a second think it’s about the former.

    What, we can actually learn something from this story? Yep, and I spelled it out clearly: your reaction is the key here. Remember TRUE’s mission? To get people to “Think first, react later — if at all.” You reacted rather than thought about the actual issue, which is that you’re freaked out by this story, but NOT freaked out by the murders that are reported on from time to time. Why is that? And why have you chosen to ignore that explicitly explained issue? Because the historian’s murder was certainly NOT “action caused by the person himself.”

    No, this is not about the dogs doing something wrong, it’s about you and what you’ve learned from your reaction — or, more accurately, from your pondering on why you reacted so strongly to dogs being killed, but not people being killed, even when explicitly told what the point was. And that is a very, very important point that clearly still needs some thinking time. -rc

  24. You’ll be happy to know that Steven Brown was arrested by the Pasco County Sheriff’s office on September 20 (see link here: https://pascosheriff.com/arrests/ — look for booking # 181433) on 11 felony and 1 misdemeanor charge, released on bond and then arrested again on September 30 for 2 felonies (including Child Abuse) and again released on bond.

    Glad to see they added something about the kid. Thanks for the update! -rc

  25. As a 911 dispatcher I run into this sort of thing all the time. Considering how common it is, I probably shouldn’t be, but I am still shocked when people are more concerned about animals/pets than about people. Even in the dispatch center people get outraged when we hear about cruelty to animals, but murder, rape, domestic violence — we deal with those things every day so they don’t even register on our radar! What Brown did to those dogs is horrible — I’m not condoning it in any way! But as a culture our priorities are way out of whack, and maybe, just maybe, that’s part of the problem.


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