With some stories, I just want to sit in front of my computer and type WTF??!? 500 times until it fills the page. Unfortunately, that’s not considered marketable copy, and with the exception of some experimental postmodernists in the 1980s, very few writers have made either a reputation or a living by typing the same word over and over again.
However, career considerations aside, all I can think when reading about someone who blew up their dog is “WTF?!?!” Anything after that just seems superfluous. What else can be said?
On reflection, the case of 45-year-old Christopher Dillingham can teach us one thing: Apocalyptic religious beliefs and explosives don’t go well together. Unfortunately, if you haven’t learned that by now, this case probably won’t teach you anything. In August, Dillingham tied a bomb around the neck of his yellow Lab, Cabela, and detonated it while preparing for the Rapture. Some evangelical Christians believe that the Rapture will be an event when Christians will be physically called up into heaven just before the world is destroyed in the apocalypse. For good measure, Dillingham also told police that he had to blow up the dog because his ex-girlfriend had put the devil inside the animal.
All of that is old news, and it puts Dillingham pretty solidly in the Bonehead category. But this week, he might have taken a notch or two off his Bonehead classification by pleading guilty to charges of animal cruelty and possession of explosives without a license. When charges were originally filed in August, Dillingham pleaded not guilty to all charges, which could have gotten him up to 20 years in prison.
And there you have the really boneheaded thing about the close to Dillingham’s case: Instead of 20 years, the judge sentenced him to 12 months, with credit for time served. Because Dillingham was originally taken in by police around Aug. 6, he’ll be out sometime in August of this year. That’s a surprisingly light sentence for blowing up a dog, especially when you consider that it was in a populated neighborhood, there were children in the house, and that Dillingham has a history of domestic violence.
Presumably, Dillingham’s decision to change his plea was related to some kind of deal with the prosecutors. But the question is, why was such a deal necessary? When police showed up at Dillingham’s house, there were dog parts scattered around the yard, and he gave them a straightforward (if somewhat deranged) explanation of why he did it. Was there some unreported ambiguity that would have made it difficult to get a conviction at trial? It’s hard to imagine something that would counter a smoking bomb and an obliterated dog.
I don’t actually feel an overwhelming need to see Dillingham excessively punished. It’s become far too common to mistake revenge for justice, resulting in a race to see who can come up with the most vicious, degrading punishment for criminals. But not only did he kill the family dog, he endangered his children and the neighborhood while doing it. So far, I haven’t seen any indication that his sentence is contingent on receiving mental health care or some kind of rehabilitation for his violent tendencies. What I want is to know that animals, children, and community members will be safe. Right now, I’m not convinced.
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