I have been contemplating writing a Post covering some aspects of responsible dog ownership. The ideas are numerous and the trigger was that “used dog” comment noted in an earlier Post*. My daughter, who lives on the other side (West coast) of this vast country, read the “Used Dog” post* and sent me a link to a recent article about dog abuse in her part of the world.
A woman (Emma Paulsen) was taking care of 6 dogs and left them in her truck. All 6 died of heat stroke. She was sentenced to 6 months in prison and banned from owning an animal for 10 years, and from caring for an animal in a paid capacity for life. The sentence was influenced by an apparent total lack of remorse. A local newspaper reporter wrote an article which included the following statements:
“I felt sympathy because Paulsen is going to lose her right to freedom over the death of six animals who, at the end of the day, are essentially inconsequential to this world,” he wrote. “Oh yes, I’m sure the dogs were important to the dog owners. That much is clear. But they’re only dogs. And this is a woman’s life we’re talking about,” he continues. “”Dogs are easily replaced. If you don’t think that’s true, head down to your local animal shelter. You can grab one for about $350.”
Calling a rescued dog “used”, and calling dogs in general “inconsequential” are affronts to our supposed humane society and (I believe) are in conflict with all main stream spiritual teachings. Grabbing a dog? You can do that after you’ve grabbed the bread from the local store!
My thoughts shifted from responsible dog ownership, to this mentality that animals are of no consequence. The above situation may seem a little extreme but is it really? I am given to understand that a significant number of dogs that go through our Humane Society are ones that have simply lost their original appeal. The cute puppy that grew up; The “gift” for the teenager which was unwanted after the teen went to University; The high energy dog that could not adapt to apartment living; The “macho image” dog that was taught to be aggressive and then could not be controlled; The dog that was constantly escaping; The dog that was beaten into submission (got to show it who is the boss) and which later rebelled; The dog that (surprise… surprise) did not come already trained!
There are so many scenarios which would appear to be based on total ignorance and/or lack of thought prior to taking on the responsibility of the dog. Why would anybody think a Husky puppy would be happy on the 19th Floor of a high rise for the rest of its life? Why do people not consider the characteristics of breeds before buying that “Oh… what a cute puppy!”
It would be so easy to continue blasting the irresponsible dog owners but perhaps the problems go much deeper. Perhaps we have an inherent flaw in our culture and, by association, our education system. It has crossed my mind a number of times that taking on the responsibility of a dog is not much different than taking on the responsibility of a child. I can only speak from my experience as a parent, but I wonder how many other parents would be able to relate to the following?
My initial knowledge of babies and child raising was based on vague recollections of my Mum looking after my younger sister, and my own upbringing. In effect, I knew nothing about babies except how they were made, and my only knowledge of child raising was what I had experienced as a child. My biggest education came when we had our own and, in the absence of a clear alternative, they were essentially raised much the same way as we were with perhaps some minor modifications.
I have often thought that having a child is probably the greatest responsibility that we can ever have (they are, after all, the future), and yet we have no prior training; no manual to reference and we are confronted with a dazzling display of contradictory advice. We make decisions “on the fly” and pretty much hope that it all works out! My children were born in the late 60’s/early 70’s but has anything changed? My daughter certainly muddled through resulting in me having a wonderful grand-daughter ….. but having to muddle through?
It takes more credibility to get a driving license than it does to raise a child. I cannot get on a bus unless I show evidence that I am qualified (by showing a ticket or by paying). I can however have a child and all I need is a willing partner!
If we, as a culture, see nothing wrong in intuitive child rearing (expressions like “winging it” or “on a wing and a prayer” come to mind), then how can we expect dog ownership to be treated any differently? If we actually believe that raising a child is simply intuitive, then what argument would suggest that raising a dog is any more or less intuitive? Who needs to know anything if we can rely on intuition?
Perhaps some early enlightenment in the responsibilities of child raising would be of value. Perhaps the inherent financial burden and significant self-sacrifices should be stressed. Perhaps the 18 years that the child is your legal responsibility should really be emphasized. Perhaps the fact that a child is a long term commitment should be clearly understood. What to expect through the growing years? Issues with adolescence? Tough love? Supportive parenting?
Perhaps people need to be taught more in the area of parenting before they are starting families? Perhaps if they realized, and understood, the complexities and responsibilities of child raising prior to doing it, they would be more receptive to learning about the complexities and responsibilities of dog ownership prior to buying or adopting one? Perhaps we would not only see a reduction in animal shelter intakes, but also a reduction in human population growth? Bonus!!!!!!
It’s time to give Ray another hug!
*Related Post – “Used” Dog – January 31, 2015