Friday, March 31, 2006

There are two kinds of people in the world....

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love their pets like family, and those who view pets as disposable, a kind of possession that can be taken out when one is in the mood and the rest of the time, ignored. (Interestingly, the world can also be divided along similar lines based on the way people treat their kids...but that's another post.)

Needless to say, Tom and I are in the first category. We fall deeply in love with our pets and take the business of owning a pet very seriously. A living room covered in cat piss couldn't convince us to "get rid of" (as my mother-in-law -- herself a prime candidate for euthanasia -- callously put it) our beloved Beulah the cat, who had major health problems in her old age but was still a delightful and gorgeous diva right to the end of her sixteen years. I realize that not everyone is quite as fanatical as us, but hey, you wouldn't shove Uncle Charlie out on an ice floe because he's a little incontinent, would you? (Unless he's the kind of uncle who likes to snap ladies' bra straps ... but perhaps I'm projecting.)

The reason I bring this up is that yesterday I had an encounter with a neighbor's dog. This family obviously belongs to the second category, callous pet disposers; they adopt and discard pets with an insouciance that chills me. In the past two years, they've adopted a cat, then gave it away when it scratched their daughter (and believe me, I know the daughter, and I can guarantee you it was self-defense, a desperate attempt to stop its whiskers from being plucked with Mom's Epilady); a guinea pig (gave it away because it was "boring"); a little dog (brace yourselves: walked by a mall pet shop and thought it was cute, brought it home on the spur of the moment, then gave it absolutely no training whatsoever, ultimately giving it away because it nipped the unruly son, who, p.s. I've been tempted to bite); and the present dog, a gorgeous Golden Retriever that is the biggest Golden I've ever seen but is completely wild, rough and undisciplined (hey, kind of like their four kids!).

Yesterday, my oldest was riding bikes with their kids in their driveway. My kid's desire to play with their kids is a source of endless angst for me. Occasionally, I'll watch them running around the yard, playing hide-and-seek and giggling, and I'm happy my kid has friends in the 'hood to play with, something I never did (there didn't happen to be any kids around my age in the near vicinity of my parents' house, and since I took a school bus to school, my school friends lived far away). But because they're children who run wild, I am uneasy when they play out of my sight and I don't trust the neighbors to keep an eye on their kids, let alone mine. (Look out the window one day to see your neighbors' three-year-old riding his bike down their driveway at breakneck speed, out into the street and across to the neighbors' driveway, then turning around to do it again, and you'll get a feel for my lack of confidence in their supervisory skills.) They also have a penchant for that rough, stupid play that just baffles me. Let's bash toys with a rock to see how long it takes them to break, and let's pull all the petals off James' mother's daffodils for shits & giggles, that sort of thing. If I can't be out there with them, I hawk mercilessly out the window, shouting instructions ("Hey! No shoving!" "Don't throw rocks at the car windows!") as necessary. Satisfyingly, my instructions are generally met with stupefied amazement. ("Someone actually paid attention to us?")

Anyhoo, as I went to get my kid so he could start on his homework, I stopped to look at the dog, the Golden, who must weigh 150 pounds and is the size of a small pony. I love dogs, and so I approached the dog to let him sniff my hand, but the dog is so wild and needs exercise and doggie training so badly, that he was too jumpy and snappy and aggressive for me to want to pet. I threw the tennis ball, you know, one of those grimy, saliva-soaked deals all retrievers have, and the poor dog was so excited someone was paying even a little attention to it. ("Someone actually paid attention to me?")

This makes me sad. I thought about how this perfectly lovely dog was being ruined by the lack of attention and the lack of obedience training. I mean, this dog broke the one daughter's ankle -- literally broke it, the poor kid wore a cast for six weeks -- by jumping and treading on it. The dog is so big and so wild that even the father can't physically control it too well. It doesn't get much exercise, as no one walks it (maybe no one is physically able to walk it any more -- this is one big effing dog). I thought about what a handsome dog it was, what a good-natured breed Goldens often are, and how much different the dog would be if it had been adopted by another family. You know, a family that didn't have their heads up their asses.

And then I went inside and gave Charcoal some of the organic edible flowers we bought him from the local Whole Foods supermarket.

23 comments:

Carrie K said...

Now that depresses me. Why do people like that even want pets? And why can't we take them away from them.

Scarier that they have children they treat roughly the same way. Except not so many takers when you put them in a box labeled "Free" at the supermarket.

Add me to the first camp. So what if my kitty cat couldn't always make it to her box the last couple of years of her life? There were 18 years where she could.

Enjay said...

I am very sad for that dog, and angry at it's owners. I'm sure that training would cost less than treating a broken ankle. Perhaps if they just want something to sit in the corner and look pretty, they should look for statuary someplace other than the pet store.

Janice in GA said...

Cripes. People suck sometimes, don't they?
Among our 4 dogs, we've got 2 old and semi-incontinent dogs*, and a third dog with some fairly serious health issues. (The 4th dog is young and healthy.) They've all got homes with us as long as they are still happy and enjoying life.


*That's why Og made carpet cleaners.

Zardra said...

Your story reminded me of a dog I knew many years ago -- a beautiful German Shepard. It's owners lived in the city, and the dog was papertrained because they never bothered to take it for walks. They were very strict with him discipline wise, but they didn't seem to care (no walks, treats or attention) for him.

Then, their living situtation changed to a house in the suburbs that they were sharing with another family. I visited once only to see the poor dog tied up outside (he was not allowed in the house and didn't have any shelter in the backyrad) where he was exposed to another dog that had a purely nasty temperment. It was so sad to see a once sweet dog turned into a snarling mess.

I had wanted to call the SPCA about the dogs, but was talked out of it by a friend who worried about the new baby possibly being taken away if the light was shined on the family's situation. Sometimes I wonder if that might not have been such a bad idea... with the way they treated their dog, who knows how they were going to treat their child.

Sravana said...

{{sound of one heart breaking}}

Marg B said...

It totally sh*ts me that there are people like that the world over, buying pets and breeding children, who have no concept of personal responsibility. And what I really hate is that they'll blame the kid's teachers when their precious little darling plays with matches and burns down the school.

javede said...

I'm not one of the people who get all excited when seeing a lil' puppy, but it too makes me sad when I see people treating their pets badly. If people don't know how to handle a pet or don't want/have the time to take care of one properly, then why buy one?
We looked after my aunts dog(a Bearded Collie) when they travelled and eventhough back then I was a bit phobic about dogs, i loved him(he actually cured me of my fear!). Sadly they just recently found another home for the dog, cause they realized that with two small children they didn't have the time anymore to take care of the dog(it now lives with a nice family in the country with enough space).

Molly said...

Hey, we're that other family!

We have a big golden (certainly not 150 lbs, but a big, slim 86, and we definitely get pony - and lion - comparisons). We got her through what we've taken to calling "direct rescue," from a family that sounds a lot like the one you're describing. She lived in the garage, but worse, had a door that opened into the wide world - she went swimming in the lake every day, which I'm sure she loved, but she had to cross a half-dozen busy streets to reach it. They fed her the cheapest food, never let her in the house, and, in their own words, were getting rid of her "because of the grooming costs." She's a golden - learn to bathe and brush her, for heaven's sake!

I'm glad she ended up with us, though. It's been eight wonderful years, and she's now on quite a few (miraculous) "old dog" meds. I'm certain that family would never have noticed the slow-down and taken her to the vet, and I'm glad every day we got her away from them.

Molly said...

Er, just so I'm clear, I mean the "other family" in this sentence:

"how much different the dog would be if it had been adopted by another family"

NOT the family you're describing!

Deborah C. said...

How depressing. I'm in the first camp - I have 6 cats, one of which has chosen to live in one of our bathrooms because she doesn't like the other cats. The door is open, she's free to come and go, she just LIKES it in there... I have things that stink of cat pee because one of them had a UTI (urinary tract infection) and couldn't make it in time to the box - some antibiotics and he's fine. My parents have a fabulous cat that was dumped at my vet for the same reason - UTI. My parents adopted him and adore him. This just reminds me why I don't like most people!

Marguerite said...

We have a wonderful lab my husband brought home one day when he was in town and heard someone say, "She's getting too big for the apartment. I'm going to drop her off in the country." (She is ten now and has 5 acres to run when she's not inside getting loved to death.)

We have a intelligent, loving mutt who got dropped by the side of the road when she was newborn - along with her mother and two other newborn puppies. (She's 4 now and is the household princess.)

We have a beautiful, sensitive, intelligent recued Papillon who has scars from his previous abused life. Did they feel powerful torturing a ten pound dog? (We've had him three years. He loves agility and rarely gets concerned now that someone is going to hurt him.)

If you're an animal lover and want to get completely angry or depressed, go browse around Petfinder.org

Rana said...

I hear you. Currently we have a neighbor who ties her golden up outside the garage, where it mopes about all day (and often very late into the night) all by itself. It barks at me when I'm in our yard, which annoys me, but mostly I feel sorry for the poor ignored thing.

(This is also the same neighbor who went frantically door-to-door about the neighborhood claiming that said dog was "stolen" -- she seemed genuinely upset at the time, but now I wonder why she would be, given how little attention she seems to give it otherwise.)

She also has a smaller dog that does get to stay inside the house, so clearly she gets the idea that dogs like attention, and the golden's not abused, just neglected -- she does give him a blanket to lie on, and water -- but still. Why have a dog just so you can ignore it? I don't get it.

Mindy said...

First camp- was it obvious by the bottle-fed goat, or the enthusiastic enabling for Charcoal? Fortunately, everyone I see around here is good to their pets- its been a long time since I've seen any neglect, and I'm sorry you have to see it- it's heartbreaking. And the corrolation between treatment of pets and treatment of children- also heartbreaking.

On a brighter note- that is the most gorgeous sage I have ever seen and you must repeat it regularly! Now, for soft rose pink...

Bridget said...

I always think it's interesting when people get rid of a pet because they have a child, and no longer have "time to take care of it." It always makes me want to ask them what they'll do if they have another kid ...

Carol, I don't blame you for being upset and depressed about this. Of course, the dog is the one who will be blamed if something ever happens to someone else because of its behavior; the fact that no one trained it or took care of it won't even be considered.

And that kind of thing does exactly translate into the same thing with people's kids - how many people do you know whose kids are always "angels" and it's everyone else's kids who are brats?

Ariadne said...

I stumbled across your blog and this post caught my eye. I so agree with you. It breaks my heart that the poor dog will be handed over or worse because it just didn't get any rules to live by. I'm very sorry that you have to associate with those type. (By the way, my dogs go to daycare while I'm at work).

Sue Woo said...

Yall,
I recently attended the local SPCA fundraiser. It was a chili cook-off with adult beverages on the Charleston Harbor. I spoke to the shelter volunteers who had adoptable pets there to show off. (If I didn't have 2 dogs and a cat...)One volunteer shared with me her 2 most heinous drop-off excuses. One lady brought in her dog because she had redecorated and the dog didn't match anymore; the other was a mom who dropped off a dog because he was "too ugly" to play ith her children. I would very much like to publicly shame these people by stockading them in July.

Treatment of pets is a good barometer for how well we respect ourselves and other people in our society.

Carol said...

Sue Woo --
Welcome back from your trip to Hurricane land. Hope all went well. I'm sure they were lucky to have you.

Dharma said...

Here are The Cedar Stree Zoo, we are like you. One pup, 2 cats and 3 kittens. We have fostered, and will again. I would dognap that dog if I lived near by.

Molly said...

Carol, you know where Jerry and I stand on this issue... Man, that is just so sad and SO infuriating. Pet shops could potentially be put out of business (and then, in turn puppy mills, ugh) if people chose to responsibly adopt or go through reputable breeders. Dogs from pet shops wouldn't have to end up at the spca/etc. if said owners properly thought the decision through, choosing the right animal in the first place, then raising it/training it correctly. People are so quick to just follow that line of 'well...this is what's next...we've got everything else except..yeah, a dog-we need a dog, dammit!' then they become incensed and baffled when said 150 lb. dog steps on small child. Totally avoidable from start to finish. Most animals in agencies could have been/could be lovely pets w/ the right ownership/attention/training. Animals don't ask for much and give back so much more. Okay. I've got to stop...that is so sad.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the first camp as well - like someone in the second camp would even recognize themselves and post here??

I work as an admissions counselor for a school to train people to become dog trainers and I can't tell you the stories I've heard. Wonderful, heartwarming stories about people who love their animals and will do anything to help them. Then there are the heartbreaking stories about finding bags of puppies on the roadside. And the guy that had 139 pit bulls - when asked what he did with 139 pits, he said he didn't fight them much anymore. Or the lady who said she would love to train her uncle's dog, but thinks it would be a waste of time because the uncle beats it with a chain and she doesn't know how long it will be around. I asked her why she doesn't dognap the dog and find it a good home, she said she had never thought of that and would go and take it right to the pound! Thank goodness they are in the minority!

I'm in the process of becoming a certified trainer and can't say enough how much good a little training can do. For those with the excuse that they can't control the dog as he/she is too big and they pull on the leash - try a Halti or Gentle Leader. It's power steering for dogs! And if you are having a problem with your dog - fer cris sake, call a trainer to come out and do a little problem solving - makes your life and the dogs much happier!

Cyndy

Laura said...

Oh, for -- poor dog.

My dog Bella was an unmanageable mess when we got her, the result of being chained outside and ignored. Now -- not that she doesn't still have issues -- she's a calm, happy dog who lives for fetch, walks, and dog crackers.

(I have to say, Cesar Millan - aka "the dog whisperer" - has some really good, and FAST, techniques for dealing with dogs like the one you describe. Wonder if your neighbors will let you walk it?)

Tracy said...

I will never understand people. I've got a 10yr old Keeshond that I rescued. He had been left outside for the first 2 years of his life with no training and no socializing. I was scared of him sometimes when I first got him, you couldn't touch him, he was filthy and certain noises terrified him. Now, he's on lots of good "senior prescriptions" and if he doesn't quite make it outside, that's ok cause sometimes just getting up and walking takes a lot of effort.

They love us and trust us and it breaks my heart when someone can be so cruel. Perhaps they'll come back as a dog with similar humans taking care of them.

Karla (ThreadBndr) said...

You can see my most recent rescued baby in my blog, Molly - my little yarn thief of an Austrilian Shepherd mix *G*. I've only had one purebred (she was a gift) in my life. The other four were pound rescues and all of them lived to be "seniors".

When Copper's arthritis got to be too much for her to make it down the stairs to go out, I lifted and carried her down. And lord know, some months the vet bills are higher than my medical bills. But the love you get back is without price.

Some people should have neither animals OR children.