Monday, June 27, 2011

Country Dogs and Outdoor Cats

I'm so sick of people being ignorant, lazy pet owners and then writing it off to having an outdoor pet or living in the country. Most of the people who I have encountered who use these excuses should not own pets. They should have fish or wall art. All they want is something that looks pretty and that they can show off to their friends but they don't want to provide any of the love, training or stability that a pet needs and a real pet owner provides.
One of my coworkers lives in a ritzy neighborhood where everyone has a couple acres of land. He drives a BMW and has a lawn service take care of his yard. His wife works part time. He has two college age children who do not live at home. He has a young lab mix who lives outside. He keeps him chained up under the porch when they aren't home and let's him run lose at night. His dog is often found at his neighbors house or somewhere else in the neighborhood. I asked him if he walked the dog and he said the dog is terrible on the leash and drags him everywhere. Imagine that, a dog that doesn't get any exercise or socialization and gets to run free without supervision doesn't walk well on a leash. Then I asked him what he does in the winter (here in upstate NY we get 140-200" of snow and the temperatures go well below zero). He said the dog has a doghouse on the porch to keep him warm. He can't being the dog in the house because the dog is too hyper and gets into everything and besides he likes being outside and doesn't want to come into the house; he's a country dog. Unfortunately, I'm sure this dog will eventually hurt some one's child or pet, or worse yet, get hit by a car. The dog will be written off as untrainable and my co-worker will get another dog (this isn't his first dog), never thinking that the dogs behavioral problems or short life had anything to do with the poor job him and his family did of raising the dog.
My husband's aunt recently told us that her neighbor's dog killed a small child in the neighborhood. She said "that's the price of living in the country" and went on to the next topic as if she were talking about they weather. She lives in a rural area outside of a college town. While I would consider this area to be the country, most of the people who live there are college professors and other high-level professionals who do not live a "country life". People's dogs and cats run around the roads all the time and definitely do not get any training or socialization. It is difficult to differentiate between strays and pets since they are all treated with the same level of indifference. Food and water are left outside. Pets are rarely brought into the house and usually have short, difficult lives. I do not enjoy going to her house. I feel like I am watching some bad after school special put together by the ASPCA. I feel completely helpless and sad every time we visit her. I am surrounded by animals that are in need that I cannot help and ignorant people that I cannot change.
In my suburban neighborhood I see more loose dogs and cats than leashed/contained ones. I do not live in the country. I have friends that live in downtown Syracuse who complain about the $2000+ they have spent on injuries to their "outdoor cat". When I asked why they had an outdoor cat in the city I was told that the wife grew up in suburban California (once again not the country) and that every one's cats were outdoor cats. I give up.
If people blatantly neglected their children as much as they do their pets it would be a national crisis. There would be public service announcements and campaigns to end the neglect. But because it seems to have become fashionable to have pets as an accessory. To have your dog sit in your purse during the 4 hours that you're at the bowling alley. To have him sitting in the car in the parking lot while you spend hours shopping. Because that's what the dog wants; because he wants to be with you all the time. I have heard of animal rescue groups that do not allow these sort of people to adopt dogs. Unfortunately there will never be a shortage of pet store puppy mills for these people to get an expendable pet. This is not a problem that will end in my life time, if ever, and that is depressing.