Thursday, May 5, 2011

I am the Pope of the Church of Don't Get a Dog

And, yea verily, I will spread my church's gospel far and wide with the hope that I may save some souls.

I am not denying the fact that there are, at this moment, people who are very, very happy having a dog.  But if you are not one of those people, I advise you not to try and become one.  There is at least an even chance of you becoming someone who is either stuck with a difficult dog, or made very sad by the ordeal of placing a beloved pet into a new home (after dealing with increased stress leading up to that resolution).  I also do not wish to discount or dismiss anyone who currently has or recently had a dog that they love very much.  And I am definitely not trying to make you get rid of an existing pet.  All I want to do is stop you from getting into the relationship in the first place.  I do not think having a dog is a necessary stop on the road to fulfilling your full human potential.  I think they are a luxury.

My Dog Story
Full disclaimer:  I had a dog, from September 2007 through July 2010.  Her name was Abbey, and she was - is, I hope - a sweet, cute dog.  We did the "right" thing and got her from a rescue agency/foster home instead of a breeder.  We crate trained her very gently, didn't leave her alone for long stretches of time (we've had severely screwy, but flexible, schedules since 2007), took her for regular exercise, etc.  And yet, Abbey displayed ever-worsening separation anxiety.  In our first apartment, it wasn't too bad; the units were fairly soundproof, we weren't next to anyone, and she wasn't psychotic.  She would stay in her crate without too much destruction.  She did bark a lot while alone.  Next apartment, she began scratching at the door to the point that she made her paws bleed a few times.  Lots of barking.  Around this time we began leaving her alone less, without really saying that's what we were doing.  The experience of being spayed seemed to push her into greater fear and destruction; she chewed up the floor of her crate, so we stopped using it.  Her destruction between December 2008 and June 2010 was this: chewed through metal bars of crate in a hotel room; chewed/scratched her way through a screen door at the in-laws'; jumped through a window screen at a friend's house; chewed door frame at vacation rental; crashed through window at my parents' house, breaking jaw and requiring surgery and stitches; tore up carpet in workroom at new apartment (down to the tacking strip; it's a wonder she didn't seriously injure herself).  It was this last apartment that proved to be insurmountable.  There was just no safe way to contain her - it was entirely possible that she would break the glass at either the front or back door, or injure herself if shut into any other room.  We couldn't leave her alone without incurring significant damage to either the dog or the apartment.  We tried Xanax, exhausting exercise, behavioral training... nothing worked.  We were becoming stifled in our new city because we could NEVER do anything out of the apartment as a family, not even something as simple as walking to the grocery store.  And even if we could beat the problem of leaving her alone here, there was still the problem of being able to leave here someplace else (i.e. when visiting parents or friends).  So, with many tears (from me), I contacted the foster "mom," and returned our sweet pup to a home that could better absorb, and possibly remedy, her problems.  It turns out we were not the only adopters to return dogs from this litter, nor were we the only ones to experience problems.  That does not fully excuse our actions, but it does give them some context.  As it turns out, the woman who was working for the rescue agency was actually allowing some of her dogs to mate because puppy adoptions were the main source of income for the agency.  That is so far beyond unethical that I can still barely process it.

End Rambling Personal Anecdote

Not hard to tell that has been festering in my brain for some time.  Oh, you say, that's just your personal experience!  I could get a great dog!  Yes, you could.  My in-laws have a dog who is utterly problem free - he can be left anywhere, doesn't bark, all without any real effort on their part.  But you could also end up like the half-dozen people I know who didn't get a great dog.  It is not worth the risk, or the years of work, and even with an absolutely *perfect* dog, your life is still going to be complicated by several degrees.  Want to take a trip?  Either find a dog-friendly hotel, a kennel, or a dog-sitter.  Want to move abroad?  Have fun with those veterinary regulations and quite possibly a quarantine period for your dog, depending on where you go. Even if you want to do something as relatively routine as start a new job or go to school, your circumstances may change in such a way that you cannot keep your dog.  (Apartment-hunting is so much more difficult with a dog.) There's the constant possibility that a child (yours or otherwise) could provoke the dog into biting.  There are walkies, rain or shine or snow or dead of night in a sketchy neighborhood.  Dogs also get into everything, so expect at least mild gastrointestinal woes at some point.  Wait, I'm not sugar-coating this: expect a dog to crap liquid onto your floor and then possibly try to eat it.  Expect your dog to try to eat other dogs' poop, goose poop, horse poop, food garbage from the street, your garbage from the can, and anything else you can think of.  Then there are possible health woes like dysplasia, cancer, oral issues, disorders of every bodily system, many made more prevalent by inbreeding.  (Go human intervention!)  And no matter what, your dog - your sweet, sweet dog, who, believe me, you will love very much - is going to die within two decades.

And in the End...

That is my two cents - or possibly more like five dollars, I never have been into the whole brevity thing - on dog ownership.  I'm putting it out into the Internets in hope that it will do some good.  Before getting a dog, you need to pause, ask yourself very frankly if you would be willing to rearrange your life for this creature, and think about what that could mean.  A dog is not going to be a partner in any sort of life-rearranging; it's not going to cooperate (or resist, I guess, it's going to just be a dog about it); you will be doing all of the giving.

In the end, my anti-dog views come down to simplifying.  They aren't things, but they aren't people, and I've found that the fewer non-people items I have in my house and my life, the better things are.  I also believe in the power of demand, and putting your dollars where your mouth is, and I would love to see the market for dogs dwindle.

I won't dismiss the possibility that I am under cat mind control.

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