Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I don't have a good memory for faces and names. If you're a regular customer at the bank, I probably won't remember your name until I've got your account on my screen or your driver's license in my hand. If you're a new coworker, I'm grateful if you wear your name tag for a few days. But, I have a great memory for dogs. If I meet you and your dog on the street and we chat, the next time we run into each other, I will remember that your dog's name is Molly, she's 5 years old, from the shelter and very shy. I have a tally of the 'dog regulars' that Alice and I meet on our morning walks: the lady with the two Bichons, the guy with the brown hound-mix...

I feel a certain kind of solidarity with these other dog-walkers: like me, they are the kind of dog-lovers who take the time and effort to walk their dogs every day. I think that like me, they keep their dogs in the house, let them sleep on the sofa... talk to them, scratch behind their ears. To me, this is the only way to be a dog owner.

Every day on our walk, we pass a dog that is tied to his doghouse. He's always out there, whether it's freezing cold, raining, whatever. I've never seen a person with him, he's always alone. He always barks as we go by, and his bark sounds hoarse and tired, as though he barks all day long... which I know he does: I once got into a conversation with the across-the-street neighbor (another dog-person, of course) who confirmed that the dog was always outside and constantly barking. What good is it? What could possibly be the point of even having a dog that you never see, never interact with? It's not as though he's a guard dog; his barking doesn't elicit the slightest response from within the house, and why would it when he barks all day: at other dogs, squirrels, passing pedestrians? He's a friendly-looking yellow retriever mix, not at all intimidating. His doghouse is by the side of the house, pretty far from both the front door and the back door... not what you could call a security dog or something. It just pisses me off and makes me so sad, because... why? Why is this seemingly nice dog chained to his doghouse all day and night? He should belong to a family that would treat him as dogs should be treated. Dogs are social animals; they wither in isolation. They need to be part of a family, to interact, to play. Why would anybody go to the trouble and expense of procuring a dog just to chain it and abandon it? Why doesn't his owner come outside, leash him up, and take him on a stroll around the neighborhood, so that he can meet-and-sniff other dogs instead of just barking at them from a distance?

If you don't know what it means to have a dog, don't get one. If you don't understand that they shed, mess up your house, make noise, and require training, exercise, socialization, time, and understanding...don't get one. Or, get one and be prepared to make sacrifices you weren't expecting. Don't get a dog just to banish him from the house for being a dog.


Anonymous said...

That story breaks my heart. That poor, poor, dog. I don't know what state you live in but here in CA that is considered neglect and the owners can be fined. If you feel passionate about this, you might want to contact some pet rescue groups in your area. They have extensive knowledge of local laws and can help to get the dog rehomed. That is just a crime.

Mara said...

I may do that... the thing is just that the dog seems to have his dog-house, and food and water. Just not human or animal companionship of any kind, which *I* think is as important as food but don't know if the law agrees with me about that.

Bex said...

yeah mara, I don't know much about the laws but when I lived in maine with my dad our neighbor had a dog they treated like this. I was fairly young and didn't know what I could do about it but I did leave a note in their mailbox (which they got because they responded) about how it's not nice to treat your dog like that.
They said their dog is happy and healthy which I found hard to believe. So in short people like that often have no idea that it's just not ok to treat another living thing like that.