Monday, January 11, 2016

Animals are family, too, by golly!

NOTE: This is a rant.  Don't say I didn't warn you. 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge animal lover.  They are fur babies; four-legged family members with feelings, just like you and me.

I’ve recently become more actively involved in our local animal shelter - with both the dogs and the cats - and with that involvement has come several new friendships - in person and on Facebook.  These friends keep me up-to-date on the happenings of the critters who need full-time families and I do my small part to pass things along.  I may never know if one of my forwarded posts has gotten one of these critters a home, but I can hope it helps.

Also, I am seeing a lot more posts about animal abuse; including some really graphic, horrific things done by animal abusers to the animals in their “care.”  It’s impossible for me to unsee such atrocities. It's impossible for me to not say anything.

I’m getting off-track, I think.  Let me start small...

There’s a beautiful, humongous chocolate Labrador Retriever who “lives” up the street from me.  I’ve nicknamed him “Big Brown” because I don’t know his real name.  He seems to live full-time in the backyard, which is fenced.  A fenced yard is good because he isn’t chained up and he isn’t out carousing.  He has a dog house under the back porch which provides both shade and shelter from rain or other weather.  Though I cannot see it, I’m certain he has food and water.  Outwardly, he seems strong and basically healthy.  All these are signs that someone, potentially, cares for this dog.

For me, all I see is a dog who never gets to go inside.

Now, Hubby has said a couple of times, “Honey, you aren’t up there all the time.  You don’t know how it is at that house.  Maybe he does get to go inside occasionally.”  And really, Hubby is right.  I’m not there, and cannot know.

But all I see is a dog who never gets to go inside.

I’d wager that if I walked up the street tonight (in freezing temperatures thanks to it being practically mid-January) I’d see him outside, wearing his usual paths in the landscape of his small backyard world.

At first, this huge dog with a deep, scary, stay-the-heck-away-from-my-yard bark with fur standing on end down his spine seems intimidating.  Yes, one instinctively wants to stay the heck away from his yard and cross the street when passing by.  But not me.  Nope.

When I was more actively walking around my block in warmer weather, I finally - after about a week - decided to call his bluff.  I stopped at his fence as he barked furiously at me, looked directly into his dark brown eyes, and said, “Oh really?  You think you’re scary, huh?”  And he immediately shut up and started wagging from nose to tail.  I came closer to his fence, slowly, and held out the back of my hand so he could sniff it.  More wagging.  It immediately became clear that he was - literally - all bark and no bite.  We were instant friends.

Now, whenever I walk by and he comes barreling over to the fence to start his usual barking nonsense, he cuts off mid-“Arf” when he realizes it’s me.  Then he puts his big front paws on the top of the fence (easily, I might add), shoves his head over and demands love.  Pet me, pet me now, you must hug me, I love you I love youIloveyou!  We do this for a few minutes, nose-to-nose, at which time I need to move on, so he follows me to the end of his fenced-in world and I go on my way.  It’s become routine.  We have bonded.  Big Brown is my buddy.

But all I see is a dog who never gets to go inside.

I wish I could steal him and let him sleep in the warm, safe, indoors, on a padded bed.  And give him a bath ('cause he really needs one).  And buy him dog toys and watch him play and let him give me and my children sloppy doggie kisses.

I suppose the message here - loquacious though it may be - is: If you have to chain your dog outside permanently, you shouldn’t have one.  Period.  If your pooch is never allowed inside, you shouldn’t have one.  If your dog needs a heated water bowl because his only access to unfrozen water is outside in freezing temperatures, you probably shouldn’t have a dog.

Granted, I am highly opinionated, and I’m sure folks think they have very good reasons for keeping their dogs the way they do.  But dogs are family and, in this person’s humble opinion, they should be allowed to partake of the pleasures of being inside with their humans.

One more thing.  If you treat your dogs the same way you treat your family - you shouldn’t have a family, either.  But maybe that’s just me. 


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