There was a dog running up and down my street last night

There’s a whole subset of people that think of all dogs as “she” and “her.” They call all dogs “girl,” and have this thing where they treat them all as female.

That’s fine and all. But there comes a point when a dog will teach you different.

If you’ve only had female dogs, have someone unexpectedly give you a male dog. It’s a jarring feeling at first until you can get used to the differences.

Take last night. There was a dog running up and down the street at 3:00 a.m. barking. It used to be, something like that would have annoyed me and made me wonder who let their dog roam that late at night. But now that I’ve had a dog, all these other factors pop in my head.

There might be a dog in heat out there. Somebody might have abandoned their dog on the side of the street. Somebody might have a blind dog that wandered off in the rain. The dog might have gotten excited and just gotten lost.

There are some smug people that are like, “I would never let my dog run off,” as they’re holding their little teacup poodle or chihuahua. They’re all judgy-faced and they make you feel two-inches tall. But seriously, if you have a larger dog, or one that’s a more adventurous breed, you are going to have to deal with the annoying, wandering dog — and that dog will be yours. You’re going to be out there at 3:00 a.m. with a flashlight in your hand, whisper-yelling at the fucking dog.

Your precious puppy baby will transform in your head from sweet angel into a horrible barking monster as you’re tromping through uncut grass in your slippers, water splashing up your bare legs. You are either going to wish to beat that damn dog’s ass when you get it home … or you’ll be terrified because he sounds so panicked and scared, and are those hissing chittering sounds?

You are going to have to emergency-wash your dog because he’s rolled in something that was either dead, or had become dead as it was crapped out of the animal that ate it. You will be gagging and moaning to yourself as he tries to cower out of your hold.

A dog is a lot of responsibility and work.

If you’re not 100-percent sure you want to have a dog, but the family is crying for one and you want to try it out, there are options. You can offer to be a foster home for dogs. It doesn’t have to be dogs that were just rescued last week. There are dogs that have already gone through puppy therapy or whatever they do, and they need a place to stay. There are a lot of awesome dogs that need a home so they don’t have to live in a 3×3 cage. Plus that dog doesn’t lose his training and people skills while he’s in dog jail. His real family will love him.

So if you find out that dogs are for you, you can adopt your foster dog. Everybody’s happy, your kids love you or you’ve found that canine companion you always dreamed about, you did a good thing and were rewarded. But if you discover that dogs aren’t for you, serve out the rest of your foster-care term or regretfully give it back early. Either way, the dog isn’t abused and it gets to run around some.

It makes me mad when people adopt a puppy, enjoy it for all the cute stages, screw up any training for it, then throw it away. That annoying “I just wanted a baby. I didn’t want a kid” mentality. They do it to cats too. And it’s disgusting to go walking through animal jail and see all the once-pets locked up with no idea why. But at least there’s hope they’ll have a good future, unlike for the ones “released back to nature.”

Seriously, don’t do it.

Cats and dogs don’t survive in the wild. They live short, hard lives, fighting for every scrap of food. It’s not some kind of “natural order of things,” because I’m sorry, the natural order doesn’t exist once humans have screwed it up.

We have domesticated dogs, and we’re well on our way to domesticating house cats. We feed them our food, which has been proven to change their brain processes over several generations. They adapt to their new environment of indoor luxury and regular meals, losing their hunter instincts as they’re no longer needed and “human pleasing” becomes the best skill for survival.

Have you ever seen a dog smile? That happened because of humans. Wolves don’t smile like that, but dogs do, because we appreciate a goofy grin on a bad day. That grin earns them extra treats and privileges, and the breeds that showed those characteristics were the ones we kept around.

You just have to look at a dog’s face to know that evolution is happening. It’s right fucking there. And we are the ones that pushed them in the direction they’re going — a point where they’re helpless without us — and we owe it to them to stick around. (Which I sometimes doubt is going to happen. We’ve done so much bad stuff to the planet that it’s like a Rube Goldberg machine waiting to go off. One last little nudge, and everything is going to snap around and there will be this cataclysmic series of events culminating in a single message: PRETTY SNEAKY, SIS. We’ve done screwed up, yet we refuse to clean up the mess.)

If you get a dog as a puppy and later decide you don’t want it, be cool about it. Find someone that wants a dog and is willing to give it a good home. Take it to a no-kill shelter. Put up an ad on Craigslist.

But no matter what you do, please don’t choose to abandon your dog, cat, rat, bird, not even your pet turtle. Don’t just take some creature that’s spent its whole life living in a human environment and dump it in the woods. Don’t do it.

That would be like me grabbing a kid that’s never even been camping, and dumping him on an island somewhere. “Make it or break it.” Unless there’s twenty or thirty other kids willing to support each other Lord of the Flies-style, he’s not going to make it. And neither will an animal that’s been fed canned food all its life and has been clipped and shaved for human convenience.

Having a pet is an acceptance of responsibility.

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