One of the things I miss most about leaving the farm and living in the city is not having the animals around all the time.
Cows are big, placid (well, most of the time), and very warm. Their body temperatures are slightly higher than ours. There’s nothing more comforting than leaning against a big, fat, warm cow when you’re feeling depressed –sort of like having a real, live teddy bear (only one that chews its cud and burps a lot).
Whenever I was sad, I would go for a walk through the herd and usually end up leaning against one cow or another, crying. Then a few other cows would do what most herd animals do when one of their own kind is injured or in trouble: they’d form a tight, protective circle around me, then take their turns sniffing me to make sure I was okay.
In spite of all the drool, I miss that a lot.
So I can also understand why a lot of city people want to have animals around them, too. A city can be alienating, dangerous, stressful–one of the best antidotes is to have a dog or cat (or two or three) to come home to.
But there are some people–in fact, a growing number of people–who get pets, but don’t really want to have a relationship with them. These people expect the new dog or cat to instantly express love for their new owner, to make few or no demands, to never get sick or need attention, to stay the hell out of the way unless they’re wanted, and most of all to “behave themselves.”
Which brings me to one of my pet peeves: people who want to train their dogs to be alone. Dogs are not loners; in the wild, they run in packs. It may be a neat trick to tell a dog to sit, then walk away from it and pretend it’s not there (and expect it to stay frozen in one spot, patiently waiting for you), but it’s also cruel.
Some of the most unhappy animals I’ve ever seen are dogs tied to lampposts, parking meters, trees, and bike racks while their owners are off somewhere doing their shopping, standing in line at the post office, or eating in a restaurant. It’s a common occurrence, especially on Capital Hill, where I live. Walking down Broadway, I see it several times a day–dogs unceremoniously “parked” while their owners are off having a good time. One dog may be laying with his head in his paws looking bored and depressed; another dog will be standing, straining against a tight leash. Sometimes the dogs are very well-behaved, showing that they’ve been to “obedience” classes. But there’s one thing they all share: the same, nervous, frightened, depressed stare. Some of them even bark and jump at passersby or whine and bark at their owners through the window of a nearby storefront.
This “parking” of dogs is against the law: it’s called “illegal tethering,” which brings to mind visions of handcuffs and torture devices. It’s illegal in Seattle for several reasons. Even the sweetest dogs can bite people under stressful circumstances (abandonment in a strange place is certainly one of those circumstances). Dogs left alone often break free and wander away. It’s also just plain dangerous for the animal to be left alone in public–a stranger may steal it, poison it, taunt it, maliciously set it loose, or intentionally harm it. But, most of all, what this abandonment tells the dog is this: “You don’t matter. What matters is my own convenience. And if I want to abandon you, I will.”
So I want to tell people who see this to do something about it. If you see a dog barking at the door of a store or staring at someone through the window of a restaurant, go inside that place and tell the manager that a customer has illegally tied their dog to a post outside. If the dog’s not being aggressive, you can get the owner’s name from the dog’s ID tags. Ask the manager to tell that patron to go and take care of his or her pet and not to serve that person until they do. Stress that the store or restaurant may be liable if the dog bites anyone or attacks another dog passing by (it happens–I’ve seen it). It’s best not to confront the owner of the dog directly, but if you can’t avoid it, be polite. The last thing the poor dog needs is to have an angry owner come storming out of the store to jerk his or her leash and scream “bad dog!”
It’ll make me feel better to see people treating their dogs more like living beings, instead of fashion accessories.
By the way, nobody in their right mind would let me tie a cow to a parking meter and then head off to do my grocery shopping. Just remember that, the next time you see somebody “park” a dog somewhere.