Disclaimer before I begin: It’s not my intent to make anyone feel bad. My hope is that someone stumbles upon this article before they spring for a pet, and maybe this makes them think about what they’re signing up for. The following is my most recent cautionary tale:
Yesterday, I got a call from a friend of a friend, claiming that a friend of a friend of his was planning on euthanizing their two-year-old Rottweiler because she was aggressive towards their baby.
I’ll spare you the suspense: we weren’t able to track down the owner, because the good Samaritans who had the decency to start this information chain, refused to divulge the owner’s information. The dog had a one-way trip to the vet planned for this morning, so as far as I know, she is no longer with us.
I am part of a local rescue organization, and had suggested numerous others. I offered to take the dog and pay the surrender fee myself. The messages were apparently forwarded to the owners, but they apparently wanted nothing to do with helping their “beloved” pet.
This brings me to a problem I encounter way too often: people get a dog without thinking of what it truly means to introduce a dog into the family. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the unfortunate few who have major unexpected events, such as debilitating illness, major expenses (for the dog or not), or any of the myriad emergencies that life can throw at you, I’m talking about people who make life decisions without thinking of their current pet as a permanent addition to their family.
I have moved half-way around the world – twice! – and have taken my pets with me; I was almost broke once, and still they stayed. I’ve gone through periods of intense work/school hours, and my dogs still had all their needs met. I use myself as an example, because I can speak from experience. It’s always easy to berate without knowing.
There are many examples of people giving up pets for capricious or frivolous reasons, and that is what this article is about. This is what it comes down to: pet ownership is a luxury, not a right. Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to it. If you get a dog, and you plan to have children down the line, take that into consideration. A pet isn’t an object you can just store away or sell once it’s no longer convenient. It frustrates me when people want pets the same way they want objects: let’s go for it, if it doesn’t pan out, we can always just get rid of it! And I think we all know that one person who goes through dog phases: they get one, then they tire of it until the next time they’re hit with so-called puppy fever, and bring home another one.
I don’t even think that the problem is lack of foresight, where most people go wrong is impulsivity: getting a dog is way too easy, as is getting rid of one. It’s harder to be approved for a line of credit than it is to buy a dog! There are little to no repercussions for surrendering a dog, and there can’t be, because otherwise people would be abandoning unwanted dogs left and right.
Let’s go back to the recent incident that lead me to write this article: the dog in question is (or rather, was) a Rottweiler. Most people know what a Rottweiler is about: strong-willed, bullish temperament, sometimes aggressive, and above all, a large, strong dog. As YouTube videos are all too happy to show, there are some mastiff and mastiff-type dogs that are gentle giants, but this isn’t the majority by any means. A Rottweiler is a large working breed, and if you plan to have small children around them, extra care has to be taken to ensure the safety of both the dog and the child(ren). Babies aren’t born on the spot, you have a good nine months to prepare for one, and your dog, a member of your family, needs to be included in that preparation.
While any breed has the potential to exhibit even uncharacteristic traits, I really doubt anyone is surprised when a Golden Retriever turns out larger and more powerful than a Shih Tzu. And you’d be surprised at what certain people list as their reason for re-homing or surrendering a dog: he just got too big, she sheds too much, my husband is allergic… If you haven’t spent enough time with dogs to know if you’re allergic to them or not, you haven’t spent enough time to know if you really want to live with one.
I’d like to end this article with the last reason I’ve heard all too often: we’re moving to a smaller house/apartment or we can’t take him with us. If where you want to go isn’t dog-friendly for some reason — maybe you don’t want to take your Italian Greyhound to Siberia — don’t go! The fact that that will come off as a little crazy to some people shows just how blase our attitude towards dog ownership is. I don’t believe that living in a small space is an excuse to give away a dog, as that should only be where your dog rests, not where he gets his exercise, so the fact that people are willing to part with a family member because of downsizing just always seems like a feeble excuse to me.
A pet is for life, that’s what it boils down to. Consider that before you get one. The fact that people are surprised that problem barking is possible, as is aggression or separation anxiety, it would seem that people, on average, need to do a little more research as to what a dog is, and what is means to have one at your side.