My Dog is Friendly

First, a caveat: I didn’t do this research, nor did I sponsor it in any way. I’m really just passing it on.

The RAND study found no evidence that children from pet-owning families were better off in terms of their mental well-being or their physical health. (Click on the image to read the article.)

I could quit here, but this is only one of my points. The rest have to do with other myths:

1. Pets give children a chance to take responsibility caring for the animal.

Well, yes, but I’ve yet to see a kid actually assume responsibility for the animal more than ~5% of the time.  In one case, a cat owner I know left her cat with her mother when she went off to college, with instructions on what to do with it.

2. Pets provide unconditional love.

True, but how is that a good thing once you pass the age of 2? How does this teach a kid reciprocation, the idea that it’s as important to give as well as receive? And not just on the kid’s terms.

And I’m disturbed by memes claiming that pets are “part of the family” or even “more caring than people.” Do we really need that in today’s world? Shouldn’t we be sure every human is taken care of before we put pets out in front? Another study found that half of all American pet owners consider their pets as much a part of the family as any other person in the household. That study was 8 years old; I’ll bet the number is higher now.

3. Pets are loyal.

Only as long as you feed them.

I cringe when I see photos of small children, even infants next to an animal three or more times their weight. All it would take would be one innocent move by the child to aggravate the pet and there would be sorrow in that household. And yes, I’ve seen that happen—an unfair competition between an up-to-then beloved family doberman and a two-year-old. For another, more famous example, recall the story of the silverback gorilla and the toddler in the Cincinnati Zoo last year—even granting the gorilla’s best intentions of taking care of the child, the protective arm of a 400-lb animal can be lethal to the child. Who was to blame for this? I say: the zoo. Why do we have them? But maybe that’s another blog.

The solution: leave animals to other animals. Nature will take care of them. It’s hard to carry out this philosophy. Even though I don’t linger outside (that’s “their” domain), it’s difficult to avoid pets. It’s my theory that animals would prefer this. I know of 2 large dogs that are in cages all day while their owners work. One parent told me the dogs like the cages. Oh, and is the horse that’s sailing down the freeway also happy? In many ways, non pet owners are kinder to the animal kingdom.

When one is outside my local coffee shop for example, essentially taking up the whole sidewalk, I step off the curb and cut a wide swath around it, preferring a sideswipe from a vehicle to contact with a dog.

Often the owner senses the reason for my maneuver and says, “He’s very friendly.”

“That’s the problem,” I say.

I’m not sure the owner understands this — it’s not that I’m afraid of getting bitten by an animal (though, that too), I don’t want it to touch me. To nuzzle, to drool, to pee on me, or to run its fur anywhere near me. Who knows what normal reflex on my part will send the pet into untamed mode?

And now for a PET PEEVE. (groan) Why do authors feel the need to tell you what pets they have? You know what I mean: ” . . . lives in Vermont with her husband and large pit bull.” If this to keep aggressive fans away, I get it. But what about “lives in Iowa with his wife, two children, and a tiny purse dog?” Do they think we’ll like them better if they not only write excellent books, but also rub noses with the lesser species? Why not something like “lives in Brooklyn with his partner, with whom he shares a couch.” Oh, never mind.

I know I risk losing friends, but it’s not my fault. It’s the fault of that RAND study. And as always, I’m happy to hear counter arguments.

 

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2 Responses to “My Dog is Friendly”

  1. Hmmm, not a dog lover? ha! I had a German Shepherd that loved people and kids, esp. loved babies. Could’ve trusted him with anyone. In contrast, this one is an “us” only dog. It varies. Like people. Gotta know your pet. I’d still trust the dog more than half the people on Facebook. :)

  2. Camille says:

    Half the people on FB? I’ll have to grant you that’s a tough choice, Chris! :)