Glorious, Wonderful Dogs and Those Who Love, Need, or Hate Them

I’ve known people that prefer cats over dogs, those that like dogs but don’t want the upkeep of one, or folks that are just plain indifferent to pet ownership. But only a few times in my life have I ever come across one of The Dog Haters.

On a personal level, I have noted that The Dog Haters can be emotionally incapable of displaying affection. Their overt revulsion to dogs is only a precursor to everything and everyone they hold in contempt.

I have long meant to write on why humans love and cherish dogs, and the important roles they play in peoples’ daily lives. Then someone sent me this column called Is Pet Ownership Destroying the Lives of Americans?, and my incentive went on autopilot.

No, it is not a satire piece by The Onion, as the title would at first indicate, but it is a serious attempt at explaining why dogs are the scourge of the earth.

Carole Wade — whoever she is — is one of those Haters that is so remarkably foul, mean-spirited, sour, rancid, bitter, and hateful (enough adjectives yet?), that she felt compelled to put her loathing for fuzzy, little pets out into the open under the pretext that no one really wants dreadful pets; it’s all a marketing scam by the pet product companies that only want to reap $$$$$.

The thesis of Ms. Wade’s article is — and I am not making this up — that "pet ownership is destroying Americans." Her malicious and unsupportable thesis is essentially that all dog lovers are lonely, unhappy, inhuman losers, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

On top of that, Ms. Wade’s resident people-pet psychobabbler must have told her that "dogs lock once-active men and women into their homes"; "dogs restrict people from interacting with human friends"; "dogs restrict seniors from their old activities of playing bridge or golf"; "dogs and the new computer age have actually increased a person’s time staying at home and brought on more loneliness"; and dog owners substitute their pets for children.

You heard that. All of you shabby dog owners are inactive, lonely, despicable fools who are forever locked inside your homes to take care of Rover.

Then again, scrolling down to the end of this rubbish reveals the real reason Ms. Wade derides dog owners: "Not all our fellow Americans enjoy lives of tender love and care. Among us are homeless men, women, children, and infants. So the next time you speak to your dog owning neighbor and learn about the new toilet they just purchased for their pet or listen to their ravings about their dog’s $300.00 facial, think about how inhuman pet owners have become."

Aye, so here we arrive at the motivation for such bitterness. Nothing spawns more envy and hatred than the chorus of egalitarian weeping from the redistributionist types like Ms. Wade. They will cheerfully take from you and me to give to someone else who deserves bare sustenance more than you deserve a shoddy indulgence such as a dog. The message is: toss your doggie luxuries and your doggie, and give to the do-nots and the have-nots.

In reality, only a tiny percentage of dog owners go so far as to indulge in things like pet facials, pet toilets, pet psychics, and pet spas. You’ll typically only find that mindset in New York, Beverly Hills, Palm Springs, and other areas where snobbery and money are aplenty.

But, even if folks do indulge in such outlandishness with their own money, so what? Ms. Wade can feel free to be as "humane" as she feels is necessary while foregoing her luxury expenditures to give to those homeless types she frets over.

A dog is indeed mans’ best friend, and for countless reasons. Not only are they indispensable as the family watchdog, jogging pal, or child’s playmate, but they are gifted enough to help alleviate the discomfort of the less advantaged in society, thanks to human efforts to facilitate the harnessing of those gifts. Here are some of the wonderful ways in which dogs improve human lives:

  • Assistance Dogs help the handicapped, wherein they are trained to assist in the caretaking of physically challenged people such as paraplegics and quadriplegics, being trained to turn on/off the house lights, fetch the phone, and open doors. They are even used for assisting epileptics, as they detect seizures and alert family members before the seizure even happens.
  • Dogs help in convalescing individuals of all ages to cultivate the natural bond between animals and humans to the benefit of both. This frequently includes the elderly; people in hospice care; sick and terminally ill children; critical burn victims; handicapped individuals; and mentally retarded adults and children. Perhaps Ms. Wade has never seen the faces of terminally ill children or senile elderly when they are presented with a visit from a fluffy, engaging Golden Retriever.

  • Therapy dogs, trained by volunteers, are used to reach people who, due to various disorders, have otherwise withdrawn from the world.

  • Hearing or signal dogs are specifically trained to assist the deaf.

  • Dogs are the best source of "eyesight" for the legally blind.

Nearby, there is the fabulous Leader Dogs for the Blind school, in Rochester, Michigan, which takes in dogs who exhibit the right personalities and disposition to train as leader dogs. This enables blind people to lead more independent lives. They find dog lovers to act as temporary, volunteer hosts during the dog’s first year or so of life, because that distributes the burden of raising and caring for the dogs, since the school would never be capable of handling all of them on its own. In other words, we are talking about a voluntary characteristic within a community where volunteers pitch in to make the lives of the less fortunate better, and it is done with private time and private money, all without interference or coercion from government. And best of all, it is based on the notion that dog lovers can enjoy the rewards of having a precious puppy in the home while they perform a noble service for others.

Has Ms. Wade ever seen a blind person with his dog, which is quite often one of his most cherished possessions? And go ahead and tell a blind person, a special needs individual, or a quadriplegic — that can’t open the cupboards or reach the phone — that dogs are "ruining American lives."

Or perhaps Ms. Wade would like to apply the "need" argument to dogs too? Perhaps only those that exhibit a dire need for such an animal should dare forsake the needs of others to spend the money to own and care for one?

And then there are kids. A simple fact of life is that kids love dogs. Young children and dogs, especially puppies, were made for one another. What a thrill it is to watch them play together. Perhaps Ms. Wade has never witnessed a child of hers sit on top of the family dog, kissing it and squeezing the stuffings out of it, exclaiming "I love you so much."

According to the imaginative fantasy world of Ms. Wade, "lonely men and women line up every morning eagerly waiting to spend their "last" dollar bill or max out their credit card on their pet’s psychic reading, holistic pet care, pet photograph, pet spas, doggy Bed & Breakfasts, and pet taxis."

Gee, really? Where is that happening? Not only is that statement a resentful lie, but one begins to wonder what exaggerated lengths Ms. Wade will go to in order to make the point that she isn’t keen on dogs.

She follows that up with "overall, the AVMA reports that Americans spend more than $15 billion annually on pets. Statistics also prove that the average homeless child in the United States lives on fewer than 75 cents a day… including health care."

Getting the picture here? A picture of an "others are starving while you’re eating steak" protest?

The portrait that the bitter Ms. Wade paints is that of the hobo family in tattered clothes, the malnourished children with bloated little bellies, and irresponsible parents who keep no groceries in the house, yet they are standing in line somewhere, at 8am sharp, using their "last dollar bill" or "credit card" to run up the ultra-luxury, doggie expenses at Pooh-Pooh’s Little Doggie Palace for Dumb Suckers.

If that is not enough, she goes on to toss out some hollow dog allergy and dog bite statistics. She proves she’s yet another one of those hysteria-ridden nutballs that wants to reduce life to a series of statistics showing how everything she doesn’t like is killing off or ruining the human race.

In terms of her allergy grievances, what about perfume, cologne, pollen, and dust? What do we do about those? And as to the occasional dog bite, what are the statistics for falling down stairs, stubbing toes, or choking on foodstuff?

It’s not difficult to understand why people don’t want dogs as pets, don’t want to invest the time, or just aren’t interested in being around them. However, try and figure out the gloomy mentality of those who actually hate dogs.

I don’t especially like cats and prefer not to own them, though I am not a cat hater. They just don’t exhibit the fun, lovable, outgoing, warm personality that I have come to know in dogs. However, I understand the desire some folks have to love and enjoy their cats as much as any other pet.

Sure, dogs can get a little high-maintenance at times, such as when my chocolate lab insists on trapping herself firmly in between my ankles during a thunderstorm. She becomes as immovable as a Saddam statue in pre-invasion Iraq. Or when the shepherd/husky needs a little coaxing and two extra minutes to get up the stairs because her hips have stiffened up. And there are those times when someone has to run home from work to let the dogs out so they don’t have to endure the uncomfortable upshot of a 14-hour workday.

But so what?

My friends, knowing my dual-job status and my very hectic schedule, always say to me, "Karen, where do you get the time to keep up the maintenance, care, and exercise of two dogs?" The answer is simple: There’s always more time to be found to love, whether that love is directed toward another child, a new pet, a new passion, a sick parent, or a new friend with whom bonds have formed. People who are happy, secure, confident, and have exuberance for life almost never fret over the small stuff. It is the bitter hoodwinkers like Ms. Wade who must be so extremely lonely, lifeless, and insufferable that they blame dogs and dog owners for ruining and dehumanizing America.

At any rate, why own dogs?

Well, I frequently get involved in doing group mountain bike rides, off-road, on grueling trails through beautiful stretches of forest. My chocolate lab runs ahead of the pack of bikes, having more fun and getting more exercise than any of us, passing us on the uphills, eating our dust on the downhills, and barking when she needs a water break. Only the most cantankerous soul could not witness the absolute joy and hilarity in this. After the ride, as I mull around the parking lot chatting up my riding buddies, she cozies up underneath my truck, the only shady, cool spot she can find close to me.

On day hiking or backpacking trips, the dogs are right at home. When I run in the neighborhood at night, the night run is far safer with an eighty-pound German shepherd at my side.

On bitter cold Michigan mornings, my shepherd is trained to run out and fetch the Wall Street Journal, to save me the trip down the icy driveway, while passersby look on in astonishment. Say "Wall Street" or "paper" around her, and she’ll be spinning in blissful circles, ready to dart down the driveway. She’s trained to open the refrigerator door upon command, with the help of a rope on the fridge handle. She is still vainly trying to get the hang of the most important part, and that is fetching that can of Heineken on the bottom shelf. No family — especially one with kids — can have too many of these precious moments in any given day.

Basically, the dog lovers I have known are folks who tend toward warmth and caring for the world around them. Dog lovers tend toward being laid-back types with oodles of patience. Dog families tend to be active families wherein the dog fits right in at the park or on the road trip.

Some friends of mine, who already had four very vigorous children under the age of thirteen, recently took in a Down’s syndrome child after her natural mother proved utterly incompetent and incapable of loving the child. I asked, "Where will you get the time and energy for another kid?" The response was "when you love and care for someone, that is not even an issue."

Amen to that. In the end, all a dog wants is to please and love its family while being loved in return. They give a rewarding, unconditional love not found in any other pet. As a dog lover, that’s the essence of why I own and care for them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go out, and, in honor of Ms. Wade, buy some of those gourmet doggie cookies in the shape of little mailmen. I can’t think of anything better than splurging so that my dogs can eat government bureaucrats.