Friday, October 05, 2007

Just

In the movie Finding Neverland, Johnny Depp's character has a large dog named Porthos that at one point he imagines is a large dancing bear in a performance for the Llewelyn-Davies children. Peter says it is ridiculous, that he's just a dog. To which Johnny replies that he should be careful with the word just. I think it is a very interesting lesson on limiting potential and imagination. However, I found myself saying that very same thing this morning during my daily walk through the park to work. I often see bizarre treatment of dogs in the city, so much that the extravagance has become commonplace. Just this morning I saw a woman pushing a stroller, but there was no baby inside... just a dog, who sat there like she was the Queen of England. A couple months back I saw a man wearing a baby harness with a dog strapped inside. I have seen dogs with sweaters, collared shirts, booties, sunglasses, helmets and shoes. I think this is borderline ridiculous. It is just a dog.

This is not me advocating ill treatment of animals, and this is not me saying that it's not ok to have an emotional connection with your pet. This is me trying to bring us all back to planet earth where dogs are pets and not children. My co-worker Jane recently read me a story from the news about a family whose apartment caught on fire. The parents grabbed the dog and left the children inside only realizing this gross error when they were already safely outside. They then told the firemen that their children were still inside. Are you kidding me? This is what I am talking about. At what point did the family dog move up in the hierarchy above the children?

Some people get dogs because they have this innate desire to take care of something but the thought of having children is much too overwhelming. It requires too much responsibility, yet do they consider how much care and responsibility a dog is, especially in the city. You have to feed it and clean it just like a kid. You have to pick up after it, especially in public for the duration of its life unlike a child who learns to use the bathroom. If you go on vacation, you have to consider either taking the dog, finding a sitter or housing the dog in a kennel. What if you don't have a sprawling backyard where Buddy can run around all day? Last minute invitation for a night out on the town? What about Buddy? Who's going to walk him, feed him if you don't come home until midnight? You have to walk your dog at least twice a day, and if you can't do it then you have to pay someone who can. Sure it loves you and greets you and never talks back, but its a dog. That's the measure of its creation - to be man's friend and companion - not to be a substitute child.

I have a soft spot for animals, and I have parents who are the foster/adoptive parents of too many cats, so I am not oblivious to the connection between people and their pets. Just the other day Cameron and I saw a man walking his dog whose 2 back legs were in bandages and appeared to not be much use. He held up his back legs with a little harness, so the dog could still walk with his 2 front legs. It was so sweet, and I felt a little bad for the dog because he probably wanted to just run like all the other dogs. But he couldn't so he was aided by his owner. I support that. However, a normal healthy dog should not be paraded around in a stroller or a baby harness. Dogs need to run and be dogs, not babies. If dogs could talk I can only imagine the kind of ridicule that those poor stroller/baby harness dogs would get from other dogs... probably the same kind of ridicule the ones who have to wear dresses and shoes get.

Although "just" can be a limiting and damaging word, I hardly think that treating dogs like dogs is going to harm them. Perhaps we need to be reminded that dogs are not going to grow up and be the pride of the family. They are not going to grow up and produce offspring that can carry on the family name and perpetuate a multitudinous posterity. They will never grow up and take on chores like the dishes or taking out the trash. And they probably can't take care of you when you get old, so we should probably be careful about placing their importance in the family tree equal to or greater than that of an actual child. But they will run with you and keep you warm by sitting on your feet and be a source of comfort when you are lonely. And they will bark or play dead or fetch the newspaper for you because that is what they do. They are dogs.

6 comments:

E.F.G. said...

This is one of my biggest NYC pet peeves (pardon the pun). I can not stand puppies in purses or dogs in grocery stores. And shouldn't big dogs be entitled to big spaces? The best was two weeks ago when Jason and I saw a guy riding his bike while holding a large-ish dog on his lap. That did not look safe.

Marci & Daniel said...

On Friday night Dan saw the neatest baby-buggy on Park Ave. But when he decided to take a peek at the baby...a dog. There's nothing more shocking.

Nicole Cave said...

All I have to say is that I am not a huge animal lover so this post really made me laugh...I definately think people need to get a grip on how they treat their animals like children. It is pretty funny if you really think about it.

Ann said...

yep, I hear ya. I don't do the pet thing at all--so all the fanaticism (is that a word?) is hard for me to understand...crazy...

Mercedes said...

My dog Fernando is the proud owner of a raincoat, pink polo tee and doggie boxer shorts. We are looking to expand is clothing collection to include:

- A "puffy" vest
- A grandpa sweater
- A tuxedo for special occasions

I know clothing for animals is kind of kooky--but they look so cute all dressed up. Additionally, my family dresses our dog because we are compensating for complete and utter lack of grandchildren/nieces nephews/anyone under the age of 18 to dote on...

nikki said...

There is a website that sells formalwear for your dog. I don't advocate this but some people just never grow out of dress up :)