Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Keeping a pet

And he gave you a german shepherd to walk
With a collar of leather and nails
And he never once made you explain or talk
About all of the little details

--'Master Song,' Leonard Cohen

I've been thinking a lot about pets these days.

I suppose it's mostly because it's puppy season; everyone everywhere seems to have small canines with extra skin and too-big paws. I melt at the sight of them and crane my neck as I pass dog parks. I've always been a dog person and even took out all the dog books when I could first read, memorizing breed names and planning my litter.

But now, after years of deciding it wasn't the right time -- I was moving or wanted to, I didn't know where I'd be living for the next fifteen years -- I'm not so sure about the role dogs will play in my life. I'm not sure I want to 'keep' a pet, and I'm not sure dogs are meant to be kept.

In Hawaii, things were different when it came to dogs and cats. They hung about, you put food out, they offered affection, you accepted. It seemed a mutually beneficial relationship, with each party able to walk away from the set-up at any given point.

In Ottawa, 'owners' (or 'caregivers' as local retailer Posh Nosh refers to them) invest thousands to purchase and maintain a pet -- even more on the emotional level, as pets come to serve as surrogate children and life partners.
Is this fair to the beasts?
Did they ask for this kind of co-dependent relationship?

I suppose one could argue that children, too, don't 'ask' to be born. But that seems a bit more natural, like part of maintaining a species.

But when I try to see my sister, who has a 2-year-old husky, or my friends who just adopted a bulldog, as parents involved in a natural course of events, something inside of me cringes. It's similar to my aversion to the argument that 'we might as well eat cows -- there are too many of them. What would cows do if we didn't eat them?'

And who would take care of pure bred dogs if not wealthy westerners?

I believe the mutts at the pound may be a different story -- though with this week's scathing article by Randall Denley at the Ottawa Citizen (The humane society's big secret: euthanasia), I really don't know if I can trust our local humane society.

In then end, as I walk with my sister's pooch and watch her, nose in the air, searching out scents and enjoying this brief, elated hour of partial-freedom (huskies are a breed that cut'n'run, making off-leash sessions for city-dwellers few and far between), I wonder who is getting the most out of this relationship. I imagine how I would feel as a kept woman; I feel uneasy about the extra attention I get with a dog; and I feel like I owe her something.

1 comment:

speedy123 said...

If pets keep people from going crazy with loneliness than I suppose they do serve a purpose. In general, I agree, what do dogs get out of being kept? Too many dog owners (like parents, I suppose) just don't understand the responsibility and get lazy to the detriment of the pet/child.