A route I often take goes by a certain house. In the far corner of the fenced backyard, probably forty yards away from the house, is an igloo-style doghouse.

And a yellow Lab.

She (for some reason I've decided it's a she) is always there. It doesn't matter when I go by. In the morning, she's there. In the afternoon, she's there. At night my headlights reach just far enough to let me spot her golden coat against the circle of dirt that marks the limit of her chain.

I've probably driven by at least forty times. She's always there. I never see her running loose in the yard. I never see anyone playing with her. Occasionally I see people sitting on the back deck; on those occasions that happens, she's always standing at the limit of her chain, as close to them as she can be.

Maybe her family does sometimes let her loose. Maybe her family does sometimes play with her. Maybe she sometimes does hang out with them on the deck.

But it sure doesn't look like it.

Keep in mind her treatment doesn't qualify as neglect. She has food and water and adequate shelter.

But still.

Dogs are, by instinct, pack animals. They don't just want to belong to a pack; they need to belong to a pack. Numerous studies show that limiting a dog's contact with people -- or at the very least, with a "pack" -- will cause them to display behaviors associated with mental illness. They get hyper. They get aggressive. They pace. They develop compulsions, like chewing or barking or licking the same spot until it's raw. They almost literally go crazy.

They can't help it. They're made that way.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this family lets the dog spend time with them. I hope so.

Or maybe the owner's initial intentions were good... but intentions are always worthless unless followed through upon. Wanting a dog is a lot different than having a dog. Wanting a dog is easy; having a dog means being willing to let it become a part of your pack. You don't have to buy organic dog food, or let it sleep in your bed, or take it for regular visits to a dog psychologist.

A dog just wants decent food, plenty of water... and to spend time with you.

Not all of the time. Just some of the time.

Want to treat your dog like a dog? Let it be part of your pack.

If you can't do that, that's cool.

But don't get a dog.

Published on: Apr 5, 2017
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