Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's My Obligation Here?

Yesterday the neighbour's dog appeared in our back yard - he'd somehow escaped his fences, and was free to roam. He was perfectly willing to let me pet him, but the moment I appeared with a leash, he began to play that dog game of: "Yeah ok, I'll let you put that on me ... but maybe not!"

He'd leap sideways at the last moment, then strike that silly dog pose where they crouch with the front end, and elevate the back end - coupled with his goofy expression, it made me laugh. The more I laughed, the better he liked it - at one point he came over and gently shoulder-checked my leg, and it was just like a human being nudging with an elbow. I found it entertaining rather than frustrating, because he's such a big ol' happy dog, and he was having so much fun evading the leash.

I decided another approach might be more useful, and asked him: "Want a cookie?"

He snapped to attention, and came right over, to begin nuzzling my hands and my pockets, looking for it. When I didn't have one, he did the canine equivalent of a shrug and went off to sniff the grass.

Long story short, I got him into my car by showing him the cookie, and tossing it into the back seat. He leapt in after it, I closed the door, and I had him. I drove him home, and the people next door to his owner took him in, as the owner was out at the time.

Later, I was talking to someone about it, and was told, "I'd have taken him to the SPCA!"

"I knew where he lived," I protested. "I see him every day."

"I don't think they walk him enough, I'd have taken him to the SPCA."

It got me thinking, because when I was much younger, if I'd thought they didn't walk him enough, I'd have taken him to the SPCA, too. Back then, I was much more certain not only that my opinions were correct, but that I had the right to act upon them however I chose.

I don't have that certainty anymore. The wisdom of Al-Anon, and perhaps of middle age, has tempered my thinking. In order to take the dog to the SPCA and turn him over, I'd have had to lie. Many times. I'd have had to lie that I didn't know where he lived, that I'd tried to find his owners, yada yada yada. The entire enterprise would be one of deception on my part, and I'm not willing to do that.

If I thought he was being mistreated, I'd have contacted the relevant authorities to get him some help, as soon as I'd realised it, back when we first moved into this house, months ago.

Yes, I wish they'd walk him more often, but he has a huge yard in which to roam, a very nice doghouse, and when I see him with his family, he is the same bouncy creature he was in my yard. He shows no signs of fear or caution, as he would were he being abused.

It's not up to me to be deciding for someone else, how often they should walk their dog. If I saw signs of abuse, I'd do my utmost to get him help - I adore dogs. But I can't take him to the SPCA and tell a pack of untruths because they don't fit my concept of "ideal dog owners."  I saw my obligation to be: catch him, was I able, and take him safely home. That's where my responsibility ends.

Life is much more peaceful when I keep my hands in my own pockets, and don't try to change the people and the world around me, to suit my thinking. I cannot achieve that end, so why waste energy trying? I'd rather save my energy to do what I can do.

I'll never forget when we lived in a house in another town, several adult neighbours used to stop and talk when they met on the street, and they were always tut-tutting about a very nice border collie who lived her life on a chain alone in her back yard. It took a young girl to ask the owner if she could please walk the dog. She and the dog would head happily off down the street a couple of times a day. I loved that, it was such a perfect example of what really helps, and what doesn't.

You think a dog isn't being walked enough? Why not stop trashing the owner for his or her lack, and offer to walk the dog yourself, if you are truly concerned?


  1. So glad that you didn't take him to the SPCA. That would have been such a shame. Good to be part of the solution whenever I can.