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Pet People

Monday, July 23, 2007

Dear Abby off the mark on pet/child problem

Like millions of others, I read Dear Abby every day. Most of the time, I agree with the advice she doles out, but a few weeks ago, I thought she gave some pretty poor advice about a pet and child problem.

A woman wrote that her 2-year-old son, “Caleb” just met her new boyfriend “Mitch” who has a large dog, “Crusher.” The woman said that in the past, the dog “has shown aggression toward me, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle,” with no further explanation as to the dog’s actual behavior.

She went on to say the dog is now being “aggressive” toward Caleb, and on a couple of occasions, Crusher “charged” her son and left “scratches” on him.

I immediately thought, “Aggression? What aggression?” The dog’s behavior didn’t sound aggressive, but simply overly-exuberant and untrained, a dog who jumped in greeting and in play. Dogs do not “scratch” in aggression as a cat might. In fact, dogs don’t use their paws at all in fighting—they use their teeth. If the dog were truly aggressive, little Caleb probably would have required a trip to the emergency room.

The woman said she and Mitch now keep the dog and Caleb apart, but poor Caleb is getting the short end of the stick. Mitch set up a room for the boy with a TV and toys, and they close the door, leaving the little boy alone, while Crusher gets the run of the house. The woman says she hasn’t asked Mitch to “get rid” of the dog, but wonders if she has a right to ask. She doesn’t want him to feel he has to choose between her and the dog.

No, she has no right to ask him to get rid of the dog, because the dog is not the problem. The problem is the lack of dog training on Mitch’s part and the lack of understanding dog behavior on the woman’s part. She assumes “charging” is “aggression.” She never mentions staring, growling, biting or barking.

Abby’s advice to her was way off base. First, she said it was the mother’s duty to make sure her son was safe at all times. Correct. Shutting him in a room by himself wasn’t protecting him, but neglecting him. Right again. But then Abby said, “If you do not confront your boyfriend about his dangerous animal, you are choosing him and his dog over your son! When Caleb was attacked the first time, your boyfriend should have volunteered to confine his dog. The wrong critter is being confined.”

Whoa Abby! Wrong, wrong, wrong. First, she assumes the dog is “dangerous” just because the mother said he was “aggressive,” even though the dog’s actions didn’t indicate aggression, based on the mother’s own account. Abby then assumes the dog’s behavior was an “attack,” as if Cujo himself came to life.

Having worked with area shelters, I've heard from people who want to get rid of pets for similar reasons. As with most animal problems, the problem is not with the animal, but with the owners. Dogs should be taught not to jump on people. Kids should be taught not to mess with pets when they are eating and to not pull tails and ears. If kids are too young to understand, they’re too young for a pet.

My friend Amy had three big dogs before having her first baby, Emily. I asked her how she kept her dogs from knocking over the baby and she said, “My dogs learned before she came not to jump on people.” Amy also supervises her kids when they’re with the dogs and trains all of them how to behave. Unfortunately, as we’ve all seen in public, there are people who don’t bother to train their kids or their pets. Many take the easy way out and simply get rid of pets at the first sign of a problem. Worse yet, some get rid of pets the minute they find out a baby is on the way because “it’s too much handle.” Sorry, but I feel no sympathy for them. My sympathy lies with the pet being sent to an unknown future and possible euthanasia.

Before anyone gets a pet, they should ask themselves, “Can I commit to this animal for the rest of its life?” That means taking the pet when you move, finding a rental property that accepts pets and taking care of medical problems. If the answer is “no,” then they should forget it. Doing so will go a long way toward avoiding Dear Abby problems—and preventing animal problems from being dumped on the community.

Picture above is Emily, daughter of K9-Rescue(Amy)as she sits surrounded by her canine siblings Jake, Charlie and Nikki.

posted by Sandy at 7/23/2007 02:42:00 PM


Blogger dragon said...

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy, She does have the right, and is expected, to ask him to get rid of an aggressive dog. It appears she is the responsible adult here and needs take charge of the child’s safety. You have set up you own situation based upon the lack of word. Of all people, you work for a newspaper, and you know and there is only X number of inches to put a story in. A trip to the Emergency room is to late.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 4:41:00 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

Oh come on. Nothing she said indicated the dog was "agressive." Any big dog that jumps on a child in greeting can end up scratching him or knocking him over. That doesn't make it aggressive, doesn't make it an "attack."

I am disappointed in the Dragon for being such a reactionary. Heck, my dogs get excited when they see me, and if I am in shorts, I sometimes get scratched. That doesn't make the dogs agressive and they certainly aren't "attacking" me.

But even if a kid is torturing a dog and he bites, the dog is the one that gets blamed. Why kids and pets should always be supervised.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 7:29:00 PM  
Blogger Skeeter said...

Ahhhhh, Look at those adorable babies! The kid is cute too...

I miss Dear Abby. We don’t get her in our paper since her death. We have something here called Dear Amy. I don’t agree with half of what she has to say. She is too quick to say counseling or read this or that book. I like to form my own opinions. I really do think I could have been a therapist if I went for it. I give the Saint free advice all the time and tell him that people would pay to listen to me if I were in business… ha-ha…

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 8:56:00 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Skeeter, Dear Abby is online now if you don't get her locally. Her daughter writes it. You can bookmark it and read it every day just like your Leaf Chronicle!!

Wow. I'm glad you pointed out there was a kid in the picture. I was too busy looking at Amy's beautiful dogs!! I never saw the two legged version! LOL

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger jdt said...

I agree with you Sandy. As you all know we are expecting our first child and my hubby and I have begun thinking about the effect this will have with the pets. For years our monsters have been our children, and I will admit that I (and my hubby sometimes too) have spoiled them rotten and possibly not provided the best training for them. I know our dogs are much smaller than the one being discussed, but we do have four of them.

While of course we will put the safety of our child as the utmost priority, I don't think that my little monsters should suffer either. We have approached our vet for suggestions concerning how we can start preparing our dogs for the baby. We have already decided that the nursery will be off limits to the dogs, but it is a room that has always been off limits. As the pregnancy continues we are trying to train the dogs to not jump on people, me especially just for safety concerns while I am pregnant and once the baby comes and is in my lap or arms.

Our monsters have always slept in our room, mostly in our bed. Alot of people I know try to tell me I have to kick them out now because the baby is coming. I usually laugh at these comments and respond with "The dogs were here first." This of course upsets some people. However, my hubby and I feel it is not fair to take the dogs room away from them and we are firm believers in not letting your child, especially an infant, sleep in our bed.

I sometimes think that people who decide to get rid of their pets when they are having a baby, really just got those pets as substitutes until they could have a baby. To me that is just ridiculous!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:57:00 AM  
Blogger pearcehart said...

Babies are no comparison to pets. I LIKE pets.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Sandy said...

Alice, you are wicked! I LOVE It. LOL.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

Jdt, coming from experience with this subject I have to comment. My daughter and son-in-law had thier two cats a dog first. Callie ( cat )always slept with them and was kicked out of the bed when the baby was there but was allowed to stay in the bedroom. All three animals adjusted to all three babies just fine too. Now our youngest grandbaby ( 9 months ) love them all but especially Callie.
They say one of the best things to do is to take a aritcle of clothing or a blanket to the hospital and after the baby arrives put it on the baby then take it home so the animals get used to that smell and that is supposed to help a lot. ISeems like it did in our case.
I did think that woman went to far as to put her child in a room alone like that. That is neglect! If the dog was too aggressive then yes keep them seperated but you don't have to go overboard on it either way. You can work out a compromise that doesn't hurt child or animal. From a medical point of view, seeing some things I have with animals turning aggressive ( not the usual reaction but has happened ) the best thing is to be safe rather than sorry. Protect your child at all costs but do NOT punish the animal in doing so. As I said there is a way to keep everyone safe and happy without neglecting anyone. Common sense is simple!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 6:14:00 PM  
Blogger Sandy said...

But I don't think the dog was aggressive, at least by what she said. It sounded like an over reacion for the reasons I stated.That's why I got so ticked off!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 6:42:00 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

I agree with you on that Sandy but she still shouldn't have put her child in a room by himself like that. That was just neglect and is total bullsh--t! I think she just needs to learn how to be a better mother! I am glad they didn't blame the dog for it's behavior.

Thursday, July 26, 2007 8:23:00 PM  

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Pet People

Sandy Britt, an animal welfare advocate and volunteer with Clarksville rescue organizations, takes care of three dogs: Zoe, Scooter and Peanut; two cats: Catfish and Tarzan; and one husband, Glen, and according to him she takes care of them in that order.

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