“They know not what they do.”
In the immense, gritty double boiler of urban existence, this is my gurgling condensate. It could be naivete on my part, as I choose not to ascribe any motivation beyond ignorance to the majority, but sometimes I’m not entirely certain. It seems that there aren’t too many days that go by before the media or our own lives aptly provide one or more vivid illustrations that we are fortunate if we are able to chew gum and walk a dog at the same time. Even then, as I walk through the labyrinthine streets of New York City with my canine protectorates, I fully expect that said chewing gum will join the urine, feces and other detritus that accumulate in the treads of my hiking boots. We aren’t knowingly discarding feces and garbage on public streets, are we?
40 years. It’s a long time for a person to do anything, and I sometimes question my own sanity and my motivation for this lifetime of engagement with the good, the bad, and the bizarre behavior of people with their pets. I’ve been told that I should write the stories, but that’s a task for another day. Maybe.
Today’s mission is a call to others who believe, as I do, that the community of dog owners is generally good willed, yet it lacks significant consistent guidance. I believe that the collective is well-equipped to provide the guidance. I’m not seeking demagoguery.
I believe we can use crowd-sourced wisdom to address many of the issues that the community of dog aficionados face. I’m describing dog-lovers broadly, as we are diverse across the spectrum of devotion to dogs.
Central to this effort is an understanding that within our community’s diversity that there are basic needs on both ends of the leash. The basic needs include food, water, and air, as you might imagine. Next, on our Maslow-esque hierarchy is safety, which includes physical well-being and protection from threats to physical health. We consider that people and dogs are social animals and that a broad range of stimulating experiences and sufficient rest, over the course of our lives are ideal for psychological health.
Many pet dogs live in urban centers, within some type of multifamily housing. These living arrangements have characteristics that are sometimes not fully considered by prospective dog owners. This can lead to challenges and conflict with family, neighbors and sometimes with building management employees and Board members.
Prospective dog owners need information about how to choose a dog that makes sense for their home and community. Yes, I absolutely believe that we have a moral obligation to consider how our choices impact on people within, as well as external to the walls of our homes. This is one of those “uncommon” sense moments. It’s your dog and it’s your home, but there are myriad ways that your choices impact on people around you. Civil society membership requires that you NOT have your head tucked up in your cheeks about this.
Some years ago, I spent a lot of time with people, who like me, kept snakes. One of the guys was a fan of some of the extremely colorful and dangerous venomous snakes. If you keep snakes, you are aware that many people experience occasional escapes. Often these incidents are caused by memory lapses or some other “understandable” human error. It’s one thing to have a garter or king snake loose in your home, although your neighbors won’t be thrilled, in any case. When a pit viper, even a hatchling, is at large in your residence, you have a true public health emergency that will necessitate activation of emergency services. As you might imagine, this is an intrusion that rivals a proctological exam with attendant significant financial, legal and other repercussions, including the possible destruction of your snake.
I believe it prudent to consider the choice to harbor a dog, as one would consider harboring other types of potentially dangerous animals. The presence of a dog may be disruptive and even cause grievous injury and death, especially if we are not sufficiently informed and embrace the totality of what the responsibility entails.
We’ll look at what a dog needs, next.