Does your dog really need room to run?
How many times have we seen the ads that state, "I really hate to do this but I don't have time for my dog" or "He needs room to run?"
This blog is inspired by a post in a local Facebook group where a concerned citizen was gathering a witch hunt to find and take two dogs from a couple that found themselves homeless, living in a tent, and asking others for some blankets for their dogs.
The call was to find these individuals and take their dogs because clearly living in a tent with their masters meant that they were not being cared for. The folks had reached out to a pet food pantry for some food but were turned away because their dogs were not spayed. The pet food pantry stated they only give food out for altered animals after being inundated with back yard breeders returning over and over after producing "more mouths to feed."
We live in a notoriously anti-breeder area. Taking intact animals to the vet for routine surgeries has often resulted in "accidental" spays and neuters. After attempting to build relationships with multiple vets in the area, we have found the best care to be an hour or two away. We drive a couple of hours for our ear crops and health testing because even asking for routine breeding xrays is frowned upon. People want "responsible breeders" but you might as well be a dog fighter looking for help in this area, they way local offices treat you.
I do not know if the intent of the folks living in a tent with their pets was to breed or not. The fact remains that a couple of dogs, and humans, were in need, but these folks were judging whether or not they were deserving of help. I cannot imagine losing everything I own and then someone telling me that even though I can't afford dog food, I need the money for a spay before I can get help or that I need to risk my animal's life to get help. Nor would I consider it prudent to commit to the aftercare of an animal that recently had its uterus, ovaries and tubes removed.
The thought process of the concerned citizens was that these dogs would be better off in a shelter or a rescue where vet care, and of course spay/neuter would be covered by the magical angels that bestow such places with endless income. Unfortunately this is not reality. This is actually a burden on the shelters and rescues as this funding could be used for dogs that don't have anyone at all who cares about them, much less folks clinging to their last bit of dignity. In essence, taking these two dogs with a home into a place where lost souls go and recycling them into another unknown is taking resources from another pair of dogs in need.
Passing judgement on how someone lives with their dogs is a slippery slope. Someone could always be doing it better than you. There are dogs out there that fly from one place to another in a helicopter, live in a mansion, and have their own chef and trainer. Are they any happier than these dogs living in a tent? I doubt it. There is an Italian saying that "the little bird dies happy and alone, on the frozen wire, because he doesn't know any better." Is applying what you believe to be a better life for a dog really doing it any good? I know dogs pretty well and living in a tent in the woods with their master sounds a lot like what I envision as their doggy heaven would be. A lion in a zoo gets easy, well balanced meals, free healthcare and security. What is his purpose in life?
Dogs are dogs because they can adapt to just about anything and they are creatures of habit. Rituals and repetition are their safe space. Whether you are working a part time job for three hours a day or you are working 15 hours a day, the happiest moment of your dog's day is when you walk into the house. The dog knows you and your habits. They spend their life adapting to your expressions and doing their best to finish your thoughts. While you are away they are anticipating your return, not wishing they were running free in some farmer's field. This idea that dogs want to run free is inaccurate and misleading. It was once a justification for giving your dog away or an idea step dads implanted in their kids when the family dog didn't return home. "Oh, don't worry honey, he's living on a farm where he can run and play everyday now." Meanwhile the dog was probably on cold ammonia soaked concrete awaiting one final shot.
Chances are, your dog is not going to be happier anywhere, ever again, than it is when you walk in the front door. No matter how hard you are on yourself, you are the dog's world and all that matters.