Have you ever noticed that almost any article about dogs in any non-dog (mainstream) publication will be followed by a certain percentage of comments by people who HATE dogs and their owners?
I’ve noticed it many times, but it really struck me yesterday, when I was reading an article in the New York Times about a town in Spain whose mayor has tried a number of interesting and innovative programs to convince dog owners to pick up their dog’s poop – apparently something that Spaniards are loathe to do. The number of and maliciousness of the anti-dog comments on the article were scary (well, to me, a dog owner). Many people shared their disgust with dogs, dog owners, and dog poop with a savagery that seemed way out of proportion.
Or is it? I have to admit that even I, a person who LOVES dogs, get irritated when I’m confronted with dog owners who are acting badly, such as people who bring untrained and misbehaving little dogs into grocery stores and restaurants, claiming them to be “service dogs.” Or when I walk in certain neighborhoods in dog-crazy San Francisco, and see owner after owner allowing their dogs to pee on everything, including parking meters, street planters, store fronts, and chairs at outdoor cafes! Or when I visit turf sports fields that are clearly marked “no dogs allowed” and see people who are running their dogs on the grass. If these behaviors bother ME, how must they make someone feel if they already really don’t like dogs at all?
I’m also one of the most intolerant people I know about people who lock their dogs outside all day and/or night to bark, bark, bark. I feel very sorry for those frustrated, bored, anxious, neglected dogs – but I also feel very angry toward their owners.
Unfortunately, all I can reliably do, as a responsible dog owner, is to manage my own dogs well: to assiduously pick up their poo; to not bring them into environments where dogs are not welcome (or try to pass them off as service dogs); to prevent them from peeing in inappropriate places (such as urban sidewalks – mostly by taking them to an appropriate place to urinate fully, and then controlling them fully to prevent ANY marking); and to make sure they don’t have an opportunity or reason to bark, bark, bark all day and/or night.
Sure, we can try to educate our friends about being responsible and not giving dog-haters a reason to hate us more. And we can attempt to politely educate people who are not managing their dogs in a responsible way that their actions may well result in unwelcome consequences for all dog owners in their community – but good luck with that! I’d guess that many (if not most) people who break societal (or legal) rules with their dogs don’t care what others think or what consequences their dog-owning peers may suffer as a result of new rules or laws aimed at curbing dog-owner misbehavior.
What am I missing? Should I not concern myself with the (seemingly) growing number of people who express such rancorousness about dogs? ( A recent spate of dog-poisonings in the San Francisco Bay Area tells me there IS reason to be concerned.) Is there anything else we as responsible dog owners can do to serve as ambassadors for good dogs and good dog owners?