Don’t Dress Up Your Dog!


I’ve always liked dogs. I grew up in a home where we had wire-haired terriers and hunting dogs. My father trained pointers and setters, which were kept outside in a kennel. He always had two dogs and each had his own doghouse lined with straw for warmth. My dad groomed them to use for bird hunting. Keeping dogs outside would be considered abusive now, but they seemed to thrive. 

Our inside dog was another story. Our first wire-hair was easygoing and lovable. I was able to play with her and even put her in a baby carriage with my dolls. After she died of old age, I missed her dearly. Our second wire-hair turned out to be a terror of a terrier! She barked and growled and jumped on everyone coming and going. Somehow, my dad, who could train hunting dogs with hand signals, didn’t bother to civilize Tootsie.

She ruled the house and I ignored her as much as possible. My parents doted on her with love and affection. I did not bond with this foxy dog and tried to stay out of her way. When friends arrived, I would lock her in the laundry room so she wouldn’t jump and growl. I could only get away with this when my parents were out as her bad behavior didn’t seem to bother them. 

Later in life, I formed my own dog philosophy. Dogs are subservient to people. I love them, but they are not to be in charge. That’s what I said when we got Barney, our first family dog. I was married with four children and had to convince my husband, who had never had a dog, that pets were wonderful.

My rules were: no jumping on people, no sitting on furniture, no sleeping in our beds and no feeding at the table. My husband and kids did not adhere to this same philosophy. Barney was smart enough to know to jump off the couch when he heard me enter the room. He wasn’t quite smart enough to avoid looking guilty, but I pretended not to notice.

I finally gave in about him sleeping in the children’s beds. He knew not to sleep in mine. He sometimes slept at the foot of our bed and often pulled the covers off on very cold nights. In spite of this, I loved him. He was so clever.

I liked it when he sat under the dining table and leaned against my legs. He never begged at meals. He knew I would save a few leftovers for him. God, how I miss that dog. He was special and behaved  differently to all six of us, but always with love.

Today dogs seem to be at the top of the food chain. Just walk into a Petco and you will be amazed at all we can do for them. We can buy them special food, snacks, drinks, beds, accessories and, God forbid, special clothes. As dog owners, we can purchase mugs, T-shirts and artwork to celebrate them. There is even a special canine TV channel for our pets to watch. We can take them to “doggie daycare” and special dog parks to meet and play and make friends. 

I understand that in today’s world, we can’t let our pets run wild. I’ve always liked walking dogs, but I’m not sure we have to entertain them. I was annoyed recently when a large dog sat next to me at a restaurant. Granted, I was eating out on a covered patio, but the dog was being fed by its owners at the table. He also stared soulfully at me while I ate my bacon. I really couldn’t enjoy my meal. 

I marvel at the dogs for the blind and infirm who are trained to work for their owners. Some of them recognize signs of a stroke and other infirmities. I know they perform a great service. There does, however, seem to be an increase of service dogs. I have read about them and seen them when I travel. I realize what a comfort pets can be, but I am skeptical. There are special service dog vests you can purchase to advertise how needy you are.

Airlines in particular have a problem with this increase and will have to address a stricter policy. Then there is the question of just sitting next to a dog if you are fearful or allergic. Does one get to change one’s seat?  

A dog can be “man’s best friend” or a complete pest, depending on the animal’s personality and training. They can sniff out drugs, perform tasks, calm their owners and create joy in our sometimes crazy world. I guess what I’m saying is that I want dogs to be dogs. I don’t think we should try to turn them into humans. They are unique and smart and we should treat them with kindness. They don’t need to go to restaurants and have play dates. We humans are neurotic enough without training our dogs to be just like us! 

Kathleen Donnelly lives in Beach Haven Terrace.


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