Friday, June 17, 2011

Cujo goes to school

It’s time again to rag on pets; dogs this time.
Actually, it isn’t the dogs themselves. Pets of all stripes can be great. I have known many pets over the years that I adored. My first pet gerbils, Jeb and Gerb (unoriginal names, to be certain), were awesome. Their tiny bodies, buried almost two feet deep with loving care, are probably still somewhere under the lawn of my childhood home. We had a whole procession of gloriously friendly farm dogs. The felines were neat, too, toting their kittens around from one place to another, stalking birds or mice, or just spending way too long licking themselves with no thought to how stupid they looked with one leg jutting straight up.
Nope, it isn’t the pets. It’s the pet owners. Obviously not everyone who owns a pet is an inconsiderate jerk. In fact, many of them are great people. They just tend to have a blind spot when it comes to their beloved animals. Some parents (the dumb ones) are like that about their children. “Oh, my little darling could never lie. If he says he didn’t break your window, then he didn’t. And no, I don’t know where he got those cuts from.” Come on. Wake up. Kids lie. Not all of them all the time, but all of them at least once. That’s what makes it challengingly: you don’t know when they’re going to drop a fib on you.
In the same vein, dogs bite. Not all of them all the time, true, but anyone who claims “Not my dog. My dog would never bite” is deluded. The best you can say is “My dog has never yet bitten.” I’ve been given similar blithe guarantees many times. “Oh, not this breed. It’s not a biting breed.” Give me a break. Name the breed, and unless it lacks a mouth, you’ll be able to find an example of it biting somebody, somewhere. Even the beautifully trained guide dogs are capable of biting (Google it; you’ll see). So if an animal taught from a pup to be docile, obedient and helpful can bite, please don’t fool yourself into thinking your canine is perfect.
I’m ranting about this because our local school division has a policy about dogs staying off school property. It makes sense to me. Kids are excitable and chaotic, while dogs are animals, and therefore prone to getting riled up if around a lot of activity. Unfortunately, as is the way with us humans, all too many of us are ignorant of the rules (or choose to ignore them), and I am constantly seeing mutts around the schoolyard. Last week was the worst infringement.
A lady brought her dog, leashed at least, with her when she came to drop her child off. She also had a stroller and baby, so she could hardly be said to have full control over the dog. For a few minutes it sat quietly beside her. Then for no reason readily apparent, it rushed at a kid, barking madly. The tail was not wagging. There was no sign the dog didn’t mean business. The poor kid (who had done nothing to aggravate the dog, unless he had telepathically assaulted it) nearly wet himself. After all, his head was only about ten centimeters higher than the dog’s. It would have been pretty scary to see a red maw come rushing right at your face.
No one was hurt. The owner got the dog under control in time. It immediately tried for another lunge, though (apparently that kid was wearing bacon underwear or something). The whole time the dog is yapping furiously and trying to eat a small human, its owner was smiling and shaking her head, as though the crazed dog was just a child throwing a tantrum over a dropped ice cream cone. Eventually she left with the dog, but she never apologized or even seemed to realize that her pet had come within a foot of mauling someone else’s child. It was all in good fun, judging by her expression.
There’s a chance she was secretly mortified and just trying to put on a brave face to cover it up. More likely she walked away convinced that someone had done something to provoke her cherished animal. As I said, I don’t blame the dog. For all that I’m sure it is well-loved, it’s still just an animal. It has no moral center, no conscience, no concept of right and wrong. Whatever its thought processes, they clearly don’t dwell on how its behaviour might harm or impact others.
Maybe I can’t really blame the lady, then, for the same reason.

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