Category Archives: Dog

Letters To A Natalist World: What Every Parent Needs to Know in Terms of Social Child Behaviors (MOVED!)

Woops! This blog post has moved. You can find it at its new home HERE.

Who Would You Save?

I recently ran into the old ethical question that pits the life of a pet and the life of a stranger against each-other. I’ve seen the question before, some time ago, and had forgotten all about it until I came across it again just today. Now I can’t seem to get it out of my head.

The ethical question, if you’re unfamiliar with it, takes many forms. Sometimes the set up is that your dog and a stranger are both drowning and you can only save one or the other. Other times, it’s a burning building with the same problem. I even saw one version where you’re approached by a freaking angel who tells you it will kill one or the other and you must choose which will be spared. Many times though, the question just skips the setup (as it’s irrelevant and people always try to use it to dodge the question anyway) and goes right to the dilemma at hand: If one or the other had to die, which would you save?

I’m inclined to think that anyone who would save a human stranger, be it an adult or a baby (as is the case in some versions of the scenario) really shouldn’t be allowed to have a pet. As I say this while having a pet, then you could, I’m sure, guess that I would save my dog.

Most people who choose to save a human will do so with the reasoning that a human, even a stranger, is more important than a dog. I disagree. People are more inclined to favor our own species, but we do so for emotional reasons. All values that we place on other species are entirely subjective. We tend to favor humans simply because we ARE humans. We have a bias in favor of the species that includes ourselves. If a dog could speak to you, it might very well have a contrary opinion, insisting to you that dogs are actually more valuable.

As for subjective values between species, I’ve certainly never seen dogs wage wars or commit genocide, so I find any claim that humans are better to be just a little bit flawed. And with a population of over 7 billion, humans are hardly an endangered species in need of preservation. I can’t find any objective rationale to favor the human over the dog (or cat, or what have you.) I don’t think that any life form is intrinsically more valuable than any other. All values we place, we place based on our own biases and needs. So I’ll put subjective values on species completely out of the way, ignoring that 1. I am human myself and therefore tend to favor humans, often without being conscious of it, 2. personally happen to prefer the company of dogs over that of humans anyway, and 3. acknowledge that the most horrific acts committed on this planet were (and still are) perpetrated by humans, whereas dogs are comparatively innocent as a species.

With cross-species value out of the way, I’m left with what is, to me, the real question: To whom do I owe the greater level of responsibility? If you’re not an animal lover and don’t understand what I mean, replace “your pet” with “your child” (or a child you are babysitting or is otherwise under your care.) When the scenario is your child vs. a stranger, few people would have trouble with the choice at all – they would pick their child. Sure, people would talk about subjective emotions, their bond and attachment with their child (as well as with their pet) and their personal vested interest in the child’s survival, and I don’t doubt that they mean what they say. But the real factor here is, or at least aught to be, responsibility.

This isn’t just a dog vs. a human scenario, it’s specifically my own dog vs. a human stranger. When I took my dog into my home, I was making a contract with her. She became my responsibility. It is therefore my duty to keep her safe and healthy, to love her and care for her, and to protect her and keep her happy. It doesn’t matter one bit that she’s a dog, she’s my responsibility all the same and in a way that no human being, who I do not even know, is, just as a child would be to a parent.

So I say again, anyone who does not save the pet should not have a pet at all as they do not take their responsibility seriously. Ask anyone who works at an animal shelter, and they will tell you that there is, sadly, no shortage of such irresponsible, speciesist people, who get a hold of animals that they then fail to take care of and renege on their responsibilities to.

This question isn’t just some absurd hypothetical, however. I actually have chosen my dog over other people. If you have pets that you take adequate care of, so do you, whether you’re aware of it or not. I’ve had my dog for less than a year, but I’ve spent quite a lot of money on her already. I’m not sure exactly how much money I’ve spent to her benefit, but it has to be on the order of a few thousand dollars by now. When I paid for Molly’s plane ticket, her veterinary care, her food, her toys, her training classes, my pet deposits, and so on, I was spending a great deal of money on a dog that I could have otherwise spent donating to charities that keep the world’s starving fed or could have gone to medical research and treatment or could have helped people pay their rent to stay off the streets.

Of course, I’m not thinking about any of this as I go through the checkout at the pet-store, but that’s still what I, and every other responsible pet-owner, is doing. People who spend money on their children are doing the exact same thing. How much money have you spent on your animal friends or on your kids? Do you feel guilty about it? You shouldn’t. I don’t.

Sure, I have, to a certain degree, a level of responsibility that I owe to every human being on the planet, whether I know them or not. I don’t deny this. However, it’s not the same kind of personal responsibility that I owe to my dog. I do still try to help my fellow human in any way that I can. I have done volunteer work and donate to charities that aid humans. But at the end of the day, if I had to pick between the two, I’d pick my dog over a stranger every time. Morally, it’s the only acceptable course of action that I see.

P.S., read this:  My Dog or Your Child? Ethical Dilemmas and the Hierarchy of Moral Value

Does Freedom Offend You?

During a recent visit to a childed friend’s house, we somehow got into a conversation about pets. She told me that she didn’t want to have dogs, ever. That would have been fine, except she used the term “dog-free.” As a dog person, I couldn’t help but cringe at the word. (And just what, pray tell, is wrong with dogs?) It was a knee-jerk reaction, as I quickly realized. Of course I know that to properly care for dogs means a lot of work and sacrifice, not to mention a sizable lifestyle and priory re-arrangement. Animal shelters and cases of abuse and neglect are all the evidence I need that not all humans are suitable caretakers of my canine friends. As for this friend of mine, she wasn’t interested in taking dogs in, which is fine. But the word “dog-free” still affected me like a newspaper to the snout.

Some people take offense with the word, “childfree.” I’ve heard it multiple times called a “loaded term.” Frequently, it’s argued that the term implies a negative value to parenthood and children. The problem that critics of the term find is that “childfree” gives voluntary childlessness a positive light, while not only not doing the same for parenthood, but framing it as an undesirable thing. In a society which is prone to practically worship natalism, often at the expense of the childless who are cast as either pitiable or untrustworthy, such a thing is highly noticeable. In recent conversations that I’ve observed and a few I’ve taken part in, people have likened the term to “cancer-free,” as in one is free of something damaging. Others have seen the word “free” as implying that being childed is viewed as a form of bondage or imprisonment, something one should want to be free from. The term “childfree,” by its very design, frames parenthood as an undesirable thing that one would purposely avoid. A burden. A misfortune. An irritation. A ruinous situation.

Those critics are absolutely correct. The term “childfree” really does convey the message that parenthood is undesirable, and that’s exactly the reason I use it, rather than the more ambiguous “childless.” Parenthood, children, that really is undesirable for me. I do see being a parent as a damaging burden. In fact, I can think of few things I could possibly find more repellent than ever breeding. I’d say that frontal lobotomy doesn’t rank much higher on what is surely a very short list of more unpleasant things. I don’t want to have children. I don’t want to be a parent. I am fully entitled to not only make the decision to never breed, but also to convey my feelings on the matter, especially as they only relate to myself. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to find something undesirable and consequentially opt out?

My “dog-free” friend, I figure, must have viewed taking care of a dog in a similar way. But what I realize is that she was speaking only of herself. She doesn’t want dogs. She wasn’t saying that I shouldn’t want dogs or that there is anything wrong with dogs. That’s more or less what I mean when I talk about my own view of having children (although I keep an eye to overpopulation, both with children and dogs.) I don’t have a problem with my friend for having a child or with the child himself just as she doesn’t have a problem with me having a dog or my dog herself. When this friend visited me, she and my dog got along famously. In the evening, they even cuddled up on my couch together and watched Captain America. That same day, I had an Easter Basket prepared for her young son.

I don’t know if this friend of mine ever took the term “childfree” as a personal jab in the same way that I momentarily took the term “dog-free.” But I think that when we take a minute to be mature adults and consider the respective matters rationally we realize that the world isn’t about us. No, not everything is about you, personally. No, my childfreedom is not about parents, it’s about me, about my life, about my choices. It isn’t about anyone else. I’m not insulting the choices of parents as I am simply not considering them into the equation at all. My life is not about yours.

So I will continue to use the term “childfree” as it is the best one that I know of to describe my view on the matter. If anyone still wants to get their panties in a twist over it, that’s their problem, not mine.

 

Day At The Dog Park

Yesterday, my family ventured to Bear-Creek Dog Park. We’d been there a few times before, and quite enjoy it. The park is HUGE. It has an area for large dogs and small dogs, as many parks do. There are clear areas, wooded areas, and a mountain-runoff creek running through for the dogs to play in. There are free donated balls is a basket, a bin of shopping bags for owners to have no excuse not to clean up after their dogs, drinking fountains for humans and dogs, a restroom with a lockout for dogs to wait in, benches, and picnic tables.

It’s nice to bring Molly out. She certainly enjoys the change of pace. Being outside is fun for her, there’s a lot to see and smell and the socialization with humans and dogs is good for her. As for myself, I enjoy seeing Molly have a good time. It’s also nice for me to get to a park, and one with so few children (no screaming!) It’s fun to look around, identifying different dog breeds is if I was at a car show and pleased to see models that I like. I get to see and play with more dogs than I could ever take in to my own home, and that’s quite nice. The other owners have nice chit chat about our dogs, training, care, and so on. Really, a good time is had by all.

Yesterday, it was hot. Whereas other days she either avoided the creek, or tried to cross it by hopping on rocks and avoiding getting her paws wet, she spent most of her day in the water yesterday. All we had to do to keep her entertained was throw her Frisbee in the water and she would jump happily jump right in after it.

We noticed that Molly is very non-confrontational. If another dog so much as came near her toy, she’d approach slowly to see if the other dog would take it. If another dog did take it, she wouldn’t try to grab it but would simply follow the dog around and wait for the dog to drop it so she could get it back. There was one dog in particular who would take Molly’s Frisbee, and then trot away from her casually. The owner said that dog is probably not really interested in the Frisbee but just likes to be chased and has actually learned to run slower just so other dogs could keep up. As for chasing, Molly was happy to oblige.

At one point, another dog a bit larger than Molly invited her to play by wagging his tail and bowing, but also by barking and growling, which Molly evidently found intimidating. When the other dog would bark, Molly would run over to either myself or my boyfriend for safety, but wouldn’t bark or growl back. The barking dog simply found someone else to play with.

The three of us then wandered the huge park, playing fetch as we went along. By the time we had circled the park and returned to our car, Molly was already mostly dry. Happily, we use a dog tarp in the back seat of our Pathfinder, so a moist and slightly muddy dog isn’t a problem, although we really should have brought a towel (Douglas Adams would be displeased to know we forgot one that day.)

It was a fun day. We’re always smiling at that park as we just have a great time. Best of all, it’s free. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with our dear Molly.

Waldo Canyon Loop Trail

Yesterday, my family hit the Waldo Canyon Loop Trail. We hadn’t been able to go hiking in quite a while, due to conflicting schedules and other plans, so it was nice to get out.

My Boyfriend found the trail using AllTrails, and downloaded the map, which is a nice feature of the app. We had an embarrassing amount of trouble finding the trailhead, as the dropped pin on Google maps was about a mile off. After we passed the dropped pin, we pulled into a small parking lot on the side of the highway to turn around. After driving around a bit, unable to find the place, we realized that parking lot we turned around in was actually our trail head – doh!

Once we got going, and hiked far enough for the highway to be out of earshot, we quite liked the trail. We enjoyed the thick woods as well as the scenic views. The trail itself seemed well-maintained, which I surely appreciated. There was evidence that a tree had fallen onto the trail, but had been cut and moved out of the way. Further down, there was a nice bench made of polished logs made by a local scout troop

This was the first hike that Molly wore her dog backpack for. It fits a bit awkward on her as she’s too large for a small, but a bit too petite for the medium-sized pack that I bought. Still, it didn’t seem bother her at all, and she loves putting it on as she knows it means going somewhere fun (we’ve had her wear it to the dog park to get used to it.) It was really nice not to have to unpack ourselves to give Molly food and water when she needed it, she had that herself. In one side of her pack, she had her water, on the other side, she had her food and a collapsible bowl with compartments for food and water. You can carry your own things now, dog!

Sadly, as we had a late start, we weren’t able to complete the trail and had to turn back early. It was getting dark by the time we made it back to our car. It would be nice to return to this trail another time.

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