I recently began walking around my neighborhood carrying a bag and picking up animal waste. Which is to say, “we got a dog.” Or maybe she got us.
It has been several years since we had a pet. And it’s not as easy to get, or keep, a dog as it used to be. Time was, you waited until a neighbor’s dog had puppies and you took one home. That’s how literary heroine Emily Elizabeth got Clifford the Big Red Dog, for example. Not anymore.
Daisy is, of course, a “rescue dog.” Because every dog these days apparently has to be. And like the rest of American life, dog ownership has become amazingly bureaucratic.
Before you can rescue a dog now, you have to prove your family is worthy. Fill out forms. Host a home inspection. Visit a doggie open house at a warehouse in a somewhat dodgy section of town to meet the dogs. They are, of course, staying with “foster” families. If the dog seems to like you, and the volunteers agree, you can start negotiating to take her home.
Once you get the dog home, of course, you’ll probably need to hire a trainer. If you don’t, you’re sure to be stopped on every walk by busybodies with plenty of “advice” about how to treat the dog. Animals today apparently aren’t property, they’re adjunct humans.
In a recent survey by Psychology Today, four-fifths of dog owners “consider their dogs to be true family members, equal in status to children.” More than half of owners consider themselves “pet parents,” not “pet owners.” At the same time, these “parents” recognize that things were different in their own childhood. Almost two-thirds acknowledge that their current dog is more important than their childhood pets were.
“The reason for this change in status, with dogs becoming virtual children, is not directly addressed by the survey,” Stanley Cohen writes in Psychology Today. “It is likely however, that one reason might be because more North American couples are childless, or have fewer children.” Forget about leaving Fido at home while you go to work; you’d better be ready to provide a dog walking service if you’ll be gone for any length of time.