There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love their pets like family, and those who view pets as disposable, a kind of possession that can be taken out when one is in the mood and the rest of the time, ignored. (Interestingly, the world can also be divided along similar lines based on the way people treat their kids...but that's another post.)
Needless to say, Tom and I are in the first category. We fall deeply in love with our pets and take the business of owning a pet very seriously. A living room covered in cat piss couldn't convince us to "get rid of" (as my mother-in-law -- herself a prime candidate for euthanasia -- callously put it) our beloved Beulah the cat, who had major health problems in her old age but was still a delightful and gorgeous diva right to the end of her sixteen years. I realize that not everyone is quite as fanatical as us, but hey, you wouldn't shove Uncle Charlie out on an ice floe because he's a little incontinent, would you? (Unless he's the kind of uncle who likes to snap ladies' bra straps ... but perhaps I'm projecting.)
The reason I bring this up is that yesterday I had an encounter with a neighbor's dog. This family obviously belongs to the second category, callous pet disposers; they adopt and discard pets with an insouciance that chills me. In the past two years, they've adopted a cat, then gave it away when it scratched their daughter (and believe me, I know the daughter, and I can guarantee you it was self-defense, a desperate attempt to stop its whiskers from being plucked with Mom's Epilady); a guinea pig (gave it away because it was "boring"); a little dog (brace yourselves: walked by a mall pet shop and thought it was cute, brought it home on the spur of the moment, then gave it absolutely no training whatsoever, ultimately giving it away because it nipped the unruly son, who, p.s. I've been tempted to bite); and the present dog, a gorgeous Golden Retriever that is the biggest Golden I've ever seen but is completely wild, rough and undisciplined (hey, kind of like their four kids!).
Yesterday, my oldest was riding bikes with their kids in their driveway. My kid's desire to play with their kids is a source of endless angst for me. Occasionally, I'll watch them running around the yard, playing hide-and-seek and giggling, and I'm happy my kid has friends in the 'hood to play with, something I never did (there didn't happen to be any kids around my age in the near vicinity of my parents' house, and since I took a school bus to school, my school friends lived far away). But because they're children who run wild, I am uneasy when they play out of my sight and I don't trust the neighbors to keep an eye on their kids, let alone mine. (Look out the window one day to see your neighbors' three-year-old riding his bike down their driveway at breakneck speed, out into the street and across to the neighbors' driveway, then turning around to do it again, and you'll get a feel for my lack of confidence in their supervisory skills.) They also have a penchant for that rough, stupid play that just baffles me. Let's bash toys with a rock to see how long it takes them to break, and let's pull all the petals off James' mother's daffodils for shits & giggles, that sort of thing. If I can't be out there with them, I hawk mercilessly out the window, shouting instructions ("Hey! No shoving!" "Don't throw rocks at the car windows!") as necessary. Satisfyingly, my instructions are generally met with stupefied amazement. ("Someone actually paid attention to us?")
Anyhoo, as I went to get my kid so he could start on his homework, I stopped to look at the dog, the Golden, who must weigh 150 pounds and is the size of a small pony. I love dogs, and so I approached the dog to let him sniff my hand, but the dog is so wild and needs exercise and doggie training so badly, that he was too jumpy and snappy and aggressive for me to want to pet. I threw the tennis ball, you know, one of those grimy, saliva-soaked deals all retrievers have, and the poor dog was so excited someone was paying even a little attention to it. ("Someone actually paid attention to me?")
This makes me sad. I thought about how this perfectly lovely dog was being ruined by the lack of attention and the lack of obedience training. I mean, this dog broke the one daughter's ankle -- literally broke it, the poor kid wore a cast for six weeks -- by jumping and treading on it. The dog is so big and so wild that even the father can't physically control it too well. It doesn't get much exercise, as no one walks it (maybe no one is physically able to walk it any more -- this is one big effing dog). I thought about what a handsome dog it was, what a good-natured breed Goldens often are, and how much different the dog would be if it had been adopted by another family. You know, a family that didn't have their heads up their asses.
And then I went inside and gave Charcoal some of the organic edible flowers we bought him from the local Whole Foods supermarket.