We’ve all seen them.
A big dog (usually big) chained or tied up to a derelict-looking dog house or tree mid point or way at the end of a backyard 24 hours a day. There is usually an overturned food bowl, a plastic bucket or large container of soiled water, and a large chew toy if the dog is particularly lucky. The ground is worn and dusty around the dog house, no grass anymore. There are often a few sad holes dug into the earth, one is big enough for the dog to lie down in on hot, sun-scorched days.
He or she is usually despondent looking, avidly watching the comings and goings of the family, barking hysterically when they emerge from their home, running back and forth on its chain in hopes someone, anyone, will come over and offer a pat on the head. Sometimes, they bark incessantly to the annoyance of the neighbours. Sometimes they growl and snarl if a stranger catches their eye.
This is the Backyard Dog.
I have always wondered what the point was of owning a dog and keeping it tied up in the backyard.
The usual answer by the philistines who do this is “pertection” (that’s protection…) although how a dog tied to a tree can protect a family from harm is quite a mystery. And if the dog is a barker, how can you tell the warning barks from the bored barks? I mean, if my dog barks at her archenemy, the red squirrel, it sounds exactly the same as the bark she emits when someone comes to the door.
So once upon a time, a couple with 2.4 kids decided their family wasn’t complete and what it needed was a dog. A Mr. Mugs or Lassie to pal around with children, to bring the master his slippers, and keep hearth and home safe from criminals. They let Jr. choose the dog because, well a child knows exactly what type of dog is appropriate for their family. Jr. chose the cutest one that bossed around all the other pups and rough housed everything in sight. They brought him home and holy crap he wasn’t house trained! I’m sure they understood he was just a baby and would have to learn like every other child, and so they went about their days but he never learned! So maybe he was kinda dumb. Well, he is just a dog anyway, right? But then he started biting in appropriately, like when the kids rolled around on the floor with him, it would start off just fun little nips, but as he got bigger, his nips started to hurt and a couple of times punctured the skin. And that might have been whipped out of him eventually, but he was still pooping inside, and he needs fresh air, so it was just as easy to tie him up and let him get fresh air AND poop outside at the same time! Genius! And life got busier, and he got bigger, and playing with him was impossible now because he just jumped all over everyone and bit too hard. The few times they let him off the leash, he’d bolt down the street, with everyone chasing him because he just didn’t listen. They couldn’t take him anywhere anyway because he attacked other dogs when on a leash, and pulled so hard it hurt your arms for days afterwards. And what did he get for all these doggy crimes: a life sentence on a chain.
That’s the typical reality of the Backyard Dog.
He was simply the unfortunate soul who was picked by a family who had no idea what kind of care a dog needed, no understanding of dog “language”, no concept of breeds, behaviours and sizes, and absolutely no desire to learn.
It’s a sad reality in today’s world. What hope is there for the backyard dog when people are still leaving their dogs in hot cars? When cats are allowed to roam unneutered, producing more unwanted, unneutered cats. When coyotes prey on said cats because urban sprawl has reduced their habitat and these cats are easy prey, but suddenly society cares about these cats and starts shooting the coyotes. Do you see the escalation?
Man, when they say everything is interconnected, they were not wrong!
And behind it all is a fundamental ignorance: a lack of understanding that animals are not inferior beings to us. They are not creatures we should have dominion over. We shouldn’t have dominion over anything on this earth. They are lives in their own right, to live equal to and alongside us on this earth. In fact, as humans with the power of “reason”, rather than having dominion over them, we should recognize we have an obligation to protect them and allow them to live their lives as they deserve. We don’t “rule” them. Egads, peeps, we can barely rule ourselves! Why, in our infinite arrogance, do we assume we should be in control of anything here? We are just another animal on this earth, after all.
Sure we have “knowledge” and “reason” and skills like that, which give us an advantage over some animals, but it doesn’t make them less than. And it sure as fuck doesn’t make us better.
We pride ourselves that we live in an advanced society, but we haven’t yet learned to coexist compassionately with anything. We want to dominate, rule and control, not live and let live.
I mean, look what we do with that knowledge? We tie dogs up in our backyards and think that is fine.
It’s not fine. It’s not even remotely ok. We have a lot to learn, but I’m afraid of what it’s going to take to acquire that knowledge.