It happened to be New Orleans, but it happens everywhere. It’s not the worst thing one can do to an animal member of one’s family, but it happens so often that it’s worth mention anyway, in the hopes that some will change their behavior. The people who do this, after all, aren’t being intentionally cruel. Arguably, they even believe that they are doing the animal a favor.
A first rate Southern rock band out of Virginia Beach is playing. Tons of people are hanging out in the early evening at a public park. Local restaurants are selling food, excellent food, from booths, as well as varied beverages. It’s a blast, a great open air party.
A man walks past with a young, well nourished, healthy looking pointer. The dog’s face bears an expression somewhere between resignation and controlled discomfort. For him, this is obviously not the growth experience his master might intend for it to be.
Let’s look at it from the dog’s perspective. It is hot. Water is not easily available. He is assailed with the smell of people whom he does not know, some of whom are undoubtedly giving off that fear smell that disturbs him; in any given crowd, there will be some who are afraid of dogs. The Southern rock that resounds through the park is probably not a pleasant sound, to him. Even though he’s a good sized dog, nearly everything in sight is larger than he is. Perhaps worst of all, his nose is tickled with the smells of food which he is not allowed to eat, and which will result in a scolding, if he begs for any.
A couple of years ago, the dog training writer from Ducks Unlimited magazine stated it better than I have read before or since, in a very few words, proclaiming that your dog is not a pet, an animated stuffed critter to pamper and show on display. He or she is a member of your family, with rights and responsibilities, privileges and obligations, the same as any other member of your family. (The same could doubtless be said for cats.) If we think about it, we know that dogs, thinking in terms of a pack, an extended family, view you as the Alpha dog and rely on you to make wise decisions for the good of the pack.
Among those wise decisions would not be the act of exposing him or her to the frustrating stimulus of a park concert, Bourbon Street, Fourth of July, etc.
I’ll probably take negative emails for this. Nonetheless, I firmly believe in including your four legged family members in any family activity which they will find comfortable, as we do with ours. I don’t think that includes loud, noisy and overwhelming gatherings for a family member who is blessed with amazingly sensitive ears and nose.
Summer, in conclusion, is also a great time to adopt a new cat or dog, perhaps from our overcrowded local shelter. With the outside weather congenial, it gives a new family member plenty of time to get used to his or her new environment, before you have to move him inside. It also presents fine conditions for training.
Why not give a cat or dog (or even bunny), from our shelter, a new life?
Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis High School. He can be contacted at: