Pet mania

Now THAT is a VERY good boy! Good boy! Good boy!

Now THAT is a VERY good boy! Good boy! Good boy!

I was walking down the street in my neighborhood the other day and I passed a woman walking her dog. As I slowly overtook her, I overheard her talking to her dog as it did a poo: “Good boy!” she exclaimed.

If it had stopped there, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought; it was cold out, and probably the woman was just displaying her pleasure at her hound having so expediently done its business.

But it didn’t stop there. Her exclamations continued: “Gooood boy! Goooooood boy! Oh yes aren’t you a very GOOD boy!” And so on. It must have lasted a good few minutes, because as I walked out of earshot I could still hear her cooing away.

I thought that was how parents talked to their babies when they potty train them, not how people talk to their dogs when they take an indiscriminate dump on the sidewalk. (And I thought to myself, even babies can’t begin to understand what is being said to them, so how does the dog have any chance of getting it?). I concluded the woman was just a crazy. Wrong. The following week, I witnessed the same scenario with another dog owner in my neighborhood. And I’ve seen the same pooch-poo-cheerleading again since then.

Apparently this is a thing among American dog owners: over-enthusiastic toilet anthropomorphism. Never having been a dog owner myself, maybe there is something here I am fundamentally missing. But I have come to the conclusion that American people take their pets very, very seriously. Especially so for dogs. A dog is elevated almost to the status of a child, with great attention given to its diet, no expense spared on its medical treatment, and custody battles fought over it in the event divorce or separation (yes, really). Cats may never reach quite this level of importance, but they get a lot of attention, too.

Clearly this is partially a function of the level of development in the US; people take such good care of their pets because they can afford to. In Somaliland, people regularly shot the stray dogs. In Liberia, the scrawny cats would eat people’s rice bits that fell onto the floor. (Yes, cats eat rice. Cats can actually eat virtually anything and survive just fine.) But even comparing the US to other developed countries, I feel Americans demonstrate a particular fervor toward their pets.

One story from my teenage years comes to mind which I will never forget. I used to babysit for my neighbors; they had two children: a toddler and an infant. I went over one morning and the father was giving me instructions for my day of babysitting while his wife was getting ready. He introduced me to the dog, a un-spayed purebred. He showed me where her food and water were kept in the kitchen and told me about her diet.

He then explained to me that it was “that time of the month.” Yes, that bitch had he period. So she needed to wear a menstrual pad (yes, really). He demonstrated to me how to affix the pad (it tied around the bitch’s behind like a string bikini) and how to change it. All I can say is, thank God she wasn’t using tampons.

After a ten minute explanation about the dog, his wife had finished getting ready and came downstairs. They then wished me a good day and headed out. I was so distracted by the canine maxi pad that it was only when they had left the house that I realized he had given me no instructions whatsoever about the feeding, bathing, clothing, or sleeping habits of his two children.

True story. I swear.





Filed under Communications

2 responses to “Pet mania

  1. Ariadne Van Zandbergen

    Maybe I’m being defensive here because maybe I’m just one of those people fussing too much over my dogs. I don’t think so, but I would accept some people might think so. Having said that, although slightly ridiculous, it is really harmless and much less of a concern than all the people who CHOOSE to have a dog and then neglect it or don’t look after it properly. Having children or a dog is a commitment and in both cases, one should take up their responsibilities accordingly. I know of dogs that have died of loneliness. Dogs are pack animals and not meant to be left alone for long periods. A lot of people including Americans don’t seem to get that. Dogs are stupid, but have strong emotions and can be terrified or depressed, but that is often just neglected, because in the end they are just animals. I agree they are just animals, but they are animals somebody chose to have and that comes with a responsibility. That responsibility includes feeding them appropriately. Dogs and cats are carnivores. Yes, they will eat rice and other starch, but it really isn’t good for them and they won’t live a very long life on that. My opinion is that if you can’t feed your pets appropriately, don’t have them. I know the idea that some people are better for their pets than their children is a bit of a thing or joke and maybe that happens, but I certainly have never come across it. On the other hand I have come across people getting rid of their pets when they are getting a family because they don’t trust their pets with the baby or it just doesn’t suit anymore. So, while the lady going on in a high pitched voice about her dog’s poo is very amusing and slightly absurd, I think it isn’t worth making fun of in a world were pets are too often abused or neglected – even in the so called 1st world. Sorry…Love your blogs in general by the way XXX Ariadne

    • Thanks for your comments Ariadne. And please don’t apologize just because you disagree or critique my post; I’m happy to hear your opinion and see an alternate point of view. I see your point. Actually it’s funny I read your post today because I’m staying in Montserrat currently and today we passed two really scrawny dogs, one with all its ribs showing. But they were not strays; they were tethered in their owner’s yard. Our (foreign) couch host explained to us that for various reasons dogs are quite badly treated here; he said people in Montserrat don’t have the same concept of keeping and caring for a pet as Americans or Europeans do.

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