The dog next door wants to move in. He's been hungry.
He's sometimes cold. He's left alone, sometimes for days, in the barn. We have two dogs,
nine cats (we live in the country) - and a warm house where our pets
are welcome. We'd like to give him a home. But he belongs to the farm
He shows up whenever he's let loose - comes, peers
in the windows, curls up for hours in a wind-sheltered corner near
our door, waiting for us to relent and let him in. With us
he has hope - because we've often let him in, including overnight.
It started in summer when he was just a pup. We took
care of him for a couple of weeks when the people next door went away
on a holiday. We offered, and his owners were glad we were there to look
after him. But I think they already worried that our care would spoil
But that was in summer, when the kids were home from school. He had
a lot to keep him with his owners.
Early in fall, he often came over, but would race home when the school
bus went by.
Recently, he's stayed on our property and just watched it. It's cold
out. The kids don't spend time outside, but he's stuck there.
Winter is coming. It's been here, with the temperature down to 17 below.
It's mild again now, but won't stay that way.
Anyway, that's not the question. The question is: who should have the
right to decide where the dog lives? The dog or the owners?
The question behind the question: do
we have the right to own dogs and cats, or should they be allowed to
make some decisions on their own - like where they want to live?
And you may have still another question: how do things turn out? Does he manage to come live with us - or not?
I'm not talking about their current legal rights.
Those are obvious. Parents used to have the legal right to beat their
children as often as they wanted, as hard as they wanted. I don't care
about legal rights - those in fact change, in a democracy, as the general
values of a society change. So now children have a legal right not to
be beaten, and we have a legal right to birth control, divorce, etc.
- because our values have changed.
Our values are based on what we believe is truly right
- not legally, but morally, ethically, inherently. What intrinsic rights,
we ask ourselves, should people have, children have, animals have, based
on who we are, who they are?
I don't like (too soft a word) the slaughterhouse system - it offends
my sense of what is right for animals. Trucks rattle past our place -
open slats on the side. There's a pig farm a couple of kilometers away
- enclosed, no sight or sound of what's inside. Then one quick trip through
the outdoors. And a squealing death. I don't want to be part of it.
I stopped eating land animals and birds long ago. It did not feel right
And now again, it does not feel right that the dog next door should
be stuck where he doesn't want to be.
This question - should dogs and cats have some say in where they live?
- may sound absurd to you.
But it used to be considered normal for people to
own other people. Now it's unthinkable for many of us.
I remember reading, and later teaching, The Woman Warrior, by Maxine
Hong Kingston. There's a passage describing a traditional Chinese delicacy.
A live monkey is screwed into place in a table with a hole neatly carved
for the top of its skull to show above the table surface. The monkey's
body presumably dangles underneath. The skull is sawed open, and the
brain - apparently delicious - is eaten. At some point, the monkey dies.
I've taught the book. What stood out for you, I ask my students (college
and university level). One after another, they bring up this passage
Also interesting is that the author writes the passage - the tone is
so casual - as if unaware that her description might horrify current
Western sensibilities. Perhaps this did not occur to her, though she
grew up in the United States - just as many North Americans are not horrified
by the slaughterhouse system (but do want to make sure they don't have
to face it).
Times change, customs change. The delicacy of one time is the atrocity
The dog next door isn't enduring atrocities. He'd just rather be indoors,
than in an unheated barn with only cows for company. He has been skinny,
but no one was intentionally starving him.
Plus, the life his owner wants for him is better than that of many city
dogs - where, at present, many people are not horrified at the stultifying
lives of millions of animals. City dogs - many get two short walks a
day, long hours of solitude, and a minimum of attention in the evening.
Many have no contact with other animals. You call that a life?
Here, I hear other dogs in the distance howling at night. They, like
the dog next door, must be outdoors - or why howl? (They're far away
enough that, fortunately, we only hear them when we're outdoors.)
Recently the owner asked that we stop letting the dog into our home.
In this case, he is probably outside his legal rights. The dog comes
onto our property of his own free will. We've never held him captive.
(It's the owner who does that.)
The dog is roaming less and less these days - increasingly locked in
the barn. We are the ones learning the lesson: the dog will be punished
if he comes near our place. So we had better not be nice. It's not worth
it in terms of the cost to the dog.
I keep coming back to my question. What rights should animals have?
And, in the meantime, how should we deal with this specific dog? Do
we turn our back on him?
There are no definite plans. My partner has been away
for a few weeks. Before he left, he was unwilling to come with me and
talk with the owner, though like me he cared about the dog. Now he is
more willing. We know that the owner thought, when he got the puppy,
that it would turn into a nice burly husky-like guard dog. It didn't.
It's more like an overgrown terrier. We've thought of offering to find
him a dog closer to what he intended to get. I've also thought of asking
if we can buy the dog from him.
Pets, ownership, slavery. I'm not suggesting that owning people is the
same thing as owning animals. I am suggesting that we have a lot of thinking
to do about what's right, when it comes to animal rights.
December 17, 2006
UPDATE on the Dog Next Door
June 20, 2009
The dog next door is still alive. There were lots of nights we worried. It gets to minus 30 on cold winter nights, and that's not counting the wind chill factor. Now he's chained to a dog house outdoors, and very rarely taken into the barn.
He very rarely escapes these days. His owners have gotten better and better at making sure he stays chained, especially as he took to chasing cows a bit over a year ago.
The very rare time he does escape,
he comes by. We go out, pet him, give him treats. He's happy to see us. We're happy to see him. Mutual delight. Then we go indoors. He wanders on.
He isn't bored. He sits near on on the doghouse (except in the coldest of times), alert to everything. An incredibly vibrant alive creature.
UPDATE on the Dog Next Door - GOOD NEWS!!!
August 19, 2015
The dog's life changed hugely almost 5 years ago. A knock on the door. Two of the kids next door came with a question: If they no longer wanted to keep the dog, would I want him.
My answer was obvious: Yes, yes, yes. I would love to take him. How soon?
Not quite yet.
They were back a week later. Would I take the dog now?
And so Puppy (their name for him - I've kept it because he is such a puppy in his joyousness, and because it's the name he answers to) came to live with me and my other dog.
He doesn't much like being outdoors when it's bitterly cold.
Today it's hot. He's lying in the shade. I took him for a good walk in the morning, before it got too hot.
He loves rides in the car, walks. He's fine with the cats.
He's 9 this summer.
He still loves to jump down into ditches and scamper back up. He'd love to chase skunks, but I'm on the alert. He has to be kept on a leash - a 25-foot retractable leash - because he's still likes to run off and chase cows.
I'm very happy with how this story has turned out.
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006, 2015 - all rights reserved
publishing house - FlufferDuff Impressions 2006, 2015
Click here for a piece on animals and ethics.
The starting point is an experience when I was 7.
It has to do with god,
and with my first hearing my own inner moral voice.
God is wrong, it said, because of how he was with animals.
A few years ago, I found myself writing
a kid's story about a preteen girl, a ghost dog,
and lots of questions about reality.
Click here for
CARO'S QUEST -
or Caro Carolina, Geela Gribbs,
and Fluffers the Invisible Dog.
Animal Rights, Dog Rights, Dog Ownership.
The dog next door wants to move in. Whose dog is it anyway?
Is Pet Ownership Cruelty To Animals, Animal Abuse?
Whose dog is it, anyway?
Dog Ownership, Slavery.
Human rights versus animals rights.
How to decide
what is ethical?
Some animals are so incredibly vibrantly alive - and so empathic. Everything in me goes: how can we deny them so many rights? How can we say, dog rights, pet rights, animal rights stop at brutality? Anything else is optional.
We have the legal right, if we own them, to end their lives at any time, to eat them.
And a hugely murky area is pet ownership, dog ownership, cat ownership. I own cats and dogs - and in a world where over 1 billion humans go hungry, these animals eat well, go to the vet, are taken care of. So one part of me goes: what am I doing, concerned with animal rights when there is world hunger, war, and so on?
My answer is just that I care. I care about animals and animal rights. It comes from feeling loved by some animals, which sparks my own love.
June 20 2009
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2009, 2015
publishing house - FlufferDuff Impressions 2009, 2015
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