Just Do Your Best

Just Do Your Best
November 5, 2011 by Steve Duno

A friend of mine adopted a little poodle mix about six months ago.  Cute as a cartoon lamb, she scoots around like a coffeed jackrabbit, flips her toys high up in the air, catches them, does it over and over again.  She shoots whiskered little grins at you, then pokes her head through the front curtains to give someone walking by a piece of her mind.  Eventually she wears herself out and pants like an asthmatic chain smoker, pink tongue curled up to the ribbed roof of her mouth.  Then she curls up in a warm corner for a nice, three hour nap.  She's a fine little dog.

Her small doggy door provides easy access to an expansive, secure back yard whenever she needs a break.  She doesn't eat a lot, doesn't really shed, and hasn't ever been destructive in the home, as far as I know.  Despite a potential orthopedic issue and a tight, wiry coat that tends to snag burrs, all in all, an easy pet to care for. 

Her owner is a hard working, dedicated educator, who also coordinates and hosts a multitude of community art and literature events each month.  Busy as a Manhattan traffic cop, her days and nights get scheduled with NASA-like precision.  To add to her responsibilities, she has a special needs child, making leisure time a fiction at best.  Needless to say, she doesn't get to spend as much time with her dog as she'd like, and laments that the pet is suffering from loneliness and lack of stimulation. 

It's understandable.  Dogs need activity and social interaction to feel fulfilled.  In my years as a pet behaviorist, I've learned that most dog problems are caused by boredom, and lack of routine and structure.  Early on, this poodle's owner began to feel guilty, and has even considered giving the sweet character up to someone with more time.

Many trainers would tell her to do just that, for the sake of the dog.  Years ago, I probably would have agreed with them.  And, if it weren't for the doggy door arrangement allowing the dog to get outside, I still might advise her to at least find someone to come in during the day to let the pooch out.

But not anymore.  In many of these cases, I've relaxed my ideology some, and realize now that, in the scheme of things, this dog got lucky, got a second chance at life with a good-hearted owner.  What she has now in this nice home is far better than languishing at the shelter, her future uncertain.  Her owner works hard and does her best, loves the dog, grooms her, sees to her needs, appreciates her.  The doggy door setup allows the pet to get out into the secure yard whenever necessary, preventing accidents and the ensuing frustrations.  And when her owner is home, the dog gets attention.

We do what we can with the cards dealt us.  Some of us have to work two jobs, put our kids in daycare, shuttle them around to relatives or friends.  We don't spend enough time together, but try to make the most of the time we have.  It's the same with our dogs; we know we should give them more attention, exercise and love, but life has a habit of getting in the way. 

It doesn't mean we don't love them, or care for them.  As long as we aren't abusive or denying them what they need, then maybe they can adapt to our limitations, our constraints, our duties.  After all, next to us, they are the world's most adaptable species.

Of course, there is a fine line.  Dog alone for ten hours?  Too long, you're asking for trouble.  Dog not getting the opportunity to go outside?  Again, not fair.  Dog tied up or crated all day?  That's abusive.

But this dog is loved.  And, she clearly loves her owner.  If returned to a shelter, I'd wager few people would be willing to adopt an adult dog with possible orthopedic problems down the road.  No; I'm no longer all that doctrinaire about these things- life's just too short for that. 

We do the best we can do, and if our hearts are in the right place, it's okay.  If you worry about being away too long, you can always try to enlist the help of a neighbor or friend.  On weekends, make it up to your dog by going for walks, trips to the park, or to a friend's house for a play date with another dog.  Play, train, and love, whenever you can.  As long as your dog's needs are being met, don't torture yourself over not being the ideal owner. 

Life is tough sometimes.  We don't always get what we want, when we want it.  It doesn't mean we should just give up on those who love us, or think that they don't understand what we are going through.  As do your family and friends, your dog will understand, because that's what they do best.

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Fri, 01/11/2013 - 00:56

Dog of the Week!

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