Guilty Feelings

This is a Cracked graphic after all, so I’m not sure how serious it’s meant to be.  All I know is, serious or not, it’s complete malarkey, to put it nicely.  I read another article recently, this one on the more serious side, that stated dogs don’t feel and/or show guilt.  I had an animal behaviorist friend years ago tell me that as well.  Pfft.  Please.

I’ve had dogs all of my life and every one of them had a wide range of emotions, guilt and knowledge of wrong doing being strong among those states of mind. Every. Single. One.  I’m sure other dog owners would agree.

Right now I have two dogs and two cats. The cats I’ll get to in a minute. As for the dogs – if one of them does something wrong, even when I’m not around, I know it immediately upon my return. They give themselves up by their behavior alone. It could be minutes after the actual event, it could be hours. But they know whatever rule they broke in my absence is going to get them “the look” no one likes or get them the disappointed “talking to” they like even less. Even the non-offender knows a rule was broken and keeps away from the rule-breaker in case any guilt by association should rub off. Even the dimmest bulb in the pack is self-aware.

Normally, I’m greeted at the door as if I’ve been gone on safari for two months and everyone was concerned as to where their next meal or snuggle was coming from and they’re just terribly thankful I somehow found my way home to them to take care of their every need.  This is on a good day. Which is most days. But on the off day that I come home to a mutilated treat bag or a mess left for me that I’d rather not have left for me, one dog is simply gone, which she never is. She’s nothing if not underfoot. Until someone, whether it’s her or another, has done a dastardly deed. Then she’s under the bed. She’s under the covers. She’s under anything in order to hide away from any association whatsoever with said mess. The other one, while he stays out to greet me because, well, because he loves me and can’t help himself, he’s not his normal bouncy self.  You see, he’s a tattler.  Even if it’s on himself.  He lets me know a mess has been made, where it is, and if he could talk, I have no doubt he’d spill the beans on just who made it.

So, yeah.  Dogs have memory (duh). They have guilt. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.

As for cats.  Not so much.  Oh, they have memory. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.  They just don’t care.  And that would be because they’re jerks. Now, my cats have rules, just like the dogs do and I started training them early. For instance, they’re not allowed on the counters or the tables. They follow this rule religiously…well one does anyway. The other does when I’m around. But I’m not naïve enough to believe the ne’er-do-well follows it when I’m not around. I’m not an idiot. I know my cats. Did I mention they’re jerks? They’re also not overly bright. Which is good for me. For instance, the worst behaved of the two, Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well, aka the evil one), doesn’t realize that sound travels. So while I might not see her on the counter, I certainly hear her jump down as she notices I’m walking into the room (because she is smart enough to know not to be caught red-pawed in the “no cat zone”). But does almost getting caught bother her at all? Nope. She saunters off like nothing happened without a care in the world.

Holly (again with Holly) also likes freeze-dried dog treats. If I have a dim moment and leave them out on the counter instead of putting them away, she will steal them and tear into the bag and eat them all.  Or at least try. Sometimes she fails if the force field of plastic is very strong. Sometimes the treats just end up smooshed to powder thanks to her destructive tendencies. When caught it’s because, again, sound travels, and since the house is small it’s easily determined that someone is desperately trying to break into a bag of treats. Does she care? No. She’s not on the counter now. Now she’s on the floor. So in her mind no rules are being broken. The bag of treats is irrelevant. And really, she simply cannot be bothered with feeling badly about her behavior.  So she just gets up and slowly walks away in a very condescending way. That’s called being a jerk. I think I mentioned that before.  This is the same cat that steals my spot on the bed whenever I get up.  Even though she’s not supposed to be in my spot or touch my things, like my table. Oh, she immediately gets up when I return, and goes back to her designated area of the bed…but with nary a guilt-ridden or remorseful look backwards.

Life with my pets in some ways mirrors having raised my kids. There are way more bodily functions than I have ever wanted to contend with in my lifetime. Attitudes are similar. And I’m constantly trying to figure out who the hell did what with about as much success.


dogs' memory

Owners vs Lovers

Okay, so after talking to someone today about “rehoming”– let’s be frank, a great deal of the time that’s just a euphemism for “getting rid of” – pets, I feel the need to rant a little bit.  This particular conversation was about a horse, but it could easily have been about a dog, a cat, or any other animal.

If you were to ask a horse owner what they think of their horse, you will probably get a response like, “Oh, I love my horse!”

That might be true, or it might not.

There is a difference between horse owners and horse lovers, and a lot of people who say they are horse lovers – or even think they are horse lovers – really aren’t.

Loving a horse – or any pet, frankly – means providing for it fully and unconditionally. If there is a food shortage, lovers will make sure their pet was fed first, before they eat themselves. They ensure that all of the animal’s needs are accounted for…in a financial pinch, a horse lover would make sure his or her horse is taken care of before spending anything on themselves.

Ah…now there’s the rub. Who these days, in this economy, is not feeling a bit of a financial pinch? And pets can be expensive to care for.

People who can no longer afford to take care of their horse, or other pet, have no choice but to “rehome it,” and here I’m not using the word “rehome” in a judgmental or derogatory sense. If someone absolutely can’t feed their companion animal, or afford to take it to the vet on a regular basis, a good home where the pet can be taken care of must be found. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Now… a horse lover would take the time to do profile checks and screen any and all potential buyers. A horse owner, at least in my experience, just sells to the highest bidder – not really seeing or caring what might be in that horse’s future.

Now I’m not sure whether you are aware or not, but there are specific auctions just for horses. I’m not talking high-class auctions. I’m talking loose horse auctions where horses are sold by the pound. To a horse lover most of these “events” are an abomination. Abomination is the appropriate word. A horse lover would never subject their beloved horses to the degradation and horror of such things.

A horse owner, well they just see it as a way to squeeze every last penny out of their property. Or they just think it’s easier and quicker than selling/rehoming the horse on their own and just want rid of it as quickly as possible for whatever reason.

These folks will exclaim that there’s nothing wrong with these auctions! It’s a good place for the horse to have a second chance or find a new home!  And as they ship their horse off to these meat auctions, they will swear up and down that they just looove horses. Yeah, right.

This isn’t just something that can be applied to horses. Dogs, cats, gerbils, any animal under a person’s care falls into the same lot. There’s a difference between owning something (and loving it as an investment or “thing”) and truly loving it (as the feeling, sentient being that it is). The line gets a bit blurred sometimes what with all the debate that rages on regarding animal welfare and animal rights, but it’s there and always will be.


Animal Lover, Seriously!? (Or, Life at the end of a 5-ft chain)

Have you ever known someone who has a beautiful vintage car that they keep under a tarp in their garage 364 days of the year? Or a person who has shoes that are so precious they only wear them in the house? How about a friend with season tickets even though they hate sports? The common thread in all of these revolves around having something that is absolutely great and not using it to its potential.

This same cockeyed mentality applies to someone who has a dog that they keep outside on a chain, during rain or shine, hot or cold, livable or insufferable. Apparently tying the pet to a chain and keeping it out of sight is their idea of proper ownership. I think it’s insane and it pisses me off whenever I see a living creature being treated so poorly. Treating a dog that way is pretty much just keeping a prisoner in your backyard. Imagine how horribly mundane and boring the dog’s life is if it can’t move, can’t run, can’t explore, can’t experience new things, can’t interact, can’t receive love.

Better yet, imagine how happy you would be if you had to stay in the same tiny room with absolutely nothing to do every single day. You wouldn’t be able to move or walk very far to relieve boredom or get exercise. Plus, it might rain on you. And it might be freezing. And no one cares. And you have no choice in the matter. Does that sound like a fun way to spend the one life you’ve been given?

What really gets me are those people I like to call “pet care hypocrites.”  These are the people I know who own both a dog and a cat, yet for whatever reason offer up love and care to one and simply ignore the other one entirely. The cat (usually plural) is treated like a Fancy Feast Commercial inside where it’s comfy and cozy, while the dog is curled up on a patch of mud in the backyard, shivering in its makeshift doghouse as it lives out its entire life at the end of a 5 foot chain. Yet, because said person adores cats, they say they’re an animal lover.  The contradiction shocks me. It’s okay to treat one of your pets extremely well but not give a shit about the other?  Some animal lover.

I guess all I’m saying is this:  love your animals equally and put 100% into it. If you have a dog, let him be part of the family, spend time with him and love him and let him love you.  If you can’t do that, just do the dog a favor and don’t get the dog.

dog on a chain