On this day, August 25, 2011, I, Alma Rose, being of sound body and mind release a Dog’s Manifesto. In recent days I have had people yell at me for not being on a leash, people yell at me because I greet them with a howl of a hello and a tail wag. So I have taken it upon myself to speak for my fellow dogs when I discuss what a dog’s rights should be.
First, I would like to make it clear that aside from a few exemptions, you, the humans have chosen us. I really don’t care what your reasons are for choosing to own a dog, but I do want to let you know that as a dog owner you are responsible for you dog’s well being.
Here’s the thing that sucks about being a dog. We will love you no matter what. We will love you if you beat us. We will love you if you yell at us. We will love you if make us sit outside alone all day. We love you, unconditionally.
1. Dogs are social animals. We have a pack mentality – remember the wolves, the ones that have been shot almost to extinction? We are descendant from them. All of us. Even the Chihuahua. What does that mean to you? It means if you don’t have the time to interact with us, then at least get us a companion – another dog, a cat even, something or someone we can interact with or don’t adopt us.
2. Dogs cannot go to the bathroom by themselves. We could but we get yelled at. We are dependent on you humans to let us outside so we can relieve ourselves. I heard a story about a dog whose owner beat her so badly she wouldn’t pee or poop for two days when he was away on a trip. How many times do you pee and poop in a day? Odds are we need to go at least as many as that. If you do not have an area like a back yard where you can let us go to relieve ourselves, then you need to walk us – at least three times a day however more is preferable.
3. We not only like exercise, we need exercise to be happy. Being on a leash is fine in certain circumstances, however we dogs need to be able to walk/run at our own pace. We need to have off leash areas of more than a few hundred feet. We need miles. Playing and catching a ball counts as exercise. Spend some time with us. How would you like to be tied to your parent and have to walk at exactly the same pace they walk every time you leave the house?
4. Every dog is breed with different traits. Some of us like to herd, some of us like to fetch, some of us like to scent and some of us like to run and chase things. It is your job to understand what we are bred for and your job to allow us to fulfill our potential. You don’t have to get sheep if you have a sheep-herding dog, but you do need to play games with us that allow us to herd.
5. How you treat us dogs, whether you hit or yell is a reflection on you. Remember the saying ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you?’ This does not mean treat me the way you have been treated. This means treat me the way you would want to be treated if you had had a choice as to how you were treated when you were young.
6. We cannot feed ourselves. If we could we would eat all sorts of different foods because dogs, like humans like new and exciting flavors. You want to know why we beg? Because you give us a bowl of the exact same food every single day and think we should be happy with that. Would you be happy eating oatmeal for every meal every day? Mix it up. Give us treats and bones and wet food and yogurt. At the very least, put some water in our dry food so it isn’t like eating crackers.
a. Please don’t forget to feed us. Remember, we are here with unconditional love and we get hungry.
7. Dogs like to be comfortable. We could sleep on the floor, but so could you. If you don’t want me on the bed or the sofa, buy me my own bed.
8. Dogs have their own language. We are social. We need to interact with other dogs. Take us to a dog park or a doggie day care. Let us socialize. We understand other dogs and we have a very subtle language. For the most part we can work out our own interactions. You don’t have to control them.
9. If you have a dog in the city, find a way to play with them without being on a leash. Find some open space for us. How would you like to be confined to an apartment or home for your entire life? Leashes, like lines build aggression and hostility in dogs. They do not allow us to interact as we normally would. If we feel threatened we cannot retreat so we are more likely to attack or become aggressive.
10. Even if you have a large back yard, remember we are dogs and we like to explore. We like to go out and see new things. Don’t keep me in a house and yard my entire life.
11. If you visit the mountains with a city dog, be prepared to meet a lot of dogs running free. They aren’t going to attack your dog (for the most part). You don’t need to pick us up, you should try letting us off leash so we can have some fun, too.
12. Baths are not necessary. I know you like us to smell good, but we would prefer to roll in cow dung or dead fish. It’s our instinct.
Before you go and buy a dog because you think it looks cute or you’re lonely, ask yourself if you can fulfill the needs of a dog on an everyday basis. Too many of us are bought and returned or abandoned and we end up in places that kill us because you choose us and then change your mind. Some dogs are taken to shelters because their people are moving. Would you dump your kid on the side of the road because you’re moving? When you adopt a dog you adopt us for life. If you have to move find a home that allows dogs. We are not just dogs, we are living, breathing, thinking, feeling creatures. We have a lot to offer if you would just let us.
Dagny McKinley spent three years working for Grizzle-T Dog & Sled Works in Steamboat Springs, CO. Grizzle-T promotes healthy and loving treatment of sled dogs. McKinley is a published author and photographer and her book, Wild Hearts: Dog Sledding the Rockies explores the life of a sled dog and celebrates the bond between man/woman and dog that is like no other.
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