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Responsibility is No. 1 for pet lover

Judith Liebaert

 I have had at least one pet in the house at all times since the day I was born and have loved them all — cats, dogs, birds, fish, turtles and rodents. OK, the rodents were the kids’ idea, but they grew on me.

I guess in some ways I considered them part of the family. I mean, I fed them, bathed them and cleaned up after them. Still, while I am known to talk to my pets, I do not have fur-children and never refer to myself as their mommy. No matter how much I love my pets, I have simply never confused them with one of my children.

The first time my daughter tried dubbing me grandmother to her newly acquired pug puppy, as much as he resembled an infant (all wrinkled, soft and cuddly) I informed her that I had not given birth to anything with four legs and as far as I knew, neither had she.

In short, what I’ve never done and never will do is put pets ahead of human relationships, inside or outside my family. When I look around, I see a lot of people doing this. I see a societal shift of transferring affection to pets. I think this is because it’s so easy to love them — free of all the complications, compromise and hard work it takes to maintain human relationships.

My household pet as of this time is a cat; just one, though you should know that I am always one trip to the shelter away from being that crazy cat lady. The thing is, pets need space just like people do, plus they eat and have medical bills — not to mention all the cool things we can buy for them now. If I was a gazillionaire living in a huge mansion, I’d be herding kittens through the halls for sure.

I’d also have a fine assortment of dogs, outside dogs to patrol the perimeter, lazy dogs to lounge on the front porch, and smaller inside dogs with lots of energy to keep the cats on their toes.

The thing is, I love pets, I value everything they bring to life, but I choose not to have a dog at this time and people who do have dogs should think for a while about those of us who have made a different choice.

I came to this decision about 15 years ago. I wanted a dog — I was virtually living alone with my hubby driving over the road 14 days out of 20. Many times, I wished for the security a dog gives. I like that nobody comes up your driveway or gets to your door without being announced when you have a dog.

There were good reasons I didn’t get that dog. I don’t believe in keeping dogs confined indoors for long periods and I worked all day. I also don’t believe in leaving them penned outside where their possible barking and whining may be irritating the neighbors all day. I’ve been on the neighbor end of that — not pleasant. 

Regardless of how much I wanted and would have loved a dog, I made what I felt was the responsible decision, all part of being an adult — meaning that just because I want something and I can have it, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for everybody involved.

We choose not to have a dog now because we travel a lot, from short day trips or weekend jaunts to several months of winter escape. We like to visit lots of friends and family when we do — and we do not assume that a dog would be just as welcome as we are.

So let me say again, I love dogs. I get that it’s part of your family and if you want to kiss it, and sleep with it and feed it from your table, heck if you want to put a tutu on it and make it your flower girl — more power to you. But here are the things I’d like you to consider not doing, as a responsible adult and dog owner.

Don’t assume that everybody loves your dog as much as you do. No matter how cute, fluffy or friendly the dog is, no matter how much you believe that it is as much a part of your family as your kids and despite the fact that dog might even be better behaved than some kids, your dog is not automatically welcome wherever you go.

Don’t bring your dog with you into public places of business. Not everybody is a dog lover. Some people are not comfortable around dogs. Some are downright afraid of dogs and this fact alone can cause a normally docile dog to react with uncharacteristic aggression.

If you own the business or place of work and bring your dog in, do so at your own risk, beginning with loss of customers and ending with loss of your business assets if the worst happens and somebody sues you. Besides, in cases where food is sold or served, aren’t there health laws you are violating?

Don’t say “My dog would never (fill in the blank).” Your dog is still an animal and has the instincts of one. Many pets have caused serious harm to others because they thought their owner was in danger. Many a dog has soiled or wet where they normally wouldn’t because of anxiety. Many a friendly, docile dog has bitten a child that overwhelms it.

When you walk your dog, don’t let it use my yard as a toilet — unless you want to return the favor by coming over daily to poop-scoop my cat litter box.

There are leash laws in virtually every village, town and city — if you don’t want your dog leashed, then build a kennel or put up an invisible fence. Do what is necessary to keep your dog in your own yard.

And before you ask me if you can bring your dog to my house, you might first ask yourself why I don’t own a dog. The simple answer is that, for whatever reason, I choose not to have one. Then you might want to ask yourself what your answer would be if I asked to bring my cat (or a hamster, or caged birds or leashed monkey) to your house. If you ask yourself these things first, I’m betting you won’t have to ask me if you can bring pooch along.

Judith Liebaert was raised in Superior and now lives in rural Douglas County. She blogs on-line as the Mad Goddess™. Send your comments or story ideas to judith_ann@