It’s crazy to me that I even have to say that, but it seems that this isn’t obvious to everyone.
After the hue and cry stemming from suggestions that the dog that recently killed a baby be euthanised, I saw a common thread among animal lovers. Everyone thinks that the dog would never have attacked the baby if it hadn’t been mistreated. They place only blame and zero sympathy at the doorsteps of these parents whose baby was not much more than a newborn. (Seriously, what is the world coming to?) But they aren’t saying the couple were irresponsible parents: Nooooo….. they say they were irresponsible PET OWNERS.
The dog was clearly restrained too often, underfed and probably suffered innumerable senseless beatings. How could we expect it not to lash out at the baby after all of that? How come people don’t realise that a well-fed, loved, groomed animal would never hurt an infant?
It is an animal. It does not speak your language. It is only smart enough to learn things by repetition/ habit. ‘Sit’ = Reward …’Sit’ = Reward … ‘Sit’ = Reward … ‘Pee on carpet’ = Reprimand … ‘Pee on carpet’ = Reprimand and so on. How many tries might it take to make it clear that ‘Maul-annoying-whimpering-infant’ = Reprimand I do not know.
Like babies, dogs explore the world with their mouths. They bite in fear, the bite out of playfulness, anger or simple curiosity. But here’s the thing; human babies have no teeth. Also, humans quickly grow out of the stage where they put random things in their mouths. Dogs may do this all throughout their lives.
People tell me when I go to their homes, “He doesn’t bite…”. Right. He doesn’t bite YOU. YOU feed him. You scratch his belly and cuddle him. The father of the baby who recently died was shocked that the dog would do this and hesitated before considering putting the animal down. I don’t know about you, but I can’t promise I’d be so generous after losing my brand new son. I’d like to think I would be… but I just don’t know. In any event, the father’s surprise is pretty much what most pet owners would feel if their dog mauled a child. Because, of course, “he doesn’t bite…”.
I admit, we didn’t put much effort into training my last dog. Still, she somehow trained herself. She never peed on the carpet. Never ate our shoes. Never begged for food. Never attempted to run away from home. Never tried to run when we wanted to bathe or groom her (she would lie there soaking it up like she was at the spa). Never barked at children, even though she was (mostly) one of those small, loud and excitable breeds. She seemed to have a stoic, old soul. She seemed so wise. I loved her. When she passed, I couldn’t go to her funeral. Refused to accept that she was gone. She had been in my life since I was a child. I know what it means to feel like your dog is a member of your family. I also know, however, that my dogs wouldn’t necessarily treat you the way they treated me. More importantly, they wouldn’t necessarily warm up quickly to a newborn who is small and squirms and stares and has an annoying, piercing cry.
Your pet is not a person. You don’t get to give it the same rights as a person while in the same breath refusing to allow it to be judged as a person. If a person killed a baby then said it was because they had been abused and underfed, they would not get love and therapy as a result. They would go to jail. I agree that the culprit in this case needs love and therapy. That is because he is not a person. He is a sad animal that couldn’t be trusted to know better. If he still proves unpredictable and nobody is willing to adopt him, sadly, he may be euthanized. That’s because he is not a person.
I, for one, wouldn’t adopt that dog. Rehabilitated or not, I would always look at it and know that those teeth and jaws killed a baby. Saying this won’t make me popular… but it’s a truth that many others would hide.
So please, love your pets and treat them well… but don’t dish out criticism and believe yourself a ‘responsible pet owner’ just because you take good care of your pet. Responsibility also entails having a REALISTIC outlook on what your pet really is; not a small, innocent person, but a small, usually amicable but admittedly slightly unpredictable animal. If I had a small child, I would keep pets away, even my own, unless supervised. At least until the child could hold its own against the pet. Because unless the dog could tell me “I treasure your child as much as you do…” I honestly have no way to be 100% sure…