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Yard Dog Watching the Watchdog

posted May 15th, 2012 by
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by Dolores Proubasta

“OUT OF SIGHT, out of mind.” Whether in a farm, city back yard, or rust-piled junkyard, an animal kept outside is lonely. Indoors, sheltered and enjoying the comforts and company they deny to the dog (or cat), people reason that animals don’t belong inside because of shedding, odors, breakage, etc. In reality, a pet has no more bearing on the cleanliness and good order of a home than a child does; only the adults do.

Why is it that some people get a dog—an animal who loves people more than people love people—just to lock him or her out? It makes no sense. And even worse, under average conditions this segregation evolves into benign neglect that tends to worsen as time goes by. Soon, the children don’t want to play with “it” anymore because he is too big; grandpa is afraid to go out because “it” jumps… Starved for attention, sometimes he also misses a meal or two because the family forgot to feed “it.”

Ignored by all, without affection, guidance or purpose, the yard dog will either become aloof (a form of depression), aggressive, an escape artist, destructive or a nuisance barker. Shelters are full of dogs with just such problems for which only the owners are to blame.

The overall unfairness of segregating pets outside the human circle may deteriorate into gross insensitivity or even a felony if they are not brought indoors: (1) when they are sick or otherwise incapacitated as listed in Table 1; (2) in bad weather such as thunderstorms, ice storms, flooding, tornadoes and life-threatening temperatures; (3) when herbicides and other harmful chemicals are being used in the yard; (4) when construction, regular services and other activities may cause the dog to escape; (5) at night.

A strong argument in favor of bringing dogs in at night is their unsurpassed value and reliability to warn against intruders, gas leaks, smoke and more. However, for dogs to protect people, people must first protect dogs. Left outside, the dog may be the first victim, or not be heard by those he’s trying to rouse. A garage, by the way, does not constitute “inside” for security purposes or for the animal’s sake (footnote of Table 3).

Yard dogs (and cats) usually rank with the bike and the lawn mower in the estimation of those clinging to the primitive notion that a dog belongs outside. It is a fine line between benign neglect and criminal neglect, and it is not what the owner thinks is “good enough” for the yard dog, but what neighbors, discerning TulsaPets readers and other “watchdogs” for the animals see with their own eyes. If conditions are substandard or endangering to the dog, it’s a civic duty to report them to authorities and keep the vigil.

If only the more open-minded among the outdoors-school-of-thought would pause to ponder just how fair they are to their pets—are they providing essential comforts and protection (Tables 2 and 3)? Would they not realize how much easier it would be to integrate pets into the household’s routine, treating them as companions? Of course, the operative word is “fair.”

In the final analysis, one has to question the fairness— indeed, the humaneness—of barring Man’s Best Friend from being with the people for whom he would lay his life down.