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SHARES

I didn’t want to write this post. Not only do I like and value the BlogPaws network a lot, but I don’t want to add more ammo to this somewhat condescending, click-bait article posted on the network’s blog a couple of days ago. The article outlines five reasons why you don’t deserve a dog. One of those reasons is if you work eight hours per day, and another reason is if you don’t have enough money in your bank account.

Snippet from the original article. Please head to the article using the link above to read the entire content.

Snippet from the original article. Please head to the article using the link above to read the entire content.

But the article struck a nerve, and while I absolutely feel everyone should and is entitled to their opinion, I had to say my piece. So here we go.

This is why I personally feel that working and limited-income households “deserve” to keep their dogs and cats with them. I also encourage you to read great posts on this topic by fellow pet bloggers Christie Zizo and Jessica Shipman while you’re at it.

The word deserve

First I want to address this word. It’s fairly loaded, and comes across as being judgmental. Why should someone else say what I deserve or don’t? They shouldn’t. Every person can make their own decisions about what they do and don’t deserve in life. This was the word used in the article I’m referencing, so I chose to use it in the title but wanted to address why you see the quotation marks there.

Lets look at the true issue:

Is the dog frustrated or stressed? If so, what are the options available in that scenario and how can we help keep a family together. Is the dog fine? Then lets mind our own business and stop judging how others choose or need to live their lives.

Struggling with bills or living on a limited income

I agree that when setting out to adopt an animal, having a plan to cover the expenses is in order. However, circumstances change. Life slaps us in the face sometimes. People lose jobs, or run into hard times. Does that mean that you don’t deserve your dog or cat? Of course not.

I ask you this: I ran into some extreme hardship right after we adopted a couple of cats. My husband lost his job, and I was still in school. He managed to find a new, but much lower paying job that sometimes made us wait to cash the check. What did we do? We ate ramen noodles for a couple of years and bought the best cat food we could afford. We were only able to provide some tests to look into a problem we were facing at the vets, and they agreed to run only what was absolutely necessary. In other words, we still cared for our cats and provided for their needs. Sure we couldn’t do “extra” for them, but no one judged us (to our faces) – and the cats were fine.

Insurance shouldn’t be assumed as the end-all and be-all of responsible pet care. It can be a risk, in that many claims are denied. Many of them for unjust reasons (ie: profit!). There are certainly those people who feel that it is not a good move, and you should put the monthly premiums aside for emergencies. I don’t have one of my pets insured because I know for darn sure “pre-existing conditions” (that she had since a kitten, before we even knew insurance was an option!) would bite us in the butt. Research has taught me I’d probably end up paying a high monthly fee and have every claim rejected by the insurance company. Does that make me a bad guardian, or a fiscally conscious one?

My other dogs are insured, as I do believe in insurance if you can avoid “pre-existing conditions” plaguing most of my claims (this involves insuring a healthy pet at the same time as adoption/purchase) so I’m doing the right thing there and the wrong thing for my other pet? I made personal, educated decisions based on what I felt was the most fiscally responsible thing to do. Could life serve us an expensive surprise? It sure can, insured or not.

Now I ask you this: I also spent $10,000 on Mikey over three days to take a shot at saving him. Does this make me better than someone who couldn’t? Heck no, it means I was lucky to be able to afford it. I was lucky. Not better or more “deserving” of Mikey than the next person.

Mikey, a lab beagle mix, has soulful eyes

Mikey was a very special boy.

Families on a limited income or experiencing financial or medical hardship should have the option for experiencing the emotional advantage that having pets can bring to their life. They should not be ripped apart, they don’t need to be judged. Lets work with them to make their lives a bit easier but supporting them in their quest to keep a pet in their life and out of a shelter.

In fact there are some tremendous organizations that support this very thing, such as JASA in New York and PAWS Support in San Francisco. Not to mention the many veterinarians who help support the homeless who care for street animals, and also offer payment plans for clients who are experiencing a hardship or bills that exceed their bank accounts.

Dogs can thrive in a working household

Families have to work to cover expenses. If you are single, married, or living in other arrangements oftentimes all of the humans in the household have to leave for the day for work or school. This is a fact of life, given the economy and living expenses, and is especially the case in some areas more than others. A shack in San Francisco costs over $800K these days. A studio costs $2000 per month to rent. Should people in San Francisco not have a dog in their life because of this?

And wouldn’t it be true that you have to work in order to cover those vet bills mentioned in the previous section?

I don’t think I have to say too much about this one. I’ll simply post my comment from the original post here which covers how I feel on the subject:

I also couldn’t disagree more with #3. While crating a dog for 6+ hours is usually not a good idea, a dog proof room (if chewing is a concern) is a great option.

And you know what? Many people are responsible and will tire out a dog or go for a walk or other exercises and it is fully natural for a dog to rest all day. Dogs and similar animals in the wild are on this very schedule: they will hunt and/or migrate in the morning, rest during the day (hot, etc), and then repeat in the cooler evening hours. Resting during the day is very natural.

In many cities, dual incomes are required. In fact, required in most of the USA. This means that everywhere you will have dogs that need to be left at home – and guess what, many of them do just fine. Almost any dog can be left at home all day if they are cared for responsibly.

It’s this “dual income people shouldn’t have dogs if they’re gone 8 hours” that influences rescues to not adopt to very responsible families. I have run into this – the dog nut that I am. “Oh you work” – and my application is tossed out. What does this do? Send people to less responsible sources for pets.

“What kind of life are you providing if your pet sits and stares at the bars of a crate for dozens of hours a week?” A much happier pet than one who saw the blue juice in the shelter, that’s for sure. Because that’s what both of the pets I adopted who waited for me while I worked to support their vet bills and care were facing.

I am very sad to see this sentiment expressed in this manner on the BlogPaws site. I hope that it could be clarified to what I feel is the real problem: not responsibly exhausting a dog before leaving for the day, resulting in stress and frustration. NOT saying that working families shouldn’t own dogs.

I’ve had a high-energy kelpie puppy, and we left him for 8+ hours during the day. And he did fine. Because we provided what was natural: a lot of exercise and entertainment on either side of those 8+ hours.

I work at home now: I am not better than you

I used to work all day long at a corporate job. I used to work very long hours too. I did a lot of adjustment of my work/life balance prior to adopting Mikey, but I didn’t leave my job altogether or ask to work from home. I simply adjusted my life to an 8 hour day + commute (this made it 9 hours). I made sure to go home on time. But I still had to work, and no I did not feel guilty about it.

And neither should you.

I am very fortunate to be able to work from home now. I’m lucky. I earn a heck of a lot less money for those vet bills, but I can stay at home with the dogs and try to develop a business that will enable me to do so for the long run. I’m blessed by having a husband with an income that helps. I’m lucky because we managed to save up some cash for me to try this. Lucky, not better.

Oh and get this – my dogs sleep all day long. That’s right, I have two young herding type dogs and they spend most of their time on the couch or in a crate (with an open door) by choice. For more than 8 hours per day, while I work. The fact I’m in their vicinity is perhaps nice for them, but doesn’t make a major difference in their activity level or “boredom” levels (I take a few breaks and entertain them on occasion). So they’re staring at my back instead of the “wall” mentioned in the BlogPaws article. Sure, it makes a bit of a difference but not a major one.

Found their patch of sun

Pretty much stuff like this, all day long.

Maybe I’ll have to go back to an office someday, and yep – I’ll leave them at home. Mort will head to his dog proof room again, and the others will have the run of the house. It’s not the end of the world, and there are many ways to make this situation work – just as it can work for almost any other family and dog out there.

Whether or not you’re at home shouldn’t matter. People have to work, and their dogs survive. There are thousands and thousands of dogs in places like San Francisco and New York (where average house costs are what… a million dollars now?) where families have to work. Single working professionals, dual income households, many different kinds of households.

And there are more dogs in San Francisco than there are children. The dogs do fine because their humans take care of their needs. All of them? Of course not: there are edge cases for just about any scenario when it comes to dogs, cats, kids, and humans. But these issues can usually be fixed by adjusting exercise, training, and other forms of entertainment. Heck, some people use webcams and two way video with their dogs.

And one edge case should not create some rule or judgement for every family out there.

Lets be positive here, and assume that people have dogs for the right reasons. Let’s give families the benefit of the doubt before we judge. And if a family goes down the wrong path with their dogs, and a dog becomes frustrated, let’s try to help them and keep the family together instead of assume the human is bad and undeserving.

Why the sentiment about working and struggling families is irresponsible

Articles that call for working families to relinquish their dogs to a different family, shelter, or whatever else (or not take a dog on at all) doesn’t help keep dogs in their homes, or find homes for ones in need. And the good news is so many dogs do well, despite being left at home during a day. And if they don’t there are many ways to solve this problem.

Options are good. Open minds are amazing. Creative thinking and working together is the bomb.

I believe that assuming someone is good before pointing a finger is the right thing to do. All rescues and shelters can benefit dogs by taking this stance before the alternative: passing judgement and breaking up a family.

Some rescues want people to have yards, acreage even, no job or be at home all day, have a dog door, have experience, and all sorts of things before adopting a dog out. I’m a dog fanatic with loads of experience, and have been turned down because I work and don’t have a yard. Unfortunately, this perfection is often not found in a family. I hazard to say these conditions aren’t available to most families.

These requirements are absolutely not the case with all rescues, and I’m not here to say that every application should be considered by every rescue. I fully support a rescue doing their due diligence to make a great match between dog and household, and accept that not every family is right for dogs. However, I do hope that the rescues will at least call a potential adopter and work with them, learn more, keep an open mind, and offer alternatives if they don’t have a good fit.

I implore that rescues simply have an open mind, and this is partly because I have personally been ignored so many times (the rescues didn’t even call me or respond to my applications), and ended up at a shelter as a result (and may be biased, but honestly my dogs are my life and have a pretty awesome one themselves.) If I wasn’t so open to the type of dog I was looking for, and aware of the great dogs in shelters, I could very well have gone to a less reputable source for a dog.

What a person experiences in their search to find a dog (with rescues), and when researching and coming across articles like the one BlogPaws wrote, greatly influences what their next steps are. And it’s best if it isn’t towards a puppy mill or another possibly sketchy source. Or closed off and feeling like every dog owner is judging them automatically.

What about a shelter taking in a dog being relinquished by his family? A family feels they are no longer right for the dog because they lost their job, have training issues, moving, or feel they are gone too long during a workday. They’re standing in line at a shelter with their dog in tow, ready to give him up. What should a shelter do?

  • Option A: Take the dog, that family doesn’t deserve him. Let’s give him a 50% shot at making it out.
  • Option B: Provide ideas and resources to keep that dog with their (“imperfect”) family, and only accept the dog as a last resort.

I’d go with Option B any day of the week.

Lets work to assume people are good, despite their “imperfections.” Maybe the family doesn’t know about some of the options that could be available to them to help with whatever the issue might be. Maybe a resource – a volunteer walker, a temporary accommodation, a dog care co-op, a volunteer trainer, a low-cost day care – could help. Perhaps they can personally rehome their pet with a friend, maybe on a temporary basis until the issue is resolved. A transport service in the event they are moving. Maybe there are other people looking to swap day care services in-home, a shelter may set up such a network or create a list. Maybe they just need someone to talk to about a behavior problem. Maybe they just don’t know they are able to keep their dog after all. Maybe they read the article at BlogPaws and felt they were undeserving.

It’s not true.

There are ways to keep families together, in which their dogs can thrive.

There are so many different, great ways to responsibly raise a dog with different bank account sizes and household styles. Just like there are many different, great ways to live a life. And humans deserve the benefit of the doubt.

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • You nailed it, Jen. Although I agree with a lot of what the original article talked about, I most definitely agree with you that the use of the word “deserve” in this case is inappropriate. Having limited time or resources doesn’t make someone less deserving than someone else; maybe it makes them less able to care for a pet (although that’s certainly debatable on a case-by-case basis), but deserving? I’d much rather see a death row shelter dog adopted by a family that’s gone from home 8 to 10 hours a day but makes appropriate provisions for the dog, than see him end up in “that room”, his life taken because the “perfect” adopter never came. Thanks for writing this.

    • Thanks so much Christina! I’m so relieved not to be the only person who feels this way – all I could think of was “that room” when I first read the article (one I had to walk past a lot as a volunteer in the high kills). Completely agree – perfect would be ideal, something I’d hope for, but not necessarily necessary…

  • Jody Miller-Young

    Jen, great, great post. Knowing the writer of the post you’re referencing, I don’t think she meant to be irresponsible. But this clarification is important, especially when we are all trying to get as many animal loving, responsible people to adopt shelter dogs. Thanks for this, Jen! Really great!

    • Thank you Jody! I know the author too, and have no intention of disrespect at all and I too feel that she didn’t intend to be irresponsible either. I just hope to show the other side to the “issue” because statements like these are so influential, especially on such a high profile and respected website like BlogPaws. And I guess it’s because I’ve been rejected from rescues for this very reason… and know of people who go to puppy mill sourced dogs as a result. If it is a case where words were mixed up and need to be clarified, I’ll certainly update this post to reflect that :) Thanks so much for the comment, and of course all you’re doing for the shelter dogs!

  • Kukalaka

    Nice job, Jen. I’ve heard of people having similar experiences with rescues, but I’ve never experienced it myself so I wasn’t comfortable writing about it. I’m thinking of doing a post now addressing number 2 as well, but looking at ways to get help struggling pet bills…

    Christie from Lifewithbeagle.com

    • Thanks Christie!

      Here’s a page that might help with researching some of the ways to help with pet bills: http://www.paws.org/cats-and-dogs/other-services/help-with-veterinary-bills/. On that page is a link to a page from HSUS that I’ve shared a bit that lists even more options and resources.

      There are many other local organizations that help with low cost resources and care, and of course now people even run their own fundraisers (although I can’t comment on the best way of doing so – there is some fraud in this area with folks requesting donations that don’t need the $$, and some of the “fundraiser” websites take a large portion of the proceeds – I’m not sure of which ones do and don’t).

      And of course, there are quite a few organizations (perhaps businesses is a better word) that do help with payment plans and loans for care. This can always be helpful when unexpected crisis occurs. I don’t believe we can always be prepared for the worst, and insurance can let us down.

  • Great post! I didn’t comment on the original, though I wanted to. I work full time outside the home, as does Les. I could right so much more in this comment, but you said it all so well.

  • Lola The Pitty

    Nicely stated (as usual), Jen. I wholeheartedly agree with what you said here. Sharing!

  • beaglesbargains

    Beautifully written Jen! Your thoughts about open thinking and creativity are on point. I was lucky to have a rescue give me a chance with Luna even though I don’t have a yard and I work full time. I was even luckier that someone actually came to my house after Luna broke out of her crate and destroyed my bedroom carpet and blinds to help find a solution. Their visit encouraged me to find a solution and try something new.

    • Thanks Jessica! And isn’t it great that they take a chance? Tig’s rescue was similar – they were looking for someone with another dog (and they are fine with no yard as it was), but they took a chance on us due to the shy dog experience we had. So wonderful to hear about their open mind, and after-care support – and look what it got Luna, a terrific home and FAME! :)

  • Sue Kottwitz

    Can you hear me applauding and shouting “amen?” I agree with everything you said. Personally, I’m tired of reading/hearing broad sweeping judgments about people. I found the original blog post highly condescending, judgmental, insensitive and out of touch. Almost all of my pets have been adopted from “kill” shelters, especially those back in the day when I worked outside the home. I know what would have happened to those pets had I not stepped up and adopted them. Were they alone much of the day? Yes. Was I responsible for making sure they got stimulation and exercise? Yes, again. If we all believed as that original blog post author, all our shelters would be forced back into a “kill” situation because the fact of the matter people do work and most work outside the home.

    • Thank you so, so much for this comment Sue! That’s all I could think of as well, when I read that post. I used to have to walk past that freezer on a regular basis, and I can’t help but believe the more rejections for reasons like this (or the more people who don’t believe they can even have a dog in the first place) closes the door for potential homes, or sends folks to backyard breeders and mills. I even believed this myself (if you work you shouldn’t have a dog) until I started reading and learning about dog on a more technical/science level as opposed to edge case beliefs…

  • Thanks for writing Jen, I agree her title was terrible and condescending. Many hard working individuals love and can care for their dogs while holding down full-time jobs. However their are those who shouldn’t have a pet because they can’t properly care for their animal. I think the original post could definitely have been better written in regards to why you should or should not have a pet – rather than stating “you don’t deserve a pet”.

    • Totally – there are lots of cases where folks shouldn’t be the sole caregiver for a dog, or not have one (abuse, real neglect, etc), and a whole wealth of others who need to learn more to become better guardians (heck – not like I’m perfect by any means!). Hopefully folks will just read all the opinions and learn/draw their own conclusions at the end of the day. :)

  • Thank you so much for writing this. Whatever the intention of the original article was it certainly came off as quite condescending. The only point I agreed with was #5 because it is true that many pets are surrendered for ridiculous reasons and it is important to realize what a commitment such as adopting an animal means.

    I was denied when trying to adopt a 6 year old fearful dog 3 years ago simple because I’m part of a dual income household. They didn’t care that we have staggered schedules, live on 3 acres, have always provided proper medical care, and had never surrendered an animal for any reason. Although it won’t keep me from adopting in the future I’ll be sure to check the requirements ahead of time; I really don’t want to go through another heartbreak after bonding with an older, sweet animal and then being told my lifestyle wasn’t good enough.

    So we adopted Laika – a German Shepherd mix that has more energy and drive than all my previous dogs combined. Just like with Mort she sleeps during the day while I’m working from home. If I do have a busy work week I make adjustments to make sure she still gets her physical and mental demands met. It’s not always easy but we always work it out. She’s not suffering; she deserved a home when she was abandoned as a young dog and I think I deserved to be able to provide it.

    So I’ll stop rambling; my point is your article touched home for me. I couldn’t agree more with making it work and not judging people on whether they ‘deserve’ an animal.

  • Well put. I really shiver when I read judgments about whether people deserve to have dogs based on economics.

    To know why, watch the documentary MINE! which talked about New Orleans families who struggled to get their rescued dogs returned.

    Personally, I’m a communitarian. That means I think it’s worth working together to find solutions for everyone. I’ve read about a retired couple who “shared” dog care with a working family with young kids. I thought it was fabulous.

    Maybe if we stopped thinking everyone had to do everything for their families (human and non-human) on their own, we could find more homes for more needy animals.

  • Linda Szymoniak

    Thanks for the intelligent rebuttal. I’m at home with my “pack” these days (five Treeing Walker Coonhounds and three cats – all rescues), but when I first got married and adopted my first dog away from my family, I was working AND going to school afterwards. Misty was left alone at home longer than I would have liked, but she was a sweet, loving dog who thrived despite my long hours away from home. I became a stay-at-home mom with the birth of my first daughter, and Misty was a second mom to her. When I was expecting my second daughter, I realized that with a newborn and toddler, I likely wouldn’t have as much time for Misty as I had until then. My choice was to adopt a second dog – as a companion to Misty and another family member to the rest of us. It was the best decision I have ever made (and I get beyond frustrated when I get calls from people who say they have to give up their dog/cat/whatever because they are pregnant or just had a baby since children and dogs really DO go together).

    And, looking at it from the dog’s point of view. Many of these dogs would either be languishing in shelters or killed for lack of room at the shelter. Three of my current dogs were pulled from kill shelters an hour or less before they would have been killed. With the number of animals in our family, I’ll be honest – I don’t buy the absolute best food on the market, but I get the best quality I can, and they are happy and healthy, so there’s not a problem. I have all hounds, so I don’t have to pay for grooming – I brush them regularly and bathe the when needed. I trim their nails and clean their ears so I don’t have to pay someone else to do it.

    EVERYONE deserves a dog, with the exception of animal abuses and dog fighters. Dogs are resilient and adapt to pretty much any circumstance they are in. If more people would find a way around the reasons they give for NOT adopting a dog, the number of dogs dying in shelters would plummet. Being left alone while their owner(s) work is not a reason for NOT adopting. As long as you spend the rest of your time with the dog and give them love and attention the rest of the time, they will be okay. After all, even when I’m home, my dogs sleep most of the day. That’s not that much different than what they would do if I wasn’t home.

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Well said Jen. I was surprised to see that post as well, or at least the way it was worded. I also found it ironic to have “not having enough money” followed by “going to work all day”, for some of us it is one or the other. I agree with you, more than anything its about what you do with yoru pet while you are at home. Do they get their walks/exercise or attention they need.

  • M. K. Clinton

    This brings to mind a story I can share with you. We were visiting New Orleans and I saw a homeless man with a new puppy. I thought to myself, how horrible it was that he was taking on the responsibility of a pup when he was living on the streets. As I watched him feed and cradle that little puppy, I realized it was probably the only living thing in this world that loves him and doesn’t judge him. He very much deserved that love and friendship. I am sure he’ll take better care of his dog than he does of himself. Of course, the man didn’t appear to have a job so… LOL! Our dogs always stayed home while we worked.

  • Kimberly Morris Gauthier

    Very well written.

    You’re right, the word “deserve” is very powerful and makes me flinch when I read it. As I shared on G+, the people I have trouble owning dogs are people who have no intention of caring for their dogs properly and are contributing to the homeless pet population instead of helping it. But is this really a large community? Can we not see that a 17 year old who doesn’t have a job, their own home, or their parent’s permission, shouldn’t be able to adopt a dog.

    I think it’s more beneficial to educate people for what they can expect when they adopt a dog. You’re personal life will take a change, because you need to get home and care for the dog. Your bank account will take a hit, because dogs cost money. And you’ll have a best friend who is on your side for the rest of his or her life. That’s the best part and makes the rest worth it :)

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  • Jane

    I am so glad I came across this post. Today has been a bad-dog-mom kind of day. And I was feeling guilty about leaving my pups home alone while my husband and I work. I do my best to spoil them and they spoil me with lots of cuddles and kisses when I get home. They are (for the most part) very well behaved and we work with them to nip bad behaviors before they become a problem. I like to think I’m a dog lover but when I look for tips to keep my pups happy while I work, I run into articles about how you shouldn’t have a dog if we can’t be with them all the 24/7. It would be nice to feel supported instead of judged. I appreciate your point of view and I’m glad you said something. Thanks for standing up for us working pup-parents.