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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.