An essay by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen from the July 2, 2007, issue of Time caused a stir and a growing pile of hate mail, it seems. In “Demoting the Dog,” Lisa describes how her dog went from pal to pet to pest after her daughter was born. That’s where the uproar began.
Click here to read the entire essay, including a link on that page to see Lisa’s rebuttal to the hate mail and a whole bunch of online comments hence.
A couple things struck me when I first read the essay. First, as a former animal shelter volunteer and former board member on the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, Lisa’s story is actually quite common. A lot can change between people and pets once kids are born.
While she will keep her dog for the rest of his life, other people in similar situations often give up their pets. What I learned all those years at the shelter is that noting the birth of children as the reason for relinquishment is only part of the story. Such pets almost always have behavior issues that people put up with until … they don’t. The baby then becomes a convenient excuse.
It’s the same with the “we’re moving” reason people sometimes use. At the shelter we used to joke, “Oh, yeah, and pets aren’t allowed in (insert name of state/city).”
That’s rarely the real reason, and it used to make me mad that people would dump pets like that.
But, after reading Lisa’s essay, I mostly felt sad for her dog and wondered whether a new home might not be the more compassionate solution. Surely, he has no idea why he’s suddenly the bad guy. He hasn’t changed. She has. Or, at the very least, the rules of engagement have. And, in life (and training), that’s not fair.