To tell you the truth, I am rather ambivalent about dogs. As a child, we never had dogs in our family and as an adult homeowner the idea of adopting or buying a dog never occurred to me.
Once, when I was a relief nightwatchman in a caravan factory, I became quite attached to an Alsatian guard dog called Shane. Shirley's mother and father also had an Alsatian called Emma. She was a farm dog who slept in a kennel and was rarely allowed in the house.
Anyway, the other night a bloke I hardly know came to join me and Bert at our table in the local pub. Lord knows why, but it wasn't long before he started sounding off about the issues he has with dogs and dog ownership.
He talked of the massive amount of food that pet dogs eat in Great Britain and said that if re-processed this food would be perfectly fine for humans to consume. He also banged on about the number of car journeys that are taken because of dogs - usually to places where they can enjoy walks with their owners. He also mentioned fatal dog attacks and diseases caused by dog faeces - such as canis toxocara.
As I say, I have never given dogs much mind and have certainly never begrudged dog ownership as that man appeared to do. I know that pet dogs can bring much comfort to their owners - rather like good friends do.
However, some of his points have been swirling around in my mind these last few days and I have thought about the environmental impact that dog ownership is having upon our weeping planet. In Britain 33% of households own dogs and the dog food market is worth an estimated £1.5 billion a year. I was unable to find out how many car miles are travelled each year specifically to take dogs for walks but I imagine that it is quite a lot and of course every one of these journeys involves burning fossil fuels
I guess that this is a pretty emotive subject. Several of my favourite blogs are managed by proud dog owners and I was wondering what you and others might think about these environmental concerns surrounding dog ownership.
I am now not really sure how I feel about this matter any more and so your input would be much appreciated as I try to reach some clarity.
I like dogs. Other people's dogs.ReplyDelete
I have had dogs on and off my entire life up to a few years ago and to be quite honest- I never want another dog in my life. They are too much like children in their needs and their dependencies unlike cats who come and go with their own royal agenda. I birthed and raised four children and now have five grandchildren. My nurturing needs are met adequately by them. I had never considered the environmental aspects of keeping dogs as pets but I have noticed that the amount of space allotted to dog food in grocery stores here is tremendous and I also have noticed the rise in extreme medical treatment and expense for pets- not just dogs. This too has to have an environmental impact, not to mention an economic one. Veterinarian oncologists?
But you know me- I don't want to judge what makes other people happy. And there are many for whom dogs bring great and profound happiness to their lives. I would not want to criticize what I do not really understand.
Thanks for your wise and well-considered reflections Ms Moon.Delete
We adopt rescue dogs. Lucy was a hunting beagle that would have been shot if she hadn't been taken by the rescue society. Heidi was from an Indian reserve in Northern Saskatchewan. Both had numerous litters, because the world needs more dogs. No, because they weren't spayed. They are now spayed and live in relative comfort. They bring us a lot of comfort as well.ReplyDelete
It's funny you should mention dog food. I always think of it as pre-poop when I buy it, although human groceries are the same I suppose, pre-poop. The man you were sitting with sounds like an ogre, yes, I may have been watching Shrek:)
Dogs have been human companions since they joined us around the campfire. It's true that most don't work any more but they still give us love and a reminder that humans and animals are not so far apart.
I admire the fact that you choose to adopt rescue dogs Nurse Lily. I remember you referring to Lucy's health issues earlier this year. Is she still with us?Delete
Lucy is still alive and coughing. I talked to the vet and we won't put her down as long as she is enjoying her live and her kibble. She's much slower and grumpier but still gets excited about a dog bone. We just don't want her to suffer.Delete
Personally, I don't share that interest in bones. I would rather have a cheese sandwich. Nice to hear that Lucy is soldiering on.Delete
Most people I know walk their dogs around their neighborhood or drive to a nearby park to do so. They don't expend a lot of gas to do so. My dog owning friends get a lot of companionship, love and positivity from their animals. I don't have a dog (I do love my cat though) and wouldn't have one. They're too much work.ReplyDelete
I prefer cats too. They are far more independent.Delete
Like you I have never had dogs except on the farm. I think that well meaning people at pet rescue have collected an enormous amount of abandoned pet. People are adopting these little guys. I guess my point is that there are too many pets.ReplyDelete
It is estimated that there are 12.6 million dogs in Great Britain.Delete
There certainly are too many people on this planet, and too many people making too many car journeys for even the shortest distances (like the people Margaret mentions in her comment, taking their dogs to a nearby park for walks - why not walk there directly from home?) for whatever reason, and most of us wanting too much meat, too much food, too much of everything - that is the problem and not just one single factor such as owning dogs and other pets. But of course you know that.ReplyDelete
Yes I do know that and I also know that I myself am often guilty of taking car journeys that are "unnecessary" - such as driving away from this city for country walks. You will be pleased to know that tomorrow I plan to travel by train.Delete
The only dogs I've ever had were rescued so I've never contributed to the number of dogs in the world except I suppose to keep them alive longer than if they had been put down. And if they were put down, more would be bred to take their place.ReplyDelete
I live a very conservative life: barely travel, eat vegan half the time, buy everything I can second hand etc
Yes, my dog eats highly processed, carbon producing food but she also eat things that would otherwise be waste: chicken giblets, slightly off dairy etc
If every one was like me, the world might be better so I won't apologise for loving a dog
I wish that more dog owners had your approach Kylie.Delete
Oh, and I have to say I have previously considered the ethics of dog ownership and sadly I may not be able to justify it if I didn't have a rescue dog but there will be rescue dogs in abundance for generations to come because people are greedy, selfish and excessiveReplyDelete
By rights, there should be very few rescue dogs but it seems there are many because some dog owners don't properly consider what ownership might entail.Delete
I have a 5 minute drive very morning to take the dog for his walk in a safe and beautiful place where we also meet friends. If I had to walk there I wouldn't be able to then do the walk, or get back home using my increasingly ageing body!ReplyDelete
I had my first dog when my youngest son was about 14.....I needed another " baby" and had also got used to taking a friend's dog for walks, but they moved away. Now on our 2nd dog who we had as a puppy ( 1st was a rescue) because we had small grandkids by then and needed to know that any dog we had would not be a danger to them. He is a much loved part of our family.
I don't like to see those massive dogs that are as big as an adult human being. I am sure they eat far too much.Delete
When my previous dog (Bok) died, I cried like a baby for two weeks. Recently a very loved ex-girlfriend died and I didn't shed a single tear (even though I would have liked to). I suppose this says something about how close one can become to one's dog.ReplyDelete
There's the only story about putting your dog in the boot of your car for half an hour, when you open it up the dog will be wagging its tail in joy. Then try doing the same thing with your wife!
Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, my wife does not have a tail though she does have a collar and a lead for Saturday nights.Delete
I'm in favour of dog ownership, they are loving companions and good burglar alarms too. They also eat table scraps as well as commercial dog foods. I'm NOT in favour of city people owning more than one dog. Space is limited, city folks often have both people working and the dog or dogs are left alone most of the time. If the dog is a howler, neighbours will be complaining. If the dog is not trained, the neighbours will be complaining. Then there is the poo pick-up so necessary in towns and cities. With more than one dog, that's a lot of poo. Out in the country, where people have acreage, dogs can run about more freely so need less in the way of dogwalking and can probably catch the odd rabbit or two to supplement the commercial dog food.ReplyDelete
It really is a complicated issue. I love dogs myself, but won't have one.
You raise a good point about having just ONE dog - less food eaten and less poo-poo.Delete
Interesting to read the comments. Pet owning, especially dogs, is such an emotive subject.ReplyDelete
Over the past 40 years we (my husband and I) have had six dogs - on occasions three at the same time. Apart from the first two, the rest have been rescues in one form or another - all of them have been the most wonderful company - and comfort in times of stress and loss. My current dog is a retired breeding Labrador and together we have adjusted to life without my husband. Today she is 13 years old, a good age for a bigger dog, but her health is failing, and soon I'll have to make the distressing decision to let her go. Usually, I walk her around the neighbourhood, but if I can manage to get her into the car, I'm going to take her down to the beach (5 minutes away) and we'll take one of her favourite walks along the promenade and perhaps it will be her last look at the sea.
I'm glad that you mentioned your own use of your car - I just hope the trains are running!
On the subject of over-population - why am I reading so many articles about declining birth-rates?
Maybe you are not reading about birth rates in India, Africa, Brazil and Indonesia for example. I hope that Juanita (your furry friend) makes it to the beach and has a nice walk with Mama Carol.Delete
By the end of this century those countries which still have increasing birth rates will be providing labour for countries where the birth-rate has fallen below 2.4 children.Delete
Sadly, we didn't get to the beach - she refused to go in the car! We had a nice walk around the neighbourhood instead. Her name is Inca, by the way!
I know that dogs, and cats, are essential companions for many people. I try to avoid contact with animals as they can trigger an allergic reaction which affects my breathing but I know that this offends some owners.ReplyDelete
"HOW DARE YOU REFUSE TO PET MY TYSON!....Tyson - ATTACK!"Delete
I have been accused of keeping company with dogs, but aside we had two dogs who we loved dearly and kept them from a young age until their deaths.ReplyDelete
To focus on your point, dogs are wonderful companions. Balance their environmental impact against the mental health and companionship benefits to humans, remembering that that humans and dogs have connected for many thousands of years, it is a no brainer. Dogs are good. Humans perhaps less so.
How come 67% of British households do not require dogs for companionship and mental health reasons? That figure is 60% in Australia.Delete
I think having dogs probably has much less environmental impact than bringing human babies into the world. I figure I've done my part for the planet by not having children, so I can enjoy my pets with a mostly clear conscience. Plus, there are tradeoffs to everything in life--even pet cats are deadly to native songbird populations.ReplyDelete
By the way, Neil, I meant to comment on your last post. A very happy belated birthday to you!
You make a good point about human children and thanks for the late birthday greeting Jennifer. Appreciated.Delete
Jennifer, I agree whole-heartedly with your comments! We've also forgotten to mention what excellent work dogs can be trained to do to assist humans - they are not just family pets.Delete
Amen to that -- I feel the same way. My carbon footprint as a city dweller with no kids (but one dog) is TINY compared to that of many people!Delete
I am not a dog owner, but I understand the value they give, and some of them are delightful. I don't thing dogs will be the end of the world.ReplyDelete
It could be a puffin. Vladimir Puffin.Delete
I will take pets over children any day. Unconditional love? Yes, please.ReplyDelete
There are an estimated 77 million dogs in the USA. I guess it keeps vets in work and comfort.Delete
We had dogs growing up but I haven't had a pet since I left the farm. I find the whole dog ownership thing kind of bizarre, at least among the people I'm close with that own them. They are constantly unable to go or do things because they are saddled down with pets. They spend lots of free time taking care of those pets and moaning about how they never have enough time to do the things they want. They spend lots of money on vet bills, food, registration fees, grooming, etc. and are always talking about how they never have enough money. But yet if I ever bring up the possibility of just not getting another one after their current one, they can't imagine life without a dog.ReplyDelete
I also like to ponder our changing moralities. Things like how we used to think slaves were inhuman but now realize they were the humans and those who enslaved them were the beasts. I sometimes wonder if our views on dogs will change someday. After all, we took a animal that was free and enslaved it for our amusement, we keep it tied up with tethers and collars, even implanting devices into them so they can be found and returned to us. We keep them caged or tied up outside or locked inside house all alone for much of the day. We force them to eat dried unappetizing foods and dictate their schedules in almost everyway. We do all of this for our amusement.
Perhaps someday our future descendants will think us beasts for our cruelty to dogs. It will probably never happen to cat owners because we all know cats are indifferent and probably deserve what they get.
I don't know what to say, except perhaps that man in the pub did not like dogs - his problem not ours. That sort of blanket list he made could be made for anything we do.ReplyDelete
Use energy, eat food, ruin the countryside, would dogs exist without humans, their crime is to be loving and faithful, something we like.
In fact if I had been there I would have argued about all the poo humans make which is going into our sea and rivers and destroying the environment. Less humans, less dogs!
What an interesting question. I've never really thought about the environmental impact of pet ownership. Off the top of my head, my hunch is that most pet food is made of what are euphemistically known as "meat by-products" that would exist whether dogs are around to eat them or not -- being scraps from butchering meat for human consumption. I suppose some people do drive around their dogs (we don't, since we don't have a car), but I suspect the amount of fuel spent on dogs is minuscule compared to the amounts spent commuting to work and flying in airplanes. To be honest, the guy in the pub sounds like a bit of a crank.ReplyDelete
Yes, I agree with Thelma. His arguments against dogs could be applied to humans too! There are lots of things we can do to improve the condition of our world and we cannot blame it on dogs.ReplyDelete
I prefer cats but have never had a dog. I don't like their seemingly constant demand for attention, but imagine they can be a lot of fun. Dogs were banned in Reykjavik when I visited there. Mind you, beer was banned in the whole country until 1989.ReplyDelete
I think that, as humans, we make poor choices about things every single day. If we look closely at the things that need to be addressed to improve our world, dog ownership falls kind of low on the list. He sounds like an opinionated man who invents stuff to support those opinions. It doesn't make him right.ReplyDelete
It is such a shame you have never owned a dog. In my lifetime I have had two - one as a child and one when Kay was a child, The last one, Freddie, died ten years ago and I swear I wept more tears for him than when Greg died! I would have another dog in a heartbeat, if it weren't for the fact that I live alone and would be tied more to the house. It is true dogs are not as user-friendly as cats as they are social animals and need more stimulation and don't cope well with being left alone (hence my problem as a person living alone, if I want to go out for long periods of time), but their love is unconditional and, when they die, it is like losing a close member of the family. I still miss Freddie like crazy. They don't necessarily need special food (people only ever used to feed them scraps before the 1960s) and can eat more or less what you eat, within reason. As for travelling long distances to walk them and thus ruining the planet, I bet you do more trips in Clint in a month for a walk than any dog would ever do!ReplyDelete