Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Walking 10 Miles in the Snow to School Wearing Cardboard Shoes

I'm not elderly mind you but I am old enough to notice how much things have changed since I was a kid, particularly with regard to pets. For example:

When I was a kid...

  • We were told to stay well clear of the path of a chained dog.
  • We were told that if we were riding our bikes and a loose dog came around, we should stop and walk the bike home because if we sped away, the dog would chase us.
  • If a neighborhood kid got bit by a dog, that kid would likely be in trouble with a parent demanding to know what the kid did to provoke the dog.
  • When our females came in heat, we could let them outside only when my Mom was there to supervise and then it was just for a quick potty break.
  • Table scraps went into the dog bowl because "There are people starving in China and we don't waste food".
  • The Vet was for giving rabies vaccines and putting pets to sleep when the time came. Sick pets were given a cardboard box with warm blankets in a quiet corner of the house, same as abandoned baby squirrels and injured birds. Mostly though, our pets were hale and hearty. At least that's the way I remember it now. The wildlife did not fare so well.

Now I'm not saying that "only the old ways are right" by any means but it's interesting to note how attitudes toward pets seemed more common sense then than what we often see today. Then, we expected dogs to bite, especially chained dogs and those who were unsupervised around kids. It was an assumed risk. And on rare occasions, someone in the neighborhood did get bitten. But nobody's parents were running to the town council to ban the breed of dog who did the biting. Nor was the owner of the biting dog worried that authorities would seize and kill his dog. It was just a thing that happened. Like my neighbor cracking his head open after a bad fall off his bike (nobody wore helmets then) - we didn't have to all turn our bikes in to authorities, we were just supposed to "be more careful because this is what can happen".

Spaying and neutering pets was a convenience for owners who could afford it. We couldn't so we just safeguarded our dogs from unintentional breedings. And it was 100% successful, much to my dismay.

We fed our pets kibble but never questioned adding table scraps and sharing extra special bits on holidays and such. There either wasn't a massive blackballing effort against table scraps by the pet food and veterinary industries back then or if there was, it didn't reach our house. And the idea of taking a pet to the Vet for a dental cleaning or baseline bloodwork was utterly preposterous.

As I look over my little list, I think about how quick I am sometimes to judge how people care for their pets. I try not to jump to conclusions and yet, it happens. I wonder what the adult me would think about the kid me if I read about how my family took care of their pets in a blog post or online article. I hope I wouldn't be too quick to condemn because of course I thought then that we were good owners. I guess I still think that, even if my views have expanded and changed over the years.

What do you think about how you and your family raised your pets when you were a kid?


selkie said...

Add too that we KEPT our pets.... pretty well MOST of the dogs I knew as a kid were "mutts" .. not "special bred" doodles or whatever. I was musing on the same thing the other day oddly enough. I actually remember my mother TEACHING me how to approach dogs - NEVER to touch a dog without the owner's permission, NEVER put your face near a dog... because she was a parent and it was HER job to make US responsible for ourselves.

I think what we're seeing today is very much a result of the societal move towards refusing responsibility...

CyborgSuzy said...

I don't think those days are so far off - this sounds identical to my childhood experience, and that was in the late '80's, early '90's.

Then again, we also got our dogs from horrible-in-retrospect backyard breeders and I got to watch the family dog have seizures about every other month because there's no way we're spending that much money for medication for a dog...

jan said...

We didn't even know about spaying and neutering. (I'm probably more elderly than you.) But there was never a single unplanned pregnancy in our neighborhood. Twice a year we were very careful about letting our dog out.

She lived to be a 15 year old virgin without ever seeing a veterinarian except for rabies vaccinations.

But, yes, it was a time when we took responsibility for our actions. Sadly I see no return to this idea.

Susan said...

In some areas, I'm appalled at how we treated our dog, and in others, we did ok.

Our dog was routinely hit and kicked. He wore a choke-chain collar and we used a chain leash, and yanked on it, hard, when we were annoyed with him. Yes, annoyed - I can't even call it training. He was treated roughly in anger, especially by my mother, who hated him. No one gave him proper training. No one taught me anything about how to deal with strange dogs.

But frankly, that was not very different from how we treated each other (I was the youngest) and that was a reason I fled as soon as I could.

Yet he was given a lot of privileges, too. He was made a scrambled egg for breakfast every morning. He got scraps from the table. He loved coming in the swimming pool with us, and would float around on the floating lounge chair. He sat on the furniture. He slept on my sister's bed. He got regular vet care, except for the very end when my father was putting off what he knew would be the end. He lived indoors, in a comfy house that was cool in summer, warm in winter - no chains, no dog house. (No exercise to speak of, either, but who knew dogs needed exercise??)

My father loves animals, and if he taught me anything good, he taught me that. After our dog died (he lived a long life), my parents took in two stray cats which they treated very differently. My only criticism of how they cared for their cats was that they killed them with kindness -- they were morbidly obese. Since I was their child, it was not possible that I knew more than they did about anything, so my advice fell on deaf ears.

I took the good with me and left behind the bad. At least there was SOME good.

Rob said...

I don't have stories about the changes in treating animals, except to say I regret that we left my first childhood dog outside too long because of the flea problems, and noticed she got a foxtail in her eye only after it became terribly inflamed.

It must have been awfully painful.

On a totally unrelated note, I find it absolutely hilarious that your visitor tracker thinks I'm coming in from a Beverly Hills IP block. My office is actually in Ladera Heights (officially Los Angeles), sometimes (rarely) called the "Black Beverly Hills" because it was an enclave of upper-middle-class professional African-Americans. AFAIK it still is, judging by the people walking around in the neighborhood ...

Smart Dogs said...

Dogwise, my childhood was much like yours with one difference. Most of my relatives lived on small family farms. Dogs there mostly ran loose and a lot of them got hit by cars and farm equipment.

Three-legged dogs weren't unusual and dogs that harassed livestock went out to the back forty and never came back.

Pibble said...

My parents, like Selkie's taught us to respect dogs. We were taught to ask before we approached, but then again, we were also taught to be polite to strangers. You don't see much of that in general these days.

We took our dogs to the vet to be spayed/neutered and for rabies/distemper shots. We never knew about heartworm, Lyme, or anything else.

I had a dog who died from heartworm. Just a few weeks after my dad died. It was heartbreaking beyond words, especially when I learned it was something we could have prevented. Our vet was well educated and young; she kept up on the literature. But it wasn't something they were "pushing" at the time, along with dentals and Lyme vaccinations. That came years later.

Now, I only take one of my dogs for dentals because she has a heart murmur. I'm on-the-dot with monthly heartworm preventative for all four dogs, and they get vaccinations on time, all the time.

I feel like I failed my dog who died from heartworm, and I have to make it up to him, somehow. I certainly can't let that happen to another dog, ever again.

susan said...

When I was between eight and ten years old I used to walk my (poodle) dog Stormy around the neighborhood. Nobody picked up after their dogs back then and I remember several neighbors that used to come out and yell at me for letting him do his thing anywhere near their yard. Now that I'm grown I can't imagine walking out of my house and yelling at a small kid for something so insignificant. He had regular vet visits but ate some really crappy food as I remember it. My dad always liked to give him ice cream and other junk food that I would never feed a dog now.

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how improved vet care could be seen as going against common sense. Base bloodlines ARE common sense, as is taking your animal for care when they become ill. My three cats would all be dead right now if I followed your proposed common sense standards (which are actually much stronger than the accepted "old time" practice for felines- if it dies, get another). It is only by modern vet care that they are able to enjoy active, healthy lives despite their issues with cancer, cardiac problems, and blindness secondary to severe untreated herpes infection.

Brooke said...

from someone who's looking at thirty, when i think about then vs now, it's a world of difference. the dog i grew up with was spayed, after she had two accidental litters. (my mom got her at 19 because the neighbor kid's dad was going to drown the puppies, and all my mom said was bring me a girl.) she had hw, and my mom still to this day swears she never would have had the tumor in her leg somehow spread to her brain if she hadn't had to be treated for hw (mid 80's we're talking so not sure if arseninc or immiticide). the dogs we had when i was a teen were fixed...after the bitch had 3 litters, but that was due to mom's psycho ex who refuse vet care. after that they were both s/n, and since that time, 15 years ago, she and i both have been doing everything we can to make up for the ills of the past by s/n everything, working rescue, and getting at least basic care when needed, and more when we could. one of mine went to vet twice in 2 weeks last summer, once for a sprained toe (how did that happen???) and then for a slipped disc. but i can't help but agree that i was taught not to mess with strange dogs, and we'd never have thought of blaming the dog when the kid that got bit was the one at fault.

Barb said...

We were also taught never to bother a dog while it was eating. We had one dog I remember that WOULD bite us kids if we came near him while he was eating. If he did, it was our fault for bothering him.
We also didn't take the animals to the vet very often. Rabies and maybe a few other vaccinations, that was it. Vets didn't even suggest regular baseline bloodwork in those days (something that I now think is very valuable) but they only did labwork if the animal was ill. There were no specialists, and no 24 hour clinics although most vets took their own emergency calls.
We fed kibble from the grocery store but we also added a lot of table scraps etc. I remember that as a kid I wouldn't touch gravy but my mom wanted me to learn how to make it. So several times a week I'd make a batch of brown or white gravy and pour it all on the dogs' food!
Both we as children and our dogs got a lot more exercise than most kids or dogs do now. We were outside most of the time if it wasn't raining, and we explored all over the neighborhood on our own with our dogs in tow.
As I remember it, our dogs and cats mostly lived to pretty ripe old ages. Few vaccinations, plenty of exercise and some "real" food had to help. But it's also possible that I just don't remember the ones who died younger.

Barb said...

Oh, one other thing - back when I was a kid most of the dogs we had were strays. Some of them didn't work out - usually because they tried to kill our cats or chased the horses. If we had a dog that we couldn't keep we thought nothing of putting a "Free to good home" ad in the paper and giving it away to the first "nice" person who showed up.
I would never do that now, and I sincerely hope that all those dogs we gave away really did end up in the good homes we thought they were going to. It was a safer world back then in many ways, so they were probably OK.
Certainly it was better than taking them to the dog pound - there were no "shelters" back then, no rescue and pretty much all owner surrendered dogs were gassed.

selkie said...

I find it interesting that so many people when kids never had vet care for their animals or had them 'fixed'. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and we always had a houseful of animals, every one of which was neutered and had at a minimum, rabies. Granted, in hindsight, my mum was different - I remember her lecturing friends and neighbours about getting their animals neutered and getting their shots!

YesBiscuit! said...

Villis - I anticipated when writing this post that someone out there might misinterpret my intent. Therefore I was careful to include such phrases as
"Now I'm not saying that 'only the old ways are right' by any means"
"my views have expanded and changed over the years"
to ensure I was being clear. Apparently, at least with you, I failed. If you decide to become a regular reader at some point, you will find I do take my dogs to the Vet for care and post about it on occasion.

Anonymous said...

I think in turn that you misunderstand me. I am a regular reader, though I have not commented before. I take no issue with your current care of your animals and I am sure it is excellent. It just seemed odd to see leaving ill pets in a bed in the corner placed beside such things as "don't poke a dog when it is sleeping" and "human grade food can be healthy in moderation". One of these things is not like the others. I think the "good old days" are often seen with a fond eye that blurs some harsh truths. The other reason I reacted strongly is that too often people who seek advanced vet care even now are seen as just a bit crazy and over the top. After all, it is just a cat, so why pay close to $15,000 to nurse it back to health? It was not a better world for animals when people neglected their health care needs, nor is it common sense to provide the bare minimum.

YesBiscuit! said...

Villis, I may be misremembering, as you say there can be a "blur", but I honestly don't remember any of our pets suffering - with one exception. There were 2 stray kittens who were deathly ill when we took them into the house. They probably had distemper (just a guess). I remember them in their box and I do believe they suffered. Had we been able to afford veterinary care to try and save their lives, I'm sure my parents would have brought them to a Vet. We could not and had we taken them to a shelter, I'm guessing they would have been immediately euthanized. At any rate, I can recall a few bouts of "under the weather" dogs but nothing serious. And to clarify, I did not intend my message to be that denying lifesaving veterinary care makes more sense than providing it. I do disagree with your point on the "bare minimum" but perhaps, were we to flesh out that issue, we might find ourselves agreeing after all. I am very sensitive to the idea that poor people should be allowed to have pets. If we reach a point in this country where no pets are being killed in shelters and every pet is in a home, maybe I'd revisit that, I don't know. But thank you for being a regular reader and for commenting. I hope you will join in again.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between it is acceptable to provide the bare minimum and it is common sense to do so. If an animal is ill or injured and the owner can only afford to euthanize, then they have done their best for that animal. And I certainly agree that the animal had a better life than it would have been provided by the shelter system. After all, in most shelter the animal might never have lived long enough to become ill! Still, "common sense" implies the reasonable path. It isn't reasonable to avoid veterinary care for any reason, just deeply unfortunate when it happens, as I'm sure the owner would agree. So I think our disagreement is based mainly in word choice on that point.

YesBiscuit! said...

I did not intend that list to be taken as literally as you apparently did. My common sense remark was a general one of *attitudes* and not intended to apply to every specific thing I listed.
Just as you are sensitive to wanting to avoid the 'nut' label for spending $15,000 on a sick cat, I am probably sensitive to wanting to avoid the 'cruel' label for anyone not being able to afford to spend a fraction of that. Again, speaking in generalities, I want to encourage people who can afford to feed and provide basic (or "bare minimum" if you like) veterinary care to a pet to adopt from a shelter or take in a stray.

katie said...

The thing that stands out the most to me as having changed is the stance of people on biting dogs. When I was a kid, if we got bitten by a dog, it was our own darn fault. Now it seems like if a dog bites somebody, even if the bite is 100% warranted, somebody's screaming for death.

Our dogs were neutered, received regular vet care, lived inside (one was chained out for short periods before we had a fence), ate kibble with assorted people food goodies on the side. Same as now.

Oh, and flea treatment. That has blessedly changed. I remember sitting in the shade on hot afternoons, picking fleas off the dog and drowning them in soapy water. Don't miss that!!