Thursday, May 18, 2006

Put yourself in my place

I had a young woman come into the vet’s today, asking for advice. I can do advice, so that wasn’t a problem. She said her dog had snapped at her toddler three times and she wanted to know whether she ought to muzzle her dog, rehome him or have him put down. Luckily I know to ask questions; is there a pattern to when it happens; for instance is the dog guarding his food, has the dog been ill, or hurt himself? The first two times the mother said she didn’t see what had happened, but the last time the dog was lying down and the toddler sat on him and bounced, and the dog snapped at him.

I was very proud of myself - it’s very difficult to be diplomatic when you want to scream “You effing stupid woman!”. I explained that small children are too immature to realise that other people and animals have feelings, and need to be taught that pets aren’t toys. Children can unwittingly be very cruel sometimes. I sympathised at how difficult life is with a toddler, and how you need eyes in the back of your head to stop them getting into scrapes, and told her that the general advice is to never leave dogs or cats unsupervised with small children; if she can’t be with them then they need to be separated – baby gates are good for this. She looked rather gobsmacked and said they’d got gates but had ‘lost the fixings’ … perhaps she ought to buy some more? An excellent idea! I agreed. She seemed a tad surprised at the intimation that it was caused by the child’s bad behaviour and that it was up to her to control him better (not that I put it in as many words, of course, but she certainly didn’t get the response she seemed to be after!). I have no idea whether she’ll do it, though. Maybe, just maybe, she’ll begin to realise that an pet doesn’t deserve to be bullied, and will defend itself if the owner doesn’t take the responsibility. Dogs in pain or frightened are likely to snap, even the sweetest-natured one, and even rational people get short-tempered if they have a headache or tummy-ache. Why do so many people think their pet has no feelings? Maybe she should rehome the dog – to someone who’ll respect it. What’s certain is that she shouldn’t muzzle it yet still allow the child to bully it.

PS. The cat who was to be castrated didn’t turn up for his little appointment.