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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 5/22/09

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Dear Rachel,

You may choose not to print this letter, but I am hoping that you will. It addresses a concern that I have rarely seen discussed in a frum publication. Nevertheless, there must be other readers who will relate to the subject.

My husband has gotten this yen for owning a dog. We live in our own home and have a nice though not very large private backyard. My husband feels that a dog would be a deterrent to unwanted visitors.

My problem, to be perfectly honest, is that I tend to cross the street when I spot a dog from a distance away. I considered the possibility that I might be able to get used to a gentle animal of my own, but I was highly skeptical. A recent experience has backed up my hunch. I should also add that as a stay-at-home-mom I am the one manning the home base, while my husband is out for the better part of the day.

Our eight year-old-son was very excited at the prospect of having a pet. But then again, he was also excited about the turtle we got him when he begged for it, and I’ll bet you can figure out who ended up cleaning up the smelly mess.

Anyhow, my husband recently visited an animal shelter in the city we live in and brought a dog home by way of convincing me that one can easily integrate itself into our household. This dog actually seemed docile enough and in no time became quite comfortable, especially when I would be cooking dinner. In response to his hungry panting, I threw him practically all of the meat that I had prepared for our family’s meal.

In fact, within a short time frame, like one day, the dog became my shadow. After a couple of days of having the dog follow me all day long (and I mean I did not even have privacy where everyone else in the world manages to have some), I felt myself going into stress overload. I wasted no further time in informing my well-meaning but misguided husband that he could choose between us: it was either the dog or me.

With much misgiving on my husband’s part and very obvious reluctance on the dog’s, the animal was duly returned to the shelter.

Was I wrong, mean, justified ?

Guess who’s in the doghouse now

Dear Guess,

Thanks for the smile, though, I imagine that you were actually far from amused, and I can’t really say I blame you. From being afraid to encounter a dog in the street to having one confined with you 24/7 is quite a leap to take.

Unless there’s an animal lover on the premises willing to take on the responsibility that goes along with owning a dog (training it, walking it, feeding and caring for it), it would be an injustice to the animal itself to assume its care. A backyard is nice but insufficient – a dog needs more attention than a fence and some fresh air and is certainly not meant for indoor confinement. By its very nature, a dog requires much romping space.

Besides, as your letter indicates, the animal lover in your home obviously had no intention of personally seeing to its welfare. To have shouldered you with the burden of dog duty, reluctant as you were to the idea in the first place, was wrong and inappropriate. I would therefore take the position that you are/were perfectly justified to have given your husband a take-it-or-I-leave ultimatum.

You comment that your husband felt the dog could serve as “a deterrent to unwanted visitors.” If this refers to a potential intruder, that’s great. But what of those who come to your door expecting a warm human welcome and are instead startled or intimidated by the sound/sight of a barking or menacing dog?

And then, of course, there is the issue of whom to leave your pet with when you have occasion to get away for a few days or longer and cannot possibly take the dog along. A pet cannot be abandoned or left to fend for itself.

No offense to animal lovers everywhere, but not everyone is cut out to own one. First you’ve got to be an “animal lover” and then you must have the means to properly care for it.

What are you doing in the doghouse? Throw off your leash and stand up straight for what you believe.

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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