OK. Some questions for you, prompted by a TV programme I saw last night (about which more later):
Q1: Is a dog for life or just for Christmas?
Q2: What would you say about people who get a dog and then neglect it –don’t walk it or make sure it’s properly fed and housed, don’t protect it from abuse, don’t give it affection and reassurance throughout its life?
I’m going to take a chance and say you’d reply ‘For life’ to Q1, and to Q2 you’d say that anyone who gets a dog and doesn’t stick around to walk it, feed it, house it, protect it from abuse or give it affection throughout its life is a shameful swine and should never have got a dog in the first place.
But what if I’ve got a dog and then there are other pressures in my life? I’ve got a new boss who makes me work late so I’m tired when I get home. Or I’ve got involved with a drama group or a political party, and there’s simply not the time to check the dog has been fed properly and is in his kennel or to pat it and tell it its a great fellah each evening. Am I still expected to do all those things for the dog I got?
Again I’d guess your answer would be “Look, the dog is helpless, it depends on you. Once you take on the commitment of owning it, you are saying ‘I’ll look after this mutt, give it a home, meet its needs no matter what. I can’t see the future but regardless, in getting this dog, I commit to meeting all its needs’”.
OK. Now back to that programme on TV last night. It was Pat Kenny’s ‘Frontline’ on RTE (and incidentally, Kenny is like a man released from prison, now he’s allowed to deal with serious issues and avoid the Late Late Show froth). The question under discussion was ‘What constitutes the family in Ireland today?’ There was considerable input from all sorts of advocates, notably gay and lesbian groups. But I want to sidestep any number of fascinating issues, because viewing the programme pushed one disturbing question to the front of my mind and it simply won’t go away. I wonder if it’s easy for other people to answer, because while I think I have an answer, it’s a very disturbing, against-the-grain one.
My question is this, then: If we agree that a dog is for life – getting one means commitment to caring for it all its life, regardless of what else pops up in our own lives – shouldn’t the same apply to every child brought into the world? And doesn’t it apply equally to the man and the woman who originally conceived that child? We wouldn’t tolerate excuses or reasons of changed circumstances for a dog-owner neglecting his/her mutt – you get it, you look after it. Yet we find all sorts of reasons for couples splitting up and walking away (by the man or woman – usually the man) from the daily attention/care/love required by a child they’ve brought into the world.
Odd, really. We wouldn’t accept reasons of changed circumstances for failing to follow through on commitment to give a dog all that it needs all its life, but we accept as normal the failure to follow through on commitment to give a child all that it needs all its life.
Dogs before children? Sounds daft.