Dogs vs apartments

Dogs, as pack animals, really aren’t meant to be alone. So it isn’t surprising that, when left alone for long periods of time, they get into mischief. Or start barking or howling. We had dogs most of my childhood, and they were rarely ever left alone. We had a big backyard, they got lots of exercise, and they were with at least one member of “the pack” almost all the time, even at night. They grew up well-adjusted and well-behaved without the need for obedience school or training or “crating”.

A friend of mine, who usually lived in apartments, had an Irish setter who was her constant companion for years. Irish setters really need time daily to run around and burn off their excess energy, something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough when their owner is really busy and they don’t have a big back yard. (My sister had an Irish setter who, when she’d take him to my parents’ house in the country, would just about pass out from joy when he realized he had fields and fields of room to just run around — in the city, he was usually chained up in the backyard all day long because my sister didn’t want to fence in the yard.) When I shared an apartment with this friend, I frequently was stuck babysitting the dog, largely against my will. (The choice I was given was either look after him myself or put up with a stranger coming in while I was sleeping — I worked shift work — to do it. As emotional blackmail goes, it was fairly effective.) I wanted to like him, I really did, but he was cuckoo, in a “Hound of Satan” kind of way.  I blame that on his being left alone far too often and for far too long.

One summer evening, a couple of years ago, our neighbourhood was disturbed by the constant barking of a dog. It was a really pathetic sound, the sound of a lonely or hurt dog, not that of a dog protecting his territory. It was hard to trace where the sound was coming from from up here so I got dressed and went outside. Several buildings down, there was the poor dog, barking and howling from his owners’ second floor balcony. The apartment was dark so clearly they’d gone out and left him there. The barking/howling went on for hours before they finally got home and brought him inside.

Tonight, a small dog has been barking since early afternoon. (It’s almost 11:30pm now and the interval between the bouts of barking is growing longer, but the dog is still barking.)  It’s not fair to the dog to leave him/her alone for that long a period of time. And it’s not fair to your neighbours, either.

(In slight defense of dogs, cats sometimes are a similar problem. A friend of mine used to live in the same building I do. When she would go away for long periods of time, I would look after her cat and she’d look after mine. Her cat was very attached to her and would cry like a baby when she was gone for too long. The first time it happened, her next door neighbour would have called 9-1-1 about an abandoned baby had she not known that my friend didn’t have children, the cat cried that constantly.)

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