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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2 thoughts on “Dogs vs apartments

  1. People really need to sit down and consider how an animal is going to affect their lives before committing to a pet. I have one cat and always thought cats were independent and fine to be left with just someone to come in a couple of times a day to feed and play with them. Boy was I wrong. Although he ignores us most of the time, my cat likes to be in the same air space. He likes to know where we are. He likes us to be all tucked up in bed before he feels able to tuck himself in for the night. He knows when we have to get up, when it’s time for us to come home. So, when we go away for a few days, he gets all distressed even though I have a nice lady come in and sit with him for hours every day. I can’t even contemplate going away for a week or more. I’d have to get someone to house-sit full-time. Also, I’d miss him.

  2. Funny, I thought that same thing about cats until I had one of my own. Cats aren’t pack animals, but they aren’t loners. In feral colonies, they live in what are essentially families. Had I known that, I would have adopted another cat when I adopted mine, so that he wouldn’t ever be alone. (Mind you, a former friend of mine, who can communicate with animals, asked B once when he was still a fairly young cat if he wanted another cat in the household for company and was told unequivocally that B didn’t want to share me with anyone. That was funny to watch, by the way, my friend and B “talking” — cats don’t like to be stared in the eye but these two were eyeball-to-eyeball very intently for several minutes.)

    Unfortunately, my old man is a bit curmudgeonly when it comes to strangers in the apartment so I can’t have someone come in to house sit, nor is a cattery even a remote possibility. And I miss him terribly when we’re apart. (Boy, those are the days I wish *I* could talk to animals.) So I try to go away infrequently and for very short periods of time — my trip home in July last year was less than 2 days.

    My trip to Toronto in April is going to be a little over 3 days, and I haven’t yet decided if I should have a friend stop by to check on him — it might be nice for him to see someone while I’m gone, but it will also mess him up (it won’t be me, so it will underscore the idea that something has happened to me; and he’s more likely to start crying if someone comes in and then leaves too quickly afterwards). So I think I might just try to pretend it’s just a really long work day — I’m supposed to start the new job that week so his daily schedule is going to be a little messed up anyway.

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