Some people shouldn’t have pets. Take my family. I had anywhere from 3-7 siblings when I was growing up. There’s no way a parent will notice a listless cat needs a vet visit when they don’t even know that child #2 has a chipped ankle because they’re busy bandaging the road rash of child #4, dragged an entire block by the dog they never had the time to train. Eventually, the ill-trained dog will be sent to the local doggie death center. The children will cry. The dog will be replaced by a bunny. Raccoons will eat the rabbit because it was left outside.
Welcome to the circle of life, suburban edition.
So I was understanding when other people’s dogs got loose. These dogs invariably found my dogs on our daily 6 mile trek. I collected at least a dozen friendly canine escapees and got them back to their owners. At least a dozen more escapees were aggressive, or at least aggressively guarding their block/ yard. The minute they saw my dog Woofie, they attacked him. Some dog owners heard the commotion and came running. Not once did I lose my temper or tear even the repeat owner/ offender a new asshole. Admittedly, that would have been overkill, as my other dog Fey didn’t think anyone should beat up Woofie but her. She’d usually torn the attacker a new one already.
When the charging dogs were small, I hauled ass and dogs down the street. Usually hysterical children trailed behind the dog like a comet tail, crying after accidentally letting their dog out. There was good reason to cry, too — no Yorkie going to survive my Shar-pei/ Shepherd’s counterattack. Having lost so many childhood pets of my own, I couldn’t bear the thought of a child sobbing over the broken body of their tiny dog. So I ran.
My dogs followed, albeit reluctantly. Clueless Woofie looked longingly back at a potential playmate. Clueless Woofie firmly believed he was beloved by all.
Meanwhile, Fierce Fey snarled threats over her shoulder: “I would kick your ass, if I weren’t such a good girl!”
The little dog would eventually tire. He’d strut home unscathed, yapping: “Did y’all see that? Two big dogs, fleeing in terror, because that’s right, I’m bad, you know it!”
When new neighbors with three girls under age 5 moved into the house behind us, I was relieved to see they didn’t have a dog. I could see a neglected, bored dog trying to dig under the fence or playing “who can bark the loudest” with Fey and Woofie.
The dad asked me to introduce his girls to Woofie. The second Woofie pranced toward them, the girls screamed and ran. In vain did Woofie demonstrate how he could shake hands, play dead, or bark on command. The girls never came closer than 10 feet.
Their parents seemed bummed that their girls were clearly not dog lovers, but again, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Any time you want to play with a dog,” I cheerfully told the girls, “come on over.”
They never did.
Instead, they got two bunny rabbits. The father proudly showed me their hutch in the backyard. The girls played with the rabbits for a month before resuming other games.
I soon found the rabbits munching their way down the street at 6 AM. My dogs and I spent 20 minutes herding the bunnies back into their yard. I told the dad.
His response? “Yeah, they got out.”
Those rabbits got out repeatedly. Fey became an expert bunny herder.
I popped my head over the fence yet again, telling the father he was lucky I’d found the rabbits before the raccoons did.
He shrugged, pointing to various plants in the yard, complaining about how the rabbits chewed on everything. They’d killed several shrubs and trees.
At which point I realized that my neighbor WASN’T LOCKING HIS PETS UP ON PURPOSE. He wanted those bunnies gone. He didn’t care if it was by ravenous raccoon.
Unless you’re planning on moving, the last thing you want is ugliness with your neighbor. There was already one legendary feud on my block that had raged for over a decade. I bit my tongue and waited until later to rant to Andy about crap pet owners.
My husband immediately asked, “You’re not gonna adopt those rabbits, are you?”
“What, so your parents can eat them on their next visit? No, I’m gonna keep herding them back into his yard until they eat all his plants. Which is no more than he deserves.”
But my neighbor stepped up his game. Within a week, two other neighbors had called me, breathless, telling me they’d found domestic rabbits on the street and asking if I knew where the bunnies belonged.
I happily informed them of the bunny’s street address. The rescuers returned the bunnies to a less-than grateful owner.
Over the next month, the rabbits escaped daily.
Each time they disappeared for more than an hour, I imagined my neighbor breathing a sigh of relief, thinking the coyotes had finally done his dirty work for him.
But each time, someone brought the bunnies home. Sometimes it was me. Mostly it wasn’t. I learned that our block was packed with animal lovers delighted to play hero. Until those heroes realized that the escapes were not accidental. One woman gave my neighbor a piece of her mind, telling him that if he didn’t want the rabbits anymore, he should find them another home instead of turning them into hawk bait.
After that, the rabbits were re-homed. A year passed, maybe two, or even three. I figured my neighbors had realized they just weren’t cut out for owning a pet.
Until last Christmas, when they got a dog.
Because you know what the biggest problem with shitty pet owners is?
They don’t even know they’re shitty pet owners.