Are you a responsible guardian?

A few weeks ago I as at the dog park when a woman asked, “Are you a dog walker for a living?”. “No, why?”, I replied. “Well, your always right by your dogs watching them very carefully. So I just figured…”. I asked, “Isn’t that what good dog moms do?” I’m well aware of my dogs short comings and accidents do happen, so why not try to keep them to a minimum.

It got me thinking about what it is to be a “good dog mom”. I think it really comes down to how you perceive your relationship with your pets. Are you an owner or guardian? Do you own your pet and they or used for a specific duty or do you guard your pet like it is a family member?

Ownership has many levels. To be a pet owner, means you provide the basics. Food, shelter, water and hopefully kind treatment. There’s also being a “good owner” where you provide the basics, kind treatment, toys, a bed or couch to sleep on, your up to date on vaccinations, your pet is spayed/neutered and maybe a nice fenced yard for exercise. You might even take your dog every Saturday morning to the park to run their pants off.

I think most would like to think they are “responsible owner”. You do all of the above, but your pet gets adequate exercise for the breed, they’re  current on all vaccinations, including Bordatella, get monthly flea treatments and heartworm preventive and maybe enroll your dog in an obedience class or two. Your dog is always walked on a leash in your neighborhood. Your cat is kept safely indoors. You realize your Bunnies, Guinea Pigs, etc… are prey animals and you keep them safely away from prey driven animals.

But being a guardian is so much more. Just like it sounds like. You guard your pets from harm. You do everything a responsible owner does and then a whole bunch more. You set an example of how your pets are cared for, you allow joggers or walkers  to move past you and your dogs with ease and without being intimidated by your dogs, you don’t let your cat poop in your neighbors garden, you pick up your dogs messes, you don’t allow your pet to be an nuisance.

Whether you have a small dog, big dog, a Bully, kitty, bunny or other pet, your job is to protect them from things that may harm them. When you let your kitty outdoors, there are tons of things that can hurt or kill them, including neighbors that are annoyed by them, cars, dogs, kids and the list goes on. Do you leave your Bunny or Guinea Pig unattended in an x-pen in the yard? What would happen if a dog wondered by or even one of those neighborhood cats? Even worse, what if they got out? They are prey animals after all!

Dogs! That’s a whole other conversation. The thing with dogs is that you don’t have to just protect them from things that might hurt them, but from things they bring on themselves too. I think back to a while back when I was at the park and as I entered, I a saw this 25-35 lb Jack Russell-ish mix. I walked in cautiously because I noticed the owner was on the completely other side of the park reading and I have 2 large dogs, one of which doesn’t take kindly to bossy little dogs. The dog ran over to its mom and was hanging out so I let one off of the leash. They little dog then came over and bit my dog and started running. All was fine. Another dog walked in. That dog and mine were having a blast playing chase and hunting chipmunks. All of a sudden, the little dog ran over, bit and growled at both dogs. They stopped and looked at him, then he came back at them again. This time it was on. Luckily, myself and the owner of the 3rd dog were right there and able to grab our dogs.

The little Jack almost got eaten because he was being a little jerk. Did the owner of the Jack notice the happenings? No, because she had her head in a book. When I brought it to her attention she responded, “Oh he’s fine. He can handle himself.”  If she had taken a second to look up from her book, she would have seen he was greatly outmatched. Was she a guardian to her dog? No. If she was, she would have seen him being a jerk and leashed him or left with him. Were the other girl and myself being guardian? Absolutely, our dogs could have been taken away from us and euthanized because they hurt or killed a dog that was picking a fight with them.

My question to everyone is are you a guardian for your pet or just owning it. During this time when Breed Specific Legislation is getting a bigger grip and affecting breeds like Mastiffs, Boxers, Chows, Sharpeis, Dog de Bordouxs, Newfoudlands, Pyrenese and mixes or possible mixes of them, not just Pits, Rotties and Dobies, are we protecting our pets? I hope that this blog, if nothing else, gets everyone thinking what  can I do to be a better guardian. If we all start thinking in terms of “guardianship” instead of “ownership” then owners who are back-yard breeders, puppymill operators and dog fighting rings would be exposed for what they are.  Irresponsible. Responsible guardians would no longer worry is my dog the next dog to be discriminated against.

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