Did you know that most people in America own a dog?
In fact, it is estimated that roughly 68% of American households own a pet. That’s 85 million families! Clearly, this is a HUGE percent of the population. And there are many families like my own. They don’t own one pet, they own several.
And because we own several pets, and our dogs like room to roam, living in the suburbs is attractable.
Living in the suburbs instead of the city means that we have more space. Our house is detached so we don’t have to worry when we dogs bark. We have a yard. There are roads and sidewalks to walk on and forests and fields to run in.
But there are many pet owners who also live in apartments. It can just be harder. You have less room. You’re subject to the rules of your landlord. There’s less green space.
But while living in the suburbs may seem like the ideal move for pet owners, I’ve started to notice a disturbing trend over the past couple of years.
Sure there are plenty of people in my neighborhood who own dogs, but there are also plenty of people who don’t and a significant portion of these petless households have made it well known that dogs are not welcome here.
That’s not to say that every home owner without a pet hates dogs or cats. There are plenty of good reasons not to own pets. You might be allergic. You might not be able to afford it. You might be afraid of them. And that’s okay. You’re not a bad person if you dislike cats or dogs.
But what makes you a bad person are the deliberate choices you make in an attempt to harm another person’s beloved pet.
I try my hardest to have a healthy dose of respect for my neighbors and their property and their boundaries. If they have a “keep dog off lawn” sign posted in their yard, I respect that. If they ask me politely to not let my dog go to the bathroom in their yard, I respect that.
I don’t believe my dog or I have the right to invade on anyone’s sacred space, just because the outside world happens to be my dog’s favorite place. It may be his bathroom and his play-space, but the world is not ours. We have to share it.
But I do believe that my dog and I have the right to feel safe in our own neighborhood.
Since we adopted dogs nearly four years ago, I have been screamed and cursed at for letting my dog on someone’s lawn. And I’m a grown adult. I can handle the outbursts. I prefer to be asked kindly not to let my dog use someone’s yard, but despite my grumblings I will respect my neighbor’s wishes.
But sometimes people take it farther than words.
I have neighbors who deliberately fill their yard with poisons or toxic substances to deter dogs and their owners.
Pepper flakes, moth balls, pesticides. You name it.
It’s easy to shrug it off. To say that it’s their property and they have the right to protect it as they deem fit, but would you be saying the same thing if you had a neighbor who was deliberately trying to harm your child?
Of course you wouldn’t.
To others, my dog may just be a dog. She kills the grass. She’s a nuisance.
But to me, my dog is everything and nothing breaks my heart more than to watch someone go out of their way to harm her.
And perhaps they don’t even understand the ramifications of what they’re doing. Maybe they don’t know just how deadly their actions are. Maybe they don’t know these substances can kill my dog. Perhaps they just think it will make them a bit ill for a day or two and they won’t come back.
But not knowing just how harmful your actions are will not bring my dog back when she falls ill or dies from your poisons. All because you didn’t want my dog going to the bathroom in your yard.
All I ask, is that for anyone who never owned a dog, or who doesn’t like dogs to stop and think of the potential consequences of their actions.
Put yourself in my shoes and imagine what it would feel like to have the dog you love so much pass away because of something you did.
It’s not a sin to want to protect your space. It is a sin to harm others. Children. Pets. Adults. Wild animals. It doesn’t matter who or what it is. Your actions have consequences you may not even understand.
It might take more effort to knock on someone’s door and have a conversation with them. It might be uncomfortable. It might be tense. But most pet owners are respectful. We don’t want to make enemies of our neighbors. We want them to feel comfortable and safe as much as we long to feel this way.
And if you don’t want my dog on your yard, all you have to do is ask.