In the winter of 2011, I did something I never thought I’d ever do. I stole my neighbor’s dog in the middle of the night.
It was January, and I was living on the outskirts of a military town in North Carolina. I was a fairly new dog parent still learning the ropes, but I had gotten the hang of potty training and my dog Lady was finally letting me sleep through the night. I was surprised when, on one particular night, she woke me up by pacing back and forth in front of the bedroom door, her signal for “DUDE. I NEED TO PEE.”
But when I let her out into the frigid snowy night, she galloped to the fence I shared with my neighbor. There, she stopped and sniffed. Then she paced a little, whining and sniffing again. I could hear the neighbor’s American Bulldog mix, Blackjack, on the other side, sniffing too.
I shivered and waited, thinking my neighbors had just let their pup out for a brief potty break. Surely they’d call him back inside soon? But their lights were off, and no one called out for him. I headed over to peek through the fence, and there he was, his black and white body chained to a tether almost completely covered by the snow that continued to fall through the night.
For many of us, our dogs are family, and we let them share our home like any family member would. We let them snooze on our bed, share meals together, perhaps even go on vacation with them. For these lucky pups, life with humans is as sweet as it can get. But many dogs are not as fortunate.
The Portage Animal Welfare Society shared this post to their Facebook page in the hopes that people who have never thought about the harmful effects of chaining their dog up can see that it’s not the way to treat an animal considered by many to be part of the family:
They also shared a link to an article on a website about dog training citing aggressive behavior, excessive barking, and dogs ingesting their own poop as problematic behaviors often caused or exacerbated by leaving an unattended dog tied up outside all day.
I kept Blackjack at my house overnight, where he enjoyed sleeping on the dog bed Lady rarely ever used, and walked him over to the neighbors’ house when they returned the next day. They had left him out because they were away for the weekend, during which another neighbor came over regularly to feed him and pick up his poop.
“It was really cold last night,” I told them, hoping they would at least understand that they had knowingly left their dog outside to brave the elements without even a blanket. “Oh, he’s fine. We used to leave him out in all types of weather in Kentucky. He’s used to it.” They thanked me for looking out for him, but I never saw that pup set foot in the family’s home. The law for the county I was living in did not prohibit tethering dogs.
We like to think that a “forever home” is all a dog needs to be happy and healthy, but sometimes belonging to a human isn’t a guarantee that a pup is safe. Abuse, neglect, and even sheer ignorance can be the difference between a forever home that allows a dog’s confidence to grow and a yard that’s not much more than a place in which to exist, receiving the basics to stay alive but not benefiting from social interaction or the warmth of a caring family.