Barking In Defense of Dogs

This is my reply to fellow Chicago Now blogger Stephen Markley's post about why he simply doesn't like dogs, or for that matter - it seems - animals.

Poor Stephen (odd we share a very similar name) begins by talking about the barking dog ordinance recently passed in Chicago (which i don't believe is a bad thing), cheering that it makes him happy that dog owners' experience just a sliver of the grief he has by not liking dogs. Wishing grief on others is an odd trait to be proud of...As he continues in his post, it becomes clear that he isn't writing about the city ordinance, after all, but rather why he hates dogs.

Hate is a pretty strong word...and it's an indeed unusual such an extreme word would be used to describe feelings about Man's Best Friends, unless perhaps he was mauled by a dog. Stephen's right, I imagine not liking dogs does cramp a style around women (dogs are chick magnets, right). But he's not right that women like dogs more than men. Those may be his personal observations, but they are not based in fact. (It is fact that women are caretakers for pets more than men.)

Cerainly Stephen's entitled to his views - but here's what we know about how dogs benefit individuals and our society. (I can document each of the following with citations, but I am out of town at a conference, and simply don't have the time to do so). And there are far more examples than what I list here....

- Service and assistance dogs provide independence for many who otherwise might not venture outdoors at all, let alone lead productive lives...for people with visual impairments to helping people with mobility issues. There are dogs who detect seizures and heart palpitations. The list of what service dogs can do has never been so long as it is today. There are dogs now being trained to alert children allergic to peanut products so they they don't come in contact with them. Talk to their parents about dogs. Hate dogs. One parent was literally in tears telling me about how daughter can now attend school and she doesn't have to go with her. Service dogs also help society, because when someone is disabled and can in some way contribute to rather than take from the system, it is beneficial for all of us.
- Search and Rescue dogs catch bad guys every day in America, and assist law enforcement in many ways, as drug and bomb sniffing dogs, for example. These dogs also assist our military in far more ways than I can begin to describe here. One example are dogs that detect land mines and are saving lives as I write this in land-mine laden Afghanistan. Even our most sensitive equipment can't replicate the nose of a dog. Search and rescue dogs also find lost children and Alzheimer's patients.
- Study after study demonstrates that petting a dog is beneficial; physiological changes do occur, among them changes in brain chemistry and beneficial changes in our own body's chemistry (as measured in urine in various studies). People with pets may simply smile more than those without pets. This little example (smiling more) is one of many. And incidentally, by smiling more, good endorphins are having a party inside our brains. Due to these beneficial effects (demonstrated by medical science - not what you might term crazy dog people), there are many doctors who have told patients 'get a dog,' for problems ranging from heart attack recovery to depression. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic (and elsewhere) have actually written on a prescription pad these three words:  'get a dog.'
- Children who grow up with pets tend to be more empathetic than those who do not.

- Reported in the popular press in recent years, it's been shown to be true - dogs can indeed detect cancer. I'm not only referring to dogs who are trained to do so, but ordinary pets. This doesn't suggest that you should forgo a visit to your physician in favor of a dog sniffing you...But scientists now know enough dogs have done this, and well before doctors identify cancer. Since early diagnosis is so beneficial, many of these dogs have saved lives
- Then there are the Lassie stories - dogs who have saved lives with miraculous events,recently in the news, a car crash and the dog runs down the street does a Lassie thing barking at the homeowner to come outside, Most common, waking when there's a fire or alerting of a home intruder...It may not happen everyday, but it does happen.
- Dogs in animal assisted therapy programs often are able to somehow wiggle into the hearts and minds of patients, eliciting response, when standard medicine may not. No one knows how dogs are able to do this - but they do.
- Dogs (or cats) give many a sense of purpose to seniors. In one study (this was conducted among seniors living alone) those individuals with a pet (not specifically a dog, but any pet) lived longer. However, to my knowledge, that study has not been replicated. Experts to do say, having a pet gives seniors a sense of purpose and something else to think about aside from themselves, not to mention the health benefits already documented in this post.

No one forces people to live with pets...If most people didn't want to, they simply wouldn't. Perhaps, you don't like animals, but most people must (a part of your complaint, I know) - since there are actually more pets than children in the U.S.

Way above at the top of the post I called you poor Stephen...I don't know you (though I'm happy to meet you sometime), but I do sort of  feel sorry for you. I'm sure you are happy with your life, and have a great life...but if you've never shared your life with a dog, I think you've missed out. And if you have never shared your life with a dog, you don't really have any way to know what I'm talking about. You can read the words - but you can 'feel' it.  But short of convincing you to adopt a dog, all I do is write the words, and they're true Dogs don't care if your Oprah Winfrey or if you don't have a dime to your name. They don't care what kind of car you drive, or what your job is, or what your ethnicity is. Yes, you are correct, they do follow you around; they do want to be with you no matter what. They are loyal. Personally, I admire loyalty...and how many people love unconditionally? Yes, you are right about the fact that dogs do bark, some slobber, and we should responsibly pick up their waste. For me, I'll pay that price anytime for what I receive in return from my dogs.



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  • DOGS are the BEST! i can't tell you how my life has been enriched because of them, my own AND others'...

  • I have a couple of friends who do not like dogs, and it is STRESSFUL. It's so much easier to be with our friends that do like dogs, so I see what Stephen is saying. Also, his post reminds of the the people who try to convert you to their religion ... with him being the prospective convert. I don't want to hear someone's story about being saved or how their god is an "awesome god." If only I'd agree to go to church with them and see ... So, Stephen, I get it. My god is an awesome DOG, and you'd rather not worship where I do.

  • Every time I come home, my Shiela waits to greet me. She waits til she sees I have put down my bags, checked the mail and kissed my husband. Then, when I sit down to say hi to her, we have a ritual. As I pat her she twirls around my hand. Then she shoots off like a bullet the other end of the house. Then she barrels back -- I can hear her coming before I can see her --, then I "twirl" her again and off she goes like a comet swinging around a planet. When she's done, she lays down in front of me, back legs straight out, watching.
    I have a dog training blog, and have written a children's book "How To Turn You Dog Into a Show-Off". Statistics are good to demonstrate what dogs mean in our lives, but to a get a real feel of what dogs do for us, you have to meet Shiela, and the millions of other Shielas just like her. My life would be barren without my dogs.

  • Well, I could write a book on why dogs are wonderful for people but in the interest of time, allow me to cut to the chase:

    I believe how one responds to, feels about and treats animals, gives us a quick glimpse into their psyches and even their souls.

    I believe dogs can be a direct reflection of us. And I believe they can bring out the best in us, calm us and provide companionship like no other creature put on this earth.

    Dog lovers have learned how to care for something besides themselves. To think of something other than themselves. To consider how their decisions affect something besides just them.

    Dogs bring out the best in us. And i do believe overall, they are mans best friend.

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    Oh and I read the article bashing dogs: Honestly, he pretty much sums it all up and proves my point about self-centered people. People with his attitude are one of the growing problems in society. They are the idiots that think no one around them matters as much as they do - You know the type.

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    BRAVO!! This is all SO VERY TRUE! Dogs absolutely give us so much and teach us what really matters in life. I am proof of that! My dogs helped me find my purpose and I'm so grateful. Like you Steve, I feel sorry for this guy that he does not understand what love these animals bring to our lives. He is truly missing out on the big picture. My wish for him is that he gets to experience the love a dog very soon.
    I can attest to all the therapy values of dogs from them helping me to now my dog doing this work... it is such a joy to share my dog with others... this work of service is awesome and I feel so blessed to do it.
    I really believe if we humans paid attention to what dogs teach us that we would have world peace... I really do.
    Thanks again for this great post... I'm going to share it!!

    ~Barbara Techel
    Author & Proud Mom of Frankie, the Walk 'N Roll Dog
    Offical Mascot of National Disabled Pets Day & Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame Companion

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    In praise of pet owners who love their animals, the vets, the dogwalkers, the responsible breeders, the rescue groups and shelters. I feel so very sorry for any one, especially this Stephen, who hasn't had the joy that is felt when a furry body is bouncing at the door because YOU are home. Too bad you refuse to feel the comfort of a sweet dog that licks your tears away when the rest of the world turns away. Steve Dale, please carry on. Some will never be educated but all we can do is keep trying.

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    I don't understand why anyone needs to go out of their way to say "I don't like X." If you don't like it, then ignore it. No one is making this guy get a dog. I for one hope he never imposes himself on a dog. My life is richer because I share it with dogs (and cats). People who don't get that don't have to get it. But, they don't need to complain about anyone's choices. I don't get the joy of watching football, but I don't waste my or anyone else's complaining about it.

    I do always feel bad for people who do not know what it's like to form a bond with another species, though. And, I wonder how someone can't help but get along with a dogs--who doesn't argue politics or religion with you, lets you decide what to have for dinner, doesn't complain about what's on TV, thinks everything you say is brilliant, and is happy to do anything you want to do. If you can't get along with a dog, my guess is getting along with other people is a real struggle!

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    I guess everybody is entitled to their own opinion but everything he said he hated about dogs are exactly what I love about mine. Thank you so much for saying what Sadie can't.

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    I agree with all of the reasons posted for loving dogs. I love all three of mine and still have love for more. However, for all that is wrong with the country in which we live, the beauty of this country is that we are all entitled to our opinions. I respect that Stephen has an opinion, I don't agree with it but I respect it. I hope that he would respect the role that dogs have in our society as companions to the lonely, lifelines for the disabled, rescuers to those in danger, and so on. And these dogs that he hates do so for no pay, just our praise and love. I wonder if his hatred would be so deep seated if he knew that dogs sniff out explosives and drugs before they cross our borders or board planed into our country. Does he hate the dogs that rescued and recovered the victims of the World Trade Center? What about the dogs that guide the blind and disabled who would ordinarily be subjected to a very restricted quality of life? Yea, I get it, some really bad dog owners have created some pretty bad dog situations. This can be challenging for anyone to deal with including dog lovers. However, the same can be said about people in our society. I hate criminals, murders, theives, etc. but I don't hate mankind. So I won't defend my love of dogs to Stephen because he won't get it due to his personal baggage associated with them. What I will do is ask Stephen to think about WHY he hates dogs. He may discover that it's not dogs that he hates but the bad behaviors of some dogs. I would also hope that should he be in need one day and a dog offers him help he will be gracious enough to accept it. The beauty of a dog is that they love us despite ourselves.

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    You've made many good points with this blog, Steve. It really did make me happy to read, as well as everyone's responses, and I agree with them 100%. As I said in Stephen's blog, everyone is definitely entitled to their opinions, and me being super opinionated I would never jump on anyone because of their views, but as far as animals go, at least in my eyes, they really do make me happy (not just dogs, all animals). As stated above, no one will ever love you as unconditionally as your dog or cat would, or be as forgiving and genuinely warm. Yes, I'm sure they do love you for feeding them, but show some love to stray animals, or visit a shelter, and I bet you any money that even if you're not their primary care giver they will still show you love in some way. Having to pick up dog poop is not even on my list of things that are an inconvenience in this lifetime. I feel fortunate to have my dogs.

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    yup, dogs are often hard working...ive seen a guide dog that actually helps its master shop. She gives it an empty wrapper and the dog sniffs and can pick out the matching loaf of bread or whatever...hates dogs? how sad

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    Steve, you've done a good job of listing some of the myriad of things dogs do for us. I might add that I've never been stabbed in the back by a dog. I feel sorry for those who have never opened themselves up to the love and companionship shared with a dog. I've heard people ask how people can do so much for dogs. So much? Contribute to research that also benefits people? Funny but those are the same people who aren't doing anything to help anyone. They don't volunteer their time to help people, to read to children. In fact, there are reading programs to help children - they read aloud to dogs and improve their own reading ability as well as their confidence. Problem dogs, however, have problem owners who have not done a good job of raising them properly with positive reinforcement, teaching them to live in human society. Or they buy a dog for the wrong reason and then ignore the dog. I wonder if they ignore the people in their lives as well. As for the blogger who "hates" dogs (a pretty strong word), I wonder who and what else he hates. I also wonder what he has done for someone else. Just one someone else.
    Darlene Arden, Cartified Animal Behavior Consultant
    Author, "Rover, Get Off Her Leg" "Small Dogs, Big Hearts"

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    People like you Stephen are THE reason some women prefer their dogs

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    Sorry 'bout of my cats jumped onto the keyboard. Silly kitty!!!!!! I gave him a kiss because he's so cute. Now back to my comment: People like you Stephen are THE reason some women prefer their dogs to their men. Didn't you ever see the t-shirt/mug/etc that says something like "the more I find out about men, the more I love my dog". I currently have 4 dogs and don't know what I'd do without them. My ex-husband didn't want the dog in the house......hence he's the EX. I have 10 animals, 4 dogs, 2 horses, 3 cats and a sugar glider and wouldn't tolerate anyone who doesn't like animals. Posters: Please don't suggest this guy get a wouldn't be fair to the dog!!

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    Dogs are amazing as are cats but it's better not to try to convince people to own pets. Much responsibility comes with the choice and there are way to many bad pet owners out there. Why encourage more? I have 5 animals, run a dog blog and am committed to rescue animals but I would never try to convince someone lacking compassion and responsibility that pets are great. I'd just keep my animals very far away from them.

  • In reply to cpdjustice:

    I'm very late on this but thought the difference in tones of the two sides of the "argument" is interesting.Hate is a word that incites, and I consider it extreme and reminiscent (I hope I spelled that right)of days gone by when groups of people hated other groups of people. Some of the comments seem to have been deliberately used to push buttons and START an argument. I hope I don't offend anyone, but is he Rush Lindbaugh in disguise?

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