Needy Dogs are All Around Us

I seldom repeat a column, but this is such a current problem, by request, I am sharing it again (originally published in 2012).



As Iowa weather grows colder, I would like to share an observation by Cherine Bissinger:

“As the weather turns nasty, I cannot suppress my deep feelings of desperation for the countless animals forced to endure a torturous existence with owners who willfully neglect or casually ignore the basic needs of their four-footed companions. Every day I am surrounded by humans who never extend an act of kindness toward voiceless, living creatures. Driving to work, I am horrified by the sight of helpless animals without any visible shelter. ‘What is the matter with us?’ I think to myself. ‘How can we allow such suffering?’ As I drive into town I see total disregard for decency and blatant lack of compassion for animal welfare, and as I park my car at work, my attention is drawn to the sight of a dog wagging his tail. The sun has barely risen, and the home where the dog is tied is dark. Apparently this innocent dog has spent the night outside in the blustery wind and cold, while his humans slept contentedly indoors, apparently oblivious of the painful effects of such inhumanity. I walk toward the dog, and he jumps up as much as the length of his chain will permit. He is shivering wildly, and I whisper words of comfort to the dog. I tell him how sorry I am for his predicament, and regretfully turn to walk into my workplace. Each step I take away from the dog, I imagine his desolate look of devastation for having been forgotten and ignored. I think of the thousands of animals suffering in silence. Life is unjust, and like the neglected animals, I feel helpless. When will things change? Feeble anti-cruelty laws, little enforcement of existing laws, and most of all public apathy are overwhelming. What has happened to us as human beings that we can ignore the plight of so many animals?”

We are all aware of dogs in our own neighborhoods who are not enjoying a good life. Maybe their caregivers don’t even realize that their dog is suffering. Without being judgmental, perhaps you could suggest ways to make life better. If you feel the dog is in danger, report it to the authorities, and follow up to be sure that appropriate action is taken. Each of us has a circle of compassion: the people and animals and things that we care about, that emotionally affect us. It may be our own family, our own friends, and our own pets, but not the family, friends, or pets belonging to others. It may be those just in our own comfort zone. Essentially, we all need the same things as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion: compassion, intelligence, and the courage to make the world a better place for both humans and animals. May we all strive to expand our circle of compassion.



by Albert Schweitzer

 Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends, the animals,

 Especially for those who are suffering;

For any that are lost or deserted, or frightened, or hungry.

We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,

And for those who deal with them, we ask hearts of compassion,

And gentle hands and kindly words.

Help us to be true friends to the animals,

And so to share the blessings of the merciful.


A Plea for Love

Prevention of animal cruelty is a year-round priority for animal lovers, the ASPCA has designated April to emphasize the importance of giving dogs the care that they deserve. Almost everyone agrees that intentional physical abuse of a dog is wrong, but there is another form of mistreatment which is just as painful to a dog, and is often not recognized as abuse at all. It is neglect.

Our laws require that a companion animal receive food and shelter, but there is no way to guarantee that an animal receive attention, and, for a dog, the absence of human affection is tragic. Dogs need to socialize and have companionship, so keeping a dog isolated usually results in miserable, lonely dogs who exhibit unacceptable behaviors. People sometimes mistakenly believe that a dog will be happy in the back yard all the time, but such dogs are inevitably sad, and bored, desperately wanting time with their humans.

A cruel form of containment which often accompanies the “backyard dog” syndrome is chaining. Besides isolation, the chained dog suffers the added frustration of not being able to do basic dog actions such as running and sniffing his own yard. When neglected dogs manage to get human contact, they are usually over-excited from deprivation and are likely to misbehave. Ironically, most dogs that are banished to the backyard never develop house manners or social skills and so, if they are occasionally allowed in the house, they do poorly and re-condemn themselves to solitude.

Neglected dogs suffer from greatly increased aggression, digging, barking and howling problems and are at great risk of being relinquished. The realities of our hectic lives often require that dogs spend part of the day in the back yard, and many of these animals receive plenty of attention and are happy and healthy, but to continually isolate a dog is no way to treat man’s best friend. Every neighborhood has dogs who are not receiving the attention they deserve, and often this is because caregivers lack financial resources, or honestly don’t understand their pet’s needs, not necessarily a desire to intentionally cause pain and suffering.

The key to preventing neglect is education, and sometimes just explaining to the caregivers in a non-threatening way why you have concerns for their dog might motivate some changes. Although it may seem unlikely that simply pointing out the neglect will be enough to remedy it, sometimes that’s all it take, if offered in a friendly, rather than accusatory, approach. Offer to visit with and/or walk the dog or offer to find the dog a new home. Even though it may take time and patience to improve a sad situation, the reward of knowing that an animal will enjoy a better life as a result of your efforts will be well worth it!!

A Plea for Love

by Sandy Finmore

“As I sit here all alone, I remember the days when I was a little puppy and everyone loved me. The kids used to brush my fur and play ball, and laugh and snuggle, but now I hardly see anyone. I vaguely remember the daily walks and romping in the grass, but now all I have is memories. My coat is tangled and under my collar is sore; I know I have fleas, and a couple of ticks, maybe even more. Some days I get fresh water and food, and sometimes nothing, but worse than no food is the fact that there is no love, no affection, no pats on the head. What did I do to deserve this lonely life? Does anyone care?”