Childrearing: Epic FAIL

Today’s post Up on the Woof is about a subject that I have found very disturbing over the past eighteen months or so. I would like my readers, whom I consider to be an intelligent and thoughtful group, to weigh in with their thoughts in the comment section below. I’m quite certain you will have an opinion and that it will be worth sharing. Here goes:

When I grew up in the 1960’s (yes, I really am that old), I referred to my teachers and friends’ parents by their last names. My teachers were Mr. Nosse and Ms. Stout, not Ken and Audrey. As a youngster, my friends’ parents were Mr. & Mrs. Margulies, (I still don’t know their first names!). It was the proper way to show respect to elders. It drew a line in the sand to distinguish who was in charge and who wasn’t.



My parents and teachers were allowed by law to spank me if I got out of hand, and although that seldom happened, the threat of it was enough to make me behave. The music of the times was top 40, Motown, heavy metal and psychedelic music. I spent more hours outdoors playing than I did indoors watching television. I received a top-notch education: 8 years of Catholic school and 4 years in one of the best public education systems in the country. The video games I played as a young adult were Pong, Pacman, Donkey Kong and Asteroids. This wasn’t just my experience…this was the typical experience of kids growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

I’m sure you are wondering what this has to do with dog advocacy.

Stories about animal abuse come across my desk every day that would make your hair stand up. More stories than not contain the phrase “Officials say it’s the worst case of animal abuse they have ever seen.” Stories of pets that have been starved, shot, stabbed and beaten abound.  But the most popular method of animal abuse over the past twelve months was dousing a live animal with an accelerant and setting it on fire.  Yes. You read that correctly.

Think about that for a minute.

Setting a live animal on fire.

Can you think of anything more horrific? More brutal? More wrong?

What kind of people have it in them to do such a thing; so callously, so coldly, so easily – with such blatant disregard for another creature’s pain and suffering?

Sit down, because the answer is a doozy.

The abusers setting live animals on fire are young people between the ages of twelve and twenty-five.

Something has gone terribly terribly wrong. What has happened in our society, in our homes, and in our schools that has turned out young people who are capable of these acts? What does that mean for the future of our world, and more importantly, how do we fix it?

“Justice”, one of the dogs set on fire in the past 18 months. The four month old puppy died from his injuries.

I told you about my own experience during my younger years at the top of this post for a  reason. We all know that children born between 1987 and 2000 had a wholly different experience than the one I outlined. Do the differences in any of the points I mentioned have a bearing on how these youth process information and fail to develop empathy?

Let’s open up a forum for discussion here. Please weigh in…

About yelodoggie

C.A.Wulff is an author, artist and animal advocate. She has been involved in pet rescue for over twenty-five years. She has written two books about her true-life adventures living with an ever-changing house full of pets: Born Without a Tail, and Circling the Waggins, and a guide to animal advocacy using the Internet as a tool: How to Change the World in 30 Seconds". Wulff also wrote a pet column and book review column for the Examiner, and was a contributing editor for She attributes her love of animals to having been raised by Wulffs.
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10 Responses to Childrearing: Epic FAIL

  1. rumpydog says:

    I don’t believe that being threatened with a beating is what made you a better person. I believe that discipline taught to you resulted in your learning self-discipline, and that is what made you a better person.

    Do we teach children self-discipline today? I would argue that we do not. Do we teach children to be responsible for their actions? I would also argue that for many families, the answer to that question is no. Do we hold children accountable for their actions? No. And besides, since many

    Now, let me also say that while you may be seeing an increase in the number of cases of animal abuse, I also believe that more of these cases are now being reported because there are more people out there who see animals as more than just property.

    I pray that these statistics begin to decrease. In the meantime, I think it only prudent that people keep their animals indoors.


  2. In the epilogue of my book, Crazy Critter Lady, I wrote, “It’s heartbreaking to me to see how badly humankind has handled the responsibility of caring for the earth and its inhabitants, and I think that we MUST – if for no other reason than to redeem ourselves in His eyes – somehow make things right.” No matter how much progress we make in that regard, though, I remain mystified as to why parents neglect to teach their children the most important lessons of all, those of charity, kindness, and compassion. While they may well tell their kids to be gentle with the new puppy or kitty, they all to often fail completely to extend that edict to all the other animals on the planet; thus, while the family ferret is treated like a valued family member, those domestic ducks who were abandoned at the local city pond become fair game for children who think it’s fun to throw rocks and see how many animals they can hit. Surely, as parents, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, gays, straights, Democrats and Republicans, surely, we can do better than this!


  3. Wendy Tridigo says:

    Boy did you hit the nail on the head with this one. I grew up in the 50’s & 60’s where, yes, you got spanked (in my case sometimes often as I was a precocious child) and all that was hurt was your pride. And for that I’d like to think I’ve grown up as a happy, caring person and a staunch advocate for animals. Back then you were told you were going to visit “Aunt Mary” and “Uncle Bob” and were not given a choice in the matter. You weren’t allowed to stay home, indoors, in front of a TV or computer all day (although in my case there were no computers or video games back then). We played outside for hours only coming in to eat. In the summer we were right back outside playing until dark and then still complaining when we were called inside for bath & bedtime. In the winter, especially when it snowed, we put on woolen leggings and coats and played outside only to come in to change into drier clothes. These are some of the happiest memories I have. We had cats & dogs and would never think of keeping them tied up outside – they were all family members. I grew up on Long Island in NY where it was still safe to walk to school (even elementary school) for 6 or 8 blocks. No school busses for us and because of that an extremely low obesity rate. There was a thing called respect back then when the worst form of animal abuse I recall was a neighbor who tied up his German Shepherd in his garage but even then left the garage door open. I am now 61 and cringe at the thought of what lies ahead for this country when the youth of today is out there maiming and torturing poor defenseless animals. Will they look upon me one day as a “defenseless animal” and torch me. You hear of such stories about some homeless people. And then you hear he was “just a bum”. Sound familiar – “it’s only a dog”. Unfortunately until there are stricter laws and lawmakers willing to prosecute to the fullest for animal abuse and neglect, we will continue to hear these horror stories. Law enforcement and law makers just have not grasped the PROVEN fact that animal abuse escalates toward violent crimes against the public.


  4. nancy5vic says:

    Well, as a mother of four kids…ages 13-21, I sure do have an opinion on this one. I cannot bear to be thought of as an Epic Failure. I love my parents dearly and am quite certain they love me. They didn’t play with me. They didn’t hit me. They did take me places and they did talk with me. I feared them only because I loved them and wanted to please them. I did feel they were “old fashioned” and never really brought my problems to them by the time I was a teen. I, too, had a Catholic school education for 8 years and then went on to good public schools for higher education. My kids have had Catholic schooling through HS, one so far has even had a Catholic college education (feel free to send me donations for all this darn tuition!). I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. I would venture to say that if you asked a middle aged African American who grew up in Mississippi during this time, you would hear a different sort of story. Let’s not be too Vanilla here, ok. The ’50s-70s were nice, but they weren’t Nirvana. No decade is. Every dog owner in my neighborhood had their dog out 24/7 on a chain and had a dog house. Abuse? Neglect? Or just the way things were…I dunno, you decide. These were good people.
    As for my children…well, you can’t teach empathy really. I discuss EVERYTHING with them. My parents did NOT do this with me. Does this make them less fearful of me? Well, my sixteen yr old daughter had to fess up to something two weeks ago. I told her sternly how very disappointed in her I was. She cried and cried. I didn’t need to hit her. She knew she had made a mistake. And there are consequences that make good sense for her. Being smacked only teaches you to smack back.
    Animal abuse is so ugly. As is child abuse. As is elderly abuse. How do we teach each other not to do it? By not doing it! We put food out for the stray cat. We call the owner of the stray dog who has a collar. We take meals to our sick neighbors. We volunteer somewhere…and let our kids know that they will have that opportunity/responsibilty, too. Our society won’t work right if there aren’t charitable organizations. Lord knows the government can’t always help us!
    I don’t know why you hear stories of these young kids abusing animals. Teens aren’t really wired quite right…that’s actually factual. They don’t have the same level of consciousness as adults…nor do they have the ol’ cause/effect totally figured out. They drive too fast. They drink too much. They sometimes try sex too early. And, unfortunately, they sometimes mistreat an animal. But my guess is that we’re just reporting this now, because back in the good ol’ days, nobody cared what you did to a dog…


    • yelodoggie says:

      Well, nobody is saying the way you raised your kids is epic fail…but clearly, there are parents who are not doing the good job you are. You wrote that you cannot teach empathy, yet you outlined very real ways that you indeed have done just that:
      “How do we teach each other not to do it? By not doing it! We put food out for the stray cat. We call the owner of the stray dog who has a collar. We take meals to our sick neighbors. We volunteer somewhere…and let our kids know that they will have that opportunity/responsibilty, too. ”
      That is EXACTLY how to teach empathy, by example.
      I have often wondered if the methods of abuse have escalated, or if it is just that we hear more stories about it because of mass media. I once even asked some of my uncles that very question; but their opinion was unanimous: the world is very different place now.


      • Missy'sMom says:

        I have raised my son by myself and he was born in 1986. I truly believe children learn as they live. I have always rescued dogs or stopped on the side of the road if I saw an animal hurt. My son is one of the most empathetic kids/actually young men I guess lol, I truly believe its not because of the way things are now but more because there is social media, 24 hr news etc and quite possibly we hear about the horror stories more now. I know I grew up with a bunch of cats (6) and 2 dogs and they werent spayed or neutered. I didnt even know what that was growing up. We lived in a small town in Mass during the 60’s and 70’s and that is just the way things were with everyone’s animals. And we all had pets that ran free so there were plenty of animals running around!! I went on to get a good college education and instilled in my son the same values I grew up with . To treat others, and that included animals, the way you would.want to be treated.


  5. nancy5vic says:

    The world will always be different for each generation. But Maslow pretty much hit the nail on the head. We need to eat and have shelter, we long to have sex and be loved, we strive for inner peace. Those things never change. There have always been temptations, but those can and do change. Still, I believe, people are good in general. That, however, is a debate I have with many! Again, I’d just say, that back-in-the-day, there were parents that took their job seriously, and others that just couldn’t/didn’t. I guess I just don’t like how an older generation looks on and is certain that the next generation is going to f&$k everything up. I don’t want to be that person. I want to believe that “kids these days” will have a kind of global perspective that we couldn’t have because there was no internet. And that they will see and hear about all kinds of injustices, again because of the internet, and be outraged and provoked to change. Then the world will again be a different place. But just maybe it will be even better. I can hope…we all can hope…


  6. I started my animal career in 1979. I’ve done everything from volunteering at both shelters in town, to working my own rescue for 15 years. I’ve worked at Wildlife Rehabilitation, owned a Pet Supply Store, a Professional Boarding Kennel, Shown dogs in Confirmation Dog Shows, been a Dog Groomer all the while. Now I work in an Animal Hospital doing multiple jobs including assist both Technicians and Doctors. I have seen more than I care to remember. I continue because I love being a part of an animals life whether at the end or during a bad time. I have love to give and they gladly accept it. At the end of the day I feel like I’ve made a difference, and someone who cared was there for them in their time of need.
    I am a firm believer in ” Children Learn What They Live “. When I had my Pet store parents would always ask me what kind of pet they should get for their kid(s) to “teach” them how to care for a pet. My answer was ALWAYS ” What ever kind of pet YOU will love and care for because they will learn it from you. ” Parents are the best teachers and sadly this is exactly where the problem lies. We now live in a disposable society, every thing gets tossed when it is no longer of value. Including our Elderly, Children and yes animals. Though, I do believe there is a turn around coming. Just as the internet can be a distraction, it can also be a valuable tool. Thanks to the internet I believe awareness has become more intense, widespread and come to great numbers of people all at once, ie; Facebook.
    Born in 1956 I have seen the world change from when I was a kid too. In many ways I think it’s better. I don’t think time has as much to do with the differences as how the dynamics of day to day life have changed. Unfortunately I don’t believe that we will stop animal abuse or neglect. The world will always have a/holes. We can only work hard for change and pass THAT along to our kids.


  7. vida says:

    Reading history a lot helps, abuse of pets and animals in general was much worse in earlier times. We learn of it more now, and the fact that is is news now is a good thing. Check out the horrible acts of abuse pictured in Hogarths Stages of Cruelty from the early 1800s. it includes acts that are at least as bad as what is happening today. I don’t want to go into details, it’s that sickening.
    Add to the fact that it was far more acceptable in the fifties and sixties for parents to beat their kids, men to beat their wives, white people to abuse poc…honestly, if the cruelty now is more apparent it’s because it’s now viewed by more people as wrong.


  8. Kristina says:

    I think it mostly has to do with the initial reactions we receive as kids when we do something wrong. Example- my nephew was around two and was playing in my moms back yard. My westie wandered past him and he raised his foot and kicked her in the stomach like she was a foot ball. That dog was my BABY. I picked her up and my father paddled my nephew. My father never even paddled ME when I was a kid. He cried and cried that “Unka John” hit him. I was in so much shock that I couldn’t believe that Ethan had done that! What would possess a kid to be mean to a dog that was ALWAYS nice? I have no idea. But, he caught his little brother Hitting my pitbull about a year and a half later. He got SO mad and told him brother that “Unka John” was going to paddle him so bad that he wouldn’t be able to SIT. Of course the little brother panicked and immediately apologized to the dog ( who honestly didn’t even feel the little bugger hit her) and pet her nicely. I don’t think either of them will ever hurt an animal again. My father still feels bad for spanking Ethan. I don’t. Not a little bit. If kids aren’t made to understand that it HURTS then they won’t hesitate to hit an animal or abuse it again. Most kids don’t get paddled now because the law says so. It used to be that if two guys had a difference they punched each other and then drank a beer. There was a lot less nonsense back then. Please don’t think that I advocate violence but if they are not taught from a very young age to be gentle and respectful of animals, then they will NEVER respect animals. Similar to the lady in “Circle the Waggins” who stuck her fingers in the dogs face. Are you crazy lady? She has no fear of dogs which is great. But to not respect the fact that the dog could very easily ( my two dogs a Pit and a Mastiff/Rottweiler anyways) take your fingers if not hand off, is just stupid. I would imagine had my father ever caught me hitting an animal I would have been paddled immediately too. I’ve seen the man pay off people’s vet bills who did not have enough money, only asking them to do the same favor for someone else in the future. I don’t think he could handle reading the stories that we all have and working with Rescue Groups and Humane Societies either. But he definitely won’t let those kids forget that animals have rights too.


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