This is Jeb. He is a senior hound who belongs to a friend’s adult granddaughter. I’ve been told that she loves him.
These are Jeb’s feet.
Jeb’s been struggling for awhile now. The family has considered putting him down because he can barely walk and he has trouble getting to his feet. Oddly, no one had considered having his nails clipped, or taking him to a vet.
When D and I were made aware of Jeb’s situation, and it was clear that no one was going to do anything, we put our dogs in daycare for the day and drove the 40 miles to Jeb’s house. We knew that he could barely walk because his overgrown toenails were making it painful to walk. We were told we’d need a muzzle for him, but we clipped on his leash, refused his “pinch” collar, and helped him into our van. Then we drove the half mile up the street to the nearest groomer, and had a talk with the owner.
Really. A vet and a groomer, only a half mile away from Jeb’s house. The cost of a nail clipping about the same as a twelve pack of beer.
We took Jeb inside the groomer’s and spent the next twenty minutes holding him still, encouraging him, and supporting him, while he endured the horror of the groomer cutting his neglected nails back. Almost every one of his nails bled. He howled when the quicks were cut. He never tried to bite any of us. When the groomer was finished, she charged us double.
Jeb walked out of the spa. He jumped into the van on his own. We gave him a bunch of biscuits and told him how brave he was, and we took him home.
Maybe we shouldn’t have done that last thing. But, they say they “love” him.
My friend, Colin, once imparted this bit of wisdom to me: “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”
What does it mean to love? Doesn’t it mean that you care about what happens to the object of your affection? If it’s a living thing that you love, whether it be a potted plant, a goldfish, or your child, doesn’t it mean that you provide the necessities to not only keep it alive, but also keep it healthy? Doesn’t it mean that you want it to do well? To not just survive, but to thrive?
So why is it different when it comes to a dog?
What does it mean to love a dog? I’ve heard people say they love their dog, then keep him chained alone and ignored in the backyard. I’ve heard people say they love their dog, but keep her penned and unsocialized in the basement. I’ve heard people say they love their dog, but never vet him — not once. These are not examples of love, they are examples of indifference; the opposite of love.
You don’t have to take your dog to daycare.
You don’t have to feed him the most expensive food.
You don’t have to let him sleep in bed with you, or buy him a kuranda bed.
But the deal is that if you say you love your dog, you should know what that means — and it means that you have to take care of him.
You have to see to his medical needs.
You have to provide his necessities for survival: food, water, shelter, affection, companionship, mental stimulation – those are the basics. If you were missing any of those things in your own life, you’d find it unacceptable, and if you love your dog, then anything less is unacceptable for him, too.
You have to keep him safe.
If you say you love your dog, love your dog.
It’s not rocket science.