On abandoning friends

Early this morning on my way to work from my sister's apartment, I stopped at the dog park so that Ryu could have a little r&r before a thrilling day of sleeping, chewing on his toys and watching me work on my laptop. When I got to the park at the corner of Notre-Dame and Montgolfier streets in Laval, I saw that there were two dogs inside already playing with each other. Some mornings there are none, and other days there are 4 or 5. There was only one person in there with them, so I assumed he was the owner of both.

I'm not as social as some of the other people at dog parks; I don't go there to 'mingle' with other dog owners or meet people, but simply so that Ryu and I can get some sunshine and exercise while letting him make new friends. I usually let my dog in, find a bench, and watch him chase and be chased by other dogs. When they get too rough for my liking I bark at him to back off, and he does. Once he gets into the park, he usually sprints right away to the nearest dog to greet it. There was this one dog today, though, that was whimpering sadly the whole time Ryu was trying to play with him. He was a good-looking German Shepherd mix, neutered, friendly and docile, in seemingly good health but not very well groomed (his fur was matted and his nails were very long). He also did not have a collar.

I assumed he was the other man's dog, but he asked me first if it was my dog. We quickly assumed that someone had just dumped him here, and after finding a bowl of food and some water in the corner, we sadly realized that that was the case. The man was a very friendly, older Italian gentleman, and mentionned Le Berger Blanc, a rescue service for animals in need. I looked up the coordinates on my phone and called their number, giving a description of the dog and its location. They replied they would send someone in this morning; I couldn't wait around because I had to get to work but the other guy said he's retired and he'll stick around with his dog until someone arrives.

At an earlier point in my life, I might've just taken him home, advertise him in the lost and founds, and probably get him checked out and kept him if no one claimed him. I have the unfortunate "weakness" - instilled in me by my parents - of wanting to help / save everyone and everything I come across, but lately I've learned to let go and accept that things play out the way they do because of the choices we make. Compassion has a dangerous tendency to veer into [liberal] paternalism when it manifests itself for the wrong reasons. Especially in my generation, there is this counterproductive trend to think of oneself as a "fixer", going around and telling people what they're doing wrong and what they should be doing instead, then going back home and sipping on $4 lattes while setting up a Wordpress install. It's the kind of armchair solidarity that diminishes the value of what we perceive as empathy - which is supposed to be a shared emotional experience, and not a top-down pitying of those less fortunate than you.

It's not so much a question of pity or even empathy that would make me want to take in a stray or abandoned dog; but rather a [perhaps skewed] perception of social justice - yes, even for animals. If this dog did something to deserve being left behind - aggression, biting a human, etc - there are different and better ways to deal with that sort of behavior than leaving it alone and scared in a park to fend for itself. Odds are good, however, that the owner(s) simply got bored, tired, or fed up of caring for another living being and gave up on it. This other fellow at the park was reassuring, and nice enough to stay until someone came to pick up the dog. He says that it's not the first time he's seen this sort of thing happen.

Needless to say, I don't think too highly of folks who abandon their friends this way. Caring for a dog is a responsibility, and if it's one you can't handle or afford, then you shouldn't commit to it - or at least bring the animal to a shelter or rescue where they can have a better chance at a new life. Leaving your dog in the park with some food and some water early in the morning is pretty cold by my scale, and goes a long way to defining what kind of person you are. If you drop your dog out of your life like it's nothing, the chances are that you probably aren't that good of a friend to people around you when the chips are down.

Hopefully, the dog has already been picked up by Le Berger Blanc, and will be cleaned up and taken to a rescue, where he'll wait his turn in adoption to find a new home - one where, with any luck, his new owners will show a bit more maturity, love and compassion.

Safe travels, white dog.

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