I started this blog wanting to celebrate the human animal bond and how fulfilling living with a pet you love can be. Maybe it’s worth talking about what happens when that bond is imperfect or frayed.
Above is Obie, a 77 pound dachshund. Obie was almost loved to death by his owners. The news reports say he was owned by an elderly couple that couldn’t say no and fed him treats unending. I don’t know that I’ve even seen a more morbidly obese dog. In this state he’s at risk of sudden death due to respiratory failure, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Plus, he just must feel miserable even though he was happy to take what food was offered.
Obie is an example of a distorted human/pet relationship. There can be no doubt his owners loved him in an extreme and unhealthy manner. In spite of this I find it hard to judge them. You would think that functioning human beings would at some point recognize what they were doing. But when you love something so much, you sometimes lose the edges of reason.
I loved my dogs so much that at night, they would climb on the couch and I would sit on the floor to read the paper or watch tv. As if they would love me more if I gave them the comfortable lounging space. I loved my dogs so much that one winter jacket was not enough, they each had half a dozen. As if they would feel more love for me the more I bought. I loved my dogs so much I traded in my sedan for an SUV so they would have more room to spread out. As if going for the car ride wasn’t fun enough.
So I get why someone couldn’t say no. I’m not a psychiatrist and I don’t mean to minimize what must be some obvious brain pathology with this couple. But it’s common for people who love their pet to consciously and unconsciously rationalize their actions. We say, “Oh, she just barks to warn me”, or “He’s growling just because he wants to be fed”, or “I can deal with the pooping in the house”.
Daily, I find myself seeing this phenomenon with clients. I can tell when they tune me out. Their eyes glaze over, they look at their watch or phone, they give me an excuse or reaction to what I’ve suggested. They don’t want to hear me lecture them on their pets weight gain/inappropriate behavior/troubling sign of illness. As I’ve noted above, I’m guilty of it too. Denial must be the brain’s deluxe means of forcing reality aside.
Obie’s plight is not over. He’s lost weight but I read today that the rescue that took him in and the volunteer that is caring for him are suing each other.
You could have a master class on animal welfare and obligations with this case from start to finish. Very sad, I hope Obie gets better and his life gets sorted out.