Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Responsibility and abdication

I did warn you!

Today, we were out with our dog, when we were passed by a group of youths of the cultural subset generally known as 'chavs'.

One of them asked another in a loud manner that was clearly for our ears, "Who would be scared of a dog wearing a pink thing?" (Our dog has a pink harness - our younger son was adamant that she needed something that made her feel feminine).

As my sons declared at the time, she's not meant to be scary, she's meant to be lovable.

Our recent search for a dog took us to many shelters in our area, and all of them are full to the gunwales with Staffordshire terriers and German shepherds - particularly the former - none of them shining examples of their breed. I was saddened by this, since my parents bred Staffies - together while they were married and separately after they split up - and I have a soft spot for the breed. I asked at several places why there was such a surfeit of unwanted Staffies and got a range of replies, all of which amounted to much the same thing:

It seems that a certain sector of society (these selfsame 'chavs' I regret to say) sees Staffs as fashion accessories. They're seen as fighting dogs and the next best thing to the (illegal) pitbull terrier, purchased by those who believe that they lend their owners a level of intimidating presence. They are kitted out with the sort of gear that is intended to make them look 'well 'ard' and strutted down the streets. The problem is that they require feeding, grooming and medical care... and they restrict one's freedom. When the horrible truth of this sinks in, they are dumped.

Shelters try to ensure that people who adopt their rescued animals understand what they're taking on, but indiscriminate breeding offers a way around these restrictions. In fact, it seems many of the bitches we saw had been used as puppy factories, only to be dumped when they became too old, or when the owner realised that this particular get-rich-quick scheme was full of holes.

Sadly, there are just as many young girls who see babies as a fashion accessory and set out to have one just as soon as possible. Then they learn the hard way that babies are enormously hard work, that they become fractious toddlers, stroppy youngsters and truculent teens, that they completely scupper your social life, and they cost a fortune. A friend of mine once said people should be discouraged from using the expression 'having a baby' and encouraged to replace it with 'having a person'.

The lessons in responsibility learned in this way, are sadly at the cost of the animals and the children.

Perhaps there is space in the curriculum for some learning about cause and effect. About short term action and long term consequence. Although sadly, it seems society is increasingly geared towards absolution (and, besides, it really ought to be a parental responsibility). With so many ways out of trouble when you make a wrong choice, where is the motivation to learn to make wiser choices?

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