« Not without my dog | Main | Katrina rescues: New homes on the horizon »

To the man with all the answers

In the newest issue of The Bark is a letter written in response to an article about the things people do for their dogs. It was authored by Sam Foster of Denver, Colo., and while I hate to misjudge the guy, I'd say that his intention was to yank the chains of the "over the top" dog owners who get carried away with "designer clothing... doggie day care ... (and) gourmet human grade dog food." Or even really crazy stuff like medical care for a sick dog.

No, not for Sam's dog anything zany like cancer treatment. No siree bob, in his own words, he's a "normal dog owner":

No birthday parties, no massages, no spa, no staying in hotels with me on vacation. And if he gets very ill, there'll be no extreme medical care such as kidney transplants or chemotherapy or surgery; he'll be euthanized when the time comes.

You'd think given what I've been going through with losing my deerhound Raven to cancer this week, I'd have felt my chain well and truly yanked and gotten furious at this guy, but I didn't. I burst out laughing.

I mean, Sam  has it all figured out, doesn't he? Not just dogs, but life itself. Because in his long litany of things he won't do, he leaves absolutely no room for forces outside his control, for new information, for new ideas, for his own heart not agreeing with his preconceived plans. Master of his fate, captain of his soul, hey, this guy actually can control the future! I have this to say to you, Sam:


Ravenandme_2Your little list of rules to live by? It's just silly. You don't know what you'll do, and you SHOULDN'T know what you'll do, in a given situation until faced with it. Decisions like this need nuance and context to be rational. Without nuance and context, they're like the little rules your mother gave you when you were in kindergarten: Don't run with scissors, don't cross the street without looking both ways, don't eat your crayons. At some point, maybe around college or so, most of us realized we could and probably should develop a certain level of personal discernment and power of judgment, or we were going to be shit out of luck when the decisions were more complex than "Should I color Santa's coat or chow down on the red Crayola?"

After all, some cancers, unlike the osteosarcoma that took Raven, respond very well to chemo, and dogs going into long-term remissions is the norm --  with lymphoma, for example, a very common cancer in "man's best friend" breeds like Goldens and Labs. The chemo is not costly and dogs typically tolerate it with few or no side effects. Categorizing that as "extreme" and in the same category as a kidney transplant is ignorant and childish. If you can afford it and the prognosis is good, it's really kind of stupid and shortsighted to say, "Oh whoops, no, can't do that doc --  it's on my list!"

Same with surgery. What, you won't even remove a foxtail from your dog's paw, or fix a fractured tooth? Of course not! That would be as stupid as, you know, giving your dog a massage or taking him on vacation with you.

Of course, with guys like this (and I say "guy" not just because he IS a guy, but because this is SUCH a "guy" thing to say), there is no such thing as taking each situation as it comes and deciding things on their own merits, and not worrying about the small stuff. No, it''s all about being resolute and having backbone and being strong and smart and not getting bogged down in sentiment or sucked up by fads.

You can see the appeal of this approach. You never feel pain or indecision or doubt or loss. It's just, after all, a dog, and it's not like you bought him "posh beds or personalized bowls," or anything. Everyone knows that guys who have their dogs eat grocery store kibble don't get their hearts dragged into the burning fires of hell when they die.

So my laughter was for the confident optimism of Sam Foster of Denver, Colo., who came to us Bark readers to revel in his absolute control of the future and firm grip on his own heartstrings. Bravo, Sam! Really. Those of us who derive pleasure from spending our money on personalized dog bowls and chemotherapy are in awe of your strength.

Hey, and good luck to you with that. You'll need it, because one thing I've noticed, life doesn't always work out exactly the way you plan, and most of our little lists don't survive the first encounter with reality. -- Christie Keith, editor, PetHobbyist.com

September 29, 2005 in Weblogs | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference To the man with all the answers:

» To The Man With All the Answers from Dogged Blog
Just before Raven died, the new issue of The Bark arrived, and a letter to the editor caught my attention. It was from a guy who had all the answers to how to care for dogs. Given how much losing a dog I love hurts, I was thinking I might give his met... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 29, 2005 7:56:44 PM


Good for you, taking him on.

Two points: Does he really think the birthday parties are for the DOGS?

And, pet insurance will soon be the norm in the States the way it is here, in the UK. Which will make the other points he raised moot.

But of course, that will only happen when we have universal health care for people, who then will be able to focus on insurance for their pets. Bet Sam's not in favor of pampering people either.

Posted by: KathyF | Sep 30, 2005 12:51:37 PM

What a brilliant post. Thanks so much for this.

Posted by: **RPM** | Sep 30, 2005 5:29:14 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.