Walking 10 Miles in the Snow to School Wearing Cardboard Shoes

I’m not elderly mind you but I am old enough to notice how much things have changed since I was a kid, particularly with regard to pets. For example:

When I was a kid…

  • We were told to stay well clear of the path of a chained dog.
  • We were told that if we were riding our bikes and a loose dog came around, we should stop and walk the bike home because if we sped away, the dog would chase us.
  • If a neighborhood kid got bit by a dog, that kid would likely be in trouble with a parent demanding to know what the kid did to provoke the dog.
  • When our females came in heat, we could let them outside only when my Mom was there to supervise and then it was just for a quick potty break.
  • Table scraps went into the dog bowl because “There are people starving in China and we don’t waste food”.
  • The Vet was for giving rabies vaccines and putting pets to sleep when the time came. Sick pets were given a cardboard box with warm blankets in a quiet corner of the house, same as abandoned baby squirrels and injured birds. Mostly though, our pets were hale and hearty. At least that’s the way I remember it now. The wildlife did not fare so well.

Now I’m not saying that “only the old ways are right” by any means but it’s interesting to note how attitudes toward pets seemed more common sense then than what we often see today. Then, we expected dogs to bite, especially chained dogs and those who were unsupervised around kids. It was an assumed risk. And on rare occasions, someone in the neighborhood did get bitten. But nobody’s parents were running to the town council to ban the breed of dog who did the biting. Nor was the owner of the biting dog worried that authorities would seize and kill his dog. It was just a thing that happened. Like my neighbor cracking his head open after a bad fall off his bike (nobody wore helmets then) – we didn’t have to all turn our bikes in to authorities, we were just supposed to “be more careful because this is what can happen”.

Spaying and neutering pets was a convenience for owners who could afford it. We couldn’t so we just safeguarded our dogs from unintentional breedings. And it was 100% successful, much to my dismay.

We fed our pets kibble but never questioned adding table scraps and sharing extra special bits on holidays and such. There either wasn’t a massive blackballing effort against table scraps by the pet food and veterinary industries back then or if there was, it didn’t reach our house. And the idea of taking a pet to the Vet for a dental cleaning or baseline bloodwork was utterly preposterous.

As I look over my little list, I think about how quick I am sometimes to judge how people care for their pets. I try not to jump to conclusions and yet, it happens. I wonder what the adult me would think about the kid me if I read about how my family took care of their pets in a blog post or online article. I hope I wouldn’t be too quick to condemn because of course I thought then that we were good owners. I guess I still think that, even if my views have expanded and changed over the years.

What do you think about how you and your family raised your pets when you were a kid?

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