Remember When?

Ironically, I’ve done a post on a theme like this in the past but I can’t recall where it is.  (It’s been a long time – at least I remember that much.)  So here we are again.

What are some things you remember regarding pet care, ownership, feeding, etc. from years gone by?  I’ll start:

When I was a kid, I remember all of us in the neighborhood knowing that when the GSD at the end of the street was out, we had to get off our bikes and walk – not run.  It was our responsibility to keep from getting bitten and the general sentiment among parents was that if a kid got bit by a neighborhood dog, it was our fault and we needed to tell what we did that resulted in the bite.  Bites were very rare (I can only remember one – mine!) but certainly nobody sued anyone and no breeds got banned.

27 thoughts on “Remember When?

  1. The neighbor’s dog snapped and got me in the face when I was five or so; I was the one that was reprimanded because I knew better than to bother him because he was old (and I DID).

    Also recall getting caught in the middle of a dog fight between my faithful dog and a strange dog passing through the yard (again I was quite small). My Mom simply broke up the fight, pulled me out of the middle and sent the stranger packing and I’m still crazy about dogs today. That scenario today would involve a hysterical mother, animal control, both dogs most likely impounded and a traumatized child that never trusted dogs again…

  2. Times have changed so much. I remember when I was a child in the UK there were dog licenses. There were no dog attacks on children, no “dangerous” breeds, nothing at all. There were very little cruelty cases either although perhaps it didn’t become public knowledge like it does now.
    Now it’s chaotic, the world is a nasty place for animals. It’s disgusting.

  3. When I was a kid, our family dog was never taken to the vet, was not neutered and was not licensed. We did not have a fence around our property, but he would follow us wherever we rode our bikes or horses to make sure we were safe. He would lie in the middle of the road in the summer to take in all that warmth. Cars would stop and the driver would wait for him to get up and move to the side of the road. Everyone knew who he was and if he was around, it was a safe bet one of us (his) kids were near. There was never any dog bites. We lived in the country and just about every dog owned was either tied up in the backyard or was out roaming. I don’t remember a dog catcher or a county pound back then. The only time he was taken to a vet was when we had to put him to sleep because of old age and senility at the ripe old age of 14.

  4. Wow – I loved reading the posts :) Those comments certainly brought back alot of my childhood memories, when, yes, you had the one bad ass dog that ran the neighborhood and you just steered clear of him.
    We had one dog named Chippy, a beagle mutt, and he never had shots or grooming appointments (ha ha). My father and mother promptly took him to the pound when they moved us to another apartment building and there was, hold onto your hats here, a $50 pet deposit. Maybe that “seemed” like $500 bucks 48 years ago but then again, the “pound” didn’t seem like the horrible killing “shelters” we have nowadays. It’s sad.
    We were on our bikes from morning til dusk, and always saw dogs out laying under a tree or hanging out with other kids at the creek, trying to “help” catch crayfish and tadpole eggs / or frogs!
    The message is clear – the times they are a changing, and NOT for the better with over’zealous whiney people who only want to live in their bubble and not a neighborhood.
    Our next dog, later later later when we owned a home, was the result of my grandmother’s poodle named Little Bits, and my Nana’s poodle named “Lady” – – nobody cared about breeds.

  5. I remember when a neighborhood doberman “blocked” the entire road. We kids were told not to pass that dog (and it was quite good advice, he didn’t seem friendly and quite territorial of that road!). I was ‘taught’ to fear dobermans at that early age, they were the discriminated “mean” breed at the time and probably fed the parental fear. Only within the past several years of educating myself about dog behavior and training realized not all dobermans were like him.

    It’s amazing how these things can affect you for a long time, and it makes me realize how damaging the media can be (or one “bad”-ly raised or trained dog affecting a person’s opinion of an entire breed). I’m glad I know better now! And I’m quite glad to have had the experience to teach me about breed stereotypes.

  6. Our back yard shared a chain link fence with some folks who owned a large GSD. He’d bark and strain at his chain to get to the fence. The fence I was putting my fingers through in an effort to befriend him.I was warned that if I was bitten , I’D be in trouble for antagonizing him. I ended up being the one to feed him when the neighbors were out of town ’cause I was the only kid around that he liked.

  7. So funny Crystal Moody Siegel – my sister & I had an older lady that babysat us when we were small and she thought dogs drew lightning too! Every storm the poor dog got shut in another room until it was over. Also, I was bitten several times as a youngster and always by small dogs. Mom always just cleaned me up & asked what I did to make the dog bite me. Instead of growing up scared of dogs I live with 6 rescues (5 being small ones) & 5

  8. I was badly bitten by a beagle when I was about three – he’d burrowed under the fence into my grandparents’ yard. I was later told that the people who owned the dog helped pay for my doctor’s bills and fixed the fence – in return for a second chance. The dog died of old age years later. So far as I know, no-one involved anyone in authority.

    My great-uncle had a cattle ranch when I was a kid, and I spent a lot of time there during the school breaks. The ranch dogs were all taught to stick close to home when they weren’t at heel, because the other ranchers in the area wouldn’t tolerate stray dogs. My uncle was considered a bit odd because he would round up strays and try to get them home – or find them homes. Then as now, there were people who’d drive out country roads and dump their pets. A lot of these poor dogs would be shot every year, for harassing livestock.

    There were roaming cats everywhere, in the country, in the city, everywhere. Some had more than one home, as they traveled from place to place in a daily round. In the late 60s we shared cats with two other neighbors in addition to our own cat, whom we’d ‘inherited’ from previous tenants when we moved into our apartment. It wasn’t unusual for people to move and leave the cat. Many cats were not spayed or neutered, and every spring and summer kids would be giving away kittens out of boxes in front of the local markets. Sometimes kittens were just left in a box with a sign and no-one to tend them. Many left this way were very young, four to six weeks. Periodically there would be breakouts of distemper and many cats and kittens would die because they often weren’t vaccinated either.

    The vet in our neighborhood, he used to discount his services if he knew you were poor, and he’d even take work in exchange sometimes. That’s how we got care for our pets, and for wounded local wildlife too. I learned a lot from him. I think everyone in the neighborhood did.

  9. My grandparents lived on a farm and had an outdoor-only German Shepard. I understood early on that there were rules to dealing with this normally nice dog: the big one was that you didn’t mess with him when he was eating. A couple of us got fairly minor bites from breaking this rule. One day, my toddler sister was trying to feed the dog a piece of bread when he was eating a leftover steak. The dog bit my sister in the face, cutting her in her forehead and on the side of her lip. It was very bloody and very, very scary, but the bites turned out to be fairly minor. No one ever blamed the dog (or his breed)–since he was “just a dog,” he was spared any moral outrage. I remember being chastised for letting her bother the dog when he was eating.

  10. I don’t remember any serious dog bites. We didn’t even have leash laws, but dogs were taught to be polite when visiting. I also don’t remember unplanned litters, but spaying and neutering were not widespread.

    I hate that I’ve become one of those old people who remember the days when people were responsible.

  11. I think its sad that because some GSD owner was irresponsible you guys could’t ride your bikes when his dog was out. If my dog is reactive to bikes, its my responsibility to train him and keep him from biting people on bikes. I don’t think people were more responsible in the old days. It was acceptable to let your dog roam the neighborhood instead of containing him properly. It was acceptable not to take your dog to the vet for anything (my mom’s family was like this, Their dogs were loved and when it came time to give them a merciful end when they were old it was done quickly and humanely), it was acceptable to let your dog breed wantonly and then drown the litters in the lake. In fact, in the old days it was acceptable for animal control to round up animals, stick them in the cage, and submerge the cage in the lake. This happened in NYC. In the old days dogfighting and cockfighting were legal. It is true in the old days dogs were expected to be dogs and not stuffed animals, which is why there was a lot less freaking out when a dog bit a kid. I wish that was still true. But there is a lot about the old days I am glad is no longer acceptable or legal.

    1. Cristy – The GSD owner you describe as “irresponsible” was a police officer and the dog was a retired K-9 officer. He didn’t have a fenced-in yard and when he let the dog (Baron) out, Baron was free to go wherever he pleased. I never saw him leave his part of the street (a dead-end street). I relate the story not to bash the owner but to convey how grateful I was for the important life lesson – don’t run (or ride a bike) away from a dog. Dealing with Baron also taught me that just because a big, scary looking dog was trotting up to me, it didn’t mean he was going to bite or that I should be afraid. It became a little accomplishment for me to allow Baron to run right up to me and check me out. I was proud of myself for overcoming my fear and especially when I could teach this to another kid. He would let us pet him for a bit and then, after he has assessed the situation to his satisfaction, would trot back to the porch.

      While allowing dogs to roam the neighborhood was indeed acceptable in my corner of the world, most of the other stuff you mention was not. Our dogs did not visit the vet until it was time to put them to sleep but they did not breed “wantonly”. I had wished so hard that they would b/c like many kids, I SO wanted to have a litter of puppies at the house. But my Mom always kept our dogs from getting pregnant. We did have a few litters of kittens from wandering cats who never came in the house until it was time to have their litters. They moved on after the kittens were weaned. We gave the kittens away to people and never considered killing them.

      1. But you see, Shirley, you are a bit special, because a lot of people did what ChristyF said. I had an honorary aunt & uncle (friends of my grandparents) who had a small dairy farm. When we visited, I thought it was cute that he would give the barn cats squirts of milk right from the udder. I thought he liked the cats. later on I found out that the reason I very seldom saw any kittens was that unless the number of adult cats decreased too much (because they never received any health care and were often HBC or killed by other animals or people), he drowned almost every litter.

        The pound in Cleveland (there was only 1 for 2 counties to use) was a dark, scary hellhole that no stray ever left alive. the animals went straight to a rendering plant and likely ended up in the pet food aisle. Now there are many shelters and rescues in those 2 counties (and all 88 in Ohio), and while they all kill (some kill a lot more than others), many of them do try to adopt first, keep animals for a long time and give them care and affection, and most now use injections instead of gas chambers (although, sadly, not all of them).

        Yes, the idea that if a dog bit you, it was likely your fault, is something we would be better off bringing back, but to do that we’d need to change the humans, and that isn’t going to happen – ever. Also, there are a lot more dogs and cats living with people (how many people in suburbs or cities ever had more than 1 dog at a time back then? – I used to live with 5, and now 4), and there are fewer adults at home during the day to run to if a dog bites you. Overall, those ‘good old days’ came with a lot of crap I don’t want to go back to. We can’t change the dog/cat problem all by itself. It’s tied in with changes in our entire society, so let’s work on future improvements and not seek to return to a hazy, idyllic memory of a tiny part of days gone by.

      2. I don’t seek a return to the past. I think some things were handled more responsibly in past than now but I am not calling for a return to the past. That goes against my nature. I am a forward thinker.

      3. If I have a reactive dog and I’m out walking them, I don’t expect everyone who is riding a bike to get off it when they see me and my dog and walk by, nor should I. I’m glad that GSD was a stable dog, but just because a dog is a police dog, doesn’t mean it will be a stable dog. There are cases of police dogs biting people for no reason. There was a malinois who bit a little kid at Dulles Airport for seemingly no reason.

        I grew up with a large dog. This dog was food aggresive and bit me in the face for going near him while he was eating. He also bit me other times just for touching him wrong. He bit strangers because he was territorial. I did learn a lot about dog behavior from this dog, however I wish I could have learned it without the bloodshed. This dog lived with our family until he died at 15 years old. True, the dog was just being what he knew how to be, but I would never wish for a kid to grow up with a dog like I did. That dog was not my friend, he was something I had to walk on eggshells around.

        In the past, a great many dogs were used for work, not viewed as pets, and so dogs were expected to behave like the animals they are. With less and less dogs being used for any type of work besides the fun stuff like agility and weight pull and more dogs findng their primary purpose as companions, people expect their dogs to behave more like a stuffed animal and less like a living creature with feelings and innate drive. Combine this with an ever-growing set of parents that coddle their children and allow them to get away with whatever they want, and you have dogs set up for failure who are then viewed as monsters when they finally do bite the kid for stomping on its tail, etc.

  12. Wonderful stories!

    I too had parents that said “if you get bit, it’s your own fault” or “what did you do to the dog” if the dog came running to them. We had a a Rat Terrier named Spot (guess who got to name the dog) growing up and she was very protective of us. When I was a baby (long time ago), she bit my grandfather because he picked me up and I started to cry. The bite was laughed off. She was the best dog with kids (surprising for a Rat Terrier), was never tied up or fenced in. I was very sick once, and she only left my side when I had to get up. Where the family went, Spot went too.

    We also had “farm” dogs that were out during the day working, but in the laundry room at night. Their jobs were different and I understood that. One mix (they were all mixes) named Queenie who could get the cows from the east pasture all by herself with a simple command of “go get the cows.” They all were well socialized and happily greeted people…unless it was dark.

    Our dogs were seen by the vet annually and were licensed. They also just got fed some kibble along with scraps from the daily meals, a type of home cooking. LOL

    My parents and grandparents instilled in me that animals were God’s creatures and need to be treated with respect, including the live stock. If we pestered the dogs while they were sleeping or eating, we “got” it.

    I learned at a very young age that it was senseless to have an animal suffer and putting it to sleep was the right thing to do. There were never any stories of animal neglect or abuse. Things have surely changed. So sad.

  13. You know, I don’t ever remember anyone telling me that if I was bitten by an animal, it had to be my fault. Possibly because I’d already been bitten when it absolutely wasn’t, when all I was doing was playing quietly by myself in a fenced yard, but I don’t think so. Not when I think back to specifically what I was taught.

    What I was taught was that there were circumstances that made it more likely I’d be bitten, scratched, stepped on, kicked or otherwise roughed up by animals, and that I needed to pay attention to what animals ‘said’ to me and respond accordingly. I was also taught there were some animals who would do harm without warning, who were – as my uncle put it – twisted or damaged that way, and to just stay away from them if at all possible. Then, too, I was taught that sometimes animals could hurt me without meaning it just like other people sometimes did, because they were bigger or played rough or got too excited, and I had to learn to pay attention to what I did and where I was – like, wear boots in the barn, and not put my feet right under the horses’ hooves. And finally, I was taught that when I did get hurt, the worst thing I could do was panic.

    So. There it is – authentic early to mid 60s advice. Still good, I think.

  14. It somewhat amazes me that people are remembering times when pets weren’t vaccinated, were easily replaced, left to roam free and face the dangers associated it with, never saw a vet until it was time to euthanize them…and saying these were happier times? Better times? More responsible times?

    If you have a animal that is likely to bite, it’s your responsibility to control that animal. If a kid walks up to a dog and yanks his ears or pulls his tail, that’s one thing. But if your dog is so reactive that kids can’t safely walk down their own street…that’s not okay. And if I were minding my business in my own yard and someone else’s dog came and chewed on my leg bad enough to cause real damage (like a GSD surely could)…I might not sue, but someone is getting in trouble for it. It’s THEIR dog, not mine, so why should I be the one bleeding?

    That’s not to say kids shouldn’t be taught not to run around loose dogs. They absolutely should. But I would prefer that training not come by walking the gauntlet every day because Buster likes his exercise and his owners don’t feel like walking him.

    I have no desire to return to those ‘good old days’ when kittens were more likely to be drowned than adopted and a dog could suffer with cancer for years because he never saw a vet. And if I had kids, I would be furious if a neighbor’s loose dog latched onto them while they were riding a bike, because that dog had no business being loose in the first place. Letting a reactive dog run loose is the opposite of responsible, not the pinnacle of it.

    1. Triangle, your points are valid, but in our progress, we’ve lost something. A sense of personal responsibility for our own actions around animals. At least in the US, we’ve become “all about me” – dogs shouldn’t bite me, no matter what I do, even if I run up and hug a dog I don’t know, even if I stick my hands through their fence, even if I tease a dog on a chain, even if I throw rocks at them…

      It’s as if we’ve taken the “everyone is a winner!” attitude and tried to extend it to the real world. Well, the world doesn’t work like that and people (especially children) need to learn how to behave themselves around these animals that share our lives, our space, and our world.

      1. And as stated, I agree that people who hurt animals deserve what they get. If someone is hurting an animal and they are bitten, I believe that should be on them. But that’s not really what this post was about…riding a bike on your own street is not hurting a dog.

        Personal responsibility extends to our pets as well. We are the ones who made the decision to bring that animal into our life. We chose to share our lives, but our neighbors did not. They should not have to risk being bitten or have to restrict their habits because of a choice I made.

        I DO believe children should be taught how to behave around strange dogs. I just don’t think having loose reactive dogs controlling the neighborhood is something to look back on fondly. And I think that if there was a reactive loose dog running about and it did bite a child riding a bike, the parent would have every right to blame the owner (not the dog) and take whatever steps are needed to prevent the situation from happening again. Because the owner was the one who failed to take responsibility for controlling their pet, and it would be irresponsible of the parent not to protect their child.

        My cousin had half of her face bitten off by a reactive dog running at large. She did not hurt the dog or even touch the dog. She’s a young woman now and underwent several surgeries, but you can still see the scars. She was not the irresponsible one.

      2. “What this post was about” was not “Hey, wasn’t it great when we all drowned kittens, let our dogs suffer w/cancer and got disfigured by loose dogs?” You are taking each point to the extreme. We (my family) did not drown our kittens. Our dogs never suffered w/cancer or anything else. Baron never so much as raised a lip to any kid in the neighborhood. Of course the worst case scenarios you mention can and do happen but they were not the norm in my experience. My family was poor, we got clothes given to us by Goodwill type places, we used food stamps to pay for food, etc. But when my pet mouse suddenly developed a tumor, my Mom took him to the vet to be euthanized. They charged her $5, which she surely could have used to feed us kids or keep the water turned on. But there was never any question. When you characterize this post as fondly reminiscing about drowning kittens and suffering dogs – it’s repulsive to me. Some people did/do things differently than you think is best but it doesn’t make them morally bankrupt. Please be respectful.

      3. I don’t think people had a greater sense of personal responsibility back in the years of my youth. In fact, I think the opposite was true in some respects – that there was a greater tendency to follow the herd – and that conformity to community values was considered a virtue even when some of those values were morally bankrupt.

        What I think has substantially changed with regard to our pets, is that – between less control and less distance between rural & urban areas – there was much greater opportunity to be exposed to a variety of animals and a range of animal behaviors.

  15. I’m not so much referencing your post, but rather some of the comments. Which do state things like ‘my dog never saw the vet’ alongside memories of being bitten, and giving both the air of ‘good old days’. Obviously things were different then, and people did things differently, but what is disturbing me is that these memories are being given as if these things were better somehow, and especially characterizing them as more responsible.

    And I find it disrespectful to characterize someone who sues or responds legally to a dog bite as not taking personal responsibility. I do understand the point you were trying to make, I just feel your example was not the best one.

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