Rent-a-Dog: Whatever Happened to Personal Responsibility?

By | June 8, 2015 | 0 Comments


Irish Guards with Domhnall

Sometimes an event occurs that is significant because of the light it sheds on contemporary life. A company in California (where else?) is offering to rent dogs to animal “lovers” too busy to care for them.
For an annual fee of $99.95, plus $49.95 a month, plus $39.95 a day, animal lovers can spend time with one of the dogs. The fees cover training the dogs, boarding them at a kennel, delivery to one’s home or office, veterinary bills, and liability insurance. Also included are “care kits” − leashes, bowls, beds, and pre-measured food − that accompany each dog.
The owner of the business explained, “Usually our dogs are lavished with attention, and it’s undivided attention from our members because it is the only time they have together.” The dogs may enjoy the process. They meet new people who dote on them, then return to their kennel in the evening. But they lack the opportunity to bond, which is important to dogs – and used to be important to us.
Granted, this plan may be helpful for people who “love” dogs but are too busy to care for them properly. The pace of modern life often includes long hours at work and long commutes, plus more hours tending to our electronic servants (actually masters). We have to “care for” computers, printers, smart phones, iPads, satellite or cable TVs, and miscellaneous gizmos. This often leaves little time for spouses, children, or pets. We watch TV or prowl Facebook and Twitter, and imagine we are having social interaction with “friends.” The inanimate replaces the living, and the electronic replaces the real.
These electronic devices must continually be replaced by newer ones, to “keep up” − both technologically and socially. We just can’t be seen with last year’s gizmo, can we? All this leads to the practice of disposability, which is habit forming. We discard our electronic toys and replace them with the latest innovations. We lease our car, because we can drive a flashier model for the same monthly payment. Besides, we want a new one every year or two, or people will think we aren’t doing well. We change houses every few years, upgrading when possible.
My parents owned the same car for 12 years. The old Ford got them through the snows of North Dakota and up the hills of San Francisco. They lived in the same house for 22 years. They watched the same TV set till it broke. And they stayed married till they died. Back then, things – and people – weren’t disposable.
But much has changed:

● What does it reveal about us when someone can make a living by renting living creatures to us for a day?

● What does it reveal about us when we come to believe that we can “love” a creature without caring for it?

● What kind of people imagine that love and responsibility can be separated?

● What kind of people suppose that their dog, or their child, is like their BMW – to be shown off and boasted about, but cared for by others?

My wife and I love dogs. Our concept of love is of an intense, deep emotion, but one which must be manifested in action. Love isn’t something we merely feel; it is also something we do.
But for many people, love is less intense, less deep, and purely emotional – not at all behavioral. They say, “I love my husband” or “I love my girlfriend” or “I love my child” in the same way that they say “I love chocolate” or “I love my Bimmer.” They use “love” in the sense of “like a lot,” and they use it interchangeably for people, animals, and things. I don’t believe they understand love at all.
I like chocolate. I like my VW. But the relationship is different. I merely buy chocolate. But I take my car in for regular service, and I check the fluid levels and tire pressures monthly, or it will not remain reliable. Even with this inanimate object, the word “like” carries more meaning than it does when I refer to chocolate – it carries the connotation of commitment as well as of liking. I merely eat chocolate, but I care for my car.
That is, I take on the responsibility of ownership. Chocolate bars are interchangeable. But my car is my car. It is similar to other cars of that model, but not identical. If you removed the license plates, I could distinguish it from other VWs. And if you tried to replace it with a similar model, I would strongly object.
When it comes to people, and to a lesser degree to animals, the concept of love truly applies. Living beings are not interchangeable. We loved both our Airedale terriers, but they had quite distinct personalities. And every human being is unique.
But now we are taught that human beings are interchangeable. We are taught that a woman can have an abortion whenever she wants, because she can have an equivalent baby later. And a leading “bioethicist” teaches that unwanted or defective babies can be killed up to a month after birth, later increased to up to three years. How is this any different from the father of Baby Knauer, the first disabled child “euthanized” by the Nazis? He said, “Later, we could have other children, handsome and healthy, of whom the Reich could be proud.” The Reich indeed could be proud. But we should be deeply ashamed.
I grew up watching the same TV set, riding in the same car – and living with the same parents. But today, kids grow up using electronic gadgets that are replaced as often as the budget allows. They ride in a different car every few years. They move to a different house every few years. Their parent moves in with someone new every few years. Their blended family re-blends itself every few years. They grow up without the idea of commitment, but with a strong concept of disposability.
Disposable electronic devices are everywhere. Disposable cars and houses are the norm. Disposable people are regrettably common. Why not disposable pets? We do the minimum work possible on our car, because soon we will replace it with another. We do the minimum work possible on our relationship, because soon we will replace it with another. We let our children be raised by nannies, preschools, schools, tutors, coaches and therapists, because we are too busy with our jobs – fearing that we will be replaced.
“Rent-a-dog” is symptomatic of a serious problem in modern life. Instead of caring for people, animals, and mechanical devices, we use them and dispose of them. What kind of people act like that? I’ll tell you: people who deserve to be disposed of themselves.
When we are dealing with living creatures who know us and miss us when we are away, we shouldn’t think of rent in the form of money. Instead, we should think of rent in the form of love and care. If we are conscientious, we pay daily. If we are like most people, we miss a few payments, or more than a few.
But sooner or later, the day comes when the Owner wants His creation back. Then it does no good to regret the payments we’ve missed. The time to consider our obligations is when the lease is still in effect. If we make our payments faithfully, it may or may not extend the duration of the lease, but it will reduce our regrets after the lease is terminated. It’s comforting to know that we fulfilled our responsibilities.
Our goal is to be almost as loyal as a dog. At the very least, we should rid ourselves of the notion that we can use money to rent a best friend for a day.

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