But it is a timely question for so many of us. Including me personally, because right now I am cooking all the dog’s food (more on that in posts to come, no doubt), giving Willie five supplements, scheduling acupuncture bi-weekly and ultra sounds every 3-6 months and carefully monitoring his physical rehab after his oh-so-very expensive surgery. And yet, I still find myself wondering, am I doing enough for the dogs?
Is Tootsie bored? Shouldn’t I be taking the BC’s on another walk rather than watching golf on TV? Am I doing enough to prevent cancer recurring in any of my dogs?
And then, I think about all the other things in life that need time and attention. And all the other animals, people and even issues desperately in need of resources.
I wrote about this issue in a 2010 post, How Much is Enough? In it I talked about what dogs need–mental exercise, novelty, autonomy–and the 91 comments in response make it clear that the question struck a chord. And surely this issue is as relevant today as it was then, if not even more so.
This time I want to focus on OUR end of the leash, and initiate a discussion about this extremely first-world, highly-privileged question that many of us are lucky enough to ask. It’s not just a question about What is Enough? but as much about our tendency to harbor angst that somehow we are not doing enough for our dogs. If your working line Aussie is going twice to Agility and getting 9 long walks a week, is that enough? If you don’t take your dog to a class but teach it some tricks and play in the backyard, is that enough? How much do we owe our dogs, and what do we need to do to feel satisfied that we are doing enough?
I repeat: I don’t have the answer. Here are some relevant thoughts about why this question strikes home to many of us:
One: I wonder if the fact that dogs are both helpless like children (no language, little autonomy, can’t open the door) but also sentient and very grown up best friends creates a kind of a push pull that leaves us feeling unsure of what’s enough.
Two: Our culture is (finally) acknowledging the cognitive and emotional depth of dogs–It’s no wonder we feel more and more responsibility to them.
Three: Many of us have a massive amount of resources, if you compare our lives to most of the peoples of the world. I don’t think of myself as “wealthy” (the very word makes me want to snort), but I will never forget a Kenyan who told me I must be very wealthy indeed if I could afford to buy food for a St. Bernard. When I was in my early twenties I had to have a cat euthanized because the first medical procedure didn’t work, and a second try was unlikely to help. But that knowledge was actually a relief, because I had maxed out my credit card on the first surgery and didn’t even have money to buy gas for my car. There was literally no way I could afford a second surgery. It still breaks my heart to remember how that felt. I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I can afford to take care of Willie now–but that also means that it makes decisions about “how much is enough?” more complicated.
Four: Our culture seems to be expecting more and more of parents. When I was growing up, our parents had their own lives, and we fit into them as best we could. That’s not to say they weren’t good parents. They were. But no one back then expected a parent’s life to revolve around the children. It feels to me that our expectations on parents now are over the moon. How much of that has transferred to our care of our dogs and cats and horses?
These points, I realize after writing them, relate to why we might be feeling that we owe our dogs more than we can give them. They don’t answer the question of “What IS enough?”
Here’s a thought to get that conversation started: “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” Please discuss. I think this will be an interesting and important inquiry. As usual, I look forward to your thoughts.
MEANWHILE, back at the farm: Jim and I continued our tradition of coloring Easter eggs this weekend. It’s ridiculously fun. Sometimes we hide them from each other and create our own Easter egg hunts.
The weekend started in Lake Geneva, where 200+ people came out to support libraries and hear about The Education of Will. It was a perfect evening–so much support from the Lake Geneva Library, the Williams Bay Library and the Elkhorn Vet Clinic and… The Geneva Inn, who donated a lake view room for Jim and I to stay in after the talk. Oh my, what luxury!
Here’s the dining room at The Geneva Inn. We had a long, leisurely breakfast there Friday morning and then took a long walk in a near by state park. Only down side was I forgot my binoculars and the lake was full of migrating ducks. I think there were a lot of Bufflehead on the lake… if you live there and are a birder, let me know if I guessed right. I didn’t even have my glasses on, so I wouldn’t bet a nickel on my guess. The best part of all was that I felt comfortable leaving Willie for the first time since his surgery (with our fantastically responsible sitter).
The rest of weekend was spent both working hard on the farm and relaxing. Perfect. Hope yours was good too.