Every time Allie and I go to Dunn Loring Park, we see her: a young, energetic Golden Retriever who's all alone in her yard. Her name is Sophie, and when I see her, my heart goes out to her. She's not physically mistreated -- she's just always out there, all by herself. Usually she starts barking wildly and dashing madly around the yard when she sees us passing by her house. When she does, her owner -- an older gentleman -- comes out to tell her to shush. Then he goes back inside, without her. I've never seen him bring her inside.
Why does he have a dog if he doesn't want her companionship? If she's too rowdy, why doesn't he play with her and train her (or hire someone to do it)? If he can't be bothered, why doesn't he find her a home where someone can and wants to be bothered?
I feel the same way when I see people walking their dogs up the street with the leash in one hand and cell phone in the other. They're yakking away to God-knows-who while their dog walks on ahead with nary a backward glance. The person and dog are walking together--but, in a sense, they're miles apart. Neither really enjoys the companionship of the other. And if they don't have that companionship, what's the point of it all?
Today, when Allie and I passed by Sophie's house, she engaged in her usual manic barking and racing. But there was a difference today: she came back to her fence with a tennis ball in her mouth, and emitting what sounded to me like play growls. Meanwhile, Allie--who'd just had a bracing fetch session with me in the park--was walking serenely beside me, carrying her prized Orbee ball. I gave her ears a little scritch and thought, you're a lucky dog, Allie.
Too many dogs are relegated to the back yard or are ignored during their walks with their people. Either way, it's a lonely life for all concerned--but it's a particularly sad fate for an animal that's hard-wired to not just be social, but to bond with people.