Perhaps the Pope is right … The enormous rise of the “baby dog”
There are, according to official figures, 12.7 million children under the age of 16 in the UK, which is barely more than the number of companion dogs. And while the birth rate has been declining or increasing insignificantly for decades, our enthusiasm for man’s best friend has increased dramatically – nearly triple since 1965, and 65% in the last alone. decade.
Are the two related? Well, Pope Francis seems to think so. In a general audience at the Vatican this week, he lambasted “selfish” couples who “substitute cats and dogs for children” as guilty of “depriving us of our humanity.”
It’s tempting, of course, to see his words as just another tired reiteration of that old Catholic message that sex (when he’s married and straight, of course) is for procreation and not for pleasure. But the 85-year-old Argentine pontiff seems to have had his sights set on what he previously called the “cultural degradation” of Western society – where furry four-legged babies replace humans with two in our hearts, in our homes. and in our wallets.
In a 2014 interview with the Italian daily Il Messaggero, he accused future parents of privileging âeasierâ bonds with pets than the challenge of âcomplexâ relationships with children.
So, is he right? Are dogs – who make up a third of all pets in the country – really invading Britain? And not just by leaving their mark on its sidewalks.
As a not-so-good Catholic father of two and grieving dog owner (our 16 year old Cocker Spaniel Bess recently left for pet heaven) I should be in the perfect place to decide – but I find myself torn. More children are arguably not what the world needs in the age of climate change (another of Francis’ themes), and I find myself unable to resist looking for websites offering puppies that have. need to be relocated.
Child? Also, study buddy! Photo / 123rf
There is currently a glut, the fallout from the 3.4 million households (11.4% of the UK total) who allegedly had a pet during the pandemic – many of whom regretted it. Last month, Dogs Trust and the RSPCA jointly reported that there had been a 182% increase in search traffic to their “how to give up a dog” website.
A local dog walker tells me that she currently receives “two or three calls a week” for families who have enthusiastically accepted a locked up puppy, but can no longer handle it because they have to go to work and Fido has “separation anxiety”. Can she find someone to take her?
âI want to hang up,â she said. âWhat about the dog’s needs rather than human needs? “
During the first foreclosure of 2020, the Pets4Homes website reported that there were some 420 buyers for each puppy. Where previously pedigree examples cost around Â£ 500 (NZ $ 1,000) each, demand has driven prices up by the thousands.
The main breeds in this dog rush were Cockers, Cavapoos (Poodle crossed with Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), Cockapoos (Cocker Spaniel with Poodle), Dachshunds, and German Shepherds. All except the last one are city dogs rather than country dogs. And all of them are the type to invite to be pampered. Show them the affection we have. Thirty years ago Rover slept outside in a kennel in all weather and was not allowed to jump on the couch. Today? We take our canine friends to dog-centric pubs, restaurants, offices and hotels. We allow them to sleep on our beds and spend our spare cash on the kinds of food and accessories once reserved for children – not to mention kisses and hugs.
Roscoe is eyeing his first class meal. Photo / Lewis Hamilton
An extreme example is Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time Formula One world champion, who posted on social media this week a photo of his bulldog Roscoe “enjoying” a plate of exotic fruit on a private jet. It’s hard to judge if he wouldn’t prefer Pedigree Chum, but Roscoe obviously embraces Veganuary.
Okay, maybe, from a climate change standpoint. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have calculated that farmland, the equivalent of twice the size of the UK, is currently used around the world to produce pet food for dogs and cats, on a large scale. meat part.
But as famous dog trainer Jamie Penrith told Good Morning Britain this week: “If we’re talking about a dog, a dog is a predator. My whole professional life is about helping people control predation in dogs. Dogs come out every year and attack 15 to 30,000 sheep plus other animals – they don’t run after broccoli or root vegetables. “
Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, is just as lucid. “At the moment,” she said recently, “there isn’t a lot of factual research on vegan pet foods that meet the nutritional needs of dogs.”
But being vegan on its own isn’t necessarily a sure indicator of the new army of pampered dogs that are spearheading this babyfication of British dogs. If in doubt, try ordering a packet of 10 “Bulls’ Pizzle” dog treats. If you get a Â£ 20 change for those dried bull penises, you’ll be fine. Obviously, supplies were cut off by Brexit.
These prices are just one aspect of the UK’s Â£ 8bn pet care industry, up from Â£ 2.9bn in 2005. Half of that is vet bills. . With so many people now having pet insurance, even the most hardened of us can so easily be convinced of extraordinary treatments for minor ailments because, you are assured that they are within your annual spending limit which can. be claimed.
Bess, in her mid-years, had curious periods of lethargy that came and went for no reason. The vet suggested an immediate MRI for Â£ 2,000 which I was about to agree to when I came to all the Catholics and felt guilty that people were waiting days and weeks for such examinations in our hospitals.
She eventually recovered from the illness on her own, and during our daily walk allowed under lockdown, survived to see a procession of four-legged creatures that she did not immediately recognize as fellow mutts – adorned. fancy, brightly colored coats to keep them from getting muddy. Isn’t that the goal of a dog?
Cute or silly and counterproductive coat? Photo / Getty Images
The most heartbreaking example I saw was a golden retriever, recognizable only by its head and tail. Coming from a breed that was solely devoted to hunting and swimming, he was encased in a bright orange knitted all-in-one that could just as easily have been made of concrete as far as the poor creature was concerned. And then there’s the reluctance of new owners to let their dogs off leash, even for a moment. “I’m afraid she won’t come back to mum,” one of them told me, looking puzzled as Bess walked away to make her way through another puddle.
If I were buried in a coat which most veterinary scientists believe is not only unnecessary but counterproductive because it weakens the dog’s natural ability to adapt to changes in temperature, I also wouldn’t go back to mom. I am not, I must point out, immune to stories of dogs going the extra mile for their owner. Rather the opposite. I can be as crappy as the next “dog parent”.
Last week I marveled at the example of Tinsley, a German Shepherd who lured a passing police car when its owner crashed into an American highway. My heart was touched by the story of the Alaskan Malamute, from the North, who curled up on his owner – a mountaineer who fractured his leg in a freezing fall – to keep him warm .
âThe friendship and love between man and dog has no boundaries,â he later said. “From this example, we can all learn to take care of each other.”
Yes, to a point, but for every Tinsley and North there are dogs like the one left off leash by a reckless owner at Tuddenham St Martin near Ipswich on December 29th, who chased the 14 terrified sheep of farmer Becki Spry on a rail line where they were killed by a train.
If dogs are really gaining the upper hand, then maybe we need to be a little more realistic about them before we bring them into our homes to allay our anxiety, isolation, or need for an accessory.
Yes, they can be a positive addition to any home, but they’re not as “easy” or affordable as you might think – much like kids, in other words.