Friday, 12 August 2011


Why do parents insist on giving children pets in order to teach them responsibility, then become disgusted when the children leave all the work to them? In far too many households, the same sad scenereo plays out year after year. Animal shelters overflow with once-loved creatures, yet the public never learns that teaching children responsibility takes constant reinforcement.

When I was young, we had a steady flow of cats passing through our home. Mom decided to get us a dog, presumibly to coax us to take care of him, but the same pattern of neglect continued. Here's an excerpt from Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) that shows how ill-advised Mom's plan was.


We received a learning experience of a different type in August. Mom adopted a puppy who we named Muffin. His fur was similar in colour to that type of bread while his ears partially flopped down the sides of his head. Diane, Linda, and I spent many happy hours playing with that obliging animal, but we were very mean to him. Along with the usual tricks played on unsuspecting pets, we once put Muffin on the teeter totter in our yard. He became so frightened that he left a puddle behind on the seat.

Muffin certainly was a devoted little creature. I once fell off of the fence in the front yard and he came bounding up to see if I had been hurt. As Diane and I thought this was humorous, we decided to train him to come when I fell. Bribing him with wieners worked only once. Muffin soon started coming for the treat and not because he was concerned about me.

Our puppy ate well while he was with us. Mom gave Muffin a bowl of scrambled eggs and chopped-up wieners one morning. He enjoyed it so much and danced so joyfully before being fed that we nicknamed the dish Muffin's Delight. We begged for a bite of it too. The combination tasted so delicious that we asked Mom to make Muffin's Delight every morning for us as well as for him.

As is often true, the novelty of having a pet wears off quickly. Mom assigned me the chore of walking Muffin. Soon I found that he refused to heel. Muffin once bit through the string on his collar and dashed away. I eventually caught the little rascal and carried him home. After a few walks up to a run-down barn-like garage, which Diane and I once thought was haunted, I grew weary of scolding that rambunctious puppy.

Mom decided to give Muffin away after a couple of weeks. We tired of walking him and none of us wanted to even fix his meals. Though the five of us felt sad to see Muffin go to another family, at least we were not burdened with caring for him anymore.


Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.

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