Another dog story

Mac McPhail

It seems like almost everyone likes a dog story. I get the most comments from readers when I do one. So here’s another.

I started noticing a few weeks ago a dog roaming around while driving in and out of my neighborhood. Also, we would be working at a house around there and see the dog out on the street, walking through someone’s yard, or napping on the edge of the road. This was unusual because we have a leash law here in town, and very seldom do you see dogs out and about on their own.

The dog is a black, long haired chow mixed-breed. He’s become such a regular sight that some of the folks have started calling him “Wolfman.” He appears to be pretty tame. So apparently, his past owner, for some reason, decided they didn’t want him anymore, and came through and just dropped him off. The dog doesn’t appear to be a physical threat to anyone. But there is a problem. The city has a leash law for dogs. And there is another problem. The dog is hard to catch.

Catching the dog should be pretty simple. You put a cage out where the dog is roaming and put some food in it. The dog is hungry, so he goes into the cage to get the food. The lid snaps shut, and you’ve got him. Then the animal control folks can carry him to the pound where hopefully, he will be adopted by a caring family. Then Wolfman won’t have to roam anymore.

But Wolfman hasn’t been that hungry. Feeling sorry for the dog, some folks have been leaving food out for Wolfman. I’ve seen him walk around with a bowl in his mouth from where people had left out food for him. Since he has been getting food elsewhere, the dog has been reluctant to go into the cage and eat the food in the trap set for him by the animal control officers.

I can understand why people would leave out food for Wolfman. He‘s a cute dog and appears harmless. And he looks pitiful out there roaming all by himself. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for the dog. But I can’t help but wonder, are they actually doing the dog any good? Wouldn’t it be better if the dog got hungry enough so he would go into the cage for food and get caught? Hopefully, then Wolfman could be placed with someone by animal control who could provide the dog a proper home.

But Wolfman looks so pitiful. And he is hungry and alone. Besides, it’s just a little bit of food, and just this one time. Where’s your compassion? But is it really compassionate? Wolfman is still out there roaming all by himself without a home, even if he has a little food in his stomach.

I look around and I wonder the same about other situations. A family member or friend is going through a tough time financially. They have made unwise decisions and now they are in a bind. They ask you for money, promising that they will pay you back soon. So you “loan” them the money to help resolve their financial dilemma, knowing you’ll probably never be repaid. They needed it, and you felt sorry for them. But soon, the family member or friend is back, needing money once again, still making unwise choices. Your help did little to help change their decision making. And, like Wolfman, they are out there, aimlessly roaming, still in the same situation.

But the issue is bigger than that. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared the “war on poverty.” Since then, according to the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. government has spent over $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs. How has the battle been going the past fifty years? Well, the poverty rate is still around 15 percent, basically the same as when the “war” began. Nicholas Kristof of “The New York Times” wrote in 2012: “This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency.”

Of course these programs have helped many people over the years. You, or someone close to you, have probably benefited from them. But where does heart felt, well-intentioned compassion end, and enabling begin? Sometimes that compassion can help change someone’s life, but sometimes it enables them to avoid making the changes necessary inorder to go forward in life. It’s a tough question, and I suppose it depends on the situation.

In the meantime, Wolfman is still out there roaming the neighborhood, looking for some food. But, unless he gets hungry enough to get caught, Wolfman’s days may be numbered. Just the other day, I saw him run out in front of a car and almost get hit. Hopefully, one day soon the dog will get caught and end up with a good family. He just hasn’t got that hungry yet.