Saturday, August 26, 2006


Heather Mallick wrote a column for, the online version of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, called Dogville. In it she rails against dogs and dog owners apparently because Tennyson, her friend’s child with autism, does not receive adequate medical treatment or the funding to pay for it.

How is that dog people’s fault? According to Ms Mallick,

. . . There is no float for autistic kids in the local parades, although there are floats for everything else. This Easter there was a float called Pug Rescue and it was populated by grownups and their precious pug dogs dressed up in expensive clothes. These dogs eat treats from the local bakery for doggie num-nums and play with toys from special doggie stores.
Tennyson's family, like other families who have to cope with autism, has come close to bankruptcy paying for the special therapy that is standard for autistic kids. "Get a human cause!" her father shouted out as the float went by. He was not popular with the crowd on the sidewalk.

My neighbourhood is mad for dogs, but for children, not so much. The signs along the boardwalk right by Lake Ontario say dogs must be leashed, intended for the safety of children and adults. Every sign has been spray-painted over. This was done by prosperous, white, middle-aged adults who have "furkids." That means dogs that are fed, dressed, housed and spoken to like children.

Well, Ms Mallick, I'm sorry your friend's child has autism. I'm sorry society doesn't feel more compassion for the child and her parents. I wish things had worked out differently for all of you.

I don't live in Toronto. I've never lived in Toronto. I guess things are different there. Here in Kelowna, BC, people with dogs don't refer to them as "fur kids," we refer to them as "dogs." We have to fight with City Hall for the privilege of walking our dogs on-leash through City Park along the waterfront, and can only stay on the paths. G-d forbid anyone should throw a Frisbee or have any fun. People with dogs pay taxes here --- same as people with children.

Sandy is a dog, not a fur kid.

I believe we are licensing the wrong species.

Children. Well, I don't have any. I've never wanted any. I don't like them. However, I don't think that gives me the right to complain about people with children --- about how they spoil them and feed them designer potato chips and buy them video games and $150.00 jeans made in foreign countries. I don't think it gives me the right to try to have children excluded from our public parks, or even to compel them to walk in a well-behaved manner only on the paths, no matter how loud, messy, lazy, foul-mouthed, or self-centred the little rascals are.

Does it give me the right to shout at them from the sidewalk when they pass by on floats?

Here in Kelowna, many children seem to have their legs painted on. They don't walk to school or anywhere else. They don't, at least most don't, ride bikes to school. No. They are driven to school in minivans by their mothers who are dressed in housecoats. The mums won't get out of the van in their housecoats, so they just pull up somewhere in the vicinity of the front of the school, disgorge the kids into traffic, and head back home. That's how much walking these kids do. From the van to the door. From the door to the van. From the van to the house. And all this in a reasonably temperate climate. At least the climate in the car is temperate.

We now have kids in their teens and 20's who have always just waited to be picked up by their mother, or by someone else's mother, and taken to the next organized activity --- to school, or church, or soccer, or hockey. --- or taken home. They don't know how to think for themselves. They don't know how to take a bus. They don't know how to cross a street. It's a miracle they can make it through the mall without getting lost, but somehow they manage. Maybe they drop breadcrumbs behind them as they leave the food court so they can find their way back to mum's van later on.

But they are, after all, "our kids," right? The world owes them a living. That's why, in the library, when four-year-olds literally scream, no one says, "Would you please control your child?" to the mother. (See? I guess we're different than Toronto in that way, too.) That's why they can run up and down the aisles in supermarkets unabated. Because, after all, they are "our kids." Why wouldn't I want to be around them?

Oh, you think not all kids here can be like that? You think that those are just a few kids whose behaviour makes them stand out more than the good, responsible kids? Maybe you're right. And maybe the pug owners who dress their dogs in expensive clothing and parade them on floats are just a segment of the dog owners, too. You think?

I think it's borderline criminal that in a country where the population overwhelmingly identifies health care as the main concern and where there is an enormous budget surplus, I can get an MRI for my dog sooner than I can get an MRI myself. I think it's too bad that your friend has to pay for treatment for her child with autism. Why don't you try lashing out at the people who collect and dispense that money, the ones elected by you, the ones answerable to you and your friend?

Next Canada Day try shouting out at them from the sidewalk as they pass by on floats.