Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Play date?

I've overheard parents setting up *play dates* for their kids for the last few years and have to hide the smirk on my face, but when a stranger tried to arrange a playdate for their pup with Luka I didn't know what to think! I feel like it's bad enough that we need to schedule playtime into our kids already overscheduled lives, but are we to do the same for our pets? Whatever happened to turning the kids (or dogs) loose in the neighborhood to amuse themselves?


Truthfully, I don't believe it's wise to do either. Mostly I think we go too far to pamper and shelter our kids as much as we do. Granted, I don't have kids, so what do I know, but we all survived our childhoods, didn't we? Do we need to do the same to our pets? Can you believe that I had a stranger chastise me for having Luka at a street fair a few weeks ago because it was warm and "his feet must be burning up on that hot pavement!" Well gosh - get the animal cruelty people after me!

These same people would likely turn a blind eye to the homeless person they see each morning at the train station or the elderly relative struggling to maintain their independence. Do you realize that Americans spend 40 billion a year on our pets - to pamper them and send them to doggy day care and to feed them premium holistic food? Yet we have no sympathy for the underemployed, the children who live in poverty, or the elderly. Is it just me, or are our priorities fouled up?

I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to spoiling my pets, but at least I think I recognize it for what it is. The NY Times article points out the hypocrisy in the choices we make - spending money to buy Halloween costumes for our pampered pets while countless other abandoned or unlovable pets are euthanised in shelters each year. Shouldn't we extend our concern to members of our own species just as willingly? Or perhaps more so?

Maybe it's only the (newly minted) social worker in me coming out. What do you think?


Mary said...

Kudos to you, Laura. We, in this country particularly, spend more on our pets without giving thought to donations to shelters for animals or humans.

Dogs need socialization and we give it. The children...spend too much time text messaging and spending time on the computer or in front of the TV. These are the times, unfortunately. I tried to let my daughter have a childhood like mine...carefree, outdoors, socializing, as I did. It went well.

I donate clothing and furniture to shelters and give when I can. But - I have not donated anything to animal shelters in NC. Now, it's on my list of things to do.

Jayne said...

I fully agree with you Laura. My nephews have to be constantly "entertained" and are forever "bored." They haven't the foggiest idea how to amuse themselves, yet have more stuff than we ever dreamed of growing up. Mixed up priorities indeed.

KGMom said...

Whooo--Laura the social worker gets tough.
No, as a mom and a pet owner, I agree with you. Perhaps the arranging play dates springs more from the parents' busy lives than the need to schedule children!
And don't even get me started on our over-pampered society, which extends to kids and pets.
So, before I do get started, I will say--
th-th-that's all, folks.

Mary C said...

Hi Laura - you asked: Whatever happened to turning the kids loose in the neighborhood to amuse themselves? I have asked myself the same question. Every weekday morning I see moms in their SUVs speeding down my residential street to get their kids to the elementary school on time. Whatever happened to walking the kids to school, or better yet, letting the kids (even a few together for safety purposes) walk to and from school on their own? But I certainly would agree with KGMom that these play dates are more for the parents and the crazy schedules they keep. And for those folks who spend an exorbitant amount on their pets obviously have no children - but it would be so nice to see them take at least a small portion of the money they spend on their pets and give it to a well-deserving charitable organization.

rcwbiologist said...

One of the criteria for us buying a house recently was how many swing sets were in the neighborhood we were looking in. We bought in a neighborhood with many. Because of that our kids have many other kids to play with and are rarely in the house. They are 4 and 7 and we do keep an eye on them. But we also make sure they are fully aware that their are crazy people out there that could harm them. I've never understood why a parent wouldn't fully encourage their kids to play outside as much as possible. Would my wife and I rather live somewhere on our own lot where we don't have to deal with neighborhood issues? yes, but then that would be about us and not our kids right? Unfortunately in this day and age too many people, parents included, are about me, me, me.

Susan Gets Native said...

I love it when you gripe. You gripe in an intelligent, heart-felt way.
I don't have any answers, but I do know that my kids find their own amusement while in the house or out in the yard, with a few birding excursions thrown in. (Really, I'm doing it for them. Yeah.)
I think the kids who are teenagers now are really going to go nowhere as a generation. How can you effectively communicate when the only practice you have had is via texting and email? I have seen too much apathy in teenagers during my programs, but the little kids (tweens and younger) who still have the spark, who aren't too far gone yet.
Since being married to a freelance writer is NOT glamorous and lucrative, we have to choose our charities wisely. AmVets, pregnancy crisis centers, homeless pets...that's who we give to.

dguzman said...

I'm right there with you, sister. Too many overly rich and pampered Americans = too many overly pampered pets. We spoil our babies too, but we also try to help with donations to no-kill shelters and stuff. All the babies came from local adoption agencies like PAWS that care for orphaned and abandoned animals.

If we ever tried to "schedule" playtime for our 11-yr-old, she'd probably smack us. Her time is HER time, scheduled as she pleases. Which means unlimited reading, Barbies, and running around outside in the sprinkler when it's hot.

pablo said...

We just spend several hundred dollars on our elderly dog for vet visits and medications. Of course we "had" to do it, but I am keenly aware of how far that same amount of money would go toward caring for poor people in the third world.

z-silverlight said...

I was going to comment, but all my words were taken.
But, yes, kids should be taught useful pastimes.