[Dear Annie]

To celebrate 1994 as the Year of the Dog, Director and volunteer dog walker, Lucie Tomson, has asked her dog, Annie, to help out with canine concerns. Annie, a border collie, does her best to help her fellow dogs with their questions.

Annie's picture Dear Annie:
Near my house there is a school where my owner takes me for a walk. It is great to walk through this park, since I can visit with the dogs that live in houses that back onto the park. I feel bad for my one friend -- a big black dog named Solitaire. Solitaire told me he is lonely. He is never let into the house -- not even in the basement. His owners are out maybe half an hour a day in the summer but in the fall and winter - they only come out to drop down his food bowl. Solitaire used to have the run of the whole backyard but his owners now keep him on a leash in the backyard because he was digging. Solitaire liked to dig because he had nothing else to do -- he had no chew toys or chew bones, not even a ball to play with.

Solitaire is not the same dog any more. He is getting nasty and he barks and snarls all the time. I have tried to talk to him again but he cannot get close to the fence any more. He is really depressed. Why is this happening to him?

Dear Concerned:
Dogs are pack animals, not hermits. Dogs need to be a part of a family.

Before we were domesticated, we lived in packs, relying on each other for hunting, security and to create the next generation. Dogs were domesticated by man to fill many purposes: hunting, herding and guarding to name a few. Since the need for hunting and herding has declined over the centuries, many humans have found joy in having a dog for companionship.

Many humans think it is okay to get a dog, keep it in the back yard or garage and visit the dog and walk it once in awhile when THEY feel the need to be with a dog. There is no regard for the needs of the dog; the dog is simply there for selfish reasons on the part of the owner. We were not domesticated to sit in somebody's backyard, garage or barn with nothing to do. We are intelligent animals that require companionship.

I also feel sad for Solitaire. Typically, dogs that are kept alone and confined do become aggressive and it seems Solitaire is on the way. Boredom, lack of exercise, lack of mental stimulation and lack of a pack all lead to aggressiveness in a dog. The situation is probably worse because Solitaire is backing onto a school yard. On many occasions, I have seen kids throwing rocks and sticks and teasing dogs in backyards which contribute to aggressiveness.

A message to humans: If you want something that sits quietly in the backyard and requires no care or training -- plant a tree.

If you want a companion that will accompany you on walks every day, a companion that will learn any trick that you want to teach, a companion that does not care how much you weigh or how your hair looks, a companion that will greet you enthusiastically at the door every time you come home and, in return, if you are prepared to meet ALL their needs - not just food and water: Adopt a dog like Solitaire....he will adore you.

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