Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hollywood Depictions Make Life Harder for Real Dogs

A few blogs ago, Liz Stroter talked about one of the reasons that people do not adapt to dogs and give them up to shelters: the expectations that are created by televisions shows that a stern hand and a few rough words will change the dog’s behavior in a matter of weeks. When the expectations are not fulfilled, the dog goes to the pound. Another reason people give up on dogs is that TV and film depictions lead people to believe—particularly people without experience in raising dogs—that dogs are merely rather simple happy people who cannot speak. This has the effect that many people may believe that a dog that is destructive of furniture is not only mischievous, but actually bad. If the dog is continually bad, perhaps he is evil. This means that leaving the dog at a shelter where he will ultimately be euthanized may actually be deserved. “He was just a bad dog. There was nothing we could do about it. We tried. We really tried. George took him out for a walk twice a day. He didn’t care. He still pooped on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator. He just didn’t care.” Recently on a transcontinental flight I watched Firehouse Dog. Aside from the improbabilities of a typical Hollywood story, a dog that is adopted by a firehouse is taken to an agility trial, where without any apparent experience, he runs through most of the trial following the commands of a boy who has never worked with him, performing each feat flawlessly. This is not a good lesson for a teenager who has been given his or her first dog. Hollywood depictions of animals has become something of a sociological topic. See Marla V. Anderson and Antonia J.Z. Henderson, “Pernicious Portrayals: The Impact of Children’s Attachment to Animals of Fiction on Animals in Fact,” 13(4) Society & Animals (2005).

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