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Correcting Your Behavior Since 2017

Your Pets and Your Children

Pets and children can bring great joy to people's lives. They also bring certain obvious responsibilities. That's why choosing to have a child or a pet is a decision that must be weighed carefully. It's a big commitment. Some of us, having considered the pros and cons, decide that the joys far outweigh the hardships. Others land on the side of having neither child nor pet. It will hardly come as a surprise that The Curmudgeon is a lifelong member of this latter group, a group that has chosen to live a life free from the dependence of a live being. (Given my track record with plants, this is probably for the best.)

And now we come to the proper ways for these two groups to interact in public. No doubt Fluffy or Roberta Jr. is an angel sent from heaven itself and a delight to all. It does not necessarily follow, though, that all of us will want to interact. If your sweet friendly pit bull likes to make friends by nuzzling strangers' crotches, I must ask you to keep her away from me. Regardless of your smiling reassurance that she "just loves people" and there's "nothing to be scared about," allowing her to go at me and "make friends" isn't something I welcome. I did not choose to own a dog. Crotch nuzzling may be one of many reasons. I should not have to renegotiate this decision simply because you want to share your little darling with the world. I think it's more than reasonable to expect to be asked whether I'm comfortable having your dog's nose in my genitals.

Here's something else of which you should be mindful. Some people are afraid of dogs. You may think their fear is silly. That doesn't stop them from feeling fearful. For their sake, as well as for the sake of those who may be allergic or dislike dogs or just want to walk down the street without navigating an obstacle course, it's your responsibility not only to keep poochie on a leash, but also to pay attention to where he's wandering. If he strains to watch the traffic as you gaze in a store window, you've effectively set up a trip wire for all but the uniquely limber. Remember, you chose to have a dog. We didn't.

And now let's talk about your children. I'm sure they're not only adorable but also brilliant, creative, sweet-smelling, and advanced for their ages, and that giving birth to them was the best decision you ever made. That's all very nice. But they're your kids, not mine. And they have to be taught to behave themselves in public. We don't yell, we don't run around, and we don't throw things. Your tykes may as well learn the lesson early: there are other people in the world besides them. A baby crying on a flight can't help himself. But a kid burning rubber through Duane Reade yelling at the top of his lungs as he knocks things off the shelves must be stopped, post haste, and in a manner that leaves no room for confusion and is not vague in any way. Restraint is a necessary social skill that will serve your progeny well.

You could go even further, past the low bar of training them not to annoy people. Why not teach them excellent manners, like keeping their conversations at an appropriately private volume, giving their bus and subway seats to the elderly or those who have difficulty standing, saying "please" and "thank you," smiling, and making eye contact? These too are valuable skills for those planning to eschew the life of the hermit. But I suppose that's just a silly, old-fashioned idea from an old man who doesn't understand the new generation, and why it's so much more modern to be a grunting, self-absorbed slacker.

I seem to have digressed. Without question, you are free to raise your children and train your animals (or, for that matter, train your children and raise your animals) in whatever way you choose. But that freedom ends where their behavior intrudes on my right to grumble my way to the coffee shop in peace and without impediment.

Readers who know me personally may try to suggest that, in truth, I enjoy pets and children very much. Those are vicious lies made up by those who would seek to undermine my efforts by suggesting that I am not quite so curmudgeonly as I claim to be. Please ignore such vile accusations. And please, keep your pets and children under control.

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