I recently conducted a new client consultation with a young woman who was going away for the weekend and wanted someone to care for her pets while she was away. She has a 9 year old chocolate lab and an 18 year old cat. She also had a toddler.
In the course of asking the questions I needed answered for the animals' care, I asked how often the dog was being walked. She replied that he hadn't been walked in over a year.and a half. They have a big yard and they let him out there to do his business and they play fetch with him there. She had told me the dog was not dog reactive or the least bit aggressive so I asked why he never got walked and she said, they had gotten busy with caring for the baby and thought since he got exercise in the yard it was okay. Needless to say, I was upset. This poor sweet dog was not getting any walks at all...an activity so important to dogs and so enjoyable to them. I asked where his water bowls were and she said he had a bowl outside. He did not however, have a doggy door, so if he was thirsty, he was out of luck unless someone let him out. He did however, she told me, drink out of the toilet. I guess she was concerned her daughter would make a mess with the dog's water.
When we went out to the backyard, we found her daughter had filled the dog's water bowl with dirt from the sandbox. I am not sure when that was done. How long had this dog been without clean water?
I found the situation appalling and told the young woman that the dog should have a bowl of fresh water both inside and outside the house at all times. I also told her that they needed to start walking him again as often as they could. I tried to be as diplomatic as possible but made it very clear it was not okay to neglect him this way.
The situation made me wonder how many other dogs are being neglected by their families because a new baby came along? Since our companion animals are members of our family and since we agreed to be responsible for them when we brought them into our home, it is imperative that we continue to provide all of the things they need and expect from us regardless of the fact that we have new circumstances or additional responsibilities.