Sometimes I get the feeling that if the universe is governed by any laws at all, they were created by some underpaid writer for The Onion. The difference between fake news and reality is becoming much harder to discern. Case in point: This article by Daily Mail columnist Shona Sibary on how she gets rid of her dogs as soon as they stop being puppies.
There’s been a fair bit of email discussion here at Dogster about whether Sibary’s piece is real or whether it was manufactured simply to inspire outrage. It may be a sign of my growing sense of fatalism, but I think that it’s real — or at least as real as the Mail‘s stories get. Known as The Daily Fail by aficionados of honest journalism, the Mail is a source of reliable reporting in the same way that Donald Trump is an excellent source of courteous, nuanced political analysis.
The essence of Sibary’s contradictory attitudes toward dogs is summed up in this passage:
But I have an even worse confession to make; over the past four years I have fallen in love with four puppies and, on each occasion, driven miles with hundreds of pounds of cash in my pocket to buy them. Then, months later, I have turned my back on them and given them away. I admit this is strange, not least because no one is more welcoming and loving to a doe-eyed little puppy than me.
While they’re with me, they have a perfect life. I trawl pet shops choosing comfy baskets and colourful collars. I have debates with my children lasting days over what name we should give the new addition to the family.
I have paid for vaccinations and microchipping and laughed at my husband, Keith, when he has threatened divorce at the thought of yet another pooch.
‘Don’t be silly, darling,’ I have argued. ‘A dog is a man’s best friend. We can’t live without one.’
So where, today, are all these four-legged friends I promised a ‘forever home’ to? I’m ashamed to say I have absolutely no idea. The minute they become too much trouble — which they always do — I fall out of love and start advertising them in the classifieds section of our local newspaper.
You can see why the Dogster staff wasn’t entirely sure that this was for real: With its topic and quotes, it’s virtually guaranteed to piss people off and go viral.
But this column is not really so surprising for Sibary. Based on some of her other columns, I won’t be surprised to read someday that she’s given away her kids because they had become just too inconvenient, especially if the kid given away is one of the girls. She’s previously sparked controversy by admitting that she sedates her kids during travel so they don’t cry. Her most recent article before this one claims that all mothers (including her) love their boy children more than their girls. So, her article on dogs is just one more example that demonstrates how totally ego-driven Sibary is.
But ultimately, I’m not terribly outraged. Anna Swartz, writing for the Dodo, called Sibary’s piece “truly callous,” and she’s not wrong. But of all the things that I read about happening to dogs, Sibary raising her dogs for a year then giving them away is hardly the worst. If the facts in her article can be trusted (again giving the caveat that this is the Daily Mail we’re talking about), she’s not dumping them on the roadside or at a shelter; she’s actually giving them to people who want to take care of them.
Also, based on everything I’ve read about her, giving them away sounds like the best thing for the dogs themselves. I don’t come away from any of her articles thinking that she’s particularly well-equipped to give a good home to a dog for 10 or 15 years. I’m actually kind of appalled that she has children, especially girl children.
Further, I don’t think that she’s very remarkable. The picture that I get from Sibary’s piece is just a reflection of attitudes that are very, very common. The idea that getting a dog means a forever cute and frisky pup is broadcast to us daily by television, movies, and websites. It’s an ideal that pet stores and pet food manufacturers wrap their marketing around. The fact that we have that idea driven so deeply into our collective minds is why dogs are more likely to linger in shelters the older they get.
Sibary may have cranked those attitudes up to 11 and beyond, facilitated in part by having enough money to do it, but when you dig past the privilege and the narcissism, we’ve all known lots of people just like her. That’s perhaps the worst part.
Read more Dogster Commentary: