Don’t Blame an Animal for Being an Animal

I spent July 4 in one of my favorite places in America: Yosemite National Park. The developed areas of Yosemite have a bit of a...

I spent July 4 in one of my favorite places in America: Yosemite National Park.

The developed areas of Yosemite have a bit of a bear problem. Human visitors to the park have a tendency to leave food out and unattended. Bears are drawn to the food and eat it. Some bears begin to seek out and harass humans in order to steal food. Park officials are forced to shoot these bears.

The park officials make no effort to conceal how much they hate shooting their beloved bears. Campgrounds, parking lots, and park literature are plastered with warnings about the issue. Trash cans are bear-proof. Dumpsters equipped with bear-proof clips have signs that say “Use clip. Save a bear.” Bear-proof canisters for backcountry camping are stamped with a logo that says “save the bears”.

On the first night of my trip I camped in a developed campground in Yosemite Valley. My neighbors were idiots. They left a can of Pringles unattended on their picnic table.

It was somewhat entertaining to watch a bear eat the Pringles, but I also was heartbroken knowing that the stupidity of my neighbors may ultimately contribute to the death of such a magnificent animal.

The attitude of Yosemite park officials is that when bears become aggressive, it is 100% the fault of humans. The bears are not held to blame–they merely do what it is in their nature. If you leave a can of Pringles unattended on a picnic table, a bear will eat it. That is your fault, not the bear’s. If the bear begins to harass picnickers and campers, that is your fault, not the bear’s.

I like that attitude, and it shouldn’t only apply to bears. Dogs and cats (but especially dogs) also have a tendency to be “naughty” in ways that are entirely predictable, and that aren’t actually naughty.

If I leave delectable garbage in the trash can and forget to protect the trash in the dog-resistant cupboard, my pal Buster will get into the trash. He isn’t being bad. He’s simply being Buster. His love for chocolate and garbage is no secret.

Thank goodness See’s Candies don’t have enough theobromine (the poisonous ingredient in chocolate) to poison Buster. If they did, I would have had to take him into work with me for treatment on several occasions.

But one thing’s for sure: there’s no point in getting mad at the dog for acting like a dog.

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