In recent years I've read many articles about the miraculous health benefits of pets. I believe what those articles say, but I have a question about pet ownership as a method of stress reduction:
Should pet owners take responsibility for negative side-effects?
Here's my story of how one kind of stress reduction caused stress for an innocent party :
After weeks of dry weather, a powerful midnight storm brings reviving rain to my thirsty neighborhood. In the early hours of the morning after, I lace up my running shoes and take off toward a dirt trail along the nearby Mariposa drainage, anticipating the thrilling uplift of solitude in rejuvenated riparian splendor. But before I leave my own driveway, the neighbor's dogs pitch a fit, barking and lunging at their fence as if I'm an evil intruder about to invade their territory. Even though I should be used to it, the sudden ruckus startles me from smooth reverie to spiky adrenaline infused anxiety.
A few minutes later, I turn onto the path that follows a sandy rise above cottonwoods and Russian olive trees. My heartbeat steadies as I inhale the savory thanksgiving scent of sage and the honey fragrance of blooming chamisa. Then my nostrils flare and recoil in a tight pinch against the nasty stench of reconstituted dog turd, given new life by the same rain that coaxed perfume from the high desert plants. I exhale a four-letter word and step around the pile in my path. When I look up again my view is filled by the glistening, brand new, forest green doggy doo-doo pick up station, pristine in its virginity.
Across Montano the trail passes behind a housing development. At this hour of going-to-work or waiting-for-the-school-bus, most of the backyards are empty. I hear birds twittering and the whir of distant traffic. I relax into a meditative pace and watch a desert cottontail hopping a mere two feet ahead of me.
An explosion behind the fence on my left jerks me back to reality and propels my bunny buddy into the underbrush. A dog, someones beloved pet no doubt, is hurling his body against the wall, red-lining my heart rate in a rush of fight or flight response. While the one dog assaults the pine boards in silence, his neighbor jumps high to show his menacing grimace above the pickets and a third dog bays like a coon hound who has treed his quarry.
My mantra shifts from Sanskrit to profanity and I scramble to the opposite side of the weed choked, muddy ditch. There's no time to scuff the mud off my shoes or quiet my racing pulse before a pit bull on a twelve-foot leash lunges at my knees. His owner makes a half-hearted pull on the leash and scowls at me. I'm confused...he's mad at me for infringing on his right to relax or...?
On my way home I rant about personal responsibility until I see a young woman pushing a twin stroller while controlling two dogs on a double leash. I watch her put on a plastic bag as if it were a glove, pick up poop and then turn the glove back into a bag with a practiced twist. I continue my rant with even greater vehemence now that I have a model for the positive side of my argument.
What do you say, readers? Where do you stand?