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By Mark Stinson
Posted Tuesday, August 15, 2006

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Siler City, NC - Saturday morning I was sitting on my porch swing drinking coffee as I do
every morning. It's a daily ritual I do to get my thoughts clear and plan the day. I was discussing the days activities with my eldest son and across the yard in the rain wandered the nastiest mutt you ever saw.

My immediate response to my son was to hush when he called for it. I told him if you call it, it will come and will come back again. I figured a neighbor had a critter get loose and with my garbage being raided at night I felt I was looking at the culprit. The nasty beast wandered off and we continued our conversation.

We continued our conversation about money and how he could spend it far faster than he could acquire it. Kids have so many things to engage them now a days they loose focus on the balance of needs and wants. I felt I had to chain him down to reality to help him understand that there are boundaries to what you can have and cant.

It's been an on going issue on the news lately about Americans digging themselves into credit card hell. I really busted his bubble when I explained the reality of taxes, insurance requirements to drive, home and auto maintenance and unexpected expenses. I felt I have to be a bit harsh to get the point across. I love him so I had to help him understand there are limits to what one can and can't do. It all revolves around how well you perform in the business world and the income you receive. To do well requires self discipline and a well disciplined person will do far better than someone who isn't.

After I brought his dreams of expensive games and clothing in the near future to a sudden blinding crash he seamed a bit more grounded but wasn't happy. We changed the subject to what needed to be done around the house. In the middle of the conversation I smelled something, something absolutely nauseating.

I looked up and the mutt was sitting in the middle of my sidewalk just upwind from us. It was raining and the poor beast was literally shaking like an addict in withdrawal. My son immediately went into "let's feed and rescue the mutt" mode. I was not happy with this but knew it was in sad shape so I told him to see what he could find to feed it with.

I am not a dog person, pet person or animal rights activist. I love animals, don't get me wrong , but I personally don't want any. I let him feed the critter and I walked over to look at it. His eyes were matted half shut, his ribs shown from malnutrition and he was covered in hair balls, small sticks and ticks. I told my son point blank that in my opinion he was a stray and we needed to find him a home.

I have issues with animal services response time and the fact if they pick an animal up its 99% guaranteed that animal is not long for this world. I felt I needed to give him some attention and find him a home. I made a catastrophic mistake. I pulled the hair out of the dog's eyes and washed away the matting. I looked into the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen on an animal. I can't type on here the response that came out of my mouth when I realized I had sunk my own boat.

I now have a dog.

Tristan couldn't understand why the dog was in such bad shape and I replied that someone either abused it and it left or it was thrown out. You can read more about Ralph on my yahoo (stinmar1 360 pages) if you like.

The discussion we had afterwards related to money, life, dogs and boundaries. As parents we have a responsibility to teach our children discipline and to do that we have to set limits and boundaries. In a hypothetical way it's like chaining them down to reality.

I used Ralph as an example. I told Tristan that if I didn't teach him self discipline he would go out into the real world making bad decisions exceeding his limitations to become a miserable beast like Ralph was when he walked up our sidewalk . The comparison hit home and he was much happier with me. He still isn't thrilled with limitations and boundaries but has a much better understanding of why we have them.

Dogs are intelligent creatures and like humans if they are taught limitations and discipline they will act in a very predictable way. Children are very much the same in the fact that you set limitations and teach them self discipline they will respond predictably for the most part.

Children that haven't been properly parented will often grow to become very dysfunctional adults. If you abuse a child that child stands a very good chance of becoming an abusive adult to its children and others. If you abuse a dog that animal will become abusive. Adults that hurt others often find themselves in jail.

Dogs that are abusive often find themselves caged. Adults that kill sometimes get the death penalty; dogs that kill always get the death penalty. Do you see a similarity in actions toward both?

The question isn't whether to chain your dog, cage him or let him run free. It's whether you're a good owner.

Some people don't need children as they simply can't properly care for them, henceforth some don't need pets. You have to have enough self discipline to know when to ground a child or chain a dog, let the dog run or let a child make their own decisions. If you do your job properly you won't have to worry about the results. Responsible owners and parents share the same goal, to love, teach and properly care for to insure proper growth to adulthood where one can function with others properly.

It's not about being a perfect parent or pet owner or even how you do it, it's about taking the responsibility seriously.

I'm not going to get into the argument of to chain or not to chain. Ralph sleeps inside my paint room at night, is tied up outside during the day when I can't watch him with water and food. He gets turned loose to walk with me and the kids at night and is treated like family. My kids tell me they are content and happy, Ralph appears to be one happy content critter now too, and that's all that really matters.

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