Out here in the eastern edge of San Francisco, we live in what could be called a paradise for dogs, among other creatures. Our land is raw, unfenced and at the edge of the bay. In the mornings, the air is filled with birdsong and one can sit on the deck and watch the sun rise against the silhouette of the East Bay Hills.
And this is part of the reason that the San Francisco Humane Society would not let the owner of our Barn adopt a dog.
My esteemed fellow Barn dweller Michael Hamman has owned dogs most of his life but once, a few years back, he had to return a dog he got from the SF Humane Society because it was biting the other people who live and work here.
According to the people who control the animals, this is a forever black mark on Mr. Hamman’s character, a terrible indication that he is not worthy of ever having an animal again grace his home. In fact, this man, according to those in charge of such things, is not worthy of a dog.
The territory of animals is so politicized that saying that he’d “like to own a pet” was enough to disqualify him. “You don’t own a pet,” said the humane society clerk with a tone of horror in her voice. “You are the animal’s companion.”
She asked about the condition of the fence. When Michael said we didn’t have a fence, she insisted that he’d have to sign a paper pledging never to let the dog leave the house. After that, she required him to fax her the title to the house so that she could ensure that he actually owned it.
So, after much bureaucratic paper shuffling, faxing, filling out of forms, Michael Hamman was deemed unworthy of having a pet. Oh, I mean, being the earthly companion to a much more highly spiritual being — a dog.
This seems insane to me. Michael says that adoptable dogs are in short supply in this city. The shelter is crammed with angry pit bulls and trembling chihuahuas who were no longer deemed a fun accessory by those who acquired them, but very few regular old mutts. This gives those who run the shelter the opportunity to set an extraordinarily high criteria for humans. Besides the normal demands that the person have the space and resources to make a good life for the animal, the human has to be ready to be the dog’s shrink. Any failure in the dog/human relationship is the human’s fault.
The dogs are seemingly in the superior position in this transaction. Too bad for the dog. I can attest, it’s pretty nice out here. In fact, it’s paradise for dogs.