In defense of man’s best friend | AspenTimes.com

In defense of man’s best friend

After reading all the recent negative letters to the editor regarding dogs and dog ownership, I thought it appropriate and timely to make the following positive announcement and observations.

A special event, celebrating the active mountain lifestyle we enjoy with our “best friends,” will be held on Saturday, April 13.

Many Colorado dog owners and even those who don’t yet own a dog have taken part in the event over the past six years and really enjoyed it as it’s quite unique and a lot of fun. In fact, at least five people I know of who didn’t previously own a dog adopted one right after experiencing the event.

What does this tell us? Perhaps, dog ownership can be very rewarding. What could be better than enjoyable, healthy exercise shared with our pets and our fellow dog lovers on a beautiful Spring day? The K-9 Uphill, now an annual tradition, is a big party for humans and dogs alike!

This event started as a tribute to my former dog, Rasta, who I shared adventures with for almost 14 years. Rasta was the first dog I raised from a pup. That was such an enriching experience for me in my life.

I learned a lot, including patience, persistence, responsibility and loyalty while raising my Rasta doggie. We always hear about the “unconditional love” of a dog, and Rasta truly gave that and more. Dog owners can appreciate what I’m saying. Those who never own a dog will unfortunately miss out on this amazing and joyous experience.

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The bond becomes very strong between a person and their pet over time. Many times your pet is the only one there for you when you need someone (or something) during tough times.

It’s sad but true that people, whether they be friends or family, often times can’t be relied upon like our canines. People just have too many responsibilities or are just plain flaky, especially in our society. Dogs ALWAYS have time for their masters. They never say “no” to a walk or an adventure or even just hanging out. Maybe that’s why they’re called “man’s best friend.”

It’s also true that dogs are a reflection of their owners. They may even resemble their owners, which is kind of funny. And much like problem children, dogs exhibiting negative behavior is the result of neglect, poor training or abuse by those who are responsible for them.

When I moved here in the early ’80s, dogs were a very cool part of the Aspen experience. They were all over town, even roaming the streets and for the most part, well behaved. No one whined about them. In fact, locals and visitors of the time appreciated them.

Dogs were a fun and interesting aspect of what made Aspen … well Aspen. A few years later, my Rasta dog would join me for a few cold ones on the bar stools at Legends sports bar. Today that’s unheard of. What has happened to our small town attitude?

I’ve noticed in recent years as our local population has changed that many dog owners enjoy “the look” of hiking (i.e. Smuggler’s housewife hill) or cruising around town with their dog, but don’t make the time and effort to train them properly.

These “wannabes” and transient Aspenites are the same ones that will even go so low as to abandon their dogs, causing an influx of dogs at the Aspen/Pitkin County Animal Shelter, at the end of each season. Training their pets (or simply paying for training) is just too much trouble, I guess.

There’s no excuse for any dog owner’s irresponsible actions and these folks should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. These few bad apples are the ones that give all dog owners a bad rap.

Now, I’m far from perfect. (No news flash to those who know me.) But, I do try to control my dogs and pick up after them. I use so many Pet Pickups each day, in fact, I wish I had stock in the company!

From my experience with other local dog owners, I can say for the most part they are responsible 90 percent of the time as well. On the other hand, in our neighborhood, the “upper east side,” there are several owners who don’t supervise their dogs or pick up after them. We all know who they are and they’re on thin ice.

However, I think we should all be careful about blatant generalizations about any group of people and claim they are bad as a whole. That’s discrimination, plain and simple, which is cruel, unfair and ignorant, regardless of whether it pertains to a certain ethnic group or in this case – an entire group of pet owners.

The bottom line is that we should all make an attempt to be more responsible, whether it involves our dogs, our kids, or caring for the environment (i.e., do we really need to kill mother nature by driving our SUVs EVERY day?).

It’s not that tough. If we make a little effort, maybe Aspen will return to be the cool, laid back place we used to enjoy. Let’s respect each other like a true community. Then, let’s have some fun!

Erik Skarvan

Aspen