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When People Say Stupid Things About Animals

Introducing a new category to EHell – Petiquette!  Stories of bad pets (actually their owners), how to interact with animals and their owners, teaching good people manners to pets.


This is a combination story and request for advice. This issue has come up often enough that my husband and I dread it, and we’re really unsure of what reaction etiquette dictates.

So. We have a large number of pets. Among these pets are quite a few reptiles, including a water dragon, a bearded dragon, a tegu, a corn snake, and several skinks. We know that our pets are unusual, and not to everyone’s taste. We don’t try to force people to handle or deal with them, we don’t bring them anywhere uninvited, and when we have guests the reptiles stay in their enclosures unless said guests ask to see them. We do try to gently correct some misconceptions that people have about them, but otherwise we try to be respectful of the fact that not everyone feels the same way about reptiles that we do.

The problem that we’re having is that sometimes, when people find out we have reptiles, they fall back on the only frame of reference they have, which involves horrible stories about reptile death and abuse. One of our friends insisted on telling us about the time she and her husband found a (most likely harmless) snake in their driveway, and her husband killed it by repeatedly running it over with their car. One of my mother’s acquaintances delights in telling us about an alligator used as a classroom pet at a school where he worked. When the school tired of caring for it, they first tried to kill it by dumping bleach in its water, then allowed one of the students to beat it to death.

The people who tell us these stories expect us to say that they did the right thing, or worse yet, find these horror stories funny. They’re always surprised when we find them deeply upsetting instead. Our pets may not be cute or cuddly, but we love them dearly. Telling us these stories is akin to telling a devoted cat owner about the time you accidentally stomped a kitten to death. And then being surprised when that person doesn’t find the story funny. We understand that these people are trying to find common ground with us, but we still don’t know what the proper response should be. The last time this happened I actually lost my temper and ended up leaving the room.

So I ask you, oh etiquette maven, what is the proper response to these occasions?  1229-11

{ 137 comments… add one }
  • Electric Blue January 4, 2012, 8:47 pm

    I find it unbelievable that a school would allow a student to beat any animal to death…regardless of what type of creature is it that’s disgusting….If the teacher was simply “tired” of looking after it surely someone would’ve been quite happy to give it a new home.

    I’ve heard many of stories of people killing snakes…however I live in Australia where just about every snake is poisonous.
    My hubby’s grandmother killed a deadly brown snake which was curled up right outside the back door…there were children around she took no chances and killed it with a shovel….horrible as it may sound but brown snakes are the most posionous snake in the world and with kids around it was probably the best thing to do at the time.

    Having said that though we’ve found snakes in my in-laws shed the snake catcher is called to remove it and the snakes must be released within a certain radius of where they were found.

  • Ashlee January 4, 2012, 9:16 pm

    I would probably mention offhandedly that animal cruelty is a sign of psychopathy, and discharge these people from my home.

  • DrJulieBug January 4, 2012, 10:07 pm

    I’m an entomological researcher, and I have the same reaction to people who insist on spraying, swatting, or stomping any insect, spider, centipede, or millipede they see. I’ve even seen a family douse the grass at a public campsite with insecticide spray and then immediately turn their kids loose to play in it!

    I can’t even fathom the attitude that it’s okay to “joke” with an animal lover about tormenting or killing pets or wildlife. On the bright side, I’m sure most of these clowns don’t do these things themselves. But it really is crude and offensive to regale others with tales of animal abuse. Very sorry that you had to listen to those stories. Some people just don’t think.

  • Molly January 4, 2012, 10:09 pm

    I have a Rottweiler and people who know nothing about my dog, or the breed in general, constantly make stupid comments to me when I’m with her. I think some of it comes from them being uncomfortable and they are trying to diffuse their anxiety a little. I used to just nod and laugh it off but then I felt like I was perpetuating the bad reputation this breed has developed from irresponsible owners. Now I take a minute to stop and nicely fill the commenter in a little on the noble history of the breed and list some of their amazing attributes. This usually gives them a chance to see her waiting obediently while I talk and hopefully gives them something to think about when they see another Rottie.

    Maybe you could look horrified and then have a few facts and stories ready about each breed you own to let your visitors know that you see them as valued pets and teach them a little at the same time.

  • Bridgette January 4, 2012, 10:34 pm

    I would gently say “Would that story be as amusing if it were a dog instead of a snake?” I would then quote our OP’s own words, “Our pets may not be cute or cuddly, but we love them dearly.” and guide them onto a different topic.

  • Colleen January 4, 2012, 10:59 pm

    Ugh, I can’t imagine having to deal with that, at least not to that level.

    I do have two parrots, and it’s surprising how many people will come over and makes cracks about cooking them – my pets – for dinner. I ignore it, because it’s juvenile and they’re mostly meant innocently, but I really don’t know why people think I would be amused. They aren’t even being witty or original about it. Just stupid and completely oblivious to the people around them.

  • Melanie January 5, 2012, 2:33 am

    A lot of people saying “stupid things” about animals are here in the comments. Why is it necessary to continue citing or making up violent stories in a story about not telling such stories? I didn’t expect to read about a cat being skinned alive on my visit to Etiquette Hell. What a horrible interruption to my attempt to relax with a lighthearted blog…

  • Mechtilde January 5, 2012, 4:16 am

    Can we please stop throwing mental illness around as a reason for cruelty?

    People who suffer from mental illnesses face enough prejudice and stigmatisation without this being added to the mix. Not to mention the abuse many of them suffer themselves.

  • GoghGogh Girl January 5, 2012, 4:21 am

    I’m with Chocobo on this one; I imagine the people sharing the stories are not close friends but acquaintances, like the mother’s friend. Unless you feel that the horror of their story is truly worth a snappish or outright hostile answer that will embarrass not only the acquaintance, but the hosts or whoever introduced you to them, then obfuscating stupidity will work wonders. Sound sympathetic when you talk about how awful it was, as though you are so sorry they had to witness such cruelty, and all but the densest storyteller will change their tone to match. Heck, some might even start to change their thinking to match.

    On the alligator story, I got the impression that it occurred some time ago; it was a friend of the OP’s mother, which implies age, so I was assuming the story took place sometime in the ’50s or ’60s. Being born in the 80s, I can offer no valid opinion on whether alligators were likely school pets nor what their method of euthanasia was, but I have often been told, quote, that “it was a different time.”
    Regardless, it may be a bit late for Peta and the like.

  • grumpy_otter January 5, 2012, 7:11 am

    @ Patiently Heading Downhill

    I am sure you will enjoy the website of the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS.org) — through sponsoring dog clubs, they’ve been doing temperament tests on numerous breeds for years and you can look at the statistics on the website. I love pointing out to people that the American Pit Bull Terrier has a higher (better) score than Golden Retrievers! (and WAY better than Shetland Sheepdogs!)

    My son and his wife have two lovely rescued pit bulls who dote on my grandchild–they truly are the “nursemaid’s” dog!

  • Lola January 5, 2012, 9:51 am

    What “Susan January 4, 2012 at 8:54 am” said. My day is ruined.

  • Rachel January 5, 2012, 10:14 am

    Hi everyone;

    I’m the OP, and thanks to all for the wonderful comments. And I’m thrilled to see some fellow reptile lovers here!

    To those who said that we should reply with “How horrible!” or variations on “We don’t find animal abuse funny, and here’s why,” that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing. To those who’ve said we should throw these people out of our house or find new friends…well, often they’re not in our house, and not our friends. It was a friend of ours who told the snake story, but when we explained to her why we found it upsetting she apologized, and I in turn told her that the snake most likely was harmless (judging from her description), and she agreed it probably should have been left alone. The alligator story was told by a friend of our mother’s and, as GoghGogh Girl suggested, it took place a good twenty to thirty years back and in a very rural school, so calling the police really wouldn’t be an option, and the views on animal welfare were very different back then. We run into this guy when my parents have parties, and so throwing him out really isn’t an option (though we try to avoid him for various reasons, the alligator story being one of them.

    Patiently Heading Downhill, I hear you! My immediate family is composed of very devoted rottweiler lovers. Since I was fifteen we’ve had five different rottweilers, my parents currently have two, and my brother and his girlfriend have one (my husband and I live in an apartment that doesn’t allow dogs). I frequently walk my parents’ dogs when I visit; two sweeter, more gentle animals you have never met. I’d trust either with a toddler. But because they’re big scary rottweilers I get people crossing the street to avoid us, people scooping their children up and away…one time I took them to a local dog park. A woman came up and LECTURED me about bringing such “dangerous animals” to the park. The really funny thing was that her jack russel was chewing on my ankle at the time, while my “dangerous animals” were playing nicely with the other dogs!

  • The Elf January 5, 2012, 11:14 am

    Regarding tales of feeding pet snakes live mice……

    Guilty, though I don’t think I ever did it gleefully! I also picked my audience for my hunting snake stories. Snakes gotta eat. Some snakes – and mine was one – would only hunt live mice. I tried to get him to eat killed food and it just didn’t work. Frankly, snakes aren’t smart enough to override their instincts, and snakes that are used to live food sometimes just won’t see a dead mouse as food. Mice On Ice would have been much easier than going to the pet store weekly for feeders! I fed my garter and ribbon snakes live goldfish, crickets, and worms and I don’t recall anyone saying it was cruel. But give it four legs and fur….

    There is a difference between an unreasoning animal killing because it is in their nature (and the humans supplying the live food) and a human who is capable of reasoning being delibertly cruel.

  • Lita January 5, 2012, 11:26 am

    Uck – that’s awful! What did those poor reptiles ever do to the people who thought it was funny to abuse and kill them?

    This reminds me, actually, of my sixth grade science class. (This story’s a bit upsetting at first, but I promise you, it has a happy ending!) We had a classroom iguana that year, but no one knew how to take care of iguanas – what to feed them, what sort of tank to put them in, etcetera – and so this iguana, who was somewhere around two and a half feet long at the time, was living in a small aquarium (roughly the size you’d put a few medium-sized tropical fish in – ten gallons I think?), forced to constantly sit on a heat rock the size of the entire tank bottom because there was nowhere to move off of it, being fed canned dog food and plain old iceberg lettuce and constantly getting poked and prodded by twenty-nine sixth graders who didn’t understand the term “hands off”. (I’ll admit I did a bit of prodding myself, but the poor thing looked so deplorably sad I never did it again!) And worst of all, there were no plans for putting the iguana in a new home at the end of the school year – they were just going to leave it in the tank over the entire break! Now, things may have ended right there, if not for the fact I was staying late on the last day to finish up an assignment, and when I was packing up to leave, my teacher gently pushed a large shoebox containing the iguana into my hands and asked me, “Will you take it home with you?”

    So I did – never mind my mother’s vociferous protests, heh!

    As it turned out, if anyone had waited even one more day, that iguana would not have survived. His entire underside was badly burned from constantly sitting on the heat rock, he was severely malnourished, he had a disorder called metabolic bone disease (that only about ten percent of iguanas, iirc, actually survive, and he had it BAD), and he was scared of everything. Even just someone walking into the same room as him would make him try to hide. So my sister and I bought all the iguana care books we could find, set him up in a nice big terrarium with plenty of room to grow, regularly trekked him almost two hours out of town to the only nearby vet who would see “exotic animals”, and well…

    That iguana lived four more long years, grew to nearly five feet long, and was the most spoiled rotten and friendly reptile I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. 🙂 Although my sister’s three snakes were quite the lovable critters too…

  • Enna January 5, 2012, 11:36 am

    This is disgusting. You should say follow the advice given here by various posters – I know it is varaitions on a theme but it depends on the situation for example changing the subject may work for some instances, saying you find it distressing in others, saying animal curelty is not on in different ones etc etc. I own guinea pigs too and have had people say that in some countires guinea pigs are eaten – in some cases I’ve said “in come countries they eat dogs, in others horses it is dependant on culture.” sometimes the perosn winces and I’m like “if you find it funny guinea pigs are eaten why not other animals? One person actually apologised for saying guinea pigs are eaten. Somebody else admitted to eating a guinea pig in South America – he was trying to make conversation not be nasty.

  • AS January 5, 2012, 11:47 am

    @Rachel – thanks for the update.

    Talking about Rottweilers, I don’t understand the unwarranted fear that some people have for them (and some other breeds like Dobermans). I used to work at a dog shelter, and I have found that the “dangerous breeds” tend to be adopted more slowly. I remember an adorable Rottweiler who loved cuddling like no dogs I have seen before. But when someone wanted to adopt him, her housing management said that they cannot keep ferocious breeds in the apartments! She had to settle to another breed which was deemed “less ferocious” (though the dog she ended up adopting was more of a handful than the Rott’).

  • Ywalkalone January 5, 2012, 11:53 am

    I’m with the other commenters: horrified!

    My two cents: I am extremely arachnophobic–to the point that any spider, of any size, will give me a panic attack. While my immediate response is, “Get it away!”, the idea of someone torturing even the creature I hate the most still horrifies me. My response would be, “…And you found this funny? Why?!” or something along those lines. You can probably tell the people who are just trying to find common ground from those who take some sadistic pleasure from torturing creatures. And I would spare no words to those who would torture.

  • Alex January 5, 2012, 2:06 pm

    I’m not huge reptile fan, I’ll admit. I did have as a child for a short while a very old bearded dragon who I loved dearly, he really changed my mind about them. I did end up hating bugs though after feeding him all those crickets and woodies… Yuck!

    Just a side note, not all horrifying reptile stories are necessarily animal cruelty. In Australia unfortunately most snakes are deadly venomous. And if in an arid area like me, they are everywhere. And many species also don’t need much provocation to attack, with some even walking close to them is enough. While I certainly don’t agree with animal cruelty or killing animals for convenience, unfortunately it happens here in self defence pretty often. Obviously if an animal is sighted near dwellings the ranger should be called to remove it, but when you have a brown snake (deadly, especially if you live nowhere near a hospital like us) lunging at you and chasing you (or worse, your niece, or pets, or any thing else as has happened with me) because you have accidentally disturbed it, having to harm it to preserve your own life is acceptable. Taking joy in doing so, or deliberately provoking and killing/harming the same animal is not. Killing something to prevent harm to you or another is ok. Killing something because you don’t want it (the croc) or because it is in your way (snake in driveway) is not, and is horrible.

    Thanks to most snakes here being venomous to the point of death I am paranoid and frightened of most (in a wild setting anyway). But, I would never harm one unless it was a ‘me or it’ situation. The few snakes I do like are non venomous pets, in particular my old highschool had/still has a children’s python that was/is very much loved by us all. And, to this day I still have a soft spot for most lizards, especially beardies. Even if you do not like snakes, reptiles (or any pet species), you should respect that others may! An that, just because you dislike them, you do not have the right to harm them or make people uncomfortable with your stories of said harm.

    Incidentally, I own an exotic (and rare in our country) parrot and you would be surprised at the people who are hateful of birds. I respect this and never have my bird out while others are here, but in return I expect them to not share their prejudice. Genuineness phobia and fear is excusable, whereas the bird is placed in another room away from the person (usually when entertaining I place him in my bedroom) to accommodate their needs, but cruelty and disgusting, uneducated and idiotic comments (outside of a joke setting) like ‘cooking the bird’ and provoking him after asking me to fetch him will not be tolerated and people who do so are warned once, then asked to leave if they do it again. I’m never rude about this, but I do not sugar coat it either. Simply stating “If you continue with X (X being teasing bird, making hurtful remarks, etc) I will have to ask you to leave” and usually following this up with “This bird is our pet, and just like anyone else who owns a pet (regardless of species) we do not appreciate -behaviourX-” then bean dip to casual conversion. “Oh, would you like some food” “Tht dress is lovely” or whatever you please.

  • Goodness January 5, 2012, 2:25 pm

    What a wonderful bunch of responses! I agree that pit bulls and rotties are wonderful dogs, and that rabbits really are ‘real’ pets — a deaf friend of mine once even had an assistance rabbit who alerted her to people at her door and the phone ringing. But I have to disagree that ‘snakes aren’t cuddly.’ Sure they are — it’s just a different kind of cuddle. When you hold a tame snake, it hugs back, and there’s something very pleasant about that firm but gentle pressure around your hand or arm — even, in the case of a large snake I knew once, around your waist. They’ll ‘kiss’ you if they like you and you allow it, a delicate little flick of the tongue usually on your nose or mouth, or the edge of your ear. (Folklore says that if a snake licks your ear you’ll be able to understand the languages of animals.) And stroking them is every bit as pleasurable as stroking a furry animal, if different: it’s like running your hand over a piece of jewelry, except it’s alive and responsive. Awesome!

  • yankeegal77 January 5, 2012, 9:31 pm

    Chiming in late here, but OP, I feel you. I own a Netherland Dwarf bunny, a 3-pound bundle of fluff, and I’m not sure why the topic of rabbit stew is so daggone funny to people. Seriously–what gives?!?

    After seeing your update, I think you are handling this beautifully. As for me, I give a cold, hard look for a moment, then pointedly, with a smile, beandip. Gets the point across nicely, with nary a rude word spoken. 😉

  • Kate January 5, 2012, 10:25 pm

    I would suggest politely removing yourself from the conversation, and if they bother you about it, remind them about your beloved pets to indicate why you might find the topic distasteful.

    I’m scared of a lot of animals. Spiders, moths, cockroaches and large dogs cause at best mild anxiety, at worst a full-blown panic attack. I don’t like them and wouldn’t go near them by choice, but I still don’t advocate actual torture of these animals. I will ask my fiance to dispose of insects that come into our house, but he always does it quickly and (I hope) painlessly.

    Skinks are fantastic animals, btw! I’ve lived in apartments my entire adult life, so I’ve never been able to have a dog or rabbit (and I’m allergic to cats), but I’ve kept pet fish and loved them. I would keep turtles or water dragons if we had more space.

  • Lesli January 5, 2012, 10:26 pm

    Wow. While both stories are horrible, I find the alligator tale particularly repugnant…children encouraged to torture an animal? Yikes. And I would have said as much. I’d pull my kids from a school like that so fast heads would spin; I’d be doing that with one hand and calling in a report of animal cruelty with the other, and I’d say as much to the story-teller.

    To the poster who mentioned bats: We recently stayed in a cabin with an attic that we discovered, late at night, to be packed with bats. Though the creatures incited much screaming and running about (our 3 children were with us, though DH and I also may have let a whoop or two), never did any of us, nor the owners who showed up to help (at first we thought it was a stray bat or two, or then quickly three and more we needed to help out…nope, 100’s if not over 1000 were at home there), even think of hurting these swooping creatures, who were obviously quite confused. And I have to say, they were darn cute; especially the babies! By the end of that little episode my youngest even wondered if we could keep one little fellow for a pet. (We were moved to another cabin so we, and they, could roost in peace. ;))

  • Cupcake January 6, 2012, 8:47 am

    I think the best thing to do is, as others have suggested, to calmly explain why you don’t enjoy those stories, just as you have here in your letter.

    But if someone pushes it, or keeps telling more of these stories, then I think you could bring in your own horrific stories. “Haha, that’s awesome! Once I found a puppy in my driveway and did the exact same thing.” “Wow, that aligator story is so funny! It reminds me of the time I nannied for a family with a newborn baby. She was cute at first, but after I while I got sick of taking care of her so…”

  • Andie January 6, 2012, 2:11 pm

    How deplorable! In my experience, the people who tell these animal torture stories as jokes aren’t nice people on the whole.

  • P January 6, 2012, 9:27 pm

    i get this all the time and i hate it! i just tell them straight out that i DO NOT want to hear it and it is NOT funny. I do not care whatsoever if the person telling this mean cruel story gets mad at me or not, i would rather not associate with ANYONE who behaves in that manner! regardless if they are just telling the story or if they are the ones who actually did it. animal cruelity is AGAINT the LAW!

  • MonkeysMommy January 6, 2012, 10:00 pm

    As an avid reptile lover ( we have chameleons, ball pythons, leopard geckos, bearded dragons and a spider- oh and a cat and a dog lol) it amazes me how ignorant people can be.

  • Samantha January 7, 2012, 8:39 am

    Just as a happy little anecdote to balance all of the sadness here – at a somewhat local provincial park, there is a high population of non-venomous but still fairly large grass snakes. The park has put up signs all along the interior road warning people of the fact that snakes do frequently cross the road. They also instituted a $500 fine for killing any of the snakes. When I was there, I saw quite a few, including one fellow who “sniffed” at my shoe while I was waiting beside the road to cross.

    I’m on the other side of the OP in this story – rather than getting told stories of abuse, I get accused of abusing my dogs or them having been abused. They’re retired racing greyhounds and while the industry has changed considerably for the good (though it is very much not perfect), most people still hear and believe the many many stories from 10-15 years ago and insist that all dogs are abused (nope), underfed (definitely not) and terrified of humans because of their experiences (HAH!). They then cite the instances they hear of private owner cruelty (like the one off-track kennel of dogs all belonging to one owner who were abandoned). Those that don’t know as much about the breed are likely to accuse me of starving my dogs (HAH) because they are thin (actually, they vary between just right and a few pounds overweight). The fact that my one dog is a spook (and I’ve communicated with both her old owner and trainer and they say she’s been like that her whole life) leads people to accuse me of beating my dogs or not socializing them. This, of course, ignores the fact that I have actually helped my dog get over some of her fears and the worst I’ve ever done to them is nicked their quicks when clipping their nails.

    In the end, I have to accept that many people just don’t “get it” and try not to get upset as they re-earth 10 year old stories of dead and abused dogs in order to insist that something is “wrong” with the two animals I love dearly.

  • Liz January 7, 2012, 3:55 pm

    As a fellow snake owner I found myself on the opposite side of this situation when living with a roommate who kept pet mice. She asked me to not purposely bring up the feeding details of my pet which I agreed but it was impossible for her not to be aware of me bringing home mice to feed my python. I agree the treatment of reptiles is appalling in many cases but as an owner of less appealing pet I feel its my duty to grow a thicker skin and educate people when they make thoughtless comments. Many of the situations you mentioned friends so uncouthly bringing up sound like situations where euthanasia may have been potentially necessary but were made horrible by the ignorance of the people in them. For example: I live in a region where the population of wild snakes are about a %50 chance of being poisonous I can imagine someone not familiar with local wildlife would feel killing a wild snake on their property was necessary. As for the alligator I don’t know much about them, but most animals kept in captivity at a young age (as I would hope a potentially dangerous class pet was) cannot survive in the wild so humane euthanasia might have been needed if they could not find a zoo or wildlife sanctuary to take it. These tragic cases are due ignorance and a little plain stupidity. I encourage you to educate your friends on what should have been done in these situations when they come up. At very least they shouldn’t bring them up again and at best they may learn something and prevent abuse in the future.

  • Candra January 7, 2012, 11:33 pm

    This story may make you feel a little better…
    Once, not too long ago, my dad and I were leaving our home in his personal-use semi truck to take it for maintenance. On our way down the rural lane we live on, we spotted a snake in the middle of the road. My dad stopped the truck, and after honking the horn did not work, I hopped out and chased the snake out of the road so we wouldn’t run over it.

    On the subject of people saying horrifying things about your unusual pets, however….ugh. When I was around 12-14, I had pet rats that were absolutely the joy of my young life. We had a very gentle dog that would let the rats ride around on her back (which was a pretty funny sight. a big german shepherd mid with rats on her back) and one morning I was delighted to wake up to discover that one of them had gotten out of her cage and was actually curled up by my pillow with me.
    Not everyone shared my delight, though, and I got some pretty gnarly comments about how deplorable rats were. One family friend told me about how he had been to another country where they ate rats and described their method of cooking the creatures alive to me, a then-14-year old. My mom was pretty good at fielding concerns (“You’ll get a disease!!”) and mean comments, but even that one she was pretty annoyed about. I was super sensitive (I guess I still am…I can’t handle most horror thriller-type movies, including the purely psychological ones without gore), which this friend knew, but he decided to share anyway. Some people are just mean, I guess.

  • kait January 8, 2012, 7:01 pm

    this is sort of related. i have a fullgrown dog who was once an extremely adorable puppy and i constantly had people pat him when we went on walks. unfortunately some people would not ask before patting him and i found this very upsetting. i was very protective of little adorable puppy and wasnt really sure how to handle strangers touching him without permission. thoughts?

  • LovleAnjel January 9, 2012, 3:13 pm

    Kait – if someone looks like they might pat him, you could say “Please don’t pat him, we are in the middle of training.” People should respect that.

  • Sugaryfun January 9, 2012, 5:22 pm

    I can relate! I keep a pet python and my sister-in-law keeps pet rats. Our mother and father in law delight in ‘joking’ over and over about bringing their cats over to kill our pets though we obviously find this upsetting. I bet they would no appreciate it if someone joked about their dog killing their cats!
    Having already tried just saying we don’t find it funny there doesn’t seem to be anything left to do but try to ignore it, but it’s annoying!

  • MellowedOne January 9, 2012, 6:20 pm

    kait, it sounds like you may be a bit overprotective 🙂

    It is very important to make sure puppies are well socialized–a constant mixture of environment and people–so that they can become happy, well-adjusted adult dogs. It’s especially important in breeds that tend to be aloof or reserved. It’s a very positive experience for your pup!

    Focus more on how people interact with the puppy–that too is important. I usually maintain a close presence, ready to intercede if it is not appropriate (like when kids get hyper over the pup and start crowding in). Just an idea.

  • Cheryl January 10, 2012, 12:33 pm

    To me it would be one thing that an animal was going to kill me or if for food. But when people kill animals because they are unable to care for it and do not use resources to find another place for the animal those people are sick. The person who talked about killing the school pet, that is sadistic, if that was a human being instead people would be out raged. These are animals who do not have the strength or intelligence to fight back or the ability to get away, those people are mean and psychotic and should been beaten themselves. The next time someone tries to start a story of this nature, I would put my hand up and stipulate that if the story ends with the death of an animal to please refrain from telling it because you have principled beliefs about animals. The sad part is that most animals, unique or common have better manners and personalities than most humans do and yet some humans treat animals as the lowest thing on this earth.

  • Alla January 12, 2012, 2:46 pm

    I get these horrible stories too, with the same expected reactions the OP noted.

    My response?

    “How funny would that be if it was a child? How special would you think you were if you did that to a kid?”

    IMO the only creatures on earth that it’s okay to kill with absolutely no prejudice are funnelweb, blackwidow, and brown recluse spiders. But even at that, it’s NOT okay to brag about them, particularly to someone who, hey, has an orange-kneed tarantula as a pet.

    My child/kid response has gotten me the cold shoulder from “friends”. But then again, I’m glad it has, because that tells me the kind of people they are — as in, not the kind I want AS friends.

  • Grimly January 12, 2012, 11:36 pm

    I have lots of standard (35 lbs, not 10 lb minis) Dachshunds (like potato chips–never can have just one) and a Min Pin. Some well-loved, retired show dogs, and some rescues. Now, Min Pins, though vicious by nature, are relatively harmless, because they’re not strong enough to hurt a human. Dachs, however, were bred to hunt badgers. They’re extremely territorial and stubborn, and their jaws are very, very strong. If it had a mind to, it can take a finger right off. It’s the nature of the breed. They needed these types of characteristics for the task for which they were bred. They rarely intend to harm people with their teeth. Usually, it’s just snapping because you took something they felt was theirs. But because of the natural strength of their jaws, it does hurt and may bleed. I always tell folks who complain about being bitten, “if you still have all of your fingers, you weren’t bitten, just warned.”

    I never, ever let strangers touch my dogs because of their predisposition to nipping. Few people understand the breed and its characteristics, and things you’d do when petting other breeds, you can’t do with Dachs. I also discourage people from adopting this breed without being properly educated about it. It may look quirky and funny, but its personality is extremely unique, and not easy for most people to handle.

    I lose it when people laughingly tell me that they had their Dach put to sleep because it nipped them once. Every single time I’ve had them tell me the whole story, it involved them (the humans) doing something to the Dach that they shouldn’t have. Why would I think that killing a dog after their own stupidity is amusing?

  • Cat Whisperer January 14, 2012, 12:03 am

    I used to breed corn snakes, and at one time we had 16 adult corn snakes and about three dozen babies, as well as two beareded dragons and a tortoise. So I can completely identify with the OP about the people who react negatively to reptiles.

    Personally, I’m pretty careful about who gets invited to my house, and I don’t ask people to visit unless I’m reasonably sure they will be comfortable about my animals. When we had the reptiles, I made a point of telling people we had them before we invited them over. I know some people cannot tolerate snakes, and I’m okay with that. If they don’t want to come to a home that counts snakes by the dozens, I don’t hold that against them.

    I’m also pretty happy that I’ve been able to convert many people who anti-reptile into having a more open mind. One lady of my acquaintance was absolutely terrified of snakes, but her husband wanted to have a corn snake; so when I had a clutch of eggs getting ready to hatch, I suggested that he and his wife come over to see the eggs. His wife was okay with the eggs, and actually got quite curious about them. I had them come over every couple of days as the eggs were coming to term, and she was absolutely fascinated in watching as a hatchling “pipped” through the egg. I explained to her that usually the hatchling would stay in the egg for a day or so after pipping, that it would poke its head out and look around, and then withdraw, and gradually work its way into leaving the egg.

    I invited her to hold an egg that had a pipped hatchling still in it. She was okay with that, because the hatchlings are quite tiny– about half as long as a pencil, and about half as thin. They’re absolutely helpless, corn snakes aren’t venomous, and they’re really quite pretty when they emerge from the eggs and their colors are all bright.

    This lady, who had stated that she hated snakes, sat there absolutely riveted as she held that egg and the hatchling eventually poked its nose out, then quickly withdrew when she moved her hand. She cupped her hands around the egg and stayed still until eventually the hatchling put its head and about an inch of body out of the egg, and she could see how fragile it was and how timid.

    Her husband got to choose a hatchling, she was actually quite taken with the babies (I had about five different colored varieties, so she got to choose the color she liked), and both she and her husband were very happy with the hatchling. She was never comfortable with feeding it, her husband handled that, but she would hold their snake and show it off to other people. I was very proud about that conversion of a snake fearer to a snake owner.

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