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Ernie is an abused dog, but nobody is likely to talk much


about him, the kind of dog I saw frequently while researching several books. His abusers aren’t lowlifes who mercilessly beat, starve, or tether animals. Quite the opposite: His owners are afflu- ent, educated people who consider themselves humanistic and moral. But they’ve been cruel nonetheless, through their lack of responsibility, their neglect, their poor training, and their inatten- tion.


I’ve seen Ernie numerous times over the past two years. I’ve


watched him become more detached, neurotic, and unresponsive. I’ve seen the soul drain from the dog’s eyes. He’s affectionate and unthreatening, but he doesn’t really know how to behave – not around his family or other people, not around other animals, not around me or my dogs. He lunges and barks almost continuously when anyone comes near, so few of us do. Increasingly, he gets confined to his back yard, out of sight and mind. This family was shocked and outraged when I suggested that


the dog was suffering from a kind of abuse and might be better off in a different home. “Nobody hits that dog,” sputtered Danielle’s father. “He gets the best dog food, he gets all his shots.” All true. But he lacks what is perhaps the most essential ingredient in a


dog’s life: a human who will take emotional responsibility for him. Sadly, I see dogs like Ernie all the time, victims of a new,


uniquely American kind of abuse, animals without advocates. Dogs like Flash, a Westchester Border Collie who spent her days chasing invisible sheep beyond a chain link fence, and Reg, an enormous black Lab in Atlanta who, like Ernie, was untrained, grew neurotic and rambunctious, and eventually was confined to the family playroom day and night. He leaves that room for several brief walks each day. Who knows how many Ernies and Regs there are in urban


apartments and suburban backyards? Few media outlets or animals rights groups would classify a $1,200 purebred as a candidate for rescue. In fact, I’ve contacted rescue groups to see if they could help; they were sympathetic, but they felt more comfortable with traditional kinds of abuse. A situation like this – emotional mistreatment is not illegal –was beyond their purview. I understand, but Ernie haunts me. He may be the most


abused dog I know.U


Jon Katz is an American journalist, New York Times bestselling author and photographer. He lives on a farm in upstate New York and his books have been featured in The New Barker several times over the years. He posts a daily blog at BedlamFarm.com


It is never too late to teach a dog, no matter his or her age, a new trick or good manners. Please contact any one of the trainers featured on our Florida’s Top Dog Trainers page. Give your puppy or dog a chance to be the best dog he or she can possibly be.


60 THE NEW BARKER www.TheNewBarker.com


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