Riddle Me This

Why do people take on obligations which they aren’t prepared for?

I’m not talking generally, like in terms of signing up to volunteer for too many charities, or taking a course load which is too heavy. I’m thinking more specifically, in terms of buying animals you aren’t prepared to care for, or having children when you don’t really know what you want to do with your life. What drives people to do this, and why don’t people speak out more when they spot their friends engaging in this kind of behavior?

This issue has really been brought to mind to me today because I feel like I’m beset on all sides by barking, whiny, neglected dogs and screaming, whiny, neglected children. It started at around 6:00 this morning, when some dog somewhere started freaking out, whiny and scratching at something and generally raising a fuss, and it’s been going on all day. There’s a cacophony of barking, so much that I can hardly think, and I can only assume that the dogs’ owners aren’t home, since I can’t imagine calmly sitting through that. And then there are the screaming, crying children, raising a fuss about Pete knows what. I can only hope that the parents are home, since I can’t imagine leaving a young child alone.

Part of me wants to be angry at the dogs and the children, but it’s not their fault. This dog that’s been barking for the last half an hour isn’t doing it to annoy me, it’s doing it because its owners ignore it and it wants attention. That child that shrieks like it’s being murdered every time things don’t go its way isn’t doing it because it consciously wants to prevent me from working, it’s doing it because it’s spoiled and it’s parents don’t care for it properly. I know that being angry at the problem isn’t productive, so instead I’m angry at the cause.

Why would you get a dog if you’re gone almost every day? Why would you commit to raising a child if you don’t have enough time? Both of these decisions require a major commitment, and it’s not fair to the organism if you aren’t willing to make that commitment. These creatures don’t get to choose who they live with and when; they’re forced into a particular way of life by the people who are supposed to “care” for them.

Why do we, as a society, tolerate neglect? We’re all about this “it takes a village” crap, but when it comes to acting on it, we seem paralyzed. I am reminded of the scene in Black Beauty, when an anonymous society ladies berates a carter for abusing his horses, and demands that he treat them with more care and respect. Why don’t we do that anymore?