The Dog Owners: A Parable

Inspired by the recent downfall of Ted Haggard:

Once upon a time there were two men, each of whom owned a dog. The first man was glad to own and care for his dog, knowing that pets, if properly cared for, can bring much joy into one’s life. He took his dog on walks every day and played catch with it in the park, and at night they slept snuggled together. Because the man was a gentle and kindly master, the dog came to love him and respect him, and it followed his good example and became a gentle and peaceful creature as well.

The other man believed that it was morally wrong to own dogs, and considered the fact that he owned a dog to be a shameful secret that had to be hidden from the world. As a result, he kept his dog inside all day, in a cage, and never took the dog on walks or let it run and play outside in the yard, lest his neighbors discover the truth. On the rare occasions that he did let his dog out of the cage, he was usually angry at the poor animal, because he resented having to go to such effort to keep its existence a secret – so he often yelled at the dog, and hit it with a stick, and treated it with cruelty.

One day, that man’s dog got out of its cage while he was at work. All its rage at its master, its pain and resentment of him, had come boiling over as a result of the years of abuse. When the man came home, the dog was waiting for him, and it knocked him down and attacked him, wounding him severely.

“See!” the second man said, as he was taken away to the hospital. “This proves that I was right all along! Dogs aren’t good companions, they’re evil, uncontrollable monsters. They ruin people and destroy their lives. This just goes to show why we have to be stern with them and treat them harshly. Giving them any freedom can only lead to disaster!”

As the paramedics took him away, the first man watched from over the fence, shaking his head sadly. He knew what the other man did not – that dogs, like any other creature, are neither inherently good nor inherently bad, and that their behavior depends on their master’s view of them. If you treat them harshly, if you push them away or try to keep them imprisoned, in the process you will turn them into the very monster you fear. If, on the other hand, you treat them rationally and not with fear or hatred, they will respond accordingly, and they will become good and gentle companions that can be easily brought to heel.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.