Adam Gopnik is a New Yorker writer who has created a cottage industry writing about his adorable family. So much more adorable than yours! The sophisticated Gopniks used to live in Paris. Now they live in New York City. Where is it that you live again? In what sad little town? The Gopniks are so much more sophisticated than your family.
But as it turns out, when it comes to being a responsible parent, you are so much more responsible than Adam Gopnik. Whose adorable 10-year-old daughter wanted a dog. And not just any dog--a pedigreed Havanese. Adam Gopnik and his sophisticated wife didn't like dogs. In his latest interminable Personal History piece in The New Yorker, a piece titled "Dog Story," he uses words like "disgust" and "phobia" to describe their attitudes toward canines. So they kept putting her off.
Until one day, the adorable daughter announced that "she could live with a Manhattan pet-store 'puppy mill' dog." Love the quotation marks around "puppy mill." You can practically see Adam Gopnik making air quotes with his fingers as he tells this story. It's pretty amazing that a 10-year-old knows that any puppy she buys in a Manhattan pet store will have been bred in a puppy mill. Not so amazing that this kid--just dying for a dog--would decide that she could live with that.
What a wonderful opportunity for Adam Gopnik to teach his adorable child a big lesson about life. To teach her about making responsible decisions and not contributing to a cruel and vicious industry just because she wants something. Can you see Adam Gopnik escorting his daughter to the family computer? Can you see him helping her search for Havanese rescue groups and letting her know that adopting a homeless dog is more rewarding than funding the evils of the puppy mill industry? That's a lesson a 10-year-old--filled, as kids that age are, with empathy and love for little creatures--would pick up on in a flash. You're not as adorable or sophisticated as Adam Gopnik, but you can see that, can't you?
Well, that isn't what Adam Gopnik did. Instead, he bought his daughter a Havanese puppy from a Manhattan pet store--and by extension from a "puppy mill." Because that's how you teach children to make responsible decisions: You let them make uninformed choices and you give them exactly what they want when they want it.
And does he, anywhere in the seven pages of densely packed text that follows, express remorse over his decision? He does not. Instead, he talks about the evolution of dogs and about the feelings dogs have--feelings of "pain, fear, worry, need." Which just makes it worse. He knows that dogs feel pain and fear and worry and he buys a puppy mill dog anyway? Adam Gopnik is so much more dissociated than you!
I sent Adam Gopnik an e-mail, encouraging him to watch a program that will be broadcast on HBO2 at 8 PM (Eastern) on Wednesday, August 24--"Madonna of the Mills." It's about a New York woman who has saved some 2,000 puppy mill breeder dogs from the fates that await them when their breeding usefulness is over: Being buried alive. Being beaten to death with shovels. Being dumped on the side of a road or in a dense woods. I suggested that perhaps the breeder dog that had produced his Havenese puppy was one of the ones this woman had saved. Or perhaps not. I suggested he have his daughter watch the program too.
One of the dogs I adopted during my 14 years as a rescue volunteer was turned over to our rescue group at the age of 13 because, her family said, "She's not fun any more." The parents wanted to get rid of her and go buy a new puppy for their kids. I never thought of these people as very sophisticated, and certainly not adorable. But now that I think about it, they have a lot in common with Adam Gopnik. Isn't that adorable?