Chris Roemer: We’ve gotten pretty good at enabling the worst kind of behavior | COMMENTARY

Perhaps you’ve heard about the man who identifies as a dog. He spent more than $15,000 on a life-like, custom-made border collie costume that he wears to complete his cross-species transformation.

He rolls over, plays fetch, does tricks and runs around in a fenced-in kennel. You know, he’s a dog.


”I haven’t told anyone about my transformation into a dog,” he said. “I rarely tell my friends because I am afraid they will think I am weird.”

It would be wrong to think of this individual as weird. We should embrace what makes him different and accept him for what he is. After all, he’s simply being true to himself.


Having convinced themselves they are more compassionate than most, there are actually people making that argument.

According to Yahoo news, one such individual responded to a video of “Toco,” the name the human-dog has given himself, this way:

”I support Toco through his journey as a human-dog, to be the best Collie he can be. If the world were more open-minded, we wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves, when it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Toco is a human who wanted to be an animal and became a collie. A YouTube channel shows videos of Toco.

We’ve gotten pretty good at enabling the worst kind of behavior. As a result we’re seeing all kinds of strangeness bubble to the surface.

I suspect before too long, the American Psychiatric Association will declare self-identifying as an animal perfectly normal behavior. But doing so will change nothing for the poor souls wearing custom-made dog costumes who will remain desperate for professional help no matter what the APA says or does.

Go ahead, try to convince me a man living out his life as a border collie doesn’t signify some sort of mental illness.

Love does not blindly validate every choice a person makes to avoid hurting their feelings.

We do people no favors when we make it possible for them to drift into a life of dysfunction, or when we allow them to make one bad decision after another without ever having to feel the sting of their mistakes.


When we do, we deny them the learning which comes only through failure, and cripple their capacity to deal with life’s hardships when they inevitably arise.

Repeating the same mistakes time and again, and learning nothing from the experience other than to expect someone will always be there to bail you out of your difficulties is not a recipe for a happy life.

Neither is expecting validation for every questionable choice one makes, choices that are often borne of untreated mental illness.

When there is no one left to bail you out, or the validation provided is no longer sufficient to prevent the collapse of the extensive supports fragile personas often require, life can come crashing down very quickly.

People who use drugs and live on the street need our help, but the purpose of that help should be to get them off drugs and off the street, not make it easier for them to live there by providing them things like government-issued crack pipes.

People who shoplift and engage in other criminal activity are criminals. They are not simply victims of an unfair and exploitive economic system.


Even if they were, to excuse shoplifting only invites a broader suite of criminal activity that ultimately consumes the lives of far too many.

Kids who are on their phones all day and all night are irresponsible. They are not merely victims of an assorted array of algorithms.

Looking for someone to blame, or expecting someone else to address the problem might be easier than dealing with the ugliness your children are sure to send your way when you restrict their phone usage. But ultimately, parents who love their children put up with that ugliness because they know and want what’s best for them.

Enablers often believe they are more compassionate, empathetic and tolerant than other people, but allowing someone to wallow in the depths of mental illness, or denying them the opportunity to learn important life lessons by shielding them from the natural consequences of their mistakes, is not compassion. It’s cruelty disguised as compassion.

Someone once said, “We cripple people who are capable of walking because we choose to carry them.”

Real compassion is allowing someone to hurt just enough that they recognize their need to change, otherwise one unresolved difficulty leads to another in what becomes an ever escalating spiral of dysfunction.


In extreme cases, the ultimate result might very well be people who prefer having four legs and a wagging tail.

Can there be any doubt, before arriving at a point in his life when “Toco” concluded he is a dog, he showed signs of mental illness that were ignored, or even worse, indulged?

Patting oneself on the back for allowing others to wander down paths of dysfunction is not love. It’s selfishness.

”Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” — Proverbs 27:6

Chris Roemer is a retired banker and educator who resides in Finksburg. He can be contacted at