Take a moment and read this article: Hold Tight? Or Unleash?. Don't worry, I'll wait.
Finished? Do you feel kind of ambivalent? Perhaps a little disgusted?
The article, should you decide not to read it, is written by a woman, Lissa Rankin, whose 6 month old puppy was struck and killed on the road out behind her house, because (to paraphrase), said dog hated her leash and clearly wanted to be a country dog. The property is not fenced, and the author was inside preparing for a teleclass, when the poor man who struck said dog with his car called her, remorseful.
The author continues on, talking about how the dog, Bezoar (which I found to be a strange name, as "A bezoar is a ball of swallowed foreign material (usually hair or fiber) that collects in the stomach and fails to pass through the intestines." [PubMed Health]) could have been kept inside that day, much like how parents of the children at Sandy Hook might have kept their children home from school that day.
There is a tremendous difference between being a responsible dog owner who supervises her dog and keeps her in a proven to be safely enclosed area when the dog may not be supervised and the parents of children who died in a school shooting. Maybe some of it is based on assumptions? We assume, when we send children to school, that they will be safe. We assume, when a dog is in our backyard, the dog will be safe. This is the only way I can rationalize these statements.
Assumptions are dangerous, though. You cannot assume that a 6 month old puppy will stay in your unfenced back yard. You cannot assume that a puppy you evidently did not leash train (because she "hated" it) will stay near your house and away from your road. You cannot assume that somebody will stop in time. You cannot assume that somebody won't come along and steal your little dog, so that you never ever find out what happens to her. Freedom is one thing; negligence is another. If you feel like it, you can read the comments at the bottom of Rankin's article; many (perhaps most?) of those commenting seem to be in agreement with me.
I don't doubt that Lissa Rankin loved her puppy, that isn't what I'm saying. There is a certain level of responsibility that one assumes (there's that word again) when being a dog owner. Or a parent. As a parent, you teach your children life skills that they will need, and you hope to teach them discernment and decision making. Allowing your child to go to school is a given, not exactly a comparable risk to turning her loose in the wilderness without the skill set or supervision to make good decisions and survive. There's a difference between living in a paranoid bubble and being safe. A simple fence, while still not foolproof (gates might get left open, a bored unsupervised puppy might dig out) is a good preventative measure. The dog can still be "free", while contained. I don't believe in leaving dogs chained out, certainly.
Towards the end of the article, ruminating on the notions of freedom and control, Rankin says: "But I believe it’s worth it to live an unleashed life – even today, in the wake of this loss that might have been prevented."
I do hope that she doesn't decide to get another dog. That would be the ultimate loss prevention strategy in this instance.