Imagine that one day you get bored or irritated with your child. So, you put her in the car and dump her at an orphanage. Its a scary, lonely place and she is terrified. Imagine that she has just 72 hours to HOPE for new parents to come and adopt her. If no one comes, your child will be killed. She will die a painful, slow, terrifying death. Now change the scenario from your child to your pet. Does that make it easier for you to fathom? For your pet’s sake, I seriously hope not.
Typically, I use this blog as a positive, happy diversion but yesterday I read a post written by a woman who works at an animal shelter and it disturbed me so deeply that I had nightmares. An issue that has affected me that strongly seems to warrant attention and this is the only soapbox that I have so bear with me.
In her post, this woman explained that she hates her job. She described in graphic, awful detail the living (and killing) conditions found in many animal shelters in the US. I wept as I read her descriptions. The most disturbing part of all is her description of the callousness and ignorance of the humans that leave their pets at the shelter. In many cases the “reasons” given for abandoning their once-beloved animal are unsettlingly minor: “He’s tearing up my yard,” “She got bigger than we expected,” “We don’t have enough time for him.” So, they leave their pet. Terrified. Alone. In deplorable conditions. They sentence them to almost certain death. Because the dog was “too big.”
This is not a post about adopting from shelters — although thats a wonderful thing to do and there are some great, humane shelters and rescues in Chicago (we support this one and this one both). In truth, we got Zoey from a responsible, home breeder. We’ve talked about adding a second dog to our family at some point and when we do, we plan to adopt from a shelter or rescue, but that’s not my point.
My point today is how we treat our pets. Dog, cat, bird or guinea pig, they should all be treated with unconditional love, compassion and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Each of them is a creature capable of love and feeling. They provide untold companionship and loyalty and deserve the same from us in return.
In our family, the line between human child and animal is extremely grey. When Lilly was born everyone warned us that Zoey would become less important to us. Far from it. She is a member of our family just as Lillian is. Each of them receives the unconditional love, attention and affection they deserve. Zoey’s emotional and financial needs are just as important as any other member of our family. We’ve taken her to classes to learn proper behavior. She goes to daycare for socialization. If Zoey needs medical attention, she gets it just as I would. Just as my daughter Lillian would. If we decide to add to our family again, whether the next member is human or animal, they will be treated the very same way.
Don’t get me wrong, my dog isn’t perfect. There are days when she does things that get on my nerves. But then again so does my daughter. Neither could ever do anything that would warrant me scooping her up without warning and dumping her at an institution where misery is guaranteed and death is likely.
Some might consider this view extreme but I see it as necessary. To commit to anything less is irresponsible and, potentially, inhumane. After all, that cute puppy or kitten in the pet store window will eventually get old. She might get cranky. She might become incontinent. She might get cancer. What will you do with her then? You, the person who she trusts and loves more than anyone on earth. Will you care for her? Pet her? Provide her with kindness and compassion? Or will you abandon her to die terrified and alone?
If you aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to provide love and care for a family member — and that’s what a pet should be — then you probably shouldn’t get a pet. If you already have a pet and you disagree with me, I beg you to read the post, open your heart and change your mindset.
Pets are not disposable. Lets stop treating them that way.