I love my pets.
There, I've said it. It's been publicly admitted. I'm never, ever, going to be a user of the word “furbaby,” but I can honestly say the dog and the cat in my life are truly family members.
Gus, our German shepherd, was barely 6 weeks old when we got him almost five years ago. A tiny, fuzzy, almost completely black creature that immediately jumpstarted my maternal instincts and is as protected by me as I am by him. When you hear German shepherd, what do you think? Rough, tough, scary, police dog? This animal is the smartest, kindest, sweetest dog I have ever known. If he hurts himself or is afraid (yes, the cat scares him) he comes crying to me. If the kids are wrestling, he breaks them up. If I'm watching a scary movie, he instinctively comes to sit beside me. If the phone rings, he howls to alert us. He has never been aggressive to any person, though a rabbit, squirrel or two have lost their sad little lives when they ventured into our yard. Our cat, Milo kitty, was adopted 13 years ago. He is getting older, but is still hilarious to all of us. We believe Milo kitty thinks he is a man, and is confused by the fact that he isn't.
When I bought my first house, at 22, I adopted a Chow Chow puppy, Max. He was a blue, with the distinct blue tongue. As his breed is known for, he was aloof, especially to strangers, but I always felt safe with him. He was a very constant companion, slept near my bed, watched my every move, and was very formidable-looking, with his lion's mane and weighing in at almost 100 pounds. When my oldest child was born, he abandoned me for her. He laid under her crib, would cry miserably at her door if I shut it, and would put himself between her and others when they came to visit. On a walk once he broke free of his leash when two large dogs approached my husband and child, who was being pushed in a stroller. They immediately backed down. Max died of liver cancer in 1999, and I miss him every day.
I am blessed to have had, and to have, wonderful pets. I treat them like pets; I will admit that. I don't allow the dog to sleep in my bed or lay on the couches, but he does anyway, the minute I leave the house. The kids will warn him, "Mom's home!" and he will jump down and pretend like he was never on there. Knowing that not all people love to be covered in fur and dog kisses, I've taught him to say hello and then to back off. He was never allowed to jump on anyone. I don't believe that this has made him an unhappier pet. I worked very hard to train Gus, and to help him find his place in our family pack. No one who has met Gus can say anything other than that he is extremely well-behaved and happy.
I am constantly shocked by stories I am hearing regularly regarding animal abuse, the dumping of a pet, and not having a pet spayed or neutered. I see daily almost hourly posts on Facebook regarding animal rescues and the lengths they go to to save unwanted animals. One of my very good friends is a huge animal rights advocate and rescues dogs as frequently as she can. The stories she has told me are heartbreaking. Starved, chained, ignored, abused, dumped creatures that somehow know when they are being rescued, and gratefully smile a doggy smile and piteously wag their tails when they are being helped. She told me that if every person adopted seven animals, it's possible that all stray animals would have a home. That means if you have a family of four you would be caring for 28 pets.
There is simply no excuse to not having your pet fixed. There are many low-cost spay and neuter clinics in our area. I am a firm believer in this: do not adopt a dog if you cannot afford to pay for its medical bills, or if you cannot give it a safe, secure, healthy environment to live in. They are not toys to be played with and then dumped. They have personalities, they love their "people" and they are truly the healthiest form of therapy there is. Anyone that ignores an animal, or its needs, is an abuser, period. I've read recently about dogs left outside by owners in the below-freezing temperatures. Please, report animal abuse to local authorities.
And so we are now in the second week of February, a time when dumped pets skyrocket. Why? Because animals are given as gifts over the holidays. As I stated earlier, it takes time and patience to train an animal, and unfortunately, people are realizing that their pet requires too much work. Yes, they do require work and patience. Yes, they do require money. Do not bring an animal into your home unless your budget allows for that.
Please, the Bob Barker in me is begging you, have your animals fixed. Donate to your local shelters. Money, food, blankets, and time are required in order for these nonprofit, no-kill shelters to work. Ask friends who have adopted dogs where they adopted them from, and how you can help that organization. Do not consider bringing an animal into your home if you do not have the time and patience it takes to train it, or the money it takes to have it fixed and keep it healthy.
These animals are blessings to us, in so many ways. We owe them at the very least, companionship, good health and loyalty. If you have an animal that you cannot keep, please try to find a good owner for your pet; they are your responsibility. They trust and believe in you. Max and Gus have brought more to my life than I could possibly bring to theirs. Animals deserve better than what we read about and see on the news every day. Do the right thing, or do not have an animal at all.