Just over a week ago during the ‘Polar Vortex’, someone in Tioga County PA (within 30 minutes of where I live) came down the road and spotted a locked animal crate by the site of the road. Stopping to check it out, the woman’s worst fears were realized: she found a dead puppy estimated at four months old. There are a few more details at the local news site … but basically the puppy was left outside and died, and it is assumed that someone dumped the crate by the roadside after the fact.
The local community is appalled and outraged, but sadly it is the sort of thing that happens way too often.
Think about it: the puppy was four months old and died a month after Christmas. Adoption age for puppies is 10 – 12 weeks … so it isn’t a stretch to imagine that the puppy was a gift who would neither immediately behave nor be quiet, and the young child who desperately wanted the puppy was unable to take care of it – or even comprehend the scope of what that responsibility might entail.
There is a reason that every year there are an abundance of articles telling us that puppies make terrible Christmas gifts for children.
Children who get puppy’s for Christmas often lose interest when it grows into a dog. Then parents who don’t want to raise the animal or incur the expense, discard the animal as if it were a used toy. Too many animals given as Christmas presents end up being killed by shelters, abandoned, abused, hit by cars, or given away with psychological damage. That is why some shelters ban pet adoptions during the Holiday season.
This fall the local SPCA talked about how ‘give backs’ can often be death sentences – people assume it is like buying something at Best Buy where they can just bring it back for a refund or just dump the dog off if they decide they can’t do it anymore. What they don’t realize is that if their dog is a certain breed or size or color, there is a very narrow window of adoption and only to a small slice of the population. If the dog returns for any reason after being a baby … death sentence.
Through the years I have seen a number of families who were in no position to have a pet go ahead and adopt – maybe they were doing it because a child wanted one, or because they thought they should, or because they want to see if they are ‘dog people’ or ‘cat people’. In pretty much every case the poor dog ends up being destroyed or running away or dying somehow needlessly.
It is a real shame.
Another problem – neuter / spaying. The problem is that pets overpopulate when left to breed freely. It is also a shame to see men in particular who seem to think of their dogs as an extension of their own manhood and therefore cannot have them fixed. Get over yourself – unless you plan to take personal and financial responsibility for the offspring your dog produces … get it neutered. (yes this goes for females as well).
In our house we have four animals – two Norfolk Terriers, a cat we’ve had for nearly 13 years, and a 9 year old cat we were supposedly ‘watching’ while an extended family member moved who is now part of the pack as well. Our dogs came from a breeder and we picked them due to allergy concerns, and the cat we adopted from a family who didn’t neuter their cat and ended up with a huge litter where no two looked alike. The other cat was taken in by someone who had no business having cats, and we continue to work on socializing her and dealing with her PTSD.
In our housing development over the last few months we know someone returned a gorgeous new puppy because it wouldn’t train, wouldn’t listen and they just didn’t want to have a dog anymore. I can only hope that the dog was young enough to still be adopted.
Many of the blogs I read are written by folks with pets (many of the couples are pre-kids). I am sure that each of them have heard the question “what are you going to do with when baby comes along?” Hopefully what we did – make sure to supervise time together and socialize them and teach the child slowly how to deal with the pet. Pets are incredibly sensitive and can be amazing to watch with babies and toddlers.
And while I have talked about the common dogs and cats, there are animals everywhere in this world, most of whom pose no threat or danger, and are just trying to survive. Yet some people think that they exist for their own amusement and torture. I think this speaks volumes about the people.
I know that some religions teach that we have absolute power over other creatures, and others teach that we are all part of the continuum of life. All I know is that animals are living creatures with thoughts and fears and love and emotions. They deserve our love and respect, and if we can’t give them that, then they deserve the opportunity to live and be loved in a home where they are welcome – or in the wild if that is where they belong.
Taking care of the animals and pets of the world is part of taking care of ourselves and taking care of nature. It is something that comes naturally to some, but is something we all need to think about.