Whenever my husband, Dale, wants to do something that really isn’t practical, he will usually tell me and let me be the decision maker (or the fall guy), which is ok most of the time.
That’s why, when a guy who works for him told him last week about a dog being neglected and abused that the owners no longer wanted, he called me, knowing I would probably want to go and pick the dog up.
When I did go to the house and witnessed one of the children hit the little dog in the head when she barked at me, I brought the dog home knowing full well that the Dacshund Rescue wouldn’t take her because she wasn’t a full Dacshund. My husband (who got us into this) asked, “Don’t you think we’re animal poor as it is?”
I guess that depends by what measure we are measuring poor. True, we already had three dogs and two cats. One could argue that financially speaking, we spend more than the average household on pet food and veterinary bills.
But I don’t usually measure our lives by how much it is costing us to keep this motley mix-matched bunch that found their way to our home:
We found Hershey, our 15-year-old Dacshund (soon to be 16) when she was six. She lived with a family whose children tormented her for the first five years and when she snapped at their son, they gave her to the grandparents. "We went there looking for a truck and came home with a dog," is the story I tell about her ending up with us. The grandparents couldn’t find her a home without children and were about to dump her on the local dog pound. And it was just in time for me. I had just lost my 14-year-old Maltese and having had dogs all of my life, I didn’t realize how much I missed having a dog around. Dale told me after her arrival, “I thought I would never see you smile again.” Until age caught up with her, she sported her doggie life jacket and went with us on the boat on every fishing trip. She even caught her own fish once as it jumped out of the water!
Emma, our German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix wandered into our yard several days after I saw her drinking from a pond down the road. It was the summer of 2001- hot and dry and she needed a drink and some food. Fortunately for us, she never left. She had the opportunity to return the favor. Emma literally saved my life six months later when one of my horses picked me up and threw me and started toward me to stomp me when I was down. Emma came between us, barking and biting the horses’ legs until I could get myself up. If Emma had not wandered into my life, I might not be here today.
Everyone knows I’m a sucker for a dog, so when an aunt called and said they knew of someone who had a Dacshund they didn’t want because “they don’t like dogs that lick,” we took in Molly. Molly can be my comic rescue or an adorable cuddler when I need her to be.
As for Dakota, our newest addition, we have yet to determine what place she will hold in this menagerie, but it’s almost guaranteed she will take a special spot as a protector, cuddler, comedian or maybe all of the above.
Tabitha, our 16-year old cat was going to be drowned if her mother’s owner couldn’t find a home for the litter and Cali was abandoned at our vet’s office. “I can’t keep them all,” he told me. “I’ll have to put her down today if you don’t take her.”
None of the dogs we have were spayed when we got them (except Hershey) and all but Hershey had at least one litter of puppies. Dakota is currently scheduled to be spayed at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, which provides low-cost spay and neuters. I often wonder what became of Emma, Molly and Dakota’s puppies and wonder how many other dogs their puppies are producing that no one wants.
I recently heard that 5 MILLION animals are currently put to death in the United States, because the supply greatly exceeds the demand. Although these numbers are considerably lower than estimates just a decade ago, too many are still given up for many of the same silly reasons that mine were-they aren’t taught to behave with children; they bark; they lick or they simply outgrow their cute puppy phase.
However, I look at my animals and wonder how different my life would be had any of them been “put down.”
They’ve given us an infinity of pleasure, laughter and comfort.
Animal poor? No, I think we are animal rich.
If you are thinking of getting an animal:
· Please spend the time to research and choose one that goes with your lifestyle. For example, if you are gone for long hours every day, a dog may not be for you, cats are independent and can spend a lot of time by themselves. If you choose a dog, make sure it fits your lifestyle in terms of activeness and is of good temperament for your family.
· Spend the $50-$100 to have your animal spayed or neutered. I often quote the director of the KCK animal shelter who told me after I visited the shelter on euthanasia day, “For every parent who tells me that they allowed their dog or cat to have one litter just so their children could see the miracle of birth, I tell them to bring their children in to the shelter so we can also show them the tragedy of death.”
Every person in this country has a role in pet overpopulation, which brings me to the next point:
· Please adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue group. I tell all of my friends if they want a pure breed, I can usually find a suitable “throw away” for them within two weeks-usually much faster. There is a rescue for almost every breed of dog in the K.C. area. When demand runs short for puppy millers, they will stop making their animals over produce. It’s true that some of these disposable pets have behavioral or emotional problems (usually brought on by trauma or lack of training in a previous home), but I’ve never had a rescue animal that could not be worked with. Besides, when you adopt an adult dog, they are usually already house broken.
· Report abuse and neglect to your local animal control and keep on them until something is done.