Friday, November 8, 2013

We Suck Sometimes

One of those "not about cricket" posts I promised.

I love my dog. That sounds like a silly, maybe even redneck thing to say. But I do. I love her like a family member. Which is the way it should be.

And yet I daily read articles, Facebook posts, blogs, and tweets about animals being mistreated, abandoned, abused, euthanized, and given up at high kill shelters for various reasons. My Friday started off with tears as I read one such story about a dog in Arizona. Only a year and a half old, the poor boy was given up by his owners because they found themselves without room for him. It was a high-kill shelter; within two days he was dead. Dead. Killed in a violent world for no other reason than convenience.

Here is a photo of our beloved Star Morgan.

If she looks a little unfamiliar, it’s because she is a Carolina Dog. Carolina Dogs are actually the only dog breed known to be indigenous to the United States—they weren’t brought here from Europe. They are in fact still running wild, mostly in the southeastern United States. She has many behaviors that are unlike other breeds. You can Google that for yourself. She has been my friend and companion for seven of her 11 years on this Earth and I owe her more could ever possibly be repaid with a couple of meals per day, some treats, and a walk every night. She is a member of our family. My wife and little girl feel the same.

When she was spooked by fireworks last year, got over our five-foot fence, and was gone for a week, we were panicked. We searched for her every day, everywhere we could think of. When we got her back, it was such a relief to all of us. I even wrote a message to deliver at my Friends (Quaker) Meeting (church) about it. I will share that as a post sometime, perhaps.

So when I read this morning that this dog in Arizona had been euthanized, it struck me, as such stories always do, hard. I railed in my mind, I cursed, a cried a bit.

Before you get all upset and comment that “they’re just animals, they don’t know what family is and can’t have feelings or know what is happening,” let me say this: I know that dogs (and cats) are just animals. But they do know what family is, and they do have feelings. Anyone who has ever had a dog or cat for an extended period of time knows this. And they know about “family.” My experience is with dogs, so I will talk about them. Dogs are pack animals; they function best in a setting where there are others around, depending on the dog and that the dog depends on. I believe they also can feel … maybe not love quite as we know it exactly but very similar. I know because I’ve seen it in action, and felt it personally.

So then why do people think it’s OK to take a dog to a high kill shelter? They are suddenly bereft of the pack that gives their life its meaning and its context. They are in a strange world of scary noises and the smell of death, and soon they, too, will probably be dead. Can you imagine feeling that way yourself? You might very well say that sometimes sacrifices need to be made. When it comes down to survival, the choice between the family pet and being able to eat or have a roof over your head must be made. But why is the death sentence of a living, loving being part of the equation at all? What if the dog had a vote, and chose YOU to be the one to go to death row?

The next time you or someone you know is getting rid of a dog or cat, do NOT take it to a shelter that kills animals. And if you do, check back on it daily and make sure it doesn’t get into the schedule for being euthanized. Google. Talk to friends. Talk to the shelter. Find out where the area rescue groups are. If you can’t find one locally, expand your search. There are many groups out there (and even if it is a breed-specific group, your dog doesn’t have to be pure-bred for most of them to take them in). It may wind up costing you some gas money and time. But isn’t a life worth that? Even if it is “just a dog (or cat)?”

Please, spare a thought for an animal today. Go to your shelter and adopt a dog or cat (make sure they are spayed or neutered, by the way). Donate. Volunteer. Lobby your local government to make your local shelter a “no-kill” shelter. Please. Do it today.

Knowingly dooming a life that has the intelligence level of a five-year-old human just isn’t cricket.

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