Greetings and Salutations;
It has been far too long since I added any notes to this journal of my wanderings through life and the Internet. Unhappily, life tends to overwhelm one at times. Among the various things that have covered me up recently are several bouts of severe depression. This is a problem I have struggled with since I was far too young, but, only in the past few years has it gotten to a point that I have (for example) been unable to take a step outside of the house for a week – and barely been able to get out of the recliner for much of that time.
One of the anchors that have helped me through this period are the companion animals that live in the house. We have, at the moment, six cats, all of whom were rescues from a feral life in the great outdoors. For you that do not interact with cats all that much, do not believe that they are aloof and uncaring. If one builds a relationship with them, they are quite caring. In any case, while I was locked into the Darkness in my mind, they would hang out with me, and be very purring and happy when I would scratch them. It may sound like a small thing, but, it was a huge help.
I realize that the proceeding is kind of a bummer and not the most cheerful way to start off a blog entry – but, it leads me into my original topic, mentioned in the title. In that title, I am referring to the ongoing problem of excess animals that we Americans produce every year, and, the somewhat shameful way we treat them. Right now, the local shelters are beginning to fill up with dozens and dozens of cats and dogs that have no “forever home”. Some of them are animals that were taken out into the country by their owners and dumped, because those people became bored with the animal, or changed the decor of the house, or, had issues they did not know how to handle with socializing the companion animal. If they are lucky, they are captured and taken to the shelter. Some of them are batches of kittens or puppies that an un-neutered pet produced, and the owners have no ability or interest in dealing with finding them a good home on their own. In any case, the shelter ends up with the animals on their doorstep and has to do something with them.
Generally, kittens and puppies are relatively easy to get adopted. Everyone thinks they are cute, and, wants one. Older cats and dogs can languish for months at the shelter, waiting for their fate. If they are lucky, someone comes in who realizes that an older cat is a great companion too, and, is just as good or better than starting off with a kitten. Then, there is the pool of animals that no one wants to talk about, but, the staff at the shelter has to deal with. These are the animals who have injuries that have left significant scars (like three legs instead of four, or one eye instead of two), or are unsocialized to the point that they are not the cute, snuggly creatures that most people want.
These “unadoptable” animals tend to come into the shelter, and, end up being euthanized within days or weeks. I know the staff hates to do this, because every one of them has a deep love of animals, and, really appreciates the distinct personalities of each animal that they see. However, there are only so many spaces at the shelter, and, only so much food in the stockroom to keep them alive, and so difficult decisions have to be made. In some cases, though, death is the best thing that can happen for some of these animals. When these animals come into the shelter, they have enough physical problems that ending their pain is the kindest thing to do.
However, it is also a fact that (as of last year) around two thirds of the animals that come into a “kill” shelter end up being euthanized. That is a problem that we, as pet owners are directly responsible for, and, while I am not sure it is entirely possible to get that number down to single digits, there are some things that would help.
- Have your companion animal neutered. It does not hurt them, and, unlike humans, they have no sexual insecurities that cause it to bother them. Recent studies have found that fixing your animals actually can have a positive health benefit. The incidence of cancers and other reproductive system diseases is dropped way down by this procedure. The earlier it is done the better. We use weight as a metric. Over two pounds, and they can get done safely. Under two pounds…we hold off.
- If you have to surrender your companion animal, then, do it in a responsible way. There are shelters in your area that will take your animal and try to find it a new home. Go on the Net and search for rescue groups for your animal’s breed. Remember that getting a companion animal is not like buying a sofa. They may be a small life, but, they are a life, and, should be looked upon as just as much a part of your family as your children, not like an accessory to be trashed.
- Do not think it is acceptable to just discard them if they become sick, or inconvenient, or no longer match the furniture, or, develop bad habits, or, you just get bored with them. Companion animals will give you unconditional love and do not hold grudges (unless REALLY mistreated). Remember that to return that love, you have the responsibility of making sure that they have a good life until they die. If that includes making the hard decision to have the animal euthanized, because of illness, then, that is OK. I, for one, will not have an animal put down unless I am there for their last heartbeat, letting them know that their contribution to my life was appreciated, and, that I am willing to escort them into the darkness. That is, perhaps, one of the hardest things a Guardian can do for their companion animal, but, it is the most ethical thing that we, as humans, can do for our little, furry friends.
- Seriously consider taking an adult, or less adoptable animal from the shelter. At best, you might lose a few years of time with them…but, on the other hand, you will have extended their life by, perhaps, a decade or so, and, made that life a good one. I know this is not the easiest course of action. If you adopt an un-socialized animal, it will require more work on your part. First, you have to gain the animal’s trust – and that can take some time. This has to be on the schedule of the animal…not yours. Then, you have to remind them that people are not all bad, and can be pretty good…and worth their love – again more time. I do not recommend this for everyone, but, I will say that I have found, over the years, that I am quite good at the process. As a matter of fact, I have collected a number of animals from the shelter that were not going to get adopted because they had been tortured by humans and had a deep mistrust of them. Over a period of time, I was able to work with them, and rebuild that trust to a point that they became some of the most loving, friendly and playful creatures one could imagine. In one case, of a pair of sisters, it took a year or two before they really loosened up, but, they did become great companion animals.
- Finally, while the world is full of need, consider supporting your local shelters. They are always happy to accept cash (are not we all?) but, contributions of cat and dog food and time are always appreciated and will go a long way to helping the problem.
- ESPECIALLY, if your companion animal is still fertile, do not allow it outside…EVER. These days, cats really should be considered to be inside only animals, as the world is far too hazardous to allow them to roam freely.
Dogs and cats have, for thousands of years, been mankind’s companion animals. They have improved mankind’s lot in many ways, and required very little of us. Alas, for a variety of reasons, we humans tend to treat them thoughtlessly. This is the source of the flood of animals that are drowning the shelters these days. We, as ethical humans, should do what we can to pay back that debt we owe our companion animals, and do what we can for them to have a good life that is relatively danger free. Take Action!
Bee Man Dave