I love animals. I always have. And I knew, since I could have a sense of reason, that I will always have a pet... or want a pet...
But it doesn't mean I judge or have a problem with people who don't own pets. For whatever reason. I don't have a problem with non-dog or non-cat people asking me to kennel my dogs, or put away my cat, when they come visit. I don't get upset with people who choose to not have pets. Because pets are not a requirement. They are a responsibility. And if you own one, you have to be 100% committed to them or its better not to have any.
I would say that it should be the same way with kids, but with so many irresponsible parenting... It would hurt this argument. So I won't.
Pets (and children too), require time, energy, love, money, patience, discipline... They will stretch you. They will want you to take them outside to go potty at 5am in below 20 F weather... and you have to be as consistent with a pet as you do a child you are potty training and you need to take that toddler to the toilet for the 5th time this hour.
A pet is the toddler that never grows up and goes to college - it grows old and dies. On your watch. It's the child you expect to out-live. And most dogs will be like toddlers (mentally) until the day when their body is too old to get into mischief - and then you are looking into a whole 'nother series of concerns, although maybe not necessarily behavioral.
And you sign up for it 100% voluntarily. You do NOT have to keep that pet - don't give me that "I rescued it!" excuse. You can re-home. You can call Animal Control. You can surrender it to a rescue organization. You don't have to keep every animal that falls on your lap if you can't provide this level of commitment You shouldn't be "rescuing" pets on your own if you can't financially afford to provide for all of the pet's medical needs. You shouldn't have more pets than you can provide emotional love, time and support for (would you have 9 toddlers? 10? Why in the world would you have 10 animals then?!). There is a line between a rescuer and a hoarder and I see it in my line of work daily. Having all those animals and no money for their exams doesn't make the veterinary clinic sorry for you - it just makes us realize that you have mental issues that need professional help... even if we would never say it to your face.
That pet will need annual exam and vaccines. Unlike kids, who get a series of vaccines and at some point you are done, pets are not done. They will need preventative care labwork and diagnostics. They may also need orthopedic surgery, or care from eye, internal medicine, or other specialists. They may get diabetic, or develop Cushing's, or Addison's, or have renal failure - all of which will require plenty of time and MONEY to medicate the pet so that it is comfortable and healthy under it's circumstances. It may get hit by a car or fracture a leg in some unfortunate and sudden incident and LIVE to need YOUR help. And it is your moral responsibility to pay for the pet's medical needs to the same level of care as you would your own child. I know children have health insurance, either from your job or from the state. You can insure your pet. And either way, it's your responsibility to get your pet taken care of medically, whether you have the money or not. If these circumstances may stretch you to an unreasonable amount of financial distress... guess what... you shouldn't have a pet! Or 4, or 7... or breed...
Pets need time. Time to train so they behave appropriately in all social circumstances. Because if your dog bites another dog, or another person, or runs into someone's yard, or is a monster on a leash... its' YOUR fault. And it's YOUR job to fix it - get a trainer, read a book, make an effort... it's your moral responsibility to make your pet a good citizen.
Pets need your patience and love. You wouldn't drop your kid off at the orphanage because at 4 years old he still wets the bed. You can't do that with your dog either! It takes time for them to learn, they may still screw up, and that's no reason to drop off the dog at the pound. If your dog is not potty trained, it's YOUR fault. If your dog chews up furniture, it's YOUR fault. If your dog eats the trash... it's YOUR fault. If you don't want to address these issues for the REST OF YOUR DOG'S LIFE... don't get one in the first place.
If you read this far and are offended or hurt, please keep reading. To my facebook friends, I love you and respect you - YOU are not the target of my blog. I know that things happen, that all of my facebook friends LOVE their pets and are good pet owners. I've seen friends short on cash ask for help for their pets. I've seen friends take in dogs, rescues, who aren't good citizens but we are willing to work with their pet and be inconvenienced by that pet for the rest of it's life. I'm not hating on you in any way. If you were not a good pet owner, or irresponsible in the care of animals, to the best of my knowledge - you would not be my facebook friend... or probably my real-life friend. Because as a Christian I can be friends with people who are gay, or pro-choice, or pagan but I CANNOT respect a person who is irresponsible with their animals... Irresponsibility is cruelty. Like a human toddler, that animal cannot do anything for itself and depends entirely on YOU for it's LIFE.
So what would possess me to write such a blog?
Because I have seen (across 2 veterinary clinics and a grooming job, during the past 4 years or so of my life):
- People who breed their dog in their back-yard, hopping to make $300-400 bucks a pup, but the mom has never been vaccinated, doesn't have established a patient/vet relationship, and can't afford to bring the momma dog in when it's been in labor for 24 hours without producing pups, and has decomposing pup fetuses in her uterus. Then they are hoping for a payment arrangement when the dog has pyometria and it's on death's door, and blame the vet clinic when payment is due in full.
- Dogs, under 3 years of age, get dropped off at Animal Control... then the pound notices that the dog is limping, they start doing some research as to why the animal is so unsocial, so uncomfortable... only to find out that the dog had ruptured a cruciate and it has been left un-medicated and untreated. Realizing that orthopedic surgery can easily run up to $4000 or higher, and that pain medications alone can cost you $120 a month, they decide to dump it at the pound and pay the $25 surrender fee instead - but don't have the moral fiber to let the pound know that pet needs medical treatment... And that poor dog, in excruciating pain, has been dragged on a leash across hard floors and has been sleeping on a cold floor. How would you like to have busted a knee cap and be left to sleep on the floor?
- Cats who have jumped up on the counter while owners were cooking, burning their paws on the stove. After fur and skin is falling off the paw pad in pieces and the cat is not bearing any weight on it, owners decide to put neosporin on it and wait for it to heal instead of taking it to the Vet. If one of my kids burned their hand like that and I didn't take it to a doctor, I'd have child protective services called on me. I'd like there to be such a thing for pets, truthfully.
- Long-haired dogs that haven't been brushed a day in their lives. By the time they need a grooming they are dangerous to grooming staff, so they have to get dropped off at a veterinarian for full sedation. More fussing over how it's so expensive just to "wash and shave a dog", and why would it cost so much money to get it cleaned up... when the dog is so matted that when it pees the urine stays trapped against the skin and does not hit the floor - eating the underbelly area raw, and the dog physically cannot poop... has been constipated for 3 days.... From the matts around the butt.
- Just this week I saw someone come in for a euthanasia for a dog that to me looked ok. After speaking with the owners a while I found out the reason for euthanasia is that the dog was losing weight and urinating inappropriately. The dog was tail wagging, running and jumping, taking treats, and cuddling with me. I spoke to the veterinarian and said that I was willing to be entirely responsible for the dog if they would choose to surrender it to me instead of euthanizing, and I was willing to pay for the labwork to find the cause for these issues first, and willing to pay for the treatment until the dog was adopted by someone who was willing to do the same for the rest of it's life. Between you and me, the dog was probably diabetic. It needed medical attention, but it wasn't dying. Owners declined surrendering the pet and requested the euthanasia anyways. So legally it's what we had to do. But they didn't even have the moral fiber to be present with the pet, they just dropped it off and paid their bill. That dog gave those people a good 10 years of it's life and in it's final moments, it received comfort and love from people it had only known for about 15 minutes.
- A pet with an eye issue so bad the eye needed to be surgically removed. If you can picture an animal with a bloody red eyeball, no color to the iris whatsoever, bulging a good 1/2 inch out of the eye socket, about twice the size of the other eye. It goes without saying that it is painful. They refuse the surgery. Not for a second opinion, they didn't even say it was due to finances. Just because.
- The 9 year old small breed dog with mammary cancer, among other health issues, that owners still want to breed to show their children "the miracle of life".
So when at check out, I see the moron behind the counter tell me how he's going to breed is "champion quality" baby, I want to punch him in the throat... but I say, "Thank you!" and hand him his receipt instead. For all the hicks out there that want to breed their pets, I will say that you need to be prepared for the financial and emotional responsibility of ALL OF THE ABOVE SCENARIOS not just for the momma dog, but for all the puppies in every litter. Because you brought those puppies (or kittens) into the world. And responsible breeders will pull the pups from their litters from the pound, and make sure you spay/neuter/microchip your pet if you are not showing it. If your bitch has 8 puppies and you can't find a home for all 8 puppies, are you prepared to feed, support, provide, and train all 9 dogs for the rest of their lives?! And don't cross-breed. It's pathetic. Your chorkie-morkie-schnoodle ends up at the pound as a mutt, when it's 4-7 years old and no longer cute, and no one wants it. Maybe a rescue organization will pull the pet. Maybe someone will come and adopt it. Chances are it will be euthanized, and it's YOUR fault for breeding that little creature in the first place. And I pray to God to all these backyard breeders that the bloodshed and abuse they are responsible for, in exchange for the few hundred bucks they made, will catch up with their conscience one day and keep them from sleeping.
And when I see pets suffering, but owners who don't want to cough up the money for what it needs... because "we are unreasonably expensive".... who obviously don't do without much themselves judging by their cars, their jewelry, their tattoos, and their I-phone...I would prefer people didn't have pets in the first place. I want to tell these people, "Can you then at least cough up the few hundred dollars to humanely euthanize your pet so that it stops suffering and you can go on your merry way?"
I wouldn't dream of having 2 dogs if I didn't work at a veterinary clinic where I can get employee discounts. I know it's not expensive. My dogs get fed, are up to date on vaccines, get labwork done regularly, are never in any kind of illness for more than 12 hours. And I take care of them without sacrificing the financial health of my family as a whole - my children and husband don't do without either. And I've had dogs with behavioral issues... dogs involved in dog fights, regrettably... Dogs that are a nuisance in public. Dogs that are rescue and only ONE from a breeder, my little buddy. My cat is very well taken care of too. I've had the dogs that I've put up with EVERYTHING and the dogs I've had to let go and put down. I've washed bloody diarrhea from the carpet for weekends straight, chased the cat around the house with semi-dead rodents in its mouth, walked around the block in knee deep snow and slick ice twice to bring them back home, re-homed some for their well-being, held others close to my chest as they drew their final breaths. I'm not judging just from my side of the counter.
Making the decision to euthanize Max made sense, because he was miserable. Making the decision to euthanize Pepper was probably the toughest choice I ever faced, and I'm STILL not 100% sure it was the right choice... but I'm at peace with it because I was with her, holding her in my arms, till the end. I apologized to her because I couldn't do better. I told her she was a great dog. I let her know I was doing this so she wouldn't hurt herself any more or feel any more fear. I let her know she lived a better year with me than most other pets. And I told her I was thankful to God she fell into my lap as opposed to staying in the shelter, or ending up with someone else that would've euthanized her sooner and not given her the love and patience she deserved. I told her that between the vets, Alaska Dog and Puppy Rescue, and Dog Tired Day Care (yes, I paid for day care for my dog), she had a great team of people that loved her and she made smile. So even if I will never know whether or not she needed to be euthanized that day, or if there were other options, I can live with myself because I faced that valley with her and my conscience is clear.
If you can't take all this and be emotionally, physically, and financially prepared for it - or at least, have the team work and the support in place for it - then don't own a pet. I've seen clients go through not only one, but three major surgeries... and counting... whatever it takes for their family member. In a world with no commitments, and animals being so helpless, get your "puppy" or "kitten" fix by fostering or volunteering with a local rescue group, and then leave them be to find a good home... Have the awareness to realize YOU may not be a good home. Or BE that good home. But you have to be all-in, 100% invested in the decision because that poor animal you bring home is 100% invested in you.