Old but Still Contemporary Journalism...
Sometimes stories written long ago hit a present day nerve. I hope this one does.
A Pet is a Long-Term Commitment
Most neglected animals start out as pets, and in our “throwaway” society, some end up discarded like outgrown clothes. Some of the reasons people give for turning their pets in to their local humane societies are eye opening. One woman gave her dog back because “he wants too much attention.”
A Pet is a Long-Term Commitment
By Kathy Warnes
On July 20 at 9 a.m., an Elm Brook Humane Society worker had a traumatic experience. He was called to help a skunk with an empty yogurt cup on its head. The worker pulled the cup off the skunk’s head and both of them ran away!
Then on August 10, humane society workers were called to rescue workers from the building at WTMJ radio station. It seems that two Norwegian elkhounds were holding everyone at bay in the building. The workers captured the dogs and called their owners.
These were just a few incidents in a summer filled with ducks, wood chucks, skunks, squirrels, and other furry creatures.
Now that fall has passed and winter stalks up like a cat after a robin, elm Brook Humane Society Director Patti Trudgeon reports that the animal welfare agency is just as busy as it was in spring and summer.
In September, the Society held a tattoo clinic for tattooing dogs on the right flank. The tattooing provides the owner with a means of protecting a dog in the event he is stolen for lab research or pet napped for resale or breeding purposes or simply lost. The Society held it open house in October, and recently held a Christmas Craft and Bake sale to help raise funds for its operation.
“We have a lot of good animals here that we provide with quality care and affection,” Ms. Trudgeon says with quiet pride. “Our redemption rate is about 81 percent, which means that 81 percent of the animals that we get here are reclaimed by their owners.”
These were just a few incidents in a summer filled with ducks, wood chucks, skunks, squirrels and other furry creatures.
Now that fall has passed and winter stalks us like a cat after a robin, Elm Brook Humane Society Director Patti Trudgeon reports that the animal welfare agency is just as busy as it was in spring and summer.
In September, the society held a dog tattoo clinic for tattooing dogs on the right flank. The tattooing provides the owners with a means of protecting a dog in the event he is stolen for lab research or pet napped for resale or breeding purposes or simply lost. The society held its open house in October, and recently held a Christmas Craft and Bake sale to help raise funds for its operation.
“We have a lot of good animals here that we provide with quality care and affection,” Ms. Trudgeon says with an air of quiet pride. “Our redemption rate is about 81 percent which means that 81 percent of the animals that we get here are reclaimed by their owners.”
Ms. Trudgeon explains that the shelter does not automatically put the animals to sleep, and when they are put to sleep it is only as a last resort. Shelter workers determine that animal’s adoptability by various criteria which include whether it is a behavior problem and to what degree, its age, health and adjustment to the shelter.
But even before Ms. Trudgeon and her workers will allow anyone to put that adorable puppy, fluffy cat, talkative bird or cuddly hamster in the car and speed home with it, she reminds them of the Elm Brook Humane Society’s adoption policies. The society urges that anyone thinking of adopting an animal from the shelter remember that owning a pet is a responsibility.
“Too many people make decisions to adopt on emotion alone, without considering the fact that the cute puppy or kitten is a long term commitment and requires work and care.”
The statistics concerning the pet population explosion in America supports the Society’s position.
Seventeen million cats and dogs ended up in animal shelters in 1983. Just 14 out of every 100 dogs turned in to shelters will find homes an only nine out of every 100 cats. The rest of the 13.5 million animals will be put to death. The one advantage of being put to death in an animal shelter is that it is quick and painless.
The animals that thoughtless people “drop off” in the country or even on city streets, somehow thinking that the animals will survive, are the ones that suffer the slow, agonizing deaths from starvation, disease an injury.
Most neglected animals start out as pets, an in our “throwaway” society, some end up discarded like outgrown clothes. Some of the reasons people give for turning their pets back in to their local humane societies are eye opening. One woman gave her dog back because “he wants too much attention.”
Or consider the man who said, “We’re going on vacation. It’s easier to get a new one when we get back.”
This “throwaway” animal subculture humans have created won’t end until humans take responsibility for unnecessary breeding of animals. Since animals cannot practice birth control themselves, people must do it for them.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends that all pet owners have their female pets spayed and male pets neutered. These operations are simple and safe and spayed and neutered animals make better pets. They are most affectionate, have little desire to wander from home, and are less likely to develop illnesses.
Part of the adoption requirements at Elm Brook is that a puppy or kitten be spayed or neutered. Other requirements include a landlord’s permission to adopt an animal for people who rent, and that no animal be allowed to be adopted for research, guard duty or breeding purposes.
Elm Brook has a program which involves young people coming in to walk the dogs and spend time with them. The society also sponsors a pet therapy program which entrails taking pets to spend time with residents at Northview, the Veterans the Veterans Administration Center, the Congregational Home, Luther Manor an Lutheran Home for the Aged.
If you are thinking about adopting a pet at Elm Brook or any other humane society, Ms. Trudgeon urges you to be a responsible pet owner. Responsible pet owners:
· Select their pets carefully and consider the size of their homes and the time they have to train and care for a pet.
· License their pets.
· Keep pets under strict control and don’t let them stray.
· Provide good veterinary care, including vaccination, shots and regular checks for worms.
· Prevent unplanned breeding.
Grief Process Part of Losing a Pet
Euthanasia. It’s so much easier not to think about it, to push the thought away like a cat pushes a ball of yarn across the room or a finicky dog a bone he doesn’t think is quite good enough for him. But as unrelentingly as the clock ticks, the time comes when you have to consider euthanasia for your maladjusted, ill or aged pet.
“We generally think of euthanasia as a last resort, and we have no time limit on the length of an animal’s stay here,” Patti Trudgeon, Elm Brook Humane Society director says. “And before we destroy animals, we carefully consider their adoptability and work very hard to place them for adoption.”
The Humane Society of the Unite States feels that the most compassionate thing to do for animals that are ill, unwanted, behavior problems or living in constant pain is to put them to death painlessly. It is more humane to put them to death painlessly than allowing them to exist in pain unloved or fighting to survive after owners have dropped them off to fend for themselves, according to the Society.
“Dropping them off has to be the cruelest thing a person can do to an animal,” Ms. Trudgeon said. “How can a dog or cat be expected to survive all by itself running wild when it has been raised to be a domestic pet?”
Euthanasia. Is there any way to make the pain and loss any easier?
The American Veterinary Medical Association offers some suggestions that Ms. Trudgeon endorses. An important thing to keep in mind is that other family members, including children, should be allowed to share in the decision on how to deal with putting a pet to death. Discuss your feelings openly and honestly and try to come to a family decision considering everyone’s feelings.
Another important factor to consider while making your decision is whether or not your pet still enjoys the things he or she once did. Other important issues are whether or not your pet responds to you in the usual ways and if there is more pain than pleasure in his or her life. If your pet is terminally ill or critically injured, you probably will have to consider euthanasia as a possibility. Euthanasia may be necessary if a pet becomes vicious, dangerous or unmanageable. If you develop economic, emotional, or space limitations in your life, it is best to try to find other solutions besides euthanasia.
Remember, your decision to give your pet euthanasia doesn’t have to be a solitary one. Your family, friends, and veterinarian can help you decide. And it is especially important to talk to your children honestly about their pet’s condition and why it is necessary to have your pet painlessly put to death.
If you plan to have your children witness the euthanasia, here is something to ponder. Looking at euthanasia from a child’s point of view, imagine that you are five, six, seven or even ten years old and have to go to the hospital to have your tonsils out. The night before surgery, the doctor comes in with another doctor, who he explains, is going to “put you to sleep” for your operation. Right away you remember that a doctor put Buttons, the dog you loved so much, to sleep and Buttons never woke up. You never saw Buttons again. You’re convinced your mother asked this doctor to do the same thing to you and the anguish and terror you experience is devastating.
This scenario is not an imaginary one; doctors and anesthetists everywhere say this is a very real fear among children. They say with one voice: “Don’t tell your children you’re having your pet “put to sleep.” You can explain your dog or cat expired, passed away, went to doggy heaven, but not that he was “put to sleep.”
Doctors tell us that we as human animals deal with death much worse than other animals and we don’t deal with the death of our pets any better. It is necessary to grieve through the death of a person close to you. To many people, pets are as dear or dearer than people. Stages of grief that one may go through after the death of a pet are denial, anger, and depression. Denial occurs when the person refuses to acknowledge that the pet was sick, injured and had to be allowed to die. The person may feel angry and direct this anger toward people they normally love and respect, even the veterinarian. The pet owner may even be angry at himself and blame himself for allowing his pet to get sick or become injured. After denial and anger, he may feel depression and a great sense of loss.
It is important to remember that grieving, just as choosing and loving a pet, is a personal thing. Some people take longer to recover from grief than others and some grieve in different ways than others. Give yourself time to work through the grieving process. Often, grief over the loss of a pet is not understood by friends who care about the pet’s owner very much. They may not realize how important the pet was to that person and how real this grief is. Talking to someone who does understand about grief, such as a minister, social worker, physician or psychologist can be helpful.
Those who suffer a loss and feel they would like to get another pet to help fill the emptiness left by the loss of one, is a good decision. Those who feel they don’t want another pet so soon, is also a good decision. Getting a new pet before the grief has been resolved could make the grieving ones feel that the deceased pet was too easily replaced in their hearts.
Most of all, remember the good times shared with a pet can be remembered with warmth and love and laughter through the tears. Death is part of the life cycle and a pet will live on in its owner’s heart and memory as long as the owner lives.
An empty leash hangs, but not an empty heart
Your leash hangs there on its hook on the wall ready to go for a walk like you always were. It hangs, waiting for your eager bark, but you aren’t here. You’ll never be here again. My eyes fill with tears just thinking never---never is so long.
Then I remember your blue sweater and how you pranced around in it, prouder than a model over her first $50,000 assignment. I remember the times you took me for walks and I waited while you anointed trees. I remember how you terrorized paper boys, delivery people, and anyone else invading your house, your street. I remember how you sat on my lap, loving me when I wasn’t lovable, and how you accepted me when no one else did. Loyalty, devotion…words that to you meant me. Love..remembering…friend…words that to me will always mean you.