As I sit here the day after Christmas, hugging my best friend and looking into his eyes as I scratch his back and comfort him because the arthritis is setting in, I am reminded again of why I adopted him. My husband spied him first, quietly napping while all the other dogs in the shelter were going insane. My husband bent down and said something to him and he woke up and immediately wagged his tail. Then he called me over and I saw this face straining to see me from behind the door to the kennel. He loved me from the moment he laid eyes on me and the second I looked into those chocolate brown eyes, I knew that we belonged together. He loved my kids from the moment we got him out into the yard to play. He loved us all and we had big enough hearts to love him right back. I knew all of this, and then I saw on the sign on his kennel that his 30 days were up.
He was about to get transferred to a kill facility from the no-kill facility that we’d chosen to adopt our dog from. That was it. On the ride home, I convinced my husband that we had to save him. We had to be the ones who were selfless and who were ready to do the brave thing. He had spent the day playing with us, and showing us how wonderful he was, and it was a big risk to a dog in his position, trusting someone after being let down by humans once before. But he had been willing to take a chance on us, so it was only right that we take a chance on him.
Someone had abandoned him, or let him get out of their yard. He wasn’t neutered. He had no collar. Whoever had owned him before hadn’t mistreated or abused him, he was clean and showed none of the signs of an abused dog, in fact, we suspect that he may have been very well loved in his previous home, but somehow, he got out. Unneutered dogs tend to wander, they like to roam free and sow their wild oats where ever they may, and if you’re not careful, and not smart, you’ll end up losing your dog. We’re certain this is what happened to our old man. He had definitely been trained as a hunting dog. He loved to chase ducks on the lake. He knew enough about what guns were to know that he didn’t like having them pointed at him and he would wait in the weeds for you until his body gave out.
The fact that we weren’t hunters didn’t seem to bother him at all. He was perfectly content to run around the yard and chase balls and bring them back to toddlers. He was happy to go for walks in the mornings before breakfast, when everything was quiet and nobody would notice us leaving. He was happy to be my co-pilot behind the wheel of my car, and as long as he could stick his nose out just far enough for it to make that funny sound that usually made him sneeze after a few feet, his day was made.
Now that old age is settling in, things have changed. He’s slowed down. He doesn’t bounce like he used to and doesn’t run from one end of the house to the other anymore. He likes to move at a more leisurely pace, and he tends to be a little more reserved. He still gets excited when you offer him some leftover steak but rather than jumping up and catching air, he wags his tail and lets his tongue hang out, then looks up at you expectantly.
He doesn’t sit on our feet very much anymore either. We have beds for him on every floor of the house, and he finds his bed and sleeps in it, whichever bed is closest to where the people happen to be will do for him. And at night, he has two beds to choose from. One in his crate and another out in the open on the floor.
The only thing that hasn’t really changed is the 2:30 in the morning scratch. If my hand is visible on the bed, he wakes up, heads over to the bed and sticks his head under my fingers until I scratch him. He’s always done this, and I think he always will. It’s like he’s waking himself up in the middle of the night to check and make sure that I’m still there. I try to remind him every day through everything I do and everything I say that I will be here, but he is a dog after all and old habits die hard. I’m sure he knows that this is what I signed up for. I promised him that I would take care of him until he was ready to leave this world, and by God that is what I am going to do, even though it is painful to watch him wake up in the mornings and stretch his stiff old legs out, I am going to do it. He has never given up on me, and I’m not going to give up on him either. We still have more good days than bad days. Most days, he wakes up and the world is great because he’s in it and he’s got his family. And I think the life that we have given him has been filled with more hope and more love than he was ever going to have from anyone else when my husband found him in the shelter that day.
Say whatever you like about a boy and a his dog, it has nothing to do with gender or age. There is something about pets for all of us. They get inside our hearts and we love them unconditionally. We don’t care if they chased a skunk into a bush, or squawked until we thought our ears would bleed. These things are not important, unless they are somehow funny.
What does matter, in the end though, is the respect we have shown our friends at the end of the day. My dog is probably one of the more spoiled canines in the area. I made my hubby buy him a stand for his food and water bowls so he wouldn’t have to bend down as much to drink and eat. He’s got his own pill box for his medication regimen that deals with his allergies. Every Friday he gets a salon day, complete with pedicure, and really how many beds does one dog really need?
Mine needs at least three, and I’d like to have two more, because I don’t like to see him laying on the tile, that can’t possibly be good for his old bones.
At this point, I can imagine that it’s hard to see where I’m heading with all of this, because the title of this article is “Animal Rights?”. I apologize for taking the trip down memory lane, but I wanted to make myself crystal clear. My dog is loved and is alive and healthy and I’m sure that if he could speak, he would talk for hours about the amazing life he has led and how happy he has been.
That’s why I wanted to say something today, to remind everyone of an issue that is close to my heart and to his too. Too many people get wrapped up in Animal Rights to realize that Animal Rights are not the same as Animal Welfare. Animal Rights activists would have taken my wonderful boy away from me, and either euthanized him in a shelter, or released him into the cold, hard world to make his way on his own. No “Mom” to scratch his chin at 2:30 in the morning. No one to make sure that he has beds to keep him comfortable when his hips are in pain.
PETA, the HSUS (not affiliated your local area Humane Society) and groups like them believe that we should not own pets. They believe that animals should be left to roam free, and that pet ownership is a blight upon humanity that enslaves and abuses animals.
So at this time of year, when we are most willing to whip out our checkbooks and give to charitable organizations, I ask that you reconsider before donating to an animal rights group. Donate to your local shelter, donate to a local vet that offers free or low cost spay/neutering for low income families with pets. Donate to the local animal hospital.