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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Responsible pet ownership

It's starting to be too expensive to own a pet.  Probably 50 years ago people had a more balanced view of a family pet.  But nowadays they are often referred to as fur children.  I've had pets my who life.  I used to dress my cat in baby clothes and he would allow this, purring happily and drooling all the while, because he just wanted to be touched and held.
And when Pooky got sick and starting hiding, we took him to the vet, only to learn that he had a urinary tract blockage.  $800 later in 1980s dollars, he became an it to save his life.  Back then, we were the exception.  We couldn't let go.

Nowadays, it seems to be the rule that a pet owner must spend this kind of money if the pet needs it.  Instead of putting a dog down who has hip problems, it's expected that a pet owner pay out the $1500 (or more!) for titanium hip replacements, or put the animal in a cart that supports his back legs, or whatever.  We have to buy the best pet food.  We have to pay for doggie Prozac, diabetes, and thyroid medications.

If you're wealthy and had the disposable income to shell out on this, go right ahead.  But it's not fair or compassionate to judge those who cannot afford these treatments, or do not want to go through the trouble.  And it seems that's the way things are going.

When I read a blog called "An open letter to Jean (last name withheld), the person who dumped Cocoa at the pound" my heart broke - for the former owner.  Yes, she took her dog to the pound, but I'm sure it was a difficult decision.  But lately the "Furrever Home" movement has been gaining traction, saying that you should make huge sacrifices for pets until their dying day has become too much to bear.

Jean's Cocoa, an older dog, was incontinent.  Perhaps she didn't want to say that about her dog.  But perhaps caring for the dog was just too much.  There is no law against taking your pet to the pound when it gets to be too much.  Maybe to keep the dog she would have had to leave it outside.  It's sad to let go of a pet.  But maybe Jean just couldn't handle it any more.

I don't know about any of you, but I've been to houses which have been severely damaged from pets.  They smell awful, and they stay on the market for excessive periods of time.  When they do sell, it's at a lower price.  It costs 10,000 or more to rehab these pet-damaged houses.  Floors and carpets have to be replaced at the very least.  When Jean looked at the dog, maybe she added up the damage the dog could do, damage she couldn't afford to fix, damage that would make her home unfit for human living, and realized the she couldn't keep the dog.  Maybe she couldn't even afford to take the dog to the vet to be euthanized.  That cost my family $125 for a small cat.

The dog was adopted by a woman who was willing to cut tail holes for diapers, and pay a lot of money for vet visits and medications to keep the incontinence in check. The dog had tumors, and this woman paid for more vet visits and x-rays of these tumors.  And she was angry that Jean didn't do it.

Seriously, how much is too much?  How much money did she spend on this pet?  I'm sure it was disposable income for her.

I'm a softy.  I cried to think of Cocoadying.  We've had pet deaths, some sudden, others planned when they got too sick.  One died on the way to the vet.  We had to pay a disposal fee.  Another was sick to the point of not eating.  We had just paid for a surgery to remove a tumor.  It grew back.  We felt awful.  We paid for the euthanasia, too.  We paid for tumors to be removed from our dogs.  We loved them, we trained them.  They were wonderful, they were fun, they were sweet.  I loved training my dogs.

We took our dog to be groomed, and he choked jumping off the grooming table when the woman left the room.  I had him trained to jump on and off things with commands.  I told him "up" and pointed where, and he did it.  I told him "off" and pointed where, and he did it.  I told him "jump" and he would dive in the pool.  We played "fetch" for hours.  We had fun together.  The woman had been left alone and had a mental disability.  She shouldn't have been left alone.  It was then that we learned that dogs, under the law, are just considered to be property.  It was a wakeup call. 

They aren't fur children.  They aren't part of the family.  You can't collect anything in a law suit.  Mutts are worthless.  Dogs with papers get replacement value for a new pet.  Our dog may have been a field bred springer-spaniel, but we didn't have papers.  He was a stray who had been dumped on the street.  I called every shelter to see if anyone was looking for him when I found him.  He was untrained, and a little wild, and it was clear he had been beaten.  But under my tutelage, he was amazing, though I confess, I always had to walk him. with a Halti muzzle collar.  He just never learned not to pull to the point of choking himself without that.

While pets freak out when they go to the back room to be euthanized, it certainly has a table like the vet's office they also hate going to, and no pet ever wants to be at the vet.  They scream, they cry, they fight and that's just for the vet.  It makes us feel better that they can die in our arms with reassurances that it's ok.  But if we weren't around and animals were left to their own devices, well, it's a dog-eat-dog world.

My parents, after willingly spending so much money on their pets, are now struggling to make ends meet.  It makes me realize that going to the bitter end and spending hundreds - or even thousands - on a pet is just too much money that you can never get back.

I see strays in the neighborhood and I just can't do it anymore.  I can't take them in anymore.  It makes it easier that I'm allergic.  But I loved training my dog.  I'm sort of the dog whisperer.  You have a problem dog, and I can help him as I trained a challenging dog.  But I'm not having pets anymore.  I can't take losing them emotionally, and I don't want to shell out the money for treatments which are now expected.  And I don't want a hate letter from someone for doing what I think is best for me and for my family by dropping a pet off at the pound if I have no money left.  Especially since it's not illegal to do so.  If you have the time and the resources - good for you.  Adopt away.

PS  I really can't stand that families kiss each other on the mouth and also post pictures of their kids kissing the dog on the mouth.  Please think about where your dog's tongue has been.  Sure enough, their daughter gets sick quite a bit.  There is a reason why pets are banned from playing on playgrounds - it's a sanitary issue.  Kids generally do get ill, but some could be prevented by drawing the line.

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Jim said...

I agree that some people can't afford pets and they need to understand how expensive a pet can be should things go wrong.

SavvyD said...

My point was actually that people should not be criticized if they decide to give their pet up rather than pay outrageous bills for a pet's health care. Nowadays they diagnose them with everything from diabetes to depression. When it's between putting food on the table for your family and pet diabetes, Fido's got to go. If he can be adopted by someone else, great. If he can't, so be it.

MarkyMark said...

Depending on the nature of the problem, it's often kinder to put the pet to sleep. For example, my cats got intestinal cancer; usually by the time symptoms show up, the cat is too far gone. So, I had my cats put to sleep at that point.

When my grandmother was alive, her dog developed hip problems, among other things. She opted to put Buffy to sleep, because trying to treat her would have only prolonged the agony the pet was suffering.

Finally, if someone has to surrender their pet to a shelter, try to take it to a no-kill shelter. That way, the pet will be kept alive till they find a home; if they can't be adopted for some reason, they'll still be at the shelter. The local no-kill shelters are are nice places for animals, and I generously support both of them.