Author’s note: This column was first published in the month of January, 2006 – a few days before the Chinese New Year proclaimed it the Year of the Dog.
If we only had to deal with the bright-eyed, wet-nosed end of puppies and kittens, many more of us would own a pet or two, or more.
Unfortunately both ends of the animal require attention once we take it home with us, and therein lies the problem. Forgive me for the assessment, but I’ll wager that not one of us pet owners falls in love with the tail-end of the animal first.
A few days before the holidays, I observed what was happening in pet stores in our region. At one store, there was a lineup of customers four-deep in front of a dozen windows. Beyond one tall man’s shoulders, I could just see some paws stepping around and a tail or two wagging toward the crowd from behind the glass. There were all sorts of dogs, each sharing a space with one or more of the same breed. To the side, there were rooms where the store personnel took prospective buyers to meet the animal of his or her choice.
I wondered how much eagerness would be left over in a few weeks time, after the day-to-day routine of caring for a new animal had settled in. I wondered where the puppies I’d glimpsed there had come from. Wouldn’t it be a great idea if the puppy’s mother could choose the people she’d like to take care of her young ones? A simple growl could mean “no” and a grateful lick mean “yes.” I’d like to think that animals might know more than we do about who is fit to take care of them.
But since the animals aren’t the ones to decide, the burden is on each of us to know whether taking a pet home with us is the “right” choice.
To their credit, the stores I’ve been in have had their sales policies displayed prominently. When speaking to store employees, I sense that many of them enjoy their work because of their love of animals. It’s evident that pet suppliers around here are concerned for the humane treatment of animals in their care. In some cases this concern extends to the support of rescue groups and organizations which are given the opportunity to hold adoption days either at the stores, or in adjacent facilities.
When I brought my cat Daisy home from one of these stores, the salespeople talked with me about my decision to adopt her, over the course of several visits, before the adoption was finalized. This effort to guide customers in making their decisions is crucial. Too many animals are neglected because their owners weren’t prepared for the realities of pet care.
Says Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), “I feel animals, because they are powerless before us, are a test of our character…we can choose a path of cruelty and harm, or kindness and mercy.”
It’s the Year of the Dog, so I’ll take a look at man’s best friend in the coming months. Nose end first, of course.