Recently there have been several writings about the heartache animals endure during their lives that captured my attention. The writing stretches from adoption to being forgotten to death.
By chance, I came across a Facebook page that posted a plea for patience as a new dog adjusts to life in a strange new home. It reads as follows:
“Now I have arrived at your home, everything is strange, and I don’t feel good.
Do not feel impatient If I don’t sleep on my new basket. Yesterday, I slept on a stone floor.
Do not be terrified if I gobble up my food. Yesterday, I had to do it to survive.
Do not get angry if I pee on your floor. Yesterday, it did not matter.
Do not be sad if I am afraid of your loving hand. Yesterday, I did not have one.
Have patience with me, it’s your world, but not yet mine.
If I trust you, I can give you the greatest Gift I have to give. . . . . My Heart.
Please never forget, I was a pound dog. All I need, is a bit of time to adjust.”
When we bring an animal into our home, and ultimately into our hearts, we must remember how scary this can be for a four-legged soul on the next step in their journey of life. Whether abused, abandoned, or simply forgotten, this is a new experience for an animal with an unknown future looking ahead.
It will take time and patience for you and your furry friend to adapt to each other and form the inevitable bond that grows so strong you can’t imagine your life without each other. Sounds like the definition of love and a great friendship all put together as one. It is the best feeling one can have when you find a connection of the heart between you and your four-legged friend. To know you have saved a life, and probably more so that life has saved yours, is a breakthrough moment that should be shouted through the rooftops even as the adjustment period continues to unfold.
According to Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell, “. . . Orange County Animal Services is killing a lot fewer animals these days. As reporter Steve Hudak noted last week, the animal shelter recently passed a milestone, finally adopting out more animals than it euthanized . . . Still, 5,157 is a whole lot of animals slaughtered, most for the crime of simply being unwanted or neglected . . . It’s fine to get outraged about animal-abuse stories in other parts of the globe. But there are thousands of animals in your own backyard – being killed at a rate of about 14 a day – that could use help.”
Again, what this tells you is we need to have patience and hope when bringing a new four-legged survivor into our homes. They want to give you their heart, but first we need to show them this is a safe place and one they can finally call their forever home.
Of course, once this four-legged soul enters your life he or she should not be forgotten. Last Christmas season I saw a writing from an unknown author that brings tears to Santa’s eyes because people fail to realize dogs are not merely a gift of some out of mind or out of sight toy, but a real life. It read as follows:
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
With no thought of the dog filling their head
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap
Knew he was cold, but didn’t care about that
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Figuring the dog was free of his chain and into the trash
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
But Santa Claus – with eyes full of tears
He un-chained the dog, once so lively and quick Last year’s Christmas present, now painfully thin and sick
More rapid than eagles he called the dog’s name
And the dog ran to him, despite all his pain
“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Let’s find this dog a home where he’ll be loved by all.”
I knew in an instant there would be no gifts this year
For Santa Claus had made one thing quite clear
The gift of a dog is not just for the season
We had gotten the pup for all the wrong reasons
In our haste to think of the kids a gift
There was one important thing that we missed
A dog should be family, and cared for the same
You don’t give a gift, then put it on a chain
And I heard him exclaim as he rode out of sight
“You weren’t given a gift! You were given a LIFE!”
Yes, a life that has been entrusted to you to provide care and protection. To treat this life as one of your children; only this one has four legs instead of two. Santa knows!
The whole notion of giving companion animals as gifts long has been considered a less than great idea by animal advocates. The fear is many of these same animals will be relinquished to shelters instead of being accepted as part of the family. However, in a study carried out by various ASPCA members, “. . . shows that companion animals given as gifts actually have a lower relinquishment rate than others.”
Is this perhaps a new placement avenue even if it may be contrary to “common sense”? “. . . According to this study, carried out by various members of the ASPCA, ‘organizations that support these arguments cite anecdotal evidence that returns of pets from unhappy gift receivers occurs frequently.’ However, the researchers say bluntly, ‘the available data do not support these concerns.’” Moreover, “’. . . research from the American Humane Association found that dogs and cats obtained spur of the moment or with little thought compared to dogs and cats obtained after lengthy research were not more likely to be relinquished to animal shelters.’” Again, this may be hard for many companion animal advocates to believe. While it seems to be poor ethical practice, making a spontaneous decision about obtaining a pet does not seem to affect the mechanics of a companion animal relationship.”
You always worry about giving someone a live gift because they may not be prepared to handle this responsibility as either the financial or emotional commitment it needs to be. It is a gift not necessarily of your choosing or like that is thrust upon you without knowing how you will react. Nonetheless, there is “. . . a growing body of literature that suggests there is no increased risk of relinquishment for dogs and cats received as a gift.”
Whether given as a gift, or adopted by your own actions, it must be recognized that bringing an animal into your life requires a firm commitment, patience and love if that animal is going to have any chance of making your home their forever home.
Sadly, we all know there will come a time when we have to face the end for our best friend. When that time comes, we owe it to them to be there when they close their eyes for the last time. Waukegan, Illinois Veterinarian Cari Clark shared these words on her Facebook page:
I’m a veterinarian. It’s your choice to stay in the room while your dog gets put down.
I always hope you stay, because they look for you when you leave.
“And to those of you who have ever been owned by a dog remember, when the time comes, they ask so little in those fearful moments before I lead them into lush grass and through fields of fragrant clover. Stay with them, won’t you, until I get there. As my mistress’s dear friend, Jan Flynn, remarked to this post, ‘You owe them that.’”
In talking about senior dogs, writer, editor and producer Laura Coffey says, “These dogs should be treated with kindness at the end of their lives . . . And when it comes time to say goodbye, there’s something about having given them a safe and happy final chapter that softens the hardest part. Let’s face it, for any dog of any age, when the end comes it’s always too soon.”
All animals should be treated with kindness and respect from the beginning of life at their birth to the end of life in their death. They will always lift your spirit and leave you with memories that make your heart smile.