The frost bite is louder than the bark.

Growing up as a kid (like many others), I wanted nothing more than a dog in my life. I was raised in a small fence-less house, with an older sister that was allergic to animal hair (by no fault of her own). This just wasn’t possible. We settled for fish and birds for the first twelve years of my life. I vowed that if I was lucky enough to one day own my own home, I would get a dog. Immediately. I remember it like it was yesterday, as I reluctantly changed the newspaper in the bottom of our bird cage. Years down the road, when my sister decided to move out on her own, we somewhat hesitantly, started small and by small, I mean tiny, as we were the proud owners of a Chihuahua. Eventually leading to another and a couple cats. We were always animal lovers but we tried to live within our capabilities and their demands. It worked best with a bit of compromise.

Fast forward to a few years ago, I was finally the proud owner of my first ever house. Located just a half mile from a Metropark and with a fenced in backyard. I still had not unpacked before thoughts of being an owner of a dog had crossed my mind. After sleeping on it for several nights, getting advice and doing my “homework”, I was incapable in my own mind and heart. It destroyed me to be brutally honest with my true potential to take on these responsibilities. Everyone has the right to their own opinion on what it takes to become a pet owner, but mine simply started with the fact that this animal may be home by itself for far longer than it should be as a single homeowner. Not to mention leaving out of town and finding someone to tend to the responsibilities that I felt were of my own. So, as it may be, I am currently the owner of a cat. A single man with a cat. (Let the stereotypes begin).

Even as the owner of a pet that requires less attention than a dog, I was beyond reluctant. Just a year prior, I was in the midst of helping an old girlfriend move. She was living thirty minutes away but still had her belongings elsewhere, including her cat. As she dumped enough food in bowls for a week, out walked the most unhealthy looking, tangled hair cat I’ve seen. The entire time saying to myself “don’t judge, don’t do it”. I had visited the humane society a month later to just see the animals and support the cause. After being begged by my girlfriend to get a kitten, I ended up with the one much older, sneezing at the very bottom of sand pale that was missing it’s front leg. I knew that I was capable of giving this animal a home that I thought it desperately needed.

I’m not an animal activist, I know nothing about PETA, and I can’t stand Sara Mclachlan’s music. I’m not here to preach or give advice. Sometimes, I even find myself turning a blind eye to how others tend to their family pets. How can you possibly measure what is needed to maintain and give an animal love and shelter in the basic sense, against someone who has a dog purse and six cat perches? I’m also not here to judge.

Over the past year, and during the most brutal winter in the history of Toledo, I have a stray cat that chose to destroy a grate and live under my house during these unheard of temperatures. A cat that my neighbors no longer wanted but I could never reach. I could not bare take away perhaps it’s only hope for shelter and to this day, he lays beneath my bedroom floor as I hear cries during the cold nights. I see the stories and I hear them as well. It seems as if these cases of leaving animals outside are almost becoming a habit for a small percentage of owners. I do not want to go into details of animal cruelty, or point fingers. This is not why I am writing. I am not capable of rescuing any animal that is currently living in unacceptable living conditions. However, I want to prevent it.

I want people to really think before they take on the responsibility of initially becoming a pet owner. I want your then twelve year old self to think about what animals truly need and if you are willing to go beyond that to assure it lives a happy and healthy life for the ENTIRE duration of it’s existence. Far too often we think we are capable of doing something we are not. I want to believe that this comes with good intentions and perhaps life takes a turn where this changes. If this is the case, you still have a responsibility to make sure this animal will be in good care, even under another’s supervision or home. Animals can’t be disregarded and unattended to. If so, you are failing at humanity. So please, next time you see an irresistible animal that you want to call your own, think it over and over again if you are capable of being a proper pet owner. You owe that to them and yourself. Far too many animals need homes and to be adopted, but you’re not doing them a favor if you are incapable of doing it the proper way.

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