Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How Long Will I Be Caring For This Pet?

These two 10 year old Boxer brothers were dumped unceremoniously at a high kill shelter this week. Look at their faces - they don't know what happened and are simply waiting for their owner to come back for them. He isn't. Though he's had them since they were puppies, they grew up outdoors and he never felt 'attached' to them. When it was time to move this week, the move became a convenient excuse to rid himself of the dogs.

One of the things that Meredith and I teach in the classroom is that pets are a LIFETIME commitment. We go over a list of things to think about before you get your pet and one of them is - How long will I be caring for this pet? Good, responsible owners care for them until they pass. They think about how long that pet is going to live before they get them so they know if that is a commitment that they can honor. I let the kids do the math - if you are 9 years old now and you get a small dog that lives 18-20 years, how long will you be caring for that dog? 29 years - through college and marriage and kids of your own.

There was an incredible story this week of a 22 month old boy who wandered away from his house. He spent the night in freezing weather wearing nothing but a diaper. The family dog followed him into the woods and stayed by his side all night, keeping him safe and warm until he was found the next day. Dogs are tremendously loyal - willing to risk their lives for us, to stay with us through their very last breath. Why is it that we have so much trouble being as loyal to them?

In the musical, Into the Woods, the lyrics from Children Will Listen come to mind:
Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
And learn.

If we show them that older things have no value, we may be teaching them the lesson that WE have no value when we grow old. Rather than take care of us, perhaps they will do what they learned when we dumped our senior dog - dump us in a retirement home.

Now is the time to honor our commitments to our pets, even when they are 10 years old. Show them the loyalty that they have shown us over the years. If you are moving, we have resources to help you find a new place that allows pets. Can't afford a pet deposit? Most landlords will break it down over a few months so that $300 deposit can be paid over three months, or even six months. If you are having trouble feeding your pet right now, there is help available. Click here for a list of available resources to help or call your local ASPCA or shelter to find assistance in your area. Help is out there if you really want to keep your pet. After all, they could just save your life. But they can't do that behind bars at the shelter.


  1. I'm so glad you're teaching to kids about the importance of thinking getting a pet through. People tend to forget that kids really do learn by watching. Our son(who's 20) went out with a girl last week. When we asked how it went and if he was going to see her again, he informed us "no, she doesn't like animals and I love our dogs. Who doesn't like animals?" Very grown up of him to realize right off the bat that his pets are that important to him!

  2. This was so sad. So true. And such a big lesson some very selfish people need to learn. I want to come get those boxers!