On 9th December 1998, I named a puppy Tiny Tim, and he’s on my mind today, 19 years later, because I can’t forget him. Then, I pressed a heart shaped stone into the earth that covered his frozen fur. At a guess, he was around 12 weeks old. We found him tied to a fence with wire; it had snowed more overnight, and there was no chance for him on the exposed hillside. His tiny body was as cold as the “person” who left him there to die.
The “person” who went out of their way to hide their shameful actions, knowing that they were condemning him to death. Close enough to see homes, but not close enough Tim would be seen. He would be able to hear dogs barking, but no human would hear his little cries. The wire was less than a foot long, so he was too far into the fence line for passing cars to spot him. He didn’t even make it to being the coveted Christmas Puppy.
We are at a time of year when puppies and kittens are on wish lists, cards, and advertising, everywhere we look. The stereotypical ideal of wrapping a box containing an adorable fluffy to light up Christmas morning; they will certainly do that. But there are a heartbreaking number of those animals who will be abandoned, be killed in awful ways, end up in shelters, and who will be put down because the novelty wore off. They are the ones which are seen purely as property, and for those who were supposed to be responsible for them, to do with as they see fit.
There are wholly genuine reasons for which people have to re home an animal, but so, so many have excuses not reasons. Being bothered by the ‘mess’, the ‘hair’, the ‘noise’, the ‘smell’, the ‘hassle’, the ‘accidents’, the ‘inconvenience’; that they aren’t enough PlayStation to entertain the kids, or even enough to keep your own interest anymore – aren’t reasons. But if you do find yourself with an animal in your home you don’t want there anymore, the least you can do is make sure your last action as a guardian is a decent one. If you consider them disposable in any of the ways, it is in your interests, and certainly in those of the animals that you remove yourself from future responsibility for any other animal too.
Those of us who talk of commitment, and animals being for life – not just occasions, or until the moment fades, do so because we’ve picked up the pieces for unwanted ‘pets’ so many times, and sometimes we were too late. As in the case of the soul on my mind today he died minutes from my house.
Everyone who is, was a new guardian at some point. This IS a lovely time of year to welcome an animal for the first time, but so is every other time. Even when you do your research, it’s often not quite the way you imagined it in practice. Don’t rush. Be sure you know what you are about to do. Speak to your local vet, they are happy to provide advice. There are many websites and resources available, and most of the rescues have information on how to adopt an animal from them online. Your local shelter will be able to help you find someone whose personality works for you and your life. Animals there are vet checked, spayed or neutered, often micro chipped and most shelters offer ongoing support.
Those of us who already have animals in our lives, would love it if you joined us in providing a loving, forever home to someone. That’s all they want for Christmas, and all they ever ask for. If you do have what it takes to be in it for the long haul – the love, loyalty and joy you will receive in return, will change how you view animals. In fact, it’ll change how you see the world.
“A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.” ― Elizabeth Parker, Paw Prints in the Sand