Column One – Why Do Pets Have People?
A couple of years ago, I wrote a column, and later a book titled “Why Do People Have Pets?” This column asks why do pets have-need people from the POV of the pet.
Not surprisingly, pets have people for some of the same reasons people have pets. Companionship, love, friendship, and understanding come to mind. However, pets need people for reasons that are not in common, such as shelter, food, protection, water, medical needs and attention, maintenance for their body, etc. A pet cat or pet dog depends on its owners to provide all of these necessities and their entire lives. Unlike a child that grows up and learns to drive and work at age 16, a 16-year-old dog or cat still needs the same care and commitment from their owner as they did when they were 3-months old. Pets only age physically, not cognitively.
Older dogs and cats need people to care for them until their last breath. Unfortunately, some pet owners will surrender a more senior pet because they want a new puppy or kitten. They visit the shelter and will even sign an authorization for the shelter to euthanize their pet should it not get adopted. Some shelters still euthanize due to capacity. I am happy that the shelter I am with does not, but with that being said, finding a new forever home for a 12-year old dog or a 19-year old cat can be challenging.
I recently fostered and then adopted a 10-year-old Golden Retriever mix-breed dog with tons of health and medical issues. His owner, bless her heart, is dealing with advanced cancer and could no longer care for the dog herself. She wanted to get the dog into a new home before passing on to the heavens above.
After fostering the dog for a couple of days, my wife and I decided to adopt the little guy despite his teeth issues, skin infections, weight loss, hearing loss, and infections in both eyes. It became apparent that the owner who surrendered the dog had been unable to properly care for the dog, but she did care enough about the dog to give him a second chance at a loving home, which he has found. We don’t know how long he will live, but we will ensure all his needs are met, and his quality of life is as good as possible, whether for 2-weeks or 10-years. The latter would be perfectly fine with us.
If you are an animal lover, you know how difficult it is to say goodbye to a loving pet that is part of your family. So, the obvious question is, “Why would you adopt a senior animal with health challenges that could die at any time?” My answer is we can all die at any time. Why should that be a qualifier for adoption? Again, a pet needs a human to care for it for its’ entire life, not just when the pet is young and wants to play fetch. If anything, senior pets need a loving family even more.
Please consider giving an older, abandoned, or surrendered animal a loving home for the rest of their life. If the adoption counselor had said to me, “this dog is in pretty bad shape and might not live very long. Will you love him for the rest of his life?” My answer would be, “no, I will love him for the rest of mine.” Please remember to adopt, don’t shop.