I consider myself a very lucky person. My husband and I live comfortably in a nice house in a nice subdivision tucked up against the Kettle Moraine State Forest. We have two dogs and three horses. If one of my dogs were lost and ended up in a shelter I would have at least three ways to bail him out. I could pull out a credit card, write a check, or head to an ATM machine and withdraw the cash.
I fit the demographics of most animal welfare volunteers. White, female, middle-aged, financially comfortable. A curse and a blessing. A blessing because this demographic loves animals and often has the free time and the resources to help. But a curse, because this demographic seems to have a very short memory for what it was like to struggle to make ends meet.
I cringe when I see comments under blogs and articles like this:
"If you can't afford to properly take care of an animal, you shouldn't have one."
Really? So let's kill them instead?
"If they cared about their dog, they would have reclaimed him the first day."
Really? Any thoughts that some people work odd hours or two jobs or don't have a car? Any thoughts that English might be their second language and they struggled to find where their dog was? That they don't have the internet, or a computer, or a smart phone? Or they are elderly with limited computer skills? Or they are disabled?
"People that lose their dogs are irresponsible and negligent."
Really? What about the rescues, foster homes, transports, pet sitters, animal shelters, boarding kennels and vet clinics that are losing dogs? What about the dogs lost when the contractor leaves the gate open; or when there is a house fire or a car accident? What about the dogs that are lost because it was simply a mistake?
I wonder where the compassion is. The compassion for the people that don't have a credit card, that live paycheck to paycheck and maybe they don't get paid till Friday, and by then the reclaim fees will have increased another $100 or so. Then the decision becomes - Do I buy my groceries to feed my family? Or reclaim my dog? Do I pay the rent? Or reclaim my dog? Do I get my prescription refilled? Or reclaim my dog?
I remember when my life wasn't so easy. I remember the days, fresh out of college, way before low cost spay/neuter programs; when we couldn't afford the $35 to neuter our barn cats. Spaying a female was beyond our financial reach (well over $100) Back then, $35 was a lot of money. We would literally save up and try to neuter one male each month. But not usually in time to prevent a litter of kittens being born from the females.We had a lot of cats. But we loved them and we did the best we could.
Does that make me a bad person, an irresponsible owner? Was I a person that shouldn't have pets? What a sad life it would have been. I would have missed out on so much joy that my animals have given me.
Where does the judgement stop and the compassion begin? Compassion not only for the animals, but for the people that love them - rich or poor, young or old, healthy or frail. Let's dig deep and try to find that compassion again.
Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances. - Wayne W. Dyer