Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Pets Need Us Now & We Need Them

In the current financial challenge, many pet owners (I prefer "guardians") are choosing to give up their pets to shelters to avoid the extra expense of another mouth to feed and dependent to bathe. I understand. However I worry that viewing pets as another "expense" short-changes the very people who need their pets now more than ever.

Many people don't really understand their pets. Perhaps the guardian has never had a pet before or doesn't know much about their behavior, despite how much Dog Whisperer they watch. And then there is the very real issue of the expense.

However pets provide humans a distinct form of companionship unparalleled by anything else in the world. Pets are "beyond words." They have a unique tie therefore that bypasses our frontal cortex and speech center and goes directly to our emotional center, often dabbling with our unconscious minds.

Our pets allow us to project onto them and to work through difficult feelings through our at-times-complex relationships with them. They don't mind. We only need to feed and shelter them (they even don't need clothes). That seems like something I would not want to surrender, especially in difficult times. I'd reach out for help from loved ones and strangers before I would give up my companion dog, about whom I often say, "We're now like an old married couple."

It is sometimes said that a society can be judged by how it treats the least among them. I believe that, and most especially about animals that we humans have bred over the years to be domesticated and whose only defense is a faithful human guardian.

The best animal welfare organization I know and have ever been a part of is The Animal Rescue League of Boston, where I am a member of the President's Council and from where I adopted Tank. It was founded in 1899 by Ms. Anna Harris Smith, whose philosophy was "Kindness Uplifts the World." Kindness is indeed an end unto itself.

From the ARL Boston website:
The Animal Rescue League of Boston believes that the power and beauty of the animal human bond is intrinsic to efforts to stop all forms of violence in our society.

A fundamental premise of the humane community is that if a child is taught to be kind to animals, there is a greater likelihood that the individual will mature into a person who respects not only humanity, but also all living things. This premise has been the subject of sociological studies and is expressed in literature and the arts. With a deep belief in this premise, Animal Rescue League of Boston founder Anna Harris Smith initiated a humane education program for children by establishing The Kindness Clubs in the neighborhoods of Boston.

I look forward to helping ARL Boston expand its effectiveness and mission across the nation so that more people can hear this philosophy and experience the many rewards of animal companions.