“Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.”
― John Grogan, author of “Marley and Me”
A couple of weeks ago, after a cat was found shot in both eyes with a pellet gun and with a horribly mangled leg, The Telegram’s website was like a lightning rod for outrage, with more than 50 comments posted in 24 hours, many expressing horror and disbelief.
Animal stories — particularly maimed/ill/lost/found animal stories — always garner attention, despite how trivial some readers think the subject matter is, and this one was no exception.
“This is heartbreaking,” someone named Angela wrote. “Our Newfoundland is a wonderful place — let’s not let anyone think any less of our beautiful province because we allow (mis)treatment of animals.”
“The media needs to keep showing a new abused animal every night as there are enough of them here on the island to show, that is for (damn) sure!!” Miche wrote. “Wake up people and stop turning your backs on what your neighbours are doing! Too many animals are suffering!!”
The anger and disgust were palpable.
Coincidentally, the evening that news was reported, my husband and I happened to catch an episode of the CBC Radio program “Tooth and Claw,” and the subject was “Do we love some animals too much?”
Clearly, as the horrible cat story shows, we love some far too little.
But is there such a thing as too much love for pets? It’s a contentious issue. And the arguments are multi-pronged.
Some people suggest pet lovers waste money lavishing their critters with clothes and toys and spa treatments.
Others say besotted pet owners think they have furry children and that the same people who would weep openly at the Toronto SPCA TV telethon could watch a story about abused children on the news with dry eyes.
There’s also the notion that some animal lovers delude themselves by anthropomorphizing their pets (something I’ve been accused of doing more than once).
I’m not sure why there even needs to be a pet vs. children debate. It’s a ridiculous argument. Surely the two aren’t mutually exclusive — human beings are capable of loving more than one creature.
The fact that a newspaper prints a story about animal abuse doesn’t mean it would turn a blind eye to child abuse.
The fact that I love my dog to bits does not mean that I don’t love my children. There’s plenty of love to go around. The fact that people choose to keep goldfish doesn’t mean that they are delusional and are pretending to be parents to their precious little fish-kids.
And, frankly, while I would never choose to lay out hundreds of dollars for pet bling, if I choose to splurge and buy our pooch a better-quality dog food now and then as a treat, that’s no one’s business but my own. There are plenty of worse things to spend money on.
The fact is, pet lovers should love their pets — otherwise, there’s no point in having them. A pet humanely abandoned at an animal shelter surely has a better chance at a good quality of life than one that languishes chained to a doghouse, lonely and unloved.
Pets are not children, no. But they are like young children in many ways, in that they rely on us to care for, feed and house them, and they give and receive affection. And they can become ill — mentally and physically — and experience physical and emotional pain.
At our house, vacation plans this year are limited to wherever we can find accommodations on the island willing to take us and our 15-year-old pooch (an octogenarian in human years).
He’s in great physical shape, but he has become emotionally needy (you don’t need to be a dog whisperer to read the signs) and we fear he would pine for us if we left him with a friend to go out of town.
Animals feel stress, too, as anyone whose pet is afraid of fireworks or thunder or gunshots can attest, and we should try to minimize their stress as best we can — just as we would for our children.
The notion that animals are simple-minded beasts that deserve no love and rough treatment is so wrong, and yet that idea clearly is alive and well in parts of this province. It may not be child abuse, but it is abuse all the same.
The conversation we should be having about pets is not, “Do we love some animals too much?” but rather why do people who don’t love animals persist in owning them?
And why do people who abuse animals — or a fellow human being — feel such hate?
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.