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Pam Frampton: Pets are not property

Lucci enjoyed the sun on a recent afternoon. — Pam Frampton/The Telegram
Lucci, enjoying the sun on a recent afternoon. — Pam Frampton/The Telegram

“Animals are sentient, intelligent, perceptive, funny and entertaining. We owe them a duty of care as we do to children.” — British author Sir Michael Morpurgo

After more than a year of medication trials and errors, and dozens of vet visits, our little dog got a clean bill of health on Monday.

Pam Frampton
Pam Frampton

Lucci has an auto immune disorder that nearly killed him. We were oblivious to the fact he was ill because there were no signs, until the day he started sitting down for short rests during a walk. We learned he was severely anemic, almost to the point of needing blood transfusions. His body was killing off its own red blood cells, for reasons undetermined.

We’d had him for less than a year after adopting him from Humane Services, and had not gotten around to getting pet insurance. (Please, get pet insurance if you can).

The months that followed were worrisome. On one particularly bad night, his frantic panting and obvious distress made us fear the worst. It took some experimentation for our vet to find the combination of drugs that started to turn things around.

A powerful steroid Lucci had to take for several months rendered him basically incontinent and insomniac, which meant many moppings of the floor and countless sleepless nights.

He lost muscle tone and had to practically drag himself up the stairs. He could no longer jump onto the couch or into the car. He was constantly thirsty. His fur thinned and his cheekbones felt like axe blades.

There’s nothing special about our story; it’s just one of thousands in this province involving people for whom pets are family, and as such, they try to care for them as best they can.

As with many creatures who have to take multiple medications, pill fatigue eventually set in and my husband and I had to become increasingly creative to get him to take the medications that were keeping him alive. As a result, he now gets human-grade food — no more commercial dogfood, except the kibble he still deigns to eat.

The tests and medication required to get him to this point have cost well into four figures.

His vet and the staff at the animal hospital are excellent, but there are no guarantees. He is fit and healthy again, but the illness could flare up at any time, with no assurance the same medical regimen would work a second time. We live in hope.

There’s nothing special about our story; it’s just one of thousands in this province involving people for whom pets are family, and as such, they try to care for them as best they can.

When we adopted Lucci — or when he rescued us, as a Twitter friend so aptly put it — we took the onus upon ourselves to provide for his well-being, whatever that entailed.

It is what responsible pet owners do. And I’ve heard from plenty who have had to do more and would do the same again — people who have had to forego home repairs or make even more personal sacrifices to pay for a pet’s care. Others have been heartbroken when their resources ran out and they had to make difficult decisions.
In a blog called A Life Loved, Alice Ovens writes, “we hold tremendous power over our animals’ lives. They are counting on us to use that power responsibly, to be people that they can depend upon. Let’s not let them down.”

I agree. It’s something we’ve signed up for. And pets give so much joy and love and loyalty in return.

So I guess that’s why it bothers me when I see someone snarling at their dog and yanking it — hard — by its leashed neck to get its attention.

And why it is horrifying to hear stories of animal abuse, like the case of the St. John’s man who let a young pitbull starve to death — it literally withered away.

John Michael Corcoran will be sentenced next week.

Perhaps his punishment will drive home the message — to him and others — that pets aren’t property, or toys you discard once the novelty has worn off.

They are loving, feeling creatures. If you aren’t willing to try to care for them for their lifetime, you have no business having them.

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Pam Frampton is a columnist whose work is published in The Western Star and The Telegram. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton

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