There are a lot of good reasons for having a pet.
Children raised with pets to care for are shown to develop higher self-esteem, self-confidence, and positive and trusting relationships.
Elderly adults who have pets have improved healing, less arthritis, decreases in heart disease and congestive heart failure, and are generally healthier than those who don’t.
90.5 million families own a pet. Dogs are the most popular pet. 69 million pet households have a dog. By total population, 45% of us have dogs; 30% have cats. The best thing about having a pet is the unconditional love they give to the humans they live with.
Yet 3.9 million dogs and 3.2 million cats are abandoned to shelters each year. Only 10% of dogs born each year will find a home. About 1.5 million unwanted dogs and cats combined are euthanized each year.
How can we be so uncaring about animals that give us such unconditional love? Animals that are part of our family.
It takes time, love, and patience to nurture a healthy pet. Just as it takes to nurture our children. And for some adults, pets are their children.
My family already had a pet dog when I was born. Her name was Queenie. When old age took her from us we buried her by a tree and my brother carved her name in the trunk of the tree.
One of Queenie’s offspring was my first pet that I got at the age of seven. I named her “Spot”. Spot died when I was 18 years old and away at college. She developed a small tumor and simply gave up trying to survive. I never got to say goodbye to her.
As an adult, my dog family was a succession of three Old English Sheepdogs. My favorite breed because they are so nurturing, have a sweet disposition, only bark when they feel threatened or are being protective, and are full of fun!
The first, Casey, was a rescue dog. He was two when I got him by responding to an ad that said “Free to a Good Home.” He was tied up outside when I sent to see him and his coat was matted and dirty, but he was so full of love and joy. I brought him home right away. He lived to the age of 13 which is about the maximum life span for that breed.
The second was Max. We went to Salisbury, MD to get him. He was the most mischievous of the three. He loved to play and dig and hide things. When he was three he severely injured himself romping in snow when he slid on some unseen ice. His hind legs were badly hurt. After many visits to a specialist it was determined he would never be able to walk again and would be in constant pain, so the difficult decision to let him go had to be made.
Number three was Raleigh. He was a late Christmas gift I arranged for my family. We were still missing our Max, and I met a breeder in Lititz, PA who had a new litter of Old English Sheepdog puppies due to be born in early January. My son chose him from the litter of eight puppies. He has the most delightful personality and retained his puppy-like sense of play and fun for most of his life.
Raleigh was twelve years old when he had to be put down due to hip displasia, a common health issue with large dogs. That was 2006. I haven’t had a dog since. And I miss that unconditional love. But my lifestyle is such that I wouldn’t be a good dog parent right now. Too much travel. Perhaps when life slows down and I once again stay put in one place, that can change.
A few years ago my brother told me about a long-time friend of his who, with his partner, have devoted their entire life to taking in unwanted dogs. Their names are Danny Robertshaw and Ron Danta. Unlike those of us who just send money to support shelters and humane societies, they have literally turned their entire home into a safe haven for dogs.
In 2005 they rescued 600 stray dogs left behind by Hurricane Katrina. Since then they have saved more than 12,000 abandoned and abused animals and found good, nurturing homes for them. Their story, and their work, is so compelling it was made into a documentary film called Life in the Doghouse. Their non-profit organization, Danny & Ron’s Rescue, was one of the organizations to receive support from the Betty White Challenge, in honor of her 100th birthday and lifelong love of animals.
Although I no longer have a pet, one way I can show unconditional love is to support Danny and Ron. Which I do. If you want to know more about their amazing story, watch the film at https://dannyronsrescue.org and see what a difference unconditional love can make.
“No matter how little money and how few possessions you own, having a dog makes you rich.”Louis Sabin
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