Today’s alarm clock sounded much the same as it has for the past year. As I started to awake, I must have rolled over, or shifted a limb, or maybe just breathed a little differently, and it set off the alarm. It started gradually, just a little “thump.” I froze. I knew what would happen if I even tried to scratch the itch on my nose.
For the next five minutes – my snooze time, if you will – the alarm tried to wake me up. There were spontaneous thumps, hopeful that if they were timed just right that something awesome would happen. And then it did. I opened my eyes looked down at the floor, and whispered “Hi.”
Thump thump thump thump thump and a cold nose in my ear answered my greeting. I couldn’t stop the smile from exploding on my face – even if I’d wanted to. As I dodged doggy tongue – my mouth was open, after all – I again mentally thanked our girl’s previous owner – a woman who was wise enough and loving enough to ignore the “A pet is your responsibility for life” dogma that is all too thoughtlessly thrown around.
Yep, I just said that, but keep calm. Release your grip on that pitchfork, douse that torch, unknot your knickers (it really is in your best interest there…) and hear me out. I believe that getting a pet – whether a turtle, a dog, or anything in between – is a weighty decision. It’s not something that should be done on a whim.
Adding a furry (or scaly, or feathery) member to your family is a big deal. You’re essentially committing to having a toddler, ideally for the life of your pet. That animal is never going to feed itself, clean up after itself, or drive itself to the hairdresser. That’s your job as pet-parent, and I firmly believe that that’s what you sign up for when you bring a pet home. It’s a whole lot more than just keeping a pet alive.
Those of you who are still holding your pitchforks and torches, waiting to pounce when I fail to make my case for animal surrender are probably of the same mindset. I believe that every animal should be able to live the best life that they can; simply existing does not equal a life well lived.
But the commonly used, guilt inducing, statement of “A pet is your responsibility for life” doesn’t take quality of life into account. Things change in a human’s life that can impact their animal pals – even in the lives of the best-intentioned pet owners. Say that a human gets sick or injured, prohibiting them from taking their dogs on daily walks, letting them out for bathroom breaks, or getting them to the vet. Or the human loses their job, forcing them to downsize into a home that – while it accepts animals – isn’t suitable for their animal (a border collie living in a studio apartment, for instance). Or take a woman who finds herself suddenly single with a new baby and dog-aggressive pooch to care for on her own.
In all of these examples, the dogs would have stayed alive had their original owners subscribed to the idea that that dog was theirs for the course of its life. In the worst case, maybe the humans would have even avoided some guilt by keeping their dogs, or even felt like a martyr for enduring the stress of ensuring those dogs had the necessities of life. In the best scenarios, perhaps the dogs were so loved that their owners’ own feelings of affection blinded them to their dog’s needs. But arguing that a these hypothetical dogs should have remained with their owners for the course of their lives because the humans had made the decision to become pet owners when their lives were different doesn’t take the animal’s well-being into consideration.
And it’s for this reason that I thank Peanut’s previous owner. Today is Peanut’s one-year adoptiversary, and she would never have had the chance to come home with us if her previous owner hadn’t made the heart-wrenching decision to put her own emotions aside and do what was best for her dog.
No, I’ve never met our girl’s previous mom, and yes, I am making guesses regarding her motivations, but they’re guesses of the educated variety. It’s clear that this dog was loved – a lot. She was definitely socialized as a puppy and was treated with kindness. She is loving and trusting, showing no quirks that are often associated with “rescue” dogs. Honestly, she’s a better dog than we could have raised from a puppy. She was given time, love, and patience, and she became a wonderful dog. There’s no way that giving her up could have been an easy decision.
I can’t imagine letting go of this dog. She’s such a snuggler. This girl will wedge herself into the little spoon position and sigh with contentment if a human lies on the floor. She will plunk her head onto a human’s lap if she senses they could use some stress relief – while watching hockey, for instance. She wiggles so hard when she sees her friends that she hits her own sides with her tail.
And she has a lot of friends. Despite her size, she’s gentle with small kids – allowing a two year old to balanced stuff toys all over her without complaint. And she’s as social as can be with the neighbourhood dogs; her favourites are the teeny tiny pups that she has to bow down to just to sniff, but she’ll gladly give a hello sniff to someone her own size.
I’m proud to call myself her mom. I’m grateful that the wonderful shelter to which she was surrendered agreed that we could provide her with a great home. And I’m thankful – so thankful – to the woman who was brave and loving enough to surrender Peanut, allowing us give her the life that she deserves.
With us, Peanut isn’t just alive; she’s being allowed to live a happy, healthy life. In my opinion, giving her that chance was much more responsible pet-ownership behavior than keeping her would have been.