“A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give them your heart and they will give you theirs.” -John Grogan Marley & Me
I believe everyone should be a responsible pet owner. This is to say, if you can’t commit to a pet for a lifetime, (yours or theirs) then don’t purchase, pick-up, give as a gift or accept an animal. In a world of few commitments and even fewer long term relationships, don’t make being a pet owner a temporary spur of the moment event. Just like marriages and children, obtaining a pet is a life altering decision. It comes with responsibilities and commitments. One of those commitments is being able to accept the responsibility of an animal by providing food, water, shelter and above all love.
Having been raised to love all animals, it is hard to read about or watch on TV the brutality and abuse that some animal’s face. Research tells us that dogs and cats are the primary targets of abuse. Everyone has heard of cat’s being swung by their tails and dogs being kicked for accidentally urinating on the floor. One specific and deadly type of animal abuse is the sport of dog fighting. In this brutal sport, specific breeds of dogs such as Pit-bulls or Rottweilers are placed together in a ring and must fight to the death while the owners take bets on who will win. Drug use is rampant in the dog fighting business. Usually drugs like cocaine and heroin are given to a dog either through nasal injections or injected with a syringe. These drugs cause the dog’s heart rate to race, which causes a form of delirium putting the animal into the fight or flight mode which makes it more aggressive. In addition, if the losing dog does not die from its injuries, it is either abandoned by its owner or mercilessly shot in the head. Greed, ignorance and cruelty drive the animal fighting business. When authorities raid dog fighting rings, the dogs usually end up being sent to local shelters. This can be hard for shelter workers because most animals cannot be rehabilitated and therefore must be euthanized.
As a former Humane Society worker, I have personally been a witness to the effects of animal abuse. Many animals at the shelter are there because they have been either seized because of abuse or just plain abandoned by their owners. Some abused animals are usually too vicious to be re-socialized and are ultimately put down. Then, there are others who are so desperate for love and affection they practically knock you over when they see you. They live for love and attention and cannot seem to get enough. During my volunteer work at the Humane Society, I came to know of one such animal. This dog, whom we named Gus, was one of a group of a dozen dogs who were seized from a farm on the edge of town. All twelve dogs were starved to skin and bone and all the animals were eventually euthanized due to irreversible re-socialization problems, except him. He was a Great Dane/Mastiff mix who was 5 foot tall and as big as a compact car and when he ran to greet you it was like being hit by a train. When we received him into the shelter, in addition to being skin and bone, was infested with fleas. We named him Gus because he would give you a rather goofy stare when he would get his vaccinations. He was one of the most loving and caring dogs that I have ever come in contact with. Two great things about Gus were that he would never meet a stranger and never missed a chance to play fetch. He would go galumphing down the kennel-run to get to the ball and usually end up face first in the dirt. He would also give these great, big, slobbery, wet kisses and his thick, long tail would beat your leg like a drum. When playing with Gus, if I wasn’t careful I would end up being black and blue with bruises. I didn’t mind though because I couldn’t help but experience pure joy seeing how happy and playful he could be.
One day, while filing papers at the shelter, I came across the report taken by the officer who had recued Gus and the other dogs. It stated that all the dogs were beaten and starved and sometimes burned with cigarettes. Gus was the only dog from the dozen rescued to still have an affinity towards humans. To me this was astonishing. I could not wrap my head around the fact that after all the torture he endured from his owner he still loved to be around humans. Yet, one thing that I eventually learned from Gus was that after being so pitifully mistreated, he was still able to forgive and love so unconditionally. Though he had a horrible life before he came to the shelter, he was still able to see that not all humans are bad. In the beginning, because of his special size, Gus was very difficult to place in a home. Finally, a nice family who had recently lost their Great Dane to cancer visited the Humane Society looking for a new pet. They saw and fell in love with Gus. Everyone at the shelter was so happy that Gus had finally found a home. This is the type of ending I wanted to see happen for all of the shelter animals every day.
I believe that if humans take the initiative to report abuse and neglect, there could be more happy endings to stories like Gus. Reporting animal abuse is a step forward to helping it end. Legislation has been passed in many states that charge abuse as a federal crime. Though there is much work still to be done to stop animal cruelty, small steps forward can eventually add up to a giant leap. I firmly believe as John Grogan’s book Marley and Me says, if you give an animal your heart, they will give you theirs. This I believe.
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