May 5, 2015
In the wake of this weeks’ horror story it has been very difficult to write about a pet disease or the function of a particular body organ. I have been in practice in this town, this community for over thirty years. I have seen incredible acts of kindness towards all manner of animals and I have witnessed cruelty and abuse towards many pets. The story of Lucious is perhaps the most violent case of pet abuse I have ever heard of in Merced.
Dogs and cats are called “companion” animals because of all that they give to humans in the way of companionship. Companion by definition being “a helpful friend”. Some say there are more pet dogs and cats in this country than children. That homes with children are very likely to own a pet dog or cat. Seniors are noted to have special bonds with their pets. The handicapped rely on service pets to assist them physically (and may be their best buds). Peace Officers and Military personnel count on them to have their backs. Dogs and cats, it seems, are everywhere, there is one to fit anybody, a pet to fill virtually every need.
Pets love you. You will never feel alone with a pet. They follow you around the house. Like kids, they wait outside the bathroom door until you’re done. Or inside, if you forget to shut the door. They’ll garden with you. When the kids have all grown up and left home they’re there, waiting to be touched and petted when maybe you don’t get the hugs you were used to. Pets are right there for the child who needs to talk to someone when no one else understands. Pets cuddle and will often sleep under the covers. They hog the bed. They help you brave the dark. Pets coerce you to join them in outdoor outings, get some exercise. They bring you back to the simple things in life, like enjoying a nap in a sunbeam coming through the window. They are there to go on walks with you. They rarely snore when you’re talking to them. They won’t switch channels on you, either. They’re pretty much always willing to join you in the kitchen and in case your clock batteries run down they’ll keep you on time for meals. You are loved whether or not you have wrinkles, a bad hair day, or belch. They aren’t impressed by a degree nor do they care how much money you make. Their love is the closest you may get to “unconditional”. Dogs and cats do require some food, water, a few basics. Veterinary health care will fulfill most of their medical needs. Vaccinations, deworming, parasite prevention being key for all life stages. You add food and love to the recipe and it usually turns out alright.
As I write this my dog is at my feet, having followed me over to the computer. A cat sleeps nearby, having considered the situation and being somewhat put out that I won’t (cannot) make lap space at present. The rest of the household is asleep. I am not alone. According to the American Humane Society of the United States, in 2012 62% of all American households owned at least one pet.
I am not alone in the greater community of Merced that was horrified to learn of the brutal attack and ultimate death of a Merced dog last week. No need to repaint the ugly scene. I find words inadequate at such times. Animal abuse is reportable for the sake of the animals. Animal abuse is reportable for the sake of people, as pet abuse has been linked with a heightened risk of domestic violence towards children and women especially. Our lives are intertwined, all peoples, all animals on this planet. Laws are in place to process this catastrophe in our community.
Dogs and cats serve many roles throughout our lives. We hear of the “human-animal” bond – is that just some fancy jargon for a college paper to label or define the inter-dependence we all share in this world? Looking past the analysts and academic studies of people and how we relate with pets (which most of us understand intuitively), there was a shocking reality that came to light when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005. Disaster preparedness plans were in place – rescue groups swung into action – and the world watched in horror as some people chose to perish rather than leave their pets behind to die in the flood, because the plans called for saving people first – and only. Resources were limited, time of the essence. But leaving people right in front of you, to die, was unthinkable. The numbers of people who refused to abandon their pets was high enough that the Red Cross and communities have since been advised to redraw their plans so that people with pets can be accommodated without compromising the priority of rescuing all people in a disaster.
Take note : the human-animal bond is very, very strong. Respect for all life is paramount in our interactions on earth. My sincere condolences to the community of Merced for our recent loss.
Christine B. McFadden, DVM
Valley Animal Hospital, Merced