When I was in kindergarten, I said that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. I had talents, too, related to music and performance, and that was the first direction I went in. In college, I studied music. But I have always loved animals and have never ever stopped wanting to “make them better.”
Though I never became a veterinarian (and I still have fantasies about going vet school), I know there are many ways I can help animals’ plight outside of being able to stitch them up. I’ve recently taken a pet first aid class, and I plan on educating myself about how to do a veterinary exam on my own girls (this includes listening to breathing, heartbeat, examining eyes, teeth, and ears, as well as taking their [yes, rectal] temperature). None of these are invasive (well, except for the temp), and all are 100% possible to do if correctly learned. It may sound odd, but I remain in contact with the vet who diagnosed, treated, and later helped my sweetheart girl pass from this world a few years ago. I trust her implicitly and know her caliber of care and bedside manner to be second to none, because I saw, first hand, how she treated my darling girl at the very end. I have SEEN how peaceful (though emotionally painful, yes) a humane euthanization can be. And if animal shelters truly do euthanize animals the way the posted letter on Girl with the Red Balloon’s blog describes, then my estimation of humanity, which was already suffering, I admit, has dipped even lower.
I have known people who have surrendered their cat because “we’re moving to X and we can’t take him,” yet they took their dog with them. I’m sorry, dogs are lovely, but they are much, much more work than cats. When you adopt a pet, you are making a COMMITMENT to a LIVING BEING. Pets (all animals, for that matter) require more than food and water and basic wellness care. They require love, play, interaction, and TIME. In my NOT SO HUMBLE opinion, if you commit to an animal by adopting it, then you should plan on having that animal for its entire life, either until its natural death or until such time that it is kinder to help it pass from this life. I know that working full time AND going to school full time is hard. It’s very hard. And yes, I am single so I was “just” taking care of myself and my pets. But if I can handle working full time (and some overtime) and attending graduate school full time (and graduating with a 3.8 GPA, thank you very much), and tend a kitten and an elderly cat with cancer, then yes, I think I can expect just a little out of someone who adopts a pet.
I certainly do not hold everyone to my own “standard,” which includes purchasing pet insurance (with cancer inclusion), using only superior quality wet/canned food (they do rarely get dry, if I’m on an extended trip), hiring a pet sitter for any length of trip over 1 night, buying several battery-operated cat toys (and rechargeable batteries and charger) to help assuage my guilt at not being able to spend more time with them, taking them for the odd walk in a pet stroller (yes, you read that correctly) (purchased from a friend who purchased it used from Craigslist), keeping their microchip info, vet info, insurance info, etc., in coded sections of my phone’s address book, having a plan for their care in the event that I die before they do (and they’re still quite young), keeping them solely indoors, letting them sleep on my bed, baby talking them, keeping a pet seat near a window so they can see outdoors, arranging furniture not to best suit them, but to suit me so that they do not get into things, arranging all maintenance appointments at my apartment for times when I am home, otherwise, no one is allowed in (outside of an emergency, of course), giving them only filtered water, and I’m sure the list could go on.
I do not hold any other person with a companion animal to these standards. I realize quite well that rare is the person who is as particular as I am about their pets. But even without holding others to the standards I have for myself, I do hold them to some basic standards, as mentioned above. There is no reason, I repeat, no reason for not giving your pet the time and care it deserves. And if there is any doubt in your mind that you may not be able to afford a pet financially or time wise, then by all means DO NOT GET A PET. Adopting a pet is a serious commitment that comes with serious responsibilities and of course great joy, as well. But your want for a pet should not outweigh what any animal deserves: a human companion who cares for them, who plays with them, and who can assure the little soul that she has a home until she draws her last breath.