(Contributed)                                Magdalena Romanow at Katie’s Place.

(Contributed) Magdalena Romanow at Katie’s Place.

Pets: Don’t call me ‘baby’

Tears mean nothing handing over frightened, confused animal whose world is being torn apart.

This has been a summer we won’t soon forget – fires, floods, and hurricanes, people misplaced, homes gone, and animals lost.

It’s the kind of thing that brings out the best in human nature, and also the worst.

While someone is risking their life to rescue a stranger’s horse, others are looting their neighbour’s store.

Not only do we see it on the news, but we also live it through social media. We’ve sobbed in sadness at images of dogs tied up to trees while flood waters rose to swallow them up, and we’ve cried tears of joy at images of big, burly men rescuing possums from flooded forests.

Among other things, the recent events have really opened up the discussion about the role animals play in our lives.

Facebook is full of heated debates between those who swear they would remain with their animals no matter what, and those who think doing that for an animal is insanity.

I’m sure most people have a firm stance in this debate. They know what they would do in an emergency.

I know where I stand, but that’s not the point.

All these discussions and debates made me think about our shelter, our animals, and the people who bring them to us.

Years ago, I believed that if someone said they loved their animals and they were like family, that meant that they were committed to that animal no matter what obstacles life threw in their way.

But as we all learn along the way, words are just that.

Yes, there are times when there is simply no alternative but to surrender your animal to a shelter. However, those times, in my opinion, are rare, and more often than not, they have to do with what’s best for the animal.

We have complete control over their lives. We choose them. We care for them. So if we are going to give them up, it needs to be in their best interest.

A cat left outside in the middle of the night with a note that says, ‘I love Fluffy, he was like my baby, but … ’ was not anyone’s baby.

He was a possession that was completely disposable. I feel no sympathy for a family that shows up sobbing with their ‘baby’ in a carrier. They want our approval, some sort of confirmation that what they are doing is OK. They want to be absolved of their actions. They don’t realize that, in our eyes, getting rid of your ‘baby’ because it peed on the bed, or scratched your new sofa, or attacked your new puppy, is not OK.

Please don’t expect sympathy or understanding. The tears mean nothing when you are handing over a carrier occupied by a small, frightened and confused animal whose world is being torn apart.

We are here to pick up the pieces when you abandon them, not to make you feel better about doing it.

We know not everyone feels about animals as we do. To some, they are a possession. A pet. Something that is great to have as long as it doesn’t cramp your lifestyle, or cause any trouble, or require any work.

Say that. Be honest. Don’t be offended that we don’t tell you how wonderful you are and how bad we feel for you. We don’t.

We feel bad for the animal that has just lost its home, not the human who’s responsible for it.

So as I sit and watch the news, and read the articles, and browse through social media and I see a 70-year-old man carrying his cat above his head because he himself is shoulder deep in flood water, I know where that man stands in this debate, without hearing him say a word.

The family in tears because they left Fido tied up on their porch with a bowl of food by his side, who are starting a Go Fund Me page to buy a new puppy for the kids, well, they won’t be getting my support.

Magdalena Romanow is a volunteer at Katie’s Place, an animal shelter in Maple Ridge.

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