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Norwich Bulletin - 11/5/2006

What Is Commitment?

Brandy is a Golden Retriever that came into our care from New York City after 9/11. He was adopted by a family and they contacted me about a month later to tell me how much they adored him. Well, last week the called again, five years later, to tell me that they are being transferred and want to give him back. I guess they didnít adore him enough to make him a ermanent part of their family.


Commitment - a lost word in our society. We are such a disposable society - after all, we can dispose of our elderly into an "assisted living" home, our children can be turned over to social services when they become "beyond our control" and our pets - well we dump them in the woods, in parking lots, leave them when we move from apartments, or tie them up in front of shelters (and those are the lucky ones).

And we can adopt an animal and decide years later they are no longer important enough to try to keep. The strange thing to me is that we are allowed to this with seemingly no guilt attached. It always amazes me how people simply "get rid of" whatever has become inconvenient.

While I understand that sometimes circumstances change, I am adamant that the owner of the animal is responsible to find their pet a good home. Simply giving their problem to someone else and voicing how upset they are is not good enough. It is not my responsibility to make someone elseís problem go away.

While I am always willing to list the animal on my website with the person fostering their own animal until we find an appropriate home, I am not willing to physically take the animal. By having the owner be the foster home, the animal suffers no trauma, is never put into a cage and can go directly to its new home from their present one.

The excuse I usually get is that it is too hard for the individual to watch their dog/cat go to a new home. Too hard for you? Excuse me, but that should be the least of your worries! People who leave their pets at a shelter - any shelter, including my foster home - should come back the next day to see their animal shaking in a corner of the cage, not eating, totally traumatized and upset because they didn't know that their human's lifestyle changed and it didn't include them.

This is why Helping Paws simply made a rule that we do not take owner surrender animals . Once youíve experienced their pain that you will understand why I donít really care how hard it is for you. It was your decision to give up your pet so deal with it and do it the best way possible for the animal.

I have a letter I like to give people when they approach me at adoption days. It contains the caption, "Don't Adopt us on Impulse," and it is from the animals that are in my care. Animals that have already been abandoned once and never want to be abandoned again. Before you adopt, you need to be sure you can commit to the medical, emotional and everyday care the animal needs and deserves until that animal dies.

If you are working fifteen hours a day, don't get a puppy or a kitten - they need too much care. Compromise. Get two older cats that will give each other company while you are at work and yet, be happy to sit on your lap and cuddle in the evening when you get home. A puppy or a kitten will not get what they need to grow socially if they are left alone for long periods of time.

If you get an adult dog, make sure there is a fenced in area for him to be during the day while you are at work. Don't crate him day and night as you will end up with a neurotic, unhappy dog with huge amounts of pent up energy that will need releasing when you are home. The results could end up in very destructive behavior (like an eaten couch pillow or table leg). Please consider all aspects of your life before you decide to adopt an animal.

When you decide you want an animal please remember the word commitment.

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