Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Work of Finding Lost Pets

In my home, growing up, the only controversy about keeping pets was whether my parents would allow it. My mother had gone to a school where the entrance door was under a pigeon roost and she had a daily horror of being pooped on.  So she didn't want me to have a bird. My father disliked cats and dogs and rabbits and basically anything that might add significantly to the food bill. We got hamsters. They only live about 2 or 3 years, which is really horrible when you're expecting a long-term relationship.
Now, people say inane things like, "If you love something let it goIf it comes back to you it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was." Try telling that to any pet-owner whose pet has escaped! My pets are like my children. I do not believe they know how to fend for themselves, or cross streets without holding my hand (being on a leash). I don't believe they'll have enough to eat if I don't feed them.
PETA says, "This selfish desire to possess animals and receive love from them causes immeasurable suffering, which results from manipulating their breeding, selling or giving them away casually, and depriving them of the opportunity to engage in their natural behavior. Their lives are restricted to human homes where they must obey commands and can only eat, drink, and even urinate when humans allow them to."  
The same applies to having or adopting or fostering children.  This is what we humans do. We take care of our young and we don't do it differently based on species.
But there are differences.  If somebody finds your lost animal and takes it in, they don't regard it as kidnapping. They think the animal is now their pet to care for and to love. And most pets are okay with this.  I remember getting my dog Miniwiz back from a family with 6 children. He was sorry to leave them, and they were sorry to see him go. I was so relieved and happy to have him back. In retrospect, maybe I should have left him there.  A few months later, he ran away again and got hit by a car.
Now my neighbor's cat is missing. The cat was wild before she took her in. She kept that cat indoors for two years.  Then poof -- the cat sneaked out.  It's been 3 weeks.  The cat wore no tags -- she was an indoor cat. She probably has a new home now. But this is my neighbor's baby. My neighbor spends her nights putting up Missing Cat signs. She has put a hav-a-heart cat trap in her yard in case her baby comes home. Our society doesn't have a philosophy or a cultural tradition to deal with missing pets.  What is a reasonable time to look for a pet before you decide it has a new home and you can cherish the time you had with that animal, but that time is over? Are there grieving rituals to help the transition, like saying Kadish? Everything about keeping pets seems so impromptu -- how we get them, how we play with them, and how we lose them -- even if we have to make the decision to put them to sleep. It's all so informal. And so controversial. The only thing even PETA agrees on is that we love them and we cherish them and we are glad they are in our lives, even if only for a while.

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