The Broad is Back!

July 12, 2016

Dawgs, Cats and Other Vermin

One of the things that I’ve found shocking in the South is how people treat their animals. In NYC and its environs, I’m used to spoiled, pampered pets. Down here, not so much.

I’m not saying everyone treats animals poorly, but there’s definitely a problem.

The first thing I noticed is that folks keep their dogs outside, chained up in pens all day and all night. I moved here in July, and I would try to keep the window open at night for fresh air–believe me, even Southern summers felt mild after a year in Dubai–but the neighborhood dogs barking killed me. The poor, lonely things would whine and howl all night, with an occasional “shut up” shouted from the house.

I also saw dogs out running loose. That’s not something I saw in my neck of the woods since I was a kid. It’s all leash laws and protection. Taiwan had a terrible stray dog problem but I left there 18 years ago. This was a shock to my system.

My very nice neighbors had a dog when my mom moved here, but it got hit by a car. They got a second one when I was living here. While they tried to keep her on the porch, she’d get loose. One day she disappeared. I feared she’d been killed, but her owner said she suspected a neighbor had called animal control. To ransom your dog was $80 and she didn’t have that. She never got the dog back.

Cats are treated worse. Most people keep them outside and the cars aren’t the only problem. Lots of animal predators around here.

Now that I work in a shop, lots of people talk about their animals. One man told me how many kittens he drowns a year because he can’t be bothered spaying his cats. Drowning a kitten meant no more to him than killing vermin on the farm.  Spaying and neutering aren’t considered de rigueur. Everywhere else I’ve lived it’s been mandatory for every animal I’ve ever adopted out of a shelter.

Not long after I arrived I met a woman who ran a shop that supported low cost spay and neuter programs. My mom adopted two of the strays she’d taken in–born in a Tractor Store parking lot and saved by an employee–and we got to know Anna Maria. I learned a lot about the state of animal care here. She’s gotten thousands of cats fixed, and there’s another program that does trap, spay or neuter, and release of the feral cat population. And we’re still overpopulated.

There are two or three separate programs to support stray and feral cats, and that doesn’t count the county shelter. The folks there try their hardest, but they are underfunded and overwhelmed.

A month ago, I read on Facebook that the shelter was overcrowded, and as it was a kill shelter, it would have to start killing if it didn’t get fosters or adopters. I dragged poor mom there two days later on my day off and brought home Mouse, the oldest dog in the shelter.

Seeing the dogs and cats in the shelter traumatized my poor mother who is very tender hearted when it comes to animals. She was tearing up for days after that trip and said she’d never go back with me. I have things to donate on occasion.

I’d really been longing for a wire haired terrier, but if you look closely, you’ll see the word “SUCKER” tattooed on my forehead. Mouse is a 65 pound Rottie-Lab mix who is 10+, arthritic, sweet as pie and afraid of rain, thunder and cats.

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Have I mentioned there are also 4 cats in the house?

And 2 cat trees, 4 cat beds, 2 dog beds, 6 scratchers, 2 baskets of animal toys, covers on all the living room furniture so the animals can sleep on it, and top quality animal food in the pantry.

My mom, who did NOT want a dog, smiled happily two days after Mouse came home and said, “I loved having spoiled animals”. Ironically, this from the woman who doesn’t believe in spoiling children.

And that’s the basic difference I see. Not a lot of spoiled animals around here. Not all the animal owners are horrible. In fact, I bet many believe that dogs belong outside.  They are, well, animals. Down here animals are workers. People don’t always treat them with the respect  and care I think animals should have.

But who am I to judge?

That doesn’t stop me, of course. For me, animals are mostly companions and should be treated well. If you treat a dog poorly, I am going to think poorly of you. Ditto cats. Empathy doesn’t start and end with humans.

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