I'm an animal lover. I always have been. As a child, I had a variety of pets, including rabbits, ducks, geese, hamsters, cats, dogs, and for a short time, a turkey named Dude. I would beg my dad for a particular pet, and he usually gave in. I was, after all, Daddy's girl.
Most people don't go to the extremes that I did. However, people tend to like animals, even if they do not have pets of their own. Let's face it; unless you're Cruella de Vil or some other evil villain, you like animals.
We as humans are supposed to look out for our animal friends. When we hear about someone who has mistreated an animal, we are appalled and disgusted. Yet many people continue to unknowingly support animal abuse in the form of puppy mills.
I became aware of the horrors of puppy mills about five years ago. These breeders are less interested in the welfare of the animal and more interested in the money.
The alternative is obvious.
As a child, my father took me to the pound to get a puppy. I remember the smell of wet dog and Pine-Sol and seeing the cages filled with happy dogs, wagging their tails and smiling their doggie smiles. But there was one dog - a small, white mutt - who stood in the outdoor portion of her cage in the pouring rain. She stood there barking at us. She did not offer her paw or rub against the metal bars. That was the dog I chose.
I don't know whether my young mind understood that this dog had less of a chance of being chosen by other kids or if I just felt bad for the poor, unhappy pup. Either way, Dad and I brought her home and made her ours. She, being the stubborn thing she was, chose my mother as her owner. She protected Mom and warmed her feet as Mom grew sick and our mutt grew old. They are buried together - the dog's ashes at my mother's feet - at Churchill Cemetery.
In college, I decided to get a pet of my own. I went to Angels for Animals. This was back when the animals were kept in an old industrial chicken house. I was amazed at the diversity of purebred and mixed breed, young and old. I still didn't quite grasp the concept that an animal's personality must meld with yours. I was naive as a pet owner. I chose a fat, older cat. I brought him home and found that he was not what I expected. He hid under my dresser. He relieved himself there, too. He would not come out. He hated me. Or so I thought. I took him back to the Angels. I was not quite ready for such a cat. But I'd learn.
I didn't visit Angels for Animals again until they were in their current building. Have you seen this place? The cat rooms are brilliantly designed and the residents perfectly matched with both room type and other occupants. Little cubbies for sleeping, toys galore, a massive tree-like structure on which to perch these cats have it made. Well, there is one major detail missing. These animals need the love that only an owner can give. On this visit, our family brought home Lucy, a long-haired princess of a cat. And while I don't have a room-size tree for her to enjoy, I do offer a warm lap, a pat on the head, and all the love she wants. It feels good to rescue a pet rather than purchase one.
Harley is a Howland resident. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.