Y’all know I love animals, right? I especially love dogs, horses, and cats. My very first jobs were working in a barn and at a veterinary hospital. I’ve spent a lot of time loving animals and they’ve mostly loved me back, with the possible exception of our old cat, Cricket, who had the misfortune of living with my family of origin when I was a toddler. That being said, I don’t like it when people lose their common sense when it comes to animals. I don’t like it when anyone loses their ability to see other perspectives.
Two well-meaning friends have posted this meme recently. I know they are both caring, compassionate, loving people. On the surface, I totally agree with this message, but I would never share it. For one thing, I find it manipulative. I am not a fan of guilt trips, and this smacks of a guilt trip to me. Most people on Facebook wouldn’t support this kind of thing, anyway, so you’re preaching to the choir. Anyone heartless enough to simply dump a pet without any remorse is probably not going to care about your meme. The rest of us are probably just going to feel shitty.
Please don’t get me wrong. I absolutely think it’s a terrible thing to abandon animals. I do not, at all, condone dumping pets on the side of the road. However, I also realize that pets are not people and sometimes people find themselves having to make terrible choices. When I clicked on the original post to read the comments, I found a thread full of interesting perspectives. One man named John was brave enough to post this:
It’s not cruel.
People who do this do so because they don’t see any other choice. It’s done when families go broke, and can’t feed the kids, much less the family pet.
Instead of condemning the poor for doing this in a desperate situation, help them. Help them find jobs, groceries, etc.
He was immediately pounced upon by the outrage brigade. Lots of people tried to “educate” him, although he struck me as being quite intelligent. More people tried shaming and insulting him for daring to be contrary. A couple of folks appealed to the guy’s sense of decency, reasoning that pets can’t fend for themselves and should be taken to a shelter. John came back with this comment:
Those services aren’t always available. Plus, when tragedy strikes, people can’t always think of everything.
And, yes, they can fend for themselves very well.
Later, it came out that the guy, John, who is originally from Chicago, actually lives in Europe. He claims that living in Europe has changed his viewpoint. Naturally, I was interested when he mentioned Europe, since I am an American who also lives in Europe. A couple of posters chastised him for “pretending” to be European. I wanted to know what part of Europe, so I stalked his Facebook page. Turns out he’s in Bulgaria.
I have been to Bulgaria. I went in 1996, when it was still recovering from years of being behind the so-called Iron Curtain. I’m sure Bulgaria is a lot better now than it was in 1996, although in 1996, it was a hell of a lot nicer than Armenia was, which was where I was living at that time. Bill visited Bulgaria about ten years ago. It had come up in the world a bit. I don’t know what it’s like in 2019, but it’s probably not as cushy as Germany is. Here, I never see stray animals. In fact, spaying and neutering is not nearly as common in developed European countries as it is in the States. Why? Because while there are definitely shelters here, they aren’t overflowing. Most people take care of their pets.
Having been to Bulgaria, my guess is that the attitude toward pets is not the same. I distinctly remember in Armenia, there were packs of street dogs that would roam around looking for trash. Some of them were alright, but some were downright mean. As much as I love dogs, I often had to carry rocks with me in case they got too close. The street dogs were not necessarily friendly, with few exceptions. Bulgaria probably has a similar problem. It’s possible that John has seen street dogs or strays roaming around Bulgaria. But he’s also seen very poor people trying to take care of themselves.
I also remember meeting Armenian refugees who had been living in Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union fell. These folks had once had their own apartments, but once the Soviet Union broke up, they had to flee Azerbaijan. Whole families ended up living in dorm sized rooms. That’s five or six people living in a space designed for two. Would Fluffy or Fido necessarily fit in with that reality? Probably not.
I was intrigued by that post because, while I could definitely see the perspectives of outraged, kind-hearted, well-meaning Americans, I could also see John’s perspective. He’s left the United States and moved somewhere where life may not be as easy. He’s seen another perspective and it’s changed his opinions. This happens to me every time I live abroad. So far, I’ve lived abroad in five different places and three different countries. Each experience opens my eyes a little bit more. I imagine it’s been the same for John, who came across as quite intelligent and calm, despite the mob of angry rebuttals from the clueless that came his way. I particularly liked it when he calmly pointed out to several posters that they were making assumptions and putting words in his post that he never wrote. For instance, one person wrote this:
I care about people and animals. I am just sorry you feel that you’re only option is too leave your dog on the side of the road.
And John responded with, “I never said that. There’s no need to be self-conscious.” Later, he added “Gratefully, I never had to. But I’m lucky. Many people have had to do so.“
When another poster offered to find a home for John’s dog, he wrote “In fact, our dog is a stray that sat at our gate for a month before we let her in. The best guard dog I’ve ever seen in my life. Like I said, we’re more fortunate than many here… I’m not going to condemn others for doing what they need to do in order to survive.“
I think sometimes people get so wrapped up in outrage that they don’t allow themselves to see other perspectives. John never said he condones dumping animals. John never said he planned to dump his dog, nor did he applaud people who do. He simply suggested that sometimes people find themselves in situations where that seems like the best thing to do, whether or not it actually is. If he lives in Bulgaria, I can see why he’d come to that conclusion. I can also see why our fellow American brothers and sisters are outraged. It’s mainly because they’re ignorant and/or unwilling or unable to broaden their perspective.
What really made my eyebrows raise, though, was when someone claimed John was an atheist and quoted the Bible as a means of proving that this man she doesn’t know doesn’t believe in God. First off, even if he is an atheist, that really has nothing to do with animal dumping. Secondly, there are plenty of so-called Christians who have black hearts. Just this morning, I read a news article about Jerry Falwell Jr. that pretty much proves that point. He’s supposedly a “Christian”, but he’s got his head shoved way up Donald Trump’s ass, to the point at which he’s said he thinks Trump should be given two extra years to continue to fuck things up. I may not be the smartest or wisest person in the world, but I can smell bullshit for miles. And a lot of “religious” people are full to the gills with bullshit.
Anyway… while I don’t think there’s any excuse for ditching animals if there is any possible alternative, I also think John is right that sometimes people have to make very hard choices. I think of the folks who have been affected by the most recent natural disasters– wildfires, hurricanes, and the like– and realize that even some Americans are caught in that dilemma. If a wildfire is about to consume your house and you have a bunch of pets, including horses or other livestock, what the hell do you do? It would be wonderful if you had time to load them in a trailer and get them to safety. But what if you can’t do that? I’m sure people in Bulgaria or Armenia or any of the countries that aren’t the United States or Germany have to make those difficult decisions. So I, for one, applaud John for being brave enough to speak his mind and not go along with group think. It’s getting harder and harder to do that these days, in this age of Internet warfare. And more people need to pull their heads out of their asses and think outside of the box. Not every place on the planet is like America. Not everyone wants to live in America. American solutions aren’t always solutions that fit every situation. Think about it.