By Julia Williams
I recently found a great blog called “24 Paws of Love” that chronicles life with six big dogs. I’m sure it’s not easy to meet the physical and emotional needs of six dogs of any size, but these wonderful people do it willingly because these dogs are family. What inspired me to write this post was their commentary about some of the things people say to them about their dogs. They’re asked how they can afford to feed so many dogs, or told that they’ll never get ahead financially unless they “get rid of some of the dogs.”
Wow – really? I have to wonder about the type of person who could say such things. They’re not pet people obviously, and they seem to be lacking in self censorship and social decorum. Would they walk up to “Octomom” Nadya Sulleman and tell her, “It must be hard to feed 14 children, you should give some of them up.” Unthinkable, right? Never mind that Nadya herself admitted on Oprah recently that she was financially destitute. It’s just not socially acceptable to tell a parent how many children they can or should have. It may or may not be the best choice for someone to have 14 kids, but it’s their choice. Likewise, it should never be acceptable to comment on how many pets a person chooses to have or how much money they spend on them – the exception being, animal hoarders who aren’t capable of caring for vast numbers of dogs and/or cats.
If someone wants to have six big dogs and they’re able to feed them and keep them all in good health, so be it. What they spend on dog food and other pet expenses is nobody’s business. Yet I know from personal experience that some people do feel it’s acceptable to comment on such things. Years ago I casually mentioned an expensive vet visit to my mother and she said matter-of-factly, “It would be cheaper to put him to sleep.” When I recovered from my shock and told her how offensive that was to me, she said she didn’t mean I should do it, just that it would cost less. Well yeah, that was true…but still. I’m just at a loss to understand how anyone can even think such things. I’m 100% sure that if her human grandchild needed costly medical care, my mother would not say something similar.
This illustrates to me what a gigantic gap there is between the thinking of “pet people” like myself, and non-pet people like my mother or strangers who comment on how many dogs someone has. It’s a chasm bigger than the Grand Canyon, really – a hole so deep and wide that neither group will ever be able to see the others point of view. Pet people know that you can’t possibly put a price tag on the unconditional love an animal gives so freely.
So how much is too much to spend on pets? There is no such figure, because it’s an individual decision. However, I read an article stating that with recent advances in veterinary medicine, pet owners are increasingly faced with that question. One pet owner reportedly paid $25,000 for a procedure to save their pet’s life. Is that too much? There’s no right or wrong answer; it’s an individual choice. One thing I do know, though, is that those who’ve never had a special relationship with a pet will never understand how someone could spend that sum on “just a pet.”
My cats never have been, and never will be, “just pets.” They are my family. They are true healers who can make everything right with just one lick or a soulful gaze. They are loving, giving beings that deserve the very best. Pets give so much, and ask for so little. Sometimes I marvel at how lucky I am that these angels with fur are in my life. And sometimes, I feel sad for those who will never know what a great, priceless gift it is, to be loved by an animal. In the end, I’m just happy to be a “cat mom,” and eternally grateful for their love.
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