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Adrienne Ross

Adrienne Ross is owner of Adrienne Ross Communications and a former Southeast Missourian editorial board member.

Opinion

A pet, not an experiment

Today, I'm advocating for animals because they cannot advocate for themselves -- and I love them enough to do it for them.

Owning a pet is a selfless act because, let's face it, pet ownership is not just a joy; it's a responsibility. Most people understand that. What they may not understand is that not owning a pet is often a selfless act also.

Animals are cute and cuddly and great companions. They add to our lives in ways that can't be measured. They're there when no one else is. They make us laugh. They protect us. They provide stories to tell. What pet owner has not posted a plethora of pictures on social media of their beloved fur babies doing the various share-worthy things they do?

Take me, for example: My Trooper and Kohl are well-known online. People love them more than they love me. They're like felines with fan clubs!

Animals, like babies and some elderly, cannot tell you outright how they feel, what they need, that they're afraid. They rely on humans to do what's right and treat them well -- and so we must. Sometimes doing the right thing is the selflessness I mentioned -- not being a pet owner.

Because I love animals so much, it always breaks my heart when someone's pet is sick or missing or has died. I'd almost rather not know because my heart can't take it. I hurt for the human and hurt for the animal. I also hurt when animals are moved from one home to another -- and certainly when they're moved to a shelter.

When they come into a home, there should be a commitment: This a permanent situation. It's not called a "forever home" for nothing. I'm often gripped with the sadness pets must feel when they've lived with a family and then, all of a sudden, those people are gone. The animal is in a strange place, confused. They may eventually adjust, but it breaks my heart just to think about the meantime. You've seen the faces -- the fear, the uncertainty. And some go through it time and time again because people aren't thinking ahead. It's not fair. I just want to scream, "If you're not in it for good, this isn't for you! Look before you leap, please." Yes, there are extenuating circumstances that require people to give up their pets; we all know that, but these should be last resort. These should be extremely rare. This should not be a Plan B idea people start out with.

With much love for both people and pets, I beg folks to consider what I'm saying.

If you're just not sure you should get a pet, not sure if you are willing to make the commitment, hold off. It's hard when you see a post about pets in need of homes. Those faces pull on all of our heartstrings, but if you're not certain you're in for the long haul, do the following: Stop. Wait. Think. Because here's the deal: Those pretty faces make ugly messes. Are you sure you're willing to clean them up, or will you change your mind in a month and rip the animal's heart out?

If you're a newlywed, maybe you should hold off if you might not have the heart-room for both a pet and a little person. I've seen this happen. Think beyond the moment. Couples make babies; it's no surprise. If you might decide you don't want fur babies alongside your human babies: Stop. Wait. Think.

If finances are tight, same advice: Stop. Wait. Think. Animals are expensive. Do you have what it takes to feed this vulnerable creature? If he gets sick, will you avoid taking him to the vet because you "don't have the money"? I recently heard of people who were willing to let their dog stay sick and just die. Not right.

What about cold weather? Will your pet be inside? If you're cold, she's cold, so does your home accommodate her? Furthermore, are you willing to bundle up and walk her? Stop. Wait. Think.

If you're gone constantly and just want an animal to meet you at the door when you finally do come home, having no reasonable plan in place for your time away, are you just being selfish? Have you stopped, waited, thought this thing through?

"What are you doing, Adrienne? It's difficult enough to get pets into homes. Why are you dissuading pet ownership?" I'm not. I encourage ownership for people who are going to take it seriously and do what's right. I want them in loving homes with loving, selfless people who have counted the cost, have thought things through, and are responsible -- not with those who just see a cute face or feel a great need.

I'm writing this because I'm seeing too many situations in which animals are hurt because people aren't thinking or are reneging on their commitments. Pets aren't experiments for you to "see how it works out." Honor your decision, and if you think you might not be able to do that, maybe, for now, you should pass on taking them into your home. But you can still be selfless and assist. You can -- and please do -- help find homes for them, donate to others who own or tend to them, and advocate for them.

Adrienne Ross is owner of Adrienne Ross Communications and a former Southeast Missourian editorial board member.

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