I don’t know when I got hardcore into rescuing...well, not "hardcore", more like committed to the idea of adoption, or helping an animal in need. All I know is, when it came time for me to get a dog, there was no question that it would be from the local shelter. At the time, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as fostering, or breed specific rescues, or even Petfinder.com. I just knew that I wanted to help some poor mutt find his or her "forever home." (Nice idea, cheesy phrase.)
Once I got my shelter mutt home, I realized that adopting a dog is a serious responsibility. Owners who rescue should be prepared for anything, and be prepared to stick by an animal that may not settle into your home fully for months. Yes, months. When I first realized that my little guy had some issues, I had to say to myself, "If I don’t care for him, who will?" and commit to being a patient and kind owner to this poor, neurotic creature who didn’t know which end was up at times. Yes, there were days when I was sure that the fates were conspiring against me to drive me bat-shit insane...especially after the dog's third accident of the day (after a long walk, no less). But at the end of the day, I knew that it was either live in my home or go back to the shelter and potential death for an animal that didn’t deserve the latter fate.
Rescuing Pippin changed me. It taught me that I can be far more patient and loving than I imagined (and it also taught me that sometimes I have a seriously short fuse that needs to be reigned in). It taught me that consistency in an animal’s life can do wonders far more than an abundance of treats or fancy accessories. It taught me that my attitude can affect another being’s life in a positive or negative way. But above all, rescuing made me realize that, as people, we are judged by how we care for those who cannot fully care for themselves. Sure, a dog might be able to survive on the streets for awhile, but when you bring an animal into your home, you are committing to making sure it has the happiest life possible while it is in your care.
Now I’m not saying that every pet owner needs to buy the highest-end food or have the best training or purchase biodegradable poo bags for shit-duty. I am saying that willful neglect will make me want to punch someone in the face pretty quickly. People who say that they have an "outside dog" but don’t provide good shelter or fresh water, or people who scream and yell at their pets for accidents, or people who go even further and harm or abuse their animals because it’s "just a dog" deserve a special place in the farthest recesses of the darkest prison with a burly cell-mate who calls himself "Lucy."
Which brings me to Michael Vick. Now, I don’t know Michael Vick as a person, I can only judge him by his actions and the face he’s presented to the public. Many are wondering these days if Michael Vick should be forgiven for his atrocious actions in running a dog fighting ring. They say things like, "He seems reformed, he's done his time, he’s working hard, he’s showing up to practice on time, and he’s speaking out against dog fighting in the public." Well, thank you, Michael Vick, for doing your damn job by showing up to practice on time, working hard at your sport, and not making a general ruckus. Awesome. You and your millions of dollars can go pat yourself on the back.
But here’s why I can’t look at someone like Michael Vick and be like, "Dude, let’s have a beer." Dog fighting is horrific. It trains domesticated animals to fight and kill for their lives. Much of this training often involves using other animals as bait, abusing the animal itself, and generally denying an animal that has been bred for years to be dependent in some way on human care and interaction the basics of affection, food and shelter. It’s a willful disregard for life. It’s bloody and violent and abhorrent. So yes, Michael Vick should show up to practice on time and work real hard and continue speaking out against dog fighting. I don’t need to forgive him...I just need to see that he’s doing something to atone for the countless deaths of innocent animals that he perpetuated. To me, that means more jail time, but obviously, that ship has sailed. So yeah, I want him to do more and be more to prove himself. I want him to make more of a mark than just quietly doing his job and satisfying his PR requirements for the day.
Rescuing has taught me that our goodness as people comes from the care and kindness we give to those who need it...our children, our grandparents, the disabled, and the animals we domesticate. Capable adult humans can basically take care of themselves, and honestly, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for two adults who choose to beat each other senseless over this or that argument. I do get pretty enraged, though, when a competent adult neglects or otherwise does harm to a person or being who is dependent upon his or her care. Quit locking kids in closets, quit treating the elderly as sub-human, quit abusing farm animals because "they’re going to die anyway" (<--more on that whole deal another time. Also, don't watch the video if you are easily upset or disturbed by graphic portrayals of abuse). Let’s leave this earth a bit better for those who come after us; let’s leave a legacy of kindness.
Anyway, that’s what rescuing has taught me: to leave a legacy of kindness.
Phew! This post was a bit of a rant, but sometimes you just gotta get it out there, you know?