Thursday, February 19, 2009

Teachable Moments

The last couple of days have been interesting ones in regards to pets and my ten year old daughter. Chaos split a nail and got a string caught in it. Even though I was sick on Wednesday, I had to take her to the vet because the time they could get us in was only twenty minutes later than the retainer fix visit for my oldest. We needed to see how badly the nail was split and if it had gotten infected. Plus she was in pain and favoring that back paw. I didn't want to wait.

As we sat in the waiting room, two men came in. The younger man wore sunglasses and held an older dog in his arms, cradling the pup like a baby. The older man kept removing his glasses and wiping his eyes. I thought the dog must be really sick. It kept looking up at them, and they petted it with such love and kindness it filled me with warmth. The woman behind the desk made a comment about how the dog, Trixie if I heard the name correctly, had lived 17 good years and then she asked them about the euthanasia form. She also asked if they wanted the body. They did.

Tears welled in my eyes. I couldn't imagine how hard this must have been. I hugged Chaos really hard. I couldn't help but cry for all of them. Thank goodness for all Chaos' fur. Built in tissue.

While Chaos and I were in with the vet, my family arrived. Everyone was very nervous about her paw and hubby especially wanted to be there so they drove over after the orthodontist appointment. They were waiting for us when we walked out eager to know about the visit. Luckily, no infection and no further treatment needed.

On the way to the car, I mentioned to hubby about the little dog and how sad it had to be for that family after having her for seventeen years. My oldest overheard and gasped. She had seen them carrying the dog out afterwards and thought it was asleep. This led to a talk about animals getting older and sick and difficult decisions you sometimes have to make when you own a pet. Not exactly the conversation I'd expected to be having right then, especially when I felt the way I did, but her questions needed answers.

Then today, we went on a tour of the Humane Society. We had a great time learning about and visiting the animals, but it wasn't all wagging tails and cute kitties. While we were standing outside, we saw a woman drive up to drop off a dog. This repeated again later with a red-eyed woman bringing in another dog. Then inside the adoption kennel room, we saw a woman kneeling in front of a cage. The dog inside the kennel was going crazy. Happy crazy. Turns out the woman was the dog's former owner who had given it up.

The tour guide explained that there were many reasons people gave up pets, and that with the current economy, many owners can no longer afford to take care of their animals. I could see the questions in my ten year old's eyes. The thought of giving up one of our pets was unthinkable to her, but after we were finished with our visit, I reiterated what the tour guide had said and reminded her that we got Chaos from another family who loved her as much as we do, but gave her to us because we could give her the attention and love she needed. We had another discussion about pet ownership and the responsibilities you take on when you bring a pet into your family as well as the economy right now.

On the drive home, I couldn't help but think about the old, little dog from the vet yesterday. She'd spent 17 years with a loving family. The woman behind the counter at the vet's was right. The dog had had a good life! I only hope the animals we saw at the clinic can be so lucky.

On a much lighter note, this really put a smile on my face. Make sure your sound is on. I love looking at kitty pictures, but this one is all about the little girl's commentary:


Dru said...

That video was so cute.

What a wonderful story and I bet the family will remember all the good times.

Sarita Leone said...

Wow. Tears and smiles, all before my morning coffee. Thanks, Melissa. Lovely story, and I think it's fabulous that you took the opportunity to teach despite your not feeling well.

Hope you all feel better soon, BTW. :)

catslady said...

Oh my. I had to bring my beloved 17 year old dog Shadow to the vet just as this family did but luckily my vet had a back door because I couldn't stop sobbing. I thought there was nothing harder than this until I just went through having a little stray kitten suffering at the end (had gone to the vet and this was 3:30 in the monrning and there was nothing I could do). I just took a 13 yr. old cat to the vet and it had to have 10 teeth pulled - luckily all is well. I love the way you taught your daughter. Pets are a lot of responsibility and heartache but it's the price you pay for such love, joy and devotion.

Brandy said...

I'm glad you were able to talk to your Daughter about this. But, I have to say, you brought me to tears. I love each one of my crazy kitties, I couldn't imagine our home without them. Glad to hear that Chaos is going to be ok.

I hope your day is pleasant.

Tiffany said...

More tears here. At least the ones who bring the animals to the Humane Society are taking care of them and not abandoning them on the side of the road.

My mom gave away my pets when I was a child and they got too much for her - she said they went to a "farm". Uh huh. As a result, I have pretty strong views (as do my sisters - thanks mom!) about keeping pets in the family. I tell my son that once an animal is in our family, it's there for life.

I know families that have chosen to give away the family dog because they "just couldn't handle it" and I think, what message does that give to children?

I know, I shouldn't judge other people but I'm thinking about one couple I knew who bought a puppy as a Christmas present for their twins, never walked the dog or gave it attention and then gave it away 18 months later because it was "out of control", it's just something that pushes my buttons.

Kudos to you Melissa for taking your kids to the HS, I know how compassionate your kids are and I'm sure they got a lot out of the trip.

(Sorry this comment is so long! But then I am the girl who drives around with a "Dogs are for life, not for Christmas" bumper sticker!)