The loss of a pet is tragic. The loss of a pet who is still living, maybe even worse. Dr. Emily Weiss urges everyone to provide a helping hand to those who need it just to keep their dog or cat home.
A few weeks ago I lost a piece of my heart. My boy Que (pronounced Q) – a bigger-than-life guy, all his soft, all his kindness, all his humor, all of him left us suddenly and unexpectedly. He collapsed from what appears to have been a heart attack. We were hanging out in my yard – he was wagging and chatting away and I turned my back for no more than 30 seconds and when I turned back, he was down and gone.
I ran to him and performed some rusty CPR – yelling his name and begging him back. My arms locked around him, my hands scrambling to find a sign of life. I was helpless – he was gone.
I am processing his loss as I dig through data and studies focused on re-homing and relinquishment, and I can’t help but continually revisit that feeling of helplessness as I tried to breathe life back into Que. Often the reasons for relinquishment are not based on lack of a bond or because someone no longer wants the pet, but instead because they see no other choice. They do not have the resources/network/access to fix the issue – and relinquishment becomes the selfless option to ensure the pet’s comfort while the person is helpless at the time for other options. Que’s death was horrific, with nothing I could do when it happened to change the outcome. I look at Que’s sister Sea and I am so very fortunate that I have funds and access to whatever care might be needed for preventable issues (that I am imagining popping up at every blink and turn of head). Imagine having to relinquish because you cannot afford to fix a medical issue that is causing your pet to suffer.
We can fix this. The loss of a pet is tragic. The loss of a pet who is still living, maybe even more so. That person coming to your door because they cannot afford to fix medical/housing or other issue may simply need a helping hand – helping can rid some helplessness.
I know some think, “That will never be me,” and I hope they are right. But just in case, give a few extra hugs and provide a helping hand to those who need just that to keep their dog or cat home.
Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB
ASPCA Vice President, Research & Development
Dr. Emily Weiss’ work at the ASPCA involves developing programs and processes that focus on impact on animal welfare. In her previous work as a behaviorist, she developed training programs to improve husbandry and decrease stress for many zoo animals. She has also developed assessment tools for shelter animals, including the SAFER assessment and Meet Your Match Canine-ality, Puppy-ality and Feline-ality. Dr. Weiss is co-editor of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, and has published and lectured extensively in the field of applied animal behavior.
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