This week a few memorable articles struck my fancy and so I bring them to you as illustrative of how important our pets are to us. The articles describe how animals’ have/can change people’s lives or how people can change the circumstances in which they find these animal.

In Miami, Florida, a vote was taken by the 6 person Public Safety and Healthcare Administration committee, on whether to place a non-binding Pets’ Trust initiative before the voters on November 6th. The Pet trust –which calls for a tax increase of 10.79 cents per $1000 dollars of taxable property value, would under write a steady revenue stream to the already cash strapped Miami Dad Animal Services. They currently euthanize 20,000 unwanted cats and dogs a year. In the article a visit from a small floppy eared mutt to the committee before the vote was credited for softening the committee’s heart and obtaining approval for inclusion of the initiative on the ballot for voters to consider. (The Miami Herald – by Elinor J. Brecher 7/10/12)).

In Jeanette Smith’s article in the Arlington Animal Advocacy Examiner she explores the plight of the pit bull. Her article uncovers the recent boost to the Pit Bull’s image thanks to the inexhaustible services of the Animal Farm Foundation, Bad Rap Best Friends Animal Society and National Pit Bull Awareness Campaign. These organizations strive to educate the public about this misunderstood breed. Through their tireless work they show these dogs in a positive light, as therapy dogs, service dogs and family companions. Educating the people, who adopt these dogs, as well as the dogs themselves, is instrumental in keeping this process on the upswing. Patrick Cole, Director of Communications and Outreach at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria feels, “all [dogs] require proper socialization, love and affection, stimulation and responsible human companionship.” I could not have said it better! Mr. Cole’s statement focuses on the fact that any dog will react positively to positive training and negatively to negative training; this is not a breed specific learned behavior.

From Oregon, an article by Aimee Green in The Oregonian recounts the TAIL of a lost dog who was found again after a year on the lamb, but the reunion may result in litigation. Where is a mediator when you need one!

In Northeast Portland, Oregon, Sam Hanson–Fleming was buying a cup of coffee at a drive through coffee station when he looked in his rear view mirror at the car behind him. In that car sat ‘his dog,’ Chase, whom he had lost a year before. When he got out to check, Chase jumped into his arms and gave him the wildest of greetings. In the car behind him sat 20-year-old Jordan Biggs, a college student, who has had ‘her dog,’, Bear, for the past year. She had found Bear in this vicinity a year ago wandering the street. She was stunned by the new revelation.

Now the two, who had initially agreed to return the dog to Sam, are starting litigation proceedings to get the dog back/keep the dog. As I said before, where is an animal conflict mediator when you need one? The all or nothing outcome in a conflict like this after trial, may not exactly meet what either party intends or wants in the end. Yet once litigation is started it is what they may get.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal had several articles I felt needed to be resurrected! One entitled, “The Dog Maxed Out My Credit Card,” caught my eye. Why not, I have had those same moments several times over the past 30 years of dog ownership.

The article uncovers what the average pet owner spends yearly at the vet. The sticker shock was palpable for those interviewed in the article on what they spent to maintain the health of their beloved members of the family. It costs them this much because they are ‘beloved members of the family.’ According to an American Pet Products Association study the average US Household spent $655 on a routine doctor and surgical vet visit last year, up 47%. The same study found cat expenses soared 73% in the same time period (American Pet Products Association).

The recent ability for human medical innovations to cross over into the pet medical world has pet owners wanting to use whatever medical means possible, in the hopes of saving their pets. (Veterinary Pet Insurance Company.) No longer is a dog ‘just a dog’ to most pet owners. They are members of their family, valued above where they may have been 40 years ago.

Why do you think I pulled all these stories together? Is it the human animal bond, the cost of care for ownership or that the exposure to an animal can sway a person’s mindset even in the briefest of encounters?

It is all of the above. In multiple studies, animals have been found to bring more comfort, clarity and compassion into their human companion’s life than the cost of owning, training or saving them combined. Often, the human gets much more out of the interaction with an animal than the animal gets from the interaction with a human. (Think abuser, puppy mill or over crowded/understaffed shelter.) Yet despite their situation, these wonderful animals want nothing more in return than the simple care and affection they get from we humans. For us, the entire physical and emotional output that occurs when a pet crosses our path is immeasurable.

All pets, even visiting therapy dogs, bring a physical and emotional well being to all they come in contact. It is a dog’s way of healing their people inside and outside. These four articles define what a dog presence can do to:

  • Sway a public board to vote to give a proposition in support of animals the chance to see the light of day;
  • Reduce a knee jerk reaction to a breed;
  • Reunite a lost dog with his owner, or not; and
  • Recognize the value to we humans of the medical care a dog owner is now able and willing to explore to maintain the best health for our pets. Having a pet grace your life, as your own or by just passing through, is so much more than ‘Just a pretty face.” It can be a life altering experience you won’t want to miss.

—Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton

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