Here’s an interesting fact: I’m not a pet person.
My last memory of pets in the home was as a child, living with my grandma: meowing kittens; purring cats; soggy milk; and a terrible smell I’ve never shaken off. I don’t hate animals. I’ve been inclined, more than once, to own or keep some, mostly because of my daughter.
When she was six, we were gifted a pair of dogs by a friend and lived with them for a week before their owners found them. We gladly took them back. It happened again when she was 14, but the $25 fee to just keep it in our apartment was a roadblock compared to the upkeep we would foot to care for it. I expect well-kept dogs and a clean, odor-free home – vet visits for vaccines, pet grooming and all. I wasn’t about to care for an animal like I would a human child.
I don’t know if I can be called an “animal lover” – as in “defending their right to exist” while living how I do: drinking cow’s or goat’s milk or eating steak, chicken or fish. I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, even though there could be other things in my life I’m hypocritical about. We all do. I liken it to not supporting gun control, yet welcoming poaching of African tusks: I don’t think of myself as an “activist” for the ethical treatment of animals. I wouldn’t know how to define that in a logical, common-sense fashion.
I also don’t hold anything against overly doting pet lovers, but what about the ones who abuse their pets? What deranged minds! Yet, if someone I know loses their pet and posts about it on social media – and I don’t make the same comments as if a human passed away – am I being insensitive? I can’t pretend to feel what I don’t. I’m sorry you lost a pet, but I’m not going to pretend to be deeply moved by the incident. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I lack compassion for animals. There’s something bigger at heart.
For me, humanity is central. My concern circles that of my fellow beings. I believe many people treat animals better than humans; I struggle with that thought. There are those who spend thousands on surgery for pets, knowing their life expectancy is roughly one-sixth of a human being’s, and I could never understand why. I look at impoverished communities at home and abroad, wondering: Why can’t we do the same for people?
Is this just an American or North American or Western phenomenon? Maybe because of my background, even if my homeland has pets it was never as dire a situation for care as it is in the West. The culture of love and support I saw at home for people is used up on animals here. With all due respect, is there a social disconnect I don’t get?
Animals are God’s creation too. They’re cuddly, adorable and lovable and should be treated well. I understand. However, who comes first: your loved ones or your pets? How far should we go in displaying love for pets, knowing there are millions of human beings enduring far worse around us?
Children all over the world are dying from treatable medical conditions – or are in untenable circumstances and need help. Many others are in war-torn nations, befallen with death and destruction around them. There are children being abused, sold into slavery and sex trafficking.
Perhaps I differ from the crowd, but that is a crisis I truly am moved by. There will be those who dedicate their lives to saving animals, which is needed, but I need to let you know: don’t forget about people. They need help too.