Kansas is a “free range” state, so loose livestock is a driver-beware circumstance.  In Missouri, the liability is that of the livestock owner.  Perhaps, having been raised in Missouri and with Dad’s coaching, my seemingly innate focus and concern is that animals should be secured from the risk of harm.  This applies, in my view, to dogs and cats as well as farm animals.  There are many busy roads, and there are many drivers hurrying to their destinations.  Yet there are many open yards where kids, dogs and other animals play and roam.

When stray dogs in need of basic care show up, it is usually in the fall.  This year, there were two who crossed our path.  One was running loose in an area on the outskirts of town, a large, young intact male.  He was, as is usual for loose dogs, a mixed breed, but in that mix was Newfoundland, and that part of his personality was easy to recognize.  He was very warm-natured and playful, a dog who genuinely and quickly warmed your heart.  We decided to take him home, but even though he was very friendly, he was wary.  It was clear that people had tried to trap or catch him.  After a few hours, I was able to slip a leash over his head.  He was terrified, probably as much for being caught as for never having been on a leash.  After a couple of rounds he settled down and we were able to get him into a crate.  We put him in a 6 foot chain link exercise pen that had a barrier to digging at the base.  He was happy as long as we were with him or nearby, but this boy would cry like his heart was broken when we were out of his sight.  He was so driven to finding his home, his dog-bud or his family, that he didn’t stop trying to escape.  Whether he had been abandoned following a move or dropped, he was one of those who had been watching enthusiastically for each passing car, hopeful that one was “his” and would be stopping for him.  One issue for the relationship between humans and dogs is that many humans don’t understand the capacity for emotional intelligence and loyalty that is natural for a dog.

The next one was a female puppy, a pit bull mix, with ribs sticking out.  She was so much in need that she actually pled for help and approached us near the barn.  She was covered in ticks, and no doubt fleas as well.  We drove to town for the low dose form of Capstar, and we gave her wormer and a flea treatment as well as food, water and shelter.  Upon holding her to give her the flea treatment, we could see that she was covered in ticks and will also need a tick treatment.  We have not yet had her for 24 hours.  She is a very bright, intelligent and loving girl, another one of those dogs who would make life wonderful for people who have the capacity for empathy and enjoy the company of dogs, another one of those whose lives were under-regarded, who was in bad circumstances, but circumstances which are much worse for many others.

Too many dogs are brought home because:

1.  Parents think dogs are good for kids, when the kids aren’t actually interested in spending their time training or caring for a dog.  (Let’s be honest, this level of responsibility is an acquired trait.)
2.  Parents think it would be a good idea for teaching a child responsibility.  (How many parents end up taking care of the dog?)
3.  Children, or a child, begs and pleads for a puppy.  What happens with the dog after that warm, squiggly puppy grows into its adult self?  Who will rear the puppy to behave better than the children?
4.  A human sees a dog and is enamored with the appearance of the dog, or the dog as a puppy, but fails to invest in the time, attention and care needed.  How many times are heavy-coated dogs shaved because the human doesn’t invest the time required for grooming?  (negating the appearance factor that drove them to acquire that breed of dog)  How often are adorable puppies sentenced to the yard, without shelter even in the worst weather, because the owner or the owner’s family is unable or unwilling to actively invest in rearing a puppy from the potty-training and chewing phase to becoming a well-behaved adult?  How many times when a dog comes into a home does it find a good situation, where it is either loved and valued, or at least provided for in terms of food, housing and veterinary care?  Dogs can be good for people, but people have to do their part in order to find the benefit.

In the minds of far too many people, dogs are among the “objects” considered disposable when inconvenient.

This Christmas, I have a request, on behalf of the many dogs in need in your own home area and across the country:  please consider a donation to a charitable organization supporting the needs of these dogs.  A financial donation could be made to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) or to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).  Another option, or an additional option would be 1) to support a responsible rescue organization or your local shelter with a monetary donation, 2) to sponsor an adoption or 3) to donate supplies to help the shelter or the foster people who support the shelter.  Foster people are amazing.  They are the ones on the “front line”, working one-on-one with what can be a daunting challenge, using their time, their resources and their hope to improve the chances for those individual dogs.

Please say a special prayer for those animals in need and those people who spend many kind-hearted hours working in or with shelters or rescue organizations to help them.

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