It seems like every week a cute fluffy animal pops up on my Facebook news feed with big sad eyes crying "Love me! Take me home!"
A few of my friends are actively involved with their local animal shelters and regularly foster the cutest dogs and cats. Every time one of them is looking for a permanent home I indulge in a fantasy daydream where I respond to the call and take in a fuzzy new family member. But every time I resist temptation and satisfy my craving for a pet by watching kittens run around on YouTube. Or I google pictures of goats in pyjamas. I really like goats in pyjamas.
I grew up with three cats, a dog, an assortment of fish, and I spent a good portion of my free time at the local stables riding horses and throwing breadcrumbs to the barnyard birds. I really miss having pets, so why do I insist on postponing my destiny of becoming a cat-lady?
Because every week I see a picture of an adorable animal who needs a home. Because this morning I saw this article that highlights the incredibly high number of animals who are surrendered to shelters after the Christmas season. In fact, in just three days after Christmas, 37 dogs were surrendered to a single shelter in South Florida.
So if all these animals need good homes why am I not adopting one?
Because these stories of abandoned animals have made it all the more clear to me that owning a pet is a huge responsibility. I can't imagine abandoning an animal to a shelter and until I'm sure that I can take care of a living creature for its entire lifespan, I have no business taking it home. I can't guarantee that I will have the financial stability to support a pet for the next twenty years. I can't guarantee that I won't move abroad or that I won't simply move into a new apartment that doesn't allow animals. I can't guarantee that my pet will be happy living in a small apartment with no access to outdoors, and I can't guarantee that I will be able to move to a home with a yard. I can't guarantee that I won't become one of those people I judge: the people who abandon their pets to animal shelters because they can't properly care for them.
I know there are many different reasons to give up a pet, and I'm sure that some pet-owners do it for good reasons. However, I think that many people don't give the decision to become a pet-owner the seriousness it deserves. And I think that those 37 abandoned dogs in Florida, who were likely unwanted Christmas presents, would have to agree. Pets don't come with a 30-day return policy.
I'll always think of the fox from The Little Prince who said "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."