It’s just a dog.
Those are probably the worst words you could say to a dog owner whose beloved pet is sick or has just passed away.
It’s disrespectful, hurtful and just plain stupid.
I’ve had pets from I was a child, starting with my beloved Collie, Jack. Since then, I have had numerous dogs, cats and even a rabbit. I have loved each and every one of them and remember all of their qualities. They were more than my pets, they were family.
For the past 15 years, I have been the proud mum of a wonderful German Shepherd and Chow Chow mix named Tinkerbell.
She wasn’t always mine. My mother adopted her from a friend while I was living in Atlanta. When I returned home she somehow became my dog. She is the sweetest dog you’ll ever know with such a big personality and a feisty walk. I can tell when she’s embarrassed, scared, disappointed and even arguing with me in her mind. This dog has spunk. A year ago, after a series of trips to the doctor, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. I cried like a baby. As she sat on top of the examination table, I wondered if she knew what was going on.
My wonderful vet, who has been a Godsend, put her on medication to manage the pain. He later pulled me aside and made one final request. He made me promise that if the pain got too bad I would do the right thing and put her to sleep. I agreed.
I find that society rarely looks at pets as anything more than property. They forget that these creatures have feelings and a family that loves them.
I remember working as a news editor and one of my reporters was balling because her dog had died. She told me that she couldn’t work anymore. I understood. I let her go home. Had she had a different editor, they may have told her she was crazy for wanting to leave her job over a dog.
I have had some of the most insensitive insults hurled my way as it relates to my pet. I’ve been told that I need to “go have a baby” or I must have “too much time on my hands” or “no life” because I love my dog. A coworker once asked me if I were coming out to dinner with our office staff and I told her no because my dog wasn’t feeling well and I wanted to be at home with her. The expression on her face said it all.
I am going to say something that is not politically correct, but I’m going to say it anyway because the truth is the truth. I mostly get these types of reactions from black people. Most white people that I have encountered just get it. They understand my love of my pet.
When my dog was knocking on death’s door, I prayed profusely, begged God to heal her in this life. I made sure she was well taken care of and I did that because I loved her. One of the other vets who treated her and thought she was going to die was startled to see the magnificent way she rebounded. He later said, “This is proof of what the love and care of an animal can do.”
I am happy to report that Tinkerbell is still alive. She has rough days, but she’s a fighter.
I want non-dog lovers to know that my love of my pet is not to be discounted and disrespected. Please think about what you say before you make insensitive remarks to a dog mom. If you ever get the privilege to welcome a dog, cat or other pet into your life, you will understand and I pray no one says to you what they have said to me and other dog parents.