Let me start with a story. When I moved back to Fort McMurray several years ago, I was attempting to keep a newly-long distance relationship afloat. We had a dog together, raised from a puppy. A Great Pyrenees named Lola, and if you know the breed, you know they’re big. Just look at the picture (not Lola, but a Pyre nonetheless). Well the relationship did not last and I had a large creature in my care 24/7 in a townhouse and yard that was just way too small for her. Not to mention the breed is that of a working dog – a sheep shepherd. When a working dog doesn’t have a job to do, they can become very anxious and unhappy. That’s exactly what happened with Lola. I tried so many different things to fix this: several walks per day, dog play dates, more toys, more interesting toys, and I think that Cesar Milan was on the tv all day long. But I had to face the truth: I wasn’t giving this animal in my care what she needed. So I made the hard choice to take her out of my life and try give her a better one. Funny that making that decision was easier than ending the relationship was.
Knowing that animal shelters are overburdened on a good day, simply dropping Lola off at the SPCA or anywhere else just wasn’t an option. While obviously releasing a pet to a shelter is better than just driving out into the woods to abandon them, it’s still an easy way out in my opinion – particularly as a first option. As much as a person might justify it by following the logic that your pet won’t go to just anybody because the shelter has security checks in place and procedures to match adopters with critters, the truth is you release all control over where the pet that you took responsibility for will end up. This is exactly why I struggled for weeks and weeks to get the word out, to talk to people, to meet with them and have them meet Lola when possible, and continue to keep her active and happy as much as I could. After a time, I was able to start up a conversation with the owners of a lovely acreage near Elk Island Park. I drove down one weekend with a heavy heart, shook the hands of these people, looked them in the eye, and decided that Lola belonged here more than she did staying with me. I like to think she feels exactly the same way, especially after she was too distracted by all of the amazing and interesting things, people, and animals that were suddenly surrounding her to even realize I was leaving again.
I don’t write any of this to make anyone feel bad about the choices they’ve made, or to make anyone feel sorry for me. I just want to show how important it is to do right by the animals you bring into your home, even when it’s so clearly the more difficult choice. And especially right now, as I imagine so many people in our community have sadly lost pets, the chance to improve and enrich lives is all the more possible. Normally I’d say don’t take your advice from some radio DJ, but on this one I have to urge you: if you can no longer keep or care for your pet, what you have to truly try to do is find them a new place to stay. Don’t drop off, re-home.