The Courier Post
Sunday, September 12, 1999
My friend, Carol Shiveley, runs the humane education
program at the Oregon Humane Society. She recently coined an expression
that answers the frustration that animal shelter workers experience.
Shelter workers go crazy when they meet people who got
pets on an impulse, only to discover that they had no idea what their
new furry friend needed to be happy and healthy.
I know whereof she speaks. When I ran humane education
at the Humane Society in Colorado Springs, Colo., we routinely took in
60 animals a day, mostly from people who just didn't "get it."
Shiveley says when you're looking for a new pet, treat
the selection with respect. I'll explain what she means.
First, here's the problem: People often gamble with fate
when they select a critter. Maybe they feel sorry for it. Maybe it's the
most macho-looking pup in the litter.
They act on a whim to select a living creature that will
be a member of their family for the next 15 years. By contrast, they'll
spend hours agonizing over what clothes to buy or the color of the new
Once the animal gets home, they often find it's not
everything they dreamt of. We used to call them "weekend wonders,"
people who got a pet on Friday and couldn't plan far enough ahead to
realize that no one would be home on Monday to walk the dog.
Here's where respect comes in.
R is for research. Do your homework first and learn
about the breed you're interested in. Know what to expect.
E is for examination. Take your new pet to a
veterinarian right away for an exam and X-rays if the breed is prone to
hip dysplasia, disjointed knees or any other breed tendency. "Better to
find out early than to become bonded and faced with a hefty vet bill and
heartache later," says Shiveley.
S is for Socialization. Expose your pet to many people
and conditions and train it to adhere to the rules. Make it a member of
P is for patience. Dogs and cats learn at their own
paces, which can be maddeningly slow. Don't expect overnight miracles.
E is for education. Just as with educating your
children, pets learn best through kindness, example, reinforcement and
praise. Think of pets as children who never grow up and educate them
C is for consistency. Make rules and have everyone in
the house stick to them. If one person feeds the dog scraps and another
bans the dog from the kitchen, the pooch will get mixed messages. He'll
be very confused.
T is for training. They need a lot of it. Keep at it and
reinforce it. Dogs want nothing more than to please their humans: it's
up to you to show them how.
Aretha Franklin sang about respect. This may not be what
the First Lady of Soul had in mind, but it's the key to owning and
keeping a good dog for a long time.
Go on to
Vegetarian Lecture Series
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