Thursday, July 28, 2011

Limits to My Generosity:
Turning Away a Stray Dog

There were limits to my generosity and capacity to love when it came to animals. I realize that this blog has at times seemed self-congratulatory about how special Abby and Andy were along with my role in their lives. They were wonderful babies and I’d like to think I had a hand in it. I have showed streaks of compassion for some stray animals much to the dismay of people who know me in real life who at times thought of me to be cynical and crass about humanity. I remember a conversation I had with someone in grad school about welfare. He pointed out that my views on the subject were at odds with my humanity showed toward Father.

In the late summer of 2008, a stray dog wandered into my mom’s yard. My mom called me to ask what to do. I was still living in my condo, so I said do nothing until I drive over there. I looked at the dog. He had a tan, short-haired coat and was a medium size. He seemed nice but I worried how he would act around Abby and Andy. Andy was anti-social and Abby was old. Abby didn’t have the strength she did. I worried she wouldn’t be able to keep this dog in line.

I also worried about the money needed to take care of it. I had just been laid-off. Money was going to be tight. I also worried about my dad’s finances. He was hopelessly in debt, and his debt grew as he grew sicker. In a matter of months in the next year, my dad went through thousands of dollars for healthcare after he had a couple of strokes. He needed every dollar he had.

My mom, too, had money problems. Her spendthrift ways over the last decade had caught up with her. She, like I, had to go into miser mode. We didn’t have the money to take care of the dog. My dad wanted to keep it, but he wasn’t physically able and didn’t have the means to take care of it.

I made the decision to call animal control. The move was almost certain death for the dog. Animal control arrived about 2 hours after we called. The officer had a restraining device to control the dog even though it was overkill since the dog seemed behaved. The stray yelped loudly when the collar was put on him. My dad stood at his window looking at the scene with frown on his face . He knew the dog’s days were numbered. Further, he couldn’t do anything about it. He had lost his status as head of the family and the decision making abilities that go with it. He felt helpless.

There was no use trying to explain to him that we didn’t have the money or the time to take care of the stray. We already had an old arthritic female lab, a straggly stray cat and an aging dog with a bad back to take care of. We also had an aging old man with diabetes, end-stage kidney disease, and congestive heart failure to take care of. Our plate was full. We didn’t have room to take this poor stray in.

Things would get worse for me and my mom, worse than we expected. I underestimated the money and time needed to take care of my dad and our pets. My generosity had limits unfortunately for that stray dog. I don’t know if anyone ever adopted it.


  1. My mom had this saying, "People before pets, pets before things." Basically, if a person would suffer because of what an animal needed, the animal had to go, no matter how sad the situation seemed. If you have a pet, you're committed to taking care of it before you spend money on other stuff. And if you can't properly take care of an animal, I think it does more harm than good to keep it.

  2. Yeah, I wasn't going to give time and attention to this dog the way I have or had for Abby, Andy, Father and Dodo. He couldn't have come at a worse time.