07 September, 2005

Leaving Dogs To Die

Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of lessons we can learn from Katrina. Most of them are good, solid and sound. I was reading through the post, nodding happily along. Then I get to the very last part:
Indeed. Reader Jeanne Jackson makes a point that seems trivial but isn't, in light of experience:

One important item you missed is providing evacuation plans for citizens with pets. One reason many people remained behind in New Orleans was that the emergency shelters barred pets, as did the buses, etc. for transporting evacuees. For many pet owners, especially childless and/or older people, pets are surrogate children. It is cruel, heartless, and unnecessary to insist, as a condition of rescue, that one's beloved dog or cat be abandoned to its fate. Were I to be told I must abandon my dogs in order to get out of a life-threatening situation, I, too, might choose to remain behind and take my chances.

I think you should leave the dog behind. But lots of people feel differently, and evacuation plans should recognize that.

I thought for about 10 seconds. Leave the dogs behind? I got that sick feeling of hot lead in my stomach, and envisioned a scenario where we were faced with certain disaster and I had to make that stupid Sophie's Choice. I see myself in a shelter, hearing about the mass devestation, and I know that I would die of heartbreak at the thought of my dogs being brutally killed or worse--living through the storm only to starve and turn feral.

I realize that this probably strikes most people as completely insane. Dogs aren't people, and they aren't worth a human life, apparently. That shows a gross misunderstanding of what dogs mean to many people.

My dogs represent a commitment I made to Life. They are indeed my surrogate children, yet they are more than that. My relationship with my dogs is as close as I can come to a picture of Christ's relationship with me. They have done nothing to earn my love for them...I just do. They are far from perfect, as our carpets can attest but I persist in treasuring everything about them. I think our Heavenly Father undoubtedly feels the same way about us. I certainly didn't have to adopt these dogs, just as God did not have to create mankind and sacrifice Christ to bring us into renewed relationship with Him. But I sought out these dogs as a way to express my love, much as God sought Adam in the garden for long conversations about nothing.

There are many days when I am prone to wander...to leave the God I love. Following Christ is not easy in a world that seems to prize self-interest and ambition about humility and sacrifice. For the last six years, I have been able to focus on the pure joy that my dogs bring me with just their loving faces. I then think of how it must break the Father's heart to not have us there at his feet and how much He must miss that adoration. He doesn't need it, obviously, because He is God. Yet He paid the highest price to ensure our presence with Him. Knowing that, I can't foresee any situation where I would betray the faith my dogs have in me.

I know that it may seem expedient to leave a pet behind in search of the high ground. Then again, what does it profit to gain the whole world but lose your soul?

And for those who don't completely understand...replace "dog" in Glenn's comments with "4-year-old child" and tell me what you think of it then.


At 6:08 PM, September 07, 2005, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

So Adam and God were kind of like the Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza of the Bible?

All kidding aside, I thought about this very subject last night. What would I do if I had to flee in the night taking only the things that I required for survival. The first fucking thing in the truck would be my dog. There are plenty of practical reasons for this. The only one that counts is the emotional one. Could you look at yourself in the mirror after letting the dog starve, drown, or die a slow death. The unspoken social contract we have with dogs is pretty clear. We will take care of your survival needs, you will provide us with companionship, protection, unconditional love and no shitting in the house. How do you go back on that deal?

And remember kids, D-O-G spelled backwards is...

At 1:58 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger Sharon Cobb said...

I'd never leave Jake behind. Ever. If I could only take one thing with me in this situation, it would be Jake. If I was told I couldn't take Jake, I'd stay with him. Afterall, he's the only one who would do the same for me.

Dogs rule.

At 4:55 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger Kat Coble said...

So Adam and God were kind of like the Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza of the Bible?

How'd I know you were gonna say that?!? ;-p

Yeah, they probably were. I can just hear the Lord yelling "Serenity NOW!"

At 7:14 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger Aunt B said...

I have to say that I couldn't even read your post because I got to "My dogs represent a commitment I made to Life." and started thinking about leaving Sadie alone for five days with only occassional friends stopping by to check in on her while I'm at this stupid wedding and I started crying.

Aw, dogs. They're the friends we don't deserve.

At 9:06 AM, September 08, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, that was beautiful. Thanks.

At 9:34 AM, September 08, 2005, Blogger melusina said...

I couldn't leave my cats behind. I've thought about it a million times, especially moving them overseas, and there is no way I'd leave them.

This post is a brilliant summation of relationships with pets. Some people don't get it, and it is hard to explain to them. Most people say "but it isn't a child". They are living creatures, ones I have chosen to love and support and take care of. For all practical purposes, they are my children and have been for the past 10 years.

At 12:23 PM, September 09, 2005, Anonymous Sarcastro said...

A buddy of mine started in with the "No pet is worth a human life" bullshit at the bar last night. I told him if it were between him and my dog, he better know how to swim. Then to drive the point home,I told him I would leave his whole family to die if it meant saving my dogs life. He was taken aback, and asked how I could justify that. I said, "I like my dog more than your family."

At 10:49 AM, September 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel bad leavng MacGyver at home while we're at work every day - he goes with us on all road trips. When we decided to get a dog - it was a big decision. It IS a Life Commitment. Non-pet-people do have a tendency to not get this devotion though ...

Although I think MacGyver, being the smart dog he is, would have built us a boat with a few popsicle sticks and left-over chewing gum.


At 6:21 PM, September 26, 2005, Anonymous Beth said...

This is one of the best things you've ever written. I agree 100%. I have a hard enough time leaving my baby when I go on vacation. I could never leave her behind to save my own life! Thanks for saying it so beautifully.

By the way, ADORABLE picture of Casey!

At 1:02 PM, March 28, 2007, Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

I heart Sarcastro. I heart Sarcastro twice.

The first thing I did after Katrina hit was find a pet carrier that was made like a backpack (as opposed to the suitcase-type carrier I already had). That way My Son can go into the carrier, and I'll have both hands free to get us out of whatever mess we're in.

He's my son. It doesn't matter that he has four legs and was adopted. There's humans I'd let bleed in the streets first before abandoning him.


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