It all started 38 years ago when my husband and I (pre-kids) went to the SPCA to “get a pet”. We immediately fell in love with a little female puppy who was a cross between a German Shepherd and a Border Collie. She was in a cage with her “litter mates” and she was the only one who approached us. We signed on the dotted line, became “owners” and headed for home with our little “purchase”. We named her Bertha and she was our faithful “pet” for fifteen years.
I must say that Bertha’s nose was a little out of joint when our son came into our life. We had two rocking chairs in the living room of our home. I would sit in one, with the baby on my lap and my husband would sit in the other, with our dog on his lap. But Bertha got over that fairly quickly and from then on, her love for us was a constant. She was a gem and we loved her.
Bertha would walk beside the baby buggy or sled, looking from side to side with an expression of authority on her face. I have no doubt that she would have protected our little ones with her life. When our daughter was a toddler and testing out new found language, I would sometimes walk into the living room to find our little girl trying out her new vocabulary on our diggety-dog. Bertha would sit patiently, blinking her eye as our daughter would poke at it saying over and over again, “Eye, Eye”.
And Bertha was talented. She could jump over a park bench, balance a cookie on her nose, and walk gently, never pulling on the leash. She was also annoying at times. She would leave great gobs of hair all over the floor and the furniture and she would chew stuff she wasn’t supposed to chew. Bertha also got into the garbage whenever she had the opportunity and once broke into a Xmas gift when we were out. She ate the delicious chocolates, box and all, that she found under the wrapping paper. This escapade ended up ruining two brand new carpets ( I am sure you get my drift) that bore the stains of Bertha’s shame, until I finally threw them out. Sometimes we would affectionately call her “Barfa”.
But time passed and Bertha got old. At the age of eleven, she developed a serious abdominal infection. She needed surgery, an expensive surgery to give her a chance to recover. Of course, our kids were young and there wasn’t a lot of extra money, but for us there was no question about trying to save her life. I remember going to the vet and sitting in the cage where she was recovering. It was large enough for me to crawl right in. I would sit beside Bertha and she would put her head in my lap and I would sing to her and tell her that everything would be okay. And it was.
We enjoyed her company and her love for another four years until the arthritis in her legs just made it impossible for her to get around. It was obvious that she was in a lot of pain. She could no longer jump onto a bed or even the sofa. I was so afraid that she might fall down the stairs while I was not there. And so, the difficult decision had to be made. That is the first time in my life, but not the last, that I have had to make such a decision and it pains me to this day. We had our Bertha “put to sleep”. We grieved for her..
To this day we have nonhumans in our life. We have three rescue cats who grace our home and our lives with their unique personalities. When I became vegan, I started to reevaluate the language I use to describe my relationship with these beings. I don’t say that I own pets , but rather that they live with us and are companions in our life. Litter mates are now brothers and sisters. All beings are he and she, never it. And when the end comes, they are not put to sleep or put down, they are euthanized.
Do we have the right to buy domesticated nonhumans, to keep them in our home, to make medical decisions for them and to choose when is the right time to die? Many people will say no, that we don’t. And I guess this is true. But dogs and cats have been domesticated for centuries and there are a lot of them out there who do need good homes and our protection. It goes without saying, that breeding them for sale needs to stop immediately.
Annie’s Vegan View
I will honor the moral status and value that is inherently theirs.
I will continue to respect their individuality while protecting them and taking care of their needs.
It is the least I can do in return for all the love and respect they have given me over the years.
I am a kinder, more compassionate person because of their love and I respectfully thank all of them (Bertha, Elfie, Mac, Lucy, Bella, Chimpy, and Rosie) for that.
May all beings be happy and free.