One of the top reasons people give up their pets, according to surveys, is that they don’t have time for them and often times that means they’ve added a baby to their family.
A recent essay on Slate tells the story of one young couple who ended up having three children in the span of four years and how their once much loved and doted upon pup became not only background noise, but an annoyance.
Velvel is a now 13-year old Border Collie-American Eskimo mix that was once the only dog child belonging to Allison Benedikt and her husband John. A gift from him to his then girlfriend, Velvel was spoiled and loved and their lives pretty much revolved around his needs until that day they brought the baby home.
“Actually, pregnancy was fine. I still loved Velvel when I was pregnant,” writes Benedikt. “It’s not that I don’t love my dog. It’s just that I don’t love my dog.”
“After the baby was born, we did exactly what ‘they’ say to do: John took the newborn hat from the hospital for Velvel to smell, to prepare him for the tiny human heading his way. That was probably the last nice thing we ever did for him.”
The essay goes on to say that young parents she’s talked to all regret having their dogs and ends advising young couples that they either shouldn’t get a dog, or they shouldn’t have kids.
I read this essay first with horror. We lost our own senior dog Molly last week and it horrified me someone would even joke about drowning their dog because it is an unconvenience. Then I got an awful pit of sadness in my stomach. In my work with rescues for over two decades, I’ve heard of more pets than I can count being given up because the family had a baby and no longer had time for their “practice kid,” the one they sometimes get when they’re not ready for kids.
As a matter of fact, I got a Pit Bull into a rescue earlier this summer for this very reason.
I’ve written before that although my parents weren’t young and had been through the parenting gig three times prior to my arrival, they still had three teenagers and an ailing elderly mother in their 800 square foot home when I was born.
They also had a two year old Shepherd/Collie mix, Smokey, that was part of the family – and remained part of the family after I was born, so much so that no one could come near my crib except my parents. She was my protector and my first friend. She was my confidant and my partner on mornings I was allowed to walk to school.
When she died when I was 14, it was like we all lost a part of our family, because we did.
I guess we can say its at least good Benedikt and her husband didn’t dump their dog into a shelter, but what a poor, lonely life Velvel has had these past four years, after spending the first nine as the center of his parent’s universe. He’s been ignored and then despised by the people who once made the decision to return his unconditional love for his entire life.
I’ve known plenty of young mothers who not only continue to love and care for their own dogs, but work diligently in rescue. One mother I know, Melanie Bruski, who works primarily with Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue, brings home senior dogs from shelters, many of them with just hours or days to live, so they die in a real home surrounded by love. She has several kids at home, all being shown a fine example of humanity and compassion.
I’ll agree with this writer that this couple should have never gotten their dog, and I’ll go a step further and write that those who do not have enough love in their hearts for both their pets and their future children should probably never have either.
Editor’s Note: Photo of Velvel from Slate’s Facebook page.
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