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At What Cost?

Because I’ve been thinking a lot about my post on a deepening human-animal bond…….. I wonder at what cost this tighter bond will have on the humans as well as the animals.  Is this a good thing for both of us?

On the one hand there are tremendous positives with the strengthening of our relationship.  Simply put, the better we treat animals, the more humane we are as a people. Most of us would intervene if we saw a cat or dog or bunny being abused, but our feelings for animals and our pets go much further.  Our pets certainly benefit from this bond.

When was the last time you knew of a dog that lived exclusively in a dog house? I rarely see ‘outdoor’ dogs anymore.  Even my clients who have hunting dogs or who have never previously cared to have a dog in the house tell me how they set up special comfy spots for their companions inside.  My clients with barn cats feed them, make sure they have beds and heat sources, and bring them in if they show signs of illness instead of leaving them to their own devices.  Its’ now routine to consider good nutrition, exercise, companionship and preventative health care as standard for our pets.

A million words have been written how much we mean to them and them to us. I won’t revisit that.  But it does make me think if it could ever be too much.

Is there a time when all this bonding becomes unhealthy?  Is there a worry that we might overlook what’s best for them because we think it’s best for us? When we keep cats indoors are we subverting their natural instincts? Do our dogs suffer because we rarely ask them to ‘work’ or do the job for which they were bred?  Is it detrimental to us to prefer our animals to other humans?

I don’t have the answer to these questions, I’m sure philosophers will tell us one day. But I do think being mindful of these things helps prevent us from slipping over the edge.

I’ve blogged here before that I’m probably overly attached to Bubba.  I will decline invitations or change plans depending on how I perceive it affects him. I worry that I’ve made him neurotic by my neuroses. I’ve put him through routine testing, but he’s also had specialized heart tests, a cat scan and both orthopedic and soft tissue surgery in his lifetime.  It makes my head spin how fast veterinary medicine has advanced since my graduation. If I wanted to, Bubba could have joint replacement surgery, organ replacement, stem cell therapy, or radiation therapy.  We have cutting edge cancer vaccines for canines that we don’t have for humans.

Where do we stop, or do we stop?  Bubba developed pancreatic cancer this fall.  I had a choice. He wasn’t curable but if he had surgery to remove the tumor his median survival time was 500 days.  That means that half the dogs are alive in 500 days and half are not. I agonized about putting him through abdominal surgery and recovery to get him more time with me. What was the right decision for him? For me?

My sister ultimately gave me the best advice.  She told me that if Bubba had the choice, he’d choose to be with me. I decided that she was right and he had surgery.  It’s been 5 months and he seems to enjoy his life.  He eats with gusto, greets everyone as heartily as he did before, sleeps soundly, and still tries to push me around.  I can tell he’s weaker but he seems happy.

Until we figure out how to communicate better with them, we’ll just have to do the best we can communicating for them. And be thoughtful about the decisions we make.

More later………………………..


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