AC Pup: Change in family doesn’t have to lead to pet surrender

March 14, 2014 

It’s no surprise to anyone who has ever loved a pet that animals have feelings. We feel happiness, sadness, fear, love and loneliness.

There are obvious emotions in pets that have experienced some sort of abandonment. Whether surrendered to a shelter or left behind at a vacant house, either way they are left confused, wondering what they did wrong to be exiled by the people they love most.

I’ve witnessed the transformation of loving pets that beamed with great confidence as their family brought them into a shelter. I’ve seen their look of disbelief as they watch their family leave without them. And I’ve seen the same pet only days later, totally defeated, whining and facing the back corner of a kennel, realizing no one is coming back for him.

The shelter isn’t the only place pets are relinquished, though. There seems to be a disturbing uptick of pets left behind when families move. I don’t quite understand how families can pack up and move to a new location, knowing their pets are left behind with no one to care for them.

But not all abandoned pets are taken to the shelter or left at their residences. Sometimes they’re taken to a place completely unfamiliar to them. I’m routinely given reports about a dog or cat suddenly appearing on the side of a road and studying every vehicle that passes by.

There have been reports of dogs sitting for days in the very same location at an intersection searching the faces of people in approaching cars just to see if it’s someone they recognize. The dog, whose mission in life is to be a loyal companion, sits and waits night and day for his parents to come back. But they rarely, if ever, do.

So why do people surrender pets?

There are many reasons I’ve heard over the years, but it typically boils down to some sort of change in the family. That can be a new baby, a new job, a new house, a new spouse, a new expense or any other family transition that squeezes out space for the pet.

It can even be a new pet. I’ve seen old dogs or cats surrendered because people wanted a new puppy or kitten. The old dog or cat that’s been faithful for years is no longer fun so the family replaces him.

But here’s something to remember: Pets can adapt. We can adapt to a new baby, a new house, a new puppy or anything else that’s new as long as we know we’re loved and are valued members of the family. Just give us a chance.

Having a pet is a long-term commitment. They want to be adopted into a family they promise they’ll love for the duration of their lives. And they hope to be loved in return.

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