"Wendy" is a Upper East Side woman in her mid 40's with two (now) teenage boys, a husband who is a doctor and a spacious and luxurious apartment on Park Avenue.
About ten years ago, Wendy and her family fostered a couple of cats for me over a period of several months.
The cats were eventually adopted.
And although the experience of fostering was, according to Wendy a very positive one, different things got in the way of her fostering again. The family traveled frequently, especially in the summer. Wendy had knee problems at one point. And eventually, the family adopted an adult, Cocker Spaniel from the ASPCA.
I would occasionally run into Wendy over the years as we live in the same neighborhood. We always exchanged pleasantries and I would sometimes ask if she could foster again. But, as noted, different things seemed to get in the way. -- The time just never seemed right.
It was OK by me. I realize many people "having done their thing" for animals at one time or another usually move on.
Today, when meeting Wendy again, she was walking a small and obviously very young, Shih-Tzu dog. The puppy was about six-months-old.
My dogs, Tina and Chance are very friendly with other dogs and warmly greeted Wendy's seemingly new charge.
"Hi, Patty," Wendy said pleasantly. "How are you? Are you still doing rescue?"
"Well, as much as I can," I answered. "You know its rough these days with the economy and all. A lot of animals dying at the city shelter and its much harder to find the homes for them."
Wendy looked a bit uncomfortable with my matter-of-fact statement.
"That's too bad," she replied. "Unfortunately, I can't help because we have this little one now....." Her voice tailed off.
"I understand," I answered, a little surprised with Wendy's seemingly defensive posture. I wasn't asking her to foster or adopt. I was simply answering a question.
Wanting to change the subject to something more pleasant, I said, "Your puppy is very cute. Where did you get her?"
Wendy hesitated in answering.
"Well,,,,,you know, after our other dog died, my husband wanted a puppy.....We,,,,,well, we got her from Pets on Lex."
"Pets on Lex" is a pet shop in the East 70's that most assuredly gets its dogs from puppy mills, though it claims to get the animals from "private breeders." (Technically, a puppy mill is a "private breeder.")
The shock must have registered on my face.
I'm not sure what I expected to hear when asking the conversation-making question of Wendy. I guess I expected to hear, "ASPCA," (where the family adopted their last dog from) or one of the small-breed rescue groups.
The last thing in the world I expected to hear was that a family who had previously fostered and adopted animals and was fully educated on the horrors of puppy mills and pet shops would ever purchase a dog or cat from a pet shop.
For one of the few times in my life, I was totally at a loss for words
Wendy, in seemingly full damage control mode attempted to further explain.
"My husband really wanted a Shih-Tzu......You know, we have done our part to help animals.....fostered, adopted......."
"I can't hear it." I answered adamantly and with finality, while leading my dogs away.
I wasn't going to stand there and listen to bullshit. It was merely to add insult to injury.
I could still hear Wendy trying to make excuses as I walked away......"She needed a home, too!"
I realized there was nothing I could say that would make this (formerly respected) woman realize the full impact of her actions.
Not only does the purchase of animals from pet shops condemn adoptable animals in shelters to die (as well as already "rescued" animals to languish in boarding facilities rather than finding homes), but even worse: IT CONDEMNS THOUSANDS OF DOGS TO SUFFER AND DIE IN "CONCENTRATION CAMP"-LIKE PUPPY MILLS.
How in God's name could anyone who portends to care anything about animals SUPPORT such a cruel and predatory industry? -- Especially, someone who once fostered animals as a way of saving lives? Someone who, in all other ways is highly educated, aware and intelligent?
I felt very hopeless and defeated when finally returning home with my two formerly rescued from death, dogs.
I thought of the thousands of dogs dying everyday in shelters around the country. I thought of the thousands more languishing in "no kill" shelters or boarding. I thought of the countless "breeding machine" dogs of puppy mills, suffering and dying unheard and unseen. -- By the millions over the decades.
Where does it all end?
And how does one say to all that, "We did our part to help animals."
When and where did the part to save and soothe turn into the part to, instead, contribute to abuse and death? -- PCA