Sunday, December 27, 2009

Losing My Religion

(Picture Left: "Brownie" who arrived at the pound as an already spayed "stray" just prior to Christmas. We picked Brownie out of one of many shelter Alerts begging for rescue help with the hundreds of animals suddenly arriving just before Christmas. What does that say about our culture's real "religious values?")

If I was depressed over Christmas it was not just due to the separation between myself and immediate family, but the situation in the animal shelters, as well.

It seems just prior to any major holiday, large numbers of animals are either dumped directly in the pounds or abandoned to streets. That this also occurs around Christmas is particularly daunting and almost shocking considering the religious significance of the holiday.

I have often wondered: How does one abandon one's cat or dog in the street or pound and then go off to Church and sing religious hymns?

Something about that image strikes me as incredibly hypocritical and phony.

What, after all, is the point of Christmas if not to inspire greater kindness, responsibility and compassion towards those especially less powerful than us and in the case of pets, dependent upon us?

The number of cats and dogs suddenly abandoned on Christmas Eve due to "moving," and "cost" is particularly noteworthy. How many people "move" on Christmas Eve? How much money did the people dropping pets off for "cost" spend on presents, travel or other holiday celebrations compared to the cost of a can of dog or cat food? Did we see these same people rushing around stores on Christmas Eve seeking last minute bargains?

Perhaps I am being overly cynical again.

But, it was hard to be anything but disillusioned when, on Christmas Day I opened one of the many shelter "Alerts" arriving in email to find one containing the Intake cards of 27 dogs, almost all of whom had been abandoned to streets just prior to Christmas, tied up to poles or dumped directly due to "cost" or "moving."

Add to those, a number of other dogs adopted and then returned a couple of days later for things like "peeing on the floor." Many, if not most dogs are insecure , nervous and a little disoriented when suddenly being uprooted to a new home, new people and environment. Peeing on the floor should be expected, under those circumstances, when first bringing home a new dog or puppy.

It is amazing how many people who, though well intentioned, don't seem to understand the first thing about animals (i.e. "Cats or Dogs 101") before adopting.

With all the books, Internet information and even TV shows about dog and cat behavior these days, that is particularly hard to understand. Bringing home a pet is not like bringing home a toaster or toy. One should do their homework, especially in terms of understanding dog or cat behavior before impulsively acquiring a pet.

In some ways its cruel to adopt a cat or dog and then return the animal a few days later because one doesn't want to take the time to understand and work out a problem. As said many times, most initial problems are solvable with just a little commitment, patience, understanding and most of all, time itself.

But, many people don't want to give something time to work itself out. If it is not "instant bliss," the animal is returned to the shelter or adoption agency within days of the acquisition. This tends to undermine the animal's already sensitive sense of security and self-esteem, as well as it puts extra burdens on the shelter or rescue group. Sometimes it renders the adoption agency more apprehensive and even cynical about doing adoptions. -- One reason why some agencies "put potential adopters through the mill" before releasing a cat or dog. We can't read what is in people's minds and hearts. We have no way of gaging levels of patience and commitment to a new pet. And so yes, we need to be careful. But, even with all the care or "checks" in the world, animals are still returned.

And so yes, it was particularly heart wrenching and tear producing, reading and seeing the anxious faces of animals confined in the pound on Christmas day. The desperate emails sent out from the shelters on this day were especially disturbing and desparing.

Though raised a Catholic, I haven't attended church or mass in a number of years -- even those on Christmas Day.

It is not a matter of not believing anymore or losing faith in God or Christ or Christmas.

It is, however, a matter of losing faith in organized religion itself.

It simply doesn't speak to me anymore. -- PCA


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