I was excited to see the changes made over the years. Martin-Boyd has always been an establishment that honors its elderly residents, but now the architecture was updated with beautiful crown molding and individual door frames that give residents a greater sense of dignity and autonomy.
In the center of the elegant sitting room, lively birds flitted about a large glass enclosure, lending their bright colors to the atmosphere. The fattest cat I have ever seen perched on a richly upholstered chair. A sleek tabby weaved his way across the room, turning to rub against the leg of someone’s walker and then pausing for a head scratch.
The familiarity and obvious pleasure the residents feel toward these animals supports what elder care professionals have known for some time: Pets are therapeutic. In fact, when an aging person can no longer live at home, one of the greatest losses may be the loss of their animals. Petting a cat or dog has been shown to lower blood pressure, ease depression, and put a smile on one’s face.
Keeping pets should be source of enjoyment, enhancing the life of both the humans and the animals involved. In our society, we see many examples of harm caused by greed, arrogance, and even mental illness.
From time to time, the news carries a story of a house overrun by pets. Typically we hear about an older woman housing hundreds of cats in a home filled with feces and even a few rotting corpses. Authorities swoop down on the unfortunate woman, charging her with animal cruelty and removing the numerous animals to treat them as victims. But who is really the victim here? Seems to me the cats are in charge, treating their poor “owner” as a slave while they procreate madly. As the old joke goes, dogs have owners but cats have staff.
Then there are the pit bull owners, who may be crazier than the cat ladies. Every time a child is mauled by a savage dog, pit bull apologists rush in to blame the child. Last Friday an eight-year-old Lookout Mountain girl was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries after a pit bull attack. (To read the news article, click here.) The apologists noted that the attack happened in the pit bull’s own yard while he was “defending his territory” from the girl’s small terrier. Although the dog owner had no proof of rabies inoculation, the apologists began their mantra of “Where were this girl’s parents?”
Eight-year-old children are often allowed to walk down the streets of their own neighborhood — particularly when a pet is missing. Chaining a pit bull in the yard is an unsafe practice, just as it would be unsafe to chain a bear or a lion in the yard and then expect children to just stay away. It was a relief to hear that the dog owner called 911 and then shot the animal in the head, unlike other cases where pit bulls have been spirited away from the scene of the crime. In one case, the dog owners hid the offending animal and presented authorities with a similar-looking dog instead.
Pet owners have the responsibility to protect little neighbors from vicious dogs. Chains and ropes do not provide adequate protection, since a child may wander into the animal’s circle. A tall chain-link fence provides better protection. It’s all well and good to say “Children should stay on their own property,” but the reality is that children do not exercise adult judgment. This is why homeowners must put a fence around their swimming pool, rather than just saying “That kid that drowned shouldn’t have been on my property in the first place.”
Many people around the United States love dangerous breeds like pit bulls, and feel perfectly comfortable around them. Other people like to keep poisonous snakes for pets. Those of us who don’t share your affinity simply ask that you keep such pets to yourself. Do not bring them to the park where our little ones are playing. Do not parade them through the local street fair, forcing us to sweep our children away from a mouthful of fangs right at the level of their little faces. Do not leave dogs unattended on a rope in your yard, where an unsuspecting child may become their next chew toy. Do not assume that just because you consider Killer a loveable, harmless pup, he will ignore the instincts present in every cell of his body.
People and animals can live in harmony. All it takes is a bit of wisdom on the part of human beings.
Jeannie Babb Taylor may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can leave a public comment on her blog at JeannieBabbTaylor.com.