"Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are"

Biff, now under veterinary treatment at HSHV.
Biff, now under veterinary treatment at HSHV.

Unfortunately, not everyone abides by this rule, and innocent animals pay the cost. A note from Executive Director Tanya Hilgendorf.

There are no perfect people or perfect pet owners, however, most of us try to do what's right. Animals need time, love, exercise, attention, healthy food, and veterinary care. Sometimes we falter in giving our companion animals all that they need. We get busy, stressed, or strapped for cash. We make mistakes or simply lack good information.

But we keep trying. We know we must pick back up again, learn from our mistakes, re-focus our priorities on what matters most.

This is because we realize we do not have a god-given right to own an animal. They are a privilege and a serious responsibility. Unfortunately that awareness is not universal. Humans can be impulsive and selfish. They see a cute face and can't resist, despite having no capacity to provide a good home. They want love, but can't give it back.

Intentions may not be bad, but there is a lack of self-awareness, accountability, and long-term commitment. As an adoption agency, I doubt we can ever fully measure this in potential adopters. People who lack personal responsibility are often in denial about their short-comings. They tell us what we want to hear and often believe it themselves.

Today, we at HSHV are heartsick over a beautiful sweet puppy named Biff, pictured above, that was adopted from us and then seized two and half months later by our Cruelty and Rescue Department due to horrible neglect. (If you have the stomach for it, and want to bear visual witness to it, you can see how he looks today.) Biff is under the care of our veterinarians and he will be going to foster care and then up for adoption.

It is a heavy burden we bear to take in the vulnerable, love them, fix them up, and then re-home them. We must have some faith that they won't be mistreated again.

It is a burden that can keep us up at night. Fortunately the vast majority of our animals get wonderful homes. But when just one doesn't, we are devastated. We beat ourselves up—even though it is not our fault.

Still, in order to do our jobs, we MUST continue to work from a foundation of trust. We also must teach our animals to trust. I think of the many warrior kittens who come to us unsocialized and terrified of humans—hissing and spitting to get away from us. To get them adopted, to have a chance at a happy life, we teach them to be docile and trusting. We show them that humans are good.

But all humans aren't good. Trust is sometimes violated and the innocent get hurt.

Aside from prosecuting the former owner, and sending a message that this type of treatment is intolerable, we can also remind people to remind others (because I don't think anyone reading this post actually needs this message personally) that animal guardianship is a serious responsibility and merely wanting an animal is not a good enough reason alone to get one.


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All images and photographs are courtesy of HSHV staff and Jeffrey E. Roush of Two Cat Studios.