As I wake up cozy and warm on this bitterly cold December morning, I find myself anguishing over the same thoughts once again. Since the weather turned to subzero temperatures, I cannot eliminate the overwhelming feelings of empathy and desperation for the countless animals forced to endure a torturous existence by the hands of cruel, sadistic "owners" who willfully neglect their basic physiological and psychological needs. I wish I didn't care as much as I do because life for me would be far more enjoyable living ignorantly and blissfully. But alas, I am surrounded on a daily basis by selfish individuals who take care of themselves without ever extending an act of kindness towards other living, breathing creatures.
Whilst preparing my breakfast, I glance over and admire my two glorious dogs snoring on the couch, and I tiptoe over to give them a kiss without disrupting their peaceful sleep. Their coats are shiny, bellies well nourished, bodies warm and spirits filled with a joie de vivre. This is how pets should exist in our world. I feel lucky to have them, and I cherish their presence.
Driving to work, I recall the most influential narrative concerning the treatment of animals to have ever been relayed over the radio. Listening to my favourite local station, I became profoundly moved by a story entitled "How Could You?" by author Jim Willis. I sobbed inconsolably as the on-air radio personality struggled his way through the powerful words. This time, I quickly push the memory to the back of my mind in order not to arrive to work crying. I suddenly shudder from the cold air absorbing deep in my bones and crippling my extremities, so I immediately turn up the heat in my car. How fortunate to have instantaneous relief. I gaze out the window at the barren countryside and become stricken with disbelief at the never ending sight of helpless farm animals wandering aimlessly without any visible shelter. Goats, cows and horses standing in complete abandonment. I look at my watch and notice that it's only 6 a.m. Have these animals been enduring this frigid climate all night? As I pass one farm, I glare at a frighteningly dilapidated barn house with apparent movement inside. Surely there aren't animals inside this exposed shack? It seems that no matter where I look, animals would appear. Stray cats running across the road, dogs chained to tiny wooden huts in already fenced-in yards. "What is the matter with people," I think to myself. "How can they sleep at night with the knowledge that animals in their possession are suffering?" It's beyond comprehension.
Arriving into town, I drive around the neighbourhood and remark the same observations: a total disregard for decency and blatant lack of compassion for animal welfare on one of the coldest days this year. As I park my car at my place of work, my attention is drawn over to the left at the sight of a dog wagging his tail. The sun has not yet risen, and the home attached to the enclosed yard housing the dog is unlit. My heart sinks with the insight that this innocent dog has spent the night outside in the blustery wind and arctic temperatures, all the while his human counterparts slept contently indoors, snuggled comfortably in their beds, without once considering the painful effects of such inhumanity on their loving dog who craves nothing more than a kind hand and companionship. I walk over to the dog and perceive that he is, of course, tied to a dog house. Perhaps the owners realize that the life they're providing for their pet is so unbearable that given a chance, the dog would rather jump the fence and become homeless than be treated as an inanimate lawn fixture. The closer I get to the fence, the more excited the furry tail becomes. From a few feet away, I witness the look of anticipation on his face. I know he's hoping that someone has finally come to take him away from this misery. He jumps up and barely places his front paws on the fence; as much as the length of the chain will permit. He is shivering wildly and is cold to the touch. Tiny icicles have formed around his whiskers. A backyard light from the neighbour's house provides sufficient luminescence for me to view the dog's stainless steel bowl filled solid with ice. The inside of his dog house is covered with snow. The yard has never been shoveled. Children's toys are scattered throughout the yard. "Great," I think to myself. " They're also teaching children by example."
My sadness turns to rage. How could they do that! Why do such heartless people own animals? Pets or farm animals, there is no excuse for this merciless neglect and intentional maltreatment. As the glacial wind howls in the moonlight, my ears feel like pins and needles. I begin to whisper words of comfort to the dog. I tell him how much I love him and express my sorrow for his predicament. My tears of rage turn to ice, similar to the feelings of animosity I maintain towards the dog's owners. With a gentle pat on his head, I regretfully turn to walk inside my workplace with innumerable thoughts whirling in my mind. Each step I take away from the dog, I imagine his desolate look of devastation for having been forgotten and ignored. The heartbreaking image consumes me as I initiate my first plan of action and contact the humane society to rescue this pup.
As my core body temperature warms up, I identify with the thousands of animals suffering in silence. Life is unjust. A coworker spots me from a distance and quickly comments on my visible air of distress. I recount the events of my morning arrival, and I watch his face turn pale. The familiar look of another animal lover. He assures me that he will keep an eye on the fenced dog to make certain the canine is taken away from the home. Within the hour, the humane society arrives and removes the dog. I follow up by telephone and am told that the dog will eventually be placed for adoption. I find myself relieved to have been able to help one animal, but what about the myriad of others? Like chained animals, I feel as though my hands are tied by feeble anti-cruelty laws and public apathy. As human beings, our conscience implores us to assist animals that are physically abused and emotionally denied by altering public perception and strengthening animal welfare bylaws. My purpose for channeling these thoughts into writing is to avenge such inexcusable affliction with the commanding honesty of words by advocating on behalf of those unable to communicate in a language recognizable by people, with the greater goal that more individuals extend their humanity to animals.
This article was reprinted with the permission of the author. Cherine Bissenger is a teacher in Canada who has been published in her local newspapers on animal issues. To contact Cherine, please email:
A Daily Reality
by Cherine Bissinger