From the Editor: Pet care requires more than love

Maria and her Carin Terrier, Sam. Sam passed away on March 29, 2016 at the age of 16 years old.

On March 28, my family and I had to make a tough decision. Our family dog, Sam, became ill and he no longer wanted to eat or drink. He was sleeping more and walking very slowly. The truth was right in front of our eyes; Sam was getting older, but I didn’t want to accept the reality of a world without him.

A visit to his vet confirmed our suspicions that he was dying. In 1999, I convinced my mother to purchase Sam from a local pet store. He was just a puppy then — full of life and energy, but fast forward to 2016  and it was a different story. My best friend was ill and he needed us to love him enough to put his quality of life over our desires to have him here in our lives. That day we made the decision to say good-bye. Watching Sam take his last breath was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life. In the days following his death I started reflecting on his 16 years of life and asking myself whether I’d done all I could to provide him with a good life.

Recently, while I was shopping in the local Target I overheard a family discussing whether or not the children deserved to get a dog. Their conversation reminded me of all the things I wish that I knew when I was adopting a dog, such as the cost and time required for their care.

According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the first year costs of having a dog or cat can range from $1,000 to $1,200. This estimate includes one-time expenses such as the cost to have the pet spayed or neutered. Other expenses to consider are regular visits to the vet and pet sitters or boarding if you plan to go away overnight. Then, depending on where you live, you may be required to pay a pet deposit plus a monthly fee. Sometimes finding affordable rental properties that allow pets can be a challenge.

I will admit when we made the decision to purchase Sam we did so purely out of emotion; he is this adorable little Carin Terrier puppy who was a blonde version of Toto from the Wizard of Oz. He looked into my eyes and grabbed at my heart strings. Over the past 16 years, our family has endured many challenges. There were times when we had to ask extended members of our family to keep Sam while we relocated or secured new housing. We were fortunate that no matter what happened we never had to give Sam away.

I realize that not everyone can say the same. Sadly, according to the ASPCA, each year approximately 7.6 million animals enter animal shelters nationwide — nearly 2.7 million are euthanized each year.  

Pet shelters such as the SPCA realize that giving up a pet is a difficult decision. Doing so can be the result of one or a combination of issues such as economic difficulties, challenges with a pet’s behavior or housing concerns.

Regardless of the reason, dealing with homeless pets is a growing issue many communities are facing nationwide. Adopting any pet into your household is a big responsibility, but it is also very rewarding. Having Sam in my life helped me experienced love in a new and exciting way. However, I learned that love doesn’t just mean ensuring that he lived. It also meant helping him transition out of pain in a peaceful and respectable way. I can truly say that I did my best to ensure that Sam lived a great life. We all miss him terribly. In his memory I have decided to become more involved in helping to end animal homelessness.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how we can work together to tackle the challenges that lead to animal homelessness in Hyattsville. Contact me at maria@hyattsvillelife.com.