Columns 2006

Kids and animals deserve love and kindness

Last week was a hard week for me.  Not only was I attending a seminar entitled The Alaska Child Maltreatment Conference, but I finally had to send my little buddy of 15 years across the Rainbow Bridge.

At the beginning of the week, the only thought in my mind was, “What PR genius named this conference?” By the end of the week, the only thought in my mind was that all our children should have as much love and kindness in their lives as Mr. T had in his.

Mr. T didn’t always have it easy. He came to me as a two year old with the worse case of ADHD I have ever seen in any creature, including my beloved godchild. He’d lost his first home in part because of his frantic activity and was looking for a second chance to prove he could be someone’s good buddy.

Mr. T could spin through my house in a constant circle for hours on end, leaping across couches and chairs, whether they were occupied or not, just to burn off his energy. I used to take him down Fresh Water Lake Road in Barrow and let him run behind the car from the cemetery to the lake and back. It was about three miles round trip and sometimes we had to do three trips before he had used up enough energy to consider getting back in the car.

As time went on and he realized that this life we were creating would continue, he calmed down.  I know some friends who would laugh at that statement and say that he didn’t actually calm down till he got senile but really, he did.  He grew comfortable and secure in the knowledge that it was his house, his food dish, his toys.  He understood that no matter what threats the birds were making, in the end I would protect his stuff and not let them have any of it.  As he grew more secure, he also grew calmer. We still walked every day but the frantic nature of his motion disappeared and he seemed to actually savor the time we had together. He took the time to smell the roses.  And then he took the time to mark them so that every other dog that came along would understand they were his roses.

As I listened to the case studies described in the seminar on child abuse, I realized that Mr. T had something so many of the children we discussed would never know. He had stability, love, guidelines and limits. He knew where he stood in the hierarchy of the household…. ok, maybe he had a slightly inflated sense of that but nonetheless he knew he had standing in the household and that standing was firm.  He knew he’d be fed and walked every day. He knew he had a safe bed to sleep in at night and a safe lap to sit in while watching Animal Planet.

If the kids who go through the state system had half of those things, they probably wouldn’t have to be in the state system. And that’s just such a sad statement to make.  I offer no apologies for the love and care I lavish on my animals.  They deserve it and I can afford to give it to them.  I don’t think this is a case of having to choose to be nice to animals or nice to kids.  In a perfect world, both kids and pets would have all the love, laps and security they needed to make each day an exciting new adventure.

I was taking Mr. T on our regular walk when he collapsed. I brought him to the wonderful people over at College Village Animal Clinic and they helped me help him cross the Rainbow Bridge surrounded by people who cared, in the arms of the person who loved him beyond all possible description.  Till the day he died, he knew he was safe and secure. He knew I would never let anyone hurt him and that the people who I entrusted him to when I wasn’t there would be kind and gentle.

Wouldn’t it be great if someday here in Alaska every one of our children…and really, they are all “our” children…. could have that same love, security and peace that Mr. T enjoyed for the last 15 years of his life. Imagine what a better world that would be for them and for us. It’s not an impossible dream to achieve but it isn’t an easy one.  When you consider what’s at stake though, it would seem that no amount of effort should be too much to make all our children safe and loved.