Pets: Part of the family

A Change of Heart

There are many people who feel that pets are part of the family. Until recently, this is an attitude I found unimaginable, even repulsive. While stationed in Germany, I found the status of pets particularly offensive, often commenting that Germans cared more for pets than they did for children. Germans take their dogs with them everywhere, including restaurants, pubs, and department stores. The only stores off limits to dogs are food stores. Even those stores provide tie-up spots, with water bowls, outside their doors so that pet owners can bring their dogs along. I had never seen this type of service until recently in America. On a short day trip, my wife, daughter, and I stopped in a small town, Middleburg, in Virginia. As we strolled along the main street, we noticed most of the stores had water bowls on the sidewalk for pets. The pet store in the center of town allowed pet owners to bring their pets inside and even provided free treats.

As I was growing up, my family did not have “pets.” We did keep a hunting hound at a few of the places we lived. The dogs were never allowed into the house and were fed table scraps, not expensive dog food. The dogs were not well taken care of and no one seemed to have any special feelings for any of them. When I was about fourteen, we had a beagle hound that slept in a shed behind the house. The dog was hit by a car and ended up with both back legs broken. The dog dragged its back legs around for weeks, maybe even months, before Dad finally took him into the woods and shot him. At the time, this did not seem unusual or cruel to me. I had no feelings for the dog, even though I was the one responsible for bringing him his food. Today, I am sure that this would be considered cruelty to animals and we would likely be arrested and prosecuted for that kind of behavior.

Although we had occasional hunting dogs, there were never any cats around. In fact, all my siblings and I hated cats. I’m not sure why. I suppose that my dislike of cats was fostered by the attitude of the rest of the family members. My oldest brother, Ken, used to try to kill cats with his car on the highway. One time, he even drove his 1951 Ford across a field trying to run down a cat. Today, Ken has seven cats and one dog in his house. I still don’t like cats, but over the years there have been exceptions. I once had a Calico female. My first wife actually brought the cat home, but Muffin ignored everyone in the family but me. I also

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