Dogs and cats are about the extent of the pets we had at the old home place. Dogs are truly man’s best friend, and they were the only animals that we always had, but there were always problems with them. We almost always had dogs that just showed up at our house and decided that it might be a good place to stay. I never recall getting puppies unless a female that we had presented us with a litter. A litter of pups were obviously too many to keep, but it was very difficult to find another owner because there were too many female dogs having puppies to easily find someone who wanted another dog.
I hesitated to include this topic because it contains some of the brightest yet some of the darkest memories that I can drain from my memory bank, and I think that this writing would not be complete without including a mention of my pets. As with most every child, pets can tug at the heart strings and become very close companions. We had one such dog that we dearly loved named Princess. Princess was a loving and loyal dog, but there was one problem, and this is where the dark side begins. Females at that time were not spayed, and she was a very fertile dog who periodically delivered us another litter of several puppies. We had no way to care for that number of mouths to feed, and no one would take them, so Dad did what was a common practice at that time. He would let us keep the pick of the litter (always a male) right after birth, and the last that we would see of the rest of them still sticks in my mind. Dad would put them in a burlap bag, and the last we would see of them was their wiggles inside the bag as he headed toward the creek. We would still be crying when he returned with a wet empty sack, but that was the reality at that time. Even more depressing is the fate of our beloved Princess. Princess was in heat again, and a neighboring male had taken advantage of it and had attached himself to her in the breeding process. After we saw it and had questions, Dad decided that enough was enough. Shortly thereafter, when we had returned from school, Dad loaded us kids into the car and took us for a ride. He did this to get us all together to break the news that Princess was no longer with us. He made no further explanation. We cried for a week, but following that only male dogs were acceptable as our pets.
I know! This is not something that you would like for me to write about as I drain my memory bank, but I do it for a purpose, and this gets into the NOW part. It is not necessary for this scenario to be repeated today. If you read this and think that this was a cruel thing for my dad to do, you would be absolutely right. But it would be even worse if he allowed dogs to pile up on us to the extent that they would be skin and bones and starve to death as we would not have had the means to feed them all. Spaying the female or giving away puppies that nobody wanted was not an option, so Dad chose what he felt was the best solution to the problem. Cruel? Yes! Necessary? Yes again!
Today, any small animal veterinarian neuters and spays pets on a weekly basis, and pet owners should take advantage of this service. Failure to do so will result in the same dilemma which Dad faced when he did not have that option. I would say that the pet owner who reads this and is dismayed by my dad’s solution but fails to correct the same problem with their pets should rethink their actions. Granted, they can pass them on to the humane society or an animal shelter and a home may be found for them, or if there is an excess of animals they may be euthanized by pill or gas, which is the modern way to put them in a tow sack and drown them. At least Dad had the foresight to prevent them from experiencing life and then have it taken away from them, as they would be only a day or two old when Dad would resolve the problem.
There were some neighbors who allowed their female dogs to bear litters and let them accumulate in their yards. Allowing this to happen soon led to starving dogs, and the mange developing on them, causing the loss of hair and an unsightly appearance. Neighbors were hesitant to visit or come into the yards and it was an effort to keep the mange from spreading to healthy dogs. When the females came into heat, all the neighboring male dogs would spar to have an opportunity to mate, and often there were some furious dog fights which left wounded, or even dead, dogs among the losers.