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On Dogs and Unconditional Love

Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of my Charles Hobson Booger, III and it got me thinking about how easy he was to love. Everyone loved him. Okay, not everyone. There was that little Westie whose vulva he bit early on. Yes, vulva. No stitches, no puncture, but still a nasty bruise and some scratches. Charles had a higher prey drive than he appeared to have at first. No playing with little white dogs, which isn’t uncommon for greyhounds. We just had to work with him and manage him and we were happy to do so.

As for people, Charles loved everyone and was very enthusiastic to meet someone new. He was 85 pounds (large for a greyhound), very muscular (odd for a greyhound) and spectacularly gorgeous, with Pharaoh Hound-like ears. Easy to love.

And as much as I miss him, this post isn’t about Charles. Nor is it about Violet Rays, who is still with us at nearly 12-years old. She’s an insulin-dependent diabetic who can hardly see (she had cataracts which we replaced, but then her retinas started to detach and we didn’t catch them in time) and has very few teeth due to severe gum disease (greyhound breeders and trainers don’t take care of the teeth of the hounds, as that’s not where the money is). She has definitely slowed down, but she looks great and has perked up a bit now that it’s regularly under 90 degrees and the humidity decreases by the week.

Violet’s stunning, and that’s what everyone notices first and comments on. But she’s not really keen on anyone and isn’t at all social. People like her because she’s beautiful. Violet doesn’t want to be touched unless she comes to you or you approach her very carefully and ask permission. She’s not snuggly. She doesn’t follow me from room to room (that was Charles’ job), and she barely lifts her head when I walk in the door (as opposed to Charles, who’d come running). She doesn’t want Sky to come that close to her and she’s no fan of Emily the kitty.

I wouldn’t say Violet loves unconditionally.

And none of that matters, because Violet doesn’t exist to boost my self-esteem. We adopted Violet to give her a safe and loving home. She had already been returned by people who didn’t want to deal with her diabetes because it was inconvenient for them. And it is inconvenient.

Now that I have a child, I can safely say that children are very, very inconvenient. Far more than a diabetic greyhound. But you love them and they’re part of your family and returning them would be unthinkable. You do what’s necessary for them because they deserve the best chance at a great life, and if they never thank you that shouldn’t matter.

What you do for them isn’t contingent upon what they give you in return.

And the same should be true for nonhuman animals. They shouldn’t have to be beautiful, perfectly behaved, healthy and wanting a human as the center of their universe for them to be deserving of a good life.


No greyhounds were forced to race in the above photo. They were actually cooling down by walking at their leisure after playing in the adjacent field.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. CQ #

    You write: "[N]onhuman animals … shouldn't have to be beautiful, perfectly behaved, healthy and wanting a human as the center of their universe for them to be deserving of a good life."

    The juxtaposition of that sentence with your assurance to readers that the photo of Charles and Violet on the track with their tongues hanging out is just a cool down after a fun romp makes me want to add: "And nonhumans shouldn't be forced to run at top speed in circles — and win races — to be deserving of a good life." But that's already understood here, isn't it? After all, you rescued them from just that fate. The humans who use animals for their own gain are actually stealing from them: stealing their freedom of choice and freedom of expression, happiness and health, would-be bonds with family and friends. And lives. Stealing everything meaningful to the animal.

    October 18, 2011
  2. In 2 days less than a year from now I'll be marking a sad day of loss too… My cat Touche' left such a void – Like I'm sure you know – We learn to superficially fill it… But we never stop missing them. 🙁

    And you're absolutely right about them being here for their own purpose… Not as a boost to our ego or a crutch for our sorrow. And certainly never, ever as a commodity!

    Thank you for doing things in a very wholesome and thoughtful way regarding the beings in your care – You are always an inspiration!

    October 20, 2011
  3. Mary, I too had a greyhound with juvenile onset insulin Dependant diabetes and Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, i got her as an 8 week old puppy she was a product of an oops litter from the track [they usually kill the puppies but rescue groups are taking them in now too] and I loved her so! At age 4 she passed away a month ago from bone cancer, she had all the luck 🙁 but she loved every second of her short life. Here is a blog I had kept up with her siblings

    November 29, 2011
  4. Janine Perlman #

    Violet Ray's birthday is an occasion of celebration for all! Congratulations to you both!! 🙂

    And Mary, thank you for taking on the enormously difficult dilemma of feeding our loved ones what they truly need.

    I have a Ph.D. in biology and am a comparative nutritional biochemist. The science clearly shows that very few weaned humans require animal products for optimal health—on the contrary, nearly all of us are much healthier without them.
    For ethical reasons, I'm a vegan; but the science and my own health improvements confirm that it's a very beneficial choice.

    The science also shows that carnivores such as dogs do in fact require animal-origin foods in order to thrive. (I can supply original research—some even from feed companies which would much prefer feeding grain—to interested readers.)

    Given the realities, those of us who adopt dogs in need can only source their essential foods from animals who lived and died with as little suffering as possible.

    It's never good enough, though.

    IMO we must strive each day—through advocacy, education (our own and others'), and our purchasing choices—to improve the lives and deaths of the animals whom we reluctantly, but of necessity, feed to our own beloved companions.

    Given my decision to provide my loved ones the foods that both they and the science demonstrate they require, if I were true to my principles of minimizing suffering, I would not be a guardian to dogs.
    Many of us have to live with that inconsistency (or perhaps hypocrisy), and I don't think it's discussed enough.

    So thank you again for the opening. 🙂

    December 2, 2011
  5. this is a big dog my god!

    January 12, 2012

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