The two most difficult times in my life were when my third son was in the ICU as an infant, and after 15 years as our pet, the vet said our dog needed to go to sleep. One lived, and the other died. The joy I felt when I found out that my son, a 6-month-old baby was going to recover, gave me almost as much joy as when just six months earlier, I saw him being born. He recovered and has prospered into a thriving man, husband, and father.
As much as I loved our dog, she had reached the end of her life. My wife and I stood over her as the vet gave her an injection to stop her pain. I cried as I watched her stop breathing, and as the vet slowly pulled the blanket to cover her, it was time to leave.
I see the TV commercials asking for $19 a month to help try and save a child in St Jude’s or a Shriners Hospital. Then within a few minutes, I will see a commercial asking us for the same $19 a month to save pets. I’m being solicited the same way for both helpless children and homeless starving pets. Same message and the same amount requested to be paid on a monthly basis for as little as 63 cents per day to help save a dog or a cat or a human being.
The same message is used to raise money for disabled vets, and like the children in the hospitals, for your monthly contribution, they will send you a special blanket. I don’t like the idea that I have to choose between a dog, a child in a hospital, or a disabled vet. They are not equal; I saw recently that Oprah Winfrey is reportedly leaving $30 million for her dogs. Leona Helmsley is leaving $12 million for her dogs. Maria Assunta is leaving her entire $13 million fortune to a stray cat she found wandering on the streets of Rome. Ask yourself, where is the greater need in the world?
According to a report in Forbes, 63% of Americans cannot write a check for $500 or more. The article quoted a survey from Bankrate.com that indicated only 37% of Americans could make such a payment. Feeding America reports that according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 13.1 million children in the United States under 18 live in households where they consistently are unable to obtain enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.
I understand that some people truly think more of their pets than people, and give millions to save a pet. I often wonder how one chooses to give millions to a pet when the same money could be used to save lives or find a cure for cancer or heart disease. How many lives can a pet save? The next cure for cancer will not come from a dog or a cat. I know to some of you reading this article will say it the premise sounds silly. When people have attained some degree of wealth and feel a responsibility to do something important, I say love your pet, but give your money to feed children. We have 86 million registered cats and 78 million dogs in America. While it is not possible to accurately count the number of stray dogs and cats, the National Council on Pet Population thinks there may be as many as 70 million stray cats alone. When people take their dog or cat to the pound, they often feel guilty about what they have done, and they will give to charities that take care of abandoned pets.
I told a gentleman from my church about the headline of this article, and he said, ”I agree with you. If I have to choose between my pet or my wife, children, or grandchild, it’s a no-brainer. I will choose my granddaughter or any human being over a pet.”
Perhaps for the first time in the history of our nation, we find ourselves coming face to face with the reality that we do not have unlimited resources; we can’t be all things to all people or pets. We have to set priorities; we have to choose. Do we want to pay $19 a month for a pet or $19 a month to help a child or a vet? What is your choice?