Pets can’t talk. No surprise there.
But that doesn’t stop them from trying their hardest to communicate their needs to you.
People who don’t pay attention to that conversation will have problems with bad behavior and an unhappy pet.
Those who enter into pethood (as opposed to parenthood) without understanding a few things about their animal’s needs, will end up disappointed with a pet that wants nothing more than to please you.
That situation leads to millions of homeless, unwanted pets that end up in shelters, or worse — being destroyed.
For the most part, society says it’s OK if you decide to dump a dog or cat because they are less than perfect through no fault of their own. If you are looking for someone to blame about your pet’s behavior, look in the mirror and make a resolution to correct your own shortcomings this year.
In the past few months Beacon Journal photojournalist Ed Suba and I have dedicated a lot of time and attention to the plight of a four-year-old abandoned, brindle Cane Corso that is currently living at the Humane Society of Greater Akron in Twinsburg.
Vera was rescued from the backyard of a South Akron home in November. She will eventually be adopted by someone who understands her needs, which at this point are pretty simple.
You notice I said her needs, which is not to be confused with the needs of a human who may be looking for a pet to cure loneliness, make them feel good about themselves by adopting a rescue animal or to fill some other human need.
Don’t get me wrong. Vera will eventually be able to fill both those roles easily, but first, Vera, like most dogs in the rescue system, needs a special form of TLC that will help her become a model pet.
Like 99 percent of animals that get dumped or abandoned by their owners, Vera’s biggest deficit is that she needs to be taught some manners. Like all dogs, Vera needs lots of exercise, discipline and love.
She will also need training to understand what her human wants from her.
How could anyone expect an animal such as Vera, that most recently lived her life chained up in a muddy backyard, to ever have a chance to get the life she deserves if some compassionate person isn’t willing to teach her what she needs to become a good canine?
Here’s a news flash for you. Domestic animals are not “good” or “bad.” They behave the way they have been taught (or not taught) to behave. It’s just that simple.
Now, take Vera and multiply her by millions of animals that are in need of good homes throughout the country. People need to stop thinking that dogs, cats, guinea pigs, ferrets and other pets we are compelled to keep are furry little children.
Animals, who for the most part don’t understand most of the words you are saying to them, learn by repetition and reward. Punitive action, such as striking, yelling and showing anger will do absolutely nothing to curb an unwanted behavior. Animals don’t understand that chewing on your favorite shoe is bad. They just know it tastes and feels good. That’s what they do.
I have a friend who said our romanticized vision of animals can be blamed on Walt Disney. In childhood, we learned through the magic of animation that animals are little humans in furry clothes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Please realize before you bring a pet into your home that they have needs you will be required to fulfill if you want a successful, long-lasting relationship.
I will be writing a lot this year on that subject. I will tell you about creative ways to keep your pet happy and healthy, from inexpensive enrichment activities suitable to the type and breed of animal you own, to making sure they get enough exercise each day. A good pet is a tired pet.
Much as I would love to find a home for every unwanted animal in need, I would ask you to not embark on pethood lightly. If you are not prepared to go the extra mile to make sure your pet’s needs are met, please reconsider and get a stuffed one.
Other pet news
Creature Feature — The Akron Zoo, 500 Edgewood Ave., will host special activities from noon to 2 p.m. each Saturday in February. The zoo’s Education Staff will present different creatures each week for guests to learn about and examine up close. On Feb. 2, bugs will be featured, followed by reptiles on Feb. 9, birds on Feb. 16 and mammals on Feb. 23. Call 330-375-2550 for more information.
Grand Opening Celebration and Adoption Event — Petco will cut the ribbon on a new store just before its grand opening at 9 a.m. Feb. 9 at 3975 Cascades Blvd., Brimfield. The celebration, which will continue through Feb. 10, will include all-day pet adoptions, giveaways and discounted services and a variety of activities to introduce the new store. The store will host adoption events for local pet rescues and shelters as well as free Meet the Critters events, which are complimentary interactive educational forums for families. Companion animals will be available for adoption throughout the weekend.
TV Show Time Change — Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals will air at 5 p.m. today on NBC. It is a one-of-a-kind canine competition showcasing the world’s most athletic dogs and their trainers.
Kathy Antoniotti writes about pets for the Beacon Journal. She is unable to help locate, place or provide medical attention for an individual animal. If you have an idea or question about pets, write her at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; call 330-996-3565; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.