by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

Another animal has joined our menagerie -- a puppy this time, probably of mixed breed. Barely six weeks old, he's a furry ball with a hungry belly, loose tongue and sharp teeth. He's already made some unfortunate impressions on exposed shins, flower beds and the living room carpet; being cute and affectionate has been key to his survival.

In some households, people spend hundreds of dollars on specially bred and registered pets. They go to great lengths to seek out and find just the right animal. We might have too, I suppose, if we lived somewhere less rural.

All of our pets, including this puppy, have come into our care through unplanned and unexpected adoptions. All but one was abandoned on our property, or nearby, by faceless miscreants too irresponsible to show

There are three kinds of animals found in the country -- wild, domesticated and strays. The wild ones, like skunks and coyotes, keep to themselves mostly and use darkness as a cover. 
Cute Stray Dog Pup

But strays are likely any time of day and in many sizes. Stray cats, dogs, cows, horses, goats or even chickens are liable to show up at a rural home at any hour.

 Stray livestock are usually reclaimed by an apologetic neighbor before the day is out, but dogs and cats are another matter. Only rarely does a notice in the newspaper or on the radio bring the rightful owner to your door. More often than not, no one misses the stray.

These animals pose all sorts of problems. Many are infected with parvo, distemper or other diseases. They compete with the resident pets for food and territory. Some even prey on livestock.

Some strays are runaways, I suppose, or animals that somehow lost track of their home. But most strays are no accident. People purposefully abandon animals for reasons I don't fully understand.

A better life in the country? I suppose some folks believe it's better to leave a pet on its own in some unfamiliar rural area with an uncertain fate than to take it to the pound. Some farmer will adopt the pet, right? It'll learn to fend for itself, right? Wrong.

Most strays suffer horribly. Dogs slowly starve to death, are poisoned or shot. Cats are eaten alive by coyotes or run over by cars.

Taking your pet "for a ride in the country" is an act of cruelty, both to the animal and to the people who live in that area who have to decide its fate. Even the softest hearts harden a little after so many dozen drives to the pound to do someone else's dirty work. The .30-gauge in the gun cabinet would be much cheaper and just as lethal.

Adopting this puppy may not have been the right thing to do. Does it vindicate the creeps who abandoned its pregnant mother? I wish they could have seen how much she loved life and how badly she, too, wanted to be adopted. They should have been the ones to separate her from her pups. They should have made that long drive to the pound.

Rural Delivery
Rural Delivery

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on rural living
by Michael Hofferber
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