What’s in a name? “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare was right when he penned those words to his classic play over 400 years ago because regardless of what you call a rose, it won’t change its intoxicating scent. But what about other labels?
Unfortunately when it comes to our dogs, cats and other domestic animals, what we call them may very well define our relationship with them and quite possible influence laws that need to protect them from abuse.
Some people are pet owners, and think of their pet much like a commodity: Puppy Mills are “dog factories” that profit from the sale of puppies, that are often maintained in substandard conditions. Such is also the case of those who raise dogs to engage in brutal “sport” of fighting, and wage money on the outcome. There are also dogs bred so tiny that they can fit into one’s purse or pocket. These dogs are often purchased as accessories to a wardrobe rather than a cherished pet. And then there are those owners who purchase a dog or other pet, only to find that its needs, behavior issues are beyond what they are willing to tackle and so they dump him at the nearest shelter or set him loose on the street. The bottom line is that these “owners” do not have a bond with their animals. There is no relationship and, unless the animal has some value as a commodity or accessory, it is easily discarded like old furniture.
When we carry the label owners, there is the implied property, however when we label ourselves guardians, the relationship changes profoundly.
Guardians protect, care for, nourish, and enrich the lives of their animals, and they write up legal documents to entrust someone to care for their pets should something happen to them. They have a strong bond that can never be broken. When you hear the stories of humans running into their burning house to rescue a pet, or see the picture of a person and her cat or dog in a row boat escaping flood waters, you are looking at the love of a guardian. When you read the sorrowful words in a tribute to a pet after its death, you are reading the words of a guardian.
The animals that are pulled from high-kill shelters were once owned, but we change that for these wonderful beings once we put them in the homes of guardians.
Guardian is not just a label, it’s a shift in consciousness.