JOPLIN, Mo. —
I never thought I would be in the position of being an advocate for people who own pets.
When the Globe's editor, Carol Stark, asked me if I wanted to write this column more than a year ago, I was genuinely puzzled as to why she would ask me. It was the first post-college column I'd been offered, and it was a beat that I wasn't sure I was even qualified for.
This past January marked a year's worth of dialogue between me and the people of the Four State Area. I've made some amazing connections in the community, and I've received so much feedback.
I also realized a long time ago that Carol was right in seeing something in me that I didn't see. I discovered that when I use my voice to speak about pets, it is much stronger than I thought.
I want to address a phone call I received this week. I got a voice mail from a frustrated lady, who asked me why I had such a hard stance in last week's column on pets that had been abandoned.
She said she felt like I was looking down on people who had been forced to give up their pets. I want to assure you this is not the case.
I have a quick story that hopefully makes a clear delineation between abandoned and surrendered animals. I had to give up a dog when I was in college. She was a sweet girl, and I had taken her on a temporary basis before I decided that she was going to stay with me permanently.
About six months later, I had an opportunity to transfer schools that I couldn't pass up. I ended up giving Marla up to her original owner, who was in a better position to take care of her at that point. I felt genuinely bad because of the bond we had developed, but it was the right choice.
I've heard a lot of similar stories about people who moved and had to make that extremely tough decision. This is what I consider surrendering an animal. To the people who have had to make that choice: You have my sympathy. I've been there.
Abandoning, to me, means tossing a pet into the wild and letting it fend for itself. Some of these pets get rescued by groups such as Faithful Friends Animal Advocates.
But not all abandoned animals are that lucky. During my interview last week with FFAA about pets it had found, I heard some stories that were pretty harsh. It should be considered abuse when people dump pets. Those who dump them are the ones I have a problem with.
What really matters is where those pets end up. The Globe's editorial assistant, Donna Moss, said that she had received word that the FFAA broke into double digits last weekend during the adoption drive -- pets that had either been surrendered or abandoned are now in potential forever homes.
To all of the people who adopted and helped place those pets in good homes: You're the best. Keep up the fantastic work.
Contact Ryan Richardson about this column or other topic suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 417-627-7363.