Animals we love

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The fast-moving fire that roared through a West Frankfort apartment building Tuesday morning was the kind that makes you worry someone might not get out alive. Fire Chief Wallace Possich said all 13 renters were accounted for afterwards. But the destruction on Harrodsburg Lane was not without fatalities.

“I’ve lost my family,” Jeff Wiley told reporters, his face etched with grief as he said his two dogs and two cats had perished in the flames while he was at work. His roommate, Chad Howard, awoke during the fire and had to jump out a window to save his own life. He was unable to rescue the pets.

Persons of the anthropocentric persuasion may dismiss the deaths of four beloved animals as something of little consequence. They seem incapable of understanding the bond that can form between species. Others can readily empathize with Wiley, who told of the devastation he felt over the sudden deaths of his “babies,” his sadness that he could not have been there to pull them from the inferno.

In this era when marriages and cohabitations routinely disintegrate and families drift apart, the love of animals is comforting. The Harris Poll last year surveyed 2,184 American adults and found 91 percent of owners consider their pets part of the family. For some, they’re not just part of the family, they are the family. The pollsters discovered 60 percent of owners bought holiday presents for their pets, 36 percent got them birthday gifts and 70 percent allowed the animals to sleep in bed with them. The survey asked respondents if they saw any benefit to having dogs in institutional settings to help relieve stress and anger. Results showed 89 percent considered it a good idea for long-term care facilities, 72 percent for hospitals and 60 percent for prisons.

A 2006 poll, by the Pew Research Center, determined 85 percent of dog owners and 75 percent of cat owners regarded their pets as family members.

Perhaps because people who don’t share these feelings often ridicule animal lovers as misfits who’ve failed at human relations, some are reluctant to admit their deep devotion to four-legged friends and the desperation they suffer after a loss. Joe Yonan, a Washington Post editor, wrote of the perplexity he felt upon realizing the death of his Doberman, Red, left him grieving more than he did when close family members expired. “Simply stated,” an article in the journal Professional Psychology informed him, “many people (including pet owners) feel that grief over the death of a pet is not worthy of as much acknowledgement as the death of a person.”

While family ties are complicated, relationships with pets are elemental and the sense of loss is visceral. Even loving families can become embittered when disputes, over matters big and small, lead to harsh words and lingering hurt. Domestic animals need our constant attention, sometimes with a gentle reprimand when they misbehave, and they don’t hold grudges.

For everyone who dotes over furry companions, there are egotists who easily part ways with dogs and cats who’ve depended on them, and don’t look back. That’s one reason so many pets end up in the animal shelter and get euthanized when they’re not adopted.

There’s something out of kilter in a world with a surplus of creatures offering unconditional love and a shortage of people willing to return the favor.

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  • lol....there's nothing to get over.-------Believe me, I love my pets very much, but I don't anthropomorphize them. I respect them for the species that they are, and their own unique qualities. And I don't care if anyone else wants to call them their babies, or their family; I think it's silly, but to each his own.------So stop trying to portray me as an unemotional person just because I said I think humans are more important than pets. I have a right to my opinion, just as you have a right to yours. And I'm not vilifying you because of your opinion, so stop doing it to me.

  • Agreed Chaz, so true. And, God does give life. Trust me, I am NOT a Bible Thumper, but I do know that life, regardless of what kind, is precious. I love my girls and would not give them up for anything. To say that pets are not as important as people is ridiculous and very unemotional, especially for this guy, who is like me, and has no children. THESE are his children, and there is nothing wrong with that. Get over it BJOS

  • bjos...dropped

  • Many animals ARE better than many people. "The more I see of men, the better I like my dog" - Camus

  • whatever...just drop it, it's not worth this back-and-forth

  • bjos...never said it was....you are the one that responded.."See this is the problem I have: people who think animals are more important than other people."

  • then there's no problem

  • bjos...so did I......

  • btw, any time you use God as an argument, you lose credibility with me. Go thump your Bible somewhere else.

  • Wow, just because I don't necessarily think animals are as important as people, I'm "not emotional enough to care"? You are showing your bias and ignorance. And perhaps you need to get a life with humans.------ukfan, I didn't say the article said animals are more important, I just stated what I think.

  • bjos...I don't see where anyone said that the animals are more important than human life.

  • BJOS, you are the kind of person that needs to know when to say when. How does Jeff Wiley feel if he reads this? You don't understand that kind of thinking, then you, my little friend, are the MINORITY, and most people don't understand YOU. Pets are family, period. I don't have children, they ARE my children. They sleep with me, go places with me and are my babies. The bottom line is some people are not emotional enough to care about pets as family and you seem like one of them. YOu are an "animal lover", I don't want you on my side brother. I am good all by myself. You can think people come first, but life is life, and it was all given by God.

  • See, this is the problem I have: people who think animals are more important than other people. I just don't understand that kind of thinking, and I don't want to understand it, because to me it's upside down.-------Don't get me wrong, I'm an animal lover, too, and have had many, many pets in my life. However, to me the bottom line is: as much as I love pets, people are more important. If I had a choice of saving a pet or a person, there would no be hesitation: the person comes first.

  • Everyone loves their children and eventually they grow up and become adults and start to make a life for themselves and become independent. But for pets they always are dependant on their owners for love and support. There is nothing more heart warming than to have a pet that loves you totally. I feel so sorry for this gentleman who lost his companions. I know how I felt when I lost my pet to cancer. It hurts just as bad as a family member passing because that is what they become. I know he can never replace the feelings he had for his pets but hopefully he can find another that will fill his heart with love and joy once again.

  • I'm not afraid to admit that my widget (Canis lupus familiaris) is just as much a son as my other two (homo sapiens)He sleeps right next to me & we eat together. I really feel bad for Jeff Wiley & know the pain that he is going through. A true animal lover sees their pets for what they really are & that is another living soul that has the same want & needs that we do. I am sure that if Jeff had been there, he'd got them out or died trying.