Biographical Non-Fiction posted December 15, 2017

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You've Got to Be Kidding Me.

A Touch of Reality.

by aryr

Are you one of the people who think that dogs and cats are outdoor animals and can survive the cold because they have fur coats? You've got to be kidding me, right?

Have you thought about what the cold can do to their unprotected paws? Or how the salt and sand mix used on ice can affect those paws?

I have had what some may call the misfortune, but what I think of as a fortune of seeing what the cold weather can do to those four-legged friends we call pets.

We, as a society tend to think it is appropriate that we get those cute little knitted coats, or the rawhide bones, or even those recommended stockings stuffed with toys and delights.
But do we bring them in during the cold? Probably not! I have seen owners use the coats for short haired dogs that are left outside. Isn't that like us trying to survive outdoors in a sweater or perhaps wearing a heavy coat in the summer when the temperature is 95 degrees?

Now about my misfortune / fortune. At the ripe old age of 14, I was involved in an accident that took away most of my sight. By most of, I mean that after the first few weeks all I could see were shadows. My world was in black, white, grey and shadows. Because of my age and disability, I qualified for a guide dog. Before that my pets were goldfish and guppies.
Part of having a guide dog was learning how to take care of your dog so your dog could take care of you. I learned to feed, to toilet (that included clean up after her), to clean her after rainstorms and exposure to cold snow and salt.

I had not realized that salt and the sand mix used on ice could burn and blister her tender paws. I had no clue that dogs ate just dog food and not table scraps. She was my buddy, my best friend, my life, my eyes. She was my Sara.

For 4 �½ years she never left my side. Even when I showered she was on the floor beside the tub. When I went to the beach she was with me and my friends. She actually loved the opportunity to walk with me to frolic in the water. Of course, a wet dog is a messy dog but no one minded.

At that time I unfortunately suffer a second accident which resulted in the return of my sight. I had to wear glasses but I was free. Then I realized that I no longer needed her, although I loved her and I wanted her. One likes to think they are really mature at 19; but it was a difficult. You've got to be kidding me, if you think this was easy.

She had become part of my life. I could not however be selfish and take advantage of a gift. I contacted the people who had assigned her to me and with their help located a small young girl. This little one was blind as well as restricted to a wheelchair. When we met Sara seemed to sense her disabilities; and wanted to help. I knew in my heart that it was the perfect fit.
Sara lived for another 6 years and I visited frequently with her and her new owner. She was still special to me.

After I regained my sight I decided that I wanted to volunteer for animal care. Since we didn't have a local shelter my only choice was a veterinarian's clinic. It was here that I actually saw the side effects of the cold, of the summer heat, etc. Mostly the cold.

I saw the blistered and raw paws of both dogs and cats caused by salt. I saw rescued dogs that were shivering with cold-it took at least 24 hours to warm their core temperatures. The worst that I saw was a rescued dog that the owner thought he was protecting and saving. The snow had melted in an area of the enclosure where the sun was shining. Of course, the sunshine provided warmth so the dog laid down, at the end of his chain. Then the sun disappeared, the dog slept and became frozen to the ground. It apparently tried very hard to get up and eventually succumbed to howling in despair. The owner upon hearing his dog, tried to help it up. In what he thought was wisdom, he decided to use boiling water to free the dog. The result was indeed a freed dog but one that had bad burns and scalding to its stomach, side and legs. Thus, the trip to the vet. His reasoning was wrong, he wanted the dog put down. He just couldn't have a sickly, ugly dog. The vet released him of his responsibility towards the dog and it became the clinic dog, who just loved everyone.

I have learned over the years that someone has to speak up for animals sometime. I have not become a fanatic about this but when the opportunity presents itself I speak.

A few years ago a close friend had commented that animals belonged outside and one should not worry because after all they had fur coats. Although he did put an old blanket in the dog house, his dog was never let out of its kennel and definitely not allowed in his home. His wife, who was more realistic did bring the dog indoors when he was not at home, but still being outdoors in the cold was not ideal.

His comment came during a business visit. Knowing his history I was still devastated. Since my nephews-early 20s were there and both had fur coats, well racoon coats; I borrowed one and a hat and took him outside. It was minus ten degrees. It only took a couple of minutes for him to comment on how cold it was. At the ten minute mark he was complaining about the cold and wanted to know why we were out there. I kept him outside for thirty minutes, he was beyond cold when I reminded him that he had boots, gloves, a hat and a fur coat. That was all I said as I went back in. He followed.

I will admit that I was surprised when he immediately called his wife and told her to bring Fred the dog indoors. It was also refreshing that he and his wife adopted 2 shelter puppies which lived indoors. He also donated regularly to the shelter.

It's time for you to remember that these furry friends protect you, and you need to protect them. Become a voice for the bark and the purr. You've got to be kidding me, if you imply you don't care.

You've Got to Be Kidding Me writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write a short story of with a maximum of 1500 words. Somewhere in the story, the phrase "you've got to be kidding me" should appear. It can be fact or fiction, humorous or serious, your choice...

Thank you to artdreamer for Aster in the snow. Thanks to the poet who inspired me to write this.
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Artwork by artdreamer at

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