My name is June Lay, and for 12 years I’ve been known to my readers as Junefit for my Health & Fitness tips. I recently decided to take a break from my weekly Junefit column to think about a new path I have found myself on. I didn’t have a plan to start, and don’t know where I’ll wind up. You see, several years ago I went back to school at The Humane Society of The United States for Animal Studies and well, I learned too much I think to turn back. I’m a passionate animal lover, animal advocate, and Guardian of Sophie my recently adopted Toy Poodle. While I always liked all animals and I had begun my journey to learning about the animal protection movement prior to my studies, I learned during my studies why the movement is so important. I always tell people that I learned too much, didn’t want to learn so many horrible things but I tried my best since I felt it wouldn’t be right to put my head in the sand. I recently took the pledge to call myself a guardian rather than an owner, which is a vital step to protecting the companion animals we share our homes with, and including all the animals we share our earth with. Over the last few years I’d signed up with a dozen or so animal organizations, and since then I’ve been getting their newsletters in my email box. This is where I learned about the Guardian Campaign initiated by In Defense of Animals www.idausa.org In fact, some friends think I go over board because I don’t like the word pet either. So from here on I will either call my Sophie my companion animal (term used in the animal protection world), or furry friend, furry baby, etc., even though of course Poodles don’t have fur, they have hair! I’ll also call myself her human mom, or guardian, and just about anything but owner. I do feel like a guardian because I take care of her like a child that will never grow up. She isn’t an object or property that I own, or at least this isn’t how our dogs and cats should be treated legally. But as their owners, legally they are property. Check out my link to In Defense of Animals to learn more.So, I can now say that I was an owner once, but now I’m a guardian, and it didn’t happen over night. It happened over 15 years of caring for my two little dogs that I recently had to say goodbye to. I told people then when I had to say goodbye, that “I didn’t carry them for 9 months, didn’t give birth to them, and they didn’t look like me, but I cared for them every day of their lives as my babies,” babies that never grew up always dependent upon me. Maybe this was my first step in realizing that ” I was an owner, but now I’m a guardian”.