I Was an Owner, but Now I’m a Guardian; Part II

I wasn’t always a guardian, I evolved into one while caring for Charlie and Teddy, both girl toy poodles  (Yes, girls with boy’s names!). When I refer to myself as a guardian now, I can see a quizzical look on many people’s faces, which usually leads me to explain the difference between a guardian and an owner..But more than using the word, I’ve thought about how I came to feel like a guardian instead of an owner. I called myself one after studying animal welfare 2 years ago, but the feelings of being one really hit me when I had to say to my younger Teddy 7 months ago after we battled a serious disease for 10 months. This after having to goodbye to Charlie barely a year prior during an emergency. But I really became a guardian over the 15 years, losing them one year apart both whom I raised since puppies. 
Charlie the older of the two wasn’t my first dog, nor was she the first dog that I bought from a pet shop. I bought my first dog Mariko, an Akita puppy in 1988. I’ve always loved big dogs, but at the time as a first time owner, I didn’t give enough thought about how much time I had available to spend with her,  to walk her, to take her to the park,  to exercise her, housebreak her, etc. The long story short is that I realized after 8 months with my schedule of being gone 8 to 10 hours a day rushing home in -between, well it was more than I could handle. Besides, she was spending too much time alone. I made the decision to find another home and I did. I found a very good home with a family who had a large backyard, worked at home and had another dog. I told myself that this was best for Mariko, but I did feel guilty about giving her away. I never thought about how she would feel going to a new strange home. I didn’t think about a dog’s feelings, except that she would be happier with them than being crated for hours alone. A few months later, off I went to buy a cat, certain that cats tolerate being alone much better, only to decide later on to give him, Smokey my blue Persian, a companion cat, who I named Cotton.A year later, a friend bought a puppy, and after listening to her talk so much about her new puppy, I began to stop in the neighborhood pet shop to look at dogs. I didn’t think I would actually bring one home, but this time I thought about my lifestyle before looking at the adorable puppies and chatting with the salesman. When the salesman put this tiny poodle in my arms telling me that she was missing an ear because there was an accident at the breeder catching her ear in a gate, my decision was made. Besides, she just laid in my arms staring at me, how could I resist?
I bought little Charlie from this pet shop in 1997 still unaware of puppy mills and the abuse that has been exposed over recent years. Unfortunately several months later, I realized that a family of 3 animals was biting off more than I can chew, so when Cotton was about 10 months old I gave him to one of my clients who was a Cat lover, and had just lost her cat. I thought that he would adjust, after all he was under a year old, would have a cat friend waiting at his new home, and I would still get to see him. What I didn’t expect was to find that he acted in a manner resembling a human depression for over 6 months in his new home. My client even called in an animal behaviorist after a visit to the vet confirming that he was healthy. This was my first exposure to realizing how deeply animals feel.
By now my Charlie was about 2 and had been an easy puppy giving me very little work. She was an angel, she would watch my every move, look me adoringly in the eyes, study my moods,  try to please me, and as a student of behavior I loved observing her and especially 3 years later watching her interact with Teddy, a little devil. And how we all played together! Teddy though was not an easy puppy, and to this day, I credit a lot of my new found patience to her, and to learning how deeply animals feel. Over time I observed how they grew from puppies to adults, how they expressed emotions from joy to fear to pain.  I had to say goodbye to Charlie almost 2 years ago after sharing 14 years with her; then more recently I had to say goodbye to Teddy at 10 years of age after much heartfelt care. I feel that I changed after sharing my life with these little girl doggies. I became more patient, nurturing, and loving in general. Now as Guardian to Sophie, my role is one of protector, health advocate, human parent and buddy. It is a relationship, as many animal lovers know, unlike any other. In fact it was my love that grew for these special little beings that led me to my passion to study about animals, about their welfare and the movement to protect them.  I’m now adding to my human health career a consulting practice for our best furry friends having just finished a Veterinary Medical Assistant program and Nutrition studies for Canines and Felines . I hope to help other guardians, as well as take the best care of Sophie that I can, because I am her Guardian. 
Next, Sophie comes home, my first adoption.

I Was an Owner, Now I’m a Guardian.

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”.