DeMeer: Cats and dogs are reigning – and it’s wrong

Princeton editor Andra DeMeer tackles the issue placing pets over people

Joe the cat. Photo: Facebook

You can think about this one till your head hurts, and it will never make better sense.

What has become of us as families, communities and a society when we place greater importance on the lives of animals than we do on human beings?

Typing with my tip toes here because experience demonstrates this is an editorial Charge of the Light Brigade. Please do not jump on Facebook and threaten to shoot me 17 times in the head with a pellet gun. (We’ll get to that riveting experience in a bit.)

Two weeks ago it was International Cat Day. Sunday is Dog Appreciation Day.

Fur baby has been included in the online Oxford Dictionary since 2015.

Last year an article in Psychology Today explored the phenomenon of people loving pets more than people.

One study indicated more than 33 per cent of those surveyed would, under some circumstances, choose to save the life of their dog over the life of a human being, if they could save only one.

Another project proved that people feel more distress over a story about an injured puppy, than an injured man or woman.

An animal shelter is a place you drop off donations of kibble and litter, and a homeless shelter is something many cross the street to avoid.

Cats and dogs are reigning – and it’s wrong.

Our family has always had pets.

When our much adored Golden Lab died suddenly six years ago, the eldest DeMeer son stayed home to bury her in the backyard behind the barn, on one of the coldest days in February.

He and a friend built a fire to thaw the ground, and then used axes and shovels to make a grave, upon which they built a small memorial.

All of us cried.

But if animals are equal – or even superior – to the two-legged members of our families, does that mean someday the boys are going to carry me out to the backyard, drop me in a hole beside the apple tree, drink a couple of beers and then go back to work the next day?

Note to self: Find a way to casually mention this would be highly illegal.

In 2014 a cat in Sarnia, Ontario made national headlines when it was shot 17 times in the head with a pellet gun.

The injured animal, who was named Joe by his rescuers, was found in a park and taken to a clinic where it underwent surgery.

In a matter of days $33,000 was raised by cat lovers across Canada to help with Joe’s vet bills, which ended up totalling $6,000.

When two young men were charged for this horrible crime there were dozens of protesters on the city’s courthouse steps. They carried signs even, consigning the accused to every corner of hell.

I wrote about Joe, for the Sun Media chain.

The gist of that piece was that while animal cruelty is abhorrent and should be severely punished, the people at the courthouse might want to think about also pulling out those signs for the perpetrators of child neglect, domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.

It also said: “Hey crazy people, it’s a cat.”

No exaggeration, those were the most ill-received and unpopular words to ever come off my keyboard.

It was like being hit by a tonne of social media bricks. At least a dozen people from across the province offered to shoot me in the head with a pellet gun, 17 times.

That weekend I was sitting with the boys, trolling through hundreds of vile comments and trying to make light.

My middle son said: Mom, have you ever thought about changing your last name?

When that got the response it deserved he turned to his brothers and said: Hey guys, have you ever thought about changing our last name?

There has got to be a funeral home that could send me pamphlets to leave around the house, right?

For those of you concerned about Joe, you will be pleased to learn that while he lost an eye he otherwise recovered fully. Today he has 54,000 Facebook followers. He has been featured in Modern Cat magazine, and often makes celebrity appearances in his hometown. He even helps fundraise by creating “pawographs.” Charges against the two men accused of shooting Joe were eventually dropped.

-Andrea DeMeer is the editor of the Similkameen Spotlight in Princeton.

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