Meet Mitchell.
Meet Mitchell.

Taking the risk

"I’d like to have an animal, but I don’t want to be sad when it dies." I hear this more often than you might imagine.

When they talk to me, people often start sentences with, "I’d love to have an animal, but ..." I listen closely to what comes next. To save a lot of homeless animals’ lives, we need to inspire a lot of people to have animals. Every time I hear, "I travel," "I’m allergic," "My cat wouldn’t like it," and so on, it helps us plan better ways to find families who can make a place for a homeless animal.

I understand what people mean when they say, "I don’t want to be sad." Loving an animal, like loving a person, opens you to pain. Most people are shocked when they realize for the first time how much it hurts to lose an animal friend. They’re shocked again when they realize it doesn’t get much easier the second time, or the third, or ever. That quiet cat who used to finish your cereal milk leaves an even quieter gap when she’s gone. When my old dog died, I kept taking our night walk – without him – for weeks.

When someone looks at me and says, "I couldn’t go through that again," I understand.

It’s easy to offer a different point of view; in fact, many people end up reframing the obstacle themselves. Losing an animal is so painful because loving an animal is so wonderful. The only way to avoid the pain is to miss the wonderful part. After some time passes, "I don’t want to be sad" often turns into "I’m ready for a friend." When that happens, when the person is ready, there’s a homeless animal waiting at a nearby shelter to be that friend.

For me personally, there’s a second answer to "I don’t want to be sad." Over the years, I’ve found myself grateful not only for the good times with our animals, but actually grateful for the grief we’ve experienced when they passed away. Looking back, I know that grieving for animals has made me more ready for other kinds of grief when it has come our way. Especially as a parent, I fee…

Goku, a 4 year-old Weimaraner, available for adoption at the Milwaukee Campus.
Goku, a 4 year-old Weimaraner, available for adoption at the Milwaukee Campus.

An important meeting to save dogs

Ever heard of Wisconsin’s Conservation Congress? If not, you’re not alone. But you can make a difference for dogs if you attend a Conservation Congress meeting tonight, April 8, in your county.

The Wisconsin Legislature created the Conservation Congress in 1934, saying, "The conservation congress shall be an independent organization of citizens of the state and shall serve in an advisory capacity to the natural resources board." The "natural resources board" sets policy for the Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, and the Conservation Congress still advises it, often with great influence. The Congress holds regular meetings in each county where anyone can vote on "delegates" to the Congress and give direct input by voting on specific questions.

Dogs in the wolf hunt? Yes, unless something changes.

This spring, one question on the ballot is especially important for me. In 2012, the Wisconsin Legislature created a wolf hunting season, and specifically allowed the use of dogs in wolf hunting. That made Wisconsin the only state to allow dogs in wolf hunting. After a lawsuit by the Wisconsin Humane Society, Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, and others, a judge barred the use of dogs in the 2012 hunt.

The judge’s order ended up proving that no one needs dogs to hunt wolves. The 2012 wolf hunt was supposed to last until February but ended in December because hunters had killed the maximum number of allowed wolves in every "management zone" in the state, even though they weren’t allowed to use dogs.

After the 2012 hunt, though, the judge removed his preliminary order. Unless the DNR or the legislature changes the current rules, dogs will be allowed in the 2013 wolf hunt.

We know from sad experience that confrontations between wolves and dogs end horribly, for dogs and often for wolves, too. Wolves can’t climb trees like bears, or fly away like game birds. What they can do is tear a hunting dog apart with their teeth. It has happened far too often alrea…