The month of April marks Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. It’s difficult to believe we still live in a world where we proactively need to spread awareness that cruelty towards animals is unacceptable, but unfortunately, these acts of hate occur to helpless creatures every day.
Back in January of this year, my husband and I adopted an 11-year-old Staffordshire Terrier mix named Betty. When we met Betty at her foster mom’s apartment, she was sweet as a peach and ran right up to us as if we were her long-lost friends. It was an instant connection, and we fell in love with her immediately. We applied to adopt her that same night.
We did know that when she was surrendered to the rescue center, she was completely emaciated and there were signs of physical and mental abuse she had suffered. But the extent and the details of that abuse, we still don’t know of to this day.
The impact of the cruelty bestowed upon Betty all of those years has seeped through in the last few months. She paced in the kitchen about her food and water bowls being empty, gripped with fear they wouldn’t be refilled. She growled under her breath when we got too close at times. She pulled strongly on her leash while we were on daily walks because her anxiety skyrocketed when she didn’t know how to act. The bottom line: she didn’t trust us.
It’s been painful and devastating to bear witness to the long-term effects that cruelty plays in the well-being of animals. Betty is just one example. According to PETA, 10 million animals in the US are abused to death annually, and by the time you read this article, 10 animals will be abused.
As hard as it’s been watching Betty wincing in fear or cowering away from us when her instincts kick in to protect herself, nothing has been more rewarding than seeing her slowly but surely put down her weapons and make herself at home. After a lot of patience (and many, many boxes of treats), she no longer questions whether or not she is getting her dinner, or if water will be readily available in her bowl. She knows that when I lean in close to her face, it’s only to give her kisses and tell her how much I love her.
One of the most frustrating parts of being an owner of a rescue dog with an abusive past is I can’t just sit in front of her and say what I want to say in a way that she can understand. I can’t tell her that she is safe now, we are her home, and she didn’t deserve the life she had. All I can do is show her with my patience, my love and my actions.
As the legendary Betty White (who our Betty is named after) wisely once said, “You can always tell about somebody by the way they put their hands on an animal.”
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