When one considers the needs of Portsmouth, one can point to poverty issues, drug abuse among our teenagers and young adults, lack of jobs and a host of other significant social concerns. Often ignored by comparison, is the plight of the truly voiceless. The abandoned, neglected and, at times, abused animals in our community. (Let me limit the discussion to dogs, although many other animals warrant our help as well.)
To put a dog’s life in perspective, recognize this simple fact. A dog’s life is only an average of 10 years – three years a puppy, three years an adult and about three years before death, and this is under the best of circumstances. People, on average, now have a life expectancy of seven times the life of a dog.
Many of us have seen and rescued dogs coming to our homes in the dead of winter, surviving on deer carcasses, trailing long chains as they broke free attempting to find a better life, often returned to an abusing owner. We hear the horror stories of dogs shot lying on the front yard of their owner’s home, killed trying to enjoy the warming rays of an early spring day, as just happened this spring. Of puppies huddled to death freezing in winter, trying to keep warm by lying together without shelter, as happened this winter. Of dogs undergoing amputations for neglected wounds or bullet injuries, as happened to two German Shepherds this past year. Of dogs used by people as props begging for charity on the side of our roads. We have seen beagles kept in tiny shelters barely let out. We have seen dogs left at the side of a road as the owner drove off, the dog not wanting to leave, believing the owner would come back.
To know the love of a dog, is to know the most devoted selfless love a man or woman can experience. Through caring for these often neglected animals, we also add meaning to our own lives. It is ironic that it takes a dog to bring out the humanity in a human.
Creating a position for a humane officer in our community is an act of caring for the most neglected, the most poor, the truly voiceless members of our community. In return, we add meaning to our own lives. That is also a statement about the nature of the Portsmouth community at large, and what is important to us.
Norman M. Jacobs, M.D.