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About Pets and Responsibility

Christie is a Shi-poo, a Shih-tzu and poodle cross, and she is going to be with us for many years. Terry Sprague photo

Today’s blog is not about whether or not a predator control program is needed in the County, or whether we have too many coyotes, too few deer, too many fishers, too few rabbits, ad infinitum. That’s not the issue and I don’t get involved in what people perceive to be a problem.  It’s about the absolute stupidity of pet owners who, fully aware that predators are present, refuse to take care of their pets, and continue to let them run free, unsupervised. It is something my family has never done on a dare and could explain why our pets for more than six decades have lived to a minimum of 15 years, one of them, a Chihuahua, reaching 17 years. Yet, pet owners continue to do this, knowing full well that we have coyotes, coyote/wolf hybrids, fishers, foxes and all manner of dangers lurking. Added to the dangers out there are motorists, many of whom refuse to slow down these days for any animal, and there are dognappers slithering about as well. Still, pet owners let their dogs and cats out at night to do their final toilet, unsupervised, and then go into a conniption fit when their pet fails to return. We know what the solution is, and it’s that Gawd awful term that today makes most people tremble. It’s called “responsibility” a word that is quickly disappearing from our vocabularies, because we loathe what the term implies. And today’s blog is not going to change a damn thing. We will continue to lose pets. And toddlers and infants apparently as well, as the comments I have seen in the press suggests that they, too, will be left unattended to be snatched by passing predators. It takes me a year to grieve the passing of any dog we have owned; I can’t imagine how I’d feel if my lack of responsibility resulted in losing my pet. And it ain’t gonna happen, because I have no intention of taking my eyes off our dog any time soon.

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About the Author: Terry Sprague became interested in nature at an early age. "Growing up on the family farm at Big Island, 12 miles north of Picton, on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Quinte, I was always interested in the natural world around me. During my elementary school days at the small one-room school I attended on Big Island, I received considerable encouragement from the late Marie Foster, my teacher in Grades 6 through 8. Her home was a short distance from where I lived and through the years she was responsible for developing my interest in birds. The late Phil Dodds, a former editor with the Picton Gazette, also a great nature enthusiast, suggested I undertake a nature column - a column I have submitted weekly since 1965. The column has since expanded to the Napanee Beaver and the Tweed News. Life has been good, and through the years I have enjoyed working with such nature related agencies as Glenora Fisheries Research as a resource technician, Sandbanks Provincial Park as a park interpreter and Quinte Conservation as a naturalist and outdoor events coordinator. As a nature interpreter, currently working from my home office, I now create and lead numerous interpretive events in the area and offer indoor audio/visual presentations to interested groups. Could one who is interested in nature have enjoyed a more exhilarating period in the work force?" Terry's website is

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  1. Sedona says:

    Hello to all:

    I agree with all your comments here re cats and dogs. Here in the city, people let the cats out, then blame them. I came upon this link today about the coyotes.

  2. Donald says:

    The other part of the equation Terry is the terrible toll on birds and wildlife created by cats running at large in our community. This spring I have found the remains of at least 15 birds scattered around our property. I love cats — but allowing them to roam unattended is taking a terrible toll on wildlife.

  3. kelly says:

    Hawks, chickadees, finches, skunks, racoons, mice and the occasional oppossum are all part of my cats daily kitty tv playing from the bedroom window. She is 16 (around 80 in human years), diabetic but otherwise happy healthy and loved. She enjoys a short walk outside with me but never alone. If any creature gets into the house she will corner whatever it is but never kill it – waiting for me to catch it and put it outside. Growing up, I lost too many pets to cars outside of our home and I would never again risk losing my pet that way! I have had my cat Esa since she was abandoned in a garage at a week and a half old! It would break my heart to lose her to the dangers of the great outdoors! Wonderful article TerrY!

  4. Carol says:

    Terry is spot on with this article. It sickens me to know that mankind can have such disregard as to ignore their responsibility for the pets they supposedly love. I too have been an animal lover since birth and all the dogs and cats i have owned throughout my life live to ripe old ages, varying from 15-21 years. This is not luck, fate or anything like the sort. It’s my devotion and love for my pets to always look after them every day that i am blessed to have them in my life that keeps them safe, healthy and happy to the very end. My cats NEVER go outdoors, and my dogs are always within my sight even when in our backyard which is completely fenced in for their safety. Being a county lifer, living rurally i know all the dangers that are out there, but i also have great respect and love for all of our wildlife as well. I have never lost a pet to a run-in with any wild animal, and i never shall because i have the “RESPONSIBILITY” that Terry so elequently speaks of in his article.
    Keep up the great work Terry!

  5. Louisa says:

    Responsibility. It’s like we, as a society, have been taught to throw it away and give it no weight of importance. It is a throwaway world, pets included. I think of responsibility when I walk the beautiful Millennium Trail and visit a gorgeous nearby marsh. The way is littered with litter. So it was okay to buy the fast-food or other item, okay to carry the container down the trail, but then magically, it was not okay to carry the container away and dispose of it responsibly. Seems to be so much disrespect along with the irresponsibility. All about ‘me’. I am sometimes embarrassed to be a human. Sounds harsh, I know, but there you are.

  6. Agneta Sand says:

    Hi Terry,
    I am with you 100%. It is the owner’s RESPONSIBILITY to keep their pets safe. At the same time – we should all take better care of our garbage and not feed our pets outside. Too many raccoons etc. are being royally fed by garbage and pet food left out for them. Not fair to them or the pets.

  7. Priscilla says:

    Hi Terry:
    You forgot to mention the folks who leave their dogs in cars on these hot days with the windows ‘cracked’, seemingly oblivious to the fact a dog can die in minutes in the kind of heat that builds up in there. Linda Hack, a Belleville vet had an article about that a couple of days ago in the Intell. People should always have the Humane Society number handy for these sightings and failing that a call to 911 is warrented.

  8. Sedona says:

    Hi Terry: I am glad you wrote about this – happening too much these days. Responsibility is the key word. One thing:
    are there fishers at PEC they are a nasty creature are they not? P.S. I am seeing here in the city signs up all the time for lost dogs and cats

  9. Sandra says:

    Well said, Terry. Dan Chauvin, from Massachusetts, is a songwriter-composer, but also an animal officer. He goes out for all sorts of things, from auto accidents to an Emu running wild. He stresses responsibility on his FB blog every day. He would love this article.

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