Sunday, May 10, 2009

Am I a mother?

A few kind and thoughtful people have sent me Mother's Day messages. It's common among animal lovers to think of themselves and others as parents to their pets. I don't have children; actually I never felt the need to identify myself as a mother. I do call Brindi my baby girl, but most of the time, I think of my animals as companions and adults in their own right. Brindi was already four when I adopted her and after a period of clingy-ness she soon gained confidence to become who she is - though she remains somewhat clingy, being a rescue, and being a loving dog!

The idea of being a mother to your pets does make sense in some ways; we care for our animals, nurture them, love them, teach them how to behave, take them with us on our journey through life. They never leave home of course, unless they are taken by illness or get lost or as in Brindi's case, dare I mention, just taken. 

I've noticed a sort of discursive debate among animal advocates out there about the proper designation for people who have pets: guardians vs. owners. I believe it has to do with the question of whether animals should have rights or remain property under the law. There seems to be a certain militancy among pro-guardian advocates, while a professor who teaches animal law at Dalhousie believes it is better to hang on to the concept of animals as property. I imagine that some combination must be derived to create the proper balance for animals to be fully protected from harm.
And today I wonder, how does this debate mesh with the notion of being a mother to a pet? Neither "guardian" nor "owner" brings with it the familial relationship or any hint of an emotional bond between human and animal. Why is that? My struggle to get Brindi back home has everything to do with this bond. It is not reflected in the law. My rights as a property owner seem to be so carefully guarded in all levels of law (with some exceptions, like expropriation). Courts tend to balance property rights against the public interest pretty fairly, on the whole, except when it comes to dogs. Then, all bets are off; a presumption of guilt is firmly embedded in the laws and practices. Anybody wondering what I am talking about should read not only By-Law A300, but also the Municipal Government Act, section 177. Anti-breed legislation opponents know this presumption of guilt (in pit bull bans, one-bite laws, and our native laws) does not correspond in any way to the statistics on the prime threats to human life. Nowhere in the law, or in the system built upon it, do I find consideration for all the good that dogs do for people - which is considerable. 

Brindi is a mom, by the way (and so is my cat, Amelia). When Brindi was rescued she had a full litter of puppies with her, in a cardboard box, and was shielding them from the rain with her body. Because she was tied to a stoop she could not get them to a dry place. She must have been so frustrated, then so glad to be helped! She detests water to this day, dislikes baths, won't swim in the ocean. In the photo on the top of the blog, it is no coincidence that she is running alongside a water-loving black lab at a careful distance from the waves.

Happily, Brindi's five pups were all adopted. Most went to the Halifax metropolitan area
Here's a few pictures:
pup 4Pups 1 and 2 by you.Brindi's 5th pup by you.Pup 3 by you.

So, as I never gave birth myself, this seems more appropriate:

***********Happy Mother's Day, dearest Brindi!***********

Thirsty momma by you.