By Alejandro Grattan-Dominguez
God Bless Our Four-legged Friends
The two most often heard complaints by foreigners living here at Lakeside used to be about the callous and sometimes cruel treatment of animals, and the bureaucracy’s fondness of needless paperwork. The latter (as Jesus is said to have remarked about the poor) will perhaps always be with us; but the treatment of animals has greatly improved.
When this writer first moved to Lakeside 23 years ago, it was not unusual to see large packs of dogs running loose, or lying dead along side the highway—dogs dying of hunger, or being severely mistreated, often for sheer sport, sometimes with thin steel rods which could break the animal’s spine. I once witnessed a man whipping a heavily-laden burro with just such a bar. When I objected, he sneered that we gringos must think that animals have souls. Mexicans knew better, he contemptuously observed.
Today, thanks to hundreds of animal-loving volunteers (both foreigners and Mexicans), and organizations such as Lakeside Spay and Neuter Center, Lakeside Friends of the Animals, Lakeside Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Preserve, Anita’s Animals and the Animal Shelter, the situation is much better. Moreover, the attitude toward animals has greatly changed among the locals; e.g., one now sees Mexican children walking little dogs on a leash, with the animals often sporting sweaters during the colder months.
Yet more changes in attitude are needed. For a country as religious as Mexico, there seems little awareness of the many loving references to animals in the Bible, e.g., as the prophet Nathan told King David about the lamb and a poor man, “From his morsel the lamb would eat, and from his cup it would drink, and in his bosom it would lie, and it came to be as a daughter to him.” Samuel 12:1-3
It also seems many people here have no appreciation for the intelligence of animals—especially that of dogs. It is well-known that seeing-eye dogs are a great help to thousands of blind people, but dogs can also be trained to assist the deaf, as well. Some dogs, hearing the bell at the front door, or the buzzer on the oven timer, or a smoke and fire alarm, are trained to alert their owners to the situation.
A dog owned by a woman confined to a wheelchair has been taught to pick up her telephone and to lick stamps for the mail. Another dog responds to a 120 commands, and even gathers cans and packets from supermarket shelves.
Pets benefit the elderly, as well. They often give purpose and meaning at a time when the elderly feel alienated from society. The medical benefits of this are well-documented. The Toronto Star has reported that “Companion animals are associated with lower stress, fewer doctors’ visits and even better survival rates after heart attacks.”
The love and devotion between Man and many animals can, however, be a bit intense, as these few over-the-top examples humorously illustrate: In divorce cases, the custody of a pet can be hotly contested, and is at times awarded as part of the settlement in property disputes. People have even named pets in their last will and testament as beneficiaries, often making them the recipients of sizable wealth.
So though Mexico still has a way to go in its treatment of animals, the U.S. has often gone too far. The ancient Greeks espoused moderation in all things, a prescription for happiness in both countries.