I was sitting here struggling to think of a good way to start the New Year online. Should I just wish everyone a happy New Year? Thank all our wonderful supporters for their ongoing support even in these troubled times? Focus on a dog that needs a home at the moment?
All of these seemed like good ideas, but then I came across this post by the wondrous Christie Keith, whom I'm as fond of for her personal and political blogging as for her regular posts at the brilliant Pet Connection.
What Christie's post comes down to is that we should always remember to celebrate good pet ownership and withhold knee-jerk judgement. And I couldn't agree with her more.
So often we hear story after brutal story of abuse and inhumanity towards man's best friend(s). There are undoubtedly people out there who are irresponsible, cruel, unkind, thoughtless... the adjectives go on and none of them are pleasant. There are also people whose reasons for abandoning a dog fill us with baffled disbelief. Sometimes it's painfully necessary to dwell on this reality and we do what we can every day to fight against this through education, campaigning and care for dogs.
Other times - and I think New Year is one of them - it's also important to look at the flipside. The fact that for every one deliberately or heedlessly irresponsible owner, there are also thousands of kind, generous, caring individuals who will put themselves out - financially or otherwise - to help a companion animal.
It can sound counterintuitive, but there are good reasons for surrendering a dog to a rehoming centre. There are dogs who come to us because their owners have recently died, and the rest of the family (if there is any) cannot give the dog a suitable home. There are dogs whose owners have admitted to themselves that they didn't know enough about raising a pup before they bought one, and are now out of their depths in terms of the time, money and effort it takes to train a dog; once the deed is done, I'd much rather they gave the dog away to us than continued to struggle to turn out a canine good citizen who might develop fear or aggression issues and ultimately be put down needlessly.
Then of course there are the thousands of supporters who enable us to care for those dogs by raising money or donating goods, time and skills, or who open their doors to yet another dog when they thought that the household was already full. There are the staff members, volunteers and local animal lovers who foster a dog who is kennel-stressed, or in danger of being put down for lack of a home - though naturally that wouldn't be the case at Dogs Trust as we never, ever put a healthy dog down.
Today, as those of us lucky enough to have a workplace to go to head grumbling back to our desks, I want to take the opportunity to thank not just Dogs Trust supporters, but all those people who give an active, happy, healthy life to their pets and who should be applauded and held up as a positive example.
Here's wishing you all a very Happy New Year - pets and people!