Stop Stealing my children! – the secret cry of female dogs

In the movie 12 Years a Slave, a woman gets separated from her children at a slave auction, when they are sold to a different plantation. She arrives at the new plantation sobbing. The Mistress of the plantation wants to know why she is crying and is told that she has been separated from her children. Unperturbed, the mistress says ‘Get something to eat. Get some rest, your children will soon be forgotten.’

When I saw this, my mouth dropped in shock.  ‘Oh my God! How could she say that? She is a woman herself! Doesn’t she have kids?’
My husband looked at me shaking his head. ‘Babe, in that time period, the plantation owner did not see the slave as a woman. She was property. The slave belonged to her, just as her dog belonged to her. She could get a new one anytime she wanted to.’

‘If your dog has pups,’ he continued, ‘you own them. You can give them away or sell them if you choose. It was no different for slaves. If the slave woman had kids, the owners had a right to sell them to whomever they wanted to because they did not belong to their mothers. They belonged to the plantation owner. Just as your dog’s pups don’t belong to your dog. They belong to you.’

But they do belong to the dog I thought. And just as a mother misses her kids, dogs miss their pups too.  Why give them the pleasure of having pups and then take them away? When a dog has pups she loves and cares for them, just as a mother cares for her babies. Shouldn’t she be given the opportunity to raise them too?

A few years ago my brother’s dog Cecil had a litter of about six pups. Three of them fell ill and died within days of each other. I remember Cecil hauling uncontrollably. A couple of weeks later, the remaining pups were given away. The hauling began again and seemed to go on forever… But it eventually stopped. Did she forget about her pups? I don’t think so. But just like us humans, she probably realized that they were not coming back and stopped crying.

As I watched Eliza – the woman on 12 Years a Slave, fight for the right to moan for her children, I thought of Cecil. Dogs feel the loss of their pups too, but just like the mistress of the plantation, we believe that they will forget.

Maybe, because their grief is not as prolonged and visible as ours, we assume that they forget.  Or is it because they don’t show us any bitterness and resentment after we’ve given their pups away? They continue to shower us with affection immediately after we have intentionally hurt them. (Quite different from us humans.)

Today, I cannot presume to know what goes on in a dog’s private thoughts, but in my heart I can no longer support the breeding of dogs for sale.

Life is short…Even though we may not fully understand the depth of their emotions, animals have feelings too.

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