A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal. (Proverbs 12:10)
Animals have been part of Appalachian households since the very early settlers populated the mountain terrain. Mules helped clear the wooded land and plow the meager fields. Horses carried their owners from place to place. Cattle, goats and sheep clothed and fed generations. And let’s not forget the chickens.
The early settlers relied on their Christian faith to guide their behavior toward their stock, and most frontier families protected and cared for their animals like they were members of the extended family. They realized the important role animals played in their survival.
In today’s Appalachian families, animals still play an important role, but they are no longer required for their owners’ survival. Instead, pets have become part of the familial unit, teachers of valuable life lessons and givers of unconditional love.
Caring for Your Pets
Whether you have a dog, cat, rabbit, horse, pot-bellied pig, gerbil, ferret, parrot, budgie, chameleon, snake, turtle or another type of creature, it takes responsibility to care for it. If you have children, delegate that responsibility to them, which not only builds character, but also creates a lasting bond between them. Pets test our moral fiber and teach us lessons we can’t get elsewhere.
Pets need more than food and water: regular medical checkups, appropriate training and exercise during the day all contribute to make pets happy and healthy. Since all pets — and all animals — are not created equal, they may need different levels of interaction. A dog, for example, may need more attention than a chameleon. Both, however, can make excellent pets.
What to Do in the Winter
When the cold descends onto the mountains, the temperature drops and those animals that spend any time outdoors need extra attention. Horses, for example, require adequate winter food, more (and warmer) water than usual, blankets and access to shelter. Check their hooves regularly and make sure they get plenty of exercise. When in doubt, call a veterinarian.
Dogs often love the colder temperatures for short durations. Keep up your walks and let them frolic in the snow, if you get some. Rabbits can survive and even flourish in the cold, but make sure they have access to a dry shelter. Chickens, which have become an urban trend, may not be “pets,” but they require the same amount of care as any other animals. All animals living outside the home need daily supervision.
Many pets don’t even need to go outside. Indoor-only cats may disappear, only to be rediscovered curled up by a radiator or heating vent. Cats love the heat, often dozing by sun-speckled windows. Follow your vet’s recommendations for your individual pet and enjoy the winter months with your four-legged friends. While you may not need the bible to guide your hand, the lesson from Proverbs should never be lost when you have pets.