Your Cold, Cold Heart

No one deserves to freeze to death

An untold number of dogs and cats have frozen to death during this brutal winter. Not just strays or ferals, but pets, those four-legged friends many of us consider family. When we hear these stories in the news we shake our heads and ask: what kind of person does that?

There is a concerted effort on the part of animal welfare advocates to raise awareness about the plight of dogs tied to chains for life. They’re the new slave of the modern world — poor, helpless, voiceless creatures at their master’s mercy. Chained behind the house in sub-zero weather with inadequate shelter, frozen water bowls, no companionship or hope, they look so lonely they break our hearts.

How would you like to sleep like this?

These dogs are also at the mercy of lax animal welfare laws, ones that state that if a dog is fed and watered daily and has some kind of shelter, no matter how bad it looks — it’s all right. Some laws are being re-reviewed to prevent the kind of wanton neglect pictured above, but animal advocates are struggling to get them changed.

Unlike Malamutes and Newfoundlands, dogs bred for working and living in winter conditions, the majority of dogs and cats aren’t so lucky — they don’t have triple thick, waterproof coats. Like us, they are prone to frostbite and hypothermia. Ferals and strays are especially prone to dehydration during long cold snaps, which leave them without even drips of melting snow to quench their thirst.

Cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothernmia

I’ve heard so many stories this winter of animals dying of neglect I’ve become increasingly angry and depressed. Sometimes I hate mankind. Researching animal abusers is probably the hardest part about writing The Patron Saint of Dogs. At times I couldn’t bear to even write a scene about them and I just couldn’t understand it – how does someone let their pet freeze to death? Or leave them behind when they move? Why don’t they care? How do they sleep at night?

The answer is sad but true. There are people on this earth with little to no conscience for the welfare of others. Whether they are sociopaths, alcoholics, drug addicts or have personality disorders, many people on this earth have zero empathy or concern for anything but themselves.

Some see their pets as objects and care no more for them than for the bush behind the house buckling under the weight of the snow. Others see their pets as extensions of themselves, and if they are self-destructive people, they don’t care about that poor creature locked outside in a blizzard, either.

Sociopaths, and those with certain personality disorders like narcissists, exist without the kind of consciences that keep good people up at night. They don’t care how their actions affect others, heck, they don’t even have the brain chemistry to plague them with such thoughts.

In a support group for abused women, I’ve heard too many stories about pets that had to be left behind when the victims fled. The animals, who were also abused during the relationship, took their place. I know of two sets of house pets that were abandoned outdoors this winter — one of whom froze to death — and of another, caged up in a garage in sub-zero weather, who succumbed to hypothermia.


Another woman, newly separated, posted pictures on Facebook of her first night out on the town with her friends since she left her abusive husband, who was stalking her. The next morning her horse was found dead, his head beaten in.

I got sick when I heard another story about a woman who jumped out of bed one Sunday morning upon hearing the screams of her young daughters and the howls of her dog. She ran downstairs to discover her husband with the control to their dog’s shock collar in his hand. He was pressing it, over and over again, as the dog cried and the girls watched in horror.

What kind of person does that? One who is all about power and control. There are people among us with charm and personality who you’d never in a million years think badly of. They seem so kind, so generous, so loving in public. But behind closed doors? Their masks fall off, and it is only their families and pets who know the evil that lurks within them.

We can’t change these people, heck, we can’t even convict most of them. But there are things that people of good conscience can do:

Every stray cat is a homeless cat

We can reach out to victims of domestic violence and help ensure their pets are not left behind to bear the brunt of the abuse.

We can be vigilant by caring enough to stop for an animal in need, and report suspected cases of neglect and abuse to our local animal welfare authorities.

We can speak up about lax animal welfare laws, too. Animal advocates need all the support they can get from the public.

We can step in when we see an animal being abused or neglected.

We can educate those around us who seem oblivious to the basics of properly caring for their pets.

We can support local rescue groups, those who take in animals in crisis or help tend feral cat colonies.

Cold weather safety

Or we can do something utterly unconventional I advocate in my tweets all the time:

If you see an animal in distress, please knock on their human’s door and ask them to grow a heart.

“Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.” –Arthur Schopenhauer



About The Patron Saint of Dogs
Writing The Patron Saint of Dogs is my way of helping to save abused and abandoned dogs and cats in the real world. A portion of every sale will be donated to animal rescue organizations in Canada and around the world. My name is Colleen MacDougall and I was a dog walker and pet sitter for 11 years. Many of the furry characters in this book are reincarnations of wonderful animals I was able to know, love and help, especially Jules, who is Grace's partner-in-crime now, but was my furbaby and the very first person I hope to see in that great off-leash park in dog heaven.

12 Responses to Your Cold, Cold Heart

  1. OMgosh! I’m still learning about Word Press and didn’t realize those I follow blogs were there for me to read all this time. However, this topic is crucial and timeless. I’m with you all the way, sista!

  2. Heather Bowman says:

    Thanks for the incite and hard hitting truth in your arrival. I like you cannot sleep at nght when I hear of the poor neglected animals out there, will share this on Twitter, G mail and fb. Like so many others again I cannot fathem how these dirty, low-life, scummy bstrds live with themselves and one big how the hell are they getting away with it is always at the front of my mind. Your title cold, cold heart is very fitting for the arrival and describes these dark, sinister monsters like they truly are.

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