Who can resist a heartwarming, cute story involving a beloved pet? Every so often, you hear about a wayward cat or dog finding its way home from miles away after months or even years of being gone. A photo of a Minnesota man calmly carrying his elderly companion dog in Lake Superior has gone viral and landed the two, along with the photographer of the serene scene, national TV spots and all kinds of publicity. There's the California cat who, for the last five years, has given new meaning to the term cat burglar by prancing around the neighborhood and stealing things from houses, mostly articles of clothing, and bringing them to his home, where his owner promptly places them in lost-and-found boxes for neighbors missing items to look through. Turn to YouTube and you'll find all sorts of pets doing really cute, funny things.

Whether they're dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters, reptiles or birds, the majority of pet owners simply adore them, some more than others. There are those who even treat their critters better than a lot of people treat their own children, pampering them with regular spa treatments, gourmet meals, top-of-the-line playthings, lavish living quarters and designer outfits.

The rest of us keep ours happy and healthy by adequately feeding them, taking them in for regular veterinarian visits (although most pets don't actually like this), playing and snuggling with them, and taking for walks (if the species allows this). We might even get in an occasional grooming, bring him/her with to the pet store to choose his/her own goodies, or bring the little guy or lady sleep to get blessed.

Dogs and cats are particularly good at cheering you up after a bad day by simply nuzzling their nose to your face or giving the familiar look that says, "I totally understand where you're coming from and how you feel. Now pet me, darn it!" Once that soft or sleek fur comes in contact your skin, it's so easy to get lost in the moment and forget about everything else going on around you.

Even when they're being rambunctious, our furry friends are just so darn lovable!

There is, unfortunately, the flip side to all these sweet stories, one that's difficult to acknowledge and many choose to ignore. It's one thing to flip the channel the minute you hear Sarah McLachlan crooning a haunting, tear-jerking ballad for ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). But when you hear of animal abuse – not neglect or something out of the owner's control, but purposely harming an animal – occurring in your backyard, well, the closer it is to home, the harder it is to ignore.

The recent incident of what appears to have been a dog tied to the railroad tracks near Fisher was enough to send shock waves searing throughout the region. Miraculously, the dog survived, with no life-threatening injuries although it does require pricey medical attention to get back up to par. Just the thought that someone would do this to a poor, helpless animal, whether the perpetrator(s) was the owner looking to get rid of an unwanted dog or a sadist with no motive other than to inflict suffering onto a living thing, is utterly despicable.

If this dog was, in fact, the victim of human intentional wrongdoing, it's not likely that the wrongdoer will be caught, especially since law enforcement has said there is not enough information to investigate at this time. Should he/she/they attempt a similar act of violence or brag about this one to others, it might be another story. For now, at least, animal lovers can seethe silently or loudly about the situation and come to their own conclusion as to what really happened. I, personally, would hope that the dog was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but somehow, that scenario just doesn't align with the facts.

It is disheartening to read about innocent cats and dogs being tossed out of windows and vehicles as the brunt of people's anger, like the guy who allegedly threw a cat out of a two-story window (among other violent acts) because he was mad about his Internet not working. These kinds of things seem to be happening more and more, or maybe they're just being reported more than before, what with the speed sensational news flashes are now able to hit the streets. A few have turned out to be totally different, and much less incriminating to humans, than initial reports indicated. This is just as bothersome to me.

The big thing people need to realize with pets is that you don't just take one home and forget about it. Pets take work and money; they need lots of attention – especially dogs, patience in disciplining, regular feedings and medical need met. If the owners find they're just not up to all this after the fact, bring the animal to a shelter or find another home for it. Someone, somewhere will take it. But to dump it off somewhere like it's trash, or worse – well, would you want to be treated that way?