First of all, let me make something crystal clear: I’m not an “anti-vaxxer.” I’m an educated, concerned citizen who loves my companion animal and is just asking questions. And the most important question I’m asking is: why should I risk my sweet Labradoodle Lucy developing autism to prevent her from getting a practically extinct disease like rabies?

Before you say something like, “Don’t be stupid, rabies are terrible!” — let me stop you right there. I’m not ignorant — I’ve done the research. I know that rabies, in certain cases, can be serious. But the fact is, almost no dogs get rabies these days. It’s incredibly rare! That’s why pet vaccines, which aren’t 100% reliable and are known to cause a myriad of health problems, should be a matter of choice.

What happened to personal choice? Our grandparents weren’t required by law to inject their animals with chemicals and preservatives — yet their dogs and cats lived long, happy lives. It’s true the occasional stray would come down with a case of rabies and, within a few days, transform into a snarling, deranged predator, indiscriminately attacking everything in its path from horses to small children. And sure, that rabid dog might eventually have to be hunted down by a posse organized by the town and shot several times before eventually dropping like a stone, still foaming at the mouth, jaws frozen wide open in a macabre grin — even in death. But that almost never happened!

So the question for responsible dog and cat guardians like me becomes: why risk the dangers posed by vaccines just to prevent the incredibly unlikely scenario in which my Lucy goes on a rabid rampage?

What dangers, you ask? Dogs can’t get autism, you say. Well, how do you know that? There simply haven’t been enough studies on canine autism, mostly because the pharmaceutical companies, pet food companies, the American Veterinary Association and the universities they fund — don’t want them to happen. But I saw up close how devastating canine autism can be when I decided to vaccinate my last dog, Cooper.

When I brought Cooper home from the vet after he had his vaccines, he was never the same again. Before, he was playful, energetic, and would hump practically everything in my apartment but his food dish. Afterwards, he was listless and rarely barked — he’d lost his spark. The fact that I observed this marked change in behavior after he got his vaccines is irrefutable proof that vaccines are harmful. End of story.

Of course, my Western medicine-trained veterinarian tried to tell me, condescendingly, that Cooper’s personality changes were the result of his neutering. But after googling it, I’ve come to believe it was due to the fact that he got both the distemper and Lyme disease vaccines at the same time. Why can’t they space those out? And for that matter, how bad can distemper really be?

But here’s the point. I don’t think I should be discriminated against and shamed for making the choice not to vaccinate Lucy for every disease under the sun. It’s not fair that I can’t find a doggie daycare that will accept my healthy, homeopathically-treated girl — because I know what’s best for my dog. And believe me, I know for a fact she has absolutely zero chance of getting parvovirus, hepatitis, canine adenovirus-2, parainfluenza, bordetella, leptospirosis, coronavirus, Lyme disease, or measles.

The good news is, I’m not alone. I’ve found a group of like-minded, concerned liberal arts majors who are skeptical of the profit motives of the companies that manufacture canine vaccines — and we’re banning together. We’ve formed our own Vaccine-Free Companion Animal Co-Op. And it’s working! Last week, when one of the dogs came down with kennel cough, we put them all together in the same room, just like our grandmothers did — to allow their natural immune systems to heal them.

At the moment, my Lucy can’t stop coughing, has a fever, is vomiting — and won’t eat or drink. But I can sleep at night knowing she’s free from all those unnatural drugs pumping through her veins. She’ll recover in a few days, unless she develops secondary bacterial pneumonia, which can be fatal. But that almost never happens.