In a previous post, I mentioned something I really feel strongly about — pet adoption. If you’re looking for a pet, adoption is absolutely your best bet.
Many of the animals in shelters are in perfect health, have sparkling personalities, and want nothing more than to be loved and cared for in a real home. There are an incredible variety of breeds, ages, and personality types (such as energetic, laid-back, or curious). Usually they’re in a shelter for reasons that have nothing to do with them
Believe it or not, I just saw a beautiful lab mix dog last weekend, “Blackie,” who was turned out by his family. They quite literally threw Blackie out of the house. This sweet dog, though older, is housebroken and in good health (though with diminished sight since he’s getting on a bit). Thankfully these people’s neighbors rescued him and brought him to the shelter where he’d have a chance at a good life with a new family.
That’s a pretty awful story in my book. I don’t know the family that threw out this lovely dog, but even if they were under a hardship, they could have simply brought him to a shelter themselves. Instead they basically abandoned him to the elements, which is even more terrible given how unusually cold it’s been here for the last month. I really hope Blackie can find a new family.
Our dog, Dixie, ended up in a shelter through terrible misfortune. Her owner died, and there was no one to take care of her so she ended up at the Orange County Humane Society (here’s their official web site). When I first met Dixie, she had been in the shelter for three months and I’m sure she was despondent, in her own doggie way about the way her quality of life had diminished. (I know the shelter volunteers are wonderful, caring people who do their best to provide for the dogs and cats that end up there, but there’s only so much they can do with a small budget and many unfortunate animals to care for.)
It was obvious that Dixie was a good match for us. She had a lot of spark and personality even though she was a little “down in the dumps” from being in the shelter so long. She was gentle and basked in attention, and when my family came to the shelter display to meet her, it was clear she was good with the kids too. We were definitely taken with this wonderful dog and wanted to give her a permanent home.
She was fully vaccinated, tested, spayed, and microchipped* when we got her, and she’s great with the kids, loves attention and play, is bubbly and effusive, and just an all-around fantastic dog.
I still can’t figure out how we lucked out with such a wonderful dog — and why Dixie had been in the shelter for so long, over three months, without being adopted! But I think a big part of it is there are so many people who don’t understand just how many beautiful, loving animals are in shelters waiting for a family to love and care for them. Seriously, there are a lot of them! And with so many wonderful animals in need of a “forever family,” it makes absolutely no sense to me to buy a “new” pet.
Sure, I’ll freely admit that Dixie’s and Blackie’s stories really touch a sympathetic nerve. But I’ve always thought that we as a society should not be encouraging the sales or breeding of “new” animals when there are so many abandoned or unfortunate pets out there who need homes. Personally, I think buying “new” animals supports a system that encourages the attitude that domestic animals are disposable. It makes it convenient for us to forget the hundreds of thousands of pets in need who want nothing more than someone to love and care for them.
Completely putting aside the emotional appeal of taking in an unfortunate pet, and just looking at a practical aspect like finances, it’s even more incredible that people will pay outrageous amounts of money for bred animals, when an equally wonderful or even superior pet from a shelter is so inexpensive. For example, Dixie cost us something like $200 to adopt from the Humane Society. She was already spayed, tested, and so on — all costs that we saved by adopting this loving girl into our home.
Of course, just because a pet is previously owned doesn’t mean they come to you with no work required on your part — you still have to be a good owner. But they do have memory and can re-adjust quickly, and a lot more easily than training a young animal from scratch. For instance, during her three month stay in the shelter, Dixie had forgotten a good deal of her housebreaking training. (If you were forced to stay in a tiny prison cell for a long time, and were only allowed use of a separate bathroom facility once a day or less, you’d probably be a little off-kilter in your toilet habits, too.) So there were a couple weeks after we got her where we had to make a special effort to re-housebreak her. But it was certainly no harder than what anyone would have to do with a “new” puppy; in fact, it was a lot easier because Dixie quickly adjusted, remembering that there are some behaviors a dog should save for outside. 🙂
OK, I know I’ve rattled on here a bit, but I really feel strongly about this subject. I hope if you’re considering buying a pet you’ll visit the shelters in your area. In fact, you don’t even have to go anywhere. You can use online search systems like Petfinder to find a compatible critter that’s waiting for someone just like you. It’s practically a guarantee that if you look, you’ll find a wonderful companion who will give you years of unconditional love.
By the way… if you look at the OCHS web page, you’ll find Dixie on their “Furry Tails” page, which features pets who’ve found their forever homes and families.
* A lot of pets have subcutaneous microchips, implanted relatively painlessly by a veterinarian. If a pet is lost and picked up by a shelter or animal control, they can be returned to their owners, or at least their records can be located to more effectively find them a new home.