Studies have shown that animals are good for our health. They keep us calm and boost self esteem. They force us to get up and get active, they lower stress and anxiety. I have had 4 perfect rescue dogs. My current furbaby, Watson, is not a pet, he’s family. You can read about how he moved in and protected me from my own depression here. Dogs don’t have to be a pure bred with papers to be perfect. I won’t get on my Puppy Mill Soap Box here, but mixed breeds and mutts are just as loving and loyal as a pedigree. Before you pay big bucks for that designer dog PLEASE check out a shelter. There are so many beautiful dogs that need furever homes.
I worked for my area animal rescue and shelter when I was younger and have cried at the joyous moments when an animal goes to a loving home, and also at the choices that must be made with the ones that don’t get adopted. For Adopt a Shelter Dog month, I wanted to share some things I learned from that experience.
- Make sure you really want a pet.
Don’t buy a bunny for your kid for Easter, and don’t apologize to your wife by getting her a puppy. People drop off “beloved” pets at a shelter for the craziest of reasons. So make sure you know what the commitment is beforehand. Think about the size of the animal and what you can and can’t handle. Be honest. Don’t be the jerk that comes back and says “we can’t keep Rover because we installed hardwood floors and he’s scratching them up.” Are you kidding me? Or another one that drives me nuts…”I love Fluffy, but my boyfriend moved in and he hates dogs.” Seriously? Guess which one I’d be moving out???
- Keep an open mind.
Don’t walk into the shelter and ask ‘Do you have any small/young/brown/black/fluffy dogs?” For Pete’s sake, walk around. Check out all the dogs. The one that steals your heart might not be young, or small, or fluffy and you could have missed out on this connection because you simply weren’t willing to look.
- Don’t say no to an older dog!
Sure everyone wants a cutie patootie puppy but older dogs are just as adorable and playful. Most of them are already house trained. They have a developed personality and the shelter can tell you if they are good with kids or other animals. They come ready to please and learn some new tricks. They most likely have had all those puppy shots and have been spayed or neutered, which saves you some cash at the vets office.
- Don’t judge a dog by your first impression!
Shelter dogs spend a lot of time cooped up in cages. They may have some trust issues. When I worked for animal rescue I brought my Aunt up to look at a dog I thought would be perfect for her family. He was an adult beagle named Catfish Hunter (after the MLB Pitcher). I brought her to his pen and she thought he was adorable but too hyper. I told her to give it a minute, you’d be hyper too if you spent hours in a cage! My uncle got him on a leash and they took him for a walk around the grounds. About 5 minutes into the walk Catfish calmed down and was a perfect gentleman. Happily, he went home with my Aunt and Uncle where his name was promptly changed to Buddy. So give the dog a chance to get used to the freedom, and you, before saying no.
- Don’t scoff
Shelters want to adopt out dogs, but that doesn’t mean they will hand one over to anyone who hands back some cash. They want to know the animal is going to a good home. So many people are shocked to find out they may need references and a vet lined up. You may have to show proof of income and if you’re a renter that you’re allowed to have a pet. Don’t be offended, they just want to ensure that you won’t be dropping the animal back off in a few weeks because “something came up.” Believe me, it happens more than you’d think. Also, don’t scoff at the nominal price. Most shelters are non profit and that fee you pay goes to house, feed and provide medical treatment to all the animals. It’s WAY lower than what you would pay a breeder or a pet store so please don’t say it’s a homeless dog, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.
- If you’re not ready to adopt, volunteer or donate.
Most shelters run on donations. Some need cash. Some need blankets, cleaning supplies, shampoos, food, and toys. Contact your shelter to see what they need. Better still, go there and take a few dogs out for a walk, socialize some kitties or help the staff with some maintenance. You can add to the quality of an animal’s life simply by spending an afternoon with them.
According to the ASPCA roughly 7.6 million animals enter shelters annually. 35% of these are adopted out, 26% are strays that are returned to the owner, and 26% are euthanized. Adoption is an act of love. You are opening your heart and home to a new family member. So check out a shelter, the dog doesn’t have to match your couch, it just has to be snuggled on it.
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