My first dog Daisy was a purebred cocker spaniel. My parents gave her to me as a puppy when I was only 4 years old. She lived until the ripe old age of 15 and passed away in 2004.
Although I must agree that all dogs are adorable and need love equally, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking and research these past 2 years since I got my current dog Molly. I have decided that I'm not going to get a puppy in my lifetime.
I love puppies, don't get me wrong. There is nothing like them. But I have read too many horror stories and seen too much photographic evidence from the very real world of puppy mills. I cannot support this industry. I understand there are alternatives to puppy mills, like private-home litters or reputable breeders. I know there are other options.
But then I think of Molly, my dachshund/cocker spaniel mix, who may have very well been destroyed at the Humane Society after only 1 year of her life, if it wasn’t for my aunt who thought to herself, “there is a dog that needs rescue”. After almost 6 years, my aunt reached a point where she could no longer care for Molly and was reluctantly considering giving her up to the Humane Society again. The chances of her adoption at age 7 are just not good. Molly wasn’t a pure-bred, so she's far less likely to be adopted out. And because her original owner abused her throughout her 1st year of life, Molly had (and will always have) "behavioral issues". Which means, she's got separation anxiety; she is unnecessarily scared of certain things; she often has nightmares that make her cry in her sleep.
The point is that Molly is the sweetest dog I have ever known. She is shockingly empathetic; if I'm crying, she becomes visibly upset and puts her nose in my face, as if to comfort me. She is a extremely happy dog, loves to play, and is pleased by the simplest things. She deserves to have this happy home... and there are so many dogs out there just like her.
I want to make a commitment to myself, to Molly, and to future Mollys. I want to adopt only from the my local animal shelter for my whole life. I'll always try to find a dog that truly needs rescuing, not just a puppy or a purebred that will have a much higher chance of being adopted by a family. It will be a sacrifice in that I won’t get the full amount of time with the dog that I would if I got a puppy.
Obviously none of this will come about until after Molly has passed on (many years from now I hope). I’m not ready to own more than 1 dog at a time at this time, although I wouldn’t be against it in the future. However, when the time comes, I'll also be looking further into pet foster care. The Nebraska Humane Society has a volunteer foster care program for animals in need. Just like with regular foster care, it may be difficult to give the animal up if/when it's adopted out, because of the bonds you will likely form. But it is also fulfilling and rewarding to know that you are making a difference in some way.
"National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week" is next month, November 5-11. Here is an article from the Humane Society of the United States about what you can do to support your local shelter:
Four Ways To Support Animal Shelters
September 29, 2006
By Rebecca Simmons
Your local animal shelter works tirelessly all year round to help critters in your community. This year, don't miss your chance to tell them how much you support their work and appreciate all they do. National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week (held Nov. 5-11) is just around the corner, and it's the perfect opportunity to say thank you. Check out these four simple ways to celebrate your shelter and help animals in your area:
1. Be an Email Ambassador
Spread a shelter-friendly message every time you hit send—attach a tagline like the one below to your signature for all outgoing email messages:
Love animals? Show your support for your local animal shelter during National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, Nov. 5-11, 2006.
2. Grant A Wish
Start a collection for critters—find your local shelter's "wish list" (Hint: many shelters publish theirs in their newsletter or on their website) and ask friends, family and co-workers to donate items. Your wish list box will be bulging with goodies by the time National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week rolls around.
3. Donate a Few Dollars
Whether you decide to save your pocket change or plan a fundraiser like a car wash or yard sale, your donation will go a long way towards helping the animals in your community. (Hint: if you're planning a fundraiser, check with your shelter for brochures and other information to pass out at your event.) Start saving now, and your piggy bank will be full of donations for your local shelter by November.
4. Put Shelters in the Spotlight
Spread the word—and the love—for animal shelters:
- copy and paste this article to message boards or listservs you belong to
- forward this article to friends and family
- print this page and post it on bulletin boards at work, school and other places in your community to help build support for shelters.
Check www.hsus.org/pets the week of Nov. 5-11 for more ideas on celebrating National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week and supporting your local shelter.
Rebecca Simmons is the outreach communications coordinator for the Companion Animals section of The HSUS.