I apologize for the delay in my second installment. Much like the rest of Rochester NY, I was fighting my old nemesis the flu.
This week’s topic is Dog Rescue and adoption.
There is no greater contribution you can make to a dog’s welfare than through dog adoption. In many cases you are literally pulling an animal away from death and giving it a chance. The individuals who make it their life’s work to help these animals are underfunded, overwhelmed, and under-appreciated. The next time you meet someone who works at a shelter, volunteers, or are associated with pet rescue; please pat them on the back. They fight the good fight every damn day. They literally walk down hallways everyday hoping that someone will save an animal they see so much potential in. If you have a no kill shelter near you terrific. If not, it’s truly an issue of overpopulation and under funding. I would love a world where every shelter in America had a “no kill” policy, but I’m also a realist. Sure, if you have an organization that is doing well to the extreme that its founders are receiving substantial salaries from funding and donations, I believe you have every right to demand that their policies reflect their prosperity. But for underfunded and overwhelmed institutions just trying to stay afloat it’s unrealistic and irresponsible to put your energy towards compounding to the daily problems they face instead of pouring that passion towards their eventual success of being able to fiscally facilitate a “no kill” status. Kill or no kill the people who choose to surround themselves with constant sorrow and occasional happiness of adoption deserve our admiration. They are doing the best with what they have.
The dog that you go to see in a shelter is truly animal that is being stunted socially. Please understand dogs are social by nature. They need social stimulation. They crave it. Regardless of the situation the animal is brought from, they are often confined in a 4×4 space with none or extremely limited social opportunities. That’s why I do not believe in automatically dismissing a dog for adoption by the behavior they show when you meet them. Please understand that you might have been the only substantial social contact that poor animal has received in the past few days, weeks, and sometimes even months. They more than likely will come across as a bit forward or over bearing. On the opposite extreme they may seem reclusive or withdrawn. To truly understand why they act that way please put yourself in their position for a moment.
You want nothing more than to give and receive love and affection. You have this burning internal want and desire, but you are isolated in a 4 x 4 square space. You more than likely cannot see your neighbor and the only stimulation you have is twice a day when someone slides a metal food bowl into your kennel and then sprays out your run with water. Barking…..constant……barking. You rotate from pacing around, sleeping, drinking water, barking, to going to the bathroom right next to the same space you sleep in. Now multiply that in minutes, hours, days, and months. So when your door opens and you are brought into a room after experiencing this day in and out and this kind person is speaking extremely nice to you in a comforting tone you very well may feel like a horse out of the starting gate or you may have reluctance to engage this person because you don’t know how. This is the life of a shelter animal, a socially built companion that is confined and isolated. I have been told by several friends in the shelter community that the phrase “we are losing that dog” is a common theme when discussing a dog’s mental state in a prolonged shelter setting.
What you can expect when you adopt a shelter animal is having a truly amazing family pet. I work with dogs from rescues/shelters on a daily basis. I have an English Mastiff from a breeder and a rescue Staffordshire terrier mutt. I can say without hesitation, rescue animals in general are extremely loyal. There is truly a degree of admiration when you observe a rescued dog and his owner. I can spot a rescued dog a mile away because their eyes are always following their owner as they move around. When I make a midnight snack run to the fridge it isn’t my English mastiff who I hear walk behind me to check on my well-being. My adopted Staffordshire terrier is a dog who thrives on social stimulation. I truly feel that a rescue dog’s loyalty comes from an appreciation of being saved from an environment of a shelter to an environment of undivided love, affection, and social stimulation. Yes, rescue dogs can be a bit rough around the edges in the beginning, but as their new life becomes an everyday routine they will acclimate to you and your home. Rescuing a dog is truly a remarkable thing. Most days you will wonder who rescued who.