Saturday, March 8, 2014

Why Don't Shop, Adopt is My Motto (And Should be Yours, Too!)

My dog is needy:  he barks and barks at me when I get home, standing up on his back legs to dance and push at me with his front paws.  My husband and I like to joke that Riley is "chewing us out" for being gone for too long, and that's exactly what he is doing - saying, "Where were you all day?!  You've been gone for hours!  How dare you leave me again, human?!"  We curl up beside him on the couch, rub his belly, apologize to him for leaving him home.  (Cesar Milan would be disappointed in us for indulging his behavior.  We don't care.)

My dog is possessive:  though we were excited to introduce Riley to our extended family's dogs, he wasn't having it - any move the other dogs made toward me or my husband was intercepted by a growling, snarling, ferocious fur-ball of Peekapoo (that's Pekingese/Poodle mix, for those of you that don't speak breeds of mutt).  Jared, my husband, in particular, is Riley's territory.  And his only.  If I go to give Jared a kiss or an innocent hug goodbye, the room fills with loud barks and whines, and Riley wriggles in between us to work us apart.  "Does he want us to not love each other?  Does he want us to get a divorce?!"  I asked my husband one day, raising my voice to be heard over Riley's tantrum.  "No, it's just that...he wants to be in the middle of all that love!"  Jared replied.  We have a spoiled toddler for a pet.

My dog is...unique:  Riley doesn't play with toys.  Ever.  He is seven years old and considered a "senior", so I suppose his lack of interest in anything squeaky sort of makes sense.  Every once in a while, he'll take one of his bones in his mouth and halfheartedly toss it across the room, then waddle after it, but those moments are few and far between.  What Riley likes to do is "go night-night."  That is literally all he ever wants to do.  When those words are uttered at night, his ears perk up and he sprints to the bedroom like the puppy he once was.  Once we finally catch up to him, he is perched on one of our pillows, happier than ever to simply be laying down in bed.

My dog was a shelter dog.

When we rescued him, he was sitting in the back of the kennel, quiet and scared.  He sat calmly and let us pet him, but didn't do much interacting - his owner had recently died, and the family he was then given to didn't want him.  We imagined that he was depressed.  His sad eyes and goofy underbite got me right in the gut - we had to adopt him.  

He's not what we expected - shelter dogs rarely are.  Dogs act a little different in the shelter than they do in a forever home.  But we absolutely love this boy, and we wouldn't trade him for any other dog.  Lucky for Riley, he only had to be in the shelter for about 7 days before we were able to take him home.  Most dogs are not so lucky.

Our local shelters' staff is amazing.  They are kind and warm and, most importantly, extremely passionate about the work they do.  The dogs and cats at that particular shelter are pretty well off, having such amazing people caring for them.  But of course, it cannot compare to having a forever home, with a warm bed and an owner to call their own.  I myself worked at the shelter for several months, and I am sad to say that many of the dogs and cats that were there a year ago are still there today.  Potential adopters tend to say, "Oh look!  A beagle puppy!" and ignore the senior dogs eagerly waiting for a home.  Or they say, "I don't care for pitbulls," and walk right by some of the happiest and most friendly dogs one could ever meet, simply because of the name of their breed.  Kittens, generally, whiz right out the door as soon as they're old enough to be altered; older cats sit, wait, pressing themselves up against the bars from time to time for a scratch behind the ears.

I get angry when people say they are "adopting" from a breeder.  Yes, there are reputable breeders out there.  Yes, it is difficult to find a "designer" dog in a shelter or humane society.  But I find it difficult to bypass the millions of needy animals in shelters to purchase a purebred puppy that could have come from a puppy mill or a terrible breeder.  I've seen too many deserving animals go without homes.  I've heard too many horror stories about bad breeders.  Though I wasn't aware of this two years ago, I now know that adopting a shelter animal is by far the best route to take.  Who needs a purebred pooch when they could have an adorable, loving, couch potato mutt like Riley?!  <3


PS:  Thank you so much for reading my new blog.  I will still be updating over at Happy Little Birds, but I'm hoping to be able to get some traffic here and spread the word about animals in need

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