Monday, April 20, 2009

Shelter Dogs Are Misunderstood!

I often hear pet-store dog owners say, “I wouldn't get a dog from a shelter because they come with too many issues.” And it makes me cringe. My goal today is to correct those folks who have the mistaken impression that dogs from shelters are always damaged goods.
In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I have worked closely with many different shelters and I have observed that these shelters screen pretty carefully the dogs they take in, as well as potential adoptive families. Of course, there are indeed some unsavory shelters out there with ignorant people running them. That's why I suggest that any time you are looking for a new pet it's important to research the shelter you are visiting. You wouldn’t go buy a used car from a dealer you knew nothing about, or you shouldn’t. That could cost you a lot of money on repair bills. I suggest that you put as much time into reviewing the references of a shelter you plan to visit. In dog circles, the word would get around pretty fast if a shelter was misrepresenting the temperament and health of its dogs. Ask your friends who have dogs and/or ask your local vets. They would certainly know.
Many of the dogs that land in shelters are put there because their humans did not have time for them or didn't have a realistic idea of what taking care of a dog is all about. It seemed like a great idea to get that cute "little" puppy. But then the dog grew (who knew?) and "took up too much space in our little house.” Other excuses I've heard: “We had a new baby and don't have time for a dog,'' or “We couldn’t go away when we wanted, the dog was tying us down.” Another problem occurs when movies come out with dogs as the main characters. Hundreds of Dalmatians were bought when the "101 Dalmatians" movie came out. But dalmatians can grow up to be big dogs with lots of shedding, and they have lots of energy. Many ended up in shelters simply because the novelty faded and reality set in.

My point? Most shelter dogs are in shelters because they were unfortunate to have human owners who were impulsive and shortsighted, and who found the responsibility of owning a dog too inconvenient. Most of the time, it isn't the dog's fault.

I have found with all of my shelter dogs, of which I have had eight over the years, is that they just want to be loved and to have a home. They may have some habits that need to be corrected, but that doesn't make them "bad" dogs. They are not perfect, but, last time I checked, most of us humans aren't either. If anything, a shelter dog may teach us humans a thing or two about appreciating the simple things in life -- a home, companionship, food, water, a fresh tennis ball ... and a nice belly rub now and then.

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