I vividly remember the first day I saw him – tawny brown eyes staring at me through the kennel fence. He’d been brought in by someone who thought she’d rescue him from a backyard breeder, but her two already-adopted dogs wouldn’t accept a still-intact male. So, the woman brought the 10-year-old cocker spaniel into the local animal shelter, hoping he’d find a new home quickly. However, the shelter manager told me, despite his pedigree as a purebred cocker spaniel, his age might keep him from being adopted very quickly. It didn’t. Cody came home with me three days later, after a neutering, bath, and groom. We traveled together, shared time on the couch together, and enjoyed walks and dog park adventures together. He lived more than seven more years after I adopted him; Cody was nearly 18 years old before he passed away in my home. He was a wonderful companion for me and for the blind dog also living in my home at that time.
Some animal welfare groups estimate nearly 25 percent of dogs that enter animal shelters and humane societies are purebred. Several groups also estimate that only 2 percent of stray cats brought in to such facilities are reclaimed by their owners. I’ve adopted both dogs and cats from animal shelters and pet rescue organizations since I became an adult. Adoption saves lives and provides individuals and families with a wonderful furry friend. Adoption is kindness in action.
This week is known as Be Kind to Animals Week, a time set aside by animal welfare organizations to remind us all that just as people need kindness in their lives, so do animals. Every year, nearly 1.5 million dogs and cats die in shelters across the United States because not enough people adopt; that number translates to nearly 2,000 EVERY SINGLE DAY. Kindness + compassion = adoption.
Pets and People Help Each Other
Pets not only bring joy to the lives of their human caregivers, but they also benefit people in many other ways: they help reduce blood pressure and weight, they help keep our cholesterol low, and they provide us with love and devotion like no other. Pets help us be more social – ever gone to a dog park where no one talks to each other? We laugh more, we exercise more, and we dote on our “fur-kids” with toys, treats, and costumes, bringing more smiles to our faces when they pose for us, lick our faces, and beg for belly rubs. In short, animals our good for our minds, bodies, and spirits. How can we NOT be kind to them?
Yet, every day, dogs and cats (as well as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, horses, and others) await loving, kind people to give them a forever home. Could that person be you?
Kindness = Adoption
It’s been about a month since our 13-year-old springer/cocker mix, Mary, passed; my husband and I are considering adopting another dog not only as an extra companion for us, but also for our beloved Shih Tzu, Jeremiah. Pets grieve the passing of other household members, and I’m sure Jeremiah would enjoy once again having a four-footed companion as much as we would. This week is an ideal time to get more serious about adopting another pet.
I hope you’ll also take time this week to consider adding a new pet to your household. By being kind to a pet in need you could be saving not just one life, but two: the animal you adopt and the one waiting to take its place at the shelter or rescue. You can find your next furry friend at your local animal shelter, humane society, or pet rescue organization, through Best Friends Animal Society or the ASPCA, through a breed rescue group, or at Petfinder.com, ShelterPetProject.org, and AdoptaPet.com.
Resources for Adopters
There are many wonderful resources for people who adopt animals. Below you’ll find three, two for being better prepared to add that four-footed companion to your household, and the other listing several great reasons to adopt a pet:
A little more than a year ago, my husband and I lost our nearly 18-year-old cocker spaniel named Cody. We had adopted him when he was almost 10 years of age. He had been used as a stud dog for a breeder and then basically tossed away like yesterday’s garbage. When we discovered him at our local humane society, his sad spaniel eyes ignited my heart. Even though he likely wouldn’t be with us but a few years, we determined to give him the best couple of years of his life. Two years turned into three, into five, into seven. At 17 ¾ years of age, Cody crossed the Rainbow Bridge, knowing he was loved, adored, and pampered to the very end.
Our hearts and home are more empty since his passing, but the nearly eight years we shared with Cody were filled with laughter, joy, and love.
We still have Mary, a springer-cocker mix we adopted four years ago this week. She was nearly seven when she came to live with us, and we credit Mary with helping keep Cody going as long as he did. They shared walks in the woods with us, trips to the dog park, and travels in the car, as well as cuddles on the couch and snuggles in bed. Their friendship was very special, especially considering they were not raised together.
Mary turns 11 next week. We’ve considered adopting another dog as she was raised with a smaller pup prior to her going into rescue at the death of her special person in 2012. She misses Cody; that was readily apparent in the early months after Cody’s passing. She is bonded to us, especially to my husband who often gets to work from home. When does a person know the right time to adopt a pet, whether one pet has passed or a person has never been the guardian of an animal before?
Just like with having kids, no time may be the actual “right time” to adopt, but one thing is for sure: a person must MAKE TIME to care for a pet properly. I would encourage anyone considering adopting a pet to make sure you have time to give, that your life is not so incredibly full that the animal will be left alone for countless hours and have little interaction with its human family. Too many animals are given up because of the excuse “I don’t have time for it.” Just as children need nurturing, attention, and care, so do our pets. They rely on us, they need us, and they want us to share time and activities with them.
So, if you’re thinking of adopting a pet, ensure you won’t change your mind in a month or so and say “I don’t have time.” First and foremost, make sure time is something you do have, or will make, before bringing a pet into your home.
And, if you think you can’t find the type of pet, the breed of dog or cat you want, think again: not all shelter pets are “mutts.” In fact, depending on where you live and what you’re looking for, 5 to 25 percent of shelter pets are purebred. Look on Petfinder.com for a specific breed, sex, and even whether they’re good with children or other animals. And, view this website for some of the types of dog breeds one is likely to find at shelters: https://mom.me/pets/19900-dog-breeds-commonly-found-animal-shelters/. Additionally, specific breed rescues can be found at this website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/.
Is it time for my husband and I to adopt another dog? Not yet, but likely by the end of the year. I do look, and I do consider. And perhaps we’ll change our minds mid-year and adopt again at that time. We’ll know when the time is right – I believe you will, too for you and your family.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.