February is known for two main things: Valentine’s Day and Hallmark Movie love-stories.
Love is a Hallmark movie… well, not for everyone, and certainly not for every companion animal. Pets are called companion animals for a reason – to provide companionship to people, to be devoted, loving, faithful… and they would be, if only we let them. Instead, many cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, even turtles and lizards are mistreated, neglected, and abused. Where is their Hallmark Valentine hero/heroine?
In truth, humans and animals share this one thing in common: rejection. The person you love and trusted abandons you, mistreats you, breaks your heart and spirit. Yet, many people and pets have another thing in common: resiliency. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, as they say, and carry on. That perseverance may take months, even years, but when we dig deep inside ourselves and we let others help and encourage us, we discover that fortitude and we move ahead to a brighter future.
For animals as well as us, that brighter future involves compassionate, kind people. When you watch a Hallmark movie, friends surround the broken-hearted, hurt individual, encouraging them to be open to love again. And, surprise, surprise, s/he comes along! That can be true for pets as well. Rescues, SPCAs, Humane Societies, and others step forward to lift pets’ spirits, saving their lives from abuse and neglect, and then prepare them for adoption. But, there needs to be more adopters, more heroes and heroines to help the light shine more deeply into the spirits of those animals cast-away, those treated not just poorly, but many times cruelly.
Can you be an animal’s Hallmark Valentine this year?
Five years ago, my husband and I adopted a springer/cocker mix named Mary. She wasn’t abused or neglected; in fact, she was deeply cared for by her previous owner. Sadly, that person died, and Mary needed a new loving family. Greg and I answered the call, and we have been her Valentine ever since! She is devoted to us and she has also impacted others, serving sometimes as a library read-to-the-dog companion, nestled among a group of children and giving them affection as well as courage. Her stories which I’ve written take kids on adventures and teach them lessons like kindness, friendship, and joy. I love sharing Mary with others and teaching them the value of adoption.
Then, there’s Jeremiah, whom we adopted last fall. He came from a puppy mill, serving as a stud for three years. He lost 28 teeth due to poor nutrition and came to us from a rescue still timid and uncertain about living in a house. Now, five months later, he realizes kindness and compassion can come from human beings, and he’s settled in well, with Mary as his best friend. He walks proudly on a leash, dashes through our fenced-in backyard with joy, and cuddles next to me on the couch with thankfulness on his face. His Valentine’s Day gift this year is a warm home and caring people (plus a canine BFF!)
Even if we, as a man or woman, have been rejected by human love, there’s a way to share our love. Numerous animals – dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, and others – are waiting for their special Valentine. Nearly 1.5 million dogs and cats die in kill-shelters every year, and more than 10,000 animal mill facilities confine creatures (especially dogs and cats) simply for the act of breeding. They lack socialization and medical care. Several rescues, such as National Mill Dog Rescue and Hearts United for Animals, take in these animals and care for them while searching for loving, permanent homes for them to call their own, i.e., for their special Valentine.
Find your four-footed Valentine this month, knowing that creature will be devoted to you for its life, and then make some popcorn and sit on the couch together while enjoying some Hallmark movies!
NOTE: The Hallmark Channel features several films in which animals play important roles. Check out titles such as Like Cats and Dogs; Love at First Bark; Walking the Dog; and Eat, Play, Love -- some of these are scheduled this month and others in March. Enjoy, and especially enjoy your furry Valentine!
Adding a pet to one’s home can be a scary process. Many concerns can traverse one’s mind, such as “Will the animal adjust to my home?” and, if you already have pets, “Will the current pets I have adjust to the new one?” Yet, adoption is also a joyful experience, especially knowing you’ve saved a life (or two) and that you’ve given a loving home to an animal that may never have known what that means.
October is National-Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, a time when many animal shelters and rescues promote the positives of dog adoption. According to Helping Hands Humane Society in Kansas, some of the benefits of adopting a shelter or rescue dog include:
There are many other reasons for adopting a shelter or rescue dog. My husband and I recently adopted a Shih Tzu from Hearts United for Animals, a Nebraska rescue that also specializes in rescuing puppy mill dogs. His name was Stormy (we’ve changed it to “Jeremiah”), and he was used for breeding purposes. His lack of compassionate care resulted in 28 teeth having to be pulled. He also needed neutering, which HUA did, and to be put on a healthy diet. The little guy has settled in quite well into my household; he is a very sweet, fun boy! He gets along wonderfully with our 2013 adopted springer/cocker mix, Mary; Jeremiah is her little shadow. When we were all outside a few days ago, Jeremiah raced through the backyard, his black ears winged back, his face skyward as if in thankfulness, my heart leaped for joy as my newly-adopted dog experienced the freedom and joy of running, playing, and basking in autumn’s sunshine. This is why rescues do what they do and why pet adopters like me do what we do – give an animal a second chance at life.
According to the ASPCA, more than three million dogs enter animal shelters every year; of those, nearly 700,000 are euthanized due to lack of homes as well as medical and behavior issues. There are numerous animal shelters and pet rescue groups across the country. In my state alone (Wyoming), there are 34 listed in Petfinder.com, a wonderful resource to find your next furry friend. In fact, Petfinder lists more than 270,000 adoptable animals from more than 11,000 animal welfare organizations across America.
Will you consider adopting a dog in need of a loving home this month? Dogs like Jeremiah are just waiting for a loving, forever home. You can save lives through adoption – believe me, there’s no greater feeling in the world than to see a dog (or cat) that’s been abandoned, neglected, or left in a shelter or rescue for another reason come out of its shell and lavish the adoptive “parent” with love and devotion!
Find your next furry friend at your local shelter or rescue, or via Petfinder.com, which by the way, is how we found Jeremiah!
He never knew the inside of a house. He rarely had opportunity to play with toys. He’s unfamiliar with leashes and walking the neighborhood, and his housetraining is limited. His name was Stormy.
One year ago, the then-three-year-old Shih Tzu was one of dozens of dogs rescued from the squalor of a puppy mill. Staff and volunteers at Hearts United for Animals have a mission – to rescue, work with, and re-home as many puppy mill dogs as they can. They also take in dogs and cats for other reasons, such as deaths in the family, and they help owners keep their pets who might have to give them up due to the animal’s medical condition. Nearly 400 animals reside at the rural Nebraska animal sanctuary, many of them small breeds like Stormy. But, there are also larger dogs, such as Hounds, Labs, and Shiba Inus. Other organizations, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, have a similar mission: closing puppy mills by rescuing the oppressed, neglected animals and bringing new life and hope to those creatures.
What is a Puppy Mill?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a puppy mill is “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little-to-no recovery time between litters.” The pups are sold in pet stores, over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets. Because millers focus on making money, the dogs are often bred with little regard for genetic quality, and therefore, the puppies are often ill or have significant health issues. There is no oversight to this industry, and though there is no real data to know the number of millers in the U.S., the ASPCA estimates there are about 10,000 puppy mills in America.
The Humane Society of the United States also rescues and shuts down puppy mills. Learn more about their operations at http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/stop_puppy_mills/?credit=web_id93480558.
Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 is Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Take time to learn more about puppy mills and then educate your family and friends. Do what you can to help bring an end to this terrible life thousands of dogs endure!
New Life, New Hope
Stormy now has a new life – and a new name. Jeremiah Story Irwin is the new four-footed family member in my house. He, and other puppy mill survivors (and their rescuers) have a story, and I write stories, therefore, his middle name. A few weeks before his first anniversary with HUA, Jeremiah now lives in a house for the first time in his life, has other animal friends (although the original Irwin resident pets are still getting used to the idea of a new housemate!), and has a large backyard to explore. The first time he accepted a toy and trotted around the house with it brought tears to my eyes. There are challenges, such as housetraining, but he’s catching on quickly, and he’s already learned the commands of sit and come – in less than a week. He’s a smart, loving, happy boy, and I’m thankful we found each other! I am also thankful to the heroes who help puppy mill dogs escape the horrors of their previous lives!
Adopt, Don’t Shop! And encourage your friends and family to do so. By those actions, you, too, can impact (and change) the lives of puppy mill dogs, giving them hope, love, and joy.
The Westminster Dog Show is underway this week, so it’s a good time to remember that you don’t have to go to a breeder to find great dogs; you can find purebred dogs, as well as mixed breeds, available for adoption through shelters and rescues.
Not all breeders are bad; in fact, those registered through the American Kennel Club (AKC) must meet high quality standards. However, the facts remain that millions of dogs are turned into rescues and shelters every year, and of the four million that go into shelters, more than one million don’t come out – meaning, they die. And breeding dogs add to the pet overpopulation problem, which adds to the number of dogs euthanized every year.
It’s estimated that between 5 and 25 percent of dogs placed in shelters are purebred. Recently at my community’s humane society a long-haired, tri-colored collie came in because its aging owner could no longer take care of it. And, last fall two shih tzus were brought into the kill-shelter in my town, which is operated by the city; both had been used as breeders – one was 12 years old and not spayed. So, although good breeders do exist, so do bad breeders. That doesn’t mean the dogs are bad, they are just not as well-cared for, and many of them end up in shelters and rescues. In fact, the mission of National Mill Dog Rescue (NMDR) is to bring into rescue those dogs which are used in what’s known as puppy mills – backyard breeders whose priority is profit and who often shove these creatures into tiny cages. Through NMDR, these adorable animals, from small Maltese to large German Shepherds, are socialized, loved on, given medical care, and made available for adoption.
Other rescue groups, such as Big Dogs Huge Paws that specialize in rescue and re-homing the larger dog breeds, such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, and Newfoundlands, and English Springer Rescue America, with chapters around the nation, take in specific breeds that need new homes. Even the AKC endorses breed-specific rescues – learn more at http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/.
If you’re thinking of adopting a dog and aren’t sure what breed is right for you, watching this week’s Westminster Dog Show is a great way to learn about the various breeds. You can also review breed traits, personalities, and behavior patterns by reading up on the different types of dogs at this website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/. One of the most responsible things a person can do before obtaining a dog, whether through adoption or purchasing from a breeder, is to learn what type of dog best fits your lifestyle and desires. Do your homework before bringing a dog home!
The most popular type of dog in America is the Labrador Retriever; it is also among the top five most common breeds found in animal shelters (or lab mixes); black labs are also among the least likely to be adopted because the coat color tends to blend in with the dark surroundings of many animal shelters. And though Labs are popular, not one has ever taken Best in Show at Westminster. Neither has the Golden Retriever, Dachshund, or Chihuahua, all of which are also very popular breeds. Perhaps one of those will win this year. Stay tuned!
Wondering where to catch the dog show of dog shows? Visit http://www.sportingnews.com/other-sports/news/westminster-dog-show-2017-tv-channel-schedule-online-stream-coverage/n9nwcw6efxf16ki6f5eeqk5g to learn which TV stations are carrying this special event.
And remember two important things the next time you’re looking for a specific dog breed as a companion: (1) do your research on dog breeds and (2) adopt, don’t shop! One of the best ways to find a certain breed of dog, in addition to the earlier-mentioned resources, is to go to Petfinder.com – you can search for a specific dog breed, even sex and age, that is available through a local, regional, or national rescue or shelter.
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.