They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. From big to little, from extra-tiny to extra-large, dog breeds are as variable as the human race. Red, white, blue, black, brown, tawny, spotted, solid; short-hair, long-hair, no-hair. Outgoing and friendly, shy and reserved, protective, loving. A hunter, a herder, a comfort, service-oriented. Sniffing, drooling, laughing, quiet, boisterous. There is a type of dog for every type of person.
Dogs have been part of humankind’s existence for eons. And yet, millions need homes each and every year.
October is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, a time to celebrate the joy of canine companionship and promote the adoption of these wonderful creatures. The ASPCA estimates nearly eight million dogs and cats enter shelters across the United States annually; about three million are killed. Sadly, only about 35 percent of animals that are available for adoption actually get new homes, meaning millions are killed because not enough people adopt.
In addition to the humane societies and animal shelters, there are rescue groups, many of which are voluntarily-run, that take in dogs (and cats) in an effort to re-home them. From coast-to-coast, these tireless individuals run these organizations with one focus: to save and adopt-out pets. Some are breed-specific; many of these are noted by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Others are type-specific, such as herding dogs or large dogs (see the websites for HERD of Wyoming and Big Dogs Huge Paws). Others accept whatever dog needs rescuing. To find a shelter or rescue group near you, visit Petfinder.com. Or, if you’re interested in a breed-specific rescue, visit the AKC website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/
When you adopt, especially from a kill-shelter, you are saving a life. In fact, you’re likely saving two lives: the one you adopt and the one coming into the shelter after it. Wherever you adopt, shelter (kill or not) or rescue, you are helping more than one dog, for when you adopt, room in that facility or foster home is made for another animal in need.
Dogs that go into a rescue or shelter aren’t bad; they are likely being given up due to a move (the #1 reason people give up their animals), health of the person (an elderly individual going into a nursing home cannot take their beloved pet with them), or other life change, such as job loss. If behavior is the cause, the owner likely did not provide his/her dog with obedience training. Simple commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “heel,” “come,” and “no” alleviate a lot of behavior issues – but a dog can’t teach those things to himself; owners need to be responsible for the training of their pets. Classes are often held through AKC clubs, big-box pet stores, such as PetCo and PetSmart, or one can hire a trainer (or research how to train a dog themselves – just remember, positive reinforcement is the best way to train a dog).
Pets improve people’s lives. Research shows people with pets are happier and healthier. Dogs make us exercise; even walks around the block help both humans and their canine friends be healthier. The simple act of petting a dog decreases blood pressure, reduces stress, and calms us down as well as uplifts our moods. Many dogs enjoy riding in the car, going for walks, jogs, and hikes, and simply being a part of a family; therefore, they make wonderful companions!
So, consider adopting a dog this month. Whether you are single, married, have children (or not), or are retired, there’s a dog to fit every lifestyle. Of course, you need to find the RIGHT dog -- that’s one of the roles of animal shelters, rescue organizations, and humane societies. The staff and volunteers who spend time with the animals know their personalities and may often know the dog’s background, therefore, they offer a tremendous service for those hoping to add a dog to their life. But, do your research as well. You know your lifestyle – learn about the breeds and discover what type of dog best fits your family life and energy level. Visit this website to learn about the different dog breeds: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/
Be a hero – save a life today by adopting the right dog for you!
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.