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  • Nov
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She’s a Shelter Dog

Posted by at 2:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

She's a Shelter Dog by Lisa TowellOur dog Sydney loves all the same things that most dogs do. Mention the word “walk” and her tail goes into overdrive. Start loading the car, and she leaps uninvited into the back seat, hoping to go with us. Ask her, “Where’s Bodie?” and she runs through the house to find our other dog.

She wasn’t always this way. We adopted her from our local humane society when she was about 9 months old. They had found her wandering the streets with a collar grown into the flesh of her neck. The day that we brought her home, she was frightened of the car, of the stairs in the house, and even of us—a sudden hand movement would send her cowering to the floor. That first night we kept her right next to the bed, and by morning she had chewed a substantial hole in the box springs.

It took years, but she finally learned to trust us. She’s never quite lost her fear of being left alone, and we still wonder what happened to her in her first months of life. Was she lost? Abandoned? Abused? She wasn’t the most attractive dog at the shelter that day, with scars on her neck from the extraction of that ingrown collar and a short stump of a tail. But somehow she touched our hearts, and we knew she needed us. It made us miserable to see how full the shelter was and to realize that many of the dogs wagging their tails at us would be euthanized by the week’s end to make room for new arrivals. Back out in the reception area, we watched dog after dog come through the doors, scared and shaking, to be handed over by their families to an uncertain future.

I’ve been a shelter volunteer for almost nine years now. People surrender their dogs to a shelter for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes dogs’ owners become too ill to care for them. Sometimes the owners die, and no one from their families wants to keep the dog. These stories always make me sad. Sometimes the family moves away and surrenders or abandons their dog. Sometimes the dog has a behavioral issue, and the owner doesn’t have the knowledge or the patience to work on it. Sometimes the dog just doesn’t fit into the owner’s lifestyle anymore. These stories make me even sadder. But, one way or another, dogs keep coming into the shelter in need of homes.

Animal shelters and rescue groups are typically understaffed and underfunded. It’s difficult for these groups to compete with other sources for pets, such as pet stores and breeders. Animal shelters are often located in a bad part of town or lack the funding to stay open on evenings and weekends or to advertise their animals. So people look elsewhere for a dog, and potential loving homes for shelter and rescue dogs are lost. And then more dogs come into the shelter, and the staff must make the terrible decision: Who must die today?

Not all shelter dogs are like Sydney, who had a lot of baggage from her early life. We later adopted Bodie from the shelter where I volunteer, and he’s a normal and happy mixed-breed dog who has delighted in showing Sydney how much fun dog games can be. Wonderful dogs are waiting at every shelter. And if your heart is set on adopting a particular breed of dog, breed rescue groups abound and are always in need of good homes for their rescued purebreds.

Every time I walk in the door and see Sydney’s happy face, I’m glad all over again that we were able to save her life. People are always asking us, “What a pretty dog—what breed is she?” and we always answer the same thing: “She’s a shelter dog, and we love her.

This post was originally published in KP’s Dog Blog.

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  • Carrie says:

    That’s a touching story. I’m a huge animal lover and believe me if I could I would take in lots of animals from shelters but unfortunately I cant. I’m hoping to become a journalist and if I do I definitely help animals out by undercover stories and advertising for animal shelters. It’s amazing to hear that some people actually still care for animals and want to help them and give them loving homes.

  • Diane says:

    We adopted our baby girl, Nikki, from a shelter when she was 6 weeks old. She’s part chow and part Shepherd. She is timid and very afraid of people she doesn’t know. She doesn’t like going to the beach or even out for walks and she wouldn’t know what to do with a frisbee. She is happiest in her home or her yard, laying on her bed ( actually her mommy and daddy’s bed!), and just being with her family. She is 7 years old now and in July was diagnosed with lymphoma. To say our family was devastated would be putting it mildly! She is receiving chemo and is doing very well. The thought of her not being here is intolerable. Yes, we rescued her and gave her a loving home but what she has and continues to give us is worth so much more. When my child was born, would I have wanted to choose his eye or hair color, his height, personality or his talents? Of course not! I wish people would think about this when they are contemplating adopting a pet. To go to a breeder or a pet store when there are so many wonderful animals in shelters just waiting to love and be loved is a very sad commentary on our society.

  • Cathy says:

    I have a dog from the shelter, too. The shelter was so understaffed, the dogs only got a walk once a week. They spent the rest of the time in cages. Alma, which means “soul”, spent almost a year like that. Yet she has always been the most kind-hearted animal in the world, full of infinite patience with my children. The other day, I was walking her and I fell down. IN the early months taht she was with us, Alma ran away every time she was off of a leash. But this time she turned around to guard me until I got up.I realized she was finally home.

  • Marian says:

    Thank you, you have no idea how much I appreciate you writing this. I work for a humane society in Wa., working tirelessly at what can often feel like a losing battle. I am so glad when my world is brought to the attention of the public in a positive light. You’re right, there’s nothing like a shelter dog!

  • bob says:

    I have always had wonderful luck with older dogs from shelters. The people i know who have gotten puppies from the pet store are the ones who normally seem to have the most problems, both behavior and medical.

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