My dog, Pete, attracts lots of attention on our walks—he jumps for joy like his legs are made of pogo sticks, seeming to defy gravity as he launches his sizable frame skyward. Along with “Did you teach him to do that?!” (answer: no), people are always asking me, “Where did you get him?” I guess they just assume that I bought Pete from a breeder, because his flowing mane resembles a golden retriever’s. It’s fun to see their surprise when I tell them that Pete is a mutt and that I adopted him from an animal shelter.

October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” Month, and if you’re ready to commit to caring for a canine companion, there is no better place to find your new best friend than a shelter or rescue group. Shelters are overflowing with dogs of all ages, personalities, and sizes—mutts and purebreds. Just make sure that your lifestyle, activity level, and experience will make you a good fit for the animal you’re considering. For a nominal adoption fee—hundreds less than what breeders typically charge—your new family member will likely go home neutered, vaccinated, dewormed, and microchipped.

Pete has become such an important part of my life that it’s difficult to think about what might have happened if I hadn’t adopted him. Every year, shelters must euthanize 3 to 4 million dogs and cats because breeders, pet stores, and people who don’t have their animals sterilized bring more animals into a world that is already tragically short on good homes. Let’s help change that this October by having our animal companions spayed and neutered and opening our hearts and homes to a lovable, one-of-a-kind dog from a shelter.