By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances
For most of us, the “holiday season” begins in November and continues through till New Year’s Day. But for the tens of thousands of dogs waiting for new homes in our nation’s animal shelters, the season begins much sooner. In fact, the official kick-off is October 1.
What’s so special about October 1? I’m glad you asked! October 1 marks the beginning of a 31 day stretch called National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month! That’s right…the entire month of October is a great big celebration of “man’s best friend”.
If, like me, you already share your home and your heart with several drooling, wagging bundles of joy, you will have no trouble understanding that this month is truly something to celebrate. If you don’t yet have a dog in your life, what the heck are you waiting for?
Lest you fall victim to the stereotype that dogs in shelters are somehow defective or “tainted goods”, do not buy it! Not for even a single second should you believe shelter dogs are anything other than potential companions who need one thing —you! While they may have fallen on hard times, most dogs in shelters adjust to new lives quickly.
I wish I had a nickel for every shelter dog I have ever befriended. I’d take a nickel for every shelter dog I’ve ever actually adopted! In either event, I’d be a pretty rich guy. When I started my first job in my first animal shelter back in the dark ages, it took me less than a week to fall in love. Abby was a gorgeous German shepherd who came to the shelter as a two-year-old stray. She followed just about every step I took for the next 10+ years and added to the life of my family in immeasurable ways.
A few years and a few dogs later, Tanq came into my life. This little Jack Russell terrier mix was a street-smart New Orleans stray. He passed away a few year back and it’s still a little tough for me to talk about him.
Fast forward a few more years and meet Otis. He was a two-year-old Lab mix who was turned in by his owners who were moving. They probably took their sofa and their children, but they left their six dogs at the local animal shelter like recycled newspapers. Otis gave us about 12 years of love and loyalty before succumbing to a brain tumor in the late winter of 2010.
Over the past thirty years there have been many, many more. Today we live with Bodie, Henry, Sam & Lila. Three of the four were adopted from shelters and the fourth was destined to go there when we intervened. Regardless of the circumstances that led to their “break-ups” with their original families, they are each incredibly special.
There are lots of ways we can enrich our lives, but for me none is as satisfying as spending a little quality time with my dogs. I am fortunate to work at a place like PetSafe, where dogs are welcome in the office every day. I get my daily dose throughout the day.
Your local animal shelter is filled with every day heroes (heroes we will celebrate next month during National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week). These folks sacrifice much to provide the best care possible for the homeless and unwanted. So, go by your local shelter sometime this month and say thanks. And, if you have room in your heart and home, consider adopting a pet. You’ll be saving an animal’s life. And, he might just save yours, as well!
Post your comments and tell your adoption stories. Let us know about the Abby, Tanq or Otis in your life!
Jim Tedford serves as PetSafe’s Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.