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Why Should You Adopt a Shelter Pet?

By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliances

adopt shelter petFor 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.

adopt a muttA 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. 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.

working with dogsI 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!

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I adopted my sweet Reese from the local animal shelter in March of 2011. When I got her she was a 5 week 2 pound baby that probably would have died if we hadn’t adopted her. My vet told me that she had a severe respiratory infection and might not make it.  Well I couldn’t let her pass in the shelter so I made the decision that I would bring her home into our life and if the unthinkable happened at least she wouldn’t be alone. But she had other plans…. she is now this fun energetic spunky little dog that I am so glad is apart of our family.

Lisa, what a special dog and story you have. We’re so glad you and Reese are happy together. Thanks for reading!

We have two dogs adopted from a local rescue group and another I’m fostering.  Every now and then I have a foster who’s been badly mistreated and has serious issues, but just as often, maybe more often, they are perfect dogs.  The first dog I adopted came from a broken home and I never did understand why a divorce meant the dog ended up in the shelter.  She’s a perfect little Lhasa Apso mix, who’s completely house broken, doesn’t get in the trash, loves kids and riding in the car.  She’s a little possessive, but that’s not a reason to surrender her to a shelter.  The Shih-tsu we adopted bites, so I can see why someone with small children might have given her up, but I can’t believe it would have been that hard to find her another home.  The Brussels Griffon mix I’m fostering is another near perfect little dog.  I know there are times it’s necessary to give up a pet, but is it that hard to try to find them another home instead of putting them in a shelter or turning them over to a rescue group?

Gina, it is so special to hear such great stories like you. All your dogs are so lucky to have you and we’re so happy you welcomed them into you home. Thanks for reading! :)

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