There isn't a single person involved in dog rescue who hasn't been thanked by a stranger "for everything you do". Dog lovers visit with adoptable dogs, give them kisses and hugs, and send them well wishes that they will soon find a forever home. Often, they also pull some money out and donate it to help the dogs. It is also very likely that same big-hearted person has also adopted a dog from a rescue or a shelter. If you are reading this, this is probably *you*. Thank you.
We are afforded the great opportunity to impact our own lives, with responsible decisions that reinforce our morality about inviting dogs into our homes. Often we wish we could do more, but the task those in rescue take on is a tremendous one, and it's not for everyone. As anyone would suspect, it's challenging emotionally and financially, and I dare say that once you've started, you can probably never stop (once you have seen the light, you cannot pretend to only know darkness). Daily, those people are confronted with the dichotomy of beauty versus great 'ugly': priceless, unconditionally loving creatures against that of the human who put them into that horrible state of homelessness, usually out of their laziness.
Any person can advocate for dogs without spending a single dime, and without feeling as though they must adopt beyond their financial and emotional capacity. As with most things within society, things occur due to the passive approval by those unwilling to vocalize their passion, faced with injustices around them. By influencing those around us, we can save a life.
I come to this point, because when I reflect on those who surrender dogs, I reflect on the world of people around them who likely gave them apathetic approval of them adopting the dog to begin with, and then again when they surrendered them. While other people's choices are their own to make, and mistakes the same, we would not tolerate a friend or family member if they were convicted of an unforgivable crime and sent to prison. While I do not draw parallels between such crimes, I compare only our inability to vocalize and advocate for dogs by our refusal to accept those people who would do horrible things.
While it sounds counter intuitive to tell someone to *not* adopt a dog, sometimes you are saving a life by keeping a dog out of a home ill-equipped to manage one. So many dogs are bred to meet the demands of trends, trends that no doubt put dogs in homes that are not worthy recipients, and whose dogs will be relinquished once the parents finally realized it would have been easier telling their kids "no" when they begged for that puppy. Our goal must be to minimize the demand for dogs, to limit it only to serious dog owners who take the responsibility seriously.
You can save a life by being a good influence to everyone around you. Offer advice and guidance, and tell people what they don't want to hear. "No, (sister), you shouldn't adopt a dog right now. You are already overwhelmed." It's NOT always better to adopt than to choose not to. These poor dogs end up in homes 3 times over, and no better for it. A species who relies heavily on routine and stability, the constant life of being in rescue taxes their ability to be their true selves.
For those who neglect, surrender, ignore, or otherwise give their dogs a life that they do not deserve, talk to them. Make them understand why their committment to their dog is larger than to that of their car and it's oil change. There needs to be consequences for the horrible actions of others, and I feel like when it comes to animals, we're quick to 'forgive' because there is a perception dogs are property. While they are, on the whole, our property, it is only in the sense that they are ours; not in the sense they are made of plastic and lose their value once you've driven it off the lot.
You can also help save a life by advocating against Breed Specific Legislation, which takes dogs out of good homes and sends them to die. This is also free to do, and easy; we can write letters, send emails, and ensure the politicians we vote for support dog owner's rights. Believe it or not, I have read BSL that included Great Pyrenees as a "restricted breed".
When searching for an apartment or house to rent, do not rent from those who do not understand dogs. Even if you do not own a dog, show your support for dog ownership by avoiding places that put uneducated restrictions on weight and breed. I support a private business owner running his business as he sees fit, thusly restricting or banning dogs on their premises. To me, it's not the people who say "no dogs", it's the ones who say yes, but with the uneducated caveat that the dog must fit into their standard of acceptance, without any regard to understanding dogs at all. We knew a couple who lived in a "dog friendly" building, who sought approval from their landlord to adopt a large breed dog (a Pyr). The landlord said 'yes'. He saw the dog one day, and said "Oh, no.. that's *too* big". This was a 9 year old Great Pyrenees. Unacceptable.
Don't throw out toys and dog food. Often we try a new bag of food, decide we don't like, and have a fresh bag of food we have no use for. We buy toys for our dogs they hate, and never use. We get puppies who outgrow leashes and collars while they are still "gently used". We get new dog bowls, and have a myriad of bowls we are no longer using. Contact a local rescue and donate.
It costs no money to volunteer. A lot of places don't need a long-standing commitment (though it would be nice), but volunteering your time to hold dogs and talk to owners about responsibility and breed education helps save lives.
Can you foster? Fostering is tough, I won't lie. Perhaps you have 2 dogs, and think to adopt a third. Maybe you can consider fostering that "3rd dog position" in your home. You will have the reward of that additional dog, and the unique job of ensuring he finds an appropriate, forever home. However hard it is to let a foster go, those feelings are somewhat erased when you bring that next, new foster into your home and out of despair.
Lastly, ask for help. A lot of loving, great dog homes feel overwhelmed at times. They are juggling families and jobs, and often it's easy to miss the signs their dogs are not adjusting well. Before allowing yourself to feel overwhelmed, ask for help. Reach out not only to friends, but to breed experts. Breed lovers don't need to know you, and they will happy to help give you advice. Don't wait for things to have been going on for months; explore your dog's negative behavior as soon as you start to see it.
There are lots of ways to save a life.
- Refuse to approve of the irresponsible decisions of others regarding ownership.
- Educate others.
- Be aware of, and vote against, Breed Specific Legislation.
- Do not support breed discrimination from businesses.
- Donate unwanted dog goods.
- Ask for help.
by Shannon Murphy
"The world is a dangerous place--not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing."