Reason #4 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: They Have Fairy Godmothers

These days, shelter dogs come with their own fairy godmothers. These are the women and men who have invested in your shelter dog. Trust me, they are just as invested in ensuring a fairytale ending for their fairy-dog-children. This means that your shelter dog comes with a community of support to help you make adoption work for the long haul.

There is a lot of data about pet retention; i.e. what causes pets to stay in homes or end up in shelters. Some of the top reasons dogs end up in shelters or are returned to shelters include housing and cost of care. Another reason typically sprinkled in there is a perceived behavior issue. The problem with behavior challenges is that owners wait an average of three months before attempting to resolve the issue. By then, they are pretty set on giving up the dog.

If you’re like me, you read the above and thought, “that would never be me.” Let me unpack that a little bit. Yes, that has never been and never will be me. But that is not because I am have better moral compass than owners who relinquish their pets. “That will never be me,” in large part because I have a community of support that would risk a lot to help me keep my dogs.

Truth is that a time or two in the past, I have been broke off my a**. I have had incredible vet bills that I had no way of paying off. I have even lost two of my dogs before (one for eight days)! And the only reason I was able to find affordable pet-friendly housing, pet-centered financial assistance, and eventually find my dogs alive was because of the people around me that offered their support.

My point is, we need the support of other dog-loving human beings in order to make it in this dog eat dog world. Whether they help us in our day to day or in emergency situations, we are better off with them than without them. Luckily, shelter dogs have a way of generating a web of support that sticks with them in the real world. Many shelter dogs I have had the privilege of knowing had their own fairy godmother (or two or three!).

These fairy dog-mothers earn their title. I have seen them raise funds to help a shelter dog with on-going or acute medical expenses. I have seen them take the mangiest, scrappiest mutt and love him into a regular Prince Charming. Giving him baths, teaching him manners, and helping him stay sane until his new family finds him. Those relationships are worth gold. These are the humans that can teach you about your dog’s quirks, helping you make the right adoption choice for you and your family. They are also willing to help should you run into any issues transitioning your dog into home life.

Who benefits from that kind of support? Exactly. Every-pawdy.

Adopting a shelter dog with a fairy godmother gives you access to support and resources. Making you more likely to live happily ever after with your new best furriend. If that’s not a good reason to adopt (not shop!), then I don’t know what is.

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Reason #5 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: Ain’t No Love like Shelter Dog Love

Have you ever had your heart broken? I think that’s how shelter dogs feel when they lose the life they used to have. The difference being that you can’t reason with a dog and explain to them it’s not their fault. It’s so hard to watch an innocent animal suffer heartache.

That is what makes adoption so special. It’s the opportunity to put the shattered pieces of a life back together again. It’s one thing to earn someone’s trust. It’s quite another to earn the trust of someone who has reason to never trust again.

Even the dogs who had perfectly decent lives before they arrived in a shelter can look terrified. Shelter settings really do not bring out the best in dogs. A shelter is unpredictable, scary and deficient when compared to our idea of a good home. Even the best shelters fall short of fulfilling all of a dog’s needs.

That is why it’s not uncommon to meet shelter dogs who are wary of you. I always consider it a privilege when they start to come around. Some dogs are so scared that they completely shut down. Bringing those dogs back to life is nothing short of inspiring.

I have met more shelter dogs than I have ever been able to bring home. Yet my shelter dog loves were some of my greatest love stories. Shelter dogs have healed me. They’ve given me hope. They’ve raised me. They are some of the most memorable characters in the storybook of my life.

If you’re looking for the kind of love that awakens your soul, ADOPT and write your own shelter dog love story.

Reason #6 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: You Help End the Cruelty in Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are an unfortunate reality. Most folks are aware of their existence. But lots of folks would be surprised about the extent of the cruelty found within them.

I spent half a year working on the Puppy Mills Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States. There, I read countless department of agriculture inspection reports for commercial breeding operations. It was some of the most gut-wrenching work I have ever done. The contents of those reports rivaled the gore of fictional horror stories. Only they weren’t fictitious at all.

The legal term for a puppy mill is commercial breeding operation. With regards to regulating bodies, a puppy mill is not a real thing. That’s in part why it is possible for pet stores to tell you that their dogs don’t come from puppy mills, even if they actually do.

I have held in my hands the health certificates of puppies that originated at commercial breeding facilities and then were shipped to local pet stores more than 200 miles away. I have stood inside those same pet stores and looked their sales people in the eye as they assured me that they only work with local, family breeders. It’s wrong but it’s perfectly legal, which is why so many unsuspecting consumers continue to feed into this horrible industry.

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My family purchased dogs from breeders when I was young. All of the trustworthy breeders I have known would never sell their dogs through pet stores. Trustworthy breeders want to meet their customers. No matter how good the sales pitch, your pet store puppy likely came from a puppy mill.

A puppy mill dog comes with a very high price tag. It may cost you more than you imagined if your puppy, like many, is severely sick when you take him home or if his poor breeding results in ongoing health issues. (Google “sick pet store puppies” for more stories). Even if you are lucky enough to walk away with a healthy puppy, your puppy’s momma and daddy dogs will continue to suffer an unspeakable fate.

Bottom line is that when you purchase a puppy mill dog, you are fueling the untold cruelty that commercial breeding operations get away with. Nursing moms with broken, infected, untreated jaws. Dead puppies that had frozen to death. These are just some of the words I found on inspection reports for puppy mills that continued to operate legally post-inspection. And these are some of the milder reports I read. Need to see it to believe it? Check out HSUS’ 2018 Horrible Hundred Report.

I am a firm believer in putting my money where my mouth is. That is why pet stores and websites are 100% NOT on my list of appropriate places to acquire a dog. National animal welfare organizations provide other tips to aspiring dog parents for how best to acquire a new best friend, and avoid a puppy mill scam. Of course, one of the easiest ways to help shut down puppy mills is to stop the demand for their product. Instead of buying, choose to adopt a perfectly good shelter dog!

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Reason #7 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: Honorary Ambassador to End Animal Homelessness

Animal homelessness. It’s a real thing. In fact, according to the ASPCA, “animal shelters across the nation are forced to stretch their resources to the brink to accommodate an overwhelming population of homeless and at-risk animals.”

I have seen people roll their eyes when they hear the term animal homelessness. They’d insist, “there are bigger issues out there!” There are definitely other issues out there. But what are you doing about them?

I spent some time working in homeless outreach. I ran programs in Kansas City that offered much-needed assistance to homeless humans. My favorite way of serving was through street outreach. I can guarantee you that those of us working to solve the world’s “bigger problems” take no offense to the issue of animal homelessness.

I also once heard an animal sheltering professional argue against the term animal homelessness. They believed the issue was one of overpopulation. No matter how you want to look at it, the bottom line is there are a dizzying number of animals entering shelters every year. Leaving shelters and their supporters racing to find these animals good, permanent homes.

By adopting a shelter dog, you and your fur child become ambassadors to end animal homelessness. You, the adopter, are the very treasure that those of us in the trenches are working so hard to find. As a new parent, you get to help your adopted dog shed their shelter stigma. Share your newfound shelter dog love with just one person, and you’re helping end animal homelessness.

Because that’s part of how we fix the problems that no one wants to talk about. We start talking about them. Better yet, we do something about them. Show the rest of us how to fix animal homelessness: adopt your next dog from the shelter. Then check out these tips to making your adoption a success.

Reason #8 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: Recycling is Good for the Planet

Remember when recycling wasn’t a thing? I don’t. Sure, I’m not that old. But I’m also not that young either. Point is, I can barely remember what it was like to NOT recycle. One day we’ll be saying the same thing about adopting shelter dogs.

Then hopefully one day, we won’t have any more dogs living in shelters. Because they’ll all have loving homes. For now though, there are more shelter dogs than you can shake a stick at. But they’d much prefer it if you toss them some hot dogs. Bonus points if wrapped in a shreddable puzzle.

If you aren’t already familiar with the endlessly entertaining world of canine enrichment, do yourself a favor. Adopt a shelter dog. Join the Canine Enrichment Facebook Page. And catch up on all the hilarious dogging you’ve been missing out own. #projectnomorefomo

You see, when you adopt a dog, you are doing something good for the environment. Adoption is often affectionately referred to as recycling. As a lover of shelter dogs, I’m okay with this analogy. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Most dogs in shelters were somebody’s wonderful companion. Now, they are are ready to be yours.

Did you know that your adopted dog is actually into recycling? You see, dogs benefit from activities that allow them to express behaviors that are natural to them. Even if we think of them as our fur children, they are each at their core a dog. And dogs like to do doggo things. Like chew, shred, and gut.

If your initial reaction was to gasp or say “not my dog!”, hear me out. All dogs are born with some elements of the predatory sequence engrained in their behavior. Like stalk, chase, or destroy. That’s why my dog Hope, who is very much a house dog, will start every morning by chasing the squirrels in our woods.

Probably the only thing more exhilarating to Hope than a good chase, is a good shredding. This girl is a master of destruction. After we discovered her love of gutting stuffed toys, we started to offer her some of our leftover boxes. Eventually, our cardboard creations became more and more complex. Like glorious offerings to an insatiable god. Without fail, my dog has demolished every. single. offering.

I love having a dog who helps us recycle because it is a win-win scenario. In true millennial style, the hubs and I order everything to be shipped to our doorstep. I’m talking EVERY LITTLE THING. This amounts to an embarrassing number of boxes we trash on the daily.

Before filling our recycling bin with these barely-used boxes, we set them aside for the dog. Every day, we use a few to create a new busy box for her. Each is usually stuffed with a food puzzle, Kong, chew or stuffed toy. Without fail, Hope tears into every new puzzle like a doggo on a mission. And she doesn’t stop until the box has been fully put in its place (i.e. torn to itty bitty pieces).

By reusing our shipping boxes, my dog gets some much needed mental and physical stimulation at a fraction of the cost of fancy toys. My boxes get broken down into pieces that fit in the recycling bin (one less thing I have to do). And I feel a little better about the epic wastefulness of my shopping habits. #dogmomwins

Reason #9 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: Hybrid Vigor

According to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, you get more for your money when you adopt a mixed breed. Why, you ask? Because of “hybrid vigor.”

It’s no secret that I adore mixed breed dogs. I have had purebreds in my family and have also worked with them as a trainer. But when folks ask me what my favorite breed of dog is, I smile wide… Mutts! They’re my favorite breed. Even better if they’re former shelter dogs.

One common held belief is that “a mixed-breed animal is likely to live longer and cost less in vet bills than a pure breed.” As a lover of mixed breed dogs, and someone who sees thousands of them in shelters every year, I’m inclined to nod in agreement. Even if I’m just being hopeful.

Jokes aside, hybrid vigor is really a thing. By adopting a shelter dog, you’ll get the benefit of the improved function of your dog’s biological qualities. Let’s call that a win!

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Reason #10 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: Bragging Rights!

I agree with the Humane Society of the United States in counting “bragging rights” as a perk of adopting a shelter dog. These days having a “rescue” dog is very trendy. Adoption gives you instant hero status.

In reading up on this topic, I found a few articles implying that adopting a dog is not for everyone. The authors went on to warn about outrageous medical bills and bizarre behavior problems. While there are some dogs with exceptionally complicated needs out there, these are not the norm. Most shelter dogs are simply good dogs in need of good humoms and dads.

I will say, acquiring a dog isn’t for everybody. Some folks would be better off adopting a fish. Or a stuffed animal. But for those humans out there who don’t mind fur in their food, poop in their trash cans and the ocasional shredding of expensive belongings, adoption is a very good option.

After all, a shelter dog is just a dog that was failed, despite best efforts, by a human. Adopting a shelter dog, gives you the chance to step in where someone else stepped out. You essentially save a life! I think that earns all adopters a little bit of superhero status. What do you think?

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Reason #11 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: You’ll be Instafamous!

Okay, okay, more Instagram followers should not be the only reason to adopt. It can, however, be a very nice perk!

Shelter dogs make the best friends. That’s probably why so many of them end up insta-famous. Here are some of my insta-crushes. What are some of yours?

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Reason #12 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: Selfie status

According to the Humane Society of the United States, no one needs to see another selfie, unless it’s of you with your adopted shelter dog. Enough said!

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Reason #13 to Adopt a Shelter Dog: They Need You

Shelter dogs need you!

Yes, as a nation we’ve made strides in our animal sheltering practices.

Yes, less animals are dying in shelters than ever before.

Yes, more people are opting to adopt their dogs instead of purchasing them from pet stores or breeders.

But there are still approximately 1.5 million animals entering shelters annually who don’t make it out alive.

Shelter dogs need you! And the good news for you is, they’ve got a lot to give back in return.

Like…

Snuggles. Anytime. Anywhere.

Loyalty. Your ride or die.

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Shenanigans. Who you calling silly?

Friendship. When you need it most.img_5077

Endless love. What more can I say?

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