I’ve never paid for a dog in my life.
Well, unless you count what I’ve paid for veterinarians … and food … and pet sitters … and beds … and toys … but you get the picture.
The point is, I’ve never bought a dog.
That doesn’t means I’m a better person than someone who’s purchased a dog through a reputable breeder. It simply means that for my lifestyle and my principles, adoption has always been my choice.
So, let’s talk about why I believe so strongly in adoption.
First, adoption means you’re giving an animal a second chance in life. I don’t know about you, but there have been many times I’d have loved to have a second chance that could have made a huge difference in my life. Of course, I wasn’t at risk of being euthanized if I didn’t get that second chance, unlike the estimated four million pets destroyed each year simply because they couldn’t find a permanent home.
Adopting also means you’re not contributing to the scourge of pet overpopulation. Every year, one pair of dogs can produce up to six puppies — which means that in as few as six years, a female dog and her offspring can produce as many as 67,000 puppies. When you adopt, you become part of the pet overpopulation solution, not the problem.
Another reason to adopt is financial. Buying a purebred dog can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and there’s no guarantee that he or she will have any better temperament, be any healthier, or bring your family any more joy, than a dog you’ve adopted.
There are several choices for those who choose to adopt. First is your local animal shelter. In every season, shelters are filled with healthy animals just begging to become a forever part of your home and family.
If you haven’t been to a shelter lately, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. For the most part, gone are the days of bleak, gray-walled facilities filled with wretched animals hiding in the corner of cramped and filthy cages. Most shelters today are warm and welcoming for both animals and their human visitors, and take great pains to ensure their animals are as happy as possible in their temporary homes.
It’s a myth that all shelter dogs are mixed-breed: in fact, fully a quarter of all these dogs are purebred. But if you can’t find the breed you’re looking for in the shelter, there are rescue organizations for virtually every breed. Ask your veterinarian, or simply do a Web search for the particular breed and the state (for instance “Golden Retriever rescue California”). Make sure, however, that these are legitimate rescue organizations and not “rescue hoarders,” animal hoarders who paint themselves as animal sanctuaries.
There are also community-based animal rescue organizations. These volunteers take in unwanted, abandoned, abused, or stray pets and try to find them loving, permanent homes. To locate them, just search for “animal rescue groups” and your city or county.
Both rescue organizations and shelters make sure their animals are examined, vaccinated, and spayed and neutered before being adopted. While breed rescue groups have always endeavored to assess each animal’s temperament and “match” it with a potential owner, this kind of personalized attention is becoming increasingly common at shelters too. The last thing anyone wants is for a dog to be returned because it was being terrorized by your two-year-old child or because it ate the mail carrier.
So if you’re looking for a new four-legged companion to join your life, make adoption your first option!
Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her Golden Retriever Joey, her Maine Coon cat Indy, and the abiding spirit of her beloved Golden Retriever Casey, in whose memory this column is named. You can reach Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org.