Today’s post is a little different than usual, if I have a usual. But I wanted to write about a topic I have become increasingly passionate about over the past few months.
I have made it no secret that adopting Ellie was the best thing Brian and I have ever done.
The love I have for this little (growing) pup is unlike anything I’ve ever known. It’s this intense kind of love and pride and admiration and fascination, coupled with a fierce sense of protection.
I’ve always considered myself to be a dog person in that I love stopping (stalking) strangers on the street and forcing them to let me play with their pups. But I never had a dog of my own because my mom and brother were both allergic (thanks for ruining my entire childhood, guys). Plus, between my busy dance schedule, my brother’s busy sports schedule, and my parents both working all day, we didn’t have time to devote to a fifth member of the family.
I was happy to learn early in our relationship that Brian, too, was a dog person. He’d had a dog growing up (a black lab named Snickers), and is a lover of all animals. On Saturday mornings, we would sometimes wake up and say things like, “OMG, how fun would it be if we had a little puppy curled up with us right now?” We both always knew we’d want to get a dog someday, but had never discussed it much beyond that.
When we wandered into the In Our Hands Rescue adoption center in December and saw Ellie, though, we knew she was coming home with us. And, as I haven’t shut up about over the past four months, she has blown us both away.
Having a dog is the best thing ever. Training a puppy is a lot of work (and a lot of cleaning up pee and poop for a little while), and I shed many tears early on because — having never had a dog — I had no idea what I was doing. Brian quickly became Ellie’s favorite, while I was home with her all day trying (and often failing) to learn her “I have to pee” signals and attempting to keep her from eating every piece of trash on the New York City sidewalks.
Ellie didn’t have a home before Brian and I scooped her up. We don’t know her full story, but she was rescued from Georgia and was then passed between foster homes and shelters until we gave her a “furever” home. (Yes, sometimes I think about this and I cry. Right now is maybe one of those times.)
There are so many dogs just like Ellie who need happy, loving homes. Who, without good homes, will die or be euthanized. (Look at these faces.)
I know people are drawn to certain breeds. People want the perfect labradoodle or mini cockapoo or hypoallergenic something, and are willing to pay top dollar (like, thousands of dollars) online, at pet stores (where most or all of the animals come from very horrible puppy mills), or from breeders to get exactly what they want. I used to be obsessed with pugs, then puggles, then goldendoodles, so I get it. I would gawk at puppies in pet store windows, and stalk puggle breeders’ websites to see when new litters would be arriving. I didn’t really even know rescuing was an option, and I didn’t understand that the pet stores at the mall were largely unethical.
Puppy mills, if you’re unfamiliar, are factory-style facilities where female dogs are impregnated over and over again for the sole purpose of reproduction — and profits. The conditions are horrific, and the dogs are kept in cages for repeated breeding. Then, when they’re “done” with the animals, they’re killed. Animals have feelings, too. Imagine living this way. Don’t support pet stores or anything that might be tied to a puppy mill.
I firmly believe rescuing is the way to go. If you’re looking to get a dog, I highly encourage you to consider adopting one in need.
There are a lot of misconceptions about shelter dogs. I’ve heard so many people say that shelters “don’t have puppies,” but they do! Ellie was 12 weeks old when we got her, and there was an entire litter of 7-week-old pups as well. Shelters also have older, already trained dogs who have been abused, lost, or neglected, and they need loving homes, too.
Shelters have some purebred dogs (one in every four dogs at a shelter is a purebred), but many are really fun, unique mixes, like Ellie, our Lab-Boxer-American-Staffordshire-Terrier-Chow-Chow-Shar-Pei couture dog. And they all need homes, whether they’re “cute” or not. (Imagine being in a cage, miserable, next to dozens of other dogs, with people repeatedly passing you by and choosing not to love you because you’re not cute, pretty, or special enough. Ugh. I can’t stop crying. Why did I choose to write about this? All dogs deserve to be loved.)
According to the Humane Society, 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the U.S. because so many pets come into the shelters and not enough people choose to adopt. Dogs and cats show up at shelters for all kinds of reasons — they were neglected, lost, abused, rescued, or even dropped off by families that don’t want them anymore or claim they have behavioral problems. (Having a dog is work. Train them. Love them. Don’t “return” them. Just like kids, many dogs aren’t born “bad” — you have to train them with patience and intention.)
When we took Ellie home, In Our Hands Rescue was an immediate resource, which was invaluable to me as someone who had never raised or trained a dog before. They gave us a huge folder filled with advice, pamphlets, and tons of Petco coupons. (We got 50 percent off everything the day we got Ellie.) Ellie’s adoption fee was $350, which covered some of her shots and vaccinations. In Our Hands relies entirely on donations and volunteers, so we were happy to fork over that $350 knowing there’s no paid staff or outside funding for the organization.
Sometimes, whether we’re going on an adventure or just snuggling in bed, I look at Ellie and remember that she didn’t used to have a home. She seems so happy every single day now because she has somewhere safe and warm to rest her tiny little head at night (and all day long, since she sleeps roughly 18 hours a day).
There’s plenty of information out there about the quality of different shelters and how to find a good one and all that jazz, so it’s important to do your research. The ASPCA, North Shore Animal League, and Humane Society are all reputable places to start. (And if you’re not sure if you’re ready to adopt, look into fostering an animal temporarily!)
Rescuing Ellie has been so rewarding, so special, and so fun, and my life is so much better because of her. I never understood the impact of having a dog, let alone rescuing one in need, before she came along. It’s a pretty powerful thing.