Adopt Don’t Shop

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.

Go home, Ellie! You're drunk!
Go home, Ellie! You’re drunk!

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.

Our first glimpse at Ellie.
Our first glimpse at Ellie.

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.)

I carried her the whole way home. My arms were sore for a week.
I carried her the whole way home. My arms were sore for a week.

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.

Giving Ellie the Simba treatment during her first visit to Central Park.
Giving Ellie the Simba treatment during her first visit to Central Park.

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.)

She looks so tiny in this picture. But she's not.
She looks so tiny in this picture. But she’s not.

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).

Yeah, this is how we sleep. SO???
Yeah, this is how we sleep. SO???

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.




34 Responses

  1. I love dogs, plain and simple. They are the most amazing creatures on earth (as are elephants!) and I would be a crazy dog lady if I could. I have 2 sweet boys and they are purebreds. I have been really feeling a pull over the last few years to rescue. I “blame” Susie’s Senior Dogs. I have a thing for Pitbulls. I just really want to rescue one. Maybe it’s because they are so misunderstood and often wind up in horrible situations. All I know is that my next dog will definitely be a rescue. Kudos to you for saving Ellie and it looks like she definitely saved you, too 🙂

  2. Well Said Ali 🙂

    There are so many animals that just need a home why does it have to be a brand name dog or cat while the once in shelters are way cuter and are ready to be take home right now!

  3. Every dog deserves a loving forever home and there are SO many who need someone to love. And they will love you back more than you can imagine. People need to know that helper dogs are the most wonderful and thankful dogs. I cry thinking of how many need love and only want to have someone of their own to love. I want to tell everyone to please think about adoption first!! This was wonderful and Ellie is beautiful. Cocoa is the best and we are blessed to have her!!

  4. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and I see so much of myself in you during your adoption/new dog owner process. I rescued my pup from a shelter about a year ago. He’s a random mix of crazy breeds and all the shelter knew was that his person had passed away, but no one would take him. When I went to the shelter he jumped on the couch next to me and started licking my face immediately. He’s very much my fur-ever friend and makes every day better. You seem to feel the way about your pup and your obsession with your dog rivals my own. I’m so glad you wrote this post about the benefits of adoption. The daily love my dog gives me for rescuing him is indescribable and I wouldn’t trade the vet bills or poop messes for anything. Continue sharing pictures and stories of her without shame. Crazy dog lover unite!

  5. I love this blog today, I too have rescued a puppy two years ago while my beloved senior lab Sierra was going downhill. Lakota my rescue pup brought such joy to us. Lakota never wanted to leave Sierra’s side. Lakota was found in NM and is a lab, border collie, cattle dog mix with the best personality and tons of energy! She is just a happy pup! I’m so happy you have Ellie to brighten your lives! Thank you for sharing your photos with us. I never comment but wanted to say thank you for sharing Ellie with all of us!

  6. This post speaks straight to my heart.

    I adopted my two cats from shelters, and I am on my second shelter dog. I am drawn to the ones no one wants, so two years ago I adopted an eight year old dog with a heart condition who had been rescued from a puppy mill.

    My sweet boy lived a year before he succumbed to heart failure. After he died I adopted a girl, now ten years old, also rescued from a puppy mill, and also with a heart condition. However long I have her, I will be the better for it.

    I have never known such love as the kind you get from an animal who has been abused its whole life and is finally given a happy and loving home. They are so grateful, and so full of love. It’s a gift.

    I am so glad you and Brian found Ellie. And she found you. Thanks for spreading the rescue word!

  7. I rescued my pomapoo (pomeranian poodle), Coco Pop, when she was 9 weeks old from the Silicon Valley Human Society. It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life! Thanks for writing this post and getting the message out!

  8. I also don’t know how people can “give up” their dogs. Would they move to an apartment that didn’t allow children and then give their kids away? People told me that once I had a “real” kid, that I would think differently. Well, I had a baby and I didn’t think differently. Except to think that those people must not really love their dogs.

  9. Hi! I don’t ever comment, but I cannot keep my dog loving mouth closed when someone sings the praises of adoption the way that you do. I read your words (and pictures!) of love about Ellie and I want you to know that I feel the exact same way about my pups. We have three rescues – two corgi mixes and one hot dog/black lab mix – all long and long – and all completely perfect and totally weird in their own ways. The way that these dogs light up my life (and my husband feels the same) is completely overwhelming. I just cannot understand how my dogs ended up in shelters – they are the sweetest and only want love and some treats. We don’t have kids yet, but I think Kristen Bell summed it up for me when she jokingly said that when she was pregnant she was worried she wouldn’t love her kids as much as her dogs 🙂

  10. Hey Ali! I’ve loved reading your blog for the last year or so– I’m a fellow Crohn’s fighter, runner, and RESCUE PUP ENTHUSIAST! Which probably explains why my first ever comment is on your post about rescue pups. Go figure! My Chinese Crested Hairless (pure bred) is a rescue, and I’ve had my sweet Josie Mae for about 8 months now. I picked her because she was literally the ugliest dog I could find… Ugly pups need to be loved too! And besides, she is the cutest thing in my eyes. Glad you guys found Ellie and were able to give her a home – it’s such a crazy feeling when you “just know” they’re YOURS.

  11. I started crying reading this. I rescued my golden retriever using a breed-specific rescue group (having grown up with goldens, I am a little partial) in Richmond, VA. He was given up by a family who didn’t have the time or the inclination to deal with a rambunctious puppy and had bounced around a couple of foster homes before I scooped him up when he was a year and a half old. It was a LITTLE irresponsible of me – I was 23 and in grad school, so I probably should have waited a few years because OMG trying to deal with the transience and craziness of your early 20s while also caring for a large and helpless fuzzball is a daunting task. However, I don’t regret it at all, especially because of his role in my life when I moved alone to DC the next year. I had no friends and definitely no social life, so Cody and I would go on incredibly long walks every day just to get out of our dank apartment. He effectively WAS my social life that first lonely year.

    7 years later, I and my husband (who thankfully took to Cody like water) are starting to have heart palpitations about him getting older and slowing down. Basically, I refuse to believe that he’ll ever die.

  12. This post is amazing and sums up EXACTLY how I feel about our rescue pup! My husband and I had been in contact with a breeder for a while, but when timing didn’t work out we turned to Lucky Lab Rescue and in September rescued the most AMAZING 4 month old puppy who had been found homeless, roaming on the streets of Texas. I honestly cannot imagine how different our lives would be right now if fate didn’t connect us with Liko (chocolate lab/German Shorthaired Pointer mix). We did the Wisdom Panel test too, and he came back as part Pomeranian as well, which we’re ignoring, because at 11 months old and almost 70 pounds, looking exactly like a cross between a lab and a GSP, there’s NOTHING Pomeranian about him. Similar to you, it was so hard at first and I cried when I left him (especially the day I left him to get neutered!), but he has nuzzled (literally) his way deep into our hearts and it’s like a love I never thought I was capable of! ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

  13. LOVE this. thank you for writing such an informative post without being judgmental. we have a huge push here in chicago to make the whole city no-kill, and while it’s not quite there yet, it’s one of the reasons i love living here. one foundation here rescues animals who have been severely abused and tries to rehab them, also posting their stories on Facebook to bring awareness to the horrors some animals face (i’ll give you a link to their page, just in case you want to cry along with me:

  14. I fostered dogs for our local humane society for awhile. It was the best and hardest thing since I fell in love with every single one of them. Most were pure breeds and one was a pug! We eventually became foster failures with Boomer. He’s a corgy red heeler mix and funniest looking thing. He was abused but made himself at home with us. Anytime someone wanted to look at him he would hide behind me and growl. So we decided that he just wouldn’t do well with anyone but us. He’s a great dog but does require some patience. But he’s so gentle with our one year old and I hope they will be best friends! I love reading all about Ellie and I totally get it!

  15. Love love LOVE this! We rescued our pup 2 1/2 years ago, and much like you, we know nothing of his story before he was being fostered. e have no idea what breed he is and only know that he was 1 or 2 at the time, and already house broken (epic win!). He is 100% and there are many days when I think he rescued me, not the other way around.

  16. I grew up with rescue dogs and will probably never go to a breeder. 1) they’re expensive and 2) why not rescue a dog that’s already alive and in need of a home? To me, it makes sense. Maybe it’s the way I was raised, but I have a very cute lab/beagle mix at home who is a spitfire and we got her when she was 8 weeks old. So happy you went the rescue route too. It makes a difference in the world!

  17. My husband and I couldn’t settle on a breed. He wanted a pug but I was not interested in the shedding. I wanted a terrier and he wasn’t interested in their temperament. We some how settled on a Cavalier King Charles. The problem was we were not going to go the route of a breeder (both ethically and financially speaking). We started following all the rescue groups and kept getting denied because we didn’t have some connection to them. Then one day I was looking on and I found the most perfect CKC that said adoption pending. I reached out anyways, turns out it fell through! Three weeks later we had our little Olive home with us! She is the best and make my heart explode everyday….I can’t even imagine love a parent feels for a child if I feel this way over my dog!

    1. OLIVE!!! I love that name so much. CKCs are so cute. There are several where we live now and there are two that wear bows in their hair (like pigtail bows) and it cracks me up every time I see them. They’re such sweet dogs. And that’s awesome that you were able to rescue! I totally get wanting a specific breed and going straight to a breeder, but I applaud your tenacity in going the rescue route. Very cool.

  18. YES to all of this! I’m so glad you and Brian found Ellie. I want to point out too that there are also rescues specifically dedicated to certain breeds, too. So, for people who just have to have a certain breed of dog, google “Goldendoodle rescue NJ” or whatever and you might be surprised to find out that there is an organization nearby that can help! My husband and I are Rottweiler people and, while we got our current dog at a County Animal Shelter here in SC, our next will probably come from a Rottweiler rescue group just because we know they will have the breed we’re looking for at the time we’re looking. There’s so many GREAT rescue options out there!

  19. Love this post! We just adopted our first fur baby and it’s the best thing ever. He was with his litter of 10 puppies – all were about 10 weeks old! His mom was up for adoption (and luckily went home with one of her pups). We love his mix, even though it wasn’t exactly what we wanted…I can’t think of how we ever lived without having him!

  20. I am a huge animal lover. I come from a family who rescues cats (I think we’ve rescued something like 16 in my lifetime, many of them older cats) and have rescued two myself. But with our dog, we went to a reputable breeder. We have our reasons for doing so and don’t regret the decision. Our dog is two years old now and has such a wonderful temperament and brings us so much joy. He was also the easiest puppy ever–he never went potty in the house or ate anything he shouldn’t. I would go back to our breeder if we ended up getting a second dog just because he is so awesome.

    Basically, I don’t judge people for making the decisions that they feel are best for them and their families (there are plenty of children in the world who need homes, for example, and overpopulation of humans is as serious of a concern as it is for unwanted pets, but I wouldn’t judge someone for preferring to have their own biological child over adopting or fostering).

    1. Right there with you in that you have to do what’s best for all parties involved. And this post definitely isn’t intended to be judgmental (hopefully it doesn’t come across that way, of course), but rather to do a bit of educating since some people (like me before Ellie came along!) don’t know much about shelters and their options. (Also, OMG, 16 cats?!)

      1. My mom is a hardcore cat lady. She loves them. We never had less than 4 at a time, the most was 7. She’s down to “just” 3 now and says it feels weird.
        Your dog is adorable, by the way! 🙂

  21. I have two rescue dogs and they’re the best! One actually is a puggle and the other is a chow chow so you can definitely get a designer or purebred dog at a shelter but I agree with you 100% that its more important to focus on a dog’s personality and energy level when adopting. I think a lot of the dogs that wind up “returned” to the shelter is because they’re potential owners were too focused on looks, which may be making me tear up right now. Thanks for writing this post!

  22. I cried reading this.

    I have a hard time with dogs as I was bite by one at 4 years old and still have a tiny scar. If I ever overcome the fear I would 100% adopt. My sister wants to adopt as many as she can when she gets her own place.
    So happy for Ellie!!

  23. What a great post! Your Ellie is darling and I know how wonderful it is to rescue a dog too – we rescued our sweet Gidget from Georgia (I hear they have a stray dog problem there). She was a stray for a while, then in a shelter for 8 months! then she was rescued by a wonderful rescue team here in New Jersey and we adopted her. She has been great for our family. I have special needs child and she is has been great for him – he loves her! It’s not always easy, but entirely worth it! We wouldn’t trade her for the world!

  24. Yes! I agree with everything you said (and I’m so glad you did this post). I adopted my pup 3 1/2 years ago and it was literally the best decision ever (marrying my husband was pretty cool too, I guess haha). She was five months old and had been a stray in TN. She is such a sweet girl! I just had a DNA test done and learned that she’s beagle, treeing walker coonhound, boston terrier, collie and lab mix. I agree, it is a lot of work – lots of doggie classes, training, lifestyle adjustments, etc. but it is so so worth it. I have since started volunteering at the shelter where I adopted her and it is such a great experience. The other great thing about adopting is when you do, you save TWO lives (the pup you adopted and the spot you made for another pup to be given a second chance).

  25. I too had an obsession with goldendoodles before seeing a picture of my 80-lb blue pit. She stole my heart this time last year, and never having a dog growing up, I too couldn’t imagine how special it is to have her. She’s such a cuddlebug and makes the funniest turkey noises and is adored by her daycare, vet and most importantly – me; truly a life worth saving. Now, I’m just having a hard time not adopting every cute dog I see!

  26. You are a perfect example of a successful rescue story. I had a hard time. Nobody would adopt out to me as I had never had a dog before. It was heartbreaking. I ended up with a “perfect Labradoodle” via an amazing breeder in Ohio. While Duncan was pricy and not “saved” I still consider it a rescue story because he rescued me! I have spent the last 7 years knowing the unconditional love and pride of all the hard work of raising a puppy. I also discovered a rescue organization that focuses on doodles and now I will fit the requirements for adopting so after Duncan that is my plan.

  27. We live 2 miles from the NH Humane Society and it breaks my heart every time we drive by

    Sometimes the sign says 100+ cats for adoption

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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