Dogs are awesome, cute & goofy right? Yes, they are but they are also a responsibility and a commitment through the end of their life. I thought I knew quite a bit about dogs since I had one as a kid and wrote school papers about them, but it wasn't until about three years ago, where I started learning about dogs in shelters, dog abandonment, pet ownership responsibility, and BSL (breed specific legislation).
While I personally don't think of taking care of my senior dogs as "work" because I'm extremely passionate about dogs and it's part of my every day, I'm not naïve about the fact that dogs are "work" for a lot of people, and that's ok. What's important to know is that dogs don't just sit there and be quiet. They need exercise, guidance, stability, routines, vet care, love, etc. They cost money and they require time and energy from their humans to provide them with the best possible life!
Since volunteering at Nebraska Humane Society these past few months, I've been able to learn even more about dogs and why their families abandon them. There are times (very extreme cases) where the owner has passed away, got ill unexpectedly, etc. But for the most part, the reasons people abandon their dogs at the shelter or tied to a tree are just excuses to not be the responsible pet owner that they should be when making the decision to get a dog. Don’t get a puppy (or any age dog) just because you want a cute breed or because you think it will help you start working out. As that puppy gets older and bigger in size in some cases, the dog starts to show behaviors that aren't preferred, like chewing on things, having accidents in the house, pulling on leash while on walks, and even aggressive or reactive behaviors. In some cases, people have had their dog their entire life (I've seen over 10 years) and an inconvenience happens and they think the best possible outcome for their dog is to dump them at the shelter?! What people don't do is ask for help in these cases. There are so many options available to people that can help correct behaviors versus having to get rid of your dog. There are trainers you can hire and even some rescues/shelters provide free training classes if you adopt from them. The key here is consistency. Once the trainer leaves, YOU have to put in the time and work to keep the training consistent for your dog.
Some of the excuses I've read on surrender paperwork and read in so many stories are "I moved to an apartment that doesn't take dogs. I can't afford vet care. No reason at all. I had a baby and no longer have time for the dog." The list goes on and on. While some may argue that these are valid reasons, I wholeheartedly disagree. From my experience, people even lie on paperwork to justify the reasons for abandoning their dog. The story doesn't add up sometimes. In the case of not being able to afford vet care, they certainly can afford Netflix, going out on Saturday nights, buying the latest iPhone, etc. Again, there are several programs out there that help with this and even offer free food and low cost spay/neuter. People aren't willing to give up certain things because it's inconvenient or uncomfortable for them in order to take care of the dog they chose to get.
When you choose to get a dog, you are signing up for a lifetime commitment through better and worse. It's not until you don't feel like taking care of the dog anymore or when you get married, or have a baby, or move, or blah blah blah. Even as great as NHS and several other shelters and rescues are, the amount of emotional and physical stress it puts on a dog when you dump it at a shelter is unimaginable unless you've seen it and experienced it. I've seen super awesome dogs come into shelters and deteriorate to the point of no rehabilitation all because someone didn't take their commitment seriously and now that dog is not adoptable and humane euthanasia is the only alternative. Think about that! When you surrender your dog at a shelter, you are potentially giving them a death sentence. Not because the shelter or rescue wants to, but because the dog becomes in danger of themselves or others due to the amount of emotional and/or physical stress they experience.
Before you add a dog to your family, consider and be truthful to yourself about the following.
- Can I afford to take care of a dog's basics needs including vet care, food, medicine, etc.?
- Am I willing to sacrifice my own time to ensure my dog gets enough exercise and time with their humans?
- Am I willing to make sacrifices to keep my dog through their entire life? i.e. Move to a place that accepts dogs? Hire a trainer? Adjust my lifestyle? Be patient while my dog decompresses & adjusts to a new environment?
- Am I willing to keep my dog and others around them safe by setting boundaries for both humans and the dog?
- Will I have a plan for the dog in the event of an emergency? i.e. Who will take care of my dog if I get sick and had to stay in the hospital?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you're serious about adding a furry member to your family! Now, go stop at your local shelter or rescue and be prepared to have your heart changed forever!
With Love & Pawsitivity,
Susie Cogswell, Cogs Dogs Mom