In a lot of ways, I like dogs more than most other people. Dogs aren’t judgemental, for one. Dogs are forgiving for another. Dogs are there when you need them to be, always. They’re loving, loyal, warm, and they ask for so little in return.
I often hear people say that each and every person is responsible for treating the people around them the way they’d like to be treated, but I’ve always felt this should apply to animals as well. Everything we share this planet with deserves our respect. So why do people mistreat dogs? Because they can, because they’re fucked up, because they want something else to be more miserable than they are, for a power trip, for a sense of control… there are a million reasons people use, none of them valid. Dogs are alive with as much right to exist happy and healthy as any person. Often, they can’t care for or protect themselves without us, and we are responsible for their well-being. And that’s where rescuing comes in.
Now, this isn’t going to be one of those blogs that puts down people who breed or choose purebred dogs. The dogs of my childhood were purebred Welsh Corgis, and they were fantastic, intelligent, speedy little things who loved us, herded us, and guarded us at night as we slept. They’re still dogs, little beings brought into the world by us, and they’ve as much right to a home as shelter dogs. But I have to admit there is a deeper meaning in taking a shelter dog home with you.
Bringing a shelter or rescue dog into your home is a mixed bag sometimes – there’s no way to know what you’re going to get. You’re taking into your heart a dog that likely ended up where he is because someone else didn’t want him. In the case of most shelters, he’s gone through a series of tests to make sure he’s adoptable without any major issues, but with rescues it’s not always so stringent. They’re looking to rehome the ones most on the fringe – dogs with health issues, or seniors, or dogs who were in shelters for six months and didn’t get adopted so they were slated for euthanization. When you pick one of these dogs and make him or her your own, you’re usually quite literally saving the dog’s life. In itself, that’s no small reward – to be able to say you saved something. But what they give you back each and every minute of the day is more reward than you could ever ask for.
I have two dogs myself, both rescued. Here they are:
Now, I might be biased, but personally I think they’re two of the best looking dogs I’ve ever seen. Almost 70 pounds each, they can be quite a handful, but they’re also a good team.
Finn’s the spotty one on the left. Finn loves pretty much everyone – he is easily the most indiscriminately friendly dog I’ve ever met. He sees people and gets so excited he actually smiles; he lifts his upper lip, shows off his pearly whites, wags blindingly fast, and begs you with body language to come and say hi to him. He’s quiet because he barely ever bags, he’s a giant cuddlebug, and he’s gentle when playing or taking treats.
But that’s not the dog we brought home. When we walked into the shelter that day I squealed over the litter of puppies split between several pens. Tiny, spotty things with big bellies, all wiggling tails and puppy barks. Except one. The only one who wasn’t marked with a sticker denoting he was waiting for an adoption approval to go home. He just laid there, on the cement floor, sad little eyes staring at nothing in particular. And as soon as I saw him I knew I had to have him. He needed me. He was the underdog, the one no one wanted, the poor, sad little runt of the litter, dumped in a box in a field in the middle of nowhere with his brothers and sisters. Now, two years later, the happiest bundle of fur in my life.
Nox is on the right. Formerly known as Licky, which is a horrendous name, and then Ricky, which is only slightly more acceptable. Nox’s family gave him up when he got too big to be around their kids, or so the sign said. He’s from the same shelter as Finn, but Nox came into my life 2 years earlier. He was boisterous, noisy, and he’d been there so long they had him down on the bad list, the no more chances left list, the list of no return. I went home that afternoon, still living with my parents, and told them I wanted him. I needed him, he was going to be put down, I could save him. When I went back the next day, adoption fee in my pocket, I walked right up to the counter and told them I was there to adopt Licky. “Oh, I’m sorry, he’s just left,” was the response I got, and my heart froze. No, it couldn’t be, I can’t be a day late. “Yea, we transferred him to a shelter, and they’ve just picked him up.” OH YES. A few weeks later, having officially adopted him through the shelter who gave him another chance, I brought him home and renamed him Nox, the opposite spell to lumos in Harry Potter.
Nox is a bit of a conundrum. His personality is at times unpredictable. He’s obnoxious, as a general rule, and tends to prefer a little space to other people and dogs at the beginning, whereas Finn is right in your face. Nox is clearly the dominant one, but is extremely protective of people he knows, and very protective of Finn. Nox needs a firm hand and lots of patience, but I love him for all his faults, because he loves me for mine. I saved him, but he saves me all the time, when I need a friend, or an ear, or just someone to keep me warm.
Mimi, Chloe, and Coco.
My two dogs alone are incredibly different from one another. I feel good knowing that I helped them, that I gave them a good home where someone else dumped them. My parents do it, too, on a much grander scale. They have 8, yes 8, dogs at home right now, 7 of whom are rescued. They’re all small, so it’s not as awful as you might think, and each is incredible in his or her own way. Chloe is the princess, the one bought and paid for in a store. Chip and Dale are siblings who were unwanted, underfed, and unloved when we got them, now both excitable toy lovers. Stanley was a problem child, scared to the point of occasional aggression. All he really needed was time to warm up. Now he’s a bouncy, Fennec fox look-a-like with bunny-soft fur. Cooper was one I snatched from old neighbors who would purposely put him outside, leave the fence open, and leave, hoping they’d come home to an empty yard. I returned Cooper to them 5 times before I decided to keep him and my parents took him in. He’s a devious, fuzzy adventurer. Pablo was adopted several times before my parents got him, and brought back every time for one reason or another. Why, I’ll never know, because the Pablo I know is a fringey, little dragon with bat ears, a curly tail, and the biggest heart ever. Coco was much the same as Stanley, terrified of everything, shut up in a shell. She’s friendly and curious these days. And the newest edition, Mimi, has a whole host of health issues, but she is so completely friendly and easy going it’s impossible not to love her.
Dale at the top left, Chip to his right, Stanley below him, Chloe below Stanley, and Pablo curled up at the bottom.
Rescue dogs, shelter dogs, mutts, mongrels, mixed breeds – they’re all, as Forrest once said, a box of chocolates. But for every one that’s filled with something distasteful (sadly, the dogs who’ve been trained to fight, usually, are the ones who just can’t go home to a new family safely and have to be euthanized) are 20 more who are excellent additions to a family waiting to be found. All we as people need to do is give them the chance to shine.
(This post dedicated to all the ones who heart-breakingly aren’t here anymore. Kiba, Brandi, Charlie, Sarah, Duffy, Bear, Liz, Lucy, and most recently, Carter. Miss you all so very much.)