Dog Adoption: Saving Lives
Jackson wondered where he was and why everything was so different. Just a few days ago, he’d been on his mom and dad’s couch, enjoying the cool air-conditioning. Now he was on a hard floor. There were strange smells and even stranger people. He missed his soft bed and the comfort of hearing familiar voices and eating the food he was used to from his very own bowl. He looked every morning for his family and listened for their voices over the sound of the other dogs. He barked until his voice was hoarse, trying to let his family know where he was so they would come take him home. But, no one answered and no one came.
Did you know that there were approximately 6.5 million animals living in shelters in the United States last year? While that’s a decrease from the estimated 7.2 million in 2011, I think we could do much better. Of the 6.5 million, 1.5 million are euthanized.
Two years ago, my family and I went to the Jasper Animal Rescue Mission (J.A.R.M.) to foster a dog. Fostering dogs is an opportunity to not only provide a loving family and a more comfortable environment, but it also helps make it easier for the shelter to find permanent adoptive homes for them because the foster parents will get to know their true personality, which can be shared with new owners. Many dogs are surrendered to shelters with little or no helpful information about the pets that are being abandoned. Important things like if they get along with children, other pets, if they have phobias or allergies, and whether they are housebroken makes it easier to match them with the most well-suited new owners.
When I saw Jackson lying there, he looked sad. Pathetic. He was about 20 pounds overweight, and wanted to do nothing but lie there, depressed about being away from home, perhaps wondering if he’d done something wrong to displease his humans. Being overweight and the heat made it difficult to breathe. When we saw him, we knew he was the one we wanted to bring home for a little while and then help find a forever home.
He walked through the door of our home with his head down. He just stood there, staring at me. I took him to the water bowl where he spent a good 3 minutes drinking his fill. I sat down on the floor near him and he just laid there. He wouldn’t move. We’d leave him alone for a few hours and then come by to check on him and gradually give him more and more attention, but he barely lifted his head to acknowledge our presence. It took about 3 days for us to get him to eat and even with my sitting on the floor encouraging him, he still only ate little nibbles. Dogs, like many humans, are fond of routines. We didn’t know that he was accustomed to eating wet food mixed with dry. Once we put him back in his comfort zone with a dry/wet doggie meal, he gobbled it all up in about a minute.
After just a few more days, we noticed a big change in Jackson. He started showing us the playful spirit we’d been hoping to see. Our home is occupied by 5 dogs and our daughter Caitlyn, who was 11-years old at the time. As soon as we saw him playing with the other dogs, leaping and bouncing around, we began to see that he was a very special dog.
I believe our dogs have chosen us and once they gave us “permission” to be their parents and decided we were trustworthy, we didn’t really have much choice in the matter. When dogs have been abandoned and betrayed, they need a new family they can depend on.
Charlene Parlett says, “I have always adopted from shelters, foster and/or rescue organizations. I began adopting when I became aware of the overcrowding problem and continued as I learned more about the prevalence and deplorable conditions on “puppy farms.” It was surprising how often you can find pure bred dogs at shelters, abandoned by uneducated owners who didn’t fully grasp that their cute new puppy would become a 100lb. Shepherd or Lab and the effort and training required to have a happy, obedient dog. Both of my current cats were adopted through One Love Animal Rescue which fosters and supports rescue dogs and cats. I have also fostered dogs with them and they do a phenomenal job.” Marie Kindred said she adopted Ramsey, her cat because “he was alone in a cage at the Tabby House in Beaufort SC.” The note on his cage indicated he was shy. She reached into the cage and he seemed to welcome her touch. She thought to herself “I gotta get you outta here.” So, she took the frightened cat home, but now she said, “He’s happy and full of energy – runs all over the place!”
Don’t get me wrong, a purebred dog is always nice to come by, as you know their bloodline, breed characteristics and family history, but there is great satisfaction from rescuing an animal and bringing him or her into your home to become part of your family.
While talking with a former board member of the Palmetto Animal League and owner of Lowcountry Paver, Tom Curry, he had quite a bit to say on the subject of adoption. “I believe dogs were put on this earth as gifts from God to be companions for humans. I think it is absolutely amazing how a furry little creature can love us more than they love themselves. Like Jesus, dogs are sinless and offer unconditional love. No matter how badly an owner treats his dog, that dog will spend every second of its life trying to please and give love to its owner until the day it dies. This is amazing to me. Every year millions of these beautiful angels from God are killed in shelters. Every time a breeder sells a “designer” dog, another loving, scared, beautiful angel of God is killed in a shelter. If I was the President I would put such a huge tax on designer breed dogs until every “re-homeable” dog was out of the shelters. I have several friends who want a specific breed of dog. Dobermans are my favorite breed and I’ve had many, all of which were rescues. What many people don’t know is that there are rescues all over the country for specific breeds. So, if you are looking for a particular breed, Doberman for instance, you can google “Doberman rescue” and you can have your pure breed dog but still get a rescue. Of course, these dogs sometimes have “quirks” which are usually from the previous owner’s neglect of care, love or training. But with a little patience and instruction, you will have a best friend whose entire life revolves around making you happy and you saved a life!”
Justin Bell, an-almost-Hilton-Head-native (since 1993), grew up taking in dogs through the ASPCA and other shelters. As an adult, he adopted his first dog, Glory, from the Hilton Head Humane Society, but it wasn’t until he was introduced to Noah’s Ark Rescue through a friend that he realized what rescuing really meant. Justin went to an event at PetSmart(®) to meet Belle, but he realized that Belle would have difficulty managing the stairs of his 2nd-floor apartment because of damage to her hips from a car accident, so after showing her a little love, he resumed his search. While walking around the adoption event, he ran into an engaging and happy dog named Tula. Justin told me, “She was very different from the dog we already have at home and so happy to see me. It’s like she picked me to be allowed to bring her home to be a part of our family.”
When Tula was found and brought to Noah’s Ark, she weighed less than 25 pounds; her rib cage was visible, and her skin had been chewed to a sickening rawness. Noah’s Ark spent several months fundraising for medical bills to restore her health. When Justin locked eyes with her, she was about 60 pounds and well on her way to her ideal weight of 80 pounds. His heart-tugging encounter with Tula made him realize that this was not just about him giving a dog a home. Many people had donated their time and money to keep her alive and help her get well. To Justin and many others like him, this kind of adoption is about saving a life!