Look at those eyes. Soulful, huh? And those cropped ears. Both features tell the tale of a hard life full of pain and sadness. Yet this sweet girl, Catherine, was always so sweet and outgoing. She didn’t let the fact that she was passed around from owner to owner, dumped at the shelter, unable to find her forever home, and goodness knows what else stop her from giving up. This is why shelter dogs are the best. They are resilient. They endure terrible, heartbreaking circumstances and yet they continue to overcome. And they never stop sharing their love. Most humans I know are incapable of doing this. For me, shelter dogs represent and embody true love. I never grew up with dogs or spent time near them, and honestly, at times I preferred not to be near them. I mean, the drooling and barking and jumping on me – no thanks. But after working at shelters and observing these dogs firsthand, I immediately fell deep into love with their personalities and their stories. I saw them as furry little people, each with their own quirks, likes, dislikes, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. And the fact that they were shelter dogs as opposed to coming from a puppy mill or breeder, just amplified these endearing qualities and made me love them even more.
This is Horatio, one of the shelter dogs that I fostered for a couple weeks. He was so skinny when I first saw him. And as the weeks went by, I noticed that he wasn’t gaining any weight. In fact, it didn’t look like he was eating at all. I decided to bring him home and see if he gained weight. And he did! And my two female pitties absolutely adored him. The first night I brought him home, I had to lift him onto the bed because he was too terrified to move, and my other foster dog, Pretty Girl, started rolling around and stretching out next to him to try to impress him. It was amazing to see her react that way because Pretty Girl came from a bad situation too and was very introverted, yet she connected with Horatio and he brought out the best in her. Poor Horatio was probably the most scared dog I’ve ever met. He was scared to go into my yard to use the bathroom. I’d have to walk him out on a leash, and then he’d be scared to come back in. I don’t know anything about his history, except that my shelter rescued him off the kill list at the city shelter. I’ve always wondered what horrendous things must have happened to him to make him so petrified. He flinched every time I came near him, even to pet him. And yet Horatio was always a gentle creature.
This cutie pie was about 6 months old when I decided to bring her home for a sleepover. Her name was Taylor Swift and she looked absolutely miserable at the shelter. She was sick and we didn’t know what was wrong with her. I feared parvovirus at one point, which is a deadly disease that puppies are susceptible to, but luckily it was only worms. Once I got her home and she started feeling better, her rambunctious personality came out and she was an energetic and playful puppy. My oldest pit, Josie, loved to play with her and they would run around the house like little tornadoes. Taylor Swift was with me about a week or so and when I brought her back to the shelter for a couple of days, she was adopted!
I love this picture of Roman. It just makes me happy every time I look at it. When Roman first arrived at the shelter, he was super high strung and very reactive towards the other dogs. Every time I took him out to go play in the yard, I had to brace myself and remember to hold tight to the leash because he was so strong and pulled like a freight train, and barked up a storm telling off the other dogs we passed. But once I got him into the yard, he turned into a big toddler that just wanted to run around and play and get his energy out. I gathered that maybe Roman’s previous owner neglected him; never played with him or took him on walks, didn’t socialize him with other dogs or teach him any manners. I felt bad for Roman. He just needed someone to help him. I made sure to play with him on the days I worked at the shelter. Because of his behaviors, not many people were allowed to handle him and so he didn’t get a lot of attention. As of this post, Roman is still at the shelter waiting for his forever home. He’s been there over a year, but he’s not giving up, and he’s had the time to learn manners and work on being a gentleman.
Poor little Tater. Not just because his name is Tater, but because he was the last of his litter. His siblings had all been adopted but he was left behind waiting for someone to adopt him. He was only 3 or 4 months old and incredibly sweet. My heart just broke for him, he seemed extremely sad at the shelter all by himself. I got him home and unfortunately my dog Josie ambushed him at the door and scared him half to death. He began wailing and shrieking and well, didn’t want to socialize with my dogs after that. But he loved being by my side everywhere I went. That night, he slept right next me to me, up against me actually, all snuggled in, and didn’t wake up once the entire night. He was such a good boy, so sweet and affectionate.
Look at this dude. Pajama Sam. That’s right. He was a 1 year old, deaf pit bull mix that was found as a stray and suffering from parvovirus. After being treated at the clinic, he pulled through and was placed in his own kennel around the other adult dogs. Except that he hated it. He howled and cried nonstop all day every day. I couldn’t take it anymore, how sad he was, so I brought him home. What a perfect gentleman! He was so easy to potty train, I could leave him roaming the house while I was gone (which I can’t even do with my own dogs because they eat and destroy everything), he was quiet as a mouse, he got along with my other dogs, and he was so laid back and easy going. I wanted to adopt him myself, but already had 4 dogs in the house and knew I could find him a great home. After a couple of weeks, the shelter’s PR team decided to run a story about him online and that attracted some potential adopters inquiring about him. In the end, he found a great home and Pajama Sam just welcomed a human sister into his family.
These are just some of the many, many dogs that I came to know and love at the shelter. After everything they’d been through they were still willing to give humans a chance. Their experiences shaped their personalities and their spirit. Why should it matter what they look like on the outside? Or what breed they are? If we humans bring a dog into our lives, it’s usually because we want a companion, we want to give love to our furry friend and receive it in return. If that’s the case, then a dog’s exterior shouldn’t matter at all. Therefore, why go to a pet store or a breeder and contribute to the overpopulation, when you can go to a shelter and adopt a dog that has more heart and bravery than most of us have in our pinky finger? My motto is: Getting a dog should be selfless, not selfish. If you are thinking about getting a dog and type of breeds are on your priority list, your heart might not be in the right place and you should think about what you really want. If you want to bring a dog into your life for the right reasons, then you’ll be perfectly happy to go down to the shelter and find a dog that you connect with internally. Don’t get me wrong, we all have those certain breeds we think are adorable. I, for instance, love pitbulls. I think they are the cutest creatures to ever grace this planet. But luckily for me (and not so luckily for them), the shelters are overflowing with pitbulls. Even though I think they are stinking cute, I would never base my decision to adopt on it.
Just because a dog is a mixed breed, or isn’t pure bred, who the hell cares? It doesn’t mean that dog is somehow inferior, in fact, it means they have more character and variety. And most importantly, it doesn’t mean they will love you any less. We don’t love our family, friends, and children any less because of what they look like on the outside. Dogs should get that same love and respect. No dog should be killed at a shelter due to lack of space because someone chose to buy a puppy from a breeder instead. If you are thinking about bringing home a furry companion, do yourself a favor and go the local shelter. I guarantee you will find your doggie soul-mate there and you will wonder why the heck you ever considered going anywhere else. Trust me.