This is Bear. If you’ve read this blog before, you’ve seen Bear. He’s a three-year-old lab mix – we think the remainder of him is mastiff, which would make him a mastador if you’re into the portmanteau thing. He’s also a shelter dog.
My folks came to visit this past weekend, and they brought their new puppy, Buddy. When they saw Buddy at the shelter, he was severely malnourished. He had worms. Recurring infestations of fleas had left him missing fur in massive clumps. Keep in mind that this is a puppy. They don’t know what abuse he suffered, but he’s deathly afraid of doors. What kind of horrific acts do you have to do to an animal to make it afraid of a door?
Buddy enjoys crawling into your lap and falling asleep. He plays tug of war with Bear and tries to keep up with the other dogs. His name is Buddy because when they were leaving the shelter, the workers all said “See ya, Buddy!” And someone didn’t want him.
I use Bear as the face of this blog because he’s pretty expressive, in part because he’s got enough extra skin to make another dog out of. We moved to WV in 2008 and visited the Monongalia County Canine Adoption Center about a week after moving into our house. Bear was in a kennel surrounded by jumping, barking dogs, but just sat calmly in the middle. Tiny, a shelter worker, told us Bear had been picked up twice, and the second time the owners never came for him. He’d been hit by a car, too, and has kind of a waddle because of it. Jess and I took him out for a walk and knew he was who we wanted.
The next day, however, we had to leave for a conference in Chicago, and Tiny told us they couldn’t hold an animal. We spent Wednesday through Sunday of that week in a nervous sweat and were there as soon as they opened on Monday. Bear was still there, waiting, and we brought him home.
Even when they’re spayed or neutered, dogs tend to breed dogs. In 2009 we picked up Penny from the same shelter. My family came to visit this weekend and brought Buddy and their other dog, Bella; both are shelter dogs. The four of them are a black, hairy flotilla of dogdom, and they get along fabulously.
I don’t know if Bear would have found a home without us. I’d like to think so, but most dogs don’t. I can’t understand why anyone would get a pet from a store when there are unwanted animals like Bear that would be destroyed (read: killed) without you.
Regardless of whether they draw on puppy mills, pet stores supply animals based on demand. If there are pets in shelters, supply is clearly exceeding demand. And avoiding shelters because you want a puppy is misinformed. First, many puppies get dropped off at shelters, and second, older dogs are smart, loyal, and often at least partially trained. Bear was two years old when we got him, and we haven’t regretted missing his puppy years at all.
Even if you go to a reputable breeder, please consider shelters as an alternative. I have no issue with breeders, many of whom treat their dogs wonderfully, but the shelter dog who is not adopted likely has no future. They’re terrific and they need you.
If you’re wondering where to look, I like the Petfinder site, which is updated daily. You can enter your city or ZIP code and get an entire list of shelters and adoptable pets near you.
UPDATE (1156p, 11/11): A friend points out there are also breed-specific rescue organizations, including Miniature Pinschers, Pugs, and Basset Hounds (that second site is more local but is affiliated with the annual Illinois Basset Waddle).