Just a Thought: Shelter Pets

A week or so after my 16th birthday, I woke up with a video camera in my face and my siblings telling me to come outside. On the porch, there was a tiny crate and a note that read “Thank you for 16 years of love. May the next 16 years of your life be filled with puppy love”. Inside, there was a teeny little shih tzu who my parents had named “Ping” after my favorite Disney movie, Mulan.

Last year, at eight years old, Ping really began to slow down. He had always been a sleepy pup, but he seemed to be sleeping more and eating less. My mom was worried and began researching here and there to see what could be done to get him moving again. Eventually, she came to the conclusion that a companion dog would be our best bet. She searched PetFinder and inquired about various dogs, but nothing really panned out.

This was right before Hurricane Sandy ripped through New Jersey, destroying thousands of homes. In the weeks after Sandy (when our power returned), I began to see news stories about abandoned, missing, and displaced pets. You see, people were welcomed into shelters but often their pets were not. I remember Rachael Ray donating $500,000 to open a temporary shelter for the Sandy animals, but it was clear that many of them would never get to go home again.

As I searched PetFinder, I saw some things that confused me, like talk of “death row” pets and “to be destroyed” animals. When I was in college I volunteered briefly at The Animal Haven, where a nice woman named Christie (I think) told me that Connecticut was a “no kill” state. When I didn’t understand this, she explained to me that other states euthanized cats and dogs. Honestly, I don’t think I really understood what she was telling me. In fact, I am sure that I did not. Researching adoptable dogs led me to a dark place. I learned about the euth lists, the death row dogs, the animals who were “to be destroyed”. I saw that most pets who are lost never make it home. Overall, I was horrified. At this point, I hadn’t brushed the surface – I still had no idea about puppy mills, dog fighting rings, bait dogs, etc. But I knew I wanted to do something. I started volunteering a shelter in Jersey City. I collected food and toys from friends and family. I also decided that my family would absolutely adopt a dog.

I found Giorgio on PetFinder about two weeks after the hurricane. I sent my parents an e-mail with the subject “the one” and told them that this was my dog. My mom declared him a mouse and said that he didn’t look like a good fit for our family (he wasn’t house-trained which was something she insisted on because we all worked long days and had little time to train him). I begged for a while before my parents gave in. The funny thing was that I was convinced someone else would adopt him before I could – there were even comments on his Facebook picture from people who wanted him. Somehow, he waited for me. When my family finally caved, I submitted the application, received a phone call the next day, and the rest is history.

Ping & GiorgioAlthough Giorgio loves Ping, Ping never really warmed up to playing. He is back to being a lazy dog, and Giorgio and I now live with my boyfriend, Will, in an apartment. My hope is that my parents will adopt another dog, one who is more Ping’s speed, but we will see. The point of this whole ramble is this: Giorgio is perfect for me. He was two years old when I adopted him. He had his own personality, a past, and quite the little attitude. It took time for us to understand each other. But he is truly my best friend and I am so thankful for him. He is so protective over me and I know that we both feel lucky to have each other. I cannot understand why people choose to buy from pet stores or breeders when thousands of adoptable pets are euthanized every day because the shelters are full. It is sickening. Giorgio is, hands down, the best dog I could have found (aside from my Pingster), partially BECAUSE he was a shelter dog.

If everyone understood this and chose shelter pets instead of supporting pet stores and breeders, we could put an end to animals being euthanized in this country. Just for the record: All shelter pets are not adults – there are puppies and kittens euthanized every day. So if that’s your excuse, it’s not an excuse.

I’m sure I’ve rambled – there is so much I want to say and so much I don’t know how to say. If you’ve ever adopted a shelter or rescue pet, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Let’s raise awareness and help more people to understand why shelter pets are the best pets.

PS: I make and sell a line of jewelry with all sales donated to the rescue that gave me Giorgio. Check it out.

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