Shelter animals: companions for life

By Mari Pothier |
Photo by Mari Pothier

The first time I saw Toby he was curled up on a green towel in a metal pen, outside of Petco.

He was part of an animal rescue organization called Paw Safe in Tampa. I really didn’t bother with the little terrier mutt, who had brown, wiry fur and was nothing more than skin and bones, because a howling beagle who was his cage mate stole my attention. I was 13-years-old and my family had no intention of getting a dog anytime soon. So little did I know that the little terrier scruff, lying sadly on a towel, would become one of my greatest pals.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, an estimated six to eight million dogs and cats find themselves in animal shelters every year all over the United States. Why then are people still buying “puppies” or “kittens” from breeders and pet stores when there are millions of animals looking for loving homes? It really upsets me when I hear people say they want a puppy and only a puppy. It’s because of people like this that puppy mills are a functioning, money making entity in our country. If more people would just start giving shelter animals a chance, I think they would realize what wonderful pets they really do make.

Toby was living on the streets of Tampa before he was caught by Animal Control. They took him in, fixed up his wounds and neutered him, but they soon found something wrong. He was suffering from heartworm and, as a result, he was put on death row. While Toby waited in his cage for his fate, a woman from Paw Safe came to look at the dogs that were to be euthanized. She ended up taking Toby and a few others in hopes of getting them well and adopted.

An estimated three to four million animals are euthanized each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. This is another reason why more people should adopt animals from shelters and not from breeders. The Humane Society also said, “In the vast majority of shelters, decisions about adoption and euthanasia are based on factors that include the temperament and health of the animal, and the space and resources available to humanely house and properly care for the animal.” They also recommend that strays be held for approximately five days so they have a chance to be found by their owners.

It is scary to think that Toby was almost one of the millions of dogs euthanized. What a shame it would have been to have lost such a sweet and loving dog. But the sad part is that everyday millions of other sweet and loving dogs and cats lose their lives at shelters. And this breaks my heart.

According to the Asilomar Animal Statistics from the SPCA of Tampa Bay for July 1st, 2010 through May 31, 2011, 2,860 cats and dogs were euthanized. And this is only in one city for one organization.

My mom was the one who was drawn to Toby, mainly because he didn’t bark, and tried to convince my family that he would be our perfect dog. But I wouldn’t listen. I wanted that darn beagle because I thought beagles were the coolest dogs in the world back then. It pains me to say it but I guess I used to be a
breed snob.

Because of breed snobs and the desire to own a puppy, puppy mills are a part of our society. According to the Humane Society, “Puppy mills house dogs in shockingly poor conditions. After their fertility wanes, breeding animals are often killed, abandoned or sold cheaply to another mill to try and get ‘one more litter’ out of the dog. The annual result of all this breeding is millions of puppies, many with behavior and/or health problems.” As I have matured, I have come to realize that pure bred dogs and puppies are no better than mutts and I hope more and more people come to this realization.

Eventually, I jumped on board with my mom and thought Toby would make a nice pet. I still remember the first time he came to visit our house before we adopted him. I bought him a little rubber hamburger that he instantly took a liking to and he rolled on his back so I could pet his boney tummy. I loved how he immediately trusted me.

I wish more people would give shelter animals a chance because they’ll never know what great animals may be waiting behind those metal cage doors. If more people adopted from rescue organizations and shelters, more animals would have homes and there would be less euthanasia and hopefully not as many puppy mills.

Toby is now a happy go lucky little dog with a few more added pounds around his waist. He has been a member of my family for eight years and is honestly the sweetest dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He brings joy to everyone who comes his way and is living proof that shelter and rescue dogs can make wonderful companions.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "Shelter animals: companions for life"

Leave a comment