The Joy and Rewards of Adopting a Pet from an Animal Shelter
I will Always Remember
Ever since I can remember, I have always shared my life with many pets. Growing up I can remember having dogs, cats, gerbils, rabbits, birds, fish, turtles, chicken, and even a duck. In fact, I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not have a pet or two.
Sadly, our pets do not last a lifetime. The time they share with us is very short. A few months ago, I had to put to sleep a beloved pet, a Cocker Spaniel named Poppy. He shared my life for fifteen wonderful years; however, it was not long enough if you ask me.
When Poppy left us, it left me and Gordo totally heartbroken. I cried nearly every day for months and swore up and down that I would not get another pet. After all, not only did I have little Gordo to take care of, but I also had two finches and two parakeets as well. Furthermore, the older I get, the less I want to do and having pets will keep you busy all the time.
Remembering a few years back, Gordo came into our lives after I lost Reagan. Reagan was a sweet Australian Sheppard/Terrier mix that was adopted from an animal shelter. She was a member of our family for sixteen loving years. When she went to doggy heaven, Poppy and I were left very heartbroken and lonely.
Being an advocate for animal shelter and rescue adoptions, I began to look into shelters for a companion for Poppy. This is when I met Gordo, a black Peek-a-Poo. Gordo was in a corner locked away in a cage, put on display for everyone who walked in. He looked so pitiful that no one stopped to look or even consider him. Thinking back now, even I had passed him a couple of times.
We’re In It For The Long Haul
When it came time to chose, Gordo was not my first choice, as I had already decided on another dog, but the shelter informed me the dog I wanted was not ready to for adoption. Determined to go home with a little companion for Poppy, I continued to look at all the animals. Then the woman working at the shelter pointed at Gordo, and asked “why not him?” I was not sold on the idea but decided to give him a second or should I say, third look anyway. Gordo had an under bite, his fur looked unhealthy and was falling out in patches, and at the time, he was not the cutest dog in the place.
I brought Poppy and Gordo together at the shelter to see if they got along. The woman began to tell me that Gordo had been surrendered twice: Once from his original owners and then from a couple that had previously adopted him and decided not to keep him. Gordo had been at the shelter for nearly three months. I could not imagine an animal locked up in a cage for nearly three months. That would explain the unhealthy fur, which was an indication of continual stress, fear, and lack of love.
I asked if there was problem with the poor little dog and she said that no one had wanted to work with him. Hearing this broke my heart, so I decided to adopt Gordo. Before I left the shelter, the woman said to me “if you decide you do not want him, please try to find him a home before bringing him back to the shelter.” I told her he was not going to be brought back. He had a permanent home. The next few months that followed was quite an adventure for everyone in the house.
As soon as Gordo came home, he joyfully discovered all the freedom he had. He had a doggie door that led to a big fenced-in yard with many little places to explore. He romped around the backyard for what seemed a long time. I imagine he was in shock at the open space and all the freedom he had after being locked away for so long. He was pampered and loved from day one, and in time, he transformed into a beautiful little dog. His fur stopped falling out and it grew in healthy, shinny and curly. He gained a whopping five pounds, and was the happiest little guy in the planet.
In the beginning, Gordo was undisciplined and things got a little rocky at times. He kept me very busy around the house picking up after him, and many times, I found myself half-jokingly threatening to take him back to the shelter. One day I came home to find he had raided the laundry basket and had taken out my undergarments, and strategically placed them, in plain sight, all over my backyard. Another day, I found my decorative pillows missing from my couch. I later found them in the back yard covered in mud. How he managed to squeeze two large pillows through a small doggie door is beyond me?
With such a mischievous and rambunctious little guy, I had to place things differently around the house. I had to remove all my plants and potpourri from his reach or they would become unrecognizable chewed-up pieces all over the floor, and then there was the danger of poisoning if he had ingested them. When I was not home, my bedroom became off limits because he was determined that my bed would never stay made, never ever again. When it came to teasing Poppy, he would steal Poppy’s favorite red ball and lay on top of it so Poppy would not take it from him.
The real test came when my son came home to visit during the holidays. It seemed that Gordo did not like men because whenever my son walked by him, Gordo would try to nip him at the heels. However, that did not last very long. Five days later, they were both cuddled up on the couch watching TV together.
I smile now when I think about these things but there was also a time when Gordo, for no apparent reason, would hide, and would be afraid to come out. The first time I discovered this odd behavior was a few weeks after bringing him home. I got his dinner ready and began to call for him. When he did not respond, I went searching for him and could not find him. My heart leaped at the frightening thought that somehow he got out of the yard, so I ran outside looking for him. When I saw no signs of him getting out, I went back into the house and re-looked. That is when I found him behind the door of the guest bathroom, shivering in the dark. I often wondered what could have happened to this little guy. Was he abused or traumatized? Did he miss his former family? All I could do is reassure him with love and extra attention. Thankfully, this behavior eventually stopped but it took nearly a year.
It has been three years since I brought Gordo home, and he is a changed little dog. I call him my little Koala bear. Since I first brought him home, he has calmed down quite a bit but occasionally, when his old playful mischievous nature wants to resurface, I still remind him that it is not too late to take him back to the pound.
In Search For Another Pet
Now that Poppy was gone, it was just Gordo and me. I had decided not to get another pet but Gordo was not bouncing back from his loss, and if it were not for him, I would have not reconsidered adopting another pet. Therefore, once again I set off in search for the perfect companion for us. Weeks passed as I visited shelters in my area looking for the right dog. I saw the saddest little faces peeking out at me through their cages. I knew they would be destroyed and I wanted to adopt them all.
I wondered about the lives many of these animals had. How sad that there are so many unwanted animals in the world. Many people do not think twice at surrendering their pets after their pets have become part of the family for many years. They walk into shelters and abandon their pets, some without even a second thought, glad to be rid of them. Why do they have pets to begin with? Don’t they know that kill-shelters destroy millions of unwanted pets a year? People are under the impression that shelters will try to get their abandoned pets adopted before killing them but they are very wrong! And even if they are fortunate enough to be adopted, the emotional scars and trauma they endure is enough to kill them.
Last year alone, at one of our local animal shelter, over 10,000 unwanted animals were euthanized. Many of these unwanted pets were brought in by ignorant or insensitive pet owners, while others were picked-up from wandering the streets due to neglectful and irresponsible pet owners. When an animal comes into the shelter, they look at the shape the animal is in. If the animal is injured, sick, or un-adoptable due sometimes to temperament, they are not given a second chance, they are destroyed. However, the majority are destroyed because of lack of space at the shelters. While there are many good people that will try to save them from high-kill shelters, unfortunately, there are not enough willing people in the world to save every one of them.
How do we stop pet overpopulation and the destruction of millions of animals? The solution is very simple. Be a responsible pet owner. Responsible pet owners should spay/neuter and microchip their pets. A wandering or lost un-altered pet will eventually impregnate another animal or come home pregnant. This will add to the ever-increasing pet overpopulation problem that will ultimately lead them to their deaths. If you cannot care for or afford a pet, or if you are a renter, do not adopt any pets. Unless you are willing to be a responsible pet owner, sacrifice your time and money, and even risk being evicted from your apartment, get the thought out of your head. In the end, these unfortunate animals pay the price because of your impulse to have a pet.
In my search through the animal shelters, I am reminded all over again of the cruelty and neglect of humans towards these poor little creatures, and how important it is to be a responsible pet owner. This is where I met Kobi, a brown and red Cocker Spaniel. At that time, he was not named Kobi but “Lucky.” When I saw a photo of Kobi at the animal shelters’ website, it was love at first sight or so I thought at the time. Since the shelter already had my application on file, I called the shelter and told them I was interested. The shelter wanted to be rid of him so fast that they neutered, microchipped, and turned him over to me all in the same day. However, when I came to pick Kobi up and laid eyes on him for the first time, I shrank back at what I saw.
Kobi had been found wondering the streets in a pitiful state. His coat was badly matted and covered with prickers that were painfully embedded into his skin. He was filthy, reeked of urine, underweight, and both ears were badly infected. I wondered if he looked that bad on the outside, what else could be wrong with him in the inside.
Determined, I brought Kobi home. Since he had undergone surgery earlier in the day, I cleaned him up as best as I could, removed all the painful prickers, trimmed and clipped all the matted fur, and tried to make his first night as comfortable as possible. From the first, I knew Kobi had a big and noble heart. He was starving for affection and warmed up to me immediately. We bonded that first day. Gordo was another story. It took a few days for him to adjust to the new kid on the block, but now Gordo is showing Kobi the ropes. He shows Kobi who to bark at, which birds to chase in the yard, and the rules about the red ball.
Almost immediately, I noticed something in Kobi that brought me to tears. Kobi strangely behaves like my beloved Poppy. Like Poppy, he will not lose sight of me. Wherever I am, there is Kobi. Kobi is at my feet, by my bed, or in the bathroom with me. Gordo showed Kobi how to wait for mommy to come home from work, just as Poppy had shown him. So, every day Kobi and Gordo wait for me to come home by the fence, ready to greet me as I pull up the driveway. Kobi is perfectly well behaved and obedient just like Poppy, and he loves his red ball… just like Poppy. There are still a few rules he needs to learn but he is eager to please. Presently he is learning, we do not shoot in or out the doggie door like a missile... we walk, there will be no running in the house, and we do not jump excitedly on mommy every single time we come in from the back yard.
Kobi has only been in my family for a little over two weeks, but you would think he had been raised in our home from the start. He is gaining weight, is being treated for his bad ear infection, and after a very refreshing bath, his coat is beautiful and healthy. His past is history. If it happens that he should develop any health problems, as a member of my family, he will be taken care of.
What makes Kobi so unique? He was unwanted and starving for love, just like Gordo, Poppy, and Reagan. Unwanted, neglected, discarded, abused, and unloved pets make the best pets. They will love you no matter what others have done to them in the past.
Kobi is now a loving member of my family and is no longer someone else’s discard; he is all mine now and has a permanent home. Kobi has brought joy and happiness back into our home after we lost our Poppy, and there is no greater reward than that.
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- The Humane Society of the United States : The Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest and most effective animal protection organization