Written by: Jenna Dempesy
Ever since I was five, I’ve had the pleasure of living in a dog-friendly household. From malti-poos to pit bulls, the super sweet to the incredibly anxious, the social butterflies to the loyal protectors - we had them all. Some were spared from unethical breeders, while others came through the local animal shelter. One was found in a dumpster with his siblings as a puppy, another had lived the first two years of his life in a stacked crate at a puppy mill. The most recent addition to the family was a stray from Georgia, who we later discovered had been shot at by a BB-pellet gun. I couldn’t have imagined what would have happened to them had they not been a part of my family and I don’t know who I would have become without them in my life.
As a kid, I was a bit of a wallflower. I was incredibly shy in social circumstances, always anxious about school, and I generally preferred my quiet time. Dogs not only taught me a strong sense of responsibility, but their zest for the simpler things in life (good food, long walks through the woods, learning tricks, playing with their tug toys, cuddle sessions) gave me purpose and instilled the confidence to be open with people. And for these pups who had already experienced more suffering than anyone could have imagined, they still wore their hearts on their paws and the biggest smiles on their adorable faces. I think there is a very good reason why I have chosen a path of working with dogs - first as a dog walker, then a shelter volunteer, and now a certified dog trainer. I want to make sure that these wonderful animals don’t go unnoticed, to help heal their physical and emotional wounds, and that families interested in a pet consider all of their options!
Adopting an animal from your local shelter or rescue can provide many benefits to you, your children, and your community. Here’s a list of reasons to consider why you should adopt:
According to the ASPCA, “approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter the US animal shelters nationwide every year,” and an estimated “2.7 million are euthanized”. This number is so high because most shelters are over-crowded and stretched on resources, so the overlooked animals are removed to make room for other potentially adoptable pets. By adopting just one of these animals you are not only saving their life, you are helping shelter organizations create space for others also in need of a new home.
At Shelby Semel Dog Training, we stress the importance of creating positive emotional experiences for your dog so they may learn to build confidence and develop bonds with their humans, which will in turn encourage them to behave positively! As a child growing up with pets, I can attest that I went through a similar learning process. The more positive moments I shared with dogs, the more we both came out of our shells. As my confidence grew, the more I was willing to do my part in caring for them and reap the rewards of having furry friends who trusted me. As I got older, my social skills adapted to having compassion towards humans and was able to build long lasting friendships!
Pride from taking care of a precious animal can occur in many ways (playing fetch, playing in an enclosed space, calm petting, helping them prepare a meal, attending a training class) and it is through these moments of care that we can develop unbreakable bonds. However, I feel it is important to mention that you should never get a pet and assume your children will take care of them 100%. As a parent, assume you will be responsible for the vast majority of their vital necessities and your kids can help out when they can.
Before the age of social media, I remember getting picked up from school and attending my sisters' sports games, where my parents would bring the dogs and we would get bombarded with sweet “Awww’s” and I would proudly field questions about where, when, and how we got them. I’m currently in my 30’s and I still feel no greater joy than engaging with people interested in my rescue dog’s story! In today’s world of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it’s practically embedded in our culture to showcase our successes through our work, social life, children, and pets. Sharing your furry friend’s story sends a message to others that effective action in saving lives and fighting against animal cruelty has the power to create positive change, and that positivity is contagious to friends and followers! I mean, seriously, who can resist a feed of adorable dog and cat pictures?! They can brighten anyone’s day!
If you were to walk into a pet-store or go through a breeder, you'll likely pay a minimum of $600 to thousands. THOUSANDS! The sky is the limit! But money can’t buy the unconditional love your children can from a pet in need of a safe and loving home. The average adoption fee ranges from $100 - $300, and includes the cost of their initial vet visit, vaccinations, spay/neuter procedure, even micro-chipping!
I’m sure many of you have heard the phrase 'puppy mills' or have found yourself crying during the holidays while watching the commercial of malnourished puppies and dogs deserted in the snow, chained to posts, locked inside cages, with Sarah McLachlan elegantly requesting monthly donations. The music and graphic images pull at your heartstrings, but it's also a harsh reality in the U.S. that organizations like ASPCA and The Humane Society are constantly fighting everyday.
Puppy mills are factory operations that push production (puppies) to make the greatest profit. Mothers are forced to bear multiple litters with little-to-no recovery time and once they can no longer reproduce they are discarded. Puppies are taken from their mothers during the critical socialization phase - a process where puppies form bonding relationships. Without it they can develop severe behavioral issues. Dogs are contained in wired-cages where sickness permeates and they don’t receive adequate veterinary care.
Although local ordinances and state bills are being passed in major cities nationwide to stop the production of puppy mills, there are many pet stores that continue to partner with them. To help put an end to these deplorable businesses is to not shop at pet stores where they sell animals.
When considering a family pet, do plenty of research not only about the qualities you like in a furry friend (what they look like, personality traits, origin, etc.), but what you and your family needs are. Do you work from home or are you away most of the day? Would you be ready for sleepless nights, puppy biting, and hourly bathroom breaks or would you prefer an animal that is already house trained? Do you have an active life style where the dog can join you on outings or would you rather have a couch potato who can veg with you while you watch Game of Thrones?
Shelters and rescues are invested in the well-being of their animals and want nothing more than to see them thrive in a permanent home! They also understand that the animal must be a good fit for your whole family and your lifestyle. Most organizations will require an application and interview process, where they will evaluate animal temperament, home environment, and special needs to create the best matches possible. At a pet-store or through a non-reputable breeder, their main objective is to build financial profit from the sale of their merchandise. Salesmanship is all about making quick deals, so vital information goes to the wayside and that is why a high percentage of animals, wonderful loving animals, find themselves in a shelter or rescue due to owners being unprepared.
Over the past 10 years I have had the opportunity to help hundreds of families with their fur babies and I hope to continue to learn and do more to advocate for the rights of these miraculous creatures in my community. I have to thank my parents for this passion. If it wasn’t for them walking into our kitchen 27 years ago with a shar-pei puppy with two broken legs, I may have still been that wallflower kid and I wouldn’t have experienced years of profound joy that helped shape me into the adult I am today.