Thursday, January 03, 2013

How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?

If you don't know how much I love dogs, then we have never met. Everyone I know points dogs out to me wherever I am. I almost stole a puppy from a co-worker, which may be the reason he keeps him in the car now. The only reason I don't have more than two is because I don't have the money or the space for them. Otherwise I would have a whole bunch of them of all kinds. But mostly the smooshy-faced, because they're my favorites.

I grew up with bulldogs. My parents got our first, Astarte, when I was four. She was actually a gift to my mom when she was dating my dad. There was a small grassy hill next to our apartment and Astarte and I would roll down that hill over and over together.

Next came George. His brother was the bulldog in the Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry movies. I was mostly mean to him and would push him out of his favorite little hidey hole under the palm trees next to the pool.

George and Astarte produced Aphrodite, who gave birth to Venus and Cassiopeia from different litters. Cassie Gave birth to Taurus. There was also Maggie, who was supposed to be mine, but she drowned in the pool as a puppy.

After they all eventually died of cancer, my parents tried once more with a pair of older dogs from a breeder friend and then switched to a chihuahua and miniature Schnauzer. As of now, I think their pack includes the mini Schnauzer, a boxer, a golden retriever, and a mini dachsund. Whew.

I've loved dogs all my life. I've played with them, been drooled on by them, held them as teeny little puppies, making sure they were clean and well-fed, and slept in beds with them. What I missed most during my college years was having a dog around and I vowed to have another as soon as I could.

Dogs are wonderful. They love us unconditionally and forgive us our flaws. They often forgive far more than any creature should have to. They only live to be loved and to make us happy. Mine have curled up next to me while I cried, kept me warm at night, and are infinitely patient with all of my moods and weirdness.

With all that they give me, I want to give back. And it feels like giving back to just two small Bostons isn't enough. I want to give something to their brothers and sisters and cousins and distant, twice-removed cousins. I want to give by making sure that all waggy-tailed, saggy-skinned, stretched-out, drooling, little kissing machines have homes and families and know what it is to be loved.

I don't make resolutions at the start of the year. They don't stick. For a while I tried calling them goals, but that didn't make them stick either. And I'm not making a resolution this year either. But I am making a commitment. I'm making a commitment to do whatever I can to help animals in need. And I'm asking  you to do the same.

How much is that doggy in the window? Too much. The cost that dogs pay when bred from puppy mills is too much. They pay with their lives. Most people today, hopefully, are aware of the tragedies caused by puppy mills. If  you're not, I'm not going to go into it, just understand that it is devastating. You can look up the horrors for yourself. Just don't buy a dog from a pet store. End of story.

If you're thinking of getting a dog, think seriously about adopting. I adopted my Dalmatian, but not my Bostons. I will adopt next time. Even if you want a specific breed, there are rescue groups. And they often have puppies. Adopting saves lives.

Shelters are overrun with animals. It is a crime against nature that so many of them are put down daily. That their last days are spent in a cement cell. Do what you can. Adopt, foster, volunteer, donate.

The biggest way to keep animals out of shelters in the first place is to be responsible. There are enough dogs (and cats) in the world already who desperately need homes. Don't breed yours. Unless breeding is your life because you show them or are specifically committed to the integrity of the breed, don't do it. You want to make some extra money? Your dog is not a part-time job. Your dog is not a puppy factory. And you don't know that those puppies are going to loving, forever homes when you put them on Craigslist.

I realize that there are plenty of causes out there. People are homeless. Cancer is still an asshole. Children need protection. I support anyone who feels passionately about any cause and if you already have one, I wish you the best and thank you for what you are doing. My passion just happens to be dogs and if you aren't already doing something for someone, I urge you to join me.

I no longer want to see pictures of starving dogs or abused dogs or hear about dogs being made to fight or dogs being put down unfairly because they exhibit behaviors that have been bred into them by us. We, as people, took dogs into our homes, we taught them to be pets. We taught them to be dependent on us and to need us. Let's not let them down.

“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ” 
― Roger Caras


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