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Save a life. Adopt, Don’t shop.

Darina Šeděnková Feb 2023

If you would like to get a dog, assuming you didn't already have one, where would you look first? Would you go to a pet shop? Would you look for kennels, would you look for shelters?

There are many rumors about dogs in shelters. That they're ill-mannered, troubled, sick. I used to fall for those rumors, too. Now I have two dogs. The first and older one from a kennel, and the younger one from a shelter.

I wasn't sure 12 years ago if I could raise a dog on my own, I was aware of what it takes. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I spent about half a year wondering if I should get a dog at all and what breed. After all the questions, I answered myself and finally brought home a two month old Flat Coated Retriever puppy - with papers. His mom had one litter in her entire life, not ten or more, as unfortunately is the case with some kennels. I was thinking about getting a dog from a shelter but I was worried he might be a "problem" or would be difficult to take care of. I was afraid of that. Unnecessarily. Those of you who feel the same way I did, please read.

I wouldn't trade Atrei (yes, Neverending Story:)), my older dog, for anything. I’m so happy to have him - he’s the sweetest dog and I love him so much. He’s my very best friend. He helped me to get up on my feet in my most difficult time of life. But the shelters full with sad, homeless dogs of all ages and sizes across the world tears my heart apart. I recently read an article about a dog who has been in a shelter for 11 years. It made me cry, but knowing this is not the “worst” case makes me even more sad.

It's not hard at all to find a shelter dog. Kind, smart, understanding. How? Find a shelter, visit it, and if you hit it off with a dog there, you can start to visit him and go for walks together (most shelters encourage this option) until you both get to know each other and decide. Of course you need to ask what the dog is like, how he reacts to other dogs, cats, children, what his story is. But I'm absolutely convinced that if you really want one, you will soon find a dog that steals your heart (if you have a big heart, there is a risk of taking all the dogs home with you :)) and won't let go 🙂

As with my younger dog, Luke (yes Luke Skywalker - Star Wars :)). He was found wired up to a tree somewhere in the woods with a chain. He was sick with parvovirus and was only a few weeks old. A little defenseless puppy. He got to the shelter, was given an IV for two weeks and almost didn't survive. But here he is, healthier than all of us put together, and I can tell he’s the happiest dog in the world. At the beginning, he was very afraid of children and if a child held a stick, he’d be even more frightened. He hated bicycles... He’s eight years old now. Atrei (because he is the friendliest dog in the world) and I have taught him that not all the children are bad and that not all the men on bikes want to hurt him. It’s best not imagine what kind of life his mum was living. We love him very much. Did you know they say that dogs taken from a shelter are the most grateful? Well, it’s absolutely true. You’ll never see such gratitude and love in anyone's eyes. Even if Luke eats all the food we forget to hide when we’re leaving home :D Like Atrei, we wouldn't trade him for anything.

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Yes, of course there are some dogs in shelters who have been through a lot. Abuse, mistreatment; really bad stuff. As a result, they may have psychological problems and will need an experienced owner or one with enormous patience. I'm not discouraging you from this either, but please consider whether you have all the experience, knowledge, patience and time it takes to look after such a dog. Choosing a dog from a shelter and then returning it after a week is not the happiest option for the dog.

So why get a dog from a shelter?

  • You’ll, more or less, save their life. Their entire "short" life will change for the better. You’ll actually give them a chance to live. Even though caregivers often do their best, the conditions in shelters really aren't great.
  • And so they’ll treat you like you saved their life. You'll have the most grateful dog. It may take some time to get used to each other, but after that they’ll love you unconditionally.
  • Whenever you look at the dog, whenever you think of them, you’ll have a lovely warm feeling in your heart that you have given them a home and love, that you have done a good thing. They'll repay you a thousand times over.
  • You won’t need to pay anything! At least in Czechia, at most there is an adoption fee at some shelters. This means you’ll only pay for basic treatments such as a vaccination etc. Which costs around One Thousand Czech Crowns (or $45). But the rules are different in every shelter. Do you have to pay adoption fees in your country?

I’m sure there are more reasons I forgot to mention.

There are more ways you adopt a dog. You can find a homeless dog on the street, but these dogs are mostly lost. If this seems like an option, call the police first and try to find their owner. You can adopt (but never buy) a dog from your neighbor or from friends whose dogs have had puppies. But do ask them to consider castration in the future. This might prevent puppies being born who won’t find caring homes. And if shelters are already full of sad dogs, is there a reason to bring more puppies into this world?

Adopting a homeless dog is a GOOD THING, CHANGING A LIFE FOR THE BETTER. They’re waiting for you. Hoping every day in their cage that someone will carry them home and give them the love they deserve.

If you decide you're not ready to get a dog after all, but would like to do a good thing, there are many ways you can do this. From going to your local shelter and walking their dogs regularly, to financial and material help that shelters often need. You can also volunteer at the shelter,helping caregivers do their work or you can download viaGood. In the Help Dog Cause, there are five different projects and a petition you can support. It's that simple 🙂

And what about the ‘shop’ part? Stay tuned for more advice on how (not) to buy a dog.

If you have any questions about shelter dogs, dogs for adoption, please don't hesitate to contact me at darina.sedenkova@viaprogram.com. I'd be happy to help, advise and share my experience with you.

Have a huge heart. Do good. Everywhere. It will come back to you.