This is my 25th year in the pet supplies industry, during which I’ve talked to thousands of pet owners. I still talk to scores of them every week and I never tire of it. It gives me great satisfaction to offer suggestions in dealing with food selection and behavioral issues as they pertain to feeding.
And I like to listen to their stories, amusing anecdotes, hysterically funny episodes, and emotional experiences that bring tears even many years later. I’m often able to recount a story I’ve heard from one pet owner that helps another pet owner in a similar situation.
Pet ownership has seen a tremendous evolution since I started in this business. Back then, the better quality foods were just finding their way onto store shelves and pets were beginning their journey from being mere possessions to becoming full fledged family members.
One thing has been consistent over this whole period, though. Early on, I’d frequently hear pet owners say something like, “I’ve had purebred dogs and mixed breeds, and the best dog I ever had came from the pound.” The only thing that’s changed is that now we call them shelters.
And the shelters themselves have gone through a tremendous metamorphosis. Years ago, dog catchers rounded up strays, brought them to the pound, and if no one claimed them after a period of time, euthanized them.
Fast forward to today and we see credentialed animal control officers (ACOs) accepting relinquished pets, often into modern shelters with comfortable accommodations for the animals. Many of today’s shelters that are in need of an update are presently formulating plans and raising money.
While ACO’s occasionally round up a stray, leash laws in most communities have all but eliminated roaming dogs. Indeed, to see an unattended dog in public nowadays is as noticeable as seeing an unattended child.
Most shelters are supported by organizations of volunteers who perform such day to day duties as shuttling animals to the veterinarian, cleaning, feeding, bathing, doing treatments, walking, socializing, screening potential adopters, raising funds and providing community outreach and publicity.
Most modern shelters are no-kill shelters where ACOs and volunteers are committed to finding a permanent home for the animals. Foster homes for pets are now commonplace. Often the foster parents are people who aren’t able to volunteer their time, but still want to help out.
The stigma that used to be attached to shelter dogs is all but gone. While there are dogs in shelters that were relinquished because of behavioral or health issues, staffs now work to resolve those issues. Most were given up because owners could no longer care for them due to their own lifestyle changes.
Most breeds of dogs, in fact most species’ of animals, are supported by breed or species-specific rescue groups; organizations that usually don’t have a facility, but a network of foster homes in which reside animals available for adoption.
And, based on stories I’ve heard and observations I’ve made over the years, I believe that “rescued” dogs that get adopted somehow know they were rescued and bubble over with love and loyalty.
If a pet is in your future, I hope you’ll make adoption your first choice. And if you’d like to do something valuable with your spare time or spare change, there’s a shelter or rescue group near you with open arms.
Bob Bamberg has been selling products for, and writing about, pets, livestock and wildlife since the early 1990s.
He can be reached at [email protected]