It is no secret if you have followed our blog or social media pages for any amount of time that we are devoted to the cause of animal rescue. We have spent years advocating animal rescue in a fun way, we have traveled the country numerous times, and have visited 48 shelters and rescues along our journeys.
When you are working towards a goal, sometimes, it is easy to not see other people’s viewpoints or pay attention to their life stories. Most of us are guilty of only seeing what is in front of us. And what has been in front of us for years is the mistreatment and abandonment of many animals, not only in the country we live in, but worldwide.
Yet, it was on a beautiful, summer afternoon a few months ago that I realized I had a big problem. I was starting to let the angry side of animal rescue get the best of me. I was starting to really dislike people more and more with every story I read. I really didn’t even want to talk to anyone anymore. There I was, at a gorgeous dog park in South Carolina. Yet all I could wonder when looking at these dogs and their owners was if they were all rescues. I wondered how many had been bought or bred.
This was really getting to me. And as I heard people talk about their dogs, I kept hearing the same question. One that I had been guilty of asking people before because of my day job. Oh, and night job. Oh, and 24 hour a day job. The question I kept hearing was, “is he a rescue?”. Sometimes, I saw dog parents squirm and answer no with no other explanation. Sometimes, I heard dog parents say that most of their dogs had been rescued, but then go into a long explanation of why this furkid was purchased. Or, I heard some people just not answer directly and avoid the question at all costs. And all of a sudden, it hit me. This was a really rude question. And I wondered when it became acceptable to be this invasive, this blunt. It was like asking a parent if their child was adopted. We would never do that! So why was it ok for me to ask this of a dog parent, no matter what my stand was on animal rescue? I knew it. I had been guilty of it. And the answer was that it is not ok.
For us, our stand on animal rescue and encouraging others to adopt their new family member has been definite. However, we have never saw the need for graphic pictures, sad posts or awful stories. Instead, we have found the most effective way to get people to adopt is to show that a rescue animal can change your life and that new beginnings are possible. We show the fun side of animal rescue by showing the great things you can do with your dog and the difference you can make together.
But I knew I was making one mistake despite all of these efforts. I was making others feel bad about a furkid that they already had in their life. I could not change that, nor would I want to change that. We want all animals that are in happy homes to stay there, no matter if they are adopted or not. And so to ask someone if their dog was a rescue was in fact saying that I felt their dog had less of a right to be at that wonderful dog park. I was undermining their decision to be a good dog parent. And this was not right. I wondered. How did being on the other side of that question feel?
Carol Bryant, author and blogger of Fidose Of Reality explained her side on this issue. She said, “I am a proponent of reputable rescues and reputable responsible breeders. I don’t want someone to ask me if my dog is a rescue because personally I find it offensive. I liken this to asking someone if their child is adopted or not. As long as dogs are happy and healthy, I am for a planet where we live in harmony, respect boundaries, and we stomp out puppy mills, abusers, and those who could care less about dogs.”
As I stated in the beginning of this article, my views are in favor of only animal rescue. Visiting all of the shelters we have, and meeting the people and furkids behind the scenes has only reinforced my viewpoint. I will never agree with breeding in any form, for any reason. Let me clear on that. However, I will also be clear that I also respect the views of others, even if they are different from my own like Carol’s above.
My personal friend and talented social media superstar is “Momager” of celebrity dog Rambo The Puppy. She was very honest about her feelings when someone asks her if Rambo is a rescue dog.
“Some of his fans ask, because they want me to say yes. Instead of answering, I link to Rambo’s blog post about the day I brought him home. At the park, I will meet people and I’ll tell them their dog is so cute, and they will tell me their dog is a rescue, i.e, they got him from a hoarding situation. And then they ask if Rambo is a rescue too, and I say no. But I want to say I love him just as much as you clearly love your dog.”
Nicole Ellis, Certified Professional Celebrity Dog Trainer and author says, “I support rescues and dogs from reputable breeders that are doing their part to ensure health standards and continue passing on good health lines and not contributing to the amount of dogs in the shelter. A reputable breeder would never have a dog end up in the shelter system and them are many personal reasons that a person may have went to a breeder, from personal experiences to allergies, we don’t have a right to make them feel bad for a decision they may have deeply researched. I have both a rescue dog and a dog from a reputable breeder, both I love and focus on giving them an amazing life. From service dogs to military working dogs, I’ve seen the amazing things both shelter and breeder dogs can do, saving lives. We don’t ask if a child is adopted and make a parent feel bad, our focus should be on promoting healthy breeds and saving dogs. It’s a horrible feeling to be questioned about my dog, which is like my child and I focus my life on making sure he has a happy long life just like my rescue.”
Assumptions are dangerous. Maybe you have a rescue animal, and people assume that he or she has been through horrible abuse, or has been a bait dog. This might be true in some cases, but not all animals who are rescued have been thru abuse. Assuming that your furkid has a dreadful story when you don’t know this to be true is an assumption. It is no different than assuming the dog at the dog park who was bought deserves less of a good life because he or she didn’t come with a story.
We have to stop the cycle of judgement, get with the cycle of making the world a better place for all animals. And that starts with each one of us. For whatever your view is on animal rescue, don’t be rude. Don’t make assumptions. Instead, provide an example of what a good dog parent can be. When others see your example, perhaps your story, then the story you are writing for your furkid will speak volumes. That speaks louder than any question ever could.
When others choose to offer their rescue story up to me willingly during conversations, I thank them. I tell them our story too. But never again will I make others feel bad about loving their animals. I will also never change my viewpoint on animal rescue, or our motto to “Make Rescues The Breed Of Choice.”